Brethren Archive

Finish the Quotation

by Inglis Fleming

There is a danger common among Christians of quoting certain favourite sentences of Scripture without observing the setting of them. This custom generally results in great spiritual loss. The completion of the quotations would bring additional light and blessing, and show the bearing of the truth presented. This is all-important. Let me give five out of many instances.

1. How often one bears the precious words concerning our Lord’s substitutionary sacrifice,

Who His own Self bare our sins in His own body on the tree.”

Blessed they are, but can you finish the verse without reference to 1 Peter 2:24?

In the words which follow the reason is given for His wonderful atoning work. It is not here, as in some other places, that in His grace He died to save us from eternal judgment. What is it then?

That we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness; by Whose stripes ye were healed.

Relief for our consciences there is. Blessed relief indeed! But the object in view was that those relieved should have done altogether with sins and live unto righteousness—live a life following the steps of the Lord Jesus (see verse 21) and right in every relationship towards God and man.

At the infinite cost of His holy Passion He has won us for such a life.

2. 1 Peter 3:18. The words,

For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the Just for the unjust,”

are frequently to be seen upon wall cards in Christian homes.

It would seem from them that freedom from fear of wrath as knowing our sins put away was the chief thought in the reference. But is it? What follows? (Test yourself now. It will help you to remember the close of the verse). What was His object then in those measureless sufferings endured for us at Calvary? Turn to the passage and you will read,

That He might bring us to God.”

That is the goal which was before Him. That we might be recovered for God’s glory—reconciled to Him. That all distance—the distance caused by our sins—might be removed and nearness might be enjoyed, now. “Being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit,” He, in resurrection life brings us into God’s presence faultless and spotless before Him and able to “joy in God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the reconciliation” (Rom. 5:11).

To leave the verse unfinished is to leave us as forgiven sinners only, more or less at a distance from God, instead of having the joy of being brought by Christ into the presence of God in perfect righteousness and glorious relationship, there to tell out the glad praise of our hearts.

3. At a Conference of Christians the question was asked, What have I left out in this passage?

But now ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.”

The words came from Ephesians 2:13.

Several answers were attempted but, strange to say, not one could give the correct reply.

Without looking up to the passage or down the page of this paper can you fill in the missing expression? The passage is robbed of its true force and fullness by the omission of the three words


They give the measure of the nearness into which we are introduced. We were far off “in Adam,” we are brought nigh “in Christ Jesus.” In the awful darkness and distance of sin and alienation from God, and outside the privileges of Israel in the flesh, we were found as Gentiles “in Adam.” Now we are introduced into light and privilege “in Christ Jesus,” these Israel never knew, Christ Jesus Himself as risen from the dead being the measure of that position.

As one has said, “Christ’s place is our place;” while another has phrased it, “In Christ is as Christ.” “To the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the Beloved.” God “hath made us”—mark the words well for He hath done it—and He hath done it completely and He hath done it, He hath taken us into fullest favour in His Beloved, Christ Jesus our Lord.

What gain there is for our souls in finishing that quotation! Is there not?

4. “Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood.”

Happy we are in knowing that He loved us—(or rather loves us). Happy too in knowing that He has washed us from (or rather, loosed us from) our sins at the infinite cost of His precious life-blood. But there is something of vital importance added which is of times overlooked. Do you know what it is? Our selfishness in thought discovers itself here, as in other quotations.

In this passage it is not for our comfort and peace that He has loosed us from the bondage of our sins—though comfort and peace are ours. Why then is it?

Read on and note carefully what has been left out,

And hath made us kings and priests unto God and His Father: to Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen” (Rev. 1:5-6).

He loosed us to make us—to make us kings and priests—a kingdom of priests. And note it well, it is “unto God and His Father.” He has freed us that we might be for the praise and pleasure of His God, and Father (not “our God and Father” here, though that relationship is ours by grace). It was that His God and Father might have worshippers and witnesses, that He has liberated us.

Well may we delight to ascribe honour and praise to Him, our Lord Jesus, as we say, “To Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.”

5. Those who seek to serve the Lord Jesus in happy ministry in the gospel, or in seeking the refreshment and edification of their fellow-Christian, are often heard quoting only part of a verse, from Ecclesiastes 11, saying,

In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand: for thou knowest not whether shall prosper this or that.”

What is wrong here then? It is our unbelief which is responsible. Try if you can to make the correction and supply the words wanting. Do not turn at once to the book of Ecclesiastes: but think over it for a while. It will profit you to do so.

How should we read it then? So—“thou knowest not whether shall prosper either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good.”

Is there not encouragement for the worker here? His labour is to be fruitful in “either this or that”, He may count on results from one or the other—but it may be that “both shall be alike good.”

We should go on in confidence in God, counting upon Him for success. The apostle Paul did not say—as sometimes misquoted, “Paul may plant and Apollos water but God alone can give the increase.” There is an element of uncertainty in these words which is not found in the apostle’s utterance. This was “I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.” Let us not forget that it pleases “God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe” (see 1 Cor. 1:21; 3:6). We are to labour, He will give the increase.

These instances will suffice to show the danger of partial quotation of a passage, and should lead us carefully to observe the setting of a verse of Scripture of truth (see Psalm 12:6).


S.T. 1934

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