“Truth” or “Love”—Which Comes First?

truth or loveThe apostle John repeatedly taught the importance of both Biblical truth and godly love. To understand the identity of the true Church, it is vital to recognize which of these is the foundation for the other.

The larger, well-known churches of this world are comprised of millions of “believers”—people who believed in and talked about Jesus. No doubt, many of them are sincere. They also talked much about “Christian love.” Many are the sermons given about “Jesus” and “love”. This describes the diet served every week from pulpits in tens of thousands of churches, around the world.

Of course, these are both critically important topics! The Bible has hundreds of scriptures that refer to our Lord and the importance of demonstrating godly love. But I see that many people have a hollow love, and that few really believed what Christ taught. No real love is evident in their lives.

They have the Lord’s name on their lips but the truths that He taught is not evident in their lives. Lots of talk about love, but little, if any, being practiced in their lives.

John has been called the “Apostle of Love,” because he spoke about this subject much more than all the other New Testament writers combined. A quick glance in any concordance, will confirm this. What is not realized is that he also wrote more about the importance of “truth” than all the other New Testament writers combined. John could have easily been known as the “Apostle of Truth”! A superficial look at his writings could leave you wondering if he wrote about anything other than these two subjects. Strangely, despite John’s dozens of references to the importance of truth, this emphasis is ignored by almost everyone!

In God’s infinite wisdom, He knew that He could not have one apostle stress truth and a another stress love. This would have left the impression that people could “choose their favorite apostle,” depending upon whether they felt truth or love deserved greater emphasis. (It was this very kind of division that plagued the Corinthian brethren – 1 Cor. 1:10-14.)

Now I beseech you, brethren, through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfected together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it hath been signified unto me concerning you, my brethren, by them that are of the household of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I mean, that each one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos: and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized into the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you, save Crispus and Gaius.”

The result is that each group would feel superior to the other because it has the “more proper” emphasis. Many today feel that they merely need to stress “love”—and without explaining the Bible definition—with little emphasis on correct doctrine. Those that think this way have a well-honed set of passages they use in an attempt to establish their position.

The Role of Love

Two of the most frequently quoted scriptures come from John. Both speak about love. John 3:16 states:

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

People who know little—or nothing—about the Bible usually know of this verse.

John 13:34-35 states:

A new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this shall all men know that you are My disciples, if you have love one to another.”

It is easy to see, from just these two passages, why so many believe they are Christians if they just “have love”—all the while feeling no need to be concerned about truth. Notice the phrase, “By this [love] shall all men know that you are My disciples.” It is true that an outward demonstration of love does make an important impression on people. In a selfish, unhappy, confused world, people practicing genuine love—do stand out from all those around them!

A basic question arises. How does Christ know if you are His disciple? We are not asking how men know, but how Christ knows. John also answers:

Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on Him, If you continue in My word, then are you My disciples indeed; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32).

Did you notice the phrase “IF you continue in My word, THEN are you My disciples…”? This is a key point! “Continuing in [Christ’s] word”—remaining free of error—signifies to Christ that we are His disciples.

This is what Christ looks for!

The Role of Truth

Holding to the truth would never be a sign to men. People are usually turned off by what true Christians believe:

because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be” (Rom. 8:7).

1 Cor. 2:14 tells us that the truth is not attractive to anyone not called by God . However, seeing people show genuine concern for one another turns no one off and is attractive to all. Anyone who doubts this, may attempt to “cast” a few “pearls” at someone (Matt. 7:6). Watch the reaction. Then try showing love to them when they don’t expect it. The lesson will be learned.

Consider that True Christians are led by the Holy Spirit—the “Spirit of truth” (John 14:16-17; 15:26; 16:13). This same Spirit of truth “will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13). The Holy Spirit will lead all those who are truly consecrated into the knowledge of real godly love. Galatians 5:22 reveals that love is a “fruit of the Spirit.” Romans 5:5 explains that such fruit is possible in a Christian’s mind only because God’s Spirit has put it there.

Romans 13:10 states, “Love is the fulfilling of the law.” 1 John 5:3 adds this, removing all doubt:

For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments: and His commandments are not grievous.”

It will be clear to others that you have love, because they will see you fulfilling God’s laws toward your fellow man. Understanding real Christian love—what it is—how it is expressed—its relationship to law—its part in being the light of the world—is in itself also a great truth!

Let’s now carefully examine an important verse:

He that says, I know Him, and keeps not His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1 John 2:4).

Pause and consider this before continuing. Verse 5 speaks about people who claim to be Christians—to “know Him”—but who neither keep the commandments nor have “truth” in them. The world is filled with professing Christians who claim to “know Jesus in their heart” but who have no interest whatsoever in understanding the Divine Plan as outline in the Bible. Now, focus carefully on Christ’s words (vs 5)

But whoso keeps HIS [Christ’s] word; in him [that person] verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in Him.” (vs 5)

Real love cannot be perfected in those who are not keeping Christ’s word—His recorded instruction—the truth. The true love of God is only perfected in people who ARE doing this!

Remember John 8:31.

If you continue in My Word, you are My disciples indeed.”

We must always “continue in” or “keep” God’s word. No wonder our Lord taught,

Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4; Luke 4:4).

The Greek word for “keep,” tereo, means “to watch or to guard (from loss or injury) by keeping the eye upon…to detain in custody.”

  • Will you determine to keep the truths of God’s Word in your “custody”?

  • Will you “guard” it from “loss or injury”?

  • Are you convicted about keeping your “eyes” continually upon it?

Remember, when we consecrated and became disciples of Christ, we were “sanctified” by that Word of truth (John 17:17). Only in this way can you first become and then remain Christ’s disciple!

Remember! Truth is the umbrella that stands over love. Love springs from truth—not the other way around! It is no coincidence that Matthew 22:37-39 says,

love your neighbor as yourself,” afterwards says, “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.”

We didn’t wake up one day and decide “I’m gonna love God”, no, we learned the Truth, when about His Plan of Salvation, and fell in love with the heavenly Father.

Certainly, no one who rejects God or His truth love Him. Therefore, genuine love for “neighbor” will also be absent.

Many Churches Claim to Have “Love”

What about all those who emphasize the importance of love and having a “relationship with Christ”—while in ignorance of God’s Truths or while neglecting or abandoning the ones they may have? Can love be “perfected” in them? The Bible says that this is impossible! (Recall 1 John 3:4.) The only thing such people and organizations “perfect” is the ability to talk about love. So says God! While many have honed “love speak” into a fine art, this is nothing more than empty talk!

These are the ones who talk of “love” and “Jesus,” while demonstrating no real love of God and no real knowledge of the true teachings of Christ. How you love someone you don’t really know? At best it’s a superficial love. When there is doctrinal disagreement within their ranks.

Augustine has been credited with coining the phrase: “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.” In actuality, Rupertus Meldenius, a German Lutheran theologian of the early seventeenth century, coined the phrase in a tract published in 1627.

In any event, today this thought still echoes, even among the brethren. They say: “we must agree to disagree. Love is primary. Doctrines and opinions about Bible truth is secondary. Let us all just have love. Let us submerge our differences under ever more love.”

It’s a nice gesture, the problem with this thought is that, in the end, this breeds more division and doctrinal confusion and a complete disregard and neglect of doctrinal truth. This wrong premise puts the “love” cart in front of the horse. The true Christian continues in truth and then is able to walk in love. Remember, real love, springs from first having the truth! John stated that he “rejoiced greatly, when the brethren came and testified of the truth that is in you [them], even as you walk in the truth.” Seeing this within fellow Christians was John’s greatest joy (3 John 3-4).

How Love, Truth and Blessings Work Together

There is a final, important, related point. What role do blessings and growth play within the formula of truth and real Christian love? Do their presence—or absence—tell the true Christian anything?

They should!

1 John 3:18 states, “Let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.” John explains that this gives Christians confidence toward God in their prayers, while eliminating the conscience problems that hinder them. Now verse 21: “Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God.” Answers and blessings flow from obedience, pleasing God and application of His truth: “And whatsoever we ask, we receive of Him, because we keep His commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in His sight” (vs. 22).

This principle is made plain through paraphrasing three verses. Let’s notice. Isaiah 58:13-14 explains that Israel was promised wonderful blessings if they kept the Sabbath properly. Malachi 3:8-10 shows that they were also promised great blessings—but only if they tithed faithfully. Exodus 15:26-27 directly connects the promises of good health and healing to full obedience to God’s commands. These and many other verses containing promises show that the Christian can know when he is in harmony with God. Conscience problems vanish when people follow all of God’s commands and instructions.

God’s people must recognize and never forget that a real Christian’s path is not easy or pain-free. However, if our ways please Him, God will continually give blessings and growth. This becomes a sign to us of His happiness and pleasure with us. When blessings, fruit and growth are continually lacking, God is not pleased! We know—either way.

First, belief and continuance in the truth tells Christ who His disciples are (and real love will always be evident anyway). Next, love tells people who Christ’s disciples are. Finally, blessings, fruit and growth tell the individual Christian whether he or she is pleasing God and continuing in His Word.

If I were the adversary I would speak endlessly of love and “Jesus,” while de-emphasizing right doctrine—Christ’s teachings—truth!—and their connection to growth and blessings. If this is what you are hearing, beware!

What is a Christian?

bible“Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.” (Acts 26:28)

A Christian is a person who intelligently believes that he is by nature a sinner, that by Divine grace Jesus Christ the Righteous died for his sins and that through faith in the atoning blood and obedience to the Redeemer’s -teachings he has become “a New Creature in Christ Jesus.”  For such, “Old things have passed away, and all things have become new.”  Such New Creatures are separate and distinct from all other members of the race.  Instead of earthly aims, ambitions and hopes, theirs are Heavenly.

Getting Into Christ’s Body

It is not sufficient that these should make the proper start of faith in Christ and full consecration to do God’s will and not their own wills.  It is incumbent upon them, after having made such a start and after having been begotten of the Holy Spirit, that they shall grow in grace, knowledge and love. (2 Peter 3:18)  This is styled “putting on Christ”; that is to say, adding the graces of character which God will accept and reward with association with the Lord Jesus Christ in His Kingdom.  For these God has made provision of spiritual food in the Bible–“meat in due season for the Household of Faith.” (Matthew 24:45)  These are represented as at first “babes in Christ,” requiring “the milk of the Word,” but if faithful gradually attaining full stature–“strong in the Lord and the power of His might.”

Such spirit-begotten Christians must needs “fight a good fight”–not with others, but with themselves–overcoming the weaknesses and besetments of their own fallen flesh, the allurements of their environment and the wiles of the Adversary.  Such as are faithful in these respects are Scripturally styled “overcomers,” “the very Elect.”  The promise to them is that they shall have part in the Chief, or best, Resurrection, and thereafter be no longer humans, but spirit beings of the highest order–“partakers of the Divine nature.”  These in death are “sown in weakness,” “in dishonor,” human beings, but are raised from the dead “in glory,” “in power,” spirit beings. I Corinthians 15:43.

Jesus’ promise to these overcomers reads, “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with Me in My Throne, even as I overcame and am set down with My Father in His Throne” — “I will give him power over the nations, etc.  Again He says, “Blessed and holy are all those who have part in the Chief Resurrection: on such the Second Death hath no power, but they shall be priests unto God and unto Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.” Rev. 3:21; 2:26; 20:6

All Jesus’ teachings are applicable to this special class; namely, those who become His disciples, His followers, His pupils.  He did not assume to be a Teacher of the world, but merely of those who leave the world, sacrificing all to become His disciples.  To these He said, “Ye are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.”  Again, “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated Me before it hated you.”  The great Teacher did not include the nominal church as His disciples, but rather counted them in with the world.  In evidence of this, we note the fact that the world which persecuted Him was the Jewish nation, professedly God’s consecrated people; and that those who have persecuted the followers of Jesus have like-wise been nominally people of God, but really of the world.

Duties, Rights and Privileges of Christians

These are the Christians addressed by the Master, saying, “I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other, also.  And if any man shall sue thee at law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also.  And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.” Matthew 5:39-42.

The thought of non-resistance is here, yet not to the extreme degree supposed by some.  The turning of the other cheek, as illustrated by Jesus’ own conduct, was a figurative expression, signifying the willingness to have both cheeks smitten rather than to do injury to another.  Christians are to be law-abiding, whether they consider the laws just or unjust.  If, therefore, the law deprive them of a coat, they are to yield it up.  If it go still further and deprive them of their cloak, they are still to be non-resistant to the law, but submit to it with good grace, knowing that hereunto they are called.

Be it noted that neither the coat nor the cloak was to be given up upon demand merely, but only after the law, justly or unjustly, had so decreed.  Similarly with respect to the compulsory walking of a mile; the Christian is not to submit himself to every whim of everybody; but, seeking to do the will of God, he is to go about his own business, unless the opposition to him amount to a compelling.  And this compelling, under ordinary circumstances, would mean a legal compelling; for the protection of the laws of the land in which he lives may be sought to protect his rights and liberties, as St. Paul appealed to governors and kings.

Christians Live for the Future

Christians are to love their enemies in the same sense that God loves the world–sympathetically.  They are not to love their enemies in the same affectionate love and tenderness, such as they bestow upon their families, friends and lovable persons.  Their love for their enemies, as defined by Jesus, should be such as would lead them to feed their bitterest enemy if he were hungry, to clothe him if he were naked.  They should not pray against their enemies but for their enemies in the sense of wishing, desiring for them enlightenment and true wisdom, which would turn them from being enemies and evil-doers, to make of them followers of Jesus or, at least, well-doers.

Christians are not to lay up for themselves treasures on earth; for they renounced the earth and all hopes of a future life upon earth.  Their walk in the footsteps of Jesus signifies that as He cast aside earthly ambitions, hopes and aims, so would they, taking instead the Heavenly ambitions, hopes and aims.  In other words, they live for the future.  This will not hinder them from the ordinary pursuits of life to the extent that may be necessary in “providing things honest in the sight of all men”–in providing for their families, etc.  But, with these Christians, any over-plus above life’s necessities represents so much opportunity for serving the Lord and His cause; and in so doing these are laying up treasure in Heaven–a future reward.

This does not signify that they must live “from hand to mouth” nor that, if they have possessions, they must riotously distribute these to others.  On the contrary, they are to seek in all things to have the mind of the Lord-to do God’s will.  God’s mind is a sound mind; and these Christians, in seeking to do God’s will, are said to have “the spirit of a sound mind.”  This dictates that they should live wisely and economically.

Christian Stewardship and Citizenship

To these Christians, everything that comes to them or that they possess by nature is considered a thing of God, because in becoming followers of Christ they make a full consecration of their wills–their all–to God.  Hence from that moment forward these Christians are stewards of God’s mercies-stewards of their time, their talents, their influence, their property, their all.  According to the way they use their stewardship, investing their talents to the Master’s praise, will be His commendation of them, as represented in the parable.  Whether many talents are possessed or few, the commendation is to those who have done well, have been good and faithful in the use of their talents, not for self-aggrandizement or show, or worldly accumulations of treasure, but faithful in the service of God, showing forth God’s praises in the assisting of others and themselves to the knowing and doing of the Divine will.

Christians are to “lend, hoping for nothing in return,” and not, as the world, merely to be willing to do good and to lend to those who would do as much or more in return.  Christians are thus to illustrate the fact that they are children of the Highest, that they have been begotten of God, that they have His Holy Spirit and disposition, and that it is shining out more and more in their words and conduct as they grow in the character-likeness of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Christians are not to go to war.  Their fight is not to be with carnal weapons, but with “the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.”  They have the most powerful weapon known in the world for their warfare.  This does not signify that they may not put bolts and bars upon their doors to prevent robbery.  It does not signify that they may not call for police protection; for this is a thing they pay for in taxation and are entitled to according to the laws of the world.  They may not claim of their own nation anything than an alien might not claim; but they may claim all that an alien may claim.  Indeed, Christians are styled aliens, stranger, foreigners, so far as the present government of the world is concerned.  Their citizenship, according to the Bible, is the Heavenly one, which they will fully enter into when they shall have shared the Chief Resurrection.

No Christian Nations

The Bible knows nothing of Christian nations or of a Christian world.  The Bible puts the Christian as separate and distinct from the world and from all nations.  Christians are a nation, or people, by themselves, in the same sense that the Jews are a nation, or people, by themselves.  “Ye are a Royal Priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people”–a people for a purpose. (I Peter 2:9)  The term Christian nation comes from a serious doctrinal error which crept into the Church about 800 A.D.  At that time, Pope Leo III began to recognize as Christian nations all the nations which recognized his Pontificate.  The custom has prevailed and is still in vogue amongst Protestants and Catholics; but it is wholly unscriptural.

A Christian conscripted to the army or the navy would be “subject to the powers that be,” and obeying the Master’s words would go, as in Math. 5:41, “Whosoever shall compel thee to go.”  The Christian compelled to enter the army or the navy might properly request service as a noncombatant in the Quartermaster’s Department or in the Hospital Department; but, if required to kill, he is to obey God rather than man, and not kill.  He may comply with his orders to the extent of going into the trenches and being shot at, but no further.

Is it urged that such a view of Christianity would wreck our present civilization?  We reply that nothing in the Bible implies that our civilization is Christian or that the Lord ever expected it to be Christian.  God’s time for saving the world from its sin and weakness has not yet come.  The present is merely the time for calling, finding, testing and delivering the Elect.  The Elect, when glorified, will constitute Messiah’s Kingdom, and with Him will be empowered fully with spiritual control for the government of the entire world.

Then will come the time for the enlightenment and uplift and blessing of the whole world of mankind–the non-elects.  Theirs will not be a blessing of the same kind that the Elect will secure, but a blessing which they will appreciate equally.  The world’s blessing and salvation will not signify a change of nature from human to Spirit, but a Restitution to human perfection. (Acts 3:19-23)

What are today styled “Christian nations” are in the Bible styled “kingdoms of this world”; and their complete disintegration is Scripturally outlined as incidental to the establishment of God’s glorious Kingdom under Messiah, for which we pray, “Thy Kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth, even as in Heaven.”

Some may wonder how it ever came to pass that all the people of civilized lands are enumerated as Christians–except Jews and professed infidels.  Statistics tell us that all the inhabitants of Italy are Christian; that more than ninety-nine per cent of the population of Great Britain, France, Germany, Belgium, etc., are Christians; and that the total number of Christians thus reckoned is nearly five hundred millions.  Surely it is time that intelligent people realize that some great mistake has been made and that more than ninety-nine per cent of these “Christians” make no pretense of being followers of Jesus.

The error arose in the now long ago, when Pope Leo III, recognized a king as a Christian king and his kingdom as a Christian kingdom, he recognized that king’s subjects as Christian.  There we have the matter in a nut-shell.  The whole thing was a mistake.  The king was not a Christian, did not know the meaning of Christianity and was not taught it.  His kingdom was not a Christian kingdom, and his people were not Christians.

Meantime, here and there, obscured to the world, there have been true followers of the Lord Jesus Christ in every denomination.  They have been out of accord generally with the great leaders of the church systems as well as with the political leaders of the world.  It has been true of them as the Apostle wrote: “The world knoweth us not, even as it knew Him not.” (I John 3:I)  The world does not yet know, understand or appreciate that the Church of Christ is not to be found in any of the professed churches of various names–Roman, English, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist, etc. The Church of Christ is composed exclusively of those who have made covenant with the Lord through faith in the precious blood, who have been accepted of the Lord by the begetting of the Holy Spirit, and who are seeking to walk to the best of their ability in the footsteps of Jesus. I Peter 2:21.

Heaven, Hell and Purgatory

The theory that Christians only are saved from eternal torture has had much to do with the error of counting all civilized people Christians.  The creeds save Christians only–Jews, Mohammedans, heathen, all go to Hell, to roast eternally.  Roman Catholics provide a Second Chance for members of their church, in Purgatory; and many Protestants hold to a Second Chance for the heathen who have never heard of Christ.  All the while, however, the Bible declares for only one chance, but that a full one for every member of the human family.

The only chance offered during this Gospel Age is the opportunity of becoming a member of the Church–a true follower of Jesus.  Such are to get the Heavenly inheritance, but not until the Resurrection.  The remainder of the world will be offered an earthly future; and this offer will begin with the establishment of Messiah’s Kingdom of a thousand years.

The Bible nowhere teaches that either saints or sinners pass to a conscious condition at death.  The Bible declares that they all “sleep,” and that the awakening time will be at the Second Coming of the Redeemer to establish His Kingdom.  The Fist Resurrection will be the Church, and subsequently “every man in his own order.”  When once the fact is grasped that the Bible Hell is the grave–Sheol, Hades–then all is plain.

The great Divinely arranged Purgatory, to last a thousand years, will be glorious.  All the heathen and the ignorant, superstitious millions of Christendom, who were taught to call themselves Christians, but who knew that they were not, will have the opportunity of coming to a knowledge of the true God and of His gracious provision for them.

As A Man Soweth So Shall He Reap

2770“Fight the good fight of faith; lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.” 1 Tim. 6:12

During this present time the merit of Christ’s righteousness is imputed to the church class in order to permit them to become New Creatures in Christ, of a different order from the world. The sins of those who now leave the world to follow Jesus are covered by the imputation of His sacrificial merit, that they may join Him in sacrifice and thus be accounted worthy to reign with Him in the coming time of blessing for the world the Millennial Age. They are to be a distinctly new creation. This covering of their sins lasts from the time when they become Christians until the end of their journey here below.

During this period each one will have a battle against the downward tendencies of his flesh a severe conflict; and by the close of his earthly life he will have demonstrated to the Lord to what extent he has been loyal and true in the striving against sin; for that which constitutes our battle as children of God, as soldiers of the Cross, is not merely a campaign against error. In times past we have all been under a cloud of error. It is important indeed to have recognized this condition and to have come out into the light of God’s Truth. We are not to minimize the value of correct doctrine. But this is not the main thing; it is only a means to an end. The most important thing is to get rid of sin.

There are errors of mind, of doctrine, of thought, of morals, of character. From childhood all these things had been going on in our life. We did not realize just what they were. As to errors of doctrine, few preached about them. Ministers of the Gospel said nothing about them; in fact, many of the clergy did not recognize these things as errors. But now we see very clearly what the Bible has to say about doctrine. Now we see that God wishes His people to be free from doctrinal errors. But especially does He wish them to be free from any sympathy with sin, unrighteousness, iniquity, injustice.

In other words, God wished His people to be very loyal to the golden rule. This is the first proposition; and to learn this lesson requires sometimes the experience of years. Very many have never practiced justice. They are unjust in their dealings with their families. Husbands deal unjustly with their wives, parents with their children, wives with husbands, and children with parents. With some people injustice would seem to be the rule of life.

But from the time when we become followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, and see how justice is written in the law of God, we begin to perceive that God expects us to observe the golden rule. We should begin to do right in our own families with our parents, our children, our companions in life. This golden rule will affect all the affairs of life. It applies everywhere and in everything. “Do unto others as you would that they should do unto you.” As we learn to consider carefully, in our dealings with others, to do for them and toward them as we would wish them to do for us and toward us, we shall find a great transformation going on within us. Gradually the whole course of life is changed.

GREAT DILIGENCE NECESSARY
If we could get this rule thoroughly worked into our hearts and lives, it would prove to be one of the greatest possible blessings, not only to ourselves, but also to others. No part of God’s instruction to the church is more important than this exhortation to justice. Nothing that He ever does is out of line with absolute justice; and He has invited His people to copy His character-likeness. He wishes us to cultivate and develop in ourselves the great qualities which He possesses and which He has illustrated to us.

There are brethren in Christ who from outward appearance are seemingly not so far advanced as they might be in this respect. Measure not yourselves by the world; for the world does not heed the golden rule. We are not to measure them as we measure ourselves; we are not to expect as much from them. Neither should we measure ourselves by other Christians. (2 Cor. 10:12) Some who are called Christians are only morally inclined people who have never been begotten of the holy Spirit, who have never come into the School of Christ. We appreciate their characters, but we are not to measure ourselves by them. We should measure ourselves only by the Word of our Lord, which asks, “What manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and Godliness?” 2 Pet 3:11

This pointed question of the Apostle Peter implies that the Church of Christ are a special class, different from all other people in the world a peculiar people, as the Apostle Paul puts it not peculiar in dress, but zealous of good works, zealous for everything that is right, laying down their lives for the Truth, in the service of others. Titus 2:14

In other words, God wishes His people to be very loyal to the golden rule. this is the first proposition; and to learn this lesson requires sometimes the experience of years. Very many have never practiced justice. They are unjust in their dealings with their families. Husbands deal unjustly with their wives, parents with their children, wives with husbands, and children with parents. With some people injustice would seem to be the rule of life.

But from the time when we become followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, and see how justice is written in the law of God, we begin to perceive that God expects us to observe the golden rule. We should begin to do right in our own families with our parents, our children, our companions in life. This golden rule will affect all the affairs of life. It applies everywhere and in everything. “Do unto others as you would that they should do unto you.” As we learn to consider carefully, in our dealings with others, to do for them and toward them as we would wish them to do for us and toward us, we shall find a great transformation going on within us. Gradually the whole course of life is changed.

JUSTICE IN THE HOME
We should endeavor not only to say nothing to our families that would injure them, but rather to study to be a blessing to them. And so with our dealings with all. Every human being calls for justice. As followers of Christ, we are to be foremost in exercising justice toward all. There should be nothing less than this in our intentions. If with our heart we are recognizing the golden rule, we shall continually seek to think as generously of our neighbor as we would wish him to think of us, and to speak as kindly of him as we would wish him to speak of us. The principle of doing good to others would be exercised toward all.

Some who seem to be exact in their dealings with the world, who would not keep even one cent back from the person to whom it was due, appear to be very careless in dealing with their loved ones, treating them very unjustly. This should not be. Justice is the foundation of the Throne of God; in practicing the golden rule we become more and more like our Heavenly Father. He does to others only what He would wish them to do to Him. As He would not wish others to roast Him or torture Him, so He does not roast or torture them.

Let us ever keep the golden rule in mind, and it will furnish us with the very essence of the spirit of justice. First and always, let us treat others as we would wish them to treat us. Afterwards, let us do a little more; but let us strive never to come short on this fundamental principle. We should indeed, as Christians, give more than justice, but never less. Love will lead us to do more, even as it led our Lord Jesus. He kept the golden rule inviolate in every instance. He never did less than justice; but He did more, much more. He gave His life for others.

And this is what His followers have engaged to do. This is our covenant. We are to follow the golden rule, and then do more. We are to lay down our lives for the brethren and to do for the world as we have opportunity. This is the Bible thought for Jesus’ disciples. It is one which should appeal to us even from the human standpoint as being the highest ideal of Christian living.

FIGHTING THE GOOD FIGHT
There is no place where we can better learn to rule our own spirit than in our own home. With husband and wife, with parent and child, with brother and sister, the constant practice of the golden rule is an important matter. The battle with self is the greatest battle the Christian must fight; for in it he learns to exercise his will in the right direction in the direction of control of self. It is only after we have conquered self, only after we have become master of our own flesh, only after we have subdued anger, malice, hatred and strife in our own hearts, that we are enabled, by means of these severe battles with our own weaknesses, to assist others, to aid them by our example to overcome their own besetments and infirmities.

No matter where this conflict may begin, we find entrenched within ourselves many armed and opposing powers. These have possession of us by heredity; they are there as the result of Father Adam’s fall. If, when we begin the battle, we have passed the days of youth, these imperfections and weaknesses are all the more strongly entrenched; and it requires the greater conflict to rout them. But he that would win the prize of the high calling must fight the good fight of faith down to the very end of his earthly existence.

This continual battle of the new mind against the fallen flesh is a good fight in the sense that the New Creature is fighting against the weaknesses and besetments of the fallen human nature, against temptations from within and from without, that appeal to us as human beings. It is a fight of faith because the entire course of the New Creature is one of faith; for “we walk by faith, not by sight.” In this battle we could never succeed without aid from on High. Hence, we must watch and pray. We must put on securely “the whole armor of God.” Eph. 6:12-18

INSPIRATION OF GOD’S PROMISES

All of use who have become true followers of Christ have had these thoughts come before our minds. As we progress, we learn better what God wishes for us. When first we gave our hearts to the Lord we did not know all that is included in full consecration. Many things were hidden from the eyes of our understanding. But as we have gone on step by step, the Lord has brought us to the clear realization that we must suffer with Christ. Let us, then, progress along this way of sacrifice sacrificing our lives for the Truth, following in the footsteps of Jesus.

Although we have learned that it is our privilege to sacrifice our lives with Christ, yet the greatest lesson for us to learn is what God is to do for us. He is the One who is doing the really great things. Our hearts are stirred within us by His great and precious promises. We feed upon them and meditate upon them. We are enamored of the things which eye hath not seen nor ear heard.

Thus we grow stronger, taller, as Christians day by day. With our desire to grow ever increasing, we see the necessity for meeting together with others of like precious faith in order to build each other up in the most holy faith. We see the Heavenly things more clearly. Other things pass away from our vision. We see the great basic principles of justice and love, and realize their bearing upon our lives in every respect.

NATURAL TRAITS REQUIRE ATTENTION
We note that after we have made our consecration and have learned that God has justified us freely from all sin through our Lord Jesus Christ, there is a tendency with some of the Lord’s people to violate unintentionally the fundamental principles of justice and love as existent in the Divine character and manifested in the Divine dealings with the people of God. It is not enough that we should have to walk in the ways of the Lord, and that we should recognize the downward tendencies of sin. If we have the spirit of the Lord, we shall be anxious to do right. We shall meditate upon God’s character; and as we see these basic attributes, we shall endeavor to copy them. Thus the work of grace in our hearts will continue and increase, more and more transforming us into the character-likeness of God’s dear Son.

We are not to judge one another in these things, however. “The Lord will judge His people,” according to His knowledge of their abilities. Mercy will be granted for every unintentional defect; but no mercy will be extended toward those things which we could avoid. Whatever ability we possess we are responsible for; and God will hold us responsible if we do not do our best with what we have. Those who are living up to their opportunities and privileges should go on with courage, doing their best, exercising full faith and confidence in the Lord; for He has promised a sufficiency of grace to cover every imperfection. But there is no excuse for any one to live in careless neglect of his duties and responsibilities. Such are not fighting the good fight of faith.

It is the New Creature who will be held responsible for carelessness respecting conduct, for indifference to the requirements of the golden rule and to the additional exercises of love; and it is he who will fail to receive the commendation, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” unless he exercise great care respecting these important matters. God will have none in that special class of overcomers [HGL814] except those who measure fully up to the standard of His requirements. If we are to be the future judges of the world, we must cultivate justice as well as love, so as to be fit to occupy positions of influence and power, in which we shall be able to bless all the families of the earth.

IN THE NEW DISPENSATION
During the Millennial Age, the Lord Jesus will deal with the world. As He declared “All that are in their graves shall hear His voice (‘the voice of the Son of Man’), and shall come forth.” (John 5:25, 28, 29) Those who thus come forth will be the same imperfect beings that they were when they died. Justice will turn them over to Christ imperfect just as they went down into death. The lifting up to human perfection of all who are willing and obedient will be the work of the incoming age. The lower down they were, the more steps will they be required to take in order to climb up to perfection. Some will have much more to overcome than will others. But in every case the test will be the same.

The Messianic reign will be the world’s judgment day. As the Master said, it will be more tolerable in that day for those who during this life had less opportunity than it will be for those who had more. (Matt. 11:20-24) The latter class will come forth more tainted in mind, weaker in character, less inclined to hearken and obey; whereas those who had not heard the message of God’s love will be all the more inclined to give heed. The judgment day will be a tolerable time for all mankind, but more tolerable for those who have never before heard and have never known.

Confucius, for example, will come forth in the Messianic Kingdom, and will be a towering giant morally amongst the people in that day. Many who see him will be surprised at what a strong character he will be a heathen man, who lived without our opportunities, who heard no church bells, who attended no church services. As they behold him, some will say, “If only we had availed ourselves of the privileges and opportunities that we had, we might have attained a place even amongst the glorified saints in Heaven.” But when they consider themselves in the light of their past lives, they will conclude that they are in their proper position; and, stimulated by the example of various worthy characters, as well as encouraged by the assistance afforded them at that time, they will strive to progress as rapidly as possible. Gradually they will learn the rules of the Kingdom the laws of righteousness, based upon justice and love. Those who are willing and obedient will attain unto life everlasting; but the unwilling and disobedient will be cut off in the second death.

How Jesus Preached To The Spirits In Prison

preaching in hell“Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the Just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened in the spirit, by which (two experiences–death and resurrection) he preached unto the spirits in prison.” – 1 Peter 3:18, 19.

This text has been made the basis for some peculiar presentations.  From it some have deduced an intermediate state lasting between death and the resurrection.  Others have claimed it as an authority for the doctrine of Purgatory.  The difficulty in every case seems  to be the failure to remember that the Bible always and everywhere teaches that the dead are really dead, that they know nothing, and that, therefore, it would be impossible to do any preaching to the dead humans.  Undoubtedly the theory that people are more alive after they die than when they were alive, is responsible for nearly all the foolish things which we have all at some time professed to believe.

Before dismissing the thought that these “spirits in prison” are human spirits, let us note the fact that to say, “human spirits,” is an absurdity of itself, because human beings are not spirits, and spirit beings are not humans.  “Who maketh His angels spirits” is the Scriptural proposition.  True, we do sometimes speak of humans as possessing a spirit of life, but by this we merely mean that they possess the power or energy of life, and the same would be equally true of the lower orders of creation, beasts, fish, fowl, etc.

Again we sometimes speak of the Church as spirit beings–begotten of the Holy Spirit.  Thus the Apostle speaks of the natural man in contrast with the New Creature, a spirit being.  To appreciate this statement we must remember that the Church class receives the begetting of the holy Spirit to the end that, if faithful, they may attain unto a spirit resurrection and become spirit beings, like unto the angels and like to the Redeemer.  But we are not spirits yet, except by faith–by hope. However, the context shows that the Apostle had no reference to the Church, either; we were not in prison; we received the Message of salvation through the Apostles.

Spirits Once Disobedient

The spirits to whom the message was given had proven themselves disobedient, says St. Peter.  He even tells us the time of their disobedience, namely, that it was “in the days of Noah, while the ark was preparing.”  Surely, if noticing these particulars mentioned in the context, no one would be excusable for misunderstanding this Scripture and considering it in any way applicable to humanity of our day or to humanity in general.   However, it is helpful to us to learn the full particulars of the matter.  What was their disobedience, and when and how were they imprisoned?

Turning to Genesis 6:1-5, we find there the cause of the disobedience of those angels, who for a time had been permitted to see what they could do for the uplift of humanity, or, rather, permitted to demonstrate that the downward tendency of sin is incurable except in the manner which God has already arranged for through Messiah and His glorious reign of a thousand years.

Instead of those angels helping mankind out of sin they helped themselves into sin, and by so doing they increased the depravity amongst humanity, until the astounding record is that “the wickedness of man was great in the earth,  and that every imagination of the thought of his heart was only evil continually.”  The particular sin of those angels was that when they were granted the privilege of materializing–or taking human bodies for the sake of helping and instructing mankind–they misused this power and took to themselves the daughters of men for wives.

These angels came gradually to prefer to live as men amongst men, and to rear earthly families, rather than to abide in the condition in which they were created–spirit beings, higher than humans.  Not only was this wrong in the sense that it was taking a course in opposition to the Divine arrangement, but it was wrong also because the thing was done for the cultivation and gratification of lust, and it led to their own moral defilement as well as having a baneful influence upon humanity; for we can readily see that for the angels, of superior powers and intelligence, to become leaders in lustful practices would mean a great influence upon mankind toward sin and defilement of mind and body.

We are particularly told that the offspring of this improper union between the angels and the daughters of men were giants, both physically and mentally superior to the fallen human family–“men of renown.”  And this statement, that they were “men of renown,” was at a time when manhood’s estate was reached at a hundred years, and implies that God did not interfere to hinder or stop the progress of sin for perhaps several centuries.  In the meantime, the race had become so corrupt that apparently only Noah and his family were uncontaminated–all others had more or less come under the influence, directly or indirectly of these fallen angels or their giant sons.  Hence, of Noah it was written (not that he was a perfect man, but), “Now Noah was perfect in his generation” (uncontaminated) and his family apparently the same.  Hence these alone were saved in the ark, while all the remainder, more or less contaminated, were destroyed by the flood.

“In Chains of Darkness.”

It was then and there that God imprisoned those spirits, angels, who kept not their first estate, and are, therefore, called fallen angels, devils, demons.  They were not imprisoned in some far-off world called hell, nor are they engaged there in stoking fires for the torture of poor humanity.  Following the leading of the Scriptures we find that when the flood came they were not destroyed, because, while their fleshly bodies which they assumed might indeed perish, yet they would merely dematerialize, or assume their spirit conditions again.

The record is that God cast them down, that He condemned them to an overthrow–that they might not any longer associate with the holy angels, but must be reserved in tartaroo–our earth’s atmosphere.  Here they were imprisoned, not in a special place, but in the sense of having their liberties restrained,  in chains of darkness.”  They were no longer permitted to materialize, and thus to associate with humanity. These things are distinctly told us by St. Jude and St. Peter (Jude 6; 2 Peter 2:4, 5)–an explanation in full harmony with the Genesis account of their fall.

Once Disobedient–Still Disobedient

We, of course, cannot know that all of those fallen angels are still in a disloyal condition of heart.  On the contrary, in harmony with our text, we may suppose that some of these fallen angels have since repented of their wrong course, and it would be none too strong a way to state the matter–that any such repentant ones would surely have terrible experiences as a result.  To be obliged to be in close touch and relationship with the more evil and malignant ones, and to have knowledge of all. their evil designs and efforts, would be a terrible experience, and, besides this, we may be sure that the rebellious would not hesitate to persecute the repentant ones in every conceivable manner, as they would be lawless, regardless of the Divine will.

On the other hand, the repentant ones would be obliged to restrain themselves and to not render evil for evil, knowing that this would be contrary to the Divine will.  In other words, repentant ones amongst those fallen spirits, influenced by the preaching of Jesus, or otherwise, would have a kind of purgatorial experience, and the very thought calls forth our sympathy.

When imprisoned or cut off from the privilege of materialization, many of the fallen spirits, we know not what proportion, continued their active opposition to God, after the manner of Satan.  Hence they are spoken of as his angels, his messengers, his servants, and he is spoken of as Beelzebub, the Prince of Demons.  Satan, who sinned much earlier than the others, and in a different way, the Scriptures tell us was an angel of a higher rank, or a higher nature, and this superiority of his has made him the Prince or ruler over the hosts of fallen spirits.

Fighting Against God

The fight of Satan and his fallen angels is against God, against all who are in harmony with Him, against all the regulations of righteousness, and against all the channels and servants whom the Lord may use. St. Paul’s words along this line are forceful; he remarks that God’s people contend not merely “with flesh and blood,” but also “with wicked spirits in high positions,” and the question arises, “Who is sufficient for these things?”  The reply is that none is sufficient; without the aid of the Redeemer, His Church would be quite overcome and vanquished by evil.

Likewise, without the Redeemer’s aid through His Kingdom, without the binding of Satan, without our Lord’s releasing of the world from the bondage of sin and death, there would be no hope of the world’s recovery from its present bondage.  But with the Apostle we  exclaim, “If God be for us, who can be against us?”—Romans 5:31

Through Mediums and Obsessions

Satan’s original plan of attack was to bring our race under his influence by misrepresentation–by putting darkness for light and light for darkness–for instance, the temptation under which Mother Eve fell. Satan there represented himself as Eve’s friend, giving her sound advice.  He represented God as having a selfish motive behind His command that our first parents should not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  Satan declared that God had told an untruth when He said that the penalty for sin would be death.  Satan declared that man cannot die.

And has he not since kept up the same line of falsification? And has he not deceived the whole world upon this very subject?  Do not all peoples in every land believe that when a man dies he does not die, but gets more alive–exactly Satan’s lie of the first instance? How few have believed God, even amongst His people who truly love Him, and who truly desire to believe the teachings of His Word’.  We have all been under a kind of “hoodoo.”  “The god of this world (Satan) hath blinded” our minds on this subject.  We are now coming to see that death is the penalty for sin, and that the resurrection is the salvation which God has promised and will provide.

Satan has had powerful allies and servants in the fallen angels, and it is through their persistence that his lie has triumphed over the Divine Word of Truth–“Dying, thou shalt die.”  These fallen spirits have made various manifestations in every land for centuries, and thereby have apparently substantiated the theory that a dead man is more alive than when he was alive.  Knowing that mankind would have nothing to do with them if their real personality were known, they hide their personality, and represent themselves as our dead friends who desire to speak with us, either directly or through mediums.

A further desire of these angels is to obsess or to get possession of a human being.  Being chained, or restrained from the privilege of materialization, the next most desirable thing, in their estimation, is to gain control over a human being, and to use his body instead of their own.  This is styled obsession, and persons so afflicted today are sent to an insane asylum, where, it is estimated, they constitute at least one-half of the entire number.  In the days of our Lord these were not mistakenly supposed to be insane, but rightly declared to be obsessed. All remember the New Testament account that our Saviour and His Apostles cast out fallen spirits from humanity.

“Know Ye Not That the Saints Shall Judge Angels?”

We need not discuss this question with Bible students, for it is too well recognized to be disputed.  We suggest a topical study of this subject by all of our readers.  See how many times Jesus and the Apostles cast out demons, and note the particulars.  Although we still have with us spirit mediums, and many obsessed, we cannot know whether the proportionate number is greater or fewer than in our Lord’s day.  Since the world’s population today is so much larger, the same number of evil spirits (which do not increase) would show proportionately less.  But, however that may be, we may assume that some fruitage resulted from the great sermons preached to these in connection with the death and resurrection of our Lord, respecting which St. Peter tell. us in our text. Additionally, St. Paul remarks, “Know ye not that the saints shall judge angels?”  (1 Cor. 6:3)  We do know that the holy angels need no judging, no trial, hence the Apostle must in some way refer to a trial or judgment or testing of these spirits in prison who were once disobedient, in the days of Noah.  And if the judgment or testing is a part of the Divine plan, it implies a hope for them, and in conjunction with St. Peter’s statement in our text it gives the reasonable inference that the preaching which Jesus did to them was not wholly in vain.

How Jesus Preached in Death

Here arises another question:  If Jesus was really dead, as the Scriptures declare, if “He poured out His soul unto death,” and “made His soul an offering for sin,” and His soul was not raised from the dead until the third day after His crucifixion, how could He in the meantime preach to spirits in prison, or to anybody else?  We reply that He could preach in the same way that the Apostle refers to, saying, “He, being dead; yet speaketh” (Heb. 11:4); and again, in the same way that the blood of Abel is said to have cried to God figuratively.  Of one thing we are sure, namely, that Jesus gave no oral address while He was dead. He preached in the way we sometimes refer to when we say, “Actions speak louder than words.”

It was the great object lesson which the fallen angels saw that constituted to them the great sermon that gave them a ground for hope.  On several occasions the fallen spirits, when commanded to come out of human beings, declared that they knew Jesus.  In the long ago they had known Him, when, as the Only Begotten of the Father, and His Representative, He had created them and all things that are made, and was also the Mouth-piece for all Divine orders and regulations.  They realized that He had come into the world to be its Redeemer; they perceived the great stoop that He had made from His lofty position on the heavenly plane to the servant position on the human plane.  They admired His loyalty and faithfulness to God, but doubtless believed Him to be foolish; they never expected Him to rise from the dead.  But when they perceived His resurrection on the third day, to glory, honor and immortality, “far above angels, principalities and powers and every name that is named,” His sermon to them was complete, namely, that “the wages of sin is death,” but that “the gift of God is eternal life.”  (Rom. 6:23)  And as they realized thus the power of God and the love of God for His human creatures, the Apostle’s words imply that this constituted to them a message of hope.  Perhaps if they would show full contrition God eventually would have mercy upon them, even as He had had mercy and had provided for humanity.

The lesson is one for all.  God’s power is Infinite, so is His love, His mercy, His goodness.  Nevertheless, every willful sin will have its punishment, a just recompense of reward, and only the willing and obedient shall have the Divine favor and everlasting life.  Let each apply the lesson to himself.