Study No. 12; Romans 8:1-16
We must not forget that the only object that we should have in this study of the Bible is that we may be drawn nearer to God and that we may learn that the Word of God means just what it says and that what it says is the voice of God speaking to us individually. Take the Word and build upon it.
There is one thought that was mentioned last night that I wisk to impress upon your minds. Our union witk Christ and with His righteousness may be and should be just as close and complete as our union has been witk sin. The figure of marriage shows that to be so. We were held in union with sin--married to the old man--to the body of sin. That was an unlawful connection, consequently)the body of sin was a body of death to us, because we could not be separated from that body except by death. That body and ourselves were identified--we were married; therefore we were one, and the body of sin was the controlling influence in that union; it dominated everything.
Now Christ comes to us, and when we yield ourselves to Him He looses the bonds that have bound us to the body of sin. Then we enter into the same intimate relation with our Lord Jesus Christ that we previously sustained with the body of sin. We become united to Christ--married to Him--and then we are one. And as in the other case, where the body of sin was the controlling influence, so in this second marriage, Christ is the controlling influence.
Notice how perfectly that figure of marriage is carried out. We are represented as the woman. The husband is the head of the family, and so Christ is our head, and we yield ourselves to Him. We are one with Him. What a precious thought it is, that we are one flesh with Christ! In this we see the mystery of the incarnation appearing again. If we can believe that Christ was in the flesh, God incarnate in Christ, we can believe this--Christ dwelling in us and working through us--through our flesh, just the same as when He took flesh upon Himself and controlled it. It is a mystery that we cannot understand, but we acknowledge it, and that gives us freedom.
We sang tonight, "My Sin is Nailed to His Cross." He says that our old man was crucified with Him. That is true, but it is not raised with Him. Christ came to minister, and not to be ministered unto, but He came to minister to us and not to be the minister of sin. Therefore when we and the body of sin together are crucified with Christ and are buried together, we are raised up to walk in newness of life, but the body of sin remains buried, so we are free from it. Now what follows?
There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin condemned sin in the flesh: that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit. For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.
In these verses we have that which, if we will hold it in our minds and believe that Jesus is able to save us by faith, will be to us a sure rock upon which we can build. "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus." In these words lies a practical thought and from it arises a question which troubles many. They say, "I believe all that in theory, I am fully in harmony with that and I know that Christ can cleanse from sin. I believe that if I confess my sins, He is faithful and just to forgive me and to cleanse me from all unrighteousness. But the question in my mind is, Have I confessed all my sins? That is what gives me trouble; if I was only sure that I had confessed all my sins, then I could claim that promise and believe that there was no condemnation for me."
Now this is something that troubles very many--How are we going to know that we are not under condemnation? We cannot charge God with having left the matter so indeterminate that it is impossible for us to know whether we are condemned or not, therefore it must be that we can find out. We may put it this way: "I have confessed all the sins that I know of, everything that the Lord has shown me; and when the Lord shows me something else, I will confess that." Of course confess everything the Lord shows you: but, brethren, don't stop half way. "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." Then when you have confessed a sin, believe that God forgives it, and take His peace into your hearts and if He shows you other sins, confess them, believe that they are forgiven, and have His peace still. But there are scores of honest souls who deprive themselves of a blessing and finally go into darkness because when they have confessed their sins, they do not take the forgiveness and thank God for the freedom that must follow.
Now the idea conveyed in that expression, that we have confessed all the sins we know of but still we dare not acknowledge freedom from condemnation, for fear that there are other sins that we do not know about and therefore have not confessed is really bringing a serious charge against God. It is making the Lord out to be the forgiver of the man who has the best memory. But was it your memory alone that enabled you to remember those sins that you did confess? Who quickened and spurred up your memory? It was the Spirit of God that showed those sins to you. Now are we going to charge God with doing a partial work? He sent His Holy Spirit to show you those sins. Shall we say then that He kept back a part of them, that He did not reveal to us? He showed us just what He wanted us to confess and when we have confessed them, we have met the mind of the Spirit of God and we are free.
Suppose that I have injured one of you; I may have been pursuing a systematic course of evil toward you--accusing you falsely, trying to injure you in your business, trying to provoke and irritate you in every way possible, doing everything I could against you day by day and week by week and month by month. By and by my eyes are opened, and I see the meanness of that course. I feel all broken down because I have lent myself to such a mean way of acting, and I come to you and acknowledge what I have been doing. You can see in a moment that I am all broken down over it and that I really feel that I have done wrong.
Some of us here have had occasion to forgive people who came to us in just that way. Now has it been our custom when they come in that contrite way to stand coolly back and let them tell the whole story from beginning to end and rack their minds to try to remember everything that they have done in detail, so that they may confess it? Then when they think they have told it all and ask for your forgiveness, do you stand back still and remind them that there was another little thing which they have missed and tell them that you would like them to confess that too? Then when they have told you everything that they can think of and that you can remind them of, do you say, "Well, I guess you have confessed it all, so I will forgive you"? There is not a person in this house that would do that.
When I settled that question for myself, I thought, I have no business to make myself out any better than God. When anyone comes to me or to you all broken down and confesses his wrong, we forgive him freely, and before he has told half what he might tell, we tell him that it is all right, that he is forgiven and to say no more about it.
That is just what God does. He has given us the parable of the Prodigal son, as an illustration of how He forgives. His father saw him a great way off and ran to meet him. I am so thankful that God does not require me, before I can be forgiven, to go back and take up every sin that I have ever committed and confess it. If He did, He would have to lengthen my probation longer than I believe He possibly can, for me to repeat the smallest part of them. Well may David say, "For innumerable evils have compassed me about: mine iniquities have taken hold upon me, so that I am not able to look up; they are more than the hairs of mine heard: therefore my heart faileth me." Psalm 40:12. Yes, our sins are "innumerable," but "the sacrifices of God are a broken spirit"; a broken and contrite heart He will not despise. We take hold of the sacrifice of Christ, take it into our very selves, and thus we make a covenant with God by sacrifice.
The Lord forgives freely, and we can know it. God shows us the representative sins of our lives. Sins that stand out prominent--they stand for our whole sinful nature and we know that our whole life is of that same sinful character. We come and confess the sins. Shall we charge God with saying, "I have shown you those sins and you have confessed them; but there are some other sins, and I will not show you them, but you must find them out for yourself, and until you do I will not forgive you." God does not deal with us in that way. He is infinite in love and compassion. "Like as a father pitieth His children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him."
Now another point: "There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." People say, "I have taken Christ and now I look back and trace my life history through the day or the week and I cannot see anything but imperfection in what I have done and then the feeling of condemnation comes over me and I can't stand free. How can I say, There is no condemnation for me, when I see these failures?" This is a subtle deception of Satan, to deprive us of acceptance and peace with God. Do we expect to be justified by those deeds? If we do, we make a grand mistake in the beginning. "By the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight." To Jesus we must look for our justification and to Him alone.
Says one, "I am afraid that I will fall." You need not be afraid. Paul says, "I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day." 2 Tim. 1:12. What have I committed unto Him? My life, and He is able to keep it.
When we get over into the kingdom of God, we will not look to the best deeds that we have done and thank God that we are justified because we have done so well. But our song of joy will be, "Unto Him that loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood." And so we know that when we yield ourselves to Him and die to Him constantly that He does those things for us that we cannot do for ourselves. Let us look to Him continually! But when we take our eyes from Him and go into sin, He is not responsible for that.
Just as long as we keep looking at Him, there is no condemnation. Try it, and you will know that it is a fact, for it is a fact that there is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus. Why? "For the law of the spirit of life in Christ hath made me free from the law of sin and death." In our sins the law is death to us; and not only is it death to that man who makes no profession of righteousness, but it is death to that man who acknowledges the claims of the law, that it is good, and yet says, "But how to perform that which is good I find not."
All will allow that a Christian must do what is good, some of the time at least. But this experience in Romans 7:21, "When I would do good, evil is present with me," shows that the man having that experience does not do good at all. Yet he wants to do good. This is service in the oldness of the letter. The man is serving the law, but is a slave. There is no freedom in the service; it is bond-service. But now having tried with all his might to do what he wants to do and having failed, he finds that in Christ is the perfection of the law, in Him there is life.
So the law as it is in the person of Christ is the law of the Spirit of Life. So he takes the life of Christ and gets the perfection of the law as it is in Christ and serves Him in Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter. Thus he is delivered from bond-service to the law to freedom in it. There is a wonderful amount of rich truth in that--"The law of the Spirit of [life in] Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death."
"For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh." Is there any discouragement in that? Does it cast disparagement on the law? Not in the least. What could not the law do? It could not justify me because I was weak. It did not have any good material to work on. It was not the fault of the law; it was the fault of the material. The flesh was weak and the law could not justify it. But God sent His Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to condemn sin in the flesh that He might justify us.
Some have taken the position that this verse teaches that the law could not condemn sin unless Christ died. Brethren, that is a fearful charge to bring against God and Christ. That would be making Christ, not our Saviour, but our condemner. Christ Himself says, in John 3:17, "For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved." The law always condemned sin. He that believeth not is condemned already. Christ is the justifier. Since the law condemns man, it is evident that it cannot justify him, for it is impossible for it to condemn and justify at the same time. But what the law could not do, Christ came in the likeness of sinful flesh to do. How did He do it? By keeping the law when He was in the flesh.
There are certain things which I used to do, which I always liked to excuse myself for. I knew that they were wrong, consequently, I made resolutions that I would not do them. But I did them just the same. Again and again I did them, until finally I made up my mind that they were inherited traits--that I was born with them and therefore I could not help doing them. But thinking that way did not free me from condemnation; I felt condemned just the same. For Christ has left us no excuse; He has condemned sin in the flesh; by His life He has shown that sin in the flesh is condemned and He has destroyed it, for in Him the body of sin is destroyed and we are new creatures in Christ. By His exceeding great and precious promises we are made partakers of the divine nature. He has taken away this sinful nature--taken it upon Himself that we might be delivered from it.
"For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace." Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be."
But the carnal mind can acknowledge that the law is good. "I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do I allow not; but what I hate, that I do. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good." We have fancied and have tried to comfort ourselves with the thought that we were subject to the law, because we loved it and regarded it as a beautiful thing and tried with all our might or as some put it, "in our weak way" to keep it. But the carnal mind is not subject to the law, neither indeed can be. And what is the evidence of the carnal mind? The inability to do that which is good and which we know we ought to do. "The flesh lusteth against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh and these are contrary the one to the other, so that ye cannot do the things that ye would." Galatians 5:17.
"But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in you."
There is a beautiful thought contained in these verses. First, we have the fact presented that we may have the Spirit of God. How do we get it? By asking. Go back to the eleventh chapter of Luke. Christ says, "If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? . . . If ye then being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him?" Make a personal application of that text. When you kneel down to pray for the Spirit of God, which is all powerful and will cleanse from all sin, quote that to the Lord.
If your children came to you, asking for some of the necessaries of life, you would study every way to know how you could give them the things that they desired. You are poor and weak and miserable, but God is infinite; therefore He is infinitely more willing to give you the thing that you need so much than you can be to give good things to your children. The Holy Spirit is His to give, and He is willing and anxious that we should have it.
Again Christ said, "He that believeth on Me . . . out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water." And this He spake of the Spirit, that He would give. Said Christ again said to the woman at the well, "Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up unto everlasting life." Why? "For if the Spirit that raised up Christ from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in you." Here is the hope of the resurrection again. What remains to be done when the Spirit of Christ dwelleth in you? Only to quicken, that is, to make alive, our mortal bodies.
"Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear, but ye have received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father." Ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear! O remember that.
He gives us His Spirit now, and shall we be afraid? Isaiah says, "I will trust and not be afraid." No, we have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear, for perfect love casteth out fear. Think of Abraham, and what was written of him for our benefit. We need not consider the frailties of our bodies, but be strong in faith, giving glory to God, knowing that what He has promised, He is able to perform. Yes, we will "consider Him that endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself."
"Abba, Father," that means, Father, Father. First of all realize that He is in heaven and that He is God. He is infinite in power and so great that He can take up the isles as a very little thing. To Him the nations are as a drop in the bucket and are counted as the small dust of the balance. Great and awful being that He is, we can come to Him and call Him "our Father." He has the tenderness of a parent, backed by the power of infinite divinity.
"The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God." In Ephesians 1:13 we are told that [the] Spirit is the "earnest of our inheritance. Some do not seem to be able to understand this witness of the Spirit. They say if they only had it they would rejoice. What is the witness of the Spirit? "Why," says one, "it is a sort of feeling, and when I have it I will know that God has accepted me." But brethren, it rests on something more substantial than a feeling. I am glad that God has not left the witness of His Spirit to be dependent on my feeling.
Sometimes I feel so tired and exhausted that I have hardly any power to feel any way. And that is the very time when I want to know more than at any other time that I am a child of God. Sometimes disease takes hold of us and saps all our strength, and we have no power of mind or body. We are just alive, conscious, but with no emotion. That is the time we want the witness of the Spirit. Can we have it then? Yes, "The Spirit beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God." How does it witness? "If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which He hath testified of His Son. He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself." 1 John 5:9, 10.
Now what does a witness do? Bears testimony, does he not? I am brought up as a witness in a court. How do I bear witness in that case? By telling what I know. That is all. I give my word and perhaps I back it by my oath. Then if the Spirit witnesses, it must say something, must it not? Yes. Then how do we recognize the witness of the Spirit? How does the Spirit speak? Mark this point:
God spake by the mouth of His holy prophets since the world began. The Holy Spirit spake by the prophet Jeremiah. David, the sweet psalmist, says, "The Spirit of the Lord spake by me, and His word was in my tongue." It spoke by the apostle Paul. Whose word is this? [Holding up the Bible.] It is the word of God. What speaks in this word? The Spirit of God. Then what is the witness of the Spirit? It is the word of God.
Well, but how about this witness in myself? Remember the words of Paul in Romans 10:6-8. "Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend unto heaven? (that is, to bring Christ from above) or, who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead). But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith which we preach." what word? The word of Christ, that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth and believe with thy heart, that God raised Christ from the dead, "ye shall be saved."
The Word of God is the voice of the Spirit of God. Then we have the witness in ourselves, when we have His word in our hearts by faith. We eat the flesh and drink the blood of Christ, by feeding upon His word, and so we have the witness, within ourselves.
This witness has been sworn to. God has put His testimony on record and He swore to that testimony. When God has put Himself on record, what can you bring to corroborate that word? When God has spoken, will you bring up the testimony of a man to sustain it? No. It is the word of God--that is our sheet anchor. It is our only hope, and it is the anchor of the soul, sure and steadfast. It enters in within the veil, whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus.
Our Christian life, from the very beginning, must be based on the word of God. That is why I want you to take the word of God and believe it. When you go to your homes--to your closets--recognize the voice of God speaking to you; for His Spirit witnesses with our spirit, that we are the children of God. I thank God for the witness of His word.
"And if children, then heirs; heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ." Brethren, it means something to be a child of God. "Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God." Behold it. We are called the sons of God! It is too wonderful for the human mind to fully grasp. Poor, unworthy, miserable creatures, worthy of nothing, yet God has had such an infinite love for us, that He has made us worthy to be His sons; and He gives us everything that He gives to Christ.
In John 17:3 the Saviour prays to the Father, "That the world may know that thou hast sent me and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me." Brethren, the Father loves us, just as much as He loves His only begotten Son. How do we know? The assurance of that is given not only in this text but in the fact that He let His only begotten Son die to save us from death. We share with Christ all the love that the Father has for Him.
"We are heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ." That means that since we are joint-heirs with Christ, that Christ cannot enter into His inheritance without us. For if you and I are joint-heirs to an estate, we must have it together. You cannot enter on your inheritance before I enter and enjoy it with you. Then whatever Christ is sharing now at the right hand of Father is for us. He is at the right hand of God in the heavenly places and so we are quickened with Him and raised up and made to sit together in heavenly places with Christ Jesus.
By and by when Christ takes His own throne, we will take that too. In the first letter to the Corinthians it is written, "Eye hath not seen nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him." 1 Corinthians 2:9. This has to do with the inheritance, but don't put it all off for the future. Go back a couple of verses--"We speak of the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory. Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory." They might have known it, for read what follows in verse 10: "But God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit."
It is something that God reveals to us now. We must not put it all off to the golden streets of the New Jerusalem, to the pearly gates, and the walls of jasper. And the only reason why we have not seen these things in the past is because the natural man cannot see them. It is a precious thought and I want you to grasp it--that everything that Christ has we have now. Like David of old we can say, "The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage." Psalm 16:6.
Let us take God at His word, that we may know the meaning of that prayer in Ephesians 1:17, 18: "That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him. The eyes of your understanding being enlightened;; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints. And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power." If we lack wisdom, let us ask of Him who giveth to all liberally and upbraideth not, and it shall be given unto us.
Study No. 13; Romans 8:17-31
Last night we closed our study with a consideration of the sixteenth verse of the eighth chapter of Romans: "The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God."
This evening we will commence with the seventeenth verse. It will be impossible to consider each verse in the chapter separately, for our time is too limited, so that some of them will have to be passed with but a small amount of study.
"And if children, then heirs; heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us." There is one thought about this glory that I wish to make plain to you. I stated last night that if we were joint-heirs with Christ, we must have whatever Christ has. When He enters upon His kingdom, receiving that promise which God made to Abraham and to his seed, we shall enter upon it with Him. We are joint-heirs with Christ; therefore whatever Christ enjoys now, we have too, if we are in Him. Whatever glory He has now, is for us also. All the love that He enjoys in the presence of His Father, we enjoy likewise; for He says, "That the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me." So it is that God has bestowed this wonderful love upon us, that we should be called the sons of God.
Think of it--God has one only begotten Son, the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person; He is the well beloved; but O, the wideness of His love, that He is able to take us into it--to adopt us into His family and make us sharers of the same title that His only begotten Son shares. Therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew Him not. Just as the world did not recognize Him as the divine Son of God, the heir of heaven; so it will not recognize us as the sons of God and the heirs of heaven. "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that when he shall appear, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is." We are the children of God now, just as much His sons now as we ever will be. The glory of the Sonship is not manifested in us, but when Christ shall appear, we shall be like Him, for He "shall change this vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body."
Then shall the children of God shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.
Brethren, since I have learned that God gives both grace and glory, I delight more and more in thinking of the glory that shall be revealed in us. For I understand that God gives them both by the same power and that that throne to which we come and make our petitions, as to a throne of grace, is likewise a throne of glory. Says Jeremiah, when making petition for his people: "Do not abhor us, for thy name's sake, do not disgrace the throne of thy glory; remember, break not thy covenant with us." And so, since it is both a throne of grace and a throne of glory, the grace that is bestowed is equal to the measure of the glory that there is in that throne. That glory is by and by going to be revealed in us, so that this poor, vile body will shine like the sun. This assurance--that the glory to be revealed in us by and by, is our assurance that the measure of that grace may be revealed in us now; and that is why the Lord has revealed to us now just as much of the glory that is to come, as we can understand. Here is where we often fail to get the benefit of things that God has set before us about this glory that is to come. We forget that they are given for our present help, that we can have and share all the strength that there is in them now.
Just as much as the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed; just that much are the sufferings of this present time not worthy to be compared with the grace that is given us at this present time to endure them. The grace is equal to the glory.
"For the earnest expectation fo the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly but by reason of Him who hath subjected the same in hope. Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the sons of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body."
Now we have received the firstfruits of the Spirit. That does not mean that we are now to receive only a little of the Spirit, but that we get the Spirit as the firstfruits or the advance money--the earnest--of our inheritance. Paul proves this in Ephesians 1:13, 14: "In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also, after that ye believed, ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession unto the praise of His glory." Then having the Spirit of God and being the sons of God, is entering upon the riches of our inheritance now. We begin to share the riches of that inheritance now, and if we continue to be the sons of God, we continue in our inheritance right along through eternity, the only difference being that when the Son of God comes, we shall have the full inheritance and glory of it.
By looking at these promises this way, we can see how it is that heaven begins right here on earth. If we really take hold of these things by faith, we can carry the Spirit of God with us, and we shall know the peace and joy of heaven.
"For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope. For what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it. Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit maketh intercession for us with groanings that cannot be uttered."
Brethren, there is a whole world of encouragement in these verses. I have thought so much sometimes when I have been at our meetings, and have heard one after another arise and bear testimony and close with the words, "pray for me," that Christ Himself prayed for us, and that the Holy Spirit itself is making intercession for us, with groanings that cannot be uttered. Brethren, while we can ask for others to pray for us, cannot we take hold by faith and appropriate the prayers that are being continually offered for us in heaven above? Even if the brethren do not pray for us, we have the joy and comfort of knowing that Christ and the Spirit are praying for us.
For myself, I can understand these things and draw encouragement out of them just this way: I go to God and lay my soul open before Him and ask Him to give me--what shall I ask for? Sometimes the words are gone, and I can think of nothing, only an inexpressible desire for something more than I have; but the Holy Spirit knows what I need and knows the mind of God. It knows just what God has to give me, and so it makes intercession for me, and God gives exceeding abundantly above all I can ask or think. The Spirit of God takes those thoughts that we cannot put into words and can scarcely think, and it transmutes them into words and petitions before the throne of God and He that searcheth the hearts of men knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit.
I am persuaded that a great many of us make a great mistake in this matter of searching the hearts. We hear brethren saying that they "are going to search their hearts and put away all the evil things that they can find to be in them." Says Jeremiah, "The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked: who can know it? I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways and according to the fruit of his doings." Jeremiah 17:9, 10. We are here on earth and in a sinful condition. We admit that we are not in that spiritual condition that we ought to be and so we will search our hearts and put away all the wickedness that we can find in them. We cannot do it, for the heart will deceive us every time. Yet God can search the heart and He does, and if we will take the result of His searching, great will be our joy. For it is the Comforter that brings these sins to our hearts, that the Lord hath searched out; and this very act of bringing our sins before our eyes is a part of the comfort of God. Yes, by the very work of making known our sins to us, God gives us comfort.
Some people say that the Lord makes known their sins to them as they can bear them. When the Lord made known my sins to me, I could not bear them. I thought that the very life was being crushed out of me, and I knew I could not bear them. There was where the comfort came in--I could not bear them, so I was willing to let the Saviour bear them for me. So the Lord searches the hearts of men and the only thing that we have to do is to accept the pardon that He has for us, when He has searched them out and held them up before our eyes.
Now we come to the most blessed and the most glorious part of this most glorious chapter. One word forms the keynote of the eighth chapter of Romans: "Glory."
And to know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose. For whom He did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the first-born among many brethren. Moreover, whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified; and whom he justified, them he also glorified.
The twenty-eighth verse is quoted wrong very often and applied wrong, very much more often, just by the changing of tense. People read it, "We know that all things will work together for good to them that love God." But that is not what Paul says. He says that all things work together for good, at the present time, for those who love God. But says one, I don't know that they do. Well, just take hold of this Scripture, and believe it and then you will know it. The only way that we can know is by believing the word of God. We shall then find that all things do work together for good to them that love God. This is the joy of the Christian--that there cannot anything bad happen to him.
Some say, there is a special class to whom this is so. Yes, that is true, there is a special class, and that special class is composed of them that love God. We know whether we love God or not, therefore we know whether we can appropriate this promise or not. Is there not reason enough to love God? Some say, I want to love God more. I know that I do not love Him enough. How absurd this is--just as if the love of God was a duty that we could drive ourselves to perform. Love cannot be forced; the very act of forcing a person to love another would show that there was not any love at all. How do we love any object for which we do have affection? Simply because it is lovable in our eyes, and the more we know of that thing we love, the more we love it. Then the more we know of God, the more we shall love Him. As we come to His word, from which we must get our knowledge of Him, we see the wideness of the mercy of God, and we cannot help loving Him. Why cannot we help loving Him? Because He first loved us. Then if we would love God more, study His love more as it is revealed in His word.
Now how about this class--"To them who are called according to his purpose"? Here we have the matter of "calling," and that causes some to be discouraged sometimes. A brother will say, "Perhaps I am not called, I am not at all sure that I am; and therefore it don't work good for me." That matter of "calling" can be settled very easily. Who has God called? "And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely." Revelation 22:17.
Now the call is to every man and woman and child on earth. Those that hear it are to take it up and pass it along. The kindness of God is wide enough to take in every individual, "for God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." Those two texts are sufficient to scatter to the four winds all the theological trash that has been written to prove that God has some set few that He has called and no others. Let no soul stay away because he thinks he is not called. The call is to all. All do not come; all do not take the advice of Peter and make their calling and election sure, but that is not the fault of God's provision.
Now we are "called" and "elected." Sometimes we get wonderfully afraid of that word, "elected." Is there any need to be afraid of that term? No. For every individual can be a candidate and every candidate can be elected. Here is something that everybody can have, and the fact that one is elected does not debar everyone else from being elected. In 2 Timothy 1:9 we read, "Who hath saved us and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began. Mark you, His own purpose is a purpose of grace, and the free gift by grace comes upon all unto justification of life. Now note what the election is:
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love. Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will. To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved."
"He hath blessed us in all spiritual blessings!" In what? In Christ; therefore just the moment you give up self and take Christ instead, you have everything that Christ has to give. Why have all these blessings been lodged in Christ? Because He is able to bless you, "in turning away every one of you from his iniquities." Acts 3:26. So since we have given to us by God Himself all the blessings that can be given to deliver us from sin and to turn us from our iniquities, we can have joy and peace in Him. Peter says, "According as His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him that hath called us to glory and virtue." Everything that is necessary for life and godliness is given unto us. In whom? In Christ. Therefore the soul that stands in Christ may stand and does stand as firm and secure as the Rock of ages.
Now it is "to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted." In whom? "In the beloved." Not in ourselves, but in the beloved; and every one is called to the fellowship of Christ, if he will accept it. Brethren, is it unreasonable that God does not accept those who will not accept Him? No. Then is it unreasonable and unjust that God accepts us when we accept His call? Certainly not. Then we are elected in Him, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. . . . Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself; that in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are in earth, even in him; in whom we also have obtained an inheritance." Mark it, when we are in Christ, we have obtained an inheritance--we have the firstfruits of it; we begin to share it now.
"For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate. Being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will." Just a few words on "foreknowledge." Sometimes the position is taken that God did not know what man was coming to when He made him, and if He did know, then He ought not to have made him at all or He ought to have stopped him from going in the way he has gone. God does know, and He foreknows, and He knows the end from the beginning. "Known unto God from the beginning are all his works." God has not changed a hair's breadth from the plan which He knew before the world began. And there is no power in all the universe that could make Him change.
"Did God know that Adam was going to sin, and does He know whether we will be saved or not?" Yes, He knows all about it--who will be saved and who will be lost. "Then how can it be that we are free?" I do not know, and it does not make any difference. I know from His word that I am perfectly free to have salvation and to have it when I want it. I know at the same time that God knows whether I will take it or not. I cannot understand how these two things can be, but God knows and He is not unjust, so it is all right. There is not an angel in heaven who knows how it can be, but they know that it is so.
The very statement that He wills not to know certain things proves that He must know them in order to know that He does not want to know them, and this is an utter absurdity. That He wills not to know the things that He does know is a self-evident absurdity. Such an idea as that must necessarily be based on the supposition that God knows that He does know by studying. But God does not have to count and calculate and figure to arrive at conclusions. He is God, and knowledge is in Him and begins and ends in Him.
The very statement that He wills not to know certain things proves that He must know them in order to know that He does not want to know them, and this is an utter absurdity. That He wills not to know the things that He does know is a self-evident absurdity. Such an idea as that must necessarily be based on the supposition that God knows that He does know by studying. But God does not have to count and calculate and figure to arrive at conclusions. He is God, and knowledge is in Him and begins and ends in Him.
God is the High and Holy One "that inhabiteth eternity." He dwells in eternity. What is eternity? It is something that has neither beginning nor ending. It may be represented by a circle, at every point of which God dwells at the same time. He is self-existent. That is, the millions of ages that have been in the past and the millions that are to be in the future are all "just now" with God. Past, present, and future are all present with God. He lives in an eternal now. We cannot understand how that can be but that does not matter; He says it is so, and we believe Him.
That He is the eternal God, constitutes the strength of the fact that He is our refuge. It is the eternal God who has had charge of our ways in the past, and we have confidence in His leading. If He had not known the past and the future, how could I have known whether He was leading me right or not? Job says, "He knoweth the way that I take."
He leads us in the way that we should go and looked over the ages and He saw just who would have the inheritance and He is preparing it for him. What would you think of a man, to put the thing on a very low plane, who got a lot of stones together and commenced to build a house. You ask him what kind of house he is going to build. "Why," he says, "I don't know. I am going to put these stones and timbers together and then see what kind of house will come of it." Such talk as that would be foolishness. Before a man starts in to build a house, he knows just how it is coming out; he knows exactly how it will look when it is finished. When God laid His plans in ages past, don't you think that He knew what kind of earth he was going to have? He knew what kind of earth it was going to be and He had a purpose in making it. He created it to be inhabited.
Not only did He know what kind of place it was going to be, but He knew what kind of men were going to dwell in it. He knew every man who would dwell in it and He had every one of them named. Those men whom God saw that He would have to inhabit the earth, when He laid His plans for it in ages past, were to be good and holy men, and that same earth, when this little experiment of sin is worked out, will be inhabited by just exactly the persons that God saw would inhabit it and they will have the names that He gave them in ages past.
In Revelation 2:17 we read, "And I will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it." Now it is not to be supposed that over in the kingdom of God we will not know each other's names, to be able to pronounce them. In the Bible every name signified something. Jacob was the "supplanter"; Israel the "prince of God"; Abraham, the "father of many nations"; Sarai, a "contentious woman"; and Sarah, a "princess." The name signified the character of the individual.
Now while all the redeemed are to have the perfect character of God, yet that character is so perfect and so broad that there is room for each to have a distinct character. Why is it that no one will be able to understand the name of any one else? Because no two persons will have had the same experience in developing character. No two persons have been led in the same way and have had the same experience or trials. "The heart knoweth its own business and the stranger meddleth not therewith."
In Exodus 33:17 the Lord said to Moses, "Thou hast found grace in my sight and I know thee by name." Moses was wonderfully near to the Lord at that time. He walked with God and endured continually "as seeing Him who is invisible." Day by day his character was moulded by the Almighty and had it not been for one sin he would have been translated without seeing death. He was meek above all men, and God knew him by that name which was written in the book.
Man fell, but every man who lived directly after the fall could have accepted the proffered salvation if he had wished and could have been one of those persons who would people the earth--one of those persons whom God saw when he laid the plans for the earth and for its inhabitants. If that had been so, the earth would have been filled and the work closed up long ago. Would that have been unjust to us, for in that case we would have been unborn and therefore left out? No, it would have been no more unjust than it will be unjust to close the work in a few years from now, and leave out possible nations yet unborn.
Now God foreknew us in Christ and in Him in the beginning we were predestinated to just such a place in the earth in its state of purity as God wants us to have. I am so thankful that we may have Christ if we will and if we will believe Him and trust in Him, we know that we are predestinated to a place in His kingdom. God hath "predestinated us according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will." Cannot you see that all things work together for good to them that love God?
How do I know that I am a child of God? He loved me and He bought me and I gave myself to Him and therefore I am His. Now I am in Christ, and it matters not what happens to me. There is not a bad thing that can come upon me, for everything that does come, God will work it for my good, and not only will He do it, but He does do it. He does it that He may develop my character and fit me for what He is preparing for me.
Now, Satan concocts some wicked scheme against me--influences some man or government to do something against me, that is calculated to destroy me. Well, that is all right, for God takes those very wicked schemes and out of them He brings good for me. Satan works those wicked schemes to accomplish my ruin, but God takes his schemes and by them carries me along to the desired haven. Therefore the Christian has no business to be complaining.
There is no one who would think of complaining when he was having a good time. But the Christian is having a good time all the time, for all things work together for good to him. These bad things good, that are concocted against us? Yes, for although they are bad when they start and are designed to ruin us, yet by the time they get to us, God transforms them into good. When we look at things in this way, we can praise God no matter what happens.
There was Joseph, his brethren sent him down to Egypt. They did it with no other intention than to destroy him. They first tried to kill him and then when they sold him for a slave, they thought that he would not live long down there as a slave and that they would get rid of him that way. And yet we are told by the psalmist that, "God sent a man to Egypt." Those brethren of his were working out the evil of their hearts and at the same time God sent him down according to His will. We cannot understand how this can be, but we know that it was so.
Caiaphas, that wicked old high priest, asked if it were not better that one man die than that the whole nation perish. There was the sentiment of the worldly-wise scheming politician. Yet at the same time in those very words God was speaking a prophecy. There is not a wicked person, not even the devil himself, but God just takes him and his wickedness as it comes and makes it work out His own eternal purpose. There is a world of comfort in the thought that that is the kind of God that we serve.
So it is that those whom He predestinated He called and whom He called He justified and whom He justified, them He also glorified. Christ says, "and the glory which thou gavest me I have given them: that they may be one, even as we are one." John 17:22. Yes, the Lord does give grace and glory and we have the glory now, only it is in the form of grace. "He will beautify the meek with salvation." He has given unto us the riches of His glory and His grace. By and by He will show us the exceeding riches of His grace with the glory that is to be revealed.
"What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?"
Study No. 14: Romans 8:28-39
In order to finish the eighth chapter this evening, it will be necessary for us to spend but a short time on each verse. Yet I believe it will be best to briefly review the verses considered at our last study.
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover, whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. (Romans 8:28-30).
You will notice that the verbs in these texts are all in the past tense. The blessings and promises contained here are true continually of those who are called of God and of all who are called of God. Who are called? "For the promise is unto you, and to your children and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call." He calls, "Whosoever will." "Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely."
Now what is the purpose of God in calling all the world--whosoever will come, to Him? "That in the dispensation of the fullness of times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth, even in him." Ephesians 1:10. Speaking on the same subject in 2 Timothy 1:9, the apostle Paul says, "Who hath saved us and called us with an holy calling, not according to our own works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given in Christ Jesus before the world began." We are then to be gathered together in Christ according to the purpose and grace of God. Seeing this, what is our duty? "Therefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure, for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall." 2 Peter 1:10.
Now how can we make our calling and election sure? Every one is called, but the purpose of God is in Christ, "for of him and through him and to him are all things: to whom be glory forever. Amen." Romans 11:36. We are all called and abiding in Him; then we are called according to the purpose of God, because we are in Christ. Give up everything of self, and everything that is connected with self; then you can have Christ and you are called according to the purpose of God.
If we say, "Here I am, Lord, take me," then we are in Christ; but that saying, "Here I am, take me," must be in deed and in truth. It is not simply the words, but we must know what it means. Then we are in Him and therefore we are predestinated to be conformed according to the image of His Son.
"All things work together for good to them that love God." When? Now. How is that? "For whom he did foreknow, he did also predestinate to be conformed to the image of his son." "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God." When we tell the Lord day by day, "Here is my heart, Lord, I have made no change in the gift. I want Thee to have it," He will bind us with cords of divine love to the horns of the altar. We are then predestinated with Christ. What He has, we have. He has given us eternal life, and hath said Himself, "Neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand." John 10:28.
God had a purpose. Can it be changed? No, the thing is fixed. Those that are called are justified; in Christ, therefore, we have justification. But those that are justified are also glorified. Can we believe that? If we can, we have got hold of a wonderful amount of strength. We have the glory of Christ? Yes, "And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one." John 17:22.
Mark, it is past tense. The glory that God has given to Christ is ours today. It is true that that glory doth not yet appear and the world knoweth us not, because it knew not Christ. But it is ours, and it will appear and even now it appears in the form of grace. Inwardly we have it, for says Paul, "That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man." Ephesians 3:10. For the same reason for thy name's sake, do not disgrace the throne of thy glory." Jeremiah 10:21.
"The Lord will give grace and glory, no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly." Peter says that, believing, we may "rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory." 1 Peter 1:8.
The glory is all ours; we have it now. By and by when we have accepted this grace according to the riches of His glory and worked out in us His purpose, then we will step out of grace into glory on the same level.
"What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?" Take this verse and read it and commit it to memory; and then remember to say, "They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony." Revelation 12:11. And remember that Christ gave the example of defeating Satan by the word of the testimony; every time the temptation came He said, "It is written." So when the clouds of darkness come and the thick darkness gathers around, just say, "If God be for us, who can be against us!" And God is for us, as is shown in that He gave Christ to die for us and raised Him again for our justification.
There is peace in the thought that God works out all things after the counsel of His own will and that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose. Then it does not matter what comes against us, for in that it comes against us, it comes against the purpose of God, and that is as sure and firm as the existence of the Almighty can make it.
Now who is against us? Satan is against us. That does not make any difference if he is. Satan has tried his power with Christ, and it has proved itself to be nothing. "All power in heaven and earth is given to me," says Christ. Then if all power has been given to Christ in heaven and in earth and it has been given, where is there any left for Satan? there is none. In a contest with Christ, Satan has no power; so if we have Christ for us, nothing can be against us.
Some of us have been talking about the power of Satan in the past; but he has none, there is none left for him. Technically speaking, Satan is against us. Who is he? "The prince of the power of the air." He brings pestilence; he brings disease; he puts things in our way and arrays them against us. But the very things which he arrays against us to work our ruin, God takes and makes them for us. They are all good. We often sing:
But we very often sing things that we do not believe at all. Now I would not have anyone sing these things any less, but I would have you believe them more. It is often the case that if you took the words from the music and put them into plain prose, there would not be anyone in a whole congregation who would believe or dare to say them. Let us believe them not because they are in the hymn, but because they are Bible truth.
We are like the people who are represented by the prophet Ezekiel: "Also, thou son of man, the children of thy people still are talking against [about] thee by the walls and in the doors of the houses and speak one to another, everyone to his brother, saying, Come, I pray you, and hear what is the word that cometh forth from the Lord." That is it--they say, Come, let us go to meeting and hear the sermon. "And they come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as my people and they hear thy words, but they will not do them: for with their mouth they show much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness. And, lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument: for they hear thy words, but they do them not." Ezekiel 33:30-32.
I say that a great many of these truths are just a song to many people. They hear them and are interested in them and then pass on but they do not believe or do them. But the Lord has given them for us to both believe and to do, and they will be our strength. So everything works for good to them that love God. We cannot always see how or tell how, but God has said it and we know it is so. There are many things that we cannot tell why we believe and to our very senses they do not appear to be so, but the very fact that God has promised that if we do believe them they will be so, makes them so, when we take hold and believe them. We can never know this till we do believe, but when we do believe, then we will know. So if God be for us, who can be against us?
Think of that lone prophet of God, Elisha. He was down in Samaria; the mountains were all around him. A whole host of armed men had come to take him. He stood alone with his servant, and that servant was afraid. He did not think in that moment, nor did he say, that the King of Israel ought to send a troop of horse or some infantry to defend him. The young man came to him and said, "Alas, my master! How shall we do?" Elisha prayed, "Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes." and the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw and behold the mountains were full of horses and chariots of fire round about.
The whole mountain and plain was filled with chariots and horses, and only one of them was stronger than the whole host of the enemy. It is as true in our case as in that of Elisha, that "they that be for us are more than they that be against us," and the only thing for us to do is to get our eyes open so that we may see that this is so. What opens our eyes? The word; it is a lamp unto our feet and a light to our path, and if we believe it, we will know that they that are for us are more than they that are against us.
He who is with us is the living God of Israel, who has power to turn darkness into light and weakness into strength; and every evil thing that comes against us, He turns into a blessing to help us on our way.
"He that spared not His own Son but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him freely give us all things?" Why will He with Christ also give us all things? Because all things are in Him. Note Ephesians 1:23. "Which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all."
He that hath put on Christ is "strengthened with all might!" Why? Because God has placed Christ "far above all principality and power and might and dominion and every name that is named not only in this world but also in that which is to come, and hath put all things under his feet and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all." Therefore everything is in Christ. In him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. He has all power given him in heaven and in earth. Don't you see that this being the case, it is a foregone conclusion that when God gave Christ for us and freely delivered Him up for us all, that in Him He does give us all things.
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ." Ephesians 1:3.
Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, according as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to knowledge and virtue; whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. 2 Peter 1:2-4.
Christ has all power, and He hath given unto us all things that pertain to life and godliness. Notice that the past tense is used. This has been done for us. Then why don't we have them? for just one reason--because we don't take them. We have been mourning for so long and saying that we want these things; well, we can have them, they have been given to us, and there is no reason why we should not appropriate them to ourselves.
Suppose I come to you and say that I am very hungry and that I would like something to eat. All right, you say, just sit down here to the table and we will get something for you. Soon you place the best of what you have on the table and tell me that there it is and now, eat. But I say, "O, I am so hungry and I do want food so much." All right, take it and eat. "But I am so hungry and I do want something to eat. I have not had anything for days." Well, take it. "Yes, but I do want food so bad." You would say that I was out of my mind if I acted that way and did not eat of the food that was so freely placed before me.
Said one to me the other night, "If that is the way that the Lord does with these blessings that pertain to life and godliness, we are certainly foolish that we do not take them, but I do not think that the illustration is a fair one, because we cannot see these things that the Lord has to offer, and we can see the food." Neither do I think that is a fair illustration, because it does not half fill the bill.
Did not you often think you saw something that you did not see? Does not your sight often deceive you? Sometimes you think you saw a thing that you did not see and then again you saw things that when you came to look at them closely were not as they really appeared to be. But the word of God never deceives. Therefore I am more sure of the things promised in the word of God that if I could see them. "Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace, to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all." Romans 4:16.
"The things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal." 2 Corinthians 4:18. We must revise our logic a little in this matter. We think that anything that we can see is all right and sure. Therefore we get hold of a house or a piece of land or some other property and think that we have something, because there is in our possession something that we can see. But the truth of the matter is that the only things that we can depend on are the things that we cannot see. We can see the earth, and we can see the heavens, but they are going to pass away. "But the word of the Lord endureth forever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you." 1 Peter 1:25.
With the psalmist we can say, "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear though the earth be removed and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea." Psalm 46:1-3. Can we say that? Brethren, that time is coming. The earth will reel to and from like a drunken man and be removed like a cottage and the mountains will skip away and pass over into the ocean. This is going to happen and there will be some people at that time who will feel perfectly calm and trustful, but they will not be composed of men and women who have never learned to say that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them that are the called according to His purpose. The man that doubts God now will doubt Him then. "He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty."
He that spared not His own Son but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He [not] with Him freely give us all things? That promise includes all. "Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things are yours. Whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or things present or things to come; and ye are Christ's and Christ is God's." 1 Corinthians 3:21-23. This is not in the future. All things are yours at the present time. Everything is ours and therefore we can say with the psalmist, "The lines have fallen unto me in pleasant places, yea, I have a goodly heritage."
Yes, we have everything; we are children of the King, of the Most High. What difference does it make if people do not own us? God owns us, and He knows us, and therefore if men heap on us reproach and persecution, the only thing we can do is to pity them and labor for them, for they do not know the riches of the inheritance.
"Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth." Well, there is one that will do it surely. We have his name, Satan. Here is a testimony concerning him. "And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, now is come salvation and strength and the kingdom of our God and the power of his Christ, for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before God day and night." Revelation 11:10. Yes, Satan is the accuser of the brethren. He has done it day and night and he is doing it still--laying everything he can to the charge of God's elect. But he is cast down and now is come salvation and strength and the kingdom of God and the power of His Christ. Christ has all power; how good that is.
But says one poor, discouraged, desponding soul, "I believe all that, and I have confessed my sins, and I believe that God is faithful and just to forgive them and to cleanse me from all unrighteousness; but these sins keep coming up before me all the time!" Are you sure that it is Satan that brings them up? That is an important point, for if you are sure of that and they do come up, you ought to be one of the happiest creatures alive.
Why does Satan bring these things up? Because he is the accuser of the brethren, and he is a false accuser; he is a liar and the father of it, and therefore if Satan brings these sins up and accuses you, then you know that they are forgiven, because he would never have brought them up if they had not been forgiven. He could not tell the truth if he tried, and unless they had been forgiven he never would bring them up, never in the world, because he would be afraid that you would confess them, and they would be forgiven.
Well, another query: "I don't know; perhaps it is not Satan. It must be God." No, "It is God that justifieth." If God justifies, He cannot condemn. Who has any right to condemn but God? No one. God is judge alone. Then there is no other soul that has any right to condemn, except God. He shows us our sins and we confess them and give ourselves to Him and He justifies us, and in Him is no variableness nor shadow of turning; therefore, when He justifies, who is there in the universe that can condemn? Who will do it? Satan. But what have we to do with him? If we would only give more credence to God's truth and less to Satan's's lies, it would be better for us.
"Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea, rather that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us." Who is going to condemn us, then, since God justifies and Christ died and rose again as a pledge of that justification. Christ died and rose again and is even now at the right hand of God to make intercession for us. Don't you see there is not a possible loophole left for discouragement for the Christian?
There is a time when God brings sins up before us, but it is when they have not been confessed. That is the only time. But it is the Comforter that convicts of sin, so He comforts us in every place, and in the very act of calling to our remembrance the wrongs that we have done. Then when God brings sins to my notice that I have not confessed, I will thank Him for the comfort, and when Satan brings them up again, I will praise God again, for if they were not forgiven, Satan would never bring them up, but if they have been confessed, they have been forgiven.
In Christ are mercy and truth met together. The same hand that holds the law, holds the pardon also. Brethren, remember this, that when the law was spoken from Sinai in thunder tones, it was in the hand of a mediator, even our Lord Jesus Christ. Then the same hand which holds the justice and that which convicts of sin, holds also the pardon. Thanks be unto God which always causeth us to triumph in Christ.
"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation or distress or persecution or famine or nakedness or peril or sword? As it is written, for thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us." That idea of "much more" which is so prominent in chapter five, is found again in these verses.
We often hear the expression, "If I can only get inside the gates of heaven, I will be satisfied." I am so thankful that we don't have to just get in, as if we wished to apologize for our presence after we were there. Why not? Because He has promised that "an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ."
"We have enemies to contend with," says one. Don't talk about them or your trials and temptations, but talk of the power of Christ. All power has been given to Him. so when we wrestle, we will remember that it is not an even-handed battle, but we fight a fight of faith and the power is given unto us whereby we can be more than conquerors through Him that loved us and gave Himself for us. Where sin abounded, there did grace much more abound.
Who are conquerors? They are those who have gained the victory. "We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." It is not flesh and blood that we are fighting against, therefore flesh and blood are of no account in the defense. Then how do we meet the foe? "Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life."
There comes in that life question again. "Lay hold on eternal life." The only power that can resist evil is the power of an endless life, and He that hath the Son hath that life. We are to fight the good fight of faith. What is faith? Trusting in another. If I fight a fight with my fists, I do the fighting. If I fight the fight of faith, someone else is fighting for me, and I am getting the benefit. We are more than conquerors through Him that loved us. Thanks be to God who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Well how is this? Christ has fought, has He not? Yes, He has fought hand to hand with Satan here on earth. He conquered Satan and all his host, and He has put down all might and dominion, for He has put above all "principality and power and might." Mark, those are the very things that we wrestle with. How great was the victory of Christ over them? "Having spoiled principalities and powers, He made show of them openly, triumphing over them in himself." Colossians 2:15. So Christ met these very enemies that we have to wrestle with, and He triumphed over them and spoiled them. he has gained the victory over them. What is the result? What always must be the result when a battle has been fought and one side has conquered the other completely--peace. Satan would not give in, so the Saviour conquered a peace.
"He is our peace." "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." John 14:27. As He has given us His peace and peace follows victory, so the victory has been gained already. And if we have Christ, that victory is ours already. We simply lay hold of the eternal life of Christ and that is done by laying hold of His word, which is spirit and life. Thus we bring Christ into our hearts and so we have Christ, and the victory that He has won for us.
The great trouble with us is that sometimes we are afraid that Christ will gain the victory. Why? We have some darling sin that we do not want to give up; we are willing we think that all the rest should go but that, and so we are afraid that Christ will gain the victory and that that sin will have to be given up. Just think of it! We call Christ in to help defeat our enemy, and when He comes, he finds us on the side of the enemy. But if we will give up all these things, Christ will give us something that is infinitely better. When we make up our minds from the word of God that all that God has to give us is in Christ, that He is the fullness of Him that filleth all in all, we will realize that the meager things of this earth are not worth having, compared to what is going to be given us.
In 1 John 4:2-4 we have reference to the wicked spirits with which we have to fight, and this assurance is given to the children of God: "Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world." So with Elisha we know that they that are for us are more than they that are against us. "This is the victory that hath overcome the world, even our faith." 1 John 5:5, R. V.
Do we believe that Christ has conquered everything and that when we have Him we have everything and that there is no power of darkness that can do us any hurt?
When this has been done, we are crucified with Him. Our own lives have been given up to Christ, but we still live. Then it must be some other life that we live, and that life is the life of Christ. That is the life in which we glory. Christ is our life, and He has the victory and therefore we have it. "Put on the whole armor of God that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil." Ephesians 6:11.
What is it to put on the whole armour? To stand in Christ complete, that is what we mean.
He is the truth, the Lord our righteousness. Shod with peace, He is our peace. It is Christ all through. Then take the sword in your hand and it is the word of God and Christ is the eternal word.
"And ye are complete in him." Having put on the whole armour which is Christ, we are complete in Him. "Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ!" He is the armour and the armour is He. Thus it is that in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us and gave His life for us. There is nothing that can take the armour away from us. "For I am persuaded that neither death nor life nor angels nor principalities nor powers nor things present nor things to come nor height nor depth nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Study No. 15: Romans 13:1-8
It will be necessary to skip from the eighth to the thirteenth chapter; not but that there are some of the most important truths in the Bible contained in the intervening chapters, but the time allotted for this series of Bible study is too limited to admit of their perusal. So tonight we will take up the study of the 13th chapter, as it treats upon questions which are of vital importance to all believers in the third angel's message. This chapter is frequently used and quoted to prove that civil government has something to do with religion and the reason why this mistake is made is that the chapter is regarded as a treatise setting forth the duties of civil rulers and showing the limits to which their power may extend. But this is a mistake.
In this chapter the apostle Paul is speaking to professed Christians. As we have already stated, this is proved in the early part of the epistle where in the second chapter the apostle addresses those who rest in the law and make their boast of God. From that point forward the epistle is addressed to those that profess to know God. In the seventh chapter the apostle says, "For I speak to them that know the law." So instead of the thirteenth chapter being simply a treatise on civil government, showing its duties and limits, it is addressed to the church, showing how they should relate themselves to God, so as not to be in conflict with the powers that be. If this is borne in mind, it will be a great help in the solution of the many important questions which are considered in the chapter.
"Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever, therefore, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive unto themselves damnation." Romans 13:1, 2. These verses are not to be construed as teaching that Christians must obey every command that civil governments may impose upon them. We may recall the time in which this was written and the people to whom it was addressed. It was written at a time when the Roman Empire held sway over all the known world, and it was especially addressed to the church at Rome, the capital of this universal Empire. The emperor reigning at that time was Nero, and he was doubtless the most wicked, the most blood-thirsty, and abominable licentious monarch that ever sat upon the throne of any kingdom. I suppose there never was another man in the world that combined so much evil in himself as Nero the emperor of the Romans. He was a heathen and a heathen of the heathens.
The laws which were enacted in Rome recognized the heathen religion and were opposed to Christianity. In the reign of Nero occurred the most cruel persecution to the Christians that ever has been since the world began, and it was during this persecution that the apostle Paul lost his head. Therefore it is manifest that the apostle, when he says that we are to be subject to the powers that be, does not mean to convey the idea that we should do everything that the powers that be tell us to do. If the apostle Paul had done that, he never would have lost his head, but he suffered because the truth which he preached was opposed to the principles of the Roman government, and we cannot suppose that the apostle Paul would preach one thing and do another. Then the question arises, What does he mean by exhorting us to be "subject unto the higher powers"?
Take the case negatively. We are not to resist the powers that be. Why? Because we are children of the Highest--children of the heavenly kingdom and the rule of that kingdom is peace. The ruler of the kingdom is the Prince of peace. Therefore since we have been delivered from the power of darkness and translated into the kingdom of His Son, we are to allow the peace of God to rule in our hearts. Colossians 3:15. For this reason we are to "follow peace with all men, and holiness without which no man shall see the Lord." Hebrews 12:14.
In the 12th chapter of Romans we are instructed, "If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men." That does not mean that we are to live peaceably with all men just as long as we can endure their provocation and when that gets unendurable, that we are at liberty to have it out with them in a regular quarrel. But it does mean that "if it be possible, as much as lieth in you," you are to live at peace with all men. How far now, is it possible for the Christian to live at peace with all men? It is possible for him to be at peace with all men, as far as he himself is concerned, all the time. For, he is dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto Christ. Christ dwells in his heart by faith, and Christ is the Prince of peace. Then there are no circumstances under which the Christian is justified in losing his temper and declaring war either against an individual or a government.
In Galatians 5:18, we are told that, "If ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law." The works of the flesh are the works which are done by those who are under the law, and in the enumeration of these works we find the word "strife." Therefore a Christian cannot enter into strife, because he is not in the flesh. Strife can have no place in us; therefore so far as we are concerned it will be peace all the time. But if those men with whom we have to do, steel their hearts against the truth of God and will not be affected by the truth, they will make trouble, but the trouble will be on their part; with us there will be peace all the time.
In 1 Peter 2:21 and onward, we are told that Christ suffered for us, leaving us an example that we should follow in His steps. He, when He was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered, He threatened not; but committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously. The case of Christ before the Sanhedrin, before Pilate, is an instance of perfect peace. Therefore, if we follow the example of Christ and the exhortation of Paul, which being inspired must be in harmony with it, we shall not arrive at that point where so many say that, "forbearance ceases to be a virtue." If we are Christians, we have the love of Christ abiding in our hearts. That love is charity, and charity endureth all things.
Christ, in His sermon on the mount, commanded us "that ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on the right cheek, turn to him the other also." Now does He mean what He says or not? Does that mean that if a wicked man come up to us and offer personal violence, we are to defend ourselves or not? We leave this question open for you to decide for yourselves.
No matter under what government a Christian is living, he is in duty bound not to resist its ordinances. All governments, good, bad, or indifferent, are ordained of God, so that the wickedness or evils existing in the government give no excuse to the Christian for resisting. Governments are all ordained of God, and they are all better than anarchy, but they are not ordained to take charge of and promote or carry out religion, because God has not delegated His authority in matters of religion to any earthly power, although they are ordained of God.
Now how about being subject to the powers yet not always obeying them? Take a familiar example. Nebuchadnezzar was king of Babylon, and his was certainly a government ordained of God, for God had given all the lands over which he ruled into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, and all nations were to serve him and his son and his son's son. Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold and commanded that when the music sounded all the people were to bow down to it. It was told to the king that the three Hebrews, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, had not fallen down and worshiped the golden image. The king called them to him and told them that although they had disobeyed him, he would overlook that offense, if when the music sounded again, they would worship the image. "Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy god nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up."
They did not resist the king. He gave them an alternative. They could do one of two things--bow down to the image or be cast into the furnace. They disobeyed the order to bow down to the image, but they did not resist the alternative to go into the furnace. And moreover they told the king that their God was able to deliver them out of his hand, but they did not know whether He would or not. That would not matter anyway. If He did not choose to deliver them, they were to be burned. That was all right. They would yield up their lives, triumph in death, and in that way be delivered out of his hand, if in no other.
What is the relation of Christians to civil government? Christ is the anointed One. For what was He anointed? "To preach good tidings [the gospel] unto the meek . . . to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and the opening of the prison to them that are bound." Now there will be a time when the kingdoms of this earth will become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, as is stated by the prophet.
In the second Psalm, we read, "Ask of me and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession." But what is He going to do with them? Dash them in pieces. That time has not come yet; therefore Christ, the Mediator, has nothing whatever to do with the governments of earth. His rule is a spiritual rule in the hearts of His people. His kingdom, for He sits upon a throne and rules, is a rule over the hearts of His people. He rules in the hearts of men, where it is impossible for the kings of the earth to rule. Strife may rule there all the time, but they cannot prevent it, or peace may have dominion, and they cannot disturb it. He sits upon a throne of grace and there He dispenses grace without interfering with the governments of earth and in a way which they cannot hinder.
The great men of this earth exercise lordship over others, but Christ has commanded that it be not so among His people, but he that would be greatest among them, should be the servant of all.
Take Daniel as an example of how men should be subject to the powers that be and still be subject to God. There was a decree established that whosoever should ask a petition of any god or man for thirty days after the passing of that decree, save of the great king Darius, should be cast into the den of lions. Daniel occupied a high position in the government and he was a peaceable citizen, as every Christian must be. It would have been very easy for him to say, "I do not need to ask anything of any man for thirty days, and I can shut myself up in my house where no one can see me, and there I can worship God quietly and so I will carry on my religion and worship the God of heaven and still not stir up the anger of the king against me.
This is a question of vital importance to us. When persecution is liable to come upon us, shall we cease to work openly in our fields on the first day of the week as we have been doing and do something quietly in our houses, so that no one will see us, or should we do as Daniel did? He opened his windows and did exactly what they told him not to do--make petitions to the God of heaven. He did it openly where his enemies could see him do it, although the decree had been passed that for following such a course he should be cast into the den of lions. Are we not, when for fear of persecution, we work quietly in our houses where no man can see us--are we not hiding our light under a bushel? Some say that there is no need of being foolhardy. That is very true, but shall we be foolhardy if we do as Daniel did? Shall we say that he made a mistake?
In 1 Peter 2:13, we are told, "Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king as supreme or unto governors as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evil doers and for the praise of them that do well. For so is the will of God, that with well doing you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: as free, and not using your liberty for a cloak of maliciousness but as servants of God. Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king." This is parallel with the statement in the 13th of Romans, as is seen by verse 7.
Peter carries this same principle into the minor things of life, and immediately after speaking of the duty of obedience to the king, he speaks of the duty of servants to their masters. If we find ourselves subject to a master and there is no difference whether he rules over one or over millions, we must all be subject to him. But supposing that the master be a bad man and he commands those who are under him to do something that is wrong, then what? "For this is thankworthy if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults ye shall take it patiently? But if, when ye do well and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God." 1 Peter 2:19-20.
If a man finds himself the subject of a bad master and he does everything that that bad master tells him, how can he suffer for it? He is a willing tool in the hands of his master, but the suffering is brought by the fact that he will not do the wicked things commanded, and this is what is acceptable in the sight of God. He has disobeyed the power and because he has disobeyed it, he suffers, but he suffers for well doing. If he obeys that wicked master, he must disobey God. This we know would be wrong. But it is perfectly right to disobey the wicked decree of a master or government, provided always that when the punishment comes, we take it patiently. This is acceptable with God. The very fact that a man suffers for well doing shows that he is the servant of God and accepted of Him. Then how is it that we can be subject to the powers that be and yet go directly contrary to what they say? By submitting to the punishment, but not doing the evil thing they commanded us to do. As Christians we owe allegiance to God, the highest power, and to Him alone.
"Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power?" "Do that which is good," and we shall have praise of the same. The same truth is brought out by the prophet Isaiah when he says, "Say ye not, A confederacy, to all them to whom this people shall say, A confederacy; neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid. Sanctify the Lord of Hosts himself, and let him be your fear and let him be your dread." Isaiah 8:12, 13. Christians must sanctify the Lord in their hearts; then He will be their fear and they will not fear what men shall do unto them.
Peter brings out the same truth when he says, "But and if ye suffer for righteousness' sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; but sanctify the Lord God in your hearts; and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear." 1 Peter 3:14, 15. Don't be afraid of the terror. Why? Because we have sanctified the Lord God in our hearts and He is our fear. God is with us. Christ is with us, and when men cast reproaches upon us, they cast them upon our Saviour. He is the one that suffers, not we.
We are to sanctify the Lord in our hearts and to be ready always to give a reason of the hope that is in us. It has seemed to me from the connections of these words and the scripture that is quoted that the special time when we are to give this answer of the hope that is in us, is the time when we are brought before magistrates for well doing. What help have we? We have sanctified the Lord God in our hearts by taking His word into our hearts so we need not make any great provision for what we will say. For God will give "a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries will not be able to gainsay or resist." Luke 21:15.
It seems to me that the most important thing for all of us who have this special truth which is bound to bring us into trouble with the powers that be is to sanctify the Lord God in our hearts by the Spirit of God and His word. We must become students of the word of God and followers of Christ and His gospel. I believe there are farmers and mechanics among us who, although they have never been able to put texts together so as to preach a sermon, have nevertheless sanctified the Lord in their hearts by faithful study of His word. These men will be brought before courts for their faith, and they will preach the gospel there by way of their defense, because God in that day will give them a mouth and wisdom that their adversaries can neither gainsay nor resist.
Sometimes people say that there is no use to make our faith prominent and thus to court persecution. But if we follow such a policy as this, brethren, what are we doing but hiding our light beneath the bushel? If you do not allow anyone to see the shining of your light, what good does it do?
Sometimes we are in danger of working so diligently to stay persecution so that we may be able to carry forward the work in peace, that we neglect the work. We are told that if we disobey the laws and are put in prison, our wives and families will suffer and that the first duty we have is to provide for them. Now, brethren, how far can we carry this? Shall we show our loyalty to God or shall we hide it? O, says one, "We can keep our religion, but we can keep it quietly. We must not leave our families to suffer!" Brethren, what doth it profit a man if he gain the whole world and yet lose his own soul? The Master says, "He that loseth his life for my sake shall find it."
Go back to Daniel's case. He did not keep quiet. He prayed openly. "Yes, it was all right for Daniel to do that, but it is different now in the nineteenth century." No, it is not. It is just the same. The people might have said to him, "Daniel, you can do your people good in the position of influence you hold. You can keep them from being persecuted. Now don't go and get shut up in that den of lions and lose your life and bring great calamity upon your people!" But Daniel did go to the den of lions and he went there for living out his faith openly and in a way that all men could see it and did it bring calamity upon his people? No, indeed. In consequence of his obedience, the name of the God of heaven was more highly honored and revered in that nation than it ever had been before.
It is our duty to preach the gospel, to arise and let our light shine, and if we do that, God will hold the winds as long as they ought to be held. Brethren, the third angel's message is the greatest thing in all the earth. Men don't regard it as such, but the time will come in our lifetime when the third angel's message will be the theme and topic of conversation in every mouth. But it will never be brought to that position by people who keep quiet about it but by those who have their trust in God and are not afraid to speak the words which He has given them.
In doing this, we will not take our lives in our hands and I thank God for it. Our lives will be hid with Christ in God, and He will care for them. The truth will be brought to this high place simply by men and women going forth and preaching the gospel and obeying that which they preach. Let people know the truth. If we have a peaceful time in which to spread it, we will be thankful for that. And if men make laws that would seem to cut off the channels through which it can go, we can be thankful that we worship a God who makes even the wrath of men to praise Him, and He will do it--He will spread His gospel by means of those very laws which wicked men have enacted to crush out its life. God holds the winds, brethren, and He commands us to carry the message. He will hold them as long as it is best for them to be held, and when they begin to blow and we feel the first puffs in the beginning of persecution, they will do just what the Lord wants them to do.
We often sing that, brethren, when we don't believe it. For when we see the storm coming, we think it is not best for us to let it come so we hide from it or try to prevent it. But everything works the counsel of God's will. The storm will hasten the calm and rest will not delay to come.
"Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor. Owe no man anything, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law." Romans 13:7, 8. If you do this, you live peaceably with all men, as far as lieth in you. If you love your neighbor as yourself, that is the fulfilling of the whole law; because a man, to love his neighbor, must love God, because there is no love but of God.
If I love my neighbor as myself, it is simply because the love of God is abiding in my heart. It is because God has taken up His abode in my heart, and there is no man on earth who can take Him away from me. It is for this reason that the apostle refers to the last table of the law, because if we do our duty toward our neighbor, it naturally follows that we love God.
Sometimes we are told that the first table points out our duty to God and constitutes religion, and that the last table defines our duty to our neighbor and constitutes morality. But the last table contains duties to God just as much as the first one. David, after he had broken two of the commandments contained in the last table, when making his confession, said, "Against thee and thee only have I sinned and done this evil in thy sight." God must be first and last and all the time. And if the requirements of God demand that we go contrary to the requirements of man, we must obey God and trust our all to Him.
It matters not whether wicked men hedge up the way; we should "go forward" with our work. When Israel was going out of Egypt, they came to a place where the Red Sea was before them and the mountains and the host of the Egyptians behind, but the command of God to Moses was, "Speak unto the children of Israel that they go forward." But how could they with the sea before them and their enemies behind? That did not matter. God said, "Go forward."
These things are written for our admonition upon whom the ends of the world are come. The Israelites were to go forward on the word of God. It mattered not if the sea was before them. God opened it so that they passed through dryshod. But if He had not, they could have gone through on top of the water just as well. They could have gone over on the word of God. That was the way that Peter walked on the Sea of Galilee.
We must ever remember that we are the children of God, and being children of God we have overcome the world. All these lessons that we have had are to prepare us for the time of trouble. "Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God (which is the Lord Jesus Christ), that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand."
More Studies by Waggoner and the 1888 Message
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