1 CORINTHIANS 3:21,23 – A Precious & Very Great Promise

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“For all things are yours; … And ye are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s.” 1 Corinthians 3:21,23

These have more enjoyment of the earth now than have others; while others are grasping, these are enjoying. As the apostle declares, God hath given “us richly all things to enjoy” (1 Timothy 6:17.) Freed from the grasping spirit, we can pass through the streets and observe the rich displays of the shop windows without covetousness, without wishing that we had the various works of art and beauty under our special care and control. We can feast our eyes upon them and be without the care of them at a time when all of our talents are consecrated to the LORD and His service, and when we have more important things to do than caring for earthly trinkets called works of art.  R. 3734, c.2. p.4.


Reprint No. 3733-3737 of the Original Watchtower & Herald of Christ’s Presence

BLESSEDNESS SUPERIOR TO HAPPINESS.

“Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.” Matthew 5:1-16

HAPPINESS describes the joyful moods which come to mankind from time to time, but blessedness relates to that permanent joy and comfort which are the result of the attunement of character to harmony with the divine. The people of the world may at times be happy, and at other times downcast, mournful and troubled; but to those who become followers of the Lord Jesus, and who as pupils in the school of Christ are taught of him, there is a peace of God which passes all understanding ruling in their hearts, bringing comfort and rest even under most adverse outward conditions. The lesson we are now considering describes to us the condition of heart necessary to the possession of the peace of God. In proportion as we get before our mental eyes the true conception and then strive to attain that ideal, in the same proportion will be the degree or progress of blessedness which will come into our hearts and lives to rule there and to keep us in the love of God.

Our Lord and his disciples were on an elevated plane of the mountain side, and crowds of people were coming to hear the message of the great Teacher respecting the Kingdom so long anticipated and which he declared was nigh. His miracles had attested his divine authority as a Teacher, [R3733 : page 71] and this drew the people to him “who spake as never man spake.” (John 7:46) …

The teaching was addressed primarily to those nearest to the Lord, namely, his special disciples, the multitude interestedly watching for any items in the address that would specially enlighten them. It must have seemed strange to all the hearers that our Lord did not talk more about the Kingdom itself, explaining when and how it would be established, etc. But he knew that he must first suffer for the redemption of the world before the Kingdom could come and the divine will be done on earth as it is done in heaven. He knew, too, that the first work in preparing for the establishment of the Kingdom would be the gathering of the Church class, the elect, to be his Bride and joint-heir in the Kingdom. His discourse, therefore, was so directed as to divide the hearers into two classes—some would be disappointed because they were interested more in the glories and honors and dignities of the Kingdom hoped for than in the condition of heart necessary to a place in it. These probably went their way saying that doubtless Jesus was a great Teacher to those who liked his kind of philosophy, but to them it was a very dry and unsatisfactory portion.

Others, though disappointed in the character of the teaching, found something in it which satisfied their longings as nothing else could do—found in it nourishment, comfort, upbuilding qualities. The same is true today: some hear the good tidings of great joy with interest merely in those features which relate to restitution. They are glad to know that there is no eternal torment in the divine plan, but that, on the contrary, times of refreshing are coming to the world, and times of restitution of all things spoken by the mouth of all the holy prophets since the world began. (Acts 3:19-21.) But aside from this, all discussion respecting consecration to the Lord and terms of discipleship, all descriptions of characteristic conditions that would fit them for the Kingdom, are wearisome to them, distasteful. Thus does the Truth always separate.

“THE POOR IN SPIRIT”

The message of this great Teacher differed from all others, and was especially attractive to the humble, the lowly. Whereas others would have said, Blessed are the rich, the learned, the prominent, the rulers, this great Teacher reversed the matter, saying, “Blessed are the poor in spirit”—blessed are those who are not self-conceited, who do not think very highly of themselves, who appreciate their own littleness and imperfection. Astounding! How are such blessed? Surely the world thinks little of those who do not think much of themselves! Surely they will make less progress in the world! Ah, yes! But, says the Master, their blessedness consists in the fact that they are of the Kingdom—of those from whom the Kingdom of heaven class will be selected.

Self-confidence, self-esteem, may win for its possessor a high and honorable place in the present time, but is disesteemed of the Lord; and those who have such a spirit will be the less prepared for the tests and conditions which the Lord will impose in selecting the heirs of the Kingdom, the joint-heirs with Christ. Yes, indeed!—there is a favor and blessedness associated with being little in one’s own estimation: it preserves from many a false step into which egotism would lead. All who are seeking to follow the instructions of the great Teacher, who naturally are poor in spirit, humble-minded, deficient in self-esteem, have much advantage every way over others as respects this particular element of character. And those who are not naturally humble should take heed to the Master’s instruction, and humble themselves under the mighty hand of God, that they may be exalted in due time. (1 Pet. 5:6.) The Lord’s followers, then, should continually [R3734 : page 71] practise humility and be especially on guard against pride, self-conceit, etc.; they should know on the great Teacher’s authority through the Apostle that God resisteth the proud and shows his favor to the humble, the poor in spirit, to such an extent that only the humble will share with the Lord in the inheritance of the Kingdom.—1 Pet. 5:5; Jas. 4:6.

MOURNERS BLESSED AND COMFORTED

Again it seems strange, contrary to the usual thought, to say “Blessed are they that mourn.” The general thought is that those who mourn are to be specially commiserated. What principle lies behind the Master’s assurance that there is a blessedness connected with mourning? We reply that we cannot suppose that there is mourning in heaven—we must suppose that there is happiness, blessedness there. Hence the blessedness of mourning must in some way relate to our present imperfect, sinful conditions and surroundings. Sin is in the world, and death, the wages of sin, is being paid out to the entire human family, carrying into every home more or less disappointment, sorrow, trouble. Where these are appreciated rightly there must surely be mourning. The world is sick and dying; … he who is “merry” must surely be correspondingly irrational. Who but a foolish person could be merry in the shadow of such a charnel-house! Those who are merry under such conditions give evidence of so wrong a condition of heart and mind that we may know that they will require rigid disciplinary instructions (such as will be accorded to the majority of mankind during the Millennium) in order to bring them to their proper senses.

On the contrary, those who do mourn because of a realization of their own imperfections, their own fallen condition, and who to any extent mourn in sympathy with the poor, groaning creation, these have corresponding advantages because of their saner condition of mind; they will be the more ready for the heavenly message, telling of the glorious blessing that is to come through redemption in Jesus and through his Kingdom, which, as the rising of the Sun of Righteousness, shall bring in health, healing, life and comfort to all the families of the earth. Blessed are these mourners now, because they are in that much more favorable condition to hear the voice of him who speaketh from heaven—speaking peace through Jesus Christ our Lord. They shall be comforted. Their comfort shall not wait either until the new [R3734 : page 72] dispensation of the Kingdom shall be fully inaugurated and bring in the blessings of restitution: their comforting will begin at once, for their mourning will bring a readiness of mind to hearken for the Lord’s favor. So to these he will be pleased to make known something of the riches of his grace and lovingkindness through Jesus. They will have therefore the best opportunity for attaining the peace of God which passeth all understanding through the holy Spirit in this present time, and also in the dispensation to come.

Sorrow may be associated with sin and imperfection. It is proper that we should realize our fallen condition and be sorry for it, but this sorrow may be healed at once through the knowledge of the great redemption sacrifice and through our acceptance of a share in the merit of the same. But there is another sorrow or mourning which is not because of sin but because of sympathy. Our Lord, who was separate from sinners, had this spirit of mourning. It was this mourning in sympathy that led to his tears at the tomb of Lazarus, and the same that led to his being called “the man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.”—Isa. 53:3.

In our imperfect fallen condition, even after our hearts are fully consecrated to the Lord and imbued with his Spirit, it will not be possible for us to enter so fully into sympathy with others as did our dear Master; but we are to cultivate this spirit of sympathy, which is a part of the spirit of love, and the more we grow in grace and in character-likeness to the great Teacher the more we will have of the spirit of sympathy, the more sorrow and mourning will appeal to us.

On the other hand, however, the more we receive of this same holy Spirit proportionately we will have the greater peace, the greater joy in the Lord and the greater rejoicing, because of what we will be increasingly permitted to discern in the unfolding of the great plan of salvation under which all who mourn in Zion shall be comforted. So, then, the most advanced Christians, who have the deepest and most holy joy, should be the ones who at the same time would have the deepest sympathy with mourning and sorrow. Who has not already noticed this, that as our Lord and Teacher is the exemplar of perfection, so those who most nearly imitate him are usually such as have had deep experiences in the school of sorrow and mourning, and in whose hearts and characters deep spiritual lessons and characteristics have been engraved?

The word comfort does not contain the thought of relief, but rather that of strengthen together, or added strength. In other words, the Lord does not propose to take from us that noble quality of sympathy which we receive in the school of experience, but he does propose for all those who become his true followers that they shall be comforted or strengthened together, that he will give them a blessing of strength to endure, which will compensate their mourning and spirit of heaviness. He gives this through the promises of his Word and the glorious hopes which he sets before us, and he gives it also through the living epistles of the dear members of the household of faith. Note how the Apostle calls this to our attention in 2 Corinthians 1:4, where many times over he repeats the thought of our comforting one another with the comfort wherewith the Lord has already comforted us. Oh, what a privilege we enjoy, not only of being comforted by the Lord through his Word, but of being used of him as channels for comforting or strengthening or upholding one another during this mourning time, when some, more than others, have in themselves weaknesses and frailties to cause mourning to themselves and to others. Blessed are those who, being comforted themselves, shall be used of the Lord in the comforting of the other members of his body.

“BLESSED ARE THE MEEK”

The poor in spirit or humble minded, who do not think highly of themselves, are unquestionably the same as the meek, the gentle.

The Century Dictionary defines the word meek as “self-controlled and gentle; not easily provoked or irritated; forbearing under injury or annoyance.” Webster defines meekness as “submission to the divine will; patience and gentleness from moral and religious motives.” As we look about us in the world and note the meek of the earth we do not see them more prosperous than others, and our Lord’s words that such shall inherit the earth would astonish us and seem quite untrue if we did not understand that he referred to blessings beyond the present life. Surely the millionaires of earth, that own the larger portion of it and its riches, valleys and slopes, are very rarely to be counted as the meek. And so we see that the Master did not say, Blessed are the meek, for they do inherit the earth, but “they shall inherit the earth.”

When, Lord?

Answer: When God’s Kingdom shall come and his will be done on earth as it is done in heaven—then the meek shall inherit the earth. So, then, if we perceive that the rude, the unjust, the self-assertive, are grasping the bounties of earth in the present time, and if we find ourselves rather crowded out because of meekness, let us remember our Lord’s Word that we are especially blessed, and let us cultivate this quality of meekness more and more, and let us not think to exchange it for a spirit of arrogance and self-assertion and vindictiveness, to grasp earthly fame and name and riches. Let us rather be content to cultivate this spirit which the Lord assures us he approves, and let us wait for the time when this class shall inherit the earth. We perceive that the inheritance will be with a view to giving it to the human family under the terms and conditions instituted during the Millennial age. Then the meek of the restitution class will inherit the earth; they will be given the advantage everyway, and eventually all who are not meek will be utterly destroyed from amongst the people in the Second Death.

The meek ones of the Lord’s followers even now in a measure receive the fulfilment of this promise, as the Apostle declared, “All things are yours, for ye are Christ’s and Christ is God’s.” (1 Cor. 3:22,23.) These have more enjoyment of the earth now than have others; while others are grasping these are enjoying. As the Apostle declares, “God hath given us all things richly to enjoy.” (1 Tim. 6:17.) Freed from the grasping spirit, we can pass through the streets and observe the rich displays of the shop windows without covetousness, without wishing that we had the various works of art and beauty under our special care and control. We can feast our eyes upon them and be without the care of them at a time when all of our talents are consecrated to the Lord and his service, and when we have more important things to do than caring for earthly trinkets called works of art. [R3735 : page 73]

BLESSED THE HUNGRY AND THIRSTY

Our Lord refers to two of the most potent influences known amongst men. To what activity will not hunger and thirst spur us? Similarly there is in some a heart-hunger and thirst for that which is right, that which is true. The majority of people evidently do not have much of this hunger of the soul: natural eating and natural drinking are their special attractions. But all are not so, and there is a special blessing for those who have the soul-hunger to which our Lord refers. “They shall be filled”—they shall be satisfied.

Nothing in this promise implies a miraculous filling or satisfying: the thought connected with the illustration rather is that, hungering and thirsting,they will make use of their time, knowledge and opportunities for seeking the bread of eternal life, which satisfies, and the water of life, which truly refreshes; and that in proportion as these are sought and found and used will be the blessing. We have the Lord’s guarantee of the blessing for all who are in the attitude of mind to seek and to use the spiritual refreshments he provides.

Righteousness here applies to right in every matter—Truth. God is the great standard of righteousness, and he communicates it through his Word, his exceeding great and precious promises delivered to us through Jesus and his apostles. The majority of the world, careful for the meat that perishes, think little of the Truth and get little of it; the few hungering and thirsting for it are filled, refreshed, sanctified by it, and in word and in deed and in thought are being fitted and prepared for still further blessings in God’s due time—participation with the Redeemer in the Kingdom and a share with him in the work of blessing and uplifting mankind.

“BLESSED ARE THE MERCIFUL”

Mercy is akin to love, and in proportion as the fall has effaced love from any heart in that proportion mercy will be lacking. Of course we cannot always judge by the outward appearance, as there are outward forms and expressions of love without the heart. So sometimes mercy is extended without the real spirit of mercy prompting it. Sometimes it is to be seen through the recognition of a principle without a sympathy with that principle. The true Christian learns in the school of Christ not only of his imperfections and his need of divine mercy, but having found that mercy and having entered the school of Christ it becomes one of the most important lessons he can learn to extend similar mercy toward others. The Apostle declares that “Mercy rejoices against Judgment”—against the execution of justice. (James. 2:13.) Strange as it may appear, those who have most need of mercy for themselves appear usually to be the ones least ready to accord mercy to the failures of others.

Contrariwise, those who grow most in the spirit of the Lord grow proportionately merciful and compassionate. Some of the Lord’s people have more to overcome in this direction than have others, and may therefore show less development in proportion to their efforts; but the thought should be continually before the minds of all that it is very unbecoming for those who themselves have need of divine mercy to be sticklers in the last degree in their requirements of justice for others, in their refusal to exercise mercy toward others. Not only so, but this lesson which our Lord so frequently emphasized he intensified when he said, You do not from the heart forgive those who trespass against you, neither will your heavenly Father forgive your trespasses.

… Our mercy must be more than formal, more than an outward forgiveness and reconciliation—it must be from the heart, sincere. In proportion, therefore, as we each realize our need of divine mercy through Jesus, in that same proportion let us be very merciful to others—especially toward the brethren and all who in any sense or degree demonstrate their desire for righteousness.

“BLESSED ARE THE PURE IN HEART”

The word pure is very comprehensive—without adulteration, sincere, unsullied. No member of the human family is by nature in this condition. On the contrary, the Scriptures assure us that the heart of the natural man is exceedingly deceitful and desperately wicked. (Jer. 17:9.) The heart in this text and in general conversation is used not as the name of one of the organs of the human system, but as indicating the inner mind, will, intention of the person. As originally created man was the image of God, and hence was then pure in heart, sincere, honest, truthful, perfect-intentioned; but, by reason of disobedience, sin and selfishness have been developed in the human heart and will, and the God-like qualities originally there have been to a considerable degree obliterated. Hence it is that those who become the Lord’s people are said to have a new heart, a new will, new ambitions, new desires. Where the conversion from sin to righteousness is thorough it is truthfully said, “Old things have passed away, all things have become new.”—2 Cor. 5:17.

To accomplish so radical a change of will, of intention, requires a powerful influence. It may be of fear and it may be of love, but we are assured that the results of fear are imperfect, and that only love produces the lasting, perfect, acceptable conditions. Fear may have to do with the beginning of a change of heart, but it certainly cannot carry the conversion to completion, for, as the Scriptures declare, “Fear hath torment,” and the peace of God cannot rule in the heart that is subject to such distress. (1 John 4:18.) Hence the Scriptures set before us the heart conversion which results from the knowledge of God and love for him, saying, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart,” and again assuring us that “perfect love casteth out fear.”Mark 12:30; 1 John 4:18.

Our Lord’s words intimate that there may be various degrees of impurity of heart, and so we find it: there are some who at heart are really black, devilish; others are drab or gray or speckled. But the Lord singles out the kind of heart that would be acceptable to the Father—the pure in heart. We are all witnesses that we could not claim purity of heart, of intention, of motive, of desire for very many of our friends and neighbors of Christendom, and that so far as we know in the heathen world the proportion would be still fewer. Yet the intimation of our text is that only such as attain to heart purity can hope ever to see God, to enjoy this evidence of his love.

But lest some should be discouraged through supposing that purity of heart means absolute perfection of thought and word and deed, we hasten to correct that thought and to point out that the intention is not always supported by the words and conduct. To will right, to will perfectly, to be [R3735 : page 74] pure in heart, is quite possible, yea, quite necessary to all who would have divine approval; yet how to perform all that they will is sometimes beyond the ability of the Lord’s most earnest followers. The new will, the new heart, must act and speak through the medium of the old body, whose affections are continually in opposition and must be battled against. Hence so long as we are in the flesh, so long as we are obliged to reason, speak and act through the imperfect medium of our fallen flesh, that long will we have need of the merit of Christ to continually cover its blemishes; that thus the new will, the new heart and not the flesh, may be judged of the Lord and tested as to its worthiness or unworthiness of the eternal life and blessings which he has proffered us.

How precious the thought, then, that we may attain to absolute purity of intention, of love, etc., toward all mankind as well as toward the Lord, and that God will thus accept us in his Beloved One, not counting to us the unintentional weaknesses and blemishes which we realize and which others realize perhaps still more than we. How blessed the thought that such will see God, that such have the clearest views of God’s character and plan now, that such shall see him shortly when changed in the resurrection, when they shall have awakened in the likeness of their dear Redeemer.

BLESSED THE PEACEMAKERS

Never was there a time when this statement of our Lord deserved more consideration than at present. We live at a time when envy and strife are in evidence on every hand, amongst all classes, amongst nations, in politics, in business, in homes and families, in nominal churches and amongst the fully consecrated of the true Church. The tendency toward strife is evidently somewhat associated with the strenuous times in which we live; but all the more those who are true members of the body of Christ are to remember the Scriptural injunction, “Follow peace with all men;” and again, “Be at peace amongst yourselves.” (Heb. 12:14; 1 Thess. 5:13.) Some of the best people in the world have the organ of combativeness large, but proportionately they need to have love to control it, so that they shall combat only those things which are evil and injurious, so that they shall think generously, kindly, lovingly of all who take a different view of matters; and while standing always firm for principle, they should take note of the fact that principle enters into remarkably few of their conflicts, contentions, etc.

Each of the Lord’s children should be learning day by day to cultivate the fruits and graces of the holy Spirit, amongst which prominently are patience, long-suffering, [R3736 : page 74] brotherly kindness, love. These things dwelling in us and abounding we shall be more and more pleasing to the Lord and able to assist others in the same direction—to be peacemakers. For who can properly be a peacemaker who is not himself at heart a peace lover?

There seems to be in the majority of humanity a contentious streak, which not only leads the possessor to be quarrelsome and contentious, irritable and irritating to others, but additionally this trait seems in many to be inclined to stir up disturbances in others, when the first principle of decency—minding one’s own businesswould be favorable to peace. As the Lord’s people more and more come to realize the selfishness and quarrelsomeness which the whole world has inherited through sin and depravity, and how this is all opposed to the Spirit of the Lord and of meekness, gentleness, patience, long-suffering, love, they should not only strive to develop peace in their own hearts and lives but to be peacemakers amongst men.

“Blessed are the peace-makers, for they shall be called the children of God.” Yes, truly, the peace lovers, peace promoters, manifest that in this particular at least they are the possessors of the holy Spirit—the Spirit of God. Let us not only merit this title, sons of God, now amongst men who, seeing our good works and peaceable dispositions, will glorify our Father in heaven on this behalf, but let us by the continued cultivation of this same quality of love, under the guidance of the great Redeemer, merit the distinction of being sons of God on a higher plane in the Kingdom.

BLESSED THE PERSECUTED

Not all the persecuted, but merely the persecuted for righteousness’ sake. Many bring upon themselves persecutions for foolishness’ sake and for being busybodies in other men’s affairs. Let us heed the Apostle’s word along this line and avoid persecutions or sufferings for evil doing of any kind; but, as again it is declared, if any man suffer as a Christian let him glorify God on this behalf. (1 Pet. 4:16.) It is well, too, that we preserve in this matter as in all others the spirit of a sound mind. There are, for instance, some that evidently imagine themselves persecuted when really they are very kindly treated, and are the victims of their own morbid imaginations. The Lord’s people should be so filled with the spirit of thankfulness and gratitude and appreciation that they would be in no danger of erring in this matter. They should be so generous in their thoughts of the motives and intentions of their friends and neighbors that they would be in no danger of misapprehending them and feeling persecuted by those who are really their well-wishers.

As perfect love casts out fear, so also it casts out these false impressions of evil doing or intention toward us. The benevolent heart, full of love for others, will rather prefer to suppose that slights are unintentional oversights, or to put some other similar good construction upon the conduct of their friends, only yielding to an appreciation of persecution when its intention is unmistakable. Even then it should think generously of the persecutor, realize his share in the fall and be disposed to pray for those who despitefully use them and persecute them. Blessed are such ones who thus hold to righteousness and the spirit of love toward their enemies and persecutors, and who may be sure, therefore, that they are being persecuted for their fidelity to truth and righteousness and not for personal idiosyncrasies and peculiarities. Blessed are they, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven. The Lord is looking for those who are so faithful to the principles of righteousness that they will exercise it toward their enemies even when being persecuted by them and on its account. If the Kingdom of heaven is for such it is assuredly but a little flock. Let us strive the more diligently to be of that little flockto make our calling and election sure.

REVILED FOR CHRIST’S SAKE

The Lord’s people are not to revile [criticize in an abusive or angrily insulting manner] each other or anybody under any circumstances, but are to remember that they are pupils, followers of him who when reviled reviled not [R3736 : page 75] again. Whatever evil others may say or insinuate about us we must be faithful to our Teacher and not return evil for evil, reviling for reviling, nor insinuation for insinuation, but contrariwise must speak evil of no man and be pleased to notice and to mention any good qualities which even our enemies may possess.

Our Lord’s words, however, warrant us in expecting that those who will be faithful to him will share his experiences of being evil spoken of. With his words before our minds we should not be surprised at false charges and false insinuations made against his true followers, and that in proportion to their prominence as his servants and followers. The expression, “all manner of evil,” is very comprehensive, while “for his sake,” is worthy of notice. It does not imply that those who strike with the fist or weapon or tongue and who shoot out arrows, even bitter words, will say, We do this to you for Christ’s sake and because you are one of his. We have never heard of any one persecuted in that manner along those lines, and this cannot therefore be what the Lord meant.

What he did mean evidently is that his followers, like himself, honorable, moderate, possessing the spirit of a sound mind, truthful, honest, virtuous, would naturally be highly esteemed amongst the Scribes and Pharisees, the nominally good; they would have a high place, were it not for their fidelity to the Lord and to his Word. Because of loyalty to truths contradictory of popular errors, because of their faithfulness to the Word of the Lord, they are unpopular, and, like the Master, are hated by those prominent in Churchianity. These conditions bring a double test:

(1) They test the adherents of Churchianity along the lines of the Golden Rule, and when they speak evil through malice, through hatred, through strife, through opposition, they are judging themselves, condemning themselves under the Golden Rule, for well they know that they would not wish others thus to speak evil of them;—either through malice or a concocted lie or through hearsay.

(2) It becomes a test also to the faithful ones—Are they willing to endure these persecutions and oppositions cheerfully as a part of the cost of being the Lord’s disciples? If under the pressure they yield and revile in return, and slander and backbite, they are proving themselves unworthy of a place in the Kingdom. If on the other hand they receive these lessons and experiences with patience and long-suffering, these serve to develop in them more and more of the character-likeness of their Redeemer and tend the more to fit and prepare them for a share with him in his glorious Kingdom. Our Lord’s assurance is that those who are thus tested and who stand such a test will have the greater reward in heaven, and reminds them that similar persecutions from the Lord’s professed people came to all the holy prophets of the past.

THE SALT OF THE EARTH

The declarations, “Ye are the salt of the earth,” and “the light of the world,” may be very properly applied to such of the Lord’s followers as give heed to his teachings and cultivate the blessed states he has described foregoing. All such blessed ones in proportion as they have attained such conditions are indeed the salt of the earth and the light of the world. As salt is useful in arresting decomposition, so the influence of these, though they be few in the world, is preservative. Looking back along the aisles of history, we can see that a good influence extended from the Law Covenant God made with Israel.

As the Jews scattered more or less amongst other nationalities they carried with them more or less clear conceptions of the divine standards as represented in the Law, and these wherever they went had a preservative and corrective influence amongst men. But it was Jesus and his higher Law of Love, exemplified in his own life and in the lives of his apostles and all his followers, who became the real salt of the earth, in a period when without it we know not what might have been the result. As it is not only the spot upon which the candle or lamp rests that is enlightened by it, but as the rays extend out in every direction, so is the influence extending from every true Christian. It touches not merely his own person or home but to some extent radiates throughout his vicinity. Similarly it is not merely the spot that is touched by the lump of salt that is preserved, but the influence of that lump spreads over a considerable space round about it, and all with preservative influence.

At the time of our Lord’s first advent the world was in a condition in which it would probably have hastened to degeneracy and corruption, but the introduction of the body of Christ and the beneficial influence extending from each member of that body were potent for the arrest of the demoralizing tendency of the times. The light which shone out from Jesus, the Light of the world, and from his followers, had undoubtedly a beneficial effect upon the then center of the civilized world. That influence is still manifest in so-called Christendom. And even today, although the truly consecrated believers in the great Redeemer are confessedly very few in number, yet the general influence, the saltiness from the teachings of the Savior, exercise a wide influence throughout Christendom. Without this, doubtless, corruption and a complete collapse would have come long ago. In spite of it we see very corrupting and corrupt influences at work in every direction and the wider our horizon, [R3737 : page 75] the more general our information, the more this fact will be appreciated.

Before very long we expect that all of the overcoming members of the body of Christ will be changed, glorified, and the body completed on the other side the vail will be without members on this side. The lights will have gone and the darkness will hold fuller sway than ever; the salt will be gone and the corruption will take hold swiftly, and the result will be the great time of trouble such as was not since there was a nation.

Meantime we are to let our lights shine and thus to glorify the Father, whether men heed or forbear to heed; we are to exercise our salt or preservative influence, our influence for righteousness and truth, whether men hear or forbear, though we clearly see that it is not God’s purpose to enlighten the world through the Church in its present humble position. The matter will test us and prove whether or not we are worthy to be members of the glorified body of Christ, which shortly shall shine forth as the Sun in the glory of the Father, and enlighten the whole world in a manner with which our little lamps of the present time will in no sense compare. [R3737 : page 76]

HO, PRODIGAL RETURN!

“Return, return! thy Father’s voice is pleading,
Thy robe is rent, thy tender feet are bleeding,
Return, my child: a welcome here awaits thee:
Resist the cruel tempter that belates thee,

“Return, return! Thy Father’s loving-kindness
Yet in his touch is healing for thy blindness,
Return in all thy rags of sin’s defilement;
Thy Father’s voice bespeaks his reconcilement:

“Return, return! Thy substance hath been wasted—
Yet art thou longing for the bread once tasted,
Return, for why shouldst thou delay the pardon
Arise and go, before thy doubts shall harden

“Return, return! Leave thou the swine and famine
Why dost thou toil among the husks of mammon,
Return thou to his arms, his kiss, his blessing,
After thy sinfulness and guilt confessing,

“Return, return! The angel-hosts bend o’er thee—
They have beheld the Savior dying for thee,
Return, for he will heal all thy backsliding—
Come, weary soul, rest in his love abiding, 

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Jesus Feeds The Multitudes With Fish and Loaves of Bread

feeding 5000-1.jpg

There are two miraculous feedings of the multitudes, recorded among the Gospel accounts in the New Testament. As suggested in what follows, these two occasions appear to represent a blessing for the Church at the beginning of the Gospel Age, and another blessing at the end of the Gospel Age.

The Number Two

The Gospel Age is often represented by the number 2, or its greater magnitudes 20, 200, 2,000. A 20-cubit length for the Holy of the Tabernacle fits the symbolism. Perhaps two is used because the fruits of this age of the spirit are nourished by the two sources of instruction, the Old and New Testaments. The following examples of two in the Bible all relate in one way or another to the Gospel age, or to the nourishment and care of the saints during it —

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In the 1st miraculous feeding of a multitude, 5000 men were fed with 5 loaves of bread and 2 fishes (Matthew 14:13-21, Mark 6:30-44, Luke 9:10-17, John 6:1-15).

In the 2nd miraculous feeding, 4000 men were fed with 7 loaves of bread and 2 fish (Matthew 15:29-39, Mark 8:1-10).

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The Bread

  • John 6:35, 48 — Jesus explains he is “the bread” of life.
  • Matthew 26:26“this is my body.”
  • 1 Corinthians 10:16, 17“Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a sharing in the body of Christ? Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one bread” (NASB).
  • 1 Corinthians 11:26 — This verse concerns the Lord’s memorial which we daily remember as we sojourn in the footsteps of our Master. The fully consecrated receive the benefits of Christ’s sacrifice for us, and also share in his sufferings. “We are the children of God … if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together” (Romans 8:16, 17). We mortify the fleshly mind, and renew the new mind in Christ (Romans 8:13).

Our share in these benefits, and experiences, are memorialized together with other ecclesia members in our annual observance of the memorial supper of Jesus’ sacrifice — receiving the bread, and drinking the “fruit of the vine.” It is an opportunity for us to renew our consecration vows, with our fellow yoke bearers around us.

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The Fish

The fish came to symbolize a Christian, since the Greek letter alpha (Α or α) looks like this image below and “alpha,” the first letter of the Greek alphabet, is mentioned in Revelation 22:13 as one of the descriptions of Jesus.

fish image.png

From the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th centuries, the symbol of a fish was used to represent Christians. Partly this drew from the two miracles of Jesus in which fishes were multiplied to feed his followers.

The word for “fish” is spelled in Greek as iota-chi-theta-upsilon-sigma. These are the first letters in the Greek words for Jesus, Christ, God’s, Son, Savior — thus brief for “Jesus Christ is God’s Son, our Savior.” (See Wikipedia, “Ichthys”).

Fish are mentioned and given symbolic meaning several times in the Gospels.

(1) Matthew 13:47-50 — The parable of the dragnet.

(2) Matthew 17:24-27 — The coin in the fish’s mouth.

(3) Matthew 12:38-45 — Jesus would be in the heart of the earth for three days, as Jonah was in the belly of the fish for three days.

(4) John 21:11 — The harvest of the saints is represented in the 153 fish.

(5) Matthew 4:19 — Jesus commissioned his disciples to be “fishers of men.”

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Feeding of the 5000

The two feedings of the multitudes with fish and bread represent Jesus feeding the Church at and following the two advents of Christ.

  • The bread apparently represents the “bread of life” (John 6:35), Jesus.
  • As fish can represent either Jesus, or his disciples, in this case it seems the fish given to the multitudes also represents Jesus as our life-giver, andsustainer, through his redemption.

Who was fed —5000 men besides women and children” (Matthew 14:21, NIV). Five seems to be a number associated with the new creation. Perhaps this is because we are developed through the holy Spirit, two, and the blood of redemption, three, and the sum of these is five. As there were five posts at the entrance to the holy, so here we have 5000 men being fed, in a picture of the beginning of the Gospel Age.

Other related uses of the number five are —

  • Matthew 25 — Five wise virgins.
  • Genesis 41:34 — In the time of Joseph one part in five of the grain was saved up for a time a need.
  • Numbers 31:27-31 — God’s share of the goods collected by the Israelites was one part out of 50, or out of 500, depending on the circumstance.

As with the 2, 20, 200, and 2,000, this meaning of the number also pertains to various orders of magnitude: 5, 50, 500, and 5,000.

12 baskets of “broken pieces” (NIV), “fragments that remained” (KJV) at the end of the first feeding — the remainder perhaps represents that the teachings of the 12 apostles were the resource for feeding the Church after Christ’s first advent.

Five barley loaves —

  • Barley represents Jesus.
  • Barley was the first crop of the year, and Jesus was raised on the day of the barley waving (Leviticus 23:11). Five in this case may pertain to Jesus as part and leader of the New Creation.

Green “grass” (Matthew 14:19, Mark 6:39 Suggests the new age of life then just opening.

After the first feeding — Jesus went to the mountain alone (Matthew 14:23) representing that Jesus after his first advent went to heaven alone (1 Thessalonians 4:16, John 14:6).

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Feeding of the 4000

The 2nd feeding, this time of 4000, is recorded in Matthew 15:29-39 and Mark 8:1-10.

Who was fed — 4000 men, beside women and children” were fed with 7 loaves of bread and “few little fishes” (Matthew 15:34), or “a few small fishes” (Mark 8:7). (The Alexandrian text says “two fishes” in Mark, but this may be a transcription error remembering the two fishes in the first case.)

Four represents judgment, and the harvest period of the Gospel Age is a time of judgment for the saints. As there were four posts at the end of the holy, so these 4000 men picture a time in the ending period of the Gospel Age.

Time Period: The 2nd feeding refers to Jesus Christ’s second presence, his “parousia” since 1874.

7 baskets of: “broken pieces” (NIV) — Perhaps shows that during the harvest, we have the accumulated benefit of the seven messengers (See the Book of Revelation) of the Church. Brethren sometimes have small variations of opinion about the specific identification of these messengers. The following is our best understanding —

(1) Messenger for the Church of Ephesus (AD 33-73) = the Apostle Paul.

(2) Messenger for the Church of Smyrna (AD 73-325) = the Apostle John.

(3) Messenger for the Church of Pergamos (AD 325-1157) = Arius.

(4) Messenger for the Church of Thyatira (AD 1157-1517) = Peter Waldo (supplemented by John Wycliffe).

(5) Messenger for the Church of Sardis (AD 1517-1667) = Martin Luther.

(6) Messenger for the Church of Philadelphia (AD 1667-1874) = William Penn.

(7) Messenger for the Church of Laodicea (AD 1874-2043) = Charles Taze Russell.

Seven loaves — Perhaps identifying Jesus, the bread of life, as the perfect one (seven). Or perhaps indicating that he is the bread of life for the Church that is depicted in Revelation as in seven stages (of the Church) through the Gospel Age.

After the 2nd feeding — Jesus took his apostles with him, representing the Church “going with him.” They are raised to life from the return of Christ forward, until the end of the Harvest, and will be with Christ thereafter.

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Lessons From These Two Miraculous Feedings

What lessons can be learned from Jesus’ two feedings with the loaves and fish? 

(1) The numbers of men are given, but there were also “women and children” fed as well. Perhaps the men represent the consecrated ones, and the unnumbered additional ones represent the “household of faith” who believe in Jesus, and have faith in him as the “bread of life,” but are less committed.

(2) A lesson of humility.

  • Plain, humble common food was provided. Perhaps we also should not concentrate our efforts on elaborate provisions, but be grateful for meeting the basic needs of life.
  • We should focus more on what comes out of our mouths than what we put into them.
  • Our desires should be plain and simple — to do the will of the one who hath called us out of darkness into his marvelous light, and run the race with cheerful patient endurance. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, who for the hope set before him endured the cross. “Set your eyes on not what is seen but what is unseen,” and run in so as to gain the prize of the High Calling.

“Delight thyself also in Jehovah, and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart” (Psalm 37:4). These hopes and promises, with reverent prayer, are the best analgesia and safety against adversity. The tests of Faith will qualify us as members of the Bride class, to be sympathetic priests for the world during the Millennium.

(3) These comparisons between feedings help us see the benefit of Present Truth for the saints during the Harvest of the Gospel Age, since 1874, before the blessing of the world comes.

(4) We need not wait for someone to ask us for “food of Truth,” but like the disciples of Jesus, we are to feed others by offering the words of life to them that we have been blessed with.

“He said unto them, Give ye them to eat” (Luke 9:13).

Even if inconvenient for the flesh, do not decline to give help, show compassion, and offer the Truth of God’s love and plan. The fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23 includes kindness and long-suffering — hence it involves spiritually “feeding” others at the expense of our own comfort.

There is a saying:

“To the world you may be one person,
but to one person you may be the world.”

If we think our “feeding” does not bring results, or that this or that other Brother or Sister in Christ should or could do more spiritual “feeding,” yet if we gladly accept the Lord’s prompting to proceed in the effort, spiritual blessings will follow.

(5) A lesson of not to be anxious about the cares of life (Matthew 6:31), for “God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). In Matthew 15:32 we read, “Jesus called his disciples unto him, and said, I have compassion on the multitude, because they continue with me now three days, and have nothing to eat: and I will not send them away fasting, lest they faint in the way.” Similarly, in our experiences of life, our Heavenly Father’s just and loving provisions of meeting our essential needs of life, reflect His compassion and merciful aid of help through Christ, the captain of our salvation. By the full surrender of our will to the will of God, we learn to trust in God’s perfect plan and depend on the Giver of all good things to supply us with what He sees is best for the New Creature in Christ (James 1:17).

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Below is an extract from “Discourses by Robert S. Seklemian” — (http://www.heraldmag.org/olb/contents/treatises/seklemians%20discourses.htm).

Lessons from the Feeding

Now let us consider the lessons contained in the feeding of the multitude. First, we can make a personal application. When the disciples reminded Jesus what a large quantity of bread would be required, Jesus asked, “How many loaves have ye? Go and see” (Mark 6:38). The disciples returned and said to Jesus, “There is a lad here which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes. But what are they among so many?” (John 6:9). Someone may say, “My talents are so few and so small. What are they among so many? There are so many who have so much more than I have.” But what did Jesus tell his disciples when they reported their meager resources? “Bring them hither to me” (Matthew 14:18).

The Lord wants you.

 

He will accept your small offering of five barley loaves and two small fishes.

He can greatly multiply the effects of your small efforts in ways you never dreamed of.

“Bring them hither unto me!”

If nothing else give a little word of encouragement to someone, a little smile. Write a little letter of cheer and consolation, a little visit to someone sick or suffering. Give a little witness to a neighbor or relative. Put a tract under someone’s door. Build someone up a little in the truth. Let your light, dim though it be, shine out just a little in the darkness of this world. If you can do nothing else, offer a little prayer for the harvest work.

These are small things but they are things the Lord can bless and use.

If we cannot do them all, we can do some of them, at least one of them.

The Lord can greatly amplify their effect just as he increased the loaves and fishes.

Let us bring the Lord ALL we have whether great or small.

There is another more general application of this incident. Jesus said:

“Ye shall be witnesses unto me, both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world, for a witness unto all nations, and then shall the end come” (Matthew 24:14).

The gospel must first be published among all nations” (Mark 13:10).

It seems to me that a mere circulation of the Bible without explanation does not completely fulfill this requirement. It must be the gospel of the Kingdom which Jesus preached because he plainly said, “THIS gospel of the Kingdom.”

Have there been any missionaries since the early church who have preached the Millennial Kingdom of Christ beside Brother [Charles Taze] Russell and those with him?

“Gospel” means “good news.”

Certainly the hell-fire doctrine preached by nominal church missionaries is not the good news which must be published among all nations. The handful of true Christians today who have the true gospel may say, “Lord, this task is too great for us. What are we among so many? We cannot reach them all. Let others feed them. Let them just take the Bible and find their own spiritual food therein.”

But Jesus says to his people:

“Give ye them to eat!”

“Others do not have the truth, the gospel of the Kingdom. Others cannot feed them like you can.”

We may answer, “But Lord, we are so few, and have very limited resources. We have only five barley loaves and two small fishes! We do not have enough!”

Bring ALL you have to me,” Jesus answers, “I will bless what you have, and make it do. It will be more than enough. There will even be some left over.”

Miracles of Our Day

In the account Jesus performed a staggering miracle and the multitude ate and were filled. What a magnificent fulfillment of this we now see possible with only a limited expenditure of money aptly comparable to only five barley loaves and two small fishes. By an equally staggering miracle — that of radio, television, tapes, and mass media, facilities Brother Russell never had — the power to give a tremendous, worldwide public witness is now in our hands! Instead of thousands, millions can be fed with the sound, satisfying message of truth, the true gospel. Many ecclesias are taking full advantage of these opportunities. Although we are not seeking to convert the world, but only to garner the wheat, who can say what a powerful effect our sowing of the seed of truth may have in preparing the hearts of men to receive the blessings of the kingdom?

Then there is still another application of this event. That multitude that Jesus fed also pictures the world during the Millennial Age. As Jesus gave the bread to his disciples to pass on to the people, those who are now the Lord’s faithful disciples will in the Kingdom be the dispensers of this Bread of eternal life to all the families of the earth. Jesus told the multitude later:

“The bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world” (John 6:33). The Church glorified will be the channel through which the merit of Jesus’ sacrifice will be applied to the world. As the hungry multitude ate all they wanted and were filled, life will then be freely dispensed to all the willing and obedient. We read of that time: “The Spirit and the bride say Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whoever will, let him take the water of life freely” (Revelation 22:17).

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Doing and Saying the Kindest Thing in the Kindest Way

1 PETER 3, 9 - DOING & SAYING THE KINDEST THING IN THE KINDEST WAY

What is the SPIRIT OF HELPFULNESS all about?

“Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification(Romans 15:2).

In Romans 15:2, the Apostle Paul is not saying, let the younger ones please their neighbour, nor does he say, let the older ones please their neighbour; but he says,

 “Let EVERY ONE of us please his neighbour.”  

All of the Lord’s people should have such an interest in one another and in the Lord’s cause, and should have so much of the spirit of the Master, that they would seek rather to sacrifice themselves than to gratify self, especially at the expense of others.

If we have the spirit of Christ, we shall find various ways in which we will sacrifice self without waiting for specific directions.

The Law of Love will incite us to act contrary to our own natural preferences, if by so doing we shall help one another in the good way.

In his letter to the Corinthian Church the apostle illustrates this principle by a practical application regarding the Greek custom of offering their meat in their temples. After having been thus offered to the idols, the meat was considered to be especially sacred. Nearly all of the meat available was offered to idols, so that whenever one wished to have meat he could find none that had not been thus offered.

Those who had come out of idolatry into Christianity, knew that the worship of idols was wrong; for they had learned that there is only the one true God.

The apostle declares that he would abstain altogether from eating meat rather than risk stumbling a brother who could not take the broader, truer view. To stumble such a one, might be to throw him out of the right way entirely.

Responsibility For Our Influence

The apostle Paul did not say that it is not right to eat meat; but rather, that he was willing to forego his rights and privileges in order to edify another.

These others of whom the apostle Paul had spoke had not come to appreciate fully the fact that meat offered to idols had not suffered any ill effect or been changed in any way from having had this done. To set meat before a piece of stone would not injure it; and so to set it before an idol would not cause it any ill effects.

But Paul so self-sacrificially, preferred to give up eating meat altogether rather than to stumble any brother or sister in Christ.

What a glorious lesson for us dear friends!

Let us ask our self the follow questions:

When necessary, do I willing deny myself some of my privileges and rights in striving to be of any assistance to my brethren in Christ and in avoiding to stumble them?

Some of the Lord’s people have very sensitive consciences, others are less sensitive.

The longer one has been in the “School of Christ” and/or the more ability one may have, the more easily should one be able to discern what would be pleasing to the Lord we would hope based on each individual’s uniquely permitted experiences, of course that only the Heavenly Father and His son Jesus perfectly understand best, as they are Divine beings.

As a Christian, one would not want to do anything to offend the Lord, even if he were to go without meat for the remainder of his life.

Another introspective question for Christ-like development may be perhaps this one:

Would I, even if it be for the remainder of this carnal life, prefer to deny myself of something (that of course would not harm the New Creation of Christ within self,) that would be for the best interests of another beloved one in Christ so as not to stumble a weaker one in faith or one who may have their conscience violated by doing so?

This involves walking and talking with the Heavenly Father moment to moment to discern God’s will—who mercifully gives wisdom and provides us with His answers to all who ask, seek, and knock to Jehovah for help (Matthew 7:7).

These may be very personal items of decision-making here under consideration, yet how reassured we are through the words of the Prophet Isaiah,

“And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left” (Isaiah 30:21).

The Heavenly Father makes clear one’s path through an exercised conscience—that is, a conscience that is disciplined and trained in seeking after that which is righteous in the eyes of the divine perfect God of the universe (Matthew 5:6).

Another introspective question for Christ-like development may be:

Would I wish to lose all my influence for the good of my fellow brother and sister in Christ?

The apostle answers this suggestion in the negative; he says, “…(12) when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ. (13) Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend” (1 Corinthians 8:1-13).

Let us consider some practical “life” scenarios.

Example 1: Regarding clothing…

Perhaps you attend an ecclesia where consecrated sisters in Christ wear head coverings and believe that dressing modestly means to wear skirts and dresses below the knee and which cover the shoulders and not to wear pants (considering that to be a traditional male item of clothing and relying on the words of 1 Corinthians 11:4-16 and Deuteronomy 22:5 for their convictions of belief). After examining the Scriptures on these topics one may realize that wearing a head covering and wearing a modest dress or skirt does not seem in any way to violate the laws of God, and hence will see no reason why not to do so, in order to help create peace around and least offend in any way any dear member in the ecclesia attended. Yet if this does cause contention then considering it a suffering for Christ, may each be humbled—recognizing even more, one’s own ignorance or errors of self for as the words of Philippians 2:3 teach us:

“Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.”

As the apostle Paul stated best in regards to the above issue about clothing or hair apparel:

“But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God” (1 Corinthians 11:16).

Probably the NAS Bible gives the sense better, “But if one is inclined to be contentious, we have no other practice, nor have the churches of God.”

Example 2: Our words or actions…

Perhaps at a testimony meeting in your ecclesia, one would share something that they believe would be of great edification to all, yet something in one’s conduct or words has caused offense in another—perhaps due to language or cultural barriers or perhaps a result of another mis-hearing correctly yet the results of each one’s intentions and conduct involved in such a situation shall be best understood and credited to each involved by the Heavenly Father who sees each heart and each motive. Again, we are ALL ignorant each moment of each day no matter how great or small the issue at hand—which depends on one’s closeness with the Heavenly Father—and thus, how in tune to the Father’s will each dear child of God is to be, being reassured that God through Christ, shall “reward each according to what they have done” (Romans 2:6).

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10).

“Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing” (1 Peter 3:9).

Would one not rather suffer any unkind effects towards us from our words or actions in having done what an educated conscience before the Father believes was done seeking towards righteousness rather than suffering the outcomes of results and the self-inflicted cross of guilt for knowing we had not done how Christ Jesus our Head, would wish us to?

Example 3: Sunday observance…

Applying the above principle—our responsibility for our influence—to Sunday observance, we are not to feel a bondage under the Old Law, during the Sabbath day. However we should avoid what would be considered by others as not observing the Sabbath.

To our understanding EVERY day is a part of the great Sabbath into which we have entered—rest in Christ.

We have a greater liberty. But we are not to use this liberty to the injury of others.

Many people think that any kind of labor is a violation of the Fourth Commandment.

From our viewpoint we know that the Sabbath of the Jew was typical; and we see what the antitype is. We are enjoying the antitype of that Sabbath.

But while we might have liberty to work on Sunday, our so doing might stumble our neighbour. We would not be violating any principle in not observing Sunday; but for the sake of not stumbling our neighbour we are glad to rest from our work and to give ourselves to the study of God’s Word.

Sunday should be a day that is quiet and reverential in every way, and devoted specially to the service of God—a day in which business is restricted, and as far as possible eliminated. But for the interests of the Lord’s work to forbid refraining from the use of today’s transportation blessings such as cars or trains and trams on Sunday would not apply to today’s world as once it may have been the case. Each place… each time period… each culture… each community even… have certain ways of functioning and by best striving to not offend anyone, but with gentleness of mind and being lowly of heart as Christ was, let us strive to represent Christ as best we can now, knowing that where we fall short after doing our best, Christ’s robe of righteousness covers all the failures that surround us.

Sabbath signifies rest, as the Apostle used it (Hebrews 4:9, margin), we can see that the Church of Christ keeps the Sabbath, or rest, every day, and recognizes God’s arrangement in connection with this matter. Those who keep every seventh day as a Sabbath, but who fail to enter into and keep the rest of faith, are not keeping the true Sabbath, but keeping another, so far as the Church is concerned.

The Sabbath arrangement was for the Jews. We have the better arrangement under our Covenant.

We enter into rest, our Sabbath, EVERY day; and we are hoping that soon we will enter into the still Greater Sabbath.

In that Sabbath, the Millennium, we shall have not only rest of heart, but also perfection, no longer to be challenged by trials and difficulties of life.

During His ministry Jesus chose the Sabbath day in which to perform miracles and heal the sick, that He might show forth the kind of works which He will perform during the Great Sabbath Day, the seventh-thousand-year day—the Millennium.

Helping, Not Hindering Our Neighbours

We can apply this principle in a general way. We can apply it to our conversation with Christian people.

There is a way of taunting people on their ignorance, etc. This is not love.

LOVE does not delight to expose another’s weaknesses.

The more careful we become in our words and our actions, the more polite we shall be, the more helpful.

Politeness is :

to do and say the kindest thing in the kindest way.

One may be polite for the sake of policy or for the sake of principle.

E.g. You have a business and you are polite to your clients or else you will not have any to buy from you, and in turn, no income to live from.

Our pleasing of our neighbours should be for their edification.

We should be glad to do ALL that we can for their assistance, their edification, their uplift, their upbuilding.

If we can speak a pleasant word, a kind word, it would be for upbuilding and have in mind primarily the upbuilding of the Lord’s people in spiritual things. As the apostle Paul says, we are “to provoke one another.”

In the ISV translation Hebrews 10:24 reads:

And let us continue to consider how to MOTIVATE one another
to love and good deeds…

What the apostle had in mind here was the reverse of provoking to anger, hatred and strife.

Brother Charles Russell comments in Reprints of the Original Watchtower (R.5413):

 “Some of the dear brethren who are evidently very sincere have not caught the spirit of the Truth on this subject; and wherever they go, they are apt to stir up the evil mind of others, instead of stirring up their good mind and provoking to love and good works.”

We are to please our neighbors so far as it would be for their good, and according to right principles. But to upbuild one in injustice would not be right.

Now here are our final questions to put theory into practice:

For our Australian friends: Would we think it right to let our neighbour’s emus run all over our front driveway?

emus.jpg

For our local and international friends: Would we think it right to let our neighbour’s dogs run all over our front lawn?

6a00d83451c9f669e20167678794a1970b-400wi

Take a moment or two to think of what you would do.

We believe here is a most lovingly wise, compassionate and merciful response to such a question … (but in regards to chickens) by Pastor Charles Russell:

“We think that he [his neighbor] would thus be more edified by our firm stand for right. But we must not tell him how to manage his chickens. We must do our best to keep his chickens off our place; but we would make a mistake if we were to go in and order our neighbor’s chickens, house and children.  To do so would be busybodying. We shall have enough to do to look after the weaknesses of our own family.”

Further Reading:

Bible verses for consideration:

Is the Sabbath Day a Saturday, Sunday, or any day of the Week?
https://biblestudentsdaily.com/2017/10/19/is-the-sabbath-day-a-saturday-sunday-or-any-day-of-the-week/

Acknowledgment & Reference:

Br Charles Russell—R.5413. Reprints of the Original Watch Tower & Herald of Christ’s Presence.

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2 PETER 1:5-11 – Is Mere FAITH IN GOD Enough?

2 Peter 1, 5-11 - C&C.jpg

The following post is an extract from “Epistles of Peter” by Bro. Frank Shallieu.

2 PETER 1:5: “And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge.”

“Add to your faith virtue.”

The next step in the Apostle Peter’s evaluation is virtue.

The Apostle Paul breaks down the various fruits leading up to love, but Peter is talking from the standpoint of making one’s calling and election sure and his listing gives a sequential development. The Apostle Peter, the fisherman, is now a mature Christian feeding the lambs as well as the sheep. Having been qualified with a wealth of experience, he knows that death is imminent. Likewise, Paul realized the end of his life was approaching when he said, “Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day” (2 Timothy 4:8).
We are not reading a textbook but a very valuable, sobering account by one who speaks from experience as well as under the guidance of the holy Spirit.

Comment: Instead of the King James wording “And beside this,” the New International
Version has “For this very reason.” The NIV makes clearer the tie-in with the “exceeding
great and precious promises” of the preceding verse. In other words, “Because of the great and precious promises–for this very reason–you need to add to your faith virtue, etc.”

“Giving all diligence” is an important phrase, and it applies to all of the steps.
Give all diligence to add to your faith virtue.
Give all diligence to add to your virtue knowledge.
Give all diligence to add to your knowledge temperance, and so forth.

The great majority of Christians are immature seed.

In the parable, seed that falls in good ground and develops to maturity brings forth “some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty” (Matthew 13:23). In other words, full capacity is reached according to the content of the individual vessel. Some have
a 30 percent vessel, some have a 60 percent vessel, and the ten-talented person has a 100
percent vessel—and hence more responsibility. All three categories picture the Little Flock, children of the Kingdom in the real sense of the word.

Virtue means fortitude, strength of character.
Question: Doesn’t “virtue” also convey a morality aspect?

Answer: Yes, the breastplate of righteousness is part of virtue. From the simple rudiments of faith
and the milk of the Word, one now starts to get food that is a little stronger, and the body
grows proportionately stronger as well. The child grows, spiritually speaking, with moral
development and strength of character based on an outgrowth of faith.

Following initial faith, virtue is the first development of one who believes into Christ and starts to grow.

Many, thinking that knowledge follows faith, try to bypass virtue and want to teach and
write books when they are still babes. In the enthusiasm of our early days, we tend to be
overconfident. Those who talk that way are not mature Christians, and they betray
themselves by their immaturity of conduct, immaturity of reasoning, and immaturity in an assumed familiarity with Scripture. Thus the flesh tends to jump over virtue and go
straight to knowledge. However, Peter shows our need to go step by step by step.

Faith is the substratum of an entire Christian’s life. The just shall live by faith (Romans 1:17).
Faith in Jesus is the bottom line–faith that he is the Redeemer. We are to add to that faith, in successive order, the seven steps that Peter enumerates.

“Add … to virtue knowledge.” “Knowledge” is a broad term, for there are all kinds of knowledge.

2 PETER 1:6: “And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness.”

Peter continues to enumerate the various steps in the progression to maturity.

At the Last Supper, Jesus remarked to Peter, “I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren” (Luke 22:32).

After Jesus’ resurrection he gently rebuked Peter three times for the three denials. At that time Jesus said to Peter, “Feed my lambs.” The second time the Master said, “Feed my sheep.” And the third time was “Feed my sheep,” after which Peter said, “Thou knowest that I love thee” (John 21:15–17). Notice the progression: (1) “feed my lambs,” and then (2) “feed my sheep” and (3) “feed my sheep.” In other words, Peter was not in the position to feed mature adults at the time of our Lord’s ascension or even after Pentecost. At Pentecost, Peter possessed the first two qualities: faith and virtue. Peter had faith: “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). Also, he and John spoke very boldly on the Day of Pentecost.

“Virtue” means strength, courage, fortitude.

Now when we study Peter’s epistles, we see a very different Peter from the impulsive one in the Gospels.

Peter tells us to add to or supplement our faith with virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and charity. In other words, Peter adds seven different qualities to the basic substratum of faith.
Let us consider “knowledge.”

Remember, Peter is speaking about character development. Regardless of the subsequent lack or fullness of development, we all start our Christian walk as babes with faith in Jesus. In his first epistle, Peter said that “as newborn babes, [we should] desire the sincere milk of the word, … [so that we] may grow thereby” (1 Peter 2:2). As the babe feeds on milk, his bones grow and he gets a little stronger so that, spiritually speaking, he can withstand opposition and persecution. This would be adding virtue to our faith.

To add knowledge, the babe needs milk for growth. “Milk” includes the knowledge of
God’s Word, for how can we instruct others if we have not been instructed ourselves?

To knowledge, we are to add temperance or self-control.

The growth of Peter in the area of self-control is amazing! He underwent a remarkable change from his earlier impulsiveness.

Jesus said to Peter, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not [to death in crucifixion]” (John 21:18). Jesus was referring to the manner in which Peter would die. When Jesus asked, “Who do men say that I am?” impulsive Peter responded, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:13–16).

Peter was a natural leader, but he needed to be instructed himself. The very fact Peter was naked in the boat after Jesus’ resurrection gives us an insight into his character. He did not want any restraints. He impulsively girt himself with his coat and jumped into the water to swim to Jesus, who was frying fish on the shore.

This same man, but a mature and developed Peter at the end of his life, said, “Add to your knowledge self-control and self-restraint.”

This self-restraint must come after knowledge.

Both of Peter’s epistles were written in the last years of his life, just before his death. How valuable is the instruction of Peter in his maturity!

When Paul discusses the various graces of the holy Spirit, he does not necessarily
enumerate them in succession. For instance, in describing love, he does not follow any
particular sequence, but Peter says, “Add to your faith virtue. Add to your virtue knowledge. Add to your knowledge temperance.” Thus Peter gives a sequence and Paul does not. The point is that the instruction of the two apostles does not conflict. Paul gives more detail but lists the graces of the holy Spirit in random fashion. (An exception would be Paul’s discussion of faith, hope, and love, which are in succession.)

Comment: It was Peter who lopped off the ear of Malchus in the Garden of Gethsemane at the arrest of Jesus. This act is another example of his impetuosity and impulsiveness.

Comment: In a practical sense, temperance could be along both material and spiritual lines. We need to have self-control over our life-style and how we expend our resources. Along spiritual lines, temperance would affect how we witness and preach the gospel. For example, as a general rule we would not deliberately make a spectacle of ourselves.

Comment: A comment in the Berean Manual says, “Moderation, self-restraint in all things–we are not to be hasty and hot-tempered, or rash and thoughtless, but evenly balanced, thoughtful and considerate.” We get this moderation through the knowledge of God’s Word.

Reply: Yes, “he that ruleth his spirit [is better] than he that taketh a city” (Proverbs 16:32).

“Let your moderation be known unto all men” (Philippians 4:5).

We should be temperate in language, money-getting, money saving, eating, drinking, joy, sorrow, at work, in the store, home, church, and schoolroom–everywhere.

Comment: On the other side of the coin, there is a danger in becoming too temperate and thus not having enough zeal for the truth, the Lord, and His service.

Reply: If we have too much self-control, we will be mute when we should speak. The other extreme is being so out of hand and rambunctious that we destroy whatever good we might do. The proper amount of self-control makes us much more effective.

Add “to temperance patience.” What is this “patience”?

The Greek word is hupomone, which means “endurance.” Hupomone conveys the thought of bearing under a burden, of enduring it and not chafing, of remaining under the burden and not giving up. The same word is used in Hebrews 12:1, “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.” Of course a lot depends on the makeup of the individual, for we are all different. Some brethren under trial may react without a lot of apparent cheerful endurance and yet be faithful. The circumstances must be considered. Those who run a marathon race are not very cheerful when they near the end of the race, for they are pressing on to the utmost. Those who win have an extremely strong
desire to excel and be a champion.

Comment: James 5:11, in referring to Job, uses this same Greek word for “patience.”
“Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and
have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.”

We are all familiar with Job and the conditions under which he endured.

Comment: “Patience” would be meekly submitting to discipline in every case. Add “to patience godliness.” “Godliness” is the wrong word, for that quality should be the
end, the highest step. Godliness and love are synonymous. The thought here should be
love and reverence for God, God-likeness. Thus the word “piety” is a better translation, for piety is a form of reverence. Piety can also be considered decorum, as in 1 Timothy 3:15, “Behave thyself in the house of God.”

Comment: Strong’s and the Diaglott use the word “piety.”
Reply: The Greek word is eusebeia, and a famous historian was Eusebius, a name meaning piety, a reverent one.

Comment: Reprint 2155 states that God-likeness, piety, is “that devout controlling reverence for God which yields a hearty, cheerful, loving conformity to his will–fervency of spirit in serving the Lord.”

Reply: Piety is especially fervency in spirit in obeying the Lord. He is looking for obedience in us–that is the bottom line.

Works by themselves are meaningless.

“To obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams [which is offered in sacrifice and may cost a little money]” (1 Samuel 15:22).

Obedience supersedes works.

2 PETER 1:7: “And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity” 

Add to piety “brotherly kindness.” There are occasions where it is difficult to love all
brethren completely and indiscriminately. In other words, there are cases where we cannot manifest love to others because of their disobedience. For instance, 1 Corinthians 5:11 says, “I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.”

The individual may not have even consecrated, but if he thinks he is a brother in truth and is a drunkard, a brawler, a fornicator, etc., we are to refrain from fellowship with him. Treating him in this manner is doing him a favor, for if he truly loves God, the truth, and the Lord’s people, he will feel he has done something wrong and will repent.

The Greek word for “brotherly kindness” is philadelphian. Some translations use “love of
the brotherhood,” and that is a better term.

We love those who fervently love God. We are drawn to such because they are of the brotherhood. Jesus particularly favored Peter, James, and John because they manifested a greater zeal for God. The incident in which Jesus raised the daughter of Jairus illustrates this favoritism (Mark 5:35–43). Another example is Jesus’ transfiguration (Matthew 17:1–9). That is the type of love we should have for the brotherhood.

We love those who love God, and the more they love Him, the more we love them.

Moreover, we are helped by their example. In the hymn “Onward, Christian Soldiers,”
when we sing the words “All one body we,” we are thinking not of individuals but of the
brotherhood, of those who love Christ and are trying to serve God.

Add “to brotherly kindness charity [love]. If the previous step was love for the brotherhood, what is this highest type of love? It is agape love.

Comment: We love those who love God and have a special affinity for them because of our common bond, but our love must go beyond that point to where we love mankind.

Comment: This would be a principled love versus phileo love with an emotional basis.

Comment: We love the Lord, the brethren, humanity, our enemies, and also the brute
creation.

Reply: That is true, for principled agape love is broad. The Law shows how we should treat the animals; for example, they should not be unequally yoked in plowing. Agape love includes love for our enemies and doing good to them that despitefully use us (Matthew 5:44).

With this principled love, “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son”
(John 3:16). Those who obey in the future will be saved, for God has made provision for the restitution of mankind. In other words, He will open the opportunity for salvation toothers besides the brotherhood. His love goes from the brotherhood to mankind and even to those who are enemies now but may not be once their eyes are opened in the Kingdom.

Only those who are incorrigible in iniquity will go into Second Death.

Remember that before Peter started the enumeration of the seven graces of the holy Spirit, he said, “And beside this, giving all diligence,” add to your faith, etc. (2 Peter 1:5).

Because we live in the world with its responsibilities and experiences, our time becomes important–the little time we have left after doing that which is right for family, employer, and others. We must give all diligence to add these seven qualities. Isn’t it remarkable that the impulsive Peter is like a statesman or a father in these epistles? True, he was a leader in the beginning of his Christian walk, but now he is more than that. In his first epistle, which was written only a couple of years before the second epistle, he called Marcus “my son” (1 Peter 5:13). Paul used the same terminology with Timothy, and that epistle was written near the end of Paul’s life. As the apostles aged in the truth, they matured. Peter underwent a radical, miraculous, almost unbelievable change from his days as a fisherman. True, he speaks according to the holy Spirit, but his own life is in harmony with that holy Spirit. He experienced these steps himself, and he is passing on the information to us. Later he says, “I am going to remind you of these things until the day I die, and the Lord Jesus has informed me that my death will occur soon.”

Comment: The verses being alluded to are quite touching: “Yea, I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance; Knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath shown me” (2 Peter 1:13,14).

2 PETER 1:8: “For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Comment: If “these things” (the seven steps above faith in verses 5–7) are in us and abound, we will make our calling and election sure. The fact that Peter uses the term “these things” five times in this chapter (verses 8–10, 12, 15) shows how important they are.

Reply: Yes, Peter is inclined to repeat words and references. For instance, the use of the
word “divine” twice in this chapter is unusual, for that word appears only three times in
the whole New Testament. The reason is that Peter recognized his own faults and weaknesses and how the Lord changed his life. He is admitting, as it were, that what God
did for him, He can do for us. Accordingly, Peter mentions the importance of developing
character and the various steps of grace that are required if we are to win a crown. We must have diligently tried to add the seven graces to our faith.

Comment: If the words “and abound” had been omitted, the meaning of the verse would have been a little different. All who get life on the spirit plane, including the Great
Company, must have these qualities, but to attain the Little Flock, to get an “abundant
entrance,” these qualities must abound in us and must increase more and more.

Reply: For example, when people do acts of kindness, are patient, etc., there is often a lack of consistency. With knowledge, some are satisfied with a certain level and stop there. These qualities must be diligently practiced if we would be more than overcomers.

Question: Is the “knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” in verse 8 the same “knowledge” that is in verse 5?

Answer: The Greek gnosis is used in verses 5 and 6, and epignosis (full knowledge) is used in verses 2, 3, and 8. The words are the same except that epignosis is expressed more powerfully, i.e. with more fullness. By faith we know (gnosis) that Jesus is the Savior, that he died for our sins, and through this knowledge we are forgiven for our sins. In addition, we should also know in more fullness (epignosis) his sermons and parables, his life and character, and how he lived to please the Father.

The “knowledge” (gnosis) of verses 5 and 6 is the second step in the various graces of the holy Spirit, but epignosis embraces all seven steps, which would include a comparison and study of Jesus’ statements and teachings. However, epignosis has nothing to do with the depth of our understanding, which is not always the same. If we have not searched the Scriptures daily, if we have not habitually familiarized ourselves with the Word of God, with the life of Jesus, with the Old Testament, etc., we will be lacking.

Comment: In the footnote for the text “If these things be in you, and abound … ye shall
neither be barren nor unfruitful,” “barren” means “idle.”

2 PETER 1:9: “But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.”

To be “blind” in this sense is to be nearsighted, meaning the individual “cannot see afar
off.”

Question: What is the relationship between the first part of verse 9 and the second part? What does lacking the graces of the holy Spirit have to do with forgetting that we were purged from our old sins?

Answer: The object of our being purged from old sins is to grow in character. We are nearsighted if we do not always keep this goal in mind. Peter is saying, “It is not enough to just believe Jesus is the Savior and to be willing to suffer for him. We must have more understanding in order to please God.” Since we are imperfect and by nature fallen–our humanity is depraved–we must frequently occupy our minds with pure thoughts. Paul said, “Think on these things.” “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (Philippians 4:8).

If we do not feed on pure thoughts, our minds will naturally gravitate to unspiritual things.

Those who neglect or do not see the necessity of developing the fruits of the holy Spirit, are “blind,” nearsighted. Far-sighted vision would be making our calling and election sure. We are not at the goal yet, so we must keep running.

We cannot let ourselves drift in our thinking or in our actions, but must school ourselves with God’s Word.

Comment: If we stagnate and do not grow in character, we stay in the sins from which we were supposed to be purged.

Reply: We must try to distance ourselves from the old man as far as possible. Of course we cannot do this completely, for he is saddled on our backs, but we must separate as far as possible from our own reasoning and our own will.

2 PETER 1:10: “Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall:”

The objective is to make our calling and election sure.

If we take our eyes off the goal, we will gravitate to our natural tendencies instead of to the supernatural tendencies of the Holy Spirit.

“If ye do these things, ye shall never fall.” The thought is that if we develop these fruits of the holy Spirit and they abound in us, we will never fail but will succeed in attaining the Bride class.

Comment: The Great Company will fall or fail to a certain extent.

2 PETER 1:11: “For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the
everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.”

If we give all diligence to developing the fruits of the holy Spirit, if we have the right heart attitude and diligently practice Christianity throughout our Christian walk, we will get an abundant entrance into the Kingdom, for we will be obeying the promptings of God’s holy Spirit.

We are given “exceeding great and precious promises” so that we might inherit the divine nature.

The “everlasting kingdom” would be the age-lasting Kingdom (Greek aionian). The 144,000 will be on the throne and reign throughout the Kingdom Age.

 

Acknowledgment:

Bro. Frank Shallieu–for the content above which was an extract from “Epistles of Peter” The full study is on the Bible Study Library CD which can be accessed at the following link: https://herald-magazine.com/bookstore-2/#!/Bible-Study-Library/p/38387237/category=0

 

URL of this post: https://biblestudentsdaily.com/2016/08/06/2-peter-15-11-is-mere-faith-in-god-enough/

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