Foundation Truths of the Faith
by John Ritchie
From "Foundation Truths of the Faith: Twelve Bible Readings", published 1907
THE TRIUNE GOD: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
In a day when the foundations of our most holy faith are being attacked on all sides, and errors destructive of the very fundamentals of Christianity are boldly proclaimed, it becomes all who love the Lord and reverence His Word to be diligently “building themselves up,” and so assuring themselves of the “things which they have learned” as to “continue in them” (2 Tim. 3:14), and be able to lend a helping hand to others in danger of being led astray with “the error of the wicked” (2 Pet. 3:17). Second hand knowledge is of little value in a day of stress. The enemy can easily wrest from us any truth held on mere traditional authority. Only that which we have learned from God, and hold in faith and love, in the communion of the Holy Ghost (2 Tim. 1:13-14) strengthens the inner man, and becomes shield and sword (Eph. 6:16-17) to the warrior in the day of battle.
“The fool hath said in his heart there is no God” (Ps. 14:1). Atheism denies His existence. Deism admits an original Cause, but denies His Sovereignty. Agnosticism says He is unknown and unknowable. Pantheism makes God part of existing things, as in Brahminism and other idolatrous systems. Revelation makes known a Living and True God, His character, His works, and His ways, and “the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple” (Ps. 19:7). To the Book of God, the only safe guide in things Divine and Eternal, let us reverently turn.
ONE TRUE GOD
“There is one God” (1 Tim. 2:4), and “there is none other but He” (Mark 12:32). His glory He “will not give unto another” (Isa. 42:8). The Creator and the Cause of all existence, material and spiritual, formed for Himself and His pleasure (Rev. 4:11), He requires and claims its allegiance. Eternal, Infinite, Omnipotent, Omniscient; God of Light and Love; in Him “we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). Yet He is unknown and unknowable, alike in His mode of existence, His character, and His ways, save as He is pleased to reveal Himself to man. Concerning Him, the question may be asked as of old, “Canst thou by searching find out God?” (Job. 11:7). “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth His handiwork” (Ps. 19:1); but it is in His Son (John 1:18), and through His Word, that God has been pleased to reveal Himself. “This is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent” (John 17:3).
ONE GOD IN THREE PERSONS
God is revealed in the Scriptures as one God in three Persons, each Divine, equally God, eternally one in Being: not three Gods, but three Persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the Triune God whose nature and whose name is Love. This great truth was well expressed by Athanasius, a noble witness for God and the faith in the early Church, at a time when Arian and Sabellian errors were turning many away from the truth. He says: “There is one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity, neither confounding the persons nor dividing the substance; for there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost is all one, the glory equal, the majesty co-eternal.”
The English word “Trinity,” which means “threefoldness,” is not found in Scripture, yet it expresses more accurately than any other single English word this great Scripture truth of three Persons yet one God, a truth which is announced and in part revealed in the Old Testament, but fully developed and demonstrated in the New, by the Incarnation, Death, and Glorification of the Son, and the advent and work of the Spirit. Far beyond man’s finite reason to grasp, it belongs to the Infinite and Eternal, a stumbling-stone to the worldly-wise, while faith receives and enjoys its truth. “No man knoweth the Son but the Father, neither knoweth any man the Father save the Son” (Matt. 11:27), and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him. What “flesh and blood” could never make known of the Son, the Father reveals (Matt. 16:17). Such knowledge is now imparted by the Spirit (1 Cor. 2:10-13) through the Word (2 Cor. 3:17-18). Scripture reveals all that God has seen good for us to know in our present state, concerning this truth, and beyond that we are wise not to pry.
Illustrations of this great truth may be seen in the sun’s light, which is white, but which, when passed through a prism, divides itself into the three primary colours—blue, red, and yellow; in man formed in the image of God, composed of spirit, soul, and body; and in other things, all of which, while bearing witness to the Triune God, their Maker, need to be used with reverent care.
When Patrick went to preach to the unlettered pagans in Ireland, he found great difficulty in making clear to them the truth of the Trinity. “Are there three Gods or one?” they asked. Perplexed, he looked on the ground, picked up a shamrock growing at his feet, and holding it up, said: “As there are three in one and one in three in this little plant, so is God.” A very few steps in the quest of such knowledge brings us to the verge of the Infinite and Unknowable, where, not in irreverent speculation or unholy scepticism of which the baffled man of reason at this point becomes the victim, but in adoring worship of the All-wise and All-good God, who thus reveals yet hides Himself, the devout and longing soul exclaims, “Lo, these are part of His ways; but how little a portion is heard of Him” (Job 26:14).
TRINITY ACTING IN UNITY
IN CREATION—“In (the) beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Gen 1:1). The word “God” is Elohim, the plural of “Eloah,” the object of worship—“created,” brought into existence, out of nothing, “the heaven and the earth.” Thus, in the eternal past, “in beginning,” long before the clock of time was set agoing, the Eternal, Triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—co-existed and acted in unity in the work of creation. Such is the first sentence of the Book of God: the truth it teaches runs through it to the end.
In the Word, the original creation is attributed alike to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (see Rev. 4:11; John 1:3; Ps. 104:30). It is of the Father, through the Son, by the Spirit. Originated with the Father, accomplished through the Son, effected by the Spirit, each acting unitedly and harmoniously. Thus the Divine purpose and way are perfect, as are their execution. In verse 3 where reconstruction of the ruined earth as an abode for man is in view, the Spirit personally is seen moving (see Deut. 32:11 for same word), or fluttering over the dark, chaotic mass, foreshadowing His work of awakening, conviction, and regeneration in fallen man, while light and life are produced through the word (2 Cor. 4:6). Although not distinctively the subject of Old Testament revelation, the Personality and operations of the Son (see Num. 32:32; Isa. 63:9; Mal. 3:1) and the Spirit (Isa. 48:16; 61:1), are fully recognised, while in the New Testament the full manifestations, interrelations, harmonious actings, and dispensational workings of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, are clearly announced and distinguished.
In the Baptismal formula of Matthew 28:19, “baptising them into the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost;” in the Apostolic benediction of 2 Corinthians 13:14; and the Apocalyptic greeting of Revelation 1:4-6, the Triune God in all diversity, equality, and Deity is fully recognised—Divine honour and Deity being here, as elsewhere, ascribed to each (Rom. 9:5; Heb. 1:8; Acts 5:3-4). The Son claims equality and unity (John 10:30) with the Father (John 5:20), and the Word proclaims (John 1:1) His eternity, equality, and Divine Personality. Yet, in relation, the Son is Filial as well as Divine. Eternally the Son before all worlds, co-existent with the Father (John 17:5, 24; with Prov. 8:22-31), His “well-beloved” (Mark 12:6), in whom He was “well pleased” (Matt. 3:17). He who did not “become,” but eternally was the only begotten in the bosom of the Father (John 1:18), was “sent forth” (Gal. 4:4) to do the Father’s will (John 4:34), not less Divine, yet subordinate to Him, doing nothing of Himself (John 5:19). In this respect alone is the Father said to be “greater” than the Son (John 14:28), and the Son “subject“ to the Father (1 Cor. 15:24, 28), not in essential, but in economic, filial, and dispensational relations.
IN INCARNATION.—Trinity is seen again acting in unity. “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son” (John 3:16), and He, who ever was in “the form of God,” of His own will took upon Him the bondservant’s form, saying, “Lo, I come to do Thy will, O God” (Heb. 10:9). In a body “prepared” by the Father, and by the Spirit formed (Luke 1:35), “God sent forth His Son, made of a woman” (Gal. 4:4), in His Divine Personality, the Son of God, ever God and Man, two natures in one Person, always Divine, yet ever perfect Man.
IN SERVICE.—At His baptism in Jordan, the Son obeys, the Father speaks from the open heavens, and the Spirit in dove-like form descends (Matt. 3:16-17); while throughout His public ministry the Son ever had the Father with Him (John 8:29), and did all His mighty works by the Spirit (Matt. 12:28).
IN REDEMPTION.—God the Father, is said to be the Originator of the scheme of redemption, the Giver and Sender of the Son; the Son accomplishes, as Sacrifice, Redeemer, Saviour; and the Spirit bears witness to the completeness of that work. (Heb. 10:17). The three Persons of the Godhead, in one sublime statement of the Sacred Word, are each mentioned as Present at and sharing in the great work of Calvary, when “He (the Son), through the Eternal Spirit, offered Himself without spot to God” (Heb. 9:14).
IN SALVATION, the election, choice, and call of the saved is ascribed to God the Father (Eph. 1:4; 1 Pet. 1:2; Rom. 8:28); their redemption, justification, and peace to the work of the Son (Eph. 1:7; Acts 13:39; Eph. 2:13); their regeneration, sanctification, and transformation to the Holy Spirit (John 3:5; 1 Pet. 1:2; 2 Cor. 3:17-18). The threefold parable of Luke 15, in which the shepherd goes after the wandering sheep, the woman searches for the lost silver, and the father welcomes the repentant and returning prodigal, may surely further tell of the activities of the Triune God in the sinner’s salvation.
IN COMMUNION, access (Eph. 2:18) and worship (Heb. 10:19-21; Phil. 3:3, R.V.), the believer knows and proves the efficacy of the way opened, the ministry of the living High Priest, and the Spirit-given strength and competency to “draw near,” to abide in the light, and to walk through life with God. Divine love, manifested in the gift of the Father (1 John 4:9) and the death of the Son (Gal. 2:20), is “shed abroad” (Rom. 5:5) in the heart of the believer by the Holy Ghost, to be enjoyed experimentally by him.
IN THE CHURCH, as the House of God (1 Tim. 3:15) over which the Son is set (Heb. 3:6, R.V.) and in which the Spirit dwells (Eph. 2:22), all administration and operation for godly order and edification is undertaken by and wrought out under the supreme control of the Three-one God (1 Cor. 12:3-5) through men, but not of them; and where the Divine Pattern is conformed to and room left for the Divine power to operate, now as of old, some will have to confess, “God is in you of a truth” (1 Cor. 14:25).
IN GLORY.—On the coming resurrection morning, the Spirit will quicken (Rom. 8:11), the Son will receive the raised and transformed saints (John 14:3), and present them to the Father with exceeding joy (Jude 24). In the Eternal state, God Himself shall be with His people (Rev. 21:3); they shall see the face of the Son, and serve Him (Rev. 22:3-4); while from the throne of God and the Lamb, the water of life, like a river—emblem of the Spirit’s fulness, will flow on for ever (see John 7:38-39).
All the Father’s counsels claiming
Equal honour to the Son;
All the Son’s effulgence beaming
Makes the Father’s glories known:
By the Spirit, all-pervading,
Hosts unnumbered round the Lamb,
Ceaseless love and praise unfailing
Claiming for the Great I AM:
Father, Son, and Spirit known,
Heaven’s Eternal Three-in-One.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
1.—In Deuteronomy 6:4, it is said: “The Lord our God is one Lord.” How does this accord with a Three-One God?—There are two words in the Hebrew language translated “one.” The first means absolutely and essentially one; the second, one in combination. The second is the word here used, and expresses the same great truth as the Lord Himself uttered when He said, “I and My Father are one” (John 10:30).
2.—In Genesis 1:1 we read: “In the beginning God created;” and in John 1:3, Colossians 1:16, creation is attributed to Christ. How are these statements reconciled?—Easily. The word “God” in Genesis 1:1 is Elohim, a plural word, the Eternal Triune God, who afterwards said, “Let us make man in our Image” (ver. 26). The verb “created” is in the singular, expressing Trinity acting in Unity, which Is elsewhere abundantly shown. Creation was equally the work of Father, Son, and Spirit. (See Eph. 3:9; Rev. 4:11; Job 26:13.)
3.—It is said “No man hath seen God at any time” (John 1:18). What does this mean, and how does It accord with Exodus 24:10, where it is said, “They saw the God of Israel”?—God, as God, in the plenitude of His character as God of Light and Love, was unknown in Old Testament times, and until He was “declared” by the Son. “At sundry times and in diverse manners” (Heb. 1:1) He had manifested Himself In angelic and other forms, but it was not until the Son came forth, testifying, “He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father” (John 14:9). Only in Christ, who is “the Image of the Invisible God” (Col. 1:15), “the brightness of His glory and the express image of His Person” (Heb. 1:3) is God fully made known.
THE DIVINITY OF THE LORD JESUS
The essential Deity and eternal Godhead of the Lord Jesus is a fundamental truth of the faith. It cannot be rejected or tampered with without destroying the very foundations of the Gospel. The person of the Lord Jesus gives value to His work. What He does depends upon what He is: hence the need of having a firm and comprehensive grasp of the dignity and glory of His peerless person as set forth in the Holy Scriptures, where alone He is revealed. The written Word reveals the Living and Incarnate Word, and to its testimony faith unhesitatingly and adoringly bows. There is much there revealed and testified of concerning the Eternal Word, alike in the Divine glory of the Godhead and the perfection of His Manhood, which is beyond man’s reason—very much at which his puny, finite understanding staggers, and hence rejects, but which faith, whose language ever is, “Let God be true,” accepts, and proves to be the verities of God, who cannot lie. Never was there a time when the children of God more needed to be instructed in the great fundamental truths of the Word and built up in their most holy faith than the present, when the enemy, by specious and deceitful means, is assailing on all hands the adorable person and perfect work of the Son of God, seeking thus to make faith void and salvation impossible.
Unitarians deny the Godhead of the Son, and the Holy Spirit. They reject the depravity of man, the Atonement of Christ, the Divine inspiration of the Scriptures, and the eternal punishment of the wicked. Others, who do not adopt the name of Unitarians, some of them in positions of honour in the various churches and colleges, are more or less infected with this fundamental error, and become increasingly openly bold in teaching it, so that now a vast number who profess the Christian name are Socinians or Unitarians in doctrine, and being so, have no Divine Saviour. A true Christian, one born of God, may, by reason of false teaching, be led into bypaths of error—as many, alas are in this day—but we do not regard a man who denies the proper Deity, the true Godhead of the Son, as a child of God or a disciple of Jesus Christ at all. How can anyone be a Christian who has no Divine Christ? He is not a Christian, but an antichrist. To this the testimony of the Word is plain and clear. An attempt is sometimes made to take the edge off this by adopting the Christian name. The notice-board on a small chapel with a dying cause bears the dual name “Unitarian Christian Church.” This reminds us of the pirate ship whose captain carried two flags, and sailed under the one which best suited the occasion. But it will not do. “Whoso denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father” (1 John 2:23). “Whoso transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, the same hath not God” (2 John 9). “He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son” (1 John 2:22). This, Unitarians and others who refuse to own the essential Godhead of the Son and His equality with the Father do, and therefore are not Christians, but “against Christ.”
Let us turn to the Word of God, where this great truth of the Divinity of the Lord Jesus is fully set forth, and let us examine it reverently and in the spirit of one who in ages past heard a voice speak, “Put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground” (Ex. 3:6), as he drew near to look upon God. The Scriptures which speak of this subject may, for simplicity, be grouped under the seven following heads:—
1. The Eternity of the Son, His pre-existence before all worlds.
2. His Creator glory, as the One through whom and for whom all things were made.
3. His Equality with the Father and the Holy Spirit.
4. His Titles, and the Divine honours ascribed to Him, in humiliation and in glory.
5. His Essential Deity, the Son said to be God, before and after His Incarnation.
6. His Work as Sacrifice, High Priest, and King.
7. His Eternal Glory, Himself the object of worship on earth and in heaven.
1. His Eternity.—In the sublime statement with which the Gospel of John opens, we read: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). Here, the eternity of His being, the distinctness of His personality, and His essential Godhead are distinctly declared. In verse 14, the further testimony is given: “And the Word became flesh,” as the Revised Version correctly has it. The Eternal Word, who ever was with God, and who was God, “became flesh,” not ceasing to be God, but for ever ceasing to be only God, and becoming “Emmanuel, God with us” (Matt. 1:23). Born in Bethlehem, the Virgin’s child, yet ever the mighty God, “whose goings have been of old, from the days of eternity” (Micah 5:2, margin). In His prayer to the Father, the Lord Jesus asks that He may be glorified with “the glory which I had with Thee before the world was” (John 17:5), a statement which all who question the eternal existence of the Son must deny. When He said to the Jews, “Before Abraham was, I am,” He claimed to be the ever-existing One, to whom past, present and future are one, an honour in which He is owned in Revelation 1:4, where the apostle speaks of Him as “Him which is and was and is to come.” In Proverbs 8:22-31, Wisdom personified can refer to none other than the Lord Jesus; while the great Gospel charter of John 3:16-17—“For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son”—clearly proves His pre-existence, otherwise God would have had no Son to give.
2. Creation is attributed to the Son. “All things were made through Him” (John 1:3, R.V.). “By Him were all things created that are in heaven and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by Him and for Him, and by Him all things consist,” or hold together (Col. 1:16-17). Not Himself a created being, as some infer, but before and above all created beings and things, their Creator and upholder—“upholding all things by the Word of His power” (Heb. 1:2), and by “the same word” the heavens and the earth are “kept in store, reserved unto fire” (2 Pet. 3:5, 7). His mighty Word, which gave creation being, causes it to hold together, else, in spite of what the sceptics call “the law of nature,” it would. collapse and fall to pieces. Could a mere creature, a man, do all this? Can the Creator and Upholder of all things be less than a Divine person, God the Son?
3. Equality with the Father was claimed by Him while here on earth. He said: “I and My Father are one” (John 10:30). And as such He claimed equal honour with the Father. “That all men should honour the Son even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father, which hath sent Him” (John 5:23). And this equality is fully borne out by the very frequent linking of the name of the Son with the Father in the Sacred Word. Thus we read: “Grace be unto you and peace from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:2); while in some cases the name of the Son precedes that of the Father: “Now our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and God, even our Father, who hath loved us . . . comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work” (1 Thess. 2:16-17)—words which, if uttered of any created being in such a connection, would be profane. Surely then, His equality with the Father proclaims Him Divine.
4. The Titles given Him throughout the Sacred Word mark Him out as essentially Divine. “Son of God,” a title given to no one else, is given in a threefold sense to the Lord Jesus:—(a) By Eternal Generation (John 1:18; Rev. 1:2); (b) by Incarnation (Luke 1:35); (c) by Resurrection (Rom. 1:4). “Only begotten” (John 3:16) is used of Him as the eternal Son, the one who abode “alone” (John 12:24). “First begotten” or “Firstborn of many brethren” (Rom. 8:29) is a title given to Him in Resurrection (Rev. 1:5), in which the “many sons”—fruit of His atoning work—who are being brought to glory by Him, stand related to Him as His brethren. Titles which in the Old Testament are predicted of the Father are given to the Son in the New. Thus, what is spoken of in Psalm 110:1 concerning Jehovah, is claimed by the Lord Jesus in Matthew 22:42-44, and owned by the Father (Heb. 1:13) as being applicable to Him. The name Jehovah, never given to any created being, is His by right (see John 12: 41, with Isa. 6:5); while the confession of Jesus Christ as Lord (Rom. 10:9; Phil. 2:11) by all, clearly points to His Divine glory, apart from which such confession would be idolatry. Thomas, the doubting disciple, owned Him “my Lord and my God” (John 20:28), while others worshipped Him (Matt. 28:9; Luke 24:52), ascribing to Him honours which belong to God alone.
5. Owned as God.—Unitarians and others who deny the Deity of the Son ask, “Where is Jesus ever said to be God?” They confess their ignorance of Holy Scripture by asking such a question. In Hebrews 1:7 we read: “To the Son He saith, Thy Throne, O God, is for ever and ever”; while in 1 John 5:20 it is said concerning the Son, “This is the true God and eternal life.” He is “God our Saviour” (Tit. 1:3); “God over all, blessed for ever” (Rom. 9:3). In respect of His advent, the Word declares it to be “the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ” (Tit. 2:13, R.V.)—words which may surely convince all who bow to the authority of the Scripture that Godhead is most distinctly and fully ascribed to the Son.
6. His Work as Sacrifice, Priest, and King, always and everywhere assumes His Godhead. “Who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, when He had by Himself purged our sins” (Heb. 1:3). He is “the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29); His blood is “the precious blood of Christ” (1 Pet. 1:19), the price of our redemption; it is the blood of Jesus Christ His Son” (1 John 1:7), hence its value and efficacy: it “cleanseth from all sin.” Would the ransom have been of the same, or any value had it not been the Person of the God-Man who became the sacrifice, substitute, and surety? The “Man” who was smitten on the Cross was Jehovah’s “Fellow” (Zech.13:7). As High Priest in Resurrection glory He is “Jesus the Son of God“ (Heb. 4:17), able to succour in “the power of His might” as God, as surely as to sympathise because of His perfect manhood. In the coming Kingdom the throne will be filled by the worthy One, of whom it has been said: “Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of Thy kingdom” (Heb. 1:8).
7. In Eternal Glory, the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be the object of heaven’s adoring worship (Rev. 5:9), while “every creature which is in heaven and on the earth” ascribe “honour and glory and power” unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.
Thus the Word of God, in all these varied ways, proclaims and affirms the true Deity of the Son of God. To receive and rely upon Him as such is to have everlasting life (John 5:24), to reject Him is to perish under the abiding wrath of God (John 3:36). Those who refuse to own the Lord Jesus as Divine must consequently reject the Scriptures as the inspired and infallible Word of God, which they do, for the Living and the Written Word stand or fall together. The Christ of the Socinian and the Unitarian is not the Christ of God, not the Christ presented in the Word, but a Christ of their own imagination, who, however extolled as the example to and uplifter of humanity, is not the vicarious Sacrifice and Divine Almighty Saviour, by means of whose perfect work, accomplished once for all upon the Cross, and by whose mighty power exercised from the throne, believing sinners are saved and brought to God.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
1.—In what sense was Adam the “son of God” (Luke 12:38)?—By creation, in a sense no other can claim. But THE SON was before all worlds; He was “with God and was God” (John 1:1) before Adam’s creation.
2.—How are the words of Mark 13:32, “Neither the Son,” to be understood if Christ was Divine?—Whatever limitations in knowledge the Lord, as the obedient Servant experienced, they in no way reflect on, or tarnish, His Divine glory as the Mighty God. He did not exercise His inherent power either in providing for His need (Matt. 4:1-4), or delivering Himself from His adversaries (Matt. 27:29); but in life (John 4:34) and in death (John 10:18), acted under authority and in perfect obedience, as He received commandment from the Father.
3.—In view of the many prevalent arguments against the inspiration of the Bible, how did Christ regard it?—As the very “Word of God” (Mark 7:13); and for His own teaching He made claim that it was Divine, without reserve. “The Father which sent Me, He gave Me commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak” (John 12:49); and again, The words that I speak, I speak not of Myself” (John 14:10). Those who attribute ignorance or superstition to our Lord in His acceptance and defence of the Written Word, deny His Deity and, whether ignorantly or presumptuously, reject the Christ of God.
THE HUMANITY OF THE LORD JESUS
The Incarnation of the Son of God, His true and proper Manhood, is fundamental to the Gospel and the Christian Faith. The subject is so profound, in its fulness so far beyond human understanding, that it needs to be approached in a spirit of reverence, and accepted as revealed in the Word to faith, human reasoning and speculation being entirely disallowed. To inquire with lowly mind, in the spirit of adoring worship, what the Father has made known and the Spirit recorded in the Holy Scriptures concerning this “great mystery,” will yield to the devout disciple abiding profit; but to irreverently pry into that which the All-wise God has withheld from us, and reserved amongst His “secret things” (Deut. 29:29), can bring only Divine displeasure and judgment, such as the men of Bethshemesh brought upon themselves when, in unhallowed curiosity, they lifted the lid of that mysterious ark of Shittim wood and gold—itself a foreshadowing type of Him who, in His own Person, is God and Man—and gazed upon that which the God of Israel had forbidden to mortal eyes. No subject has occasioned more controversy, or brought forth such successive crops of erroneous teachings, as the Incarnation of the Son of God. At a very early period of the Church’s history, this leaven began to vigorously work, producing the errors of Gnosticism, Mancheism, Nestorianism, and kindred corruptions of the truth, which spread so disastrously that, in the fourth century, the Council of Nice, in 325, formulated a confession of their faith concerning the Incarnation, in which they declare: “Since those who seek to spoil the proclamation of the Truth, through their own wilful errors, have produced their idle utterances, some daring to undermine the Lord’s Incarnation. . . we confess One and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and all with one voice teach that He is perfect in Godhead and also perfect in Manhood, in all things like unto us, without sin. Begotten of the Father before the ages as to the Godhead, but also in the end of days for us and our salvation, born of Mary, the Virgin, as to the Manhood, confessed One and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, in two natures, without compound, without change, without division, without separation, the difference of the natures being in no-wise removed because of the Union, but rather the property of each Nature being preserved and concurring in one Person.”
Speculations and errors concerning the Humanity, of our adorable Lord are not a-wanting in our own day, leading, on the one hand, toward Universalism, by asserting that in Incarnation the Lord became one with every man, bringing the entire human race as such, apart from redemption and regeneration, into federal and vital relation with Himself, and, on the other, so distorting His Divine personality, denying the perfections of His Manhood, limiting His knowledge, capacity, and authority, as to make Him other than “the Holy One of God,” ever and always, whatever the conditions of His humiliation, “the Mighty God” in whom full Godhead and perfect Manhood were always present in perfect harmony.
“THE WORD BECAME FLESH”
“God was manifest in the flesh” (1 Tim. 3:15), “the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us” (John 1:14, R.V.). “God sent forth His Son, made of a woman” (Gal. 4:4). Such are the words in which the mystery of the Incarnation is revealed and described in the Sacred Scriptures. He who ever was and is God became Man—complete Man, possessing spirit (Luke 23:46), soul (Matt. 26:38), and body (1 Pet. 2:24), “made in the likeness of men” (Phil. 2:7), “found in fashion as a man” (Phil. 2:8), “appearing in the likeness of the flesh of sin” (Rom. 8:3, RV.), yet “without sin” (Heb. 4:13), who “knew no sin” (2 Cor. 5:21), in whom “is no sin” (1 John 3:5), ever the Holy One of God, whose flesh saw no corruption. The Divine purpose and promise concerning this great truth is first mentioned in Genesis 3:15, where the coming Deliverer is spoken of as the “Seed of the woman,” and again as of Abraham’s seed (Gen. 22:18), and in David’s line (Ps. 132:11, with Rom. 1:3). This was fulfilled, as seen in Matthew 1:1 and Luke 3:21, where His genealogy is traced through the line of royalty and of promise to Adam. Thus He became our Kinsman, in order that He might have the right to redeem.
THE VIRGIN’S CHILD
The manner of His “becoming” is announced, and the transcendent miracle through which it was fulfilled made known, in the words of the angel to the virgin mother, as recorded in the Gospel of Luke (chap. 1:31, 35), which is distinctively the Gospel which reveals Him as Son of Man. Thus was fulfilled the words of the prophet, “Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shalt call His name—Immanuel” (Isa. 7:14), “which, being interpreted, is God with us” (Matt. 1:23), yet “Himself Man, Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5, R.V.). “Son of Man” is a title frequently used by the Lord concerning Himself in the Gospels, never by any of His followers, and points to His true dignity as Man, in contrast to the fallen and ruined condition of Adam’s race.
“HE EMPTIED HIMSELF”
In Philippians 2:6, we read: “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men.” The words, “made Himself of no reputation,” are given in the Revised Version as “He emptied Himself.” A subtle error has been deduced from these words and widely spread abroad, first by German Neologists, and more recently by those who call themselves “Higher Critics” and claim to have brought to bear upon the Bible “the latest scholarship.” With what result? That they assert from this passage that the Lord Jesus, in so emptying Himself, became subject to such limitations in knowledge that He knew no more about Divine things than His fellowmen, and “held the current Jewish notions respecting the Divine authority and revelation of the Old Testament.” If this were true, then His testimony to the Scriptures as the Divine and eternal “Word of God” (Mark 7:13), by which man is to live, because it “proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Mark 4:4), would be of little value, for He might be mistaken, and if on this, on anything else. Then, where or in what would faith repose, or conscious need find that certainty in things eternal which a Spirit-awakened sinner seeks? But it is not true. The Lord’s own declaration, when He stood upon earth in His humiliation, was: “The words that I speak, I speak not of Myself” (John 14:10), “but as My Father hath taught Me, I speak these things” (John 8:28). And this included His reference to Jonah and the whale, as surely as His declaration of the love of God in John 3:16. All was from God: all, therefore, was Divinely perfect. Of what, then, did the Lord empty Himself, or make Himself void? Not of His Godhead. He never did or could surrender His Divine nature, or cease to be God. Whether as a babe on His mother’s breast, or a victim on the shameful Cross, He was as truly “the Mighty God” as He was the Virgin’s Child and the “Man of Sorrows.” But, although ever subsisting in the form of God, He did not consider His equality with God as something to be grasped, like as a robber holds his prize as if it were not His own, but of His own will took upon Himself the bondservant’s form, ceasing for ever to be only God, taking human nature into His own Personality, “becoming in the likeness of men,” “and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death” (Phil. 2:8). That His Manhood was perfectly natural is witnessed to by the fact that as a babe He needed a mother’s tender care (Luke 2:7; He “grew” and “increased in wisdom and stature” (Luke 2:40, 52); He was moved with compassion at human sorrow (Luke 7:38), wept real tears of sympathy (John 11:35), hungered (Matt. 4:2), thirsted, was wearied (John 4:6-7), and slept on a pillow (Mark 4:38) in the boat. But while perfect Man, He was at the same time, in His own Personality, God, two natures being ever present in perfect harmony in one Person. How this could be, it is beyond the present limits of our finite minds to grasp, but that it was and is we know and believe, because God has said it.
FLESH AND BLOOD
“Forasmuch, then, as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same” (Heb. 2:14). The words “flesh and blood” here used describe true manhood, without reference to that corruption which, in consequence of Adam’s fall, has come into man’s nature. The expression “in the flesh,” used in Romans 8:8, and elsewhere, is something entirely different, and has reference to man’s fallen condition and depraved nature—“the flesh” in which no good thing dwelleth (Rom. 7:18). Very jealously does the Spirit guard against the possibility of any such thought as that any moral taint was in the human nature of our blessed Lord, or that mortality, or disease, or any other consequence of sin, was in any sense present in that body which was prepared by God (Heb. 10:5) for His beloved Son, in which He was to serve and present Himself a sacrifice and an offering, as the “Lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Pet. 1:19). The words, “took part of the same,” have by some been made to imply that the Lord assumed man’s nature in its fallen condition; that He knew sin, but never yielded to it; that in His experience He knew distance from God, taking the place of those whom He came to save. But all this is utterly false, and, however explained, must ever be regarded as gross error and a deep dishonour to “the Holy One of God.” The words simply say, He “took part in these” [things], namely, flesh and blood, and the word used is different from that which describes the “children” who were “partakers” fully of human nature in its present condition, in a sense He never was. In this connection, it has been asserted that the words, “He hath no form nor comeliness,” in Isaiah 53:2, imply that the personal appearance of our Blessed Lord was marked by the absence of outward grace and comeliness. But these words have no such meaning, nor do they apply to the personal aspect of the Lord at all. The words are used of kingly majesty and earthly glory, such as attract the gaze of men. In His earthly surroundings he was poor, as “a root out of a dry ground,” Jesus of Nazareth, the carpenter. Hence, to the unbelieving Jews there was no beauty, no dazzling “outward appearance,” that caused them to “desire” Him; but to those who received Him He was the “altogether lovely One,” as faith’s eye “beheld His glory,” ever full of grace and truth (John 1:14).
SACRIFICE AND HIGH PRIEST
Two causes are assigned in Hebrews 2:14-18 for the Lord taking “flesh and blood.” First, in order that He might become a sacrifice, that He might die. He became our Kinsman in order that He might be our Redeemer. He came as near to us as was essential to His work as Mediator and Ransom (1 Tim. 2:5), to suffer, “the Just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God” (1 Pet. 3:18), but not to identify Himself with man in his fallen condition so as to violate the essential conditions necessary for the accomplishment of that great work. He “offered Himself without spot to God” (Heb. 9:14), an offering and a sacrifice for “a sweet-smelling savour” (Eph. 5:2). And His death is of infinite value because of the perfection of His Person. Second, in order that He might become a “merciful and faithful High Priest” in resurrection, able to sympathise with and succour His people as they pass through the wilderness, amid temptations, and they themselves subject to infirmities, “it behaved Him in all things to be made like unto His brethren.” It is not said that He became subject to infirmity, but that “He was in all points tempted as we are, without sin.” In this He is a contrast to the Aaronic priest, who could bear in his measure with the “ignorant and erring,” because he himself was “compassed with infirmity,” and had to offer for himself as well as for the people. Our Great High Priest is fully able ever to sympathise with and to succour, because He passed through all kinds of trials and tests at the hands of men and of Satan, suffering “in all points” real temptation from without, although never from evil within, and was thus “perfected” or qualified to become our Great High Priest, and “to save to the uttermost,” or completely, those who are on the way to God through Him. May our hearts adore the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, who thus stooped to meet us in our low estate, becoming “in the form of a servant,” taking humanity into His Person, and never ceasing to wear it, even amid the glories of the throne on which He will be for ever owned and worshipped as the Lamb once slain, ever worthy to “receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.”
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
1.—Do the words, “Who, being in the form of God,” refer to the pre-existence of Christ before His birth in Bethlehem?—Yes, clearly; for then it was that in “God’s manifested Being subsisting” (Divine in the fullest sense, possessed of Deity in all that the word implies), He was on an equality with God.
2—Is there any Scripture which clearly connects the Christ of the New Testament with the eternal past?—Micah 5:2 says: “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be the least among the thousands of Judah, out of thee shall He come to Me, who is to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth have been from the days of eternity” (margin). This was fulfilled at the birth of Christ in Bethlehem. (See Matt. 2:6.)
3.—What do the words, “In all things to be made like unto His brethren” (Heb. 2:7), mean?—That the Lord Jesus took full and proper manhood, in all respects like ours, apart from sin and the consequences of it. Perfect manhood was seen in Him without stain or fracture.
THE ATONEMENT OF CHRIST: Its Necessity, its Nature, its Results
The Cross of Christ, the atoning death of the Son of God, is the central doctrine of the Gospel, and fundamental to the Christian Faith. In the glad tidings proclaimed by Paul, he delivered, “FIRST of all,” how that “Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3). “The sufferings of Christ” (1 Pet. 1:11) were ordained in eternal purpose (Acts 4:28), and are essential to His work as Saviour. That “the Son of Man MUST be lifted up” (John 3:14), that “He MUST suffer” (Mark 8:31), that all which was written “MUST be accomplished in Me” (Luke 22:27), was the Lord’s own testimony concerning His death. And that death was not only to be as a martyr for righteousness, but as “a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28).
THE NECESSITY FOR ATONEMENT
The whole testimony of the Word proclaims the fact that “without shedding of blood is no remission” (Heb. 9:22). The language of the types, the voices of the prophets, the experiences of the Psalms, the records of the evangelists, and the teachings of the apostles unite in setting forth Christ as the one Great Sacrifice for sin, by which satisfaction has been rendered to God, and through which salvation has been procured for men.
In order to have a just view and a full appreciation of the atonement of Christ as set forth in the Scriptures, it is necessary to have a proper estimate of sin, not only as it affects the sinner in its results, but in its relation to a righteous and holy God. When sin is lightly thought of, or a personal sense of its guilt a-wanting, the doctrine of the Cross will be little valued. Errors on this and kindred subjects may all be traced to unscriptural or shallow views of sin, and to flippant language regarding its nature and retribution. Sin is the cause of all man’s woe, yet the one think he seeks to ignore or belittle.
THE NATURE OF ATONEMENT
The word “atonement” has been etymologically described as “at-one-ment.” It occurs only once in the New Testament (Rom. 5:11), and there it is imperfectly rendered, the margin and R.V. giving it correctly “reconciliation”—whereas in Hebrews 2:17, “reconciliation” ought to be “atonement”. ATONEMENT is something made Godward; reconciliation is the result manward. The word “propitiation” occurs in 1 John 2:2 and 4:10 only. In Romans 3:24-25, another word is used, and is rendered “mercy seat” (Heb. 9:5). Propitiation is the New Testament equivalent to “atonement” in the Old. The Mercy-seat or Propitiatory was the throne of Jehovah, upon which the Cloud or Shekinah of Glory appeared. There, on that golden slab, with its crown around and cherubim on either end, once a year the blood of atonement was sprinkled (Lev. 16:15, 30), and on this ground Jehovah dwelt among the people, and was able to say, “there will I meet with thee” (Ex. 25:11). So Christ crucified, the Propitiation and also the Propitiatory, is the appointed meeting-place between a righteous God and guilty sinners in virtue of the blood of the Cross. Thus it was that the publican of old came to God, not appealing for mercy apart from righteousness, but taking his place before God, convicted yet confiding, and said: “God be merciful” (or “make propitiation”—same word as in Heb. 2:17, R.V.) “for me, THE sinner” (Luke 18:13). The propitiation is “for THE WHOLE WORLD,” the ransom given is for ALL (1 Tim. 2:6), and in virtue thereof any and every sinner, however vile, who comes to God in the appointed way—“through faith in His blood” (Rom. 3:23)—will, as surely as the publican, be “justified freely by His grace” (Rom. 3:24), “justified from all things” (Acts 13:39).
It is on the ground of atonement made and satisfaction rendered by the death of Christ, that there is a Gospel to preach to “every creature” (Mark 15:15), and that salvation is brought within the reach of all. Yet, only in the acceptor, the believer, is this salvation a present possession.
WHAT SIN IS
Man is spoken of in the Scriptures as an accountable being, in his relation to God and His government. His fallen condition is there described, his ruin defined. Sin is “missing the mark,” “coming short” of a standard. It is transgression, the breach of a known commandment. It is guilt, the violation of Divine law, bringing retributive punishment. It is defilement, unfitting him for the presence of a holy God. Men judge by outward and overt acts, as they must, for they cannot read the heart; but the All-seeing God, to whom all things are naked and open, describes sin in its source and spring, and His Word concerning it is: “Sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4), rebellion against His throne—in a word, self-will. Unregenerate man is a rebel, and regarded by God as an enemy (Rom. 5:10). His mind is enmity against God (Rom. 8:9), his nature depraved and distorted in every region, himself “godless” (Eph. 2:12, R.V.), and fallen under the authority of Satan (Acts 26:18), the usurper, whose willing slave and tool he is. Moreover, he is “without strength” (Rom. 5:6) to deliver himself, and no man can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him (Ps. 49:7). And this depravity, this guilt, makes the sinner amenable to judgement; and “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23).
The work of the Spirit in the world, throughout this age of grace, is to “convict” men “of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment.” These words are lightly disposed of by many, as if they meant no more than remorse for wrongdoing, such as a criminal feels when he is found out, or a gambler or speculator when he has lost his all. That men reap as thy sow is a law of universal application, but its operation does not discover sin in its strength, or lead to its acknowledgment before God. This is the conviction the Spirit works in the soul. He brings the sinner face to face with God; He brings sin to the conscience in its enormity as committed against the Holy One, and raises the cry: “Against Thee, Thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Thy sight” (Ps. 51:4). Righteousness describes the character of His throne, and just Judgment is the same result. Must the sinner perish without hope? Or can the Just One become the Justifier of the ungodly? Man can give no answer to this: he stands with closed mouth, without resource. Man’s extremity is God’s opportunity. A Saviour-God appears. His answer is: “Deliver him from going down to the pit; I have found a Ransom” (Job 33:24). This was fulfilled at the Cross, when the Son of God gave Himself “a Ransom for all” (1 Tim. 2:4). The believer stands, under its account, “justified by His blood” (Rom. 5:8).
The rejecter or neglecter who despises the provided meeting-place, passes on to judgement for his sins (Col. 3:6), with the added guilt of despising the remedy (John 3:18; Heb. 10:29).
THE MEANING OF ATONEMENT
The Old Testament word caphar means “to atone,” “to cover,” and points to the expiatory character of the Lord’s death. He appeared once in the end of the world to “put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” (Heb. 9:26). The Baptist testified of Him: “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Expiation, or covering by sacrifice, is the primary meaning of atonement. The same word is rendered “pitch” (Gen. 6:14) as used of that which covered the gopher wood of Noah’s Ark, and preserved all within it from the waters of judgment. “Appease,” in Genesis 32:20, used of Jacob’s present to Esau, his offended brother, designed as an atonement for past offences. “Ransom,” in Exodus 30:12, of the atonement money paid by Israel to protect them from the plague and give them a title to be numbered among the people of God. “Satisfaction,” in Numbers 35:31, where no ransom, no atonement, was to be accepted for the release of a murderer from the death penalty of his crime. All these words express, in varied ways, the meaning of atonement, and point onward to a work effected once for all in the offering-up of the Great Sacrifice on Calvary.
ATONEMENT BY BLOOD
The testimony of the types, the language of the prophets, the teaching of evangelists and apostles, is uniform and harmonious that atonement is by blood shed. Not the warm life-blood coursing through the veins, but blood shed, life poured out, the effusion of blood as the evidence of death. The Levitical rubric, “The life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar, to make atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul” (Lev. 17:11), tells how and where atonement was made, the words “blood” and “altar” clearly pointing to sacrificial death, foreshadowing the Cross. “Another Gospel,” which better suits man’s pride and more accords with “the dignity of human nature,” denies all this, and sneers at it as a “religion of the shambles,” a relic of heathendom, offering in its stead a humanitarian religion of self-sacrifice, of which Christ is said to be the Pattern and Example, and His life infused (which is the meaning they give to “the blood”) the power for moral purification and Christian conduct. In this theory, the moral suasion of man, and a new motive brought into his life, is uppermost in view. But it takes no cognisance of human guilt; it utterly ignores sin as it affects the throne and majesty of an offended, holy God. Nor does it provide any satisfaction or expiation Godward, or procure any legal deliverance from the curse—the death-sentence—manward. It is generally associated with a denial of man’s ruin, unscriptural views of Christ’s Divinity, and denial of the punishment of the wicked. It is aptly described by Jude as “the way of Cain” (v. 11), who was the first to come to God as a worshipper ignoring the fall, apart from the blood of a sin offering, bringing the fruit of his own toil instead, as religious sinners do now their works, on the ground of the “Fatherhood of God,” apart from redemption and regeneration.
THE RESULTS OF ATONEMENT
The glory of God, the majesty of His throne, outraged through sin; the restoration to Him of that of which man had robbed Him; the vindication of His righteousness in “passing over” (Rom. 3:23) the sins of men of faith in ages past, who, convicted of their guilt, had cast themselves upon His “forbearance,” in view of the redemption to be wrought by a coming Deliverer: in brief, the Divine claim—not man’s need, but God’s honour—was the first, the chief consideration in the atoning death of the Son of God. “He offered Himself without spot to God” (Heb. 9:14). He gave Himself “an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savour” (Eph. 5:2). Like the burnt or “ascending offering,” He was wholly laid upon the altar, and all that He was and did went up to high heaven, accepted as a sweet savour.
In another aspect, God was the provider of the Lamb (Gen. 22:8); He did not spare, but gave His Son (Rom. 8:32). He it was also who brought Him to death (Ps. 22:15), who caused the sword to awake against Him (Zech. 13:7), who Himself put the awful “cup” into His hand (Matt. 26:39, 42). In the sin-offering, the victim was regarded as charged with the sin laid upon it, and consumed in devouring fire outside the camp. So He who, in Himself personally, was ever the Holy One, in whom God was well pleased, was made to be sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him (2 Cor. 5:21). It was not, as is sometimes unwisely said, “the innocent dying for the guilty,” which would be unjust; but the Holy One, who knew no sin, so charged with the sin of others as to vicariously suffer for and expiate it by His death.
TWO ASPECTS OF CHRIST’S DEATH
The words used in the New Testament in connection with the death of the Lord Jesus, and descriptive of the results flowing from it, may be divided into two groups. First, those which describe that which the atonement has rendered to God and procured for men as men, for the world as such; second, the blessings it has secured for those who have received the Gospel, and who, by faith in the Lord Jesus and new birth by the Spirit, have been brought into a new relationship with God, saved by grace, and accepted in the Beloved, in whom they share all the blessings and benefits of “the everlasting covenant,” and stand before God in all the value of His perfect work and peerless person. The confusing of these two aspects of the work of Christ leads to many erroneous expressions in presenting the Gospel to sinners and the truth to saints.
In the wider aspect, He is “a ransom for all” (1 Tim. 2:5); the “propitiation for the whole world” (1 John 2:2). It is on this ground that the Gospel is preached to “all creation under heaven” (Col. 1:23), that God proclaims “forgiveness of sins” (Acts 13:38) to all, without respect of persons, that the invitation to “whosoever will” is to “take the water of life freely” (Rev. 17:17). No sinner who has heard the Gospel can ever lay the blame of his damnation at God’s door, or plead as an excuse that there was no salvation provided for him. The death of Christ, which was “for (on account of) our sins” (1 Cor. 15:3), for the ungodly (Rom. 5:6), has procured salvation for all, and it is proclaimed unto all in the Gospel. To those who receive the reconciliation, and by faith become identified with Christ, other blessings are made known, procured by and flowing from the one Great Sacrifice of the Cross. “They have redemption through His blood” (Eph. 1:7), and this includes deliverance by power, as well as by price; they are loosed from their sins (Rev. 1:7, R.V.); they are justified (Rom. 5:10), and sanctified (Heb. 13:12) through His blood. Their sins, which were borne in His own body on the tree (1 Pet. 2:28), are so completely purged (Heb. 1:3) that they are remembered no more (Heb. 10:17), and they, as worshippers, once purged, stand before Him in peace, having “no more conscience of sins” (Heb. 10:2). All this, and much more, becomes the present inalienable possession of all who by faith pass into the family of God (John 1:12), and become sharers in the benefits which flow from the one great sacrifice of Calvary.
THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST: Its Facts and Teachings
The Resurrection of Christ and, through Him, the resurrection of those “that are Christ’s at His coming” (1 Cor. 15:23), followed by the resurrection of the rest of the dead” (Rev. 20:5), when “all that are in graves shall hear His voice, and shall come forth” (John 5:28-29) to judgment, are truths of transcendent importance, vital to the Christian faith. Disbelieved by the Sadducees of old (Matt. 22:23), and sneered at by modern sceptics and Rationalists, who still scoffingly ask, “How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come?” (1 Cor. 15:35), nevertheless, the fact and the doctrine of resurrection remain, as revealed in the Word of God, in all their eternal consequences to saints and sinners.
THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST
The history of Christ’s resurrection is recorded in the four Gospels. The fact of it is fully declared in the Acts. The doctrine of it is expounded in the Epistles. It is an essential part of the Gospel (1 Cor. 15:4), and formed a chief theme of apostolic preaching (Acts 4:2, 23; 17:18).
TYPES, ALLUSIONS, AND PROPHECIES
The Old Testament abounds in types, allusions, and prophecies of the Lord’s resurrection. Of the former, may be mentioned the raising up of Isaac, the only-begotten son of Abraham, from the altar on Moriah (Heb. 11:19), and his return to his father’s house; the resting of the Ark with its inmates on Mount Ararat on the seventeenth day of the seventh month (Gen. 8:4), which afterwards became the first (see Ex. 12:1), the fourteenth day of which was the passover, and the seventeenth the day of Christ’s resurrection. In Psalm 16:9-11, there is distinct allusion to this great truth (see Acts 2:25-28), and the prophets vie in describing its results in the exaltation, glory, and kingly rule of Messiah (Isa. 52:13-15; Zech. 14:4-9).
THE LORD’S OWN TESTIMONY
Throughout His personal ministry, the Lord Jesus made frequent mention of His resurrection in connection with and following after His death (Matt. 16:21; 20:1-19). “Resurrection of the dead” (Heb. 6:2) was a well-known truth among the Jews, as Martha confessed it (John 11:24), but when the Lord spoke to His disciples for the first time, as they came down from the Transfiguration Mount, of His rising “from”—literally, “from among the dead” (Matt. 17:9)—the newness of the expression (see Mark 9:9-10) caused them to wonder, and raised among them “questioning” as to what it could mean. This elective resurrection from among the dead—first, of the Lord Himself (Acts 26:23) as First-born (Col 1:18) and First-fruits (1 Cor. 15:20); and afterwards of all His people (1 Cor. 15:23), but of none of the ungodly (Rev. 20:5)—was then for the first time made known, but afterwards fully revealed and expounded in its detail by the Spirit, in the Epistles.
THE FACTS OF RESURRECTION
The four Gospels give the historical record of our Lord’s resurrection, two of them (Mark and Luke) bearing witness to His Ascension into Heaven in bodily form, in the presence of His disciples (Mark 16:19; Luke 24:51). The proof of these facts falls under the head of Christian evidences, and cannot be dealt with at length here. Two witnesses which are ever with us, silently bearing their testimony each week to the great fact of our Lord’s resurrection, may be mentioned, viz., “the Lord’s Day” and “the Lord’s Supper” (Rev. 1:10; 1 Cor. 16:2; John 20:19, 26; Acts 20:7). The observance of these two, the Supper and the Day—one the memorial of His death, the other of His resurrection—can be traced in an unbroken line from the apostolic age to the present. These monuments do not in themselves absolutely prove that Christ rose from the dead, but they do conclusively attest the fact that the disciples who companied with Him, and the early churches which were founded by them, believed in and confessed the fact of His resurrection as a cardinal truth of their faith and testimony (Acts 2:24, 32; 3:15, 26; 4:10; 13:23).
THE AGENTS IN RESURRECTION
Resurrection is attributed (1) to the Father, as we read, “Raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father” (Rom. 6:4); “God raised Him from the dead” (Acts 13:30); “This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses” (Acts 2:32). Thus God attested His Sonship, confirmed His words, and established His claims. The resurrection was the Divine vindication of all that Jesus had done, the seal of Heaven on His work accomplished upon the earth. (2) Resurrection is also the work of the Son, and an evidence of His Deity. The Lord Himself said, “I lay down My life that I might take it again;” “I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again” (John 10:17-18); “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it again.” “He spake of the temple of His body” (John 2:19, 21). (3) Resurrection is likewise attributed to the Spirit. “Put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit” (1 Pet. 3:18); “Declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection of the dead” (Rom. 1:4). Thus, as at the Cross (Heb. 9:14), so at the Grave, Trinity is again seen acting in unity.
THE MEANING OF RESURRECTION
Resurrection is the Father’s testimony to the Person and Work of the Son. At His baptism in Jordan, the heavens were opened, and a Voice testified, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17), while the Spirit descended from above upon Him. On the Transfiguration Hill, the Voice from the excellent glory proclaimed, in hearing of the disciples, His superiority to Moses and Elias, in the memorable words, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him” (Matt. 17:5). After He had perfected His path of obedience (Phil. 2:7, 9), in offering Himself as a Sacrifice well pleasing to God (Eph. 5:2), it was only meet that God should raise Him from the dead, and give Him glory (1 Pet. 1:21).
Resurrection was God’s seal upon the perfection of Christ’s work. “If Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins” (1 Cor. 15:17) was the Apostle’s answer to some who in that early day denied the truth of resurrection. There was no need for such a sign in Heaven: there the sacrifice offered on the Cross had ascended as a sweet-smelling savour. It had met all the Divine claims; it had satisfied God’s outraged justice; it had put away sin from before His face. The rending of the veil within the temple was the sign of access to God secured; the opening of the graves without (Matt. 27:51, 53) was the signal of death defeated, and its power annulled for all the saints. The Lord’s resurrection was God’s open and eternal witness to the all-sufficiency of Christ’s atoning work. He who had been delivered for our offences has now been raised for our justification (Rom. 4:25). Had there been a claim unmet, or a sin unpurged, the Lord Jesus would not have been where He now is—the enthroned Sin-purger, at the right hand of God (Heb. 1:3). His presence there is the witness of sin put away. Himself there, is the peace of His people (Eph. 2:14).
“For God released our Surety
To show the work is done;
And Jesus’ resurrection
Declares the victory won.”
Resurrection is a witness of Christ’s VICTORY over death. The Seed of the woman has bruised the serpent’s head (Gen. 3:15). Death has been vanquished; the devil, who had its authority, has been conquered, and his power annulled (Heb. 2:14); the strong man armed has been overcome, and his spoils taken (Luke 11:21-22). The Risen Lord speaks the assuring word to all His own, “I am He that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive forevermore” (Rev. 1:18). “Because I live, ye shall live also” (John 14:19).
Christ’s resurrection is the pledge of ours. “As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” “Now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept” (1 Cor. 15:20, 22). At the descent of the Lord to the air, the dead in Christ, all of them, of all ages, shall be raised incorruptible (1 Cor. 15:45), in bodies fashioned like unto the body of His glory (Phil. 3:21) and, together, with the living saints, who will be changed, their mortal bodies having put on immortality (1 Cor. 15:53), all fully in the image of their Lord, seeing Him as He is (1 John 3:2). In character, theirs will be a resurrection from among the dead, like that of their Lord, the wicked not being raised then, nor till after the thousand years of millennial bliss, and then for judgement (John 5:28-29; Rev. 20:11-12). The resurrection of the Lord, and His appointment as Judge, makes their judgement sure (Acts 17:31).
THE DENIAL OF RESURRECTION
In early times, even while the apostles lived, there were some who taught that the resurrection was “past already” (2 Tim. 2:18), and others who said there was “no resurrection of the dead” (1 Cor. 15:13) at all. With both of these the Apostle deals unsparingly, instructing and recovering those who had been led astray by the false teaching, warning the saints against such teachers, and calling to separation from them (2 Tim. 2:29). Since then, many forms of Rationalism have arisen, denying, in varied forms, the resurrection of Christ, and thus making faith void. Of these, the following may be named. Early in the 1800’s, Paulus and his school taught that Jesus did not die, but merely swooned, and, being laid in the grave, the coolness of the air and fragrance of the spices reanimated the enfeebled body. But this has long been discredited, even among Rationalists themselves. Strauss, who opposed the Paulus theory, remarked that if the disciples proclaimed the Lord as Victor over death, when they knew He had barely escaped being held in its grasp, and had to be taken from His tomb and nursed back to health, they were impostors, and if the apostles announced that Christ was raised from the dead, when they knew He had never died, they were false witnesses. Notwithstanding this, Strauss invented another form of denial of Christ’s resurrection, which holds the field among Rationalists still. It is, that the disciples, being in expectation of the Lord’s resurrection, had their imagination so wrought upon, that they thought they had seen the Lord, mistaking some stranger for Him. Renan, the infidel Frenchman, many years ago, issued a blasphemous caricature of the Gospels, in which he maintains there was no resurrection, but that Mary, Peter, and the rest were under a mental hallucination, while Rationalists and sceptics of the present time raise equally puerile objections to that which, because it is beyond their reason, they reject. Many of these arguments, although given out as “new,” are only so in their dress, being the old, impious assaults of Paine, Voltaire, and German infidels, couched in refined, sometimes elegant and religious phraseology, to deceive the simple.
WITNESSES OF RESURRECTION
To Mary Magdalene (John 20:16), to Peter (Luke 24:34), to the two disciples at Emmaus (Luke 24:31), to the eleven (John 20:19) on the resurrection day, later to five hundred of His followers (1 Cor. 15:6), and throughout the forty days between His Resurrection and Ascension, the Lord Jesus “showed Himself alive after His passion by many infallible proofs,” speaking to them (Acts 1:3), eating with them (Luke 24:43), and, at last, while in the act of blessing them, “was parted from them and carried up into Heaven.” There He was seen by His martyr, Stephen, “on the right hand of God” (Acts 7:56), and both seen and heard by Saul of Tarsus (Acts 9:3-5; 1 Cor. 15:8) on that memorable day as he journeyed to Damascus. Since then, all through this day of Gospel grace, every sinner begotten of God, raised from death in sin to newness of life, is a veritable witness that Christ is risen (1 Pet. 1:3; Rom. 6:4, 10), and that the same mighty power which raised Him up (Eph. 1:19-20) has wrought for (Eph. 2:1) and now works in His saints (Eph. 3:20), whose longing desire henceforth is, “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection” (Phil. 3:10), and whose aim, as those who have been raised with Christ ever is—as the needle to the pole—to “seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God” (Col. 3:1).
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
1.—In 1 Corinthians 15:45, 47, the words, “the second Man” and “the last Adam,” occur. Do they apply to Christ?—Yes. Risen from the dead, He is the Head of a new race, a new type of man, to whose image all those whom He represents as “First-fruits” are to be conformed (Rom. 8:29; 1 Cor. 15:49). “Second,” because all before Him were but repetitions of the first fallen man, whose descendants they were. “Last Adam,” because there will be no other to succeed Him.
2—Was the Lord’s resurrection body the same as it had been before death?—John 2:19-22 tells us it was the same “temple of His body” which was to be raised up, as man would destroy, yet with certain differences, as Luke 24:39 shows. “The body of His flesh” (Col. 1:22) is connected with His earthly life and death, while the “body of His glory” (Phil. 3:21, R.V.) is the name given to it in Heaven. Like changes will be wrought in the bodies of the saints (1 Cor. 15:44-46), while their identity is preserved.
THE HOLY SPIRIT: His Personality, Presence and Power
The Divine Personality and perpetual Presence of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, is characteristic of the present age. The Eternal Spirit (Heb. 9:14) co-existent and co-equal with the Father and the Son, and alike proceeding from both (John 15:26), ever actively working, the Agent and acknowledged Cause in Creation (Job. 33:4), Incarnation (Luke 1:35), and Regeneration (John 3:5), has come to “abide” throughout this age of grace, consequent on the death, resurrection, and glorification of the Son, and as the result of accomplished redemption. His operations in the world, in the believer, and in the Church are fully revealed in the Scriptures, and are cardinal to Christianity. To these, in dependence upon Him, who was their Inspirer, and is their Revealer and Teacher, we would now turn, seeking help in the Word on this great subject.
THE PERSONALITY OF THE SPIRIT
The Personality of the Spirit, assumed in the Old Testament, comes clearly into view in the New, especially in the Lord’s Paschal discourse in John 14-16, where, in speaking of the coming Comforter, He definitely and emphatically pronounces His Personality, using the masculine pronoun “HE” repeatedly, in each of the great utterances concerning His mission and work. Not a mysterious influence or “breath,“ which some who deny alike the Spirit’s Deity and man’s personality admit, but a Divine Being, not indeed incarnate and visible to the world (John 14:17), as was the Son, but One who can hear and speak (John 16:13), who may be lied unto (Acts 5:3, 9), who can be resisted (Acts 7:51), and whom to blaspheme is regarded as irremissible and eternal sin (Matt. 12:32; Mark 3:29). “The Spirit Himself” (Rom. 8:16, R.V.), who searcheth and knoweth all things—omniscient (1 Cor. 2:14), omnipotent (Phil. 3:21), and omnipresent (Ps. 139:7)—the third Person of the Eternal Triune God. Therefore, to deny the Divinity of the Son, or the Personality of the Spirit, is to abjure Christianity.
THE TITLES OF THE SPIRIT
“The Comforter” (John 14:16)—the word is elsewhere rendered “Advocate” (1 John 2:2)—One who has come as Divine Helper (Rom. 8:26) and Strengthener (Eph. 3:16), “another Comforter” to be in the saints on earth, as Christ is for them in Heaven. “The Spirit of Christ” (Rom. 8:9), sent by Him (John 15:26), testifying of and glorifying Him (John 16:9) so strengthening His people with might in the inner man that Christ may dwell in their hearts (Eph. 3:17) experimentally. The Spirit of the Son (Gal. 4:6), raising in the heart the cry, “Abba, Father,” making good to the “sons” in blessed experience their privileges, and maintaining them in communion with the Father and the Son. “The Spirit of the Lord” (2 Cor. 3:17), enabling His people to confess His Lordship (1 Cor. 12:3) and own His authority, as expounded in His Word (1 Cor. 14:37). “The Spirit of Truth” (John 16:13), guiding into and teaching all the truth in the Word which He Himself has given (1 Cor. 2:13; 2 Tim. 3:16).
THE WORK OF THE SPIRIT
In Old Testament times, He it was who brooded over the dark waste of waters (Gen. 2:2), garnished the heavens (Job 26:13), strove with the ante-diluvians (Gen. 6:31), gave skill to workers (Ex. 35:31), strength to warriors (Jud. 3:10; 6:34; 14:19), and spake through prophets (1 Sam. 10:20; 2 Sam. 23:2; Hag. 2:5). His work in New Testament times was announced by the Baptist, the forerunner of the Lord Jesus, to whom he testified as “the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29) and the Baptizer with (or in) the Holy Spirit (ver. 33). The Lord’s anointing for service (Matt. 3:16; Acts 10:38), His preaching (Luke 4:14-18), His mighty works (Matt. 12:28), and His offering of Himself to God as a sacrifice (Heb. 9:14) were all in the power of the Spirit.
Three chapters in John’s Gospel describe His threefold operations in believing sinners. Chapter 3—regeneration, or life begotten by the Spirit; chapter 4—life abundant, or the Spirit’s indwelling; chapter 7:37-39—life outflowing, or the Spirit’s ministry; the latter in its fulness to be known after Christ’s death and resurrection, for, as we are told, “the Holy Spirit was not yet, because Christ was not yet glorified.” Thus, while all spiritual life had been begotten of the Spirit, and men of faith in all ages born anew by His operation, He had not yet come as the Spirit of Promise, the Divine Paraclete, to “abide for the age” (John 14:16), as the great Worker of the present time, through whose operations the purposes of God in redemption and salvation in all their fulness are to be accomplished.
THE ADVENT OF THE SPIRIT
The historic account of the coming of the Comforter is recorded in Acts 2:3-4. His operations in connection with the preaching of the Gospel are described throughout the Book (see chapters 2:38; 4:31; 5:32; 10:44, etc.), where the awakening and conversion of sinners, their confession of Jesus Christ as Lord, their submission to His authority, and obedience to His Word, are all attributed to “the power of the Spirit of God” (Rom. 15:19).
HIS WORK IN THE WORLD
“To convict the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment” (John 16:8), to testify of Christ through His witnesses (John 15:26; Acts 1:8), so filling them that they speak the Word with boldness and power (Acts 4:8, 33), going forth with the Gospel message, so as to make it effectual in the sinner’s salvation (1 Thess. 1:5; 1 Pet. 1:12), his faith not being according to man or his wisdom of words, which merely reach the intellect, but by “demonstration of the Spirit” standing in “the power of God” (1 Cor. 2:5). Not that the Gospel is lacking in efficiency, for it in itself is “the power of God unto salvation” (Rom. 1:16), but because of what man is fallen, debased, and distorted in every part of his being, “alienated from the life of God” (Eph. 4:18), and “dead in sins” (Col. 2:13). Apart from conviction of sin, which is of the Spirit, and that “repentance toward God” (Acts 20:21), which is the result of it in the soul, there can be no true “faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ,” no true conversion. “Stony ground” hearers, whose profession “endureth for a while” (Matt. 13:20-21), but who, having “no root,” quickly “wither away” (Luke 8:13), are those in whom the rock has not been blasted and broken up by conviction, but whose feelings or intellects have only been reached with the Word. Logical and intellectual preaching, to which unconvicted and unawakened sinners in their pride of heart and self-righteousness give a cold acquiescence, is filling the professing Church with lifeless members.
Conviction may not result in conversion, for the Spirit may be resisted now, as of old (Acts 7:51). Men “cut to the heart” by the power of the truth, may reject the message and kill the messenger, as they did Stephen, and by rejecting Christ and despising His atoning blood, they “do despite unto the Spirit of Grace” (Heb. 10:28-29), who has been dealing with them. Thus, because of the wickedness of men and their determination to “have pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thess. 2:12), His work becomes ineffectual.
REGENERATION BY THE SPIRIT
“Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God” (1 John 5:1). To “as many as received Him, to them gave He power (or right) to become the children of God, even to them that believe on His Name, who were born . . . of God” (John 1:12-13, R.V.). Obeying “the truth through the Spirit” (1 Pet. 1:21), the believing sinner is “born of the Spirit” (John 3:5), he is “quickened” into life (Eph. 2:1). Of this new birth, the Spirit is the Agent, the Word is the instrument. He is born of the Spirit, begotten with the Word of truth (Jas. 1:18). Possessed of everlasting life (John 3:36), a partaker of the Divine nature (2 Pet. 2:4), renewed by the Spirit (Tit. 3:5-7), the regenerated man, God’s child, lives in the Spirit (Gal. 5:25), and by Him is led (Rom. 8:17).
SEALED, ANOINTED, INDWELT
“In whom believing, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of Promise” (Eph. 1:13, R.V.), sealed for God, marked out as His. And thus sealed on the day of regeneration, the seal abides “unto the day of redemption” (Eph. 5:30)—the redemption of the body at the coming of the Lord. He is also “the earnest” of coming glory (Eph. 1:14), bringing even now sweet foretastes of the coming bliss of the “inheritance” which awaits the saint in eternal glory with Christ. This “seal” and this “earnest” are the common lot of all the saints, and go together, as we learn from (2 Cor. 1:22). As the oil was put upon the blood on the day of the leper’s cleansing, so the Spirit comes and abides in virtue of the work of Christ, not because of personal worth or spiritual attainment, claiming for God in actual possession what has been acquired by God, through redemption. And He is also a witness in the believer with his own spirit, that he is God’s child (Rom. 8:15-16). The Source of strength (Eph. 3:17), the Means of practical sanctification (1 Cor. 6:9-11) and of spiritual transformation (2 Cor. 3:17-18), the Prompter of believing prayer (Jude 21; Rom. 8:26-27), the Teacher and Guide into all truth (John 16:13; 1 John 2:20, 27), the Power for godly walk (Gal. 5:16), the Secret of effectual testimony (John 15:26-27), and the Source of victory over sin (Gal. 5:17), which the believer is to receive in continual supply (Phil. 1:19), and thus “be filled” (Eph. 5:18). Although He does not leave or cease to indwell the children of God, He may be “grieved” (Eph. 4:30) by sin, in which case He ceases to sustain them in communion with God, and strengthen them for service, until sin confessed is cleansed, and the soul restored, to be again “upheld” (Ps. 2:11-12) in conscious power. Indwelling the believer’s body as a temple (1 Cor. 6:19), its members yielded to Him and controlled by Him, are used for God, and ought to be holy, set apart to God and to His service.
IN THE CHURCH
“Baptized in one Spirit into one body” (1 Cor. 12:11), the many members are organically one, united to the living Head in Heaven and to all His members by a common bond. This “unity of the Spirit” they are all to “give diligence to keep” (Eph. 4:2, R.V.). Thus, formed by the sovereign act of the Lord, who Himself is the Baptizer (John 1:33, with Acts 1:5), each member, joined to the Lord and one Spirit (1 Cor. 6:17), forms a member of the body, of which it is said—“There is one body and one Spirit” (Eph. 4:4)—never bodies, as if there could be many, but one, only one, never to be multiplied, never to be mutilated.
In another view, the Church, in its local aspect, is “a habitation of God in the Spirit” (Eph. 2:22), the temple of God in which the Spirit of God dwelleth (1 Cor. 3:16). There He abides as the Bond of unity (Phil. 2:1), the Power for worship (Phil. 3:3), the Guide and Administrator in ministry (1 Cor. 12:4). In spite of man’s failure, the Holy Spirit remains in the Church, and where He is honoured, and God’s order carried out under His guidance, His presence will be manifested and proved by those who count upon Him. As He may be “grieved” in the individual (Eph. 4:30), so He may be “quenched” (1 Thess. 5:19) in the assembly, by human restrictions hindering His operations, or by carnal intrusiveness acting apart from His guidance, in lawlessness, or fleshly zeal. Those who watch over and feed the flock as true “overseers” are made so by the Holy Spirit (Acts 20:28), and no human election or ecclesiastic ordination can make any man a minister or an elder, who has not been called to the work and fitted for it by the Spirit.
His administration and guidance in Gospel service in the world, is beautifully set forth in the Acts, where He is seen hindering Paul and his fellow-workers from going to certain places (Acts 16:6-7), prompting Philip to join himself to the chariot of an anxious soul (Acts 8:29), choosing and sending forth those whom He will use to do certain service (Acts 13:2-4), and working mightily through those whom He thus sends (Rom. 15:19). The last mention of the Spirit in connection with the Church is a very lovely one. In the last chapter of the Book of Revelation we read: “The Spirit and the Bride say, Come” (Rev. 22:17). To whom is this addressed? Clearly to the Bridegroom, to the absent but returning Lord, to whom the Spirit first won the heart of the believing sinner by presenting His person and His work, of whom he has been by the same Spirit made a member, and for whom, under the Spirit’s indwelling, he has been taught to long and pray, “Come, Lord Jesus.”
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
1.—Is it according to Scripture to pray for or to the Spirit? —No. The Spirit has come to abide for ever, as John 14:16 tells us. He is in the believer (Eph. 1:13-14; 3:17), and it is his responsibility to be “filled with“ (Eph. 5:18) and to “walk in” (Gal. 5:16, 25) the Spirit. Praying in the Spirit (Eph. 6:18; Jude 20) is Scriptural language, but we have no record of prayer to Him, although such invocations are found in hymnology. He makes intercession in and for the saints (Rom. 8:26-27), not to Himself, but to God.
2.—How may I know when I am led by the Spirit?—His leading is always along the lines of the Word, never contrary to it; generally against the flesh and what it desires (Gal. 5:17); and, in the assembly, ever for the edification of others (1 Cor. 12:7-8).
THE BIBLE: Its Divine Inspiration, Absolute Purity and Supreme Authority
The Book that we call the Bible was believed by our fathers to be the Word of God, the Divine Oracles. They accepted its teachings, were warned by its threats, reposed on its promises, and submitted to its supreme authority. Its Gospel brought them salvation, its Truth sanctified them, its Glories severed them from the world, and set their affections on things above. Mere hereditary faith is not enough: second hand knowledge of things Divine lacks unction; nor does it bear the stress and strain of days of battle. We must each buy the truth, and know it for ourselves. One of the momentous questions of our time is—Is the Book that we call the Bible the Word of God? Is it a Revelation from God to man? Can we be certain that the Book came from God at the first, that He Himself is its Author, and, if so, has it come down through the ages to us, unaltered and uncorrupted by men? These are momentous questions, affecting the vitals of Christianity and the foundations of our faith. They therefore demand definite and decided answers. Nothing short of certainty will suffice on a subject so fraught with eternal issues; to a truly exercised soul doubt is intolerable, in the things of God and eternity.
The testimony given concerning the authorship of the Bible is, that “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16). The five English words, “given by inspiration of God,” represents one word in Greek, and that word, Theopneustos, means “God-breathed.” Here we have the Origin and the Authorship of the Holy Scriptures. They are the breathings of the Eternal God. He who breathed into Adam’s lifeless clay the breath of life, has breathed out the words of Holy Scripture, and these holy writings are therefore God’s words—perfect, unchangeable, and eternal. The Spirit of God was the speaker, and He used the tongue of chosen instruments (see 2 Sam. 23:2; Ps. 45:1). Holy men spake from God, moved by the Holy Spirit (2 Pet. 1:21). (See also Acts 1:16; 4:25; 28:25.)
The inspiration of the Scriptures is now denied, as has been said, in “its Existence, its Universality, and its Plenitude,” not only by avowed infidels, but by professing Christians, many of them ministers of churches and Professors in universities, who have openly violated their ordination vows in their crusade against the Bible. They assume that God is unknown, and that He is unknowable. Such a God is inconceivable. He is not the God of love who sent His Son, in whom the Father was declared (John 1:18). Some deny the existence of inspiration: they do not believe that the Book came from God at all. If they admit “inspiration” it is in the same sense as they do in the works of Shakespeare and Burns. But this is not what is claimed for “the Oracles of God.” With such men, all is chaos and uncertainty. They are Agnostics—they know nothing, profess nothing.
Others allow that parts of the Bible are inspired, but that other parts are the work of men, and consequently open to doubt. To deal with the Bible thus, is like using a purse in which gold and counterfeit sovereigns are mixed, to be used at random, which would make faith impossible, and pave the way to open infidelity. The position of this party is untenable, inasmuch as the Bible claims for itself to be one united whole, and “the Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35). A third class say that the thoughts of the Bible were given by God to the various writers, but that they were allowed to choose their own words, which, in some cases, are misleading and contradictory of each other.
Others claim that the very words of Scripture are God’s words (see 1 Cor. 2:13), and that the entire Book is God-breathed. This latter is Divine Inspiration, and nothing else is. The writers—of whom there were many—were “holy men of God.” They did not speak or write from memory, but as they were “taught by the Holy Ghost” (2 Pet. 2:21). Who but God could tell the events of Genesis 1 in the past, or who else could foretell the events of Revelation 22 in the future? Moses wrote the Book of Genesis on the Plains of Moab, and John the Book of Revelation in the Isle of Patmos, both at the dictation of God. Although the instruments were human, the words were given by the Holy Spirit, and absolutely warranted. When this is grasped—that God spake to Moses and Isaiah and John at “sundry times and in diverse manners” (Heb. 1:1) what He wanted them to write, that this they did write and that these writings are “the Holy Scripture”—then we shall not be puzzled by sceptical references to the “mistakes of Moses” or the “contradictions of the evangelists.”
FULFILMENT OF PROPHECY
There are many proofs in the world around, in the heavens above, and in the earth beneath, that the Book is God’s Book. Its prophecies concerning Christ have been fulfilled. He was to be the Woman’s Seed (Gen. 3:15; Matt. 1:18; Gal. 4:3), the Virgin’s Child (Isa. 7:14, with Luke 1:27-35), of the line of Abraham (Gen. 22:18, with Matt. 1:1), of the family of David (Jer. 23:5-6, with Luke 2:4). His betrayal (Zech. 11:12), His death (Isa. 53), His pierced hands and feet (Ps. 22:16), His tomb (Isa. 53:9), His exaltation (Isa. 52:13), and His coming again (Zech. 14) were all foretold, and are fulfilled, or to be, to the very letter.
THE LORD’S ACCEPTANCE OF SCRIPTURE
When the Lord Jesus was here on earth, it was “His custom” to read a certain Book (Luke 4:16). He called it “the Scriptures” (John 5:39). He quoted from each of its parts. To Him it was the final appeal, to fulfil it was His mission, to honour its teachings His delight. From this Book He preached to men (Luke 17:26-29), expounded to His disciples (Luke 24:27), and from it He chose His weapons where with He defeated the devil (Matt. 4:7). He called the Book as it was, “the Scriptures,” although it was only a copy and a translation of the original writings. He acknowledged it to be “the Word of God” (Mark 7:13). He authenticated the books of the Old Testament; He owned them as they stood, bearing the names of their acknowledged writers, and divided into parts as we now have them (see Luke 24:44). Would the Son of God have sanctioned a Book in which there were “cunningly devised fables”? Would He have designated an ill-assorted mixture of God His Father’s commandments and man’s traditions, “the Word of God,” as He did? Who will dare to charge Him with thus deceiving mankind? The Book that was in current use in His day was only a copy of the original Hebrew Scriptures, handed down through the ages, but this did not hinder Him from accepting and authenticating it as “the Word of God,” owning its supreme authority in all things, and claiming that not a “jot” or a “tittle” of it would be unfulfilled.
Pseudo-critics—men, who boast of their superior wisdom—who, under the plea of expunging from the Bible parts which they say are contrary to reason, “to win the educated classes to religion”—have played into the hands of the Rationalists, and, in the process, have become infidels. The written Word is now receiving the same treatment at the hands of sceptical professors as the living Word received at the hands of the Jewish leaders of His time, who were neither ignorant nor irreligious. Nevertheless, they rejected God’s Christ, and “crucified the Lord of Glory.” A recent writer of the Critic school says—“Both Christ and the apostles or writers of the New Testament, held the current Jewish notions respecting the Divine authority and revelation of the Old Testament,” which simply means, the Lord believed the Bible as it then was, because He knew no better, and this we are told because He had “emptied Himself” (Phil. 2:7, R.V.) and knew no more than His contemporaries, and less than the “scholars” who are now engaged in hacking the Bible to pieces. This is blasphemy against the Son of God. To speak of Him to whom God gave not the Spirit “by measure,” who ever spake “the Words of God” (John 2:34), who said, “The words that I speak unto you I speak not of Myself” (John 14:10) whose words will stand, though “heaven and earth shall pass away” (Luke 21:33), as being unable to discern the integrity of the Scripture, is to reject the Christ of God who avowed His faith in the divine inspiration of the Old Testament Scriptures, and so taught His disciples before and after His resurrection (Luke 24:27, 44-45). Here is our authority for accepting and regarding our Bible to be the very Word of God. The second proof is a very simple one. We know the Book to be true, because we have the proof in ourselves. It told us, as sinners, to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and we would be saved (Acts 16:31). We did believe; we were saved (2 Tim. 1:9-10; 1 Cor. 15:3). God fulfilled the promise: the promise was, therefore, true. We claim, consequently, for the Bible that it is the eternal Word of Almighty God; that it was inspired by Him; that its words, even its very letters (see Gal. 3:16, where the absence of an “s” is used to prove Christ to be the Seed of Abraham), are from Him, and of Him, and it is perfect. The Holy Scriptures as we have them, notwithstanding minor errors in transcription and variations in translation, are God’s Word. There is nothing to be taken from it, because nothing is superfluous; nothing to be added to it, because nothing is awanting (Deut. 4:2; Prov. 30:5-6). Its authority, sufficiency, and supremacy abide, in spite of infidel attacks, open or disguised, and all its commands and precepts, the least and the greatest alike, are to be honoured and obeyed by God’s people, always and everywhere, in every department of their lives, in the family, the business, the church, and the world.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
1.—Are the discrepancies which are pointed out by unbelievers in such passages as 2 Samuel 24:13, where “seven” is given in place of “three,” a proof of human failure in the inditing of the Scriptures?—They prove the errors of copyists, who had to transcribe each word, but they determine nothing regarding the originals, which, given by God, were absolutely free from errors. Having regard to their circumstances, the wonder is that such errors are so few, and not one of them affects fundamental truth. Much that once was regarded as “discrepancy” has, under the teaching of the Spirit, and by the diligent comparing of Scripture with Scripture, been found to be the most perfect “harmony.”
2.—Did the writers of the Scriptures understand all that they wrote ?—1 Peter 1:10 shows they did not. They wrote what God gave them, then “inquired and searched diligently” to know its meaning. This disposes of the objection that “unlearned and ignorant men” could not have used such language as is found in the writings attributed to them. But If God gave them the words to speak and write, as He did (see Isa. 55:11; 2 Sam. 23:2), then the case Is closed.
3.—Can it be shown, as is often alleged, that men of learning and ability reject the Bible as fully reliable?—The late Bishop Ryle well says: “I believe the inspired writers were guided by the Holy Ghost alike in their selection of matter and their choice of words;” and Dean Burgon adds: “Every book of it, every chapter of it, every verse of it, every syllable of it, every letter of it, is the direct utterance of the Most High.” Earl Cairns, twice Lord Chancellor of Great Britain, was an ardent believer in the inspiration of the Bible, and found therein “the foundation of all law and all morality.” Sir Matthew Hale says: “There is no book like the Bible for excellent learning, wisdom, and use.” W.E.Gladstone called it “the Impregnable Rock of Holy Scripture,” and Sir Isaac Newton, “the most sublime philosophy.” Faith requires no such assurances from man, but they at least rebut the popular fallacy, that “all learned men reject the Bible as being Divinely inspired.”
4.—It is said that we accept the Bible as the Word of God because “the Church” accredits it. Is this a sound argument?—Very far from it. It is Rome’s favourite, nevertheless, and “the Church,” in this view, means the priest or the Pope. “The Bible,” say they, “is not of itself infallible, but the Church is, and therefore we accept the Bible, because the Church tells us to do so.” The facts are, that “the Church,” guided by the canons of the Council of Nice, puts Scripture and Tradition on the same basis, accepting both as having the same authority. But the simple Christian, who makes his Bible his constant companion, does not require “the Church” or any human authority whatever to intervene. He knows the Shepherd’s voice when he hears it in his soul. He knows the Bible is the Word of his God, because it brings him to His presence. And he does not judge the Bible and its utterances by the Church, but, on the contrary, he tests the Church and its teachings by the Bible.
Man: A Triune Being, Spirit and Soul and Body
The rapid spread of Materialist views, which declare that the body alone is the man, and of Annihilationist doctrine, which insists that at death the human organism is dissolved, and the man ceases to be—i.e., becomes extinct in his entire being—is a cause of sorrow to all who love the truth. There is a certain plausibility and cunning in man’s way of stating these errors, which tends to carry conviction to minds untaught in the truth of Scripture, and thus they are led into the by-paths of error. By the truth alone shall we be preserved—therefore, it should be earnestly sought for as hid treasure, and, when found, held fast in faith and love for our own preservation and edification, then held forth for the help and blessing of others.
Man, as created by God, and living on earth in mortal flesh, is a triune being, composed of “spirit and soul and body” (1 Thess. 5:23). These three parts constitute the man. He may be, and is, in the language of Scripture, identified with either, according to the line of truth being revealed. He usually is so with the “body” when his relation to others is in view, and with the “soul and spirit” when his attitude toward God is under consideration. It is the possession of “spirit” which makes man a moral and accountable being, fitted for acquaintance and intercourse with God, and which links him, in his hopes or fears, with a life and a world beyond the present.
THE CREATION OF MAN
The words in Genesis 1:26-27, “Let us make man in our own image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion,” are peculiar to man’s creation. Other forms of life had already been brought forth, by the “waters” and the “earth” (vv. 20, 24), but in man’s creation, Elohim—the Triune God—acts directly and deliberately. Genesis 2:7-25, gives the details of his creation in the concrete, as the earlier mention of it does in the abstract—not two events, but the same in different aspects. This record of man’s creation is neither mythical nor parabolic, but literal. It is assumed as historic fact by the Lord (Matt. 19:4-6) and the inspired Apostle (1 Tim. 2:13-14), and is fundamental to revealed truth concerning man in his present condition (Rom. 5:12-19) and future state (1 Cor. 15:12-19). Evolution, in its modern aspects, virtually denies this record, although it is endorsed by the Son of God (Matt. 19:6), who in Scripture is honoured and owned as man’s creator (John 1:3).
THE BODY OF MAN
“The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul.” There was first the figure of clay, formed of the dust, concerning which it is written—“Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return” (Gen. 3:19). Into this lifeless form God in breathed “the breath of life.” The body is spoken of in Scripture as man’s “tabernacle,” which he may “put off” (2 Pet. 1:14), in which he may be “at home” (2 Cor. 5:6), or from which he may be “absent” (v. 8). It is said to be “mortal” (Rom. 8:11), that is, subject to death, as a result of the fall. Men may kill it (Matt. 10:28), and it may see corruption (Acts 13:36), from which it will be delivered at resurrection (John 5:28-29). Materialists say the body is the man, ignoring spirit and soul as Scripture describes them and their functions, and denying consciousness or any survival after death. With Annihilationists, death is the “extinction” of man’s being.
THE SOUL OF MAN
Derived, as Genesis 2:7, informs us, from the in-breathing of the Creator, which raises him far above the beasts, which are said to have “soul” (Gen. 1:30, marg.), man is the offspring of God (Acts 17:28), formed to have dominion, in the image and glory of God (1 Cor. 11: 7), even though now fallen from his first estate. Man is linked with the inferior creatures by being, as they are, “a living soul,” and distinguished from angels, who are only “spirit” (Heb. 1:7, 14), but not “souls.” While man is alive in the body, he is a “soul” (see Ezek. 18:20; Lev. 5:2, 4; 7:20, where the person—the individual—is clearly meant); when out of the body, he is then called a “spirit” (Heb. 12:23). It is the intermediate link between spirit and body, and the life of the latter. To it are ascribed the functions of loving (1 Sam. 18:1), hating (2 Sam. 5:8), desiring (Job 23:13), longing (Ps. 84:2). Affections, appetites, desires belong to the soul. The soul is said to be the seat or spring of sin—“the sin of the soul” (Mic. 6:7)—for it atonement is said to be made (Lev. 17:11), and as it is by the soul needed, so by it is it made, as we read, “When Thou shalt make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed. He shall see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied” (Isa. 53:10-11).
THE SPIRIT OF MAN
“The spirit of man which is in him” (1 Cor. 2:11), “formed within him” (Zech. 12:1), a separate entity in each individual, his highest part, linking him with God, who is the “Father of spirits” (Heb. 12:9), and the “God of the spirits of all flesh” (Num. 16:22; 22:16), which is equivalent to saying, of all men (see Gen. 6:12; Luke 3:6), saved and unsaved. This “spirit” which animates and controls the bodily organism is from God Himself, and without it the body is “dead” (Jas. 2:26). At death it returns to God who gave it (Eccl. 12:7). In the case of the believer, it is received by the Lord Jesus (Acts 7:59), and exists in consciousness apart from the body (Heb. 12:23). To the spirit is ascribed the functions of intelligence, understanding, and judgment. It can “know” (1 Cor. 2:11), be “stirred” (Acts 17:16), be “provoked” (Ps. 106:33), while by it moral and spiritual qualities may be developed, such as a “right spirit” (Ps. 51:10), a “meek and a quiet spirit” (1 Pet. 3:4). “My spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour” (Luke 1:47) tells of its capability of spiritual joy, while the Spirit of God bearing witness “with our spirit” (Rom. 8:16) tells of its capability for intercourse with the Divine.
IN LIFE AND DEATH
While spirit, soul, and body continue in the harmonious relations to each which constitute the man, he is in LIFE, as that word is ordinarily used. When the triunity breaks up—when the soul and spirit leave the body—the condition is reached which is called DEATH. Neither of the three component parts becomes extinct, but their disruption breaks up the man—the man dies. The body returns to dust; the spirit to God who gave it. The former we know by sight; the latter comes to us as a revelation from God (Eccl. 12:7). Death is separation: never extinction. Even Annihilationists are compelled to admit that something survives, in which the identity of the man is preserved till resurrection and judgment (John 5:28-29; Rev. 20:12). This “something,” Scripture informs us, is the disembodied spirit, which, liberated from its tenement, continues to exist. The question remains—Where?
THE UNCLOTHED STATE
At death, the tenant leaves the “earthly house” in which through life he had dwelt (2 Cor. 5:1). The spirit “puts off” the tabernacle in which it had sojourned through earthly years (2 Pet. 1:13-14). In the case of the Christian—the man who has been born of God (John 1:12-13), who has become a possessor of eternal life (1 John 5:13), and on whom as a seal the Spirit of God rests until the day of redemption (Eph. 4:30), the redemption of the body (Rom. 8:23)—the emancipated spirit “departs to be with Christ” (Phil. 1:23). When Stephen was being stoned to death, he said “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” (Acts 7:59). It is there, absent from the body, and at home with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:8, R.V.), in conscious blessedness—“very far better” (Phil. 1:23, R.V.) than it ever could be in mortal flesh. Thus, the ransomed spirit of the saint awaits the coming hour of resurrection, when it will be reunited with a spiritual body, fitted to its new conditions, and capable of heavenly and eternal glory.
The unbelieving and unsaved sinner passes at death from his present condition of spiritual death (Eph. 2:1), and alienation from God because of sin (Eph. 4:18), to Hades, there to consciously suffer torment while the body is in the grave, and surviving brothers living in sin on earth, where the Bible is known (Luke 16:23-31), reserved under punishment to the day of judgment (2 Pet. 2:9, R.V.), when “death” shall deliver up their bodies and “Hades” their souls, to be re-united, and the man reconstituted for judgment (Rev. 20:13), followed by the final doom, the second death, the damnation of the entire person in Gehenna (Mark 9:43-49; Rev. 20:15; 21:8).
The current use of certain popular theological but unscriptural phrases in this connection, has done much to give the enemies of the truth a foothold, which they are not slow to use in making their onslaughts. “Immortal soul,” “never-dying soul,” “sudden death is sudden glory,” and other similar expressions, are not Scripture, nor does Scripture teaching warrant their use. They are sentiment and excrescence, arising from erroneous views or interpretations read into God’s Word. Immortality is a word which applies only to the resurrection body, yet to be put on (1 Cor. 15:54), which no man yet possesses, notwithstanding the phraseology of religious newspaper obituaries and tombstones, where someone is said to have “departed this life and entered upon a glorious immortality.” The Apostle’s injunction—“Hold fast the form of sound words” (2 Tim. 1:13)—is nowhere more needful than in the consideration and discussion of subjects which are matters of controversy, and concerning which we have nothing save the words of Divine revelation to guide and assure us. Man’s present tripartite nature, his dissolution, his ultimate destiny, and his endless being, are pre-eminent among such, and we do well to abide by and cleave to the inspired words of Holy Scripture in seeking light for ourselves and giving instruction to others, on a subject of so vast and transcendent importance.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
1.—Does death, in Ezekiel 18:20, where the words are, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die” mean extinction?—No; neither there nor anywhere else where it is used in Scripture. Annihilationists say that the judgment of sin is the death of the soul. But Scripture never so speaks. Nor does it speak of the death of the body. It is the man who dies, not his body or his soul. The word in Ezekiel 18:20 is the person—the Individual—not the father for the son, but the person who sins, he shall die. The word “soul” is so used in 1 Peter 3:20 and 4:19.
2.—What do the words, “shall not see life,” in John 3:36, mean? If he never sees life, must he not be exterminated?—Existence and life are not synonymous. All have the former—saint and sinner alike; only the former have “life,” as the word is here and elsewhere used. (See John 17:3; Rom. 6:23.) Eternal life is the possession of the believer now, and in the future. The unbeliever “hath not life” (1 John 5:12) now; and of him it is said that he “shall not see life” hereafter. Yet he exists without it, as we know. That he shall continue to exist while never seeing it, is equally sure, as the closing words of the verse, “the wrath of God abideth on him,” solemnly tell. Wrath cannot “abide” upon a nonentity. Endless existence is common to all men and angels; eternal life is the present possession of believers only (John 5:24). Immortality, which applies to a condition of life in the future, they look for (Rom. 2:7), and will “put on” (1 Cor. 15:53) at the coming of the Lord.
3.—How was the word spoken to Adam, in Genesis 2:17 “Thou shalt surely die,” fulfilled?—Not by natural death, for he lived 930 years afterwards. Nor was it “extinction of his being,” as Annihilationists say, for neither “in the day” Adam ate of the tree did his being become extinct, nor is it now. Nor did the promise of redemption suspend or postpone the sentence. When Adam sinned, the threatened death came upon him that day. His near relationship to God was broken. He was severed from His presence by sin; such is death in its deepest sense (see Eph. 2:1; 4:18). Yet he existed, as sinners still exist “without God”; so Romans 5:12-13, clearly tells us. And if, while now without life in Christ, fallen angels and sinful men exist, so, in the disembodied and the eternal states, they shall exist, as Scripture fully shows (see 2 Pet. 2:4; Rev. 20:10; Luke 16:23; Rev. 20:15).
THE EDEN FALL: Its Facts and its Consequences
It has become popular among a certain class of theologians and critics, to dispose of the story of the third chapter of Genesis by relegating it to that class, of “allegories” which have a “moral.” Some think it is “poetic,” others a “legend,” but all Rationalists agree that it is not historic, not literal.
The inspired Word of God assumes throughout that the facts of man’s primal creation, his probation in Eden, and his fall, are exactly as described by Moses in the book of Genesis. The Son of God, man’s Creator (John 1:3, R.V.), accepted and authenticated it in His ministry (Matt. 19:4-6), and the Holy Spirit bears witness to its facts in the records of the inspired Word (1 Tim. 2:13-14). The doctrine of it, as set forth in Romans 5:12-19 and 1 Corinthians 15:45-49, is fundamental and vital to the Gospel and the Faith. Those who deny man’s fall can have no adequate knowledge of redemption or of judgement to come. Hence, the “humanity” Gospels, while they differ on many points, are solidly agreed in this, that they have neither atonement, new birth, nor sin punishment in them. How can they? There is no need for either, if man is not ruined, if he is not a sinner.
Reviewing a popular book whose author is a leader of the “evolutionist” school, the editor of a Christian magazine says the book has this defect—it leaves out of court “Eden and Calvary.” This is fatal, for no “religion” or system of theology which ignores man’s fall and ruin, and Christ’s vicarious death for his redemption, has any claim to be called Christianity: it lacks its fundamentals.
The record of man’s formation from the dust of the ground, the breathing into his nostrils of the breath of life by the Lord God, the building of the woman from his side for a helpmeet, the minute account of the garden and its locality in which they were placed, can only be historical and actual, and as such it is typical and figurative. Adam was a real personage, as surely as Abel and Abraham; he was likewise a figure of Him that was to come (Rom. 5:14)—that is, of Christ.
“IMAGE” AND “LIKENESS”
“Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (Gen. 1:26) are the words used by Elohim in man’s creation. His constitution, of “spirit, soul, and body” (1 Thess. 5:23), a distinct personality, moral and responsible, unlike the beasts, possessed of mental and moral faculties, which pertain to the “spirit” or highest part of his being, by which he is linked with his Creator-God, who is a “Spirit” and the “Father of spirits” (Heb. 12: 9) embodies what is implied by “the image of God” in which man is created, a fact which abides permanent even in fallen man (see Gen. 9:6; Jas. 3:9). He is God’s representative, the “image and glory of God” (1 Cor. 11:7). “Likeness” is moral and spiritual—something that can be seen in development. It may be it has been lost through sin. “God made man upright” (Eccl. 7:29), capable of intercourse with Himself, innocent and in complete concord with His nature, the crown of all created beings, formed to have dominion, yet dependent, the subject. As such, he was “son” of God (Luke 3:38)—not in the same sense that Christ was, for He was His “only begotten” (John 3:16), or as believers now are (1 John 3:2), through redemption (Gal. 4:5) and by regeneration (John 1:12-13)—but as the direct creation of His hand, in His image and after His likeness. Adam was “son of God” as truly as Seth was “son of Adam” (Gen. 5:3).
HEAD AND REPRESENTATIVE
But Adam was more than an individual, he was what only one other Being ever was or ever will be, federal Head and Representative of his race—the first man, in whom all the after kind are seen, and their probation in some respects completed—a “figure” of, while yet in much a contrast to, Him who was to come, “the second Man” and “last Adam” (1 Cor. 15:45, 47)—“second Man” because there had been no other different in nature and character from the first, until Christ appeared; “last Adam” because there will be no third, none to succeed Him as head and representative of a new race.
Into the fair scene of man’s probation, an adversary—a real, personal Intelligence, under the form of a serpent, called in Revelation 20:2, “that old serpent, the Devil and Satan”—was permitted to enter. Who this mysterious being was, whence he came, what his character and intentions, Scripture has revealed all that an All-Wise God sees fit for man in his present state to know. “Secret things belong unto the Lord” (Deut. 29:29), and much regarding the origin of evil, and its entrance into Eden, remains to us insoluble. But, as Coleridge well says, “This fearful mystery I pretend not to understand. But I know that it is so, and what is real must be possible.”
The realm of spirits is known to God alone. He Himself, an essentially invisible Spirit (John 4:24), is their Centre and their Sovereign Ruler. Angels are spirits (Ps. 104:4), mighty in strength, yet ever hearkening to the voice of God’s Word (Ps. 103:20), willing servants, ever ready to do His will (Heb. 1:14). There is “an innumerable company” of them (Heb. 12:22) of various ranks (see Eph. 3:10; Col. 1:16). Among these, there had been in the distant past a revolt, led by Satan, who is here introduced as the adversary who compassed man’s fall. He beguiled the woman by subtlety (2 Cor. 11:3), “deceiving” her (1 Tim. 2:14) by misrepresenting God, assailing His love, His wisdom, and His word. The woman, parleying, drank in the lie, and, disobeying the injunction of the Lord God regarding the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, fell. Adam was “not deceived,” but with his eyes wide open to the fearful consequences, revolted from God and fell. The sceptre of authority fell from his hand; he became Satan’s slave, and his sin separated him from God. The sentence, “In the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Gen. 2:17), was executed. That penalty was not, as Annihilationists say, “the loss of life or existence,” for we know that, physically, Adam lived 930 years afterwards. But in that dread day, the intimacy which had existed between the Creator and the creature ceased; man was severed, cut off, from God, and passed under the sway of death, which is separation from God, yet retaining his constitution as a man intact, not deprived of “spirit,” as has been said, but wholly distorted from God, knowing good and evil, yet doing only the latter. Death, involving the separation of soul and spirit from the body, and after that the judgment (Heb. 9:27), which, unless sovereign mercy prevent it, issues in the “second death.”
RESULTS OF THE FALL
The fullest statement of the results of Adam’s fall upon his posterity, is given in Romans 5:12-21. 1—By one man “sin entered into the world,” and through his disobedience “many were made sinners.” 2—Death by sin passed upon all, for in Adam, their federal Head and Representative, all are reckoned to have sinned. 3—“Judgment was by one to condemnation,” and that “upon all men.” Thus, the sin of Adam, when he stood as our Representative in Paradise, is reckoned to all his seed, and is the ground of the judgement pronounced. As we elsewhere read, “In Adam all die” (1 Cor. 15:22). Apart from, and before, our actual and individual transgression by breaking known commandments, “after the similitude of Adam’s transgression,” we were regarded in the courts of heaven as having sinned in our legal Representative, and become amenable to Divine judgement. The result and final consequence of this was the transmission of an infected and corrupt nature to all his seed, which manifests itself in inward evil and outward development, making us transgressors. Against this the revolted heart of man rebels, and, execrating the thought that one should be charged with another’s sin, it passes sentence on the ways and Word of God, some declaring the former to be unjust, others the latter to be untrue. Thus, as Levi is reckoned to have been in Abraham’s loins, and paid tithes to Melchizedec before he was born (Heb. 7:9-10), so are Adam’s sons reckoned in him to have sinned and, conversely, Adam in his fallen and corrupt nature appears in them, as they appear in the world, “born in sin” (Ps. 2:5), by nature children of wrath (Eph. 2:2), their hearts deceitful above all things and desperately wicked (Jer. 17:9), alienated from God, and loving to have it so. Thus, fallen man is regarded in a threefold way to be a sinner in the sight of God. 1—By the imputation of Adam’s sin. 2—In the innate corruption imparted, the penal consequence of that sin. 3—Our own personal sin and transgression. Sin is in its nature lawlessness, and man’s fallen, carnal mind “is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be” (Rom. 8:7). The “flesh” is incurably bad: it can be neither reformed nor remedied, and man is unable to recover himself—he is impotent, “without strength” (Rom. 5:6). As a guilty sinner he needs Redemption; as a fallen sinner, he needs Regeneration.
MAN REDEEMED AND RENEWED
In the words spoken to the serpent by the Lord God in the garden, “I will put enmity between thy seed and her seed: it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel” (Gen. 3:15), He wrapt up in promise the way of man’s redemption. It was to be through the woman’s seed, who is Christ; it was to be through suffering, and by triumph over man’s enemy. In the language of New Testament Scripture, “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy (undo) the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). For this, Incarnation—the Word becoming flesh (John 1:14), the Son of God sent forth, “made of a woman” (Gal. 4:4), in the likeness of sinful flesh (Rom. 8:3), yet sinless, the Lamb without blemish and without spot (1 Pet. 1:19)—was a necessity. His person is thus essential to His work. His vicarious sufferings, His atoning death, His accepted sacrifice as meeting the Divine claims and vanquishing man’s captor are foreshadowed in the language of the types and in the offerings of the Levitical economy, to which the Epistle to the Hebrews bears full witness. In His death, God has found satisfaction, to which He has borne witness by raising Him from the dead. In virtue thereof, He is Just and the Justifier (Rom. 3:24), and Grace now proclaims forgiveness (Acts 13:38), and brings salvation (Tit. 2:11) to all men. The Gospel is preached without limit (Mark 16:15) to every creature, and judgment is, during this day of grace, postponed. All who receive the message are reconciled to God (Rom. 5:10), justified from all things (Acts 13:39), and brought to God. The sin of Adam no longer stands against them for condemnation; in Christ, the Second Man, they are accounted righteous (Rom. 5:19), and accepted (Eph. 1:6). Christ is their life (Col. 3:4), and in Him they are representatively risen and “as He is” (1 John 4:17), and destined to be glorified together with Him (Rom. 8:17). Subjectively, their personal condition is no longer that of aliens and strangers, but, as receiver of Christ, they are born of God (John 1:12), even now His children (1 John 3:1-2), predestinated to be conformed to the image of His Son (Rom. 8:29) after which they are even now created anew (Col. 3:10), into which, through beholding Him in glory, they are now being transformed (2 Cor. 3:17), and the full measure of which they shall attain at His coming (1 Cor. 15:48-49), awaking to be each satisfied with His likeness (Ps. 17:11), seeing Him as He is (1 John 3:3), and being like Him. The creation, which, in the fall of its first head and ruler, was subjected to vanity (Rom. 8:20-22), and groans for deliverance, shall, in virtue of the Cross and under the dominion of the Son of Man, be delivered from corruption, and share in the liberty of the glory, the curse being removed, the usurper banished (Rev. 20:3), and death itself destroyed (1 Cor. 15:26). Thus God has wrought and is working, and will gloriously triumph over Satan’s apparent conquest and man’s ruin, while the final doom of Satan (Rev. 20:10), and all who have taken sides with him, refusing the reconciliation and despising Divine mercy, is shown to be righteous and eternal (Rev. 20:15; 21:8).
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
1.—Is there anything in Scripture to show the origin of evil?—So far as man is concerned, Genesis 3 is the record of it, but there was a previous revolt among angelic Beings in Heaven, led by one who was the first and greatest of created intelligences, to which the “origin of evil” on earth is due. “The Devil sinneth from the beginning” (1 John 3:8). “He was a murderer from the beginning, and stood not in the truth” (John 8:44, R.V.). Why did God permit sin? is a question constantly asked by sceptics. It is vain to speculate on such matters, on which Revelation is silent. One thing is clear: the Son of God on the Cross, and the blood which atones for sin, leaves no doubt as to the love of God manifested toward man for his redemption from it and its effects (1 John 4:9; Tit. 2:11). The origin of evil is shrouded in gloom: the love of God Is clear as the noonday. Yet men shut their eyes to the one and grope in the darkness of their own reasonings, seeking information which God has withheld on the other.
LIFE, DEATH AND IMMORTALITY
Much attention has been given in recent years to the subject of man’s destiny. It is well that it should be so, for no subject ought to be of more personal importance to an intelligent human being, than that of where and under what conditions he is to exist, when the brief period of earthly life is past. Compared in its brevity to a “hand-breadth” (Ps. 39:5), in its impair to a “shadow that declineth” (Ps. 102:11), in its swiftness to “the passing of a it shuttle” (Job 7:6), how true, how forcible is that word of ancient time—“Man dieth and wasteth away; yea, man giveth up the ghost, and where is he?” (Job 14:10). To get a definite and authoritative answer, which we may accept as final, upon which our faith may repose in confidence, we must go to God. The present world is man’s realm: he is of the earth, earthy; formed to inhabit, explore and investigate it, but beyond its borders he cannot see. The world to come is only known to Him “who inhabiteth eternity” (Isa. 57:17), with whom one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day (2 Pet. 3:8), and to whom past and future lie equally open—the Omniscient, Omnipresent God. And He has revealed all concerning that world and man’s future destiny therein, that He has deemed it good for man at present to know, and that knowledge He has put within the reach of all, having recorded it in His Word.
The tendency of our times is distinctly iconoclastic, rudely destroying doctrines and truths long held sacred by our fathers, without replacing them by anything upon which faith can rest. Bewildered by the noise of the abandonment, not only of creeds and confessions, but of the Bible itself by many, godly and honest souls are crying out—“If the foundations destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Ps. 11:3). They can betake themselves to the Word of the Lord, which “liveth and abideth for ever;” and although professing Church and godless world should both give up faith in it—and we are warned they one day will—those who are “willing to do God’s will,” and having no axe of their own to grind, or pet theory to establish, shall “know of the teaching whether it be of God” (John 7:17, R.V.). In seeking help from “God and the Word of His Grace” on such cardinal truths as are expressed in the words, “Life, Death, and Immortality,” we need to be especially careful to observe the definitions given in Scripture of these words, in contrast with those often found in the creeds and books of men. If these words and their cognates are stripped of their theological and, in many cases, false meanings, and simply set in their Biblical contexts, half the difficulties regarding them would vanish, and the Annihilationist and Destructionist would be deprived of a vantage ground, which they too often occupy, from which to assail the truth of God and establish the cause of error.
A popular scientific writer says: “The word ‘life’ yet wanders through science without a definition;” and another acknowledges that “no rigid definition of life appears to be at present possible.” The Annihilationist will tell us that life is “existence,” and death “non-existence.” But this will not do. Many things exist without having life. The pen with which I write has existence; the hand that holds it has existence also: but it has something more—it has life. There is a Natural and there is a Spiritual life. The ORIGIN of both is GOD. Professor Huxley, a scientist and a confessed unbeliever, says: “Of the causes which have led to the origination of living matter, it may be said that we know absolutely nothing.” But the Book of God has as its opening words: “In the beginning GOD created . . .” Where Reason fails, Revelation sheds its light. Of the origin of man, it is written: “And the Lord God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life” (Gen. 2:7); or as Elihu says: “The breath of the Almighty hath given me life” (Job 33:4).
There are two Greek words rendered in English—“life.” ‘Zoe’ is life intrinsic, in its principle, and its inward power. ‘Bios’ is life intrinsic, in its movements and its outward manifestations, as a condition of existence. The latter word is also used to express the period, the means, and the manner of life. Concerning the principle of life, it is, as we have already seen, derived from God alone. “He giveth to all, life” (Acts 17:25). As a condition of existence, we read of “a quiet and peaceable life” (1 Tim. 2:4), “the affairs of this life” (2 Tim. 2:4), of its period, “the life that now is” (1 Tim. 4:8), “thy lifetime” (Luke 16:25). The same definitions obtain regarding spiritual life, or what Scripture calls “life eternal.” It is not mere existence: that, saved and unsaved alike have now, and shall have for ever. But only believers have eternal life. The words of Scripture on this are precise and clear. “He that hath the Son HATH life” (1 John 5:12). He that heareth My Word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, HATH everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto LIFE” (John 5:24). This is not a promise of life in the future, as Christadelphians and others say, but eternal life in the believer as a present possession. (See 1 John 5:13; contrast John 6:53; 1 John 3:15). The unbeliever “hath not life” (1 John 5:12), he “shall not see life” (John 3:36), yet he exists, and ever shall, else the closing words of the verse—“the wrath of God abideth on him”—have no meaning. Wrath cannot abide on a nonentity. And this eternal life which is in the believer now, does not exempt him from death: he is as mortal as he was before he received it. So that life is equally distinct from Existence and Immortality.
Death is defined by those who teach the annihilation of the wicked as “non-existence”—“the loss of life or existence, extinction of being.” This is not its meaning in Scripture. With the brutes it is, but concerning man it is written—“It is appointed unto men once to die, and AFTER THIS the judgment” (Heb 9:27). Death is a great crisis in man’s existence, but it is not his end. It is, in one sense, the opposite of life. When “spirit, soul, and body” continue in the harmonious relation to each other which constitutes the complete man, we say the man LIVES. When this triunity is broken up—soul and spirit leaving the body—we say the man is DEAD. He is not extinct, nor is any one of his parts, but, while death reigns, his completeness is gone. The body returns to dust, the spirit goes to God who “gave it” (Eccl. 12:7). Death is separation. At resurrection, the man will be reconstructed for glory, in the case of the saved; for judgment, in the lost. Natural death is the separation of the spirit and soul from the body. Spiritual death is the separation of the spirit from God, who is the Fountain of Life. Such was death as the original penalty of sin: “In the day thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die” (Gen. 2:17). That this was not natural death we know, for Adam lived “nine hundred and thirty years” (Gen 5:51); yet, on “the day” of his fall, the threatened death came upon him, his relationship with his God was broken by sin. This is death in its fullest and most awful sense—separation from God, death in trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1), out of which the believer is quickened (Eph. 2:5), and out from which he passes (John 5:24), but in which unbelievers abide, and as “the dead,” such stand before the judgment throne (Rev. 20:11). The second death is not extinction of being; it is not non-existence, but eternal separation from God in the lake of fire.
Around this word, the controversy regarding man’s Endless Being rages. In common theology, such expressions as “immortal soul,” “immortality of the soul,” “conditional immortality,” “never- dying soul,” are often heard, but none of these expressions is found in the Bible. Those who use them may mean what is right, but in trading in unscriptural phraseology, which tends to obscure rather than elucidate the truth, they play into the hands of teachers of error, who challenge such expressions, and, in doing so, often succeed in corrupting the truths they are intended to represent. The word “immortality” occurs only three times in the New Testament. Once it is used of God, who “only hath immortality” (1 Tim. 6:16); or, as some believe, of Christ raised from the dead to die no more (Rom. 6: 9)—the Firstfruits and Pledge of the saints’ resurrection. Twice it is used of the living believers, who will be “changed” at the Lord’s coming, when “this mortal shall have put on immortality” (1 Cor. 15:53-54). Another word—‘aphtharsia’—is twice translated immortality (Rom. 2:7; 2 Tim. 2:10), and in all other places, “incorruption.” Both are found in 1 Corinthians 15:42-43, 52-54, where at the Lord’s coming the living saints in mortal bodies put on immortality, and the dead incorruption; in the case of the former, mortality being “swallowed up of life” (2 Cor. 5:4), they never tasting death at all; in the latter, death being “swallowed up in victory” (1 Cor. 15:54). It will be seen, therefore, that the words “immortal” and “immortality” apply only to the body, that they are used only in connection with believers, and that immortality is not a synonym for eternal life. This, believers already have; that, they hope for at the Lord’s coming. Man’s present condition is mortal—subject to death. When the Lord comes, he will be immortal—not subject to death. Immortality—the undying condition—will then be his. That unbelievers now exist while they are yet without eternal life, is known to all; that they shall exist for ever while they have neither eternal life nor immortality—as Scripture has these words—is also known to those who accept God’s revelation of man’s endless being, apart from tradition and theological excrescences which have gathered around, which are often used to give a false interpretation to the Word of God.
Those who argue against the above, and what we believe to be the Scripture doctrine of man’s Endless Being and of the believer’s Immortality, to be put on at the Lord’s coming, build their objections to the endless existence and punishment of the wicked upon such words as “everlasting destruction” (2 Thess. 1:9), with which those who obey not the Gospel are to be punished at the Lord’s appearing, “perdition” (2 Pet. 3:7), which is said to be the portion of the ungodly; and “perish,” which it is said the unrepentant shall do (Luke 13:5). These words, it is claimed, mean annihilation, or, at any rate, not endless existence in conscious punishment, and this is supported by some on the ground that God is love and could never send any of His creatures to endless pain or punishment for the sins of a lifetime, and by others because, say they, man is “not naturally immortal,” or, not having “life in Christ,” must perish, like a branch severed from the vine. Let us briefly examine these. First, Scripture plainly teaches that “it is appointed unto men once to die, and after this the judgment” (Heb. 9:27), so the theory of “extinction of being” at death is untenable. The “judgment” here is to follow death, and is on account of sins committed during life. The punishment follows the judgment, and will be according to the guilt of the sinner, which “the Righteous Judge” alone can rightly estimate. Thus, punishment is said to be “everlasting” (Matt. 25:46), as is the “destruction.” The thought of annihilation cannot be read into either word. It is “destruction FROM the presence of the Lord”—not extinction, but banishment. It is punishment prepared for, and in company with, the Devil and his angels, and Revelation 20:10 tells us this is in “the lake of fire,” that it is “the second death” (5:14)—not annihilation, but separation from God; not non-existence, but conscious torment under His abiding wrath (John 3:36). It will not do to drag in the love of God here. That love has been fully shown in the gift of His Son (John 3:16; 1 John 4:9), and His grace is manifested in the bringing of salvation. But what of those who neglect that salvation and despise the blood that procured it (Heb. 10:29)? No reserve of mercy, no future visitation of grace to such is promised—not extinction, but a “fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation,” which God will inflict upon them as His “adversaries.”
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
1.—Is there any Scripture to show that the soul “sleeps” between death and resurrection?—None. At death the “tabernacle” is dissolved (2 Cor. 5:1) or “put off” (2 Pet. 1:14). The spirit thus “unclothed” (2 Cor. 5:4) takes its “departure” (2 Pet. 1:15), and although “absent from the body” (2 Cor. 5:8) is “present with the Lord:” “with Christ” which state is described by Paul as being “very far better” (Phil. 1:23, R.V.) than any experience of heavenly things he possibly could have while in the body. How could “sleep” or “unconsciousness” or “non-existence”—all of which terms are used by teachers of error, of the intermediate state—be used of such a condition? “Sleep” is never, in Scripture, connected with the soul, but always of the man as identified with the body (see Matt. 27:12; Acts 7:60, with 8:2; 1 Cor. 15:6).
2.—Is the language of Luke 16 parabolic and figurative, and, if so, to what does it apply?—It is not said to be a parable. Figurative, no doubt, such expressions as “Abraham’s bosom,” “great gulf,” are, but of what? Not of fictions, “Pharisees’ traditions” and “popular beliefs,” as all who deny the present conscious punishment of the soul in Hades have to charge the Lord with owning, in order to get rid of His uncovering of the present place and condition of the wicked, as here disclosed. This is not the final condition, but Hades as it existed in the days of the Lord, and for the wicked still, while they have brethren on earth with the Word of God in their hands. “Paradise,” rather than Hades, is the place where the spirits of the redeemed now are (Luke 22:43; 2 Cor. 12:1-4) since the death and resurrection of Christ.
THE DEVIL: His Personality, Character, History and Doom
Amongst the many forms of unbelief which abound at the present time, is the denial of the personality and even the existence of that mysterious and awful being, designated by God in His Word, “Satan” and “the Devil.” Even among those who acknowledge his existence, there is little conception of his power, his ways, and his works among the sons of men; of his past history, his present place, and his future doom. Speculation on such a subject is as idle as it is dangerous; to pry into secrets respecting which an All-Wise God has seen fit to keep us in ignorance, is irreverent and unholy; but to know and understand what God has revealed in His Word concerning this being, the sphere to which he belongs, and in which he operates, is our wisdom. The Sadducees of old denied the existence of angel and spirit (Acts 23:8), and Materialists and Rationalists of our time still cleave to the ancient Sadducean error, especially regarding a personal Devil, whom they dispose of as an allegorical being, the “personification of sin.”
The Scriptures speak of a personal Devil, and there also we learn his history, his character, his present place and future doom, his opposition to God and Christ, his power over sinners, his wiles toward saints, his apparent success, complete defeat, and final destiny.
In the Old Testament Scriptures, Satan, the Adversary, is twice mentioned by name. First, in Job 1:6, as coming among the “sons of God” who came to present themselves before the Lord. These “sons of God” are said to have been present when the foundations of the earth were laid (Job 38:7), and are therefore not men, but angels. Among them he appears as fallen and an accuser, an angel, but a fallen and evil Being, going forth to exercise superhuman power fully on sinners, who are under his authority (Luke 11:21; Col. 1:13), and within appointed limits against saints (Job 1:12; Luke 22:31), as God may permit in His discipline and government (1 Cor. 5:5). In Zechariah 3:1, he appears as the accuser, seeking to resist the angel of the Lord in his work of grace. In the New Testament he appears confronting the Lord in the wilderness (Matt. 4:1), and is there named “the Devil.” Never do we read of “Devils,” as if there were more than one, although frequently of “demons” (see R.V.), of whom there are many, and of “the Devil and his angels,” also spoken of in the plural. But of only one personal Being, not human, but angelic, who is finally named by all his aliases in the day of his doom—“the old Serpent, the Devil, and Satan, who deceiveth the whole world” (Rev. 20:7). Sometimes he appears as a roaring lion (1 Pet. 5:8), persecuting; sometimes as a subtle serpent (2 Cor. 11:3), deceiving; and sometimes as an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:4), personating his first estate—alluring. Although thus personified, we never read of Satan as having a corporeal existence, or of his appearing to man in human form, as holy angels have frequently been seen (Mark 16:5; Acts 1:10). He uses the bodies of creatures (Gen. 3:1, 4, with 2 Cor. 11:3) and men (John 13:27), and occupies them to effect his designs. “Demons” may enter and dwell in a human being in large numbers (Mark 5:9). They are of varied kinds (Luke 4:33; Mark 8:5; Acts 16:16; 1 John 4:6), all evil, with Beelzebub as their prince or ruler (Matt. 12:24).
Of the unseen world, the world of spirits, we know nothing save what Scripture reveals. And what is revealed on this and kindred subjects, if not enough to satisfy vain curiosity, is all that God saw needful for man to know for practical use. In at least four great passages of the New Testament (Rom. 8:38; Eph. 1:21; Col. 1:16; 2:10, 15), angelic Beings are represented as existing in various ranks and divisions—“principalities, authorities (powers), thrones, dominions,” with “legions of angels” (Matt. 26:53), all created Beings, originally in holy subjection to God, hearkening to the voice of His Word, and doing His commandments (Ps. 103:29). One of these, excelling in beauty, high in honour, probably the highest of all created Beings, and nearest to the uncreated and eternal Son of God, whose place, in pride (1 Tim. 3:6), he evidently coveted, and led a rebellion among the heavenly host, drawing after him a vast number of these, who, with their leader, were cast from their first estate (Luke 10:18; Jude 6), some retaining the same orders and ranks as before their fall (see Col. 1:15; Eph. 6:12), others awaiting in chains of darkness in hell (Tartarus) their judgment (2 Pet. 2:4; Jude 6).
This mysterious Being, now the Adversary of God, may have been the cause of the ruin of the first creation, over which he seems to have been set (Ezek. 28:13-15), in bringing it into the chaos of which Genesis 1:2 speaks. After its reconstruction and man’s creation in Elohim’s image, to rule over it, he appears on the fair scene, and beguiles the woman, whom the man follows in revolt from God and surrender to Satan, who from the lips of the Lord God hears his doom at the hands of the Seed of the woman (Gen. 3:14-15). It was to destroy the works of the Devil (1 John 3:8) that the Son of God was manifested. This He did by healing those oppressed of the Devil (Acts 10:38), casting out his demons (Matt. 12:25-28) and, finally, at the Cross, destroying him or stripping him of his authority and robbing him of his spoils and prey (Heb. 2:14, with Luke 11:21-22), also despoiling the dreadful hierarchy of evil (Col. 2:15), who had carried out his malignant designs, exposing and making an open show of them. Thus, as we sing—
“By meekness and defeat
He won the meed and crown,
Trod all our foes beneath His feet
By being trodden down.”
But, although defeated, and his usurped authority for ever wrested from him, and vested in the hands of the Victor (Matt. 28:18), who delivers His people from it, and brings them from Satan to God (Acts 26:18), to be subjects of the Kingdom of the Son (Col. 1:13), the Devil is still for a period permitted to be “the prince of this world” (John 12:31; 14:30), in whom it lies (1 John 5:19, R.V.), according to whom the children of disobedience (Eph. 2:3) walk, and whose desires they, as his obedient children, perform (John 8:44). He is not, as Milton’s “Paradise Lost” represents him, a prisoner broken loose in hell, in which he is now said to reign—a horror which is accepted by many as if it were Scripture teaching—but, on the contrary, he is not yet in hell at all, but going about as a roaring lion on earth (1 Pet. 5:8), and opposing saints in the heavenlies (Eph. 6:11-12). Religiously, he is “the god of this age” (2 Cor. 4:4, R.V.), to whom the unconverted yield homage, and by whose wiles the religious are deceived through his appearance as an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14-15), and his ministers professing righteousness, yet teaching “doctrines of demons” (1 Tim. 5:1), by means of which their ears are turned away from the truth (2 Tim. 3:4) and their minds blinded to the Gospel of salvation (2 Cor. 4:4). He will be cast from his present place and bruised beneath the feet of saints “shortly” (Rom. 16:20). This coming doom he and his fallen angels anticipate (Matt. 8:29) and dread. To them no message of mercy, no promise of redemption will ever come. First to earth (Rev. 12:9, 12), where he for a season claims the worship (Rev. 13:4; 2 Thess. 2:4) which belongs to God alone, persecuting and killing all who refuse to give it, he is at length seized and bound in the abyss for a thousand years, during which Christ reigns as King, and creation, delivered from his rule and its curse and groan, enjoys its Sabbath and the liberty of the glory (Rom. 8:21, R.V.) of that hour. Again for a brief season he is let loose (Rev. 20:7), to test the reality of the submission yielded to the Lord during the long period of His reign. Some had only yielded “feigned obedience” (Ps. 18:44-45, margin), and immediately the old deceiver appears, are ready to revolt under his leadership, to make a final attack upon the Lord and His saints. Swift and awful judgment from God overtakes them, and the Devil meets his final and eternal doom in the lake of fire (Rev. 20:10). Such, in brief, is the awful pathway of Satan from the archangel’s throne in the heavens to the lake of fire, to be the lowest and most miserable of all the myriads there.
“A murderer from the beginning,” “a liar and the father of it” (John 8:44), who “sinneth from the beginning” (1 John 3:8), the Tempter (Matt. 4:3), the Accuser (Rev. 12:10), the deceiver of the nations (Rev. 20:3), who, by his craft and subtlety and wiles, leads on sinners to their doom.
He has the unregenerate under his control, can put malignant designs into their hearts (John 13:2), and at his will enter their persons (John 13:27). Especially is his working of a religious character (2 Thess. 2:7-9), for deception, by means of denials of the Son of God (1 John 2:22), leading on to the reception of “the lie” and the worship of Antichrist, the Devil’s masterpiece, who claims Divine honours as God. In latter-day manifestations of Spiritualism, Socialism, and spurious Christianity, he is the chief actor, denying the fall of man, the eternal judgment of the ungodly, the need of salvation, and the atonement through which it comes, telling man, as of old, “Ye shall not surely die”—“Ye shall be as gods” not the coarse, black Devil of ancient theology, committing atrocities, but fashioned into a beautiful “angel of light,” he effects his purposes through subtlety, humanitarian craft, and religious deception, his chief aim always being to deny and misrepresent the Christ of God. He has a synagogue (Rev. 2:9) as well as a throne (Rev. 2:13, R.V.).
Of believers he is the tempter (1 Thess. 3:5), seeking to lead them from subjection to God and His Truth—as he did to the Lord Jesus (see Matt. 4:1), using “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” (1 John 2:16-17) for this end. In this he is to be “resisted,” steadfast in the faith (1 Pet. 5:8-9). He persecutes (Rev. 2:12), hinders (1 Thess. 2:18), perverts from the faith (Acts 13:10), sows tares among the wheat (Matt. 13:39), mixing, corrupting, leavening God’s Word with his own errors and man’s traditions. He especially withstands and opposes the believer in his heavenly inheritance, the place of his present blessing (see Eph. 1:3, with 6:9-12), casting his fiery darts and using the whole force of his subordinate spirit-hosts to carry on the conflict. For this a Divine panoply has been provided by God, which the believer is to “take” and use, standing firm and undaunted “in the Lord” and in the “power of His might,” facing the mighty wicked spirit-host, “praying always,” and using “the sword of the Spirit,” as the Lord, when confronted by the Great Adversary in the wilderness, did, “leaving us an example” of implicit obedience, and absolute submission, to the unfailing Word of God.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
1.—What is the simplest and strongest proof that there is a Being called the Devil, a personality, and not a mere expression of evil?—The temptation of the Lord Jesus, as recorded in Matthew 4. There it is distinctly said, “The Devil taketh Him up into an exceeding high mountain” (v. 8), and again, “then the Devil leaveth Him” (v. 11). There was no evil in the Blessed Lord, and there was no man in the scene of the temptation. The mysterious personality named “the Devil,” addressed by the Lord as “Satan,” who came to and went from Him, whom He afterwards met and stripped of his usurped authority at the Cross (Heb. 2:14), is a real personality, and not a phantom or a “bogey” to frighten children, as is by many, who profess to believe the Bible, secretly believed.
2.—What are “doctrines of demons” (1 Tim. 4:1, R.V.)?— Not open Infidelity, but denial of the Lord’s Deity, His Sonship, and His Lordship (see 1 John 2:22). “The Antichrist” will be “the Lawless One” (2 Thess. 2:8), Satan’s masterpiece in human form, who, with his prime minister (Rev. 12:12; 13:4), will be fully invested with Satanic power to complete the whole business on earth, and then will be hurled alive into the lake of fire, there to share his doom (Rev. 20:10).
3.—What is meant by “the prince of this world,” a title thrice given to Satan by the Lord (John 13:31; 14:30; 16:11)?—The word is elsewhere translated “ruler” and “chief.” It is not an empty title, but a real princedom and authority, which he offered to the Son of God in the wilderness (Luke 4:6). It was taken from him at the Cross (Col. 2:15) and claimed by the Lord in resurrection (see Matt. 28:18, where the word is “authority”). At conversion, believers are delivered from it (Col. 1:13), and pass under the rule of “the Lord Christ” (Col. 3:24).
MAN’S ETERNAL DESTINY: What Saith the Scripture?
The final destiny of mankind is a subject of solemn and absorbing interest. The estimated population of the world of today is about two thousand millions, and each of these is a unit having endless being, capable of existence in endless bliss or woe. And when we remember that six millenniums have passed since the race began, the immensity of the issues staggers the human mind. God has been pleased to reveal all that He sees fit for us to know on this subject, and to this revelation we would reverently turn.
The present brief life of man does not comprise the whole of his existence. Unlike the beasts that perish, he has an existence after death. What and where that existence is to be, God alone can tell. The eternal world is His realm, and He only knows and can tell us about it. All man’s theories are mere guesses. God has told, and the record is in the Holy Scriptures. It has been acknowledged in all ages, by those who have read God’s Word to learn, who have bowed to the authority of the Word of the Most High, which is absolute and without reserve, that His testimony concerning the future destiny of man is twofold.
THE DESTINY OF THE RIGHTEOUS
The righteous, the regenerate, those who have by faith become the children of God, at death become “absent from the body,” to be “at home with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:6, R.V.); they depart to be with Christ (Phil. 1:23) in Paradise (Luke 23:43); in their disembodied state they are alive and conscious, although only spirits. At the coming of the Lord Jesus, all the righteous dead shall be raised in incorruption and, together with those who are alive and are changed, putting on immortality, they shall be caught up in bodies fashioned like the Lord’s (Phil. 3:21), to be with Him for ever (1 Thess. 4:17). Their eternal destiny is a holy heaven in the immediate presence of God, who will dwell among them (Rev. 21:3), seeing the face of the Lord who loved and gave Himself for them, to whose image they have been conformed, and whose service they then unceasingly and perfectly fulfil, day and night. The eternal glory, the unsullied bliss, the unfading beauty, the unclouded light and undying love of the home of God, the brilliancy and holiness of the eternal state, the new heavens and new earth, are described in language of unrivalled richness in Revelation 21:1-8.
THE DOOM OF THE WICKED
The wicked, the unregenerate, those who die in sin and unbelief, pass at death into punishment, and their punishment is conscious “torment” (Luke 16:23-26) in Hades, while their bodies are in the grave. They are there awaiting the final judgment. At “the resurrection of judgment” (John 5:29), they will be raised, to be judged according to their works, before the Great White Throne, and from thence cast into “the lake of fire” (Rev. 20:14-15). The wicked who are alive on the earth when the Son of Man returns will be “punished with everlasting destruction” (2 Thess. 1:9). The living nations who refuse His messengers and despise His people, will be punished, and their punishment is said to be “eternal punishment” (Matt. 25:46, R.V.) in “eternal fire” (v. 41), and in this eternal fire they are to suffer torment for ever and ever (Rev. 14:10-11), with the Devil that deceived them (Rev. 20:10) and those who were their leaders and their victims. Such is the solemn and awful doom of the wicked pronounced by God, who cannot lie. It is ours to receive His testimony, not to cavil with or reply against it. He who only knows the sinfulness of sin, can measure its guilt and apportion its punishment, and we may rest assured that, as “the Judge of all the earth,” He will do right. He who is the God of Love is also the Righteous God, and He “will render to every man according to his deeds” (Rom. 2:6). Some revolt against the doctrine. Admitting an eternity of bliss for the saved, they reject God’s testimony concerning the eternal doom of the lost. These objectors are divided into two main classes. The first say that the words “everlasting” and “eternal” do not mean unceasing or never-ending; that punishment is not in conscious torment; that it consists in the destruction of man’s being; and that those who die without having life in Christ, are annihilated. This is the doctrine of the Annihilationist.
The second class of objectors say that God, being a God of Love, will ultimately save all men; that whatever punishment awaits the sinner in the future world or after resurrection, is corrective and purifying; and that, in virtue of Christ’s atonement or their own sufferings, or the prayers of the saints, or all combined, all shall at last be recovered and restored, even the Devil and his angels. This is the doctrine of the Universalist. A single utterance of the Lord Jesus answers both these classes of objectors, and sweeps away their theories. It is this: “He that believeth not the Son SHALL NOT SEE LIFE, but the wrath of God abideth on him” (John 3:36). “Shall not see life” precludes the idea of the unbeliever’s salvation; “the wrath of God abideth on him” testifies against his annihilation. Divine wrath cannot “abide” on a nonentity: that which has ceased to be, cannot be punished.
“Eternal” and “Everlasting.”—The Bible words, “eternal,” “everlasting,” “for ever,” and “for ever and ever,” which are all used by God to describe the duration of the punishment of the wicked, have been given a new meaning, and are said to be only for “an age.” Eternity is denied them. The word aionois occurs 71 times in the New Testament. It is rendered “eternal” in the following passages: “The Eternal Spirit” (Heb. 9:14), “Eternal life” (Rom. 6:23), “Eternal salvation” (Heb. 5:9), “Eternal glory” (1 Pet. 5:10), “Eternal damnation” (Mark 3:29), “Eternal fire” (Jude 7). Here the Spirit of God, the life, salvation, and glory of the saved, the fire of Gehenna, and the damnation of the lost, are described in exactly the same words. If the “fire” is not eternal, neither is the “life” nor the “glory,” for the same word expresses the duration of all. Let us take the word “everlasting.” It is used in the following passages: “The Everlasting God” (Rom. 16:26). “Everlasting life” (John 3:16), “Everlasting punishment” (Matt. 25:46), “Everlasting fire” (Matt. 18:8; 25:41). Here the existence of God, the life of the believer, the punishment of the lost, and the fire of Gehenna, are precisely of the same duration. To say the punishment will cease, or the fire go out, that they are not “everlasting,” you must say that God will cease to be. The words “for ever and ever” are found as follows: “God, who liveth for ever and ever” (Rev. 20:7), “They shall reign for ever and ever” (Rev. 22:5), “The smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever” (Rev. 14:11). The inevitable conclusion, therefore, Is that God’s Word declares the punishment of Satan and the wicked to be conscious, eternal, and without cessation, with no extinction, from which there is no deliverance and no restoration.
ANNIHILATION AND RESTORATION
Destruction.—With some the word “destruction” is made to mean annihilation, complete “extinction of being,” so that to be “punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord” (2 Thess. 1:9) is explained away by a meaning being given to the word which Scripture never uses and which is utterly misleading. There are ten Greek words translated “destroy” in the A.V.—three of them in the substantive form in the word “destruction.” The word is used to describe the destruction of the Devil (Heb. 2:14), of the Antichrist (2 Thess. 2:8), and of the body of sin (Rom. 7:6); in no case is it the equivalent of annihilation. It is banishment “from the presence of the Lord,” not extinction.
“Unquenchable Fire.” The “eternal fire” (Matt. 25:46), the “fire that never shall be quenched” (Mark 9:43), “the lake of fire” (Rev. 20:15), in which is the sinner’s final doom, beyond the last judgment, after Death has emptied itself of the bodies, and Hades of the souls of the wicked, and each one has received according to his works. These, with the “undying worm” and the “gnashing of teeth,” have been so far reduced to “figures” as to make them without warning and of no meaning. Figures of what? Not of nonentities, but of realities still more terrible. Were they no more than Annihilationists make them, the Lord’s awful words concerning “the Gehenna of fire” as the final doom of those who reject grace are threats never to be fulfilled. The Valley of Hinnom, outside Jerusalem, in which the carcases of animals and criminals were cast, to be fed on by worms and destroyed by fire, may have been the figure used by the Lord, but the fact of which He gave solemn and awful intimation was the “Gehenna of fire” into which, after death, God has power to cast both soul and body (Luke 12:5; Matt. 10:28), not for purification, but for hopeless and utter destruction.
Final Restitution.—That, in virtue of the sacrifice of Christ, fallen men and angels will all ultimately be rescued from the doom of their sins, that evil shall at length be done away, and universal reconciliation effected, is an anticipation which every believing heart would welcome. But is there any Scripture warrant for such a hope? That the sacrifice of Calvary is of infinite value we freely, gladly own; that God will have all men to be saved (1 Tim. 2:4), that the grace of God has brought salvation within reach of all men (Tit. 2:11), that at the Cross God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself (2 Cor. 5:19), are truths plainly taught in the Word; but where does He give the slightest indication that men will be saved who refuse the Saviour, or cleansed from sin who trample under foot the blood that cleanseth (John 1:7; Heb. 10:29)? This is the crux of the whole question, and until a direct and definite answer is found, we assert that the Christ rejector’s doom is final and without hope.
Passages referring to the earth’s restoration and blessing are pressed into service to support the theory of Universal Salvation and Final Restitution—and notably Acts 3:21, Philippians 2:10; Colossians 1:20, and Ephesians 1:10. The first of these Scriptures refers, as it tells us, not to the final destiny of mankind, but to “times of restoration” for the earth, spoken of by the “holy prophets” in the Millennial not the eternal state, of which they say nothing. The second passage tells of the universal acknowledgment of Christ’s Lordship by heavenly, earthly, and underworld dwellers, but nothing is said as to how this is brought about, whether by grace or judgment, and when reconciliation is the subject, as in Colossians 1:20, it is worthy of notice that “things under the earth” are omitted.
The chief argument used by the advocates of this doctrine is, that an eternity of punishment for the wicked would be inconsistent with the love of God to men. But let it be remembered that the love of God to men has been already manifested in the Cross of Christ. To reject that Cross is to despise the love that planned it and to merit the “much sorer punishment” reserved for those who have “trodden under foot the Son of God” (Heb. 10:29). There is no reserve of mercy, no future probation for those who now despise the Gospel and reject the Son of God, who disparage the atonement of Christ and deny the justice of God. It must therefore be regarded as “another gospel,” and those who hold and preach it ought to be eschewed, and treated as “enemies of the Cross of Christ.” Non-eternity of punishment in all its forms belittles the nature and the guilt of sin, causing men to set God, His Word, and its claims aside lightly, and to regard with flippancy and irreverence the mighty work of the Cross. Had there been any mercy, any leniency possible toward sin, surely it would have been shown to God’s only begotten Son, when He stood as the believing sinner’s Surety, bearing his sins and sustaining their curse (1 Pet. 2:24; Gal. 3:13). But there was no much mercy shown. The sword of Jehovah’s offended justice was called to “Awake” and sorely smite “the Man” who was His “fellow” (Zech. 13:7). The cry of untold anguish which came from His blessed lips, when He hung as the great Sin-offering on the Cross—“My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me” tell how bitter was the cup that He drank, and how awful was the conscious sufferings He endured. Will any say that God did not love His Son? Yet He spared Him not. The believer reads in the sufferings of Christ, His judgment borne, His condemnation past, and in that Cross the judgment of a righteous God may be so seen by the unrepentant and unforgiven sinner, who now despises the Gospel which in virtue thereof proclaims to him “forgiveness of sins” (Acts 13:38), that he may learn beyond a doubt, that the God who is in truth a God of love, is also a “consuming fire” (Heb. 12:29).
 Ezekiel 28:13-19, which, although spoken of the king of Tyre, and Isaiah 14:12-19, of Lucifer, have a fuller meaning than can be applicable to any human being, and refer to Satan in the same way as promises concerning David and Solomon have their ultimate fulfilment in Christ.