Nets — John 21:6, 8, 11 etc.
Applies historically — Matt. 13
Partaking of the Lord's supper — 1 Corinthians 11:20
The energy of faith — Matthew 11:12
The recorded passovers — John 2:13 etc.
By His knowledge — Isaiah 53:11
God could not be to angels what He is to man
All must be clothed — 2 Corinthians 5:3
The beginning of creation — Genesis 1:1; John 8:44
Ham's misconduct — Genesis 5:25
Are "lectures" scriptural? — 1 Cor. 14
2,300 evenings-mornings — Daniel 8:14
Rejoice — Philippians 3:1; 4:4
Let marriage be honourable — Hebrews 13:4
The genealogy of the Lord — Matthew 1:16; Luke 3:23
Inheriting the kingdom — 1 Corinthians 6:9
In and from the beginning — Genesis 1:1, John 1:1, 1 John 1:1 etc.
Bible Treasury Volume N1, p. 32. February 1896
Q. As there are three different Greek words in the N.T. translated "net," would it not be well to have the distinction explained? Q.
A. Ἀμφιβληστρον occurs only in Matthew 4:18 (implied also in Mark 1:16, where the most ancient MSS. omit the noun), and means a casting net. It was thrown round the object, whence the term was derived. The more usual word is δίκτυον, but in the plural form in Matthew 4:20-21, Mark 1:18, in the sing. in John 21:6, 8, 11. It is derived from δικεῖν, to cast. Trawl net has been suggested as appropriate. But the σαγήνη (in Matthew 13:47 only), from σάττειν to pack or load, was a dragnet or seine, on a larger scale.
Bible Treasury Volume N1, p. 64. April 1896
In reply to M.H. (Buffalo, N.Y., U.S.A.) the Ed. B.T. would say, that, besides the interpretation of Matt. 13, he has long seen how the chapter applies historically, like Revelation 2, 3. Only it begins earlier and ends later, being larger also throughout. In this point of view, it is hardly possible to differ in applying the earlier four parables. But all could not be expected to distinguish the application of the treasure to the recovery of individual blessing so widely spread at the Reformation, from that of the one precious pearl when grace in our own day brought out the church's association with Christ, before the final scene at the consummation of the age. It is cordially owned that, in order to enjoy the relation of the Christian and of the church, Christ Himself must be appreciated, incomparably more according to God and the word of His grace than could be where justification was in question. Thus the supposed difference almost vanishes in Him, though the application here sketched seems to adhere more closely to the exact interpretation.
Bible Treasury Volume N1, p. 96. June 1896
Q. 1 Corinthians 11:20. As it is argued that, in refusing the title of some professing Christians to partake of the Lord's supper, we make it "our own," not His, I wish to know what is His revealed mind. S.
A. All depends on whether the professing Christians are "leavened" or even worse. The New Testament is clear that "leaven" includes both moral corruption (1 Corinthians 5) and doctrinal (Galatians 5), neither of which is compatible with the communion of saints. They are "unleavened" in Christ and are commanded to purge out the old leaven that they may be a new lump in consistency with their standing. So runs His word in the scripture which specially treats of discipline in the assembly. The Galatian evil was yet more dangerous though different. But more hateful to God than either is the case of those who allow such as bring not the doctrine of Christ; and all the worse if they have the reputation of piety. The elect lady and her children (2 John) are charged with no heterodoxy, but are bound not even to receive into the house one who falsified Christ. To salute him knowingly was to partake of his evil deeds. How much more to join with him in the Lord's supper! Such a supper would have become not "their own" merely, but anti-christian. It is precisely because it is the Lord's supper that no one should be welcome there who is known to be deliberately dishonouring the Lord. Doubtless he that does not bring the doctrine of Christ (the truth of His person as come in flesh) is an enemy of the darkest dye; and no principle can be falser or less holy than that piety or orthodoxy gives immunity where that evil is allowed, or fellowship with such an one, no matter what the plea. It would be "our own supper," if the Lord's authority were supplanted by our own will; but if it went so far as to allow any who undermine His personal glory, it becomes their enemy's. It is Christ's dishonour to screen and condone the sins of those that bear His name, and far worse than belonging to a sect, evil as this is.
Bible Treasury Volume N1, p. 144. September 1896
Q. Matthew 11:12. What does this mean? E.
A. The Baptist was now in prison, and shortly to suffer unto blood. The Christ was more and more despised and rejected of men, especially of man religious after the flesh but not believing God. Hence the path becomes increasingly separate; and faith of the rejected Messiah is more and more in contrast with Jewish order where rights and privileges descend and are perpetuated in a natural way. John the Baptist marks the transition. From his days until now, says our Lord, the kingdom of the heavens is taken by violence, and violent persons seize it. It was no longer a question of swimming with the stream even in Israel and with Messiah present. He was going to act in all-overcoming power another day when He appears in glory (Psalm 110:2-3). Now the believer must in the energy of faith break with natural ties, and rise above hindrances when least expected and most abundant. The kingdom of the heavens is taken by such force as this: only those that can thus resist seize it. As He says later, "If anyone desireth to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever shall desire to save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake shall find it." And this He said, when He told the disciples no longer to say to anyone that He was the Messiah (Matthew 16:20). He was now on the road to Jerusalem to suffer from the religious chiefs and to be killed and raised the third day as Son of Man. Thus was Christianity piercing through the clouds, and leaving Judaism to vanish away.
Bible Treasury Volume N1, p. 160. October 1896.
Q. Do the recorded passovers help us to gather the space of the Lord's ministry on earth? DISCIPLE.
A. In John 2:13 is the first, which preceded the public ministry of the Lord in Galilee. For even in John 3:24 John is seen not as yet in prison. In John 4 the Lord is going through Samaria on His way to Galilee which He only reaches at the end of this chapter. Next in Matthew 11 John sends from prison to enquire, and in John 12 the Lord vindicates His disciples for eating of the corn on a sabbath, which was after a new Passover and even the wave-sheaf that followed it. From Luke 6:1 (which coalesces) it was second-first sabbath, that is, next after the great one (cf. John 19:31) of that week, the first sabbath when it became lawful after Jehovah had His first-fruits. Again we learn from John 6:4, which corresponds in time with Matthew 14, or the first miracle of the loaves, that Passover was at hand, that is, the third. The last Passover, or fourth, He came up to keep, and be Himself our Passover in His sacrifice. It is thus rendered certain and evident from scripture, that the public ministry of our Lord lasted less than four years, or at least three years and a half, as it is generally understood, though some men of learning have contended for less or more.
Q. Isaiah 53:11. What does this mean? Especially by His knowledge? C.P.
A. One important question arises, when it is known that the object of the verb is not "many" as in all known versions, but "the many." If to "the many" belongs the technical sense in which Daniel employs it, the meaning would be the mass of Jews that believe not, contrasted with the remnant (Daniel 9:27, Daniel 11:33, 39, Daniel 12:3). The article is not affixed in Daniel 11:33, 44, Daniel 12:4, 10, where it has no such application. So Isaiah 52:14-15, and the latter clause of Isaiah 53:12, while its first clause has the article. Without doubt this makes the interpretation difficult; which some have tried to meet by comparing the Pauline οἱ πολλοὶ of Romans 5:19. But as this is due to τοῦ ἑνὸς in the same clause, how can it be imported with any certainty into Isaiah, where there is no such contrast? If then we attach a force in Isaiah similar to the phrase in Daniel, the meaning of the verb would seem necessarily modified. For the unbelieving mass could not really be justified, but "instructed in righteousness" they might be by the Righteous Servant. In this case also "by His knowledge" would have the unforced sense of what He made known by His teaching. And Daniel 12:3 confirms this sense; for teachers can only instruct "the many" or indeed any in righteousness. They surely can justify none. It is certain that God alone justifies. Confessedly, however, the passage in Isaiah calls for further investigation; as there seems to be a grave difficulty not here raised. Any real help would be welcome.
Bible Treasury Volume N1, p. 192. December 1896
Q. Will you explain the statement that "God could not be to angels what He is to man — grace, patience, mercy, love, as shown to sinners?" O.P.
A. The first and last of these manifestations here named serve to make all clear. "Grace" means favour, and especially to one altogether undeserving through guilt, which is "love as shown to sinners." Patience bears with those whose ways are trying; mercy too compassionates the needy. None of these descriptions can properly apply to the elect angels, who alone of course can be thought of. The Word made flesh, the Son of God, come of woman, explains why it is, and above all when we add His glorifying the Father in life, and glorifying God as God by His death for our sin and our sins.
Q. What means 2 Corinthians 5:3?
A. A solemn warning that, though the deniers of the resurrection were all wrong, one may have a risen body, but be destitute of Christ, as all in fact will be who are not born of God. All must be clothed, all must rise; but then will be manifest that not to have Christ is to be found naked. The risen body of the wicked will not cover but reveal the unspeakable loss.
Bible Treasury Volume N1, p. 256. April 1897
Q. Genesis 1:1. "In the beginning." Is it the same word used by our Lord in regard to the devil in John 8:44? J.C., Clydesvale, Hamilton, N.B.
A. Not so. The phrase with which Genesis opens is the beginning of creation, and hence of time, though not yet in relation to man and his environment as from ver. 3 and onwards. "The days" are accordingly literal, as the context forbids any sense but the historical. Poetry or allegory is out of the question here. It is all a plain and sure statement of fact, where man's ignorance can only form hypotheses, more or less defective and short of the truth. Phraseology however is not everything; for the same phrase occurs in John 1:1 where it imports a still grander truth, the personal subsistence of the Word, Who was with God and was God, in the depths of eternity. Go back, as one might in the boundless existence of the Godhead, there was no moment when the Word was not God. That this is the meaning is certain from the third verse of this Gospel, where creation is absolutely and exclusively described and attributed to the Word. Consequently John 1:3 coalesces with Genesis 1:1, and its verses 1 and 2 precede creation, setting out the co-existence of the Word with God,. while Himself God before He began the mighty work of creation. The same truth appears most precisely in Colossians 1, one grieves to say, enfeebled in the R.V., though they could not destroy it. The enemy shows his malice in detracting from the Deity of the Son all he can as God sustains it sedulously throughout scripture.
But John 8:44 supposes neither the measureless depths of eternity nor the commencement of creation, when vast periods preceded the time of man's earth. It means in time, though before man was formed. "From the beginning" is pointedly distinct from "in the beginning" either in its highest applications to the being of the Word or in its use to convey the entrance of creative energy. The devil was not always, but an angel that, inflated or lifted up with pride, fell. He had no standing in the truth and became a murderer as well as a liar, its father (cf. 1 Tim. 3). Thenceforward (ἀπ᾽ ἀρχῆς, from a beginning of this dark and baneful kind) he was a murderer. His hatred was against man, and especially in enmity to God against Him Who deigned to become man for God's glory and to deliver man. See also 1 John 3. Clearly it is impossible to make ap arches mean from all eternity, which would deny the devil to be a creature and simply that God made him originally a devil, instead of his being an angel like others that kept not their own original state.
Bible Treasury Volume N1, p. 288. June 1897
Q. Genesis 5:25. Why did Ham's misconduct entail a curse on a son of his instead of himself? Why was Canaan the youngest of Ham's sons singled out? The servitude of Negroes is notorious, but the popular notion that they are of Canaan unfounded; and it not being so, perhaps of Cush or whoever may have been the forefather of the negroes. E.J.T., Elsternwick, Melbourne.
A. In the government of the world God does not at all confine Himself to the particular person or generation that has been offended. So it was in Jerusalem, and so it will be in Babylon at last; Matthew 23, Revelation 18. Of old we see how the first-born of Egypt was smitten, though Pharaoh and his host were afterwards swallowed up in the Red Sea. It was mercy not to punish Ham in all his descendants, but in Canaan. God is sovereign in judgment as in mercy, and altogether righteous. Possibly, if not probably, Canaan may have played part with Ham in the heartless insult and dishonour done to Noah, not only the head of the rescued family, but governor in chief of the renewed earth. But whether so or not, it was mercy, not to involve all in God's avenging the wrong, but to restrain it within the least bounds. And if God let the blow fall on him that possessed himself of the land promised to Abraham and his seed, and filled it with idolatry and immorality of turpitude not to be named, was it not altogether right that Canaan should be cursed above all, and given up practically to extermination? They were very far from being physically degraded like negroes, or other races such as the aborigines of Australia, but early and highly civilised; which did and may consist with the most shameless sins against God and man.
Bible Treasury Volume N1, p. 304. July 1897
Q. Are "lectures" so-called scriptural? Is it not true that in apostolic days the gifted members spoke in the assembly? S.V.
A. Undoubtedly there was free exercise of gift in the assembly, as is laid down in 1 Cor. 14, based on the great fact and principle developed in chapter 12. But much more appears elsewhere. Take especially Acts 19, where we hear of Paul, first in the synagogue at Ephesus "discoursing" for three months with boldness, and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God; then, when evil speaking ensued, separating the disciples, and carrying on the same work of "discourse," or "lecture" as we call it, day by day in the school of Tyrannus for two years more. This was more than evangelising, and both are quite distinct from action in the assembly, though it may have been in the same meeting-room. But the principle was the different and individual responsibility of trading with the Lord's gift, conferred for the purpose of testimony, both "without," and "within." Scripture is equally plain for the free action of the Spirit in the assembly, and for the individual responsibility of a teacher or a preacher. The danger is of mixing up the two to the enfeebling and falsifying of both. We owe it to the lord to value and leave room for each. In Acts 15 we read of Paul refusing Mark and choosing Silas for united testimony; which could not apply to the assembly. Are not these things for us now?
Bible Treasury Volume N1, p. 319. August 1897
Q. Daniel 8:14. The meaning of this verse is enquired; and the question is raised if the "2,300 evenings-mornings," apply to the desolation since the Roman destruction of Jerusalem under Titus. F.F.T. (Dublin)
A. It helps to clear the book and its particular visions is we observe that the last Beast in Daniel 7 is the Western Empire; and Revelation 11-13, 17 enables us to say the Roman empire revived but pointedly distinguished from Babylon the Harlot, viewed as a great city as well as the corruptness of Christendom. Her, the Beast and the ten horns, his vassal kings, unite to destroy; but they are themselves destroyed by the Lamb when He returns with His glorified saints from heaven (Rev. 17:14, Rev. 19:14). No ingenuity can make these revealed facts fit into the Protestant interpretation, as I showed many years ago in reviewing the last edition of Mr. Elliott's Horae Apoc. before he died.
One main defect of that hypothesis is that it neglects the final future crisis for the Jewish people and the land before the Lord appears in glory and judgment. Another is that the proper Christian and church hope is not appreciated by this school, but mixed up with the Jewish. The times and seasons, which wholly pertain to the earthly people, are misapplied to Christians. These are not of the world and are called to be ever expecting the Lord Jesus, to take them to Himself and the Father's house, before the unaccomplished measures of time begin to apply to the Jews and the powers of the world at the end of this age.
This chapter however brings to light a power in the east, not Roman, but from the Seleucid quarter of Alexander's divided empire. And we have to distinguish the general vision of which ver. 14 forms the close from the interpretation which deals with the future catastrophe and goes from ver. 19 to ver. 26. For the interpretations given by scripture add fresh light, and enable us to discriminate the part accomplished in Antiochus Epiphanes from the final enemy of Israel in the N.E. Of him we hear much in Daniel 11, "the king of the north," at the end, who is to be judged no less awfully than the Roman emperor of that day, and his antichristian colleague, the false prophet-king in the land. This N.E. power is the same predicted by "the Assyrian" of Isaiah, Micah and other prophets.
There are no dates attached to Nebuchadnezzar's vision of the four Gentile empires raised up successively on the apostacy of the Jews, and set aside by the kingdom of God figured by the little Stone. But in the corresponding vision of the four Beasts, judged and superseded by the universal kingdom of the Son of man when the saints of the heavenly places appear, and the people of those saints, we have the well-known formula of "a time, times, and half a time," i.e. three years and a half, during which times and laws will be given into the hand of their western enemy. Daniel 8 is occupied with the east, and "the daily" is taken away "by reason of transgression," and the peculiar term occurs of "2,300 evenings-mornings," which I see no reason to doubt was accomplished in Antiochus Epiphanes of whom we hear so much in Daniel 11:21-32. But the special object is the enemy "at the last end of the indignation." In Daniel 9 we have another sort of computation — by "weeks," or periods of seven years; and there the Roman capture of Jerusalem is plainly set out, though in the general interval without date after the cutting off of the Messiah. But the last week, severed from the chain, awaits its completion in the doings of both the Western emperor and his eastern antagonist at the end of the age. In Daniel 11:36-39 the Antichrist (who is to reign over the land and to be the object of attack "at the time of the end" to both the king of the south and the king of the north) is seen. And the last chapter gives a variety of dates but all bearing on that future crisis, our Lord in Matthew 24:15 directing particular attention to verse 11.
Q. Philippians 3:1, Philippians 4:4. What ground had the Revisers for putting "farewell" as the marginal equivalent for "rejoice"? A.B.
A. Nothing but pedantry. The verb as a secondary meaning is used for "saluting," and so for "farewell"; but this sense is in narrow contextual bounds, as Matthew 26:49, Matthew 27:29, Matthew 28:9; Mark 15:18; Luke 1:28; John 19:3; Acts 15:23, Acts 23:26; James 1:1, and 2 John 10,11. Everywhere else it means "rejoice," or "be glad," and emphatically so in the Epistle to the Philippians, where it is an evident keynote, as in Philippians 1:18, Philippians 2:17-18, 28, Philippians 3:1, and Philippians 4:4, 10. What would be the sense of "Farewell in the Lord alway"? Yet this is long after Philippians 3:1, where "farewell" would be therefore unnatural. Then we have also to take account of the kindred "joy" (χαρὰ) in the same Epistle, as in Philippians 1:4, 25, Philippians 2:2, 29, and Philippians 4:1, which it is impossible to mistake. But the verb ought not to be confounded as the A.V. does with καυχάομαι, "I boast" as in Romans 5:2, 11, Philippians 3:3, James 1:9, James 4:16.. It may surprise one that so profound a scholar as the late Bp. Lightfoot should express the opinion on Philippians 3:1 that the word conveys both meanings here, referring also to Philippians 2:18, Philippians 4:4. Spiritual perception is another thing, and indispensable for the right rendering of scripture.
Bible Treasury Volume N1, p. 336. September 1897
Q. That a Christian is bound to abstain from marriage with an unbeliever is self-evident. But if the evil is done, what does scripture lay down as its remedy, or right dealing with it? F.F.
A. The word of the Lord enjoins (Hebrews 13:4), "Let marriage be honourable in all things," a very different thing from the A.V. which makes it a necessarily dignified status for any and everybody. It is a solemn exhortation that nothing should be done in the relationship inconsistent with its holy and intimate character, as well as implying honour due to the relationship in itself and in every way. For Christians 1 Corinthians 7:39 guards the limits of "will" with that sole worthy principle, "only in the Lord." The immediate application is to a widow marrying again; but it would be absurd to restrict it to her, or to doubt that it equally applies to any Christian woman or man.
On the other hand the same chapter shows that a brother might have an unbelieving wife, as a sister an unbelieving husband, as is not infrequently the fact now as of old; and it deals with the case with the grace of the gospel in vers. 12, 13. In contrast with the rigour of the law, wherein separation was imperative if a Jew had taken a Gentile wife, "let him," "or her," "not leave;" as the children too were not "unclean," but "holy." Neither laxity nor bondage characterises the gospel. If the unbeliever left, let him (or her): a brother or sister is not under bondage in such things; but God has called us in peace. What did each believer in the case know whether he or she should save the other? Clearly not a word anywhere sanctions contracting mixed marriage; but neither does the word proscribe putting away an offender. It is too often forgotten that godly discipline as revealed in the scriptures covers a great variety of dealing, and that not a little censure due to the Lord's honour should be as the general rule before a case ought to be before the assembly. So, even when that last resort here below is reached, rebuke has its just place no less than excision. It is deplorable when one or two rash men, and mistaken followers, see nothing but the assembly for every fault, and nothing but its extreme action. They are evidently far from spiritual, and in spirit rather Jews than Christians, though even that is better than moral laxity and lawlessness.
Bible Treasury Volume N1, p. 351. October 1897
Q. How is Matthew 1:16, taken in connection with Luke 3:23, to be explained?
Matthew says "Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary;" and Luke, "being, as was supposed, the son of Joseph, which was of Heli, which was of Matthat," etc. Matthew in ver. 15 had said, "Matthan begat Jacob."
In Luke, I presume, Mary's genealogy is given down to 31, "Nathan (who was) of David," while in Matthew 1:6 "David the king begat Solomon," and so on down to Joseph. But what explains the apparent discrepancy between Matthew 1:16 and Luke 3:23? O.P.
A. The solution of the difficulty turns on the true marking of the parenthesis in Like 3:23 "(being, as was supposed, son of Joseph)". The Revisers are no more right than was the A.V. in limiting it to "(as was supposed)." Christ's being supposed son of Joseph is thus intimated to be outside the proper genealogical line which is here traced from Heli or Eli, Mary's father, up to Adam and God Himself. Jesus, reputedly son of Joseph, was really of Heli, etc. Even the unbelieving Jews did not question that Mary, the virgin mother of our Lord, was Heli's daughter; for the Talmud speaks of her thus, and as tormented in the unseen world. The fact is that there is a choice of ways which all remove the apparent discrepancy. On these we need not dwell here, but simply state the one which we believe to be the truth.
The internal evidence entirely sustains this view as intended of God. For as υἱός was expressed in the parenthetical clause as the reputed relationship, so by a purposely different construction the real natural succession through Mary is traced from her father up to the father of all (τοῦ Ἡλὶ, τοῦ Ματθὰτ, κ.τ.λ), a grand fact characteristic of our Evangelist. In Matthew, on the other hand, where it was essential to trace the Messianic title of our Lord legally, we have "Jacob begot Joseph the husband of Mary." Again both Evangelists are equally careful to repudiate the actual fatherhood of Joseph, and to affirm the divine generation of our Saviour, as well as His eternal being in the Godhead before the Incarnation.
But there is much more in corroboration, which goes along with the special design of each of the two Gospels. For it will be noticed that only Matthew records the apparitions of Jehovah's angel to Joseph (Matthew 1:20, Matthew 2:19); whereas in Luke 1:26-38 the angel Gabriel was sent by God not to Joseph but to Mary, even though Jehovah's angel appeared to Zechariah before (Luke 1:11), and to the shepherds after (Luke 2:9), the Child was born, the Son was given. Of course, His birth of Mary was of absolute moment for His person as now Man no less than God forever, and for the infinite work He was about to accomplish. But so far was the legal position of Joseph as His reputed father from being unimportant, that He could not have been indisputably viewed as the promised Son and Heir of David's throne, till Joseph passed away. Hence not a word is said in any of the four Gospels which supposes Joseph alive, when our Lord enters on His manifestation as the Messiah, though (as every believer knows) much more than the Messiah. This also disposes of the notion, cherished by not a few ancients and moderns, that Joseph had a family of sons and daughters, before Mary was betrothed to him. For in that case his eldest would have been legally the heir to David's throne. So completely was the law fulfilled, as well as the Prophets and the Psalms. Scripture cannot be broken.
Q. Does not 1 Corinthians 6:9 with many like scriptures warrant the inference that Christians who fail in faith or fidelity will be excluded from inheriting the kingdom of God, though saved at the end from the second death? MATHETES.
A. In no way is this true, but wholly opposed to the mind of God in His word, and productive of nothing but confusion like any other serious error. On the face of this text itself, how can any taught of God allow that one born of the Spirit is to be classed upon the ἄδικοι or unrighteous? Compare also the rest of this verse and the following verses, where not failure in a believer is in question, but unqualifiedly wicked characters are denounced, with the very different statement that "such were some of you, but ye were washed, ye were sanctified, but ye were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God." Take one of the strongest apparently for such a construction, Luke 12:45-46, "But if that bondman should say in his heart, My lord delayeth to come, and begins," etc. WE may see from the corresponding parable in Matthew 24:48 that it is no case of a believer excluded but of an "evil" servant, a hypocrite. Nor indeed need we travel beyond the further words of Luke to arrive at the same fact; for his lord is said to cut him in twain and appoint his portion with the faithless (ἀπίστον). Will the Lord so deal with any born of God? It is indeed a far other lot than missing the reign though blessed for eternity, a portion assigned to not a single Christian in a single scripture. That the language of our Lord, and also of the apostle in this Epistle and elsewhere, implies it of professing Christians is true and solemn. "That bondman," in fact, seems expressly intended to warn of this tremendous issue.
But Christians in the genuine sense, as the query supposes, stand on other ground. If they discerned themselves, they should not be judged. If they grow careless in self-judgment, the Lord does not fail to deal with them. Yet when judged in this way, they are chastened by the Lord, that they should not be condemned with the world, as say the scriptures in the text queried. The doctrine behind the query is wholly false and evil.
Bible Treasury Volume N1, p. 368. November 1897
Q. Genesis 1:1, John 1:1, 1 John 1:1, 1 John 2:7, 13, 14, 1 John 3:18, etc. What is the difference, if any, between "in the beginning," and "from" it? X.Y.Z.
A. "In the beginning" in Genesis 1:1 is clearly the first recorded action of God in calling the universe into being, the creation of angels (it would seem from Job 38:7) being anterior. It was the beginning of time on the largest scale. But in John 1:1 the phrase goes back into the eternity that preceded, because it expresses the being of the Word Who was God and created all (ver. 3), trace back indefinitely as far as you may.
"From the beginning" is always in time, not before it, to whatever epoch or period, person or thing it may be applied. Take the earliest application, as said of the great angel who fell: "the devil sinneth from the beginning" (1 John 3:8). It was not even the beginning of his existence as an angel, but only as a fallen one.
For the angels were sinless at first, as Adam was. God never is the author of moral evil.
But the phrase "from the beginning" carries the same time-force as to good. It never means "in the beginning," even though applied to Him Who was the Eternal also. It refers from its own nature to a time relation. So we see in Luke 1:2, where "those who from the beginning were eye-witnesses and ministers of the word" can only mean from the manifestation of Christ in the public testimony. It is even distinguished from ἄνωθεν in verse 3, by which the evangelist draws the line between many chroniclers from tradition and his own accurate acquaintance with all things "from the outset" or origin. The phrase therefore does not and can not refer to eternity but to what was before its witnesses in time.
So it is in the all-important use of the phrase in 1 John 1:1, ὃ ἦν ἀπ᾽ ἀρχῆς … περὶ τοῦ λόγου τῆς ζωῆς. "That which was from the beginning … concerning the Word of life." Undoubtedly He who is thus presented was "in the beginning;" and this is fully implied in ver. 2 that follows, as in John 1:1-2. But here it is the concrete Person of our Lord, truly subsisting here below, heard, seen, contemplated, and even handled by the hands of chosen witnesses. This therefore can express nothing but the Lord's manifestation on earth among men.
1 John 2:7 is equally conclusive. "An old commandment" which the saints had "from the beginning" cannot refer to the eternal counsels of God as such, but solely what was enjoined by our Lord when with them here below. They certainly did not hear it from eternity, but in time and at that time solely. This accordingly gives the true bearing of vers. 13 and 14, or course also 24, and 1 John 3:11, 2 John 5, 6. "He that is from the beginning" is the very same person "who was in the beginning," both truths of the highest moment to faith; but they are distinct and in no way to be merged in one another. If I believe in Him that was in the beginning, it is the true faith of His deity, and of His personality as the Word; I am not an Arian or a Sabellian assuredly. But this is not to believe in "Him that was from the beginning," the Word made flesh and tabernacling among us full of grace and truth, Whose glory was contemplated by the apostle John and his fellows, as of an Only-begotten of (or with) a Father. Hence it is the distinctive badge of the father in God's family here below to know "Him that is from the beginning," certainly not alone in His divine personality and Godhead, however indispensable, but to know Him as He was manifested here, unchangingly divine indeed, but in all the wonders of His life among men in the lowliest, holiest, most familiar love and obedience: Christ Himself as He lived, moved, and had His being with the disciples, not only declaring God but showing the Father. To know Him thus it indeed to be a "father."