ἀγαπάω and φιλέω — John 21:15-17
Be not angry with us forever —
Are There Two Half Weeks in the Apocalypse? —
The promised presence — Matt. 18:20; John 14:16-19
How is this to be understood? — Matthew 26:29
Is this a gospel statement? — Romans 4:25
The resurrection of saints — Revelation 20:4-6
The destruction of the Gentiles — Matthew 25:31-46
All His life under the curse? — Hebrews 10:5
Submitting to the righteousness of God — Romans 10:3 etc.
In the spirit — Revelation 1:10 etc.
The twenty-four elders —
The harvest of the earth — Revelation 14:15
The Sermon on the Mount — Matthew 5:4
Simon to pray? — Acts 8:22
The Resurrection and the Life — John 11:25, 26
Form of prayer —
Angels with the law — Acts 7:53 etc.
What is the force of... — 1 Peter 4:6
Fellowship — 1 John 1:7
The sense of — 1 Corinthians 9:21
The twenty-four elders — Revelation 4, 5
Cleansing power of Christ's blood — 1 John 1:7
The seal — Ephesians 1:13, 14
Thy soul shall be required — Luke 16:9
By water and blood — 1 John 5:6
Scope of the Psalms —
An excommunicated person — 1 Corinthians 5
The believer now sealed — Ephesians 1:13
An appeal to Israel — Deuteronomy 32:29
What is the wedding-garment? — Matthew 22
January 1st, 1858. Bible Treasury, Volume 2, page 16.
John 21:15-17. G__y enquires what is the difference between ἀγαπάω and φιλέω? You will observe that Jesus says to Peter the first and second times ἀγαπᾳσ me, and that Peter replies φιλῶ σε. The third time, Jesus says φιλεῖσ me. It has remarked that one means "love," and the other simply "friendly feeling." But on referring to the Englishman's Greek Concordance, I find φιλῶ used in John 5:20, ("for the Father loveth the Son,") and also in John 15:27, ("for the Father himself loveth you," etc.)
It is not surprising that our correspondent is little satisfied with the usual explanation. The true difference seems to be simple. Ἀγαπάω is the generic term for loving, and is applicable in all directions — to superiors, inferiors and equals. It is said of God's feeling toward man, and of man's toward God. It is predicated of God's love in giving His only-begotten Son, and of Christ's love in giving Himself for the Church. On the other hand, φιλῶ seems to be a narrower word, and properly implies special affection and endearment. Hence it is often used to describe the outward sign of fondness and also vaguely that feeling which produces a habit of certain actions, though this last is true of ἀγαπάω also. Booth are said of God's love to His Son. The notion that ἀγαπάω denotes reverential love, and φιλέω mere human affection is untenable. We are not called to love our enemies reverentially. (Matt. 5:43,44; Matt. 6:24.) Nor was it thus that Christ loved the rich young man; nor will it be pretended that God reverentially loved the world. Yet this is not a tithe, perhaps, of the absurdity that attends such a thought. As little can φιλέω be reduced to the purely human regard of the heart. It is not so that the Father loves the Son or even us; nor can anything be more opposed to the true scope of 1 Corinthians 16:22; Titus 3:15; Revelation 3:19, etc., where φιλέω occurs.
It would rather appear that while the Lord thoroughly judges Peter's confidence in his own love to Him, He not only hears Peter's declaration of his true and near affection for Him, but Himself takes it up the third time, and that this, flashing on Peter's three-fold denial, went to his very heart, and drew out the deeply-felt and humble confession that it was only the Lord's omniscience which could at all discern such affection. It may be added that in the first case, the Lord's word is, "feed my lambs," in the second, "shepherd, or rule, my sheep," and in the third, "feed my sheep." Peter's last answer appeals to the Lord's knowledge, both subjective, οἷδασ, and γινώσκεισ, objective.
February 1st, 1858. Bible Treasury, Volume 2, page 31.
Why may not a believer use the prayer, "Be not angry with us forever?" Is not God displeased, or angry with us, when we sin? Must we not, in this case, seek to be forgiven? And is not God displeased with us until we have sought His forgiveness?
The first point that requires to be noticed is, that the word of God expressly declares the believer to be free from condemnation. "There is now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus." (Romans 8:1.) Nor is this their present privilege alone: its continuance is pledged to them by the same word. "He that heareth my words, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation, but is passed from death unto life." (John 5:24.) Besides, the state of the believer in this respect is contrasted in scripture with that of the unbeliever. "He that believeth not on the Son hath everlasting life; and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him." (John 3:36.) If then that which distinguishes the one class from the other be, that the wrath of God abides on the unbeliever, while from the believer it has passed away, how evident that no believer van intelligently use the prayer, "Be not angry with us forever."
As to the remaining queries, it is of all-importance to distinguish between the natural relation we all sustain to God, as creatures, and those new, blessed relations to Him on which we enter, the moment it can be truly said of us that we are believers in Christ. As creatures, we are responsible to God, the holy, righteous Judge of all. As fallen creatures, we are utterly and hopelessly condemned. "Enter not into judgment with thy servant, for in thy sight shall no man living be justified." (Psalm 143:2) Such was the confession of the psalmist, prior to the accomplishment of redemption, and the full triumph of grace in the death, resurrection, and ascension of our Lord. It was because of our total inability to stand thus in judgment before God that Christ took our place, and bare our sins in his own body on the tree. If grace has drawn our hearts to that blessed Saviour, we have God's word to assure us that in His death on the cross, our whole standing as condemned, sinful creatures before God came to an end. Believing in Him, "we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins." (Ephesians 1:7.) The believer is himself a justified, accepted person. "Being justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." (Romans 3:24.) "Accepted in the beloved." (Ephesians 1:6.) The believer enters thus, the moment he is a believer, on entirely new relations to God. He is no longer condemned and under wrath, but a pardoned, justified, accepted person, through the boundless grace of God, and the infinite efficacy of Christ's precious work. He is adopted, moreover, into God's family; yea, born of God, and thus really His child. He is one with Christ, as a member of His body, "for we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones." (Ephesians 5:30.)
April 1st, 1858. Bible treasury, Volume 2, page 63.
Are There Two Half Weeks in the Apocalypse?
In reply to the questions of your correspondent, J.M., etc., in the number for February, I reply. First, if the seven vials are the details of what passes under the seventh trumpet, the question is decided. But where is the proof of this? I have always held Revelation 15 as a distinct vision. "I saw another great sign in the heaven," 12-14, to be continuous, or rather to belong to one subject, giving the origin and different aspects of the same series of events up to the final judgment executed at the coming of the Son of man, and then 15 to give another special course of judicial events up to the destruction of Babylon, before the coming of the Lord, which is only brought in subsequently in Rev. 19. This part of the difficulty, therefore, falls to the ground, for 15-18 precedes the last event of 14. The question whether 15-18 is included in the last trumpet remains untouched, but at any rate to be proved, and not, as yet, a proof of anything.
Next it is assumed that Revelation 11:7, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit means, who then ascends out of the bottomless pit; but of this there is no proof. It is a characteristic, and not a date. Is it not rather to be believed that he takes this character when Satan is cast down from heaven, and has great rage, and that the dragon then gives him his throne and great authority?
Further, your correspondent assumes too much when he says on Revelation 12:10, that heavenly celebration long precedes earthly accomplishment, if he would use it as proving that the announcement that the worldly kingdom is come, may precede by three years and a half its coming. The cause of the celebration in Rev. 12:10, which does anticipate, I do not doubt, anterior results, is given, and is a present thing, and it is not said worldly, του κοσμου τουτου, — a very notable difference. The cause is that after open war, Satan or the dragon is cast down, and though there is an application to the state of certain suffering saints, the heavens only, and its inhabitants, are called on to rejoice. To the earth and its inhabitants woe is announced from the power of Satan. Surely this is a different thing from Christ's kingdom of this world is come. Though they might well say, Now is come salvation and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ; for the accuser is cast down. For in truth the whole state of things was changed, and the heavenly saints delivered, and power established in heaven, in contrast with the meeting accusations. There remains only one difficulty, that three and a half days occur before God interposes in deliverance. The same difficulty presented itself to me, long ago, on the other scheme. For if the seventh trumpet be the beginning of the last half week, as it is alleged to be by the connection of Revelation 12:10 with Revelation 11:15, then we have at least three days and a half, and something more from Revelation 11:14 (cometh quickly) intercalated between the end of the first half week and the beginning of the second. I hardly think the fact that a short interval elapsed between the last act of the beast, and the public execution of judgment upon him, can make a substantial difficulty. It may be the time of the gathering of the armies, when Christ is coming as a thief, or the reaping of the earth before the vintage, neither of which could be called the practising of the beast. The difficulty seems to me to be less than intercalating something more than three days and a half between the half weeks. If the three days and a half be put into the last half week, which would not be, in itself, I apprehend, a difficulty, the whole connection of Revelation 11 with Revelation 12 and the explanation of Revelation 12:10, and following verses, falls to the ground. Yet that we have, certainly, some definite half week in Revelation 12 seems clear. I can only here answer the difficulties presented by J. M., which do not seem to me to result, as yet, in the rejection of the thought that there is only one half week spoken of in the Apocalypse. The removal of an objection is not a proof necessarily of the thing objected to. For that I still wait, with my mind entirely free.
2. What is the connection, and what the difference, between the promised presence of the Lord Jesus (Matt. 18:20) and the promised presence of the Spirit of Truth (John 14:16-19)? J.P.
I apprehend that it is by virtue of the Holy Ghost's presence, (as in John 14) which is actual and personal, that the presence of Jesus is made good to an assembly, if it consisted of but two or three, as in Matthew 18. The former is absolutely and always true; for as Christ prayed the Father, so He sent that other Comforter. The latter demands faith in the presence of the Spirit and that the assembly be subject to the Lord by the Holy Ghost left free to act therein according to the Word of God. The presence of Jesus is there where is saints are thus met in dependence on Himself through the Spirit, identified with His interests and with the glory of His name. In short, Matthew 18 speaks of the presence of Jesus in spirit, and not as a literal fact like that of the Holy Ghost since Pentecost, who is present in person, and of this John 14 witnesses.
3. Matthew 26:29. How is this to be understood?
I think that it refers to the joy of, or consequent on, the new covenant which the Lord will bring in, not in spirit only as now, but in fact of all the fulness of its terms when He comes in the kingdom of His Father. Not till then would He be associated with the disciples, as the representatives of God's remnant in Israel, in the full joy and blessedness which crown the fulfilment of that covenant. Then will His heart's joy have its just scope and satisfaction, when the Lord shall hear the heavens, and they shall hear the earth, and the earth shall hear the corn, and the wine, and the oil, and they shall hear Jezreel (i.e. the seed of God.) Yea, there is more than this intimated here, for Hosea does not reach up to the higher, deeper scene of the Father's kingdom, save so far as it may be vaguely left room for in "the heavens". It was not to be yet — not "till that day." His personal joy with them is postponed till then. There was rich and profound love in that word, "I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom." There was a hindrance now, for which His blood would provide. There should be none by and by, when all should be divine joy, the Father the blessed source, and Himself the centre and the substance of it. He would not drink till then, but then, in all its freshness, He would drink with them of that which gladdens the heart of God and man.
4. Romans 4:25. "Who was delivered for our offences and raised again for our justification."
Is the above a gospel statement, true to all, believer and unconverted alike; or is the passage true of the believer alone? If the former, on what scripture ground can any Christian object to its being used individually of unconverted persons; and if the latter, how can the verse be truthfully quoted when addressed to a mixed assembly? Is it not here that the Lord Jesus was raised for our justifying rather than because (Romans 8:29) of our justification? THEOPHILUS.
Beyond question, it appears to me, that the apostle treats of that which could only be said of the believers and to believers. It is scriptural to hold and preach that God has set forth Christ as a propitiatory or mercy-seat, through faith in His blood, that God's righteousness is now manifested by faith of Jesus Christ toward all men, and not only upon all that believe. For surely He, by the grace of God, tasted death for every one. He is the Mediator between God and men. He is long-suffering to usward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. But scripture, while thus large and plain in declaring the universality of the aspect of God's grace, never says that Christ bore the sins of any save the elect: much less does it speak of the justification of any save such as actually believe. In other words, none is justified simply by the purpose of God, nor by the work of Christ. We are justified by faith; for justification implies that the justified appropriate Christ by faith, and not merely that Christ is dead and risen for them. It is a frightful principle to allow that an elect person has Christ and is justified, who may still be going on rejecting Christ and in all sorts of evil. And yet such seems to be the necessary result, if you interpret Romans 4:25, because of our justification. The common way of taking it is right. Living faith is necessary to justification. Christ has been raised again for our justifying.
5. R. S. W. wishes to know (1.) whether Revelation 20:4-6 can be explained consistently with the view of the rapture of the Church before the antichrist's reign; (2.) whether the word warrants the thought that the martyrs and confessors at the end will be raised apart from those spoken of in 1 Corinthians 15 and 1 Thessalonians 4; (3.) what the relationship is of those saints who pass through the great tribulation; (4) who the ten virgins of Matthew 25 are, and why to be distinguished from those spoken of in the preceding chapter; and how (5.) Isaiah 60:19 etc., and (6.) Revelation 21:27, are to be understood and applied?
(1. & 2.) If we had no other account of the resurrection than Revelation 20:4-6, we ought, I think, to see that a previous resurrection of saints is necessarily implied in the vision of thrones already filled with saints, to whom judgment is committed, followed by the distinct classes of holy sufferers, who are seen as yet in the separate state. "And [I saw] the souls of them who had been beheaded," etc., answering to Revelation 6:9; "and those who had not worshipped the beast," etc., answering to Revelation 15:2. These were, as yet, unrisen, and of course, not enthroned; and therefore it is added that "they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years." This was needless to say of those first named as already occupying thrones; of the two last only it is said that the prophet saw their "souls," "and they lived." And this entirely harmonizes with the rest of the book, which intimates that there is a complete body of glorified saints on high, under the symbol of the twenty-four elders — of course, therefore, already caught up to meet the Lord in the air, and then presented to the Father in heaven — before the death and resurrection of these two classes, whom we may, for distinction, call the apocalyptic sufferers. (3.) There is no doubt that these last are equally saints, as those caught up before their testimony begins, and that they, no less than ourselves, shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years. If our rapture takes place between Revelation 3 and Revelation 4, and their resurrection is not to be till Christ appears, in the judgment of the beast, this does not affect their title to share in "the first resurrection."
(4.) The ten virgins are, I think, clearly professing Christians, but this does not identify them with the Jewish saints in Matthew 24:15-31, any more than that with the Gentiles in Matthew 25:31-46. The fact is, that the Lord's prophecy starts from the hopes and trials of a Jewish remnant, which was the actual condition of the disciples when addressed; then it passes on into instructions which apply to Christians generally, under the parables of the servants, the virgins, and the talents; and finally, it shows how the nations will be dealt with, who shall be on the earth when the Son of Man shall have come in His glory, and shall be on His throne, judging the quick. (5.) I apprehend that Isaiah 60:19 etc., is a strong figure of the blessedness of the earthly Jerusalem, when the Redeemer shall have come to Zion. It is comparatively and morally true then, just like Isaiah 65:16, etc. Its complete fulfilment awaits a later day, the spirit and power of which it will have already shared. Even in that day it will be fully and for ever true of the New Jerusalem. (6.) I take Revelation 21:27, in a general way, as stating who they are that have to do with the New Jerusalem — those written in the Lamb's book of life. For we must ever remember that the Church, or the bride, is that holy city, instead of the city being the mere region of our future glory.
May 1st, 1858. Bible treasury, Volume 2, page 80.
1. Matthew 25:31-46. T.N. asks if the sheep be the living spared, godly Gentiles at the beginning of the millennium, how we may understand the destruction of the Gentiles in Revelation 20:7-9?
Supposing even that all the spared Gentiles were godly when the millennium comes, which it is not necessary to suppose, and of which no scripture proof appears, it is easy to see that that long season of unbroken peace will afford ample time for generations to be born, who need not be regenerate like their parents, who will render a feigned obedience to the great King revealed in His glory, and who will only break out into rebellion when Satan is once more and for the last time let loose, thus proving that all flesh is grass, and grass always.
2. Hebrews 10:5. D.S. invites remark on current lowerings of the holy Person of our Lord, and the attempt of some unhappy men in our day, as in times gone by, to insinuate that because He was truly and perfectly a man, His body was a dying body like any other's, and Himself all His life under the curse of God, not merely made a curse on the cross.
I agree with our brother that such views are the fruit of the enemy's effort to dishonour the Son of God on the side of His humanity; that capable of dying the Lord was, and that as a fact, (the blessed foundation of all our peace and hopes, as well as the vindication of God's grace and truth in dealing with men,) He died, as every believer knows and confesses; but that this is quite distinct from being, like a sinful man per se under a necessity of dying; and that, whatever the importance to us, and the divine perfection of His ways of goodness and holy suffering during His life, never till the cross did He suffer atoningly, never was He forsaken of God till there and then. Ignorance is one thing and, more or less, is our common lot; opposition to fully declared light of God, is quite another. Thus, even Calvin held that our Lord went into the hell of the damned to suffer there, else His work had not been complete. But it would be a very different thing, now that the truth as to atonement is better understood, for people to systematize crotchets like this. Such antagonsim to truth is the enemy's work, and tends to heresy.
June 1st, 1858. Bible treasury, Volume 2, page 111.
Romans 10:3; and 2 Corinthians 5:21.
1. What is the meaning of "submitting to the righteousness of God?" Some say that it is bowing to God's way of saving by faith in Jesus: but how can the soul "be made" that? Has the expression "righteousness of God," a different sense in the two passages? N.
It is an altogether feeble, and even a false sense, to construe "the righteousness of God" into His method of salvation by faith. On the other hand, the idea of certain theologians, that thereby is meant merely Christ's obedience of the law closed by His suffering on the cross, is almost equally unsatisfactory. The expression means what it says, — "the righteousness of God," in contrast with man's which the law demanded. Divine righteousness, on the contrary, is a righteousness already accomplished in Christ, a righteousness which is given by faith, and which justifies the ungodly, instead of condemning such, as the law necessarily does. Hence this righteousness embraces not only the holy obedience of Christ in all the extent of His life here below, but also the righteous dealing of God "for us" in His death, resurrection, and ascension. (Compare Romans 3:21-26; Romans 4:22-25; and John 16:8, 10.) I do not see that the expression has a different force in the two texts. He who receives Christ, submits to God's righteousness, and is made it in Him. The last is the strongest way of expressing the fact, and the measure of the believer's righteousness in Christ. It is, as the grammarians say, "abstract for concrete."
2. Is "in the spirit," Revelation 1:10, to be understood in the same way as in Revelation 4:2; Revelation 17:3; and Revelation 21:10?
It is clear that the first two and the last two chime respectively as to form of expression. But substantially all agree in this that John was, or was carried to a given point, in the power of the Spirit.
3. Do the twenty-four elders in Revelation 4, Revelation 5 etc. represent the Church, the Bride, the Lamb's wife, or all the redeemed right down to the rapture when Christ comes? and again, who are the four living creatures seen with the elders? T.K.
I apprehend that, in strictness, the elders include the Old Testament saints and the Church of God in their common privileges on high. This is quite consistent with a special place which they may have and not we, and which we may have and not they. And it may be remarked, when the Bride is announced as ready for the marriage in Revelation 19, that others are spoken of as present in a blessed way, yet distinct from her — "Blessed are they who are called unto the marriage-supper of the Lamb." They are there in the capacity of guests. Next, as to the living creatures, there is no appearance of their representing the redeemed if we are to omit "us" in Revelation 5:9. Further, even if the common text could be maintained, I doubt that the possession of harps and golden vials, or consequently that the singing mentioned there extends beyond the elders, though they both fell down before the Lamb. Nevertheless, the object of the Revelation being to disclose, not grace, but judgment, these living creatures, as being the symbols of God's judicial power, are necessarily, as I think, the most prominent in the description, and the nearest to the throne. If relationship, not to the throne, but to Him who filled it, if spiritual privilege, had been the question, I am of opinion that we should have seen the elders immeasurably nearer than the living creatures. But in a book of divine judgments, those who represent, or preside over, their execution, most suitably come into proximity to the throne. They are not merely κυκλόθεν but κύκλῳ τοῦ θρόνου — the supports of the throne, rather than a favoured class who surround it as a sovereignly given position.
4. Is "the harvest of the earth," in Revelation 14:15, the same as that spoken of in Matthew 13? Does it refer to the rapture of the heavenly saints, or does it, like the vintage, set forth the judgment of the wicked, only of course in a different form? R. S. W.
There seem to me to be several points of marked difference. As to sphere, in Matthew the field is the world; in Revelation "the earth," in its limited and prophetic sense, is in question. Next, as to time, Matthew embraces a period which consists of various dealings. Revelation 14:15, seems to be a point or brief space not characterized by independent or separate acts. In a word, Matthew 13 takes in the rapture of the heavenly saints, while Revelation 14 looks exclusively at dealings with the earth, and verse 15 is one of its closing scenes. The harvest is discriminating judgment; the vintage is pure vengeance.
August 1st, 1858. Bible treasury, Volume 2, page 128.
1. "The Sermon on the Mount."
Must this be considered as addressed to the disciples only, (setting forth the true principles of the kingdom,) or more generally to the multitude also?
In Matthew 7 we read of the people's astonishment, for He taught them "as having authority, and not as the scribes," who were their general instructors. It is a point of some practical importance, for how often Matthew 7:7, is indiscriminately quoted for instance, and thus persons put upon doing (is it not?) in one form, who need to be convinced of their utter ruin, and the worthlessness of their prayers. Take, also, the Lord's prayer, so commonly taught. Is it not a mockery in the lips of a dead sinner? V.
The multitudes were present, but the discourse was addressed to His disciples. This Matthew 5:4, clearly shows. If Luke 7:1, be compared, the facts appear pretty clearly. There it is said: "Now, when he had ended all his sayings in the audience of the people." The moral bearing of the fact is more important. The sermon on the mount characterises the Lord's teaching in Israel, as introducing His doctrines. At the close of His ministry He has to denounce their rejection of it. Hence, here, as has been remarked, He begins with blessings, and in Matthew 23 closes with woes. It will be observed that in the close of the preceding chapter, the power displayed in His ministry, and its effect in attracting the people from all quarters, had been stated. He preached the good news of the kingdom. In the sermon on the mount, He lays down its principles, describes the character of those who would enjoy its privileges, and gives positive directions for the government of their conduct. Meanwhile He was in the way with Israel, judgment awaiting them, if they did not agree quickly on the way. Hence, also, moral principles and precepts, not redemption, are the subject of the discourse. If this be understood, it is easy to perceive why the direct application of the discourse is to those who had received His word, and were entering into the kingdom, though as laying down the principles of the kingdom announced to all, all — at least those who had ears to hear — among the multitude were concerned in its contents. It may be remarked that in Luke the disciples are more formally distinguished — "Blessed are ye poor, for yours," and hence woes are added. Just as in Matthew 3:7, the Pharisees and Sadducees are denounced, in Luke 3:7, the whole multitude. While this address was continued to Israel, by Him who had the ministry of the circumcision for the truth of God — in a word, until Jesus was rejected, men were under trial, and, though God knew all things, were not treated as finally rejected; but the death of Christ, and we may add, the resisting of the testimony of the Holy Ghost, has closed the history of that trial, and the fig-tree is judged for ever to be fruitless and unprofitable. It did not then become so, but was proved to be so; and in Israel this was proved of every child of Adam, so that a new creation, connected with the second Adam, risen and glorified, was needed. Hence we know fully the Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost.
2. Acts 8:22. — On what ground do you conceive Peter to have exhorted Simon to pray? A man whom he goes on to declare to be "in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity" — language which appears to me to be too strong to apply to any Christian, however he may have fallen. No one would check an awakened sinner crying to God for mercy; but that is different from putting prayer before him. V.
Our correspondent has omitted a very important part of the verse. "Repent of this thy wickedness, and pray God if peradventure the thought of thine heart be forgiven thee." The passage thus becomes a call to repentance — the universal appeal of the testimony both of John the Baptist, Christ, and His apostles; only applying that appeal to a particular point, which ought to press on the conscience of the person addressed, and as to which he was called on in an especial way to look to God to forgiveness. When a conscience is truly affected and the soul brought to forgiveness, it will always judge itself distinctly for its own proper and peculiar sins.
September 1st, 1858. Bible treasury, Volume 2, page 144.
1. John 11:25, 26.
Does the Lord in these verses intend only to show in the abstract that He is the Resurrection and the Life, and how He is such to the sinner; or does He mean to apply that truth to a particular period, i.e. when He comes to raise His sleeping saints and change His living ones? D.
I think that the Lord states two things. First, there is the abstract or general principle that He is the resurrection and the life, putting the resurrection in the foreground, as the need of it was in question and for the encouragement of faith. It is the power of His person for body and soul, apart from time, in contradistinction to the predicted resurrection at the last day. Next, the after statement, though general perhaps, finds its only proper and full application at the coming of the Lord, when the dead in Christ shall rise first; (answering to "he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live;") then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them, i.e. the risen saints, in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so shall we ever be with the Lord. This last answers to "whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die." "For we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed." (1 Thessalonians 4 and 1 Corinthians 15.) It is impossible that either clause can in strictness apply to the sinner. For if the sinner believe, he can no longer be said to be spiritually dead in trespasses and sins. And if spiritual life were the subject in hand, the second clause would be "he that believeth in me and liveth," rather than "whosoever liveth and believeth," etc.
2. Why is it that a form of praise, etc. in a hymn should be considered lawful, when a form of prayer is held to be an interference with due dependence upon the Spirit of God?
We have the positive direction of Scripture to speak to one another in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs; but psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs mean compositions rhythmically and metrically arranged; so that I judge that the use of such compositions is scripturally authorised. I would add that I think the spiritual mind will detect at once what is really given of the Spirit in such compositions and what is not, even when merely added to make up the measure or rhyme. Moreover, also, those who believe in the action of the Holy Ghost as the true and only power of blessing, look for the liberty of the Spirit of God, not bondage — liberty in everything that is of Him for edification. The binding to a form of prayer is not this, but the exclusion of hymns is not that liberty either. Only it is to be sought that hymns should be really composed under His influence and not mere human poetry.
October 1st, 1858. Bible treasury, Volume 2, page 159.
1. What light does the Old Testament throw on the connection of angels with the law, referred to in Acts 7:53, Galatians 3:19; and Hebrews 2:2? J. S.
It seems clear from Psalm 68 that the display of external glory of fire, etc., on mount Sinai was by the ministration of angels. This was the solemn sanction given to the law at its promulgation. Compare the details, Exodus 19:16-18. This is fully confirmed by Deuteronomy 33:2. Compare Hebrews 1:7, quoting Psalm 104:4, 2 Kings 2:2, and 2 Kings 6:17, afford analogous examples of Jehovah's making His ministers a flame of fire. So even in the bush, when there was as to its form an angelic manifestation of God, the bush burned with fire. Moses spoke with the angel in the bush. What is particularly referred to in the passages we are considering is that the angels were the immediate instruments through which they received the law, the manifest glory which gave it its sanction. Not that they spoke or personally addressed the people. Josephus (Antiq. xv. c. 5. s. 3.) says, τῶν μὲν Ἑλλήνων ἱεροὺς καὶ ἀσύλους εἶναι τοὺσ κήρυκας φαμένων, ἡμῶν δὲ τα κάλλιστα τῶν δογμάτων καὶ τὰ ὁσιώτατα τῶν ἐν τοῖς νόμοις δἰ ἀγγέλων παρὰ τοῦ Θεοῦ μαθοντων. That is, the functions of ambassadors are treated as akin to those of the angels, or divine legates. The character of authority attached to the law was angelic, not the incarnation of God Himself, whether speaking on earth or from heaven. In Josephus, as we have seen, Herod uses the word angel as God's ambassador to prove the sacredness of their persons, the Arabs having killed his. This is merely cited to show the Jews' apprehension of it. Galatians 3:19 is, in sense, being enjoined through angels by the hand of a mediator. Εις διαταγας, in Acts 7:53, is "at," "by occasion of;" as, "they repented at the preaching of Jonas," by occasion of, through the means of. The passages quoted from the Old Testament make the character of their intervention pretty plain. The whole of the two first chapters of Hebrews is to shew the superiority of Christ to angels, first, as a divine person, and secondly. in the counsels of God as to the exaltation of man.
2. What is the force and the connection of 1 Peter 4:6? E.
1 Peter 4:6, refers to verse 5. Christ is ready to judge the quick and the dead. Good news of promise were addressed to those now dead, that they might be thus judged; not for that only, but that through grace they might live in the Spirit. In respect of their human position in flesh, they were to be judged for the deeds done in the body, but if they received the message, live spiritually to God. Their being judged shows clearly, I think, that it is no preaching to spirits, that they might be judged for that. Read, it has been preached. It was preached to those now dead. It must be remembered to the strangers of the dispersion or scattered Jews. Christ has suffered. They are suffering among the ungodly, no longer doing the will of the Gentiles as other Jews were. Now Christ, being exalted, is ready to judge. The Church has only to be complete and caught up for Him to do it. He is exalted and ready; and if He comes and judges the quick among whom they were suffering, His authority to judge extended to the dead also who had received promises, (compare Hebrews 4:2) that if they did not live in the Spirit to God, as the believing Jews had to do now without a rest or present Messiah according to promise, they might be judged as responsible men in flesh. He had made a previous statement to the same purport in respect of those who were in the time of Noah. The Christian Jews were now a little flock; so were the spared in Noah's time. They had Christ only in spirit (a trial and reproach for a Jew who spoke of Messiah's being come); and so had Noah. (Compare 1 Peter 1:11). But what was the effect of their rejecting of Noah's preaching? Their spirit's were now in prison, a proof that the Lord knew, as he says elsewhere, to deliver the godly out of temptation, and reserve the unjust to the day of judgment to be punished. So the Epistle to the Hebrews speaks, in contrast, of the spirits of just men made perfect. It would be a strange thing, if those of whom it was said "My Spirit shall not always strive with man, but his days shall be 120 years," should be the only ones selected to be preached to afterwards. But this by the by.
3. Does the fellowship in 1 John 1:7 mean between God and the saints, or between the saints mutually? E.
I have not the least doubt that fellowship with one another, in 1 John 1:7, is fellowship between saints. The apostle had said they had fellowship with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. Now he comes down to show the necessary moral character of this. A man walking without the true knowledge of God is in darkness and is darkness. There is no communion of souls in this selfish and ungracious state; but brought into the light of God Himself, and being light and having the Spirit to enjoy it, we have a common joy in that which we all enjoy. God who is light is the common object. But how can we stand and abide there? The blood of Christ cleanses from all sin. I am clean in the light, and therefore enjoy, with those who are, this wonderful blessing.
4. What is the true reading and sense of 1 Corinthians 9:21? THEOPHILUS.
It is in verse 20 that a remarkable clause appears, omitted in the common Greek text, but attested by the best MSS. and versions. The words are μὴ ὢν αὐτὸς ἡπὸ νόμον, i.e. "not myself being under law," and evidently guarding against a possible deduction from the preceding clause. So in 21, the parenthesis is a similar guard, "being not without law to God, but lawfully subject to Christ." It is a mere allusion to the word "law" and means due subjection.
5. A.Z. asks, (1) how the twenty-four elders, (i.e. the symbol of all the glorified saints up to the Lord's coming) can be seen complete in heaven, while others of the redeemed are still on earth. (2) Why the living creatures sing the song of redemption, if they are not the redeemed. (3) How every creature in heaven and on earth, etc., can join in the chorus of blessing, before the last week opens and while the earth is still unpurged.
Revelation 7 is a simple answer to the first difficulty; for there, not to speak of the 144,000 of sealed Israel, we see the vast multitude of saved Gentiles, who emerge from the great tribulation of the last days, manifestly distinct from the elders. Indeed, all the central part of Revelation shows us saints on earth, while the elders are complete in heaven. (See chapters 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18.) (2) I think that in the Remarks on Revelation 5 it has been shown to be, at least, doubtful whether the living creatures do sing the new song of redemption. Recent critics read it so as to intimate that the elders who sing, celebrate the redemption of others who succeed themselves on the earth. (3) I regard the chorus of every creature in Revelation 5 as anticipative, and prophetically linked on to the Lamb's taking the book, etc.
December 1st, 1858. Bible treasury, Volume 2, page 192.
1. 1 John 1:7.
How is the last clause of this verse to be understood? "Cleanseth" is in the present tense. When believers have failed, they often speak of "going afresh to the blood of sprinkling." But is that right? since "by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified." But yet 1 John 1:7 does seem to speak of a continuous thing, and is manifestly said to and of those who have believed God's testimony to His Son.
The truth taught is the present and abiding cleansing power of Christ's blood, and therefore not repeated recurrence to it merely, which practically would amount to the frequent sacrifices of a Jew.
2. Ephesians 1:13, 14.
Is the seal spoken of here, the personal indwelling of the Holy Spirit; and why is it said "of promise?" Is "earnest," in verse 14, to be understood in the sense of a part of the inheritance? D.
First, it is the Spirit Himself indwelling who is the seal to the individual believer, and secondly, He is called "the Spirit of Promise," probably, because He is "the promise of the Father, which," saith Christ, "ye have heard of me." (See Luke 24, John 14, John 16, Acts 1.) Thirdly, He is the pledge of the coming inheritance, not a part of it, which would be derogatory to His glory. He is the earnest of that inheritance; not a future outpouring of the Spirit, which is reserved for millennial Jews and Gentiles, when the Church will be reigning in heavenly glory.
3. May I ask your mind on Luke 16:9? T. A. J.
I believe that the solution of the last clause, which is probably the one chiefly enquired after, depends on the simple fact that St. Luke frequently uses the third person plural of the active verb, in a sort of indefinite way, to express that which would be best rendered by the English passive voice. It is thus that our translators have rightly given Luke 12:20, "thy soul shall be required," though literally it runs, "do they require thy soul." Clearly, if anyone is meant, it is God, not men or angels. So in Luke 16:9, the version should have been "you may be received," instead of a literal rendering which leaves the door open to human and popish fancies. Here, again, if any person is particularly meant, it is not the poor or angels, as some have fondly imagined, but God Himself; but the general form is perhaps best. (Compare also Luke 6:38,) δώσουσιν εἰς τὸν κόλπῶν ὑμῶν, which like our text, is given literally, but erroneously in the authorized version. "Shall men give" misleads. It ought to be, shall be given.
Bible Treasury Volume 2, p. 224. February 1859.
Q. What means 1 John 5:6, and how is it connected with the contested passage that follows?
A. I am of opinion that the two clauses "by water and blood" are not a mere repetition of each other, and that each carries its own import. First of all, it is written, "This is he that came by water and blood." (δἰ ὕδατος κ.τ.λ.) The Lord Jesus is so characterized. He did not come as a conquering Messiah, with power and glory, introducing the predicted kingdom. He came by water and blood. The reference is to His death, not His birth or His baptism. I suppose, therefore, that we are to connect with this St. John's remarkable testimony to Christ's death in the gospel. (John 19:34, 35.) He alone relates the circumstance, and this with the utmost feeling and solemnity. Here, in the epistle, the fact is alluded to and used in a dogmatic or doctrinal way. He is not exhibiting Him as Son of David according to the prophets; that would not have shown out what the world was, nor Christ Himself either, anything like so much as what we now know. In a dead Christ we see incomparably more. All the rest remains true; for He will reign on the throne of His father David, and over all nations, peoples, and tongues, as Son of man. But meanwhile, before the kingdom comes in power, we have something nearer and deeper. I find in Him dead, the One who brings me into perfect peace with God, and into practical purity too. The blood has met my sin before God; the water my defilement before myself and others — both made good through the Spirit of God bringing home to me the testimony of God. "This is he that came by water and blood." No doubt, John the Baptist baptized with water, testifying of the coming One, but here He is come and characterized by water and blood. Out of His pierced side came blood and water. Thence the Holy Ghost traces the two-fold effect of His death — the water as cleansing from impurity, and the blood as atoning for guilt. St. John adds, "not by water only, but by water and blood." Here the phraseology changes, and the face of the Greek (οὐκ ἐν τῳ ὕδατι κ.τ.λ.) means, not in the power of water only, but in the power of water and blood. That is, it is not the character of Christ's coming, but its positive effect. The efficacy of the work done is implied, to my mind, in the latter clause; and accordingly the Spirit next comes in. "And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth." In the Gospel, He leads John to notice the fact of the blood and water that issued from the side of the Lord; here He brings it out as the significant emblem of the believer's portion in Christ's death. The Christian stands, in virtue of it, completely absolved from guilt, and possessed of a new and holy nature. He is born of water and of the Spirit. Thus, the Holy Ghost, instead of merely exposing what the man is, bears witness of the death of Jesus, whereby the believer is pardoned and purged. "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; that being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life." (Titus 3:5-7.)
"For they are three that bear witness — the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree in one." These witnesses are now taken inversely, the Holy Ghost being first named, as He is the living agent by whom the testimony is borne in power to the soul. As to the words that intervene in the common text, (i.e., from "in heaven" to "in earth" inclusive,) I am clear that there is no sufficient warrant for them. This is not to make but to exclude a change already made. We are bound to go back to the oldest and best text. The point here is that, though there are those three witnesses, they bear but one witness. And if we receive the witness of men (as we do ordinarily from credible people,) the witness of God is greater.
Bible Treasury, Volume 2, p. 287. June 1859.
Q. What is the general scope of the Psalms and the distinctive character of their divisions?
A. The Psalms, in general exhibit the Lord Jesus, and the godly (properly and specifically from among the Jews) in their mutual relations. He is identified with them and they with Him; brought through darkness, trial, the contradiction of sinners, the often apparent, and in one sense and time the real, desertion of God into security, peace, and blessing. This furnished the occasion, sometimes offered in the past circumstances of righteous Israelites and of David especially, for the Spirit of Christ in them to launch out into higher scenes and subjects, even the sufferings of Christ and the glories that should follow. At one and the same time, there is an intermingling of the particular things and persons of the day in which these strains were written, and there is the anticipation of the latter-day tribulation, through which the Jewish remnant are destined to pass into the wide field of millennial glory. Thus is drawn out the Holy Ghost's revealed expression of the feelings and experience suitable to each and all.
The Psalms, consequently, do not bring the Church, as a distinctive body to light, if we expect some indirect allusions which we understand, now that the mystery, hidden from ages and generations, is made manifest. In this respect, they resemble the Old Testament prophecies. But there is also this striking difference, that while the prophets, for the most part, narrate the sufferings and triumphs of Christ as the head of Israel and the Gentiles as predicted facts, the Psalms lay bare the inmost privacy of His and their hearts as brought into exercise by these circumstances. Hence, while the prophecies chiefly reveal the feelings of God about Christ and His servants, the Psalms chiefly reveal the feelings of Christ and His servants about God. There are no doubt large and frequent exceptions, but this is, I think, a generally characteristic difference between these portions of the Bible.
But again, the Psalms are, as familiar to the reader of the Hebrew Bible, divided into five books. Nor are these divisions arbitrary. Various marks are impressed on them by God, which show that this is no Rabbinical fancy. Thus, even externally, it is plain that at the end of Psalm 41, of Psalm 72, and of Psalm 89, we have "Amen and Amen," next at the end of Psalm 106, "Amen. Praise ye the Lord," and thence, to the end of all, another class. These, with other common features in the verse where they occur, define the various books.
But the subjects, internally, differ thus:-
Book I (Psalms 1-41) embraces Messiah's sympathy with the godly remnant in "the beginning of sorrows." They are not yet driven out, but are outwardly associated with the mass od people, even in worship. Hence the name of Jehovah is regularly there.
Book II (Psalms 42-72) views the remnant as no longer in the land, but the object of hostility, not only of Gentiles, but of Jews united with them. The abomination of desolation is set up, and the tribulation is come. Accordingly, God is spoken of as such, save where hope is expressed.
Book III (Psalms 73-89) is occupied, not with Judah only, but with Israel; and also with a wider range of foreign enemies. It is founded on God's ways with the whole people.
Book IV (Psalms 90-106) celebrates the bringing Christ again into the world, and hence is the book of Millennial blessedness.
Book V (Psalms 107-150) reviews all, opens out the principles of God's dealings, and of relationships with Him, and gives the grand result of all the discipline, and the subsequent blessing of God. Its thanksgivings at the end are thus the moral answer to the groanings of the Spirit in book I.
Q. Is it scriptural to call an excommunicated person a brother in Christ?
A. I think that it is not. He who persisted in gross evil (as in 1 Corinthians 5) is treated as a wicked person; and this is the more in point, as the Holy Ghost knew him, spite of his frightful sin, to be converted, as we know afterwards from 2 Corinthians 2:7. But the saints are bound to act, not on what is known only to God, but on what He discovers to them. Hence, if the conduct of one, "called a brother" were manifestedly wicked, is he dealt with as a "wicked person," even when the desire and aim were that the spirit might be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus? So in Matthew 18, the trespasser who is deaf to all the appeals of grace, though called "thy brother" in the first instance, is, if he neglect to hear the church in the last resort, to be viewed as "heathen man and a publican." 2 Thessalonians 3 refers to a rather different case. I do not see that the admonished individual was necessarily excommunicated.
Bible Treasury, Volume 2, p. 336. September 1859.
Q. Ephesians 1:13. In what way is the believer now sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise? There was a manifested presence of the Holy Ghost in the early Christians. "Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law?" To what extent may we apply such confident assertions as, "Ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things?" (1 John 1:20; see also verse 27 of the same chapter.) Can this be said of believers now? R.B.
A. It is extremely important not to carry any passage as doctrine beyond what is stated in it. The question with the Galatians was how they received the Holy Ghost. Was it in connection with works or with faith? How they knew they had received it is not touched upon. I have no doubt that its presence there was manifested in such a way as enabled the Apostle to appeal to it as a known thing. Nor was it necessarily the personal experience each one had of it in his soul that was the means of his knowing it was there, though that knowledge could not be separated from its presence in the man. "But ye know Him, for He dwelleth with you and shall be in you." But He does abide and dwell with us, and for ever — does not leave the Church as Jesus did His disciples. The manner of His displaying His presence is another thing. This may be outwardly sensible or inwardly known. If outwardly sensible, it can be publicly appealed to; if inwardly known, the person who has it can be appealed to as to his knowledge of it. And so can any body of Christians who own His presence in the degree in which that presence is felt, as it often is very really. But the Holy Ghost, once given, does not leave the Church again. This is certain from the Lord's words. The manifestation of the Spirit, of which the Scripture also speaks, is another thing. It may be by gifts that are signs. It may be by gifts that are only for edification, flowing from the head. The first may fail as ornaments put on the body, but in principle, the latter forms an essential work of God in Christ. God was in Christ . . . . . . committing the ministry of reconciliation. He called His own servants, and gave them money to trade with; and then returned and takes account. Men are to hear, and they cannot hear without a preacher. Now this is a gift. He gave evangelists. But the presence of the Holy Ghost is shown in another way, more important even than this. A man might be even partaker of the Holy Ghost as power, and be lost, but not one sealed, or bearing fruit: that 'accompanies salvation.' This (not presence, but) special character of the presence and work of the Holy Ghost in the believer personally, is twofold. There is liberty, joy, and love shed abroad in the heart, the crying Abba Father on the one hand, and the producing fruits on the other. This is not the public display of His presence in outward signs of power, but is connected with divine life. The fruits of the Spirit are such and such. "God is not unfaithful to forget your work and labour of love." This accompanied salvation. Hence what is ascribed to the Holy Ghost in Ephesians is considered as life in the Colossians. And in Romans 8, the Spirit is first named as the source of life, and identified with it, and with Christ too, and then looked at personally apart, bearing witness with our spirit. So he who searches the hearts knoweth what is the φρονημα, the moral mind in us of the Spirit; for He maketh intercession for us, and it is said to be according to God. So he that is joined to the Lord is one spirit. Fruits then, in life on the one hand, and in conscious joyous liberty as children with God in love on the other, mark the work and presence of the Spirit of God — one giving us the consciousness of His presence within, and of our relationship with God in Christ, the other the proof to others of the reality of that we profess to enjoy, to the consciousness of the union of the body — the knowledge that Jesus is in the Father, we in Him, and He in us. All depend on the presence of the Holy Ghost, which we thus consciously possess. The presence of the Holy Ghost is a revealed fact, and it was to abide for ever. The presence of the Holy Ghost must not be confounded with the manifestation of the Spirit. These manifestations, or their absence, depend on the wise and holy government of God in the Church. The presence of the Holy Ghost is certain by the Lord's word. Men may have grieved Him, so that He does not manifest His presence as He would — that depends on the government of God. He distributes as He will, but His presence depends on Christ's being in heaven, and is the witness of it, and of divine righteousness therein, and cannot cease as long as that is to be made good for faith; that is, as long as Christ sits at God's right hand. The Holy Ghost came the day of Pentecost, and that day the saints were baptized, and the Church formed into one. This remains till it goes. For individual believers, who have submitted to the righteousness of God in Christ, who have believed, this presence of the Holy Ghost becomes an unction, a seal, and an earnest. "He that stablishes us together with you in Christ, and also hath anointed us is God; who also hath sealed us, and put the earnest of His Spirit in your hearts." "In who, after ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy spirit of promise, which is the earnest of your inheritance till the redemption of the purchased possession." Hence, I judge, that the presence of the Spirit is an essential scriptural truth, a matter of faith; that His presence here is not to be confounded with the manifestations of His presence, which may vary with the perfect government of God; that for the individual this presence with him becomes and unction, a seal, and an earnest, being founded on and making certain to him, righteousness of God in Christ, and giving the consciousness of His presence, and of the love of God. The lively sense of this will vary with his walk, and further making abound in hope, and know that the inheritance of all things is his, giving him the consciousness of being in Christ, and Christ in him, and being a spirit of adoption in his heart towards His Father. This unction and seal and earnest is the undoubted portion of all those who have a part in Christ by faith, having submitted to the righteousness of God. As the Spirit works as to understanding by the word, the degree in which this is intelligently realized will depend on being divinely taught of God from His word. This will enable the believer to account for what he has.
Bible Treasury Volume 2, p. 368. November, 1859.
Q. "Oh that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end!" — Deuteronomy 32:29.
Will the Editor kindly say whether he views the above as a desire for the adversaries of Israel to consider that people's latter end, or for them to ponder their own? THEOPHILUS.
A. It seems plain from ver. 28 and 30 that it is an appeal to Israel to consider their latter end.
Bible Treasury Volume 2, p. 381. December, 1859.
Q. Matthew 22. F.R. asks, what is "the wedding-garment," and who the "friend" is, who is consigned to outer darkness?
A. By the use of the garment is meant putting on Christ. Had the man put on Christ, he would have had everything: Christ of God is made unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption. (Compare Romans 13:14; Galatians 3:27; Ephesians 4:24, etc.) If Judas, the son of perdition, could be styled "friend," (in the sense of "companion," and not of a link formed by real love,) this man might be called no less.