"We are not ignorant of his devices."—2 Cor. 2:11.
When we mention Satan's snares for the "feet" of the Christ, we of course do not refer to literal snares, but to doctrinal ones; nor to the literal feet of our Lord, but to his symbolic feet—the last living members of the elect church not yet glorified. Nor will any expect to see Satan personally preaching or publishing deceiving errors: on the contrary, Satan's devices and snares are operated by men; and as far as he can manage it so, by moral men, or such as have, or have had, some character or standing in connection with the cause of Christ. And indeed some who are his active servants are totally unaware of the fact, and are themselves deceived by his devices, as the Apostle suggests. (2 Tim. 3:13.) Nevertheless, his servants you are to whom you render service. (Rom. 6:16.) As an illustration of those who betray the truth from bad, selfish motives, consider Judas, who betrayed the Lord for thirty pieces of silver. Woe unto that man and all like him: it had been better for such never to have been born; for such a life proves a miserable failure.
As illustrations of those who served Satan ignorantly, consider Peter and Paul. Peter became Satan's agent and mouthpiece unwittingly when, neglecting to be humble and to remember that he was to be taught of the Lord and not to attempt to be his instructor, he began to try to persuade the Lord not to yield himself as the sin-offering. (Matt. 16:23.) And our Lord's answer shows that he regarded Peter for the moment as the unintentional servant of Satan, whose bad counsel, if followed, would have been a violation of his covenant. Paul, too, was a child of God, a Pharisee of the strictest sect, jealous for God's law and devoted to its service at the very time that he was actually in Satan's service and opposing God's plan by persecuting the church of Christ. He was blinded by false religious teaching and thus got into Satan's service; and yet, as he tells us, at that very time when he was so actively serving Satan, he verily thought that he was serving God. In both of these instances (and we believe it will be so in every instance where the motives are right and only the head at fault), the Lord had mercy upon them because they did Satan's work ignorantly; and as an evidence and means of mercy he rebuked them sharply and painfully. Had they not been honest, humble men they would not have received the Lord's rebukes as they did, but would have endeavored somehow to justify themselves and their fellows and would ultimately have gotten farther and farther away into error instead of becoming, as they thereafter did, the mightiest of his servants. Therefore, as the Apostle exhorts, if any find himself in error, instead of attempting to justify it and prove it right, let him remember the Apostle's words: "Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time."—1 Pet. 5:6.
We have given this sketch of what it is to be a servant of Satan, in order that we may not be misunderstood when referring to Satan's devices now, in our day. We do not attempt to say which of those whom Satan is now using are used ignorantly, like Peter and Paul, nor which may be entering heartily into the work of seducing the body of Christ with a kiss of feigned love into the power and service of the enemy. God alone knoweth the heart; and the Lord, not we, must judge of the motives prompting the action. Nor can we determine the measure of guilt and the punishment due for it in individual cases; but it is the duty of each one of God's children to judge for himself according to God's Word as to what is truth and what is error; and it is the duty of each to the extent of his ability to help others to see the truth, discern the error and stand firmly upon the Word of God and not be removed by the traditions and [R1218 : page 3] theories of men, which, as snares, on every hand, the enemy is causing to be spread for the "feet" of Christ. Satan must be regarded as the real foe, the real instigator of the errors, no matter who is his willing or ignorant agent.
This has at first a charming sound to those whose minds are just liberated from the narrow views of "Orthodoxy." The impulse of all is to say, "Praise God for all his gracious plan." If he has declared in his Word that all men shall be everlastingly saved, who could desire to have it otherwise? So say we all. We want to know, however, that it is God's Word and plan that we are building on, and not merely the generous impulses of our own hearts.
Believing a thing or disbelieving it will not affect the facts, and we want something more than fancy as a basis for faith. We have learned, too, or should have done so, if we are Christians of development and experience, that our ways and thoughts are not always God's ways and thoughts; and therefore we need to submit our ideas of justice and wisdom to God's ideas, as expressed in his Word.
Well, let us see what God says on this subject. And let us remember that God speaks to us of the principles of righteousness by his own conduct, as well as by the word of his inspired servants in the Bible.
But before examining what the Lord has to say on the subject, let each ask himself, "Am I perfectly willing to look at the matter just as the Lord presents it?" If his Word shows that all will be saved everlastingly would we accept it gladly and teach it? Or would we combat it and endeavor to twist the words of inspiration to the contrary. And, on the other hand, if his Word shows that all will not be saved everlastingly, what then? Will we with equal cheerfulness accept the justice and love of God as far higher and wiser than ours, and esteem our contrary ideas as erroneous misconceptions? Or will we try to force our ideas into the Scriptures and to twist and turn all the contrary passages to meet our ideas?
In approaching God's Word in the study of these or any questions, it is the same as though we approached him in prayer. To obtain our request it must be the heart's desire. Our own will and preference must be dead and buried, so that we shall have no other desire than to hear God's Word and make it ours. Let each one prayerfully do this before going further in this investigation.
(1)—"We trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, specially of those that believe."—1 Tim. 4:10.
(2)—"Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth."—1 Tim. 2:4.
(3)—"Therefore, as through the offense [sin] of one sentence came upon all men to condemnation; even so, through the righteousness of one, the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life."—Rom. 5:18.
(4)—"That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."—Rom. 5:21.
(5)—"For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive."—1 Cor. 15:22.
(6)—"The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ, our Lord."—Rom. 6:23.
(7)—"The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death."—1 Cor. 15:26.
We can find no other statements than these, throughout the entire Bible, to even give a color of truth to the claim that the Bible is full of it. And remember that all that can be said on that subject aside from what can be built reasonably and logically upon these statements of the Bible is merely deceptive sophistry and not in any sense the Word of God's testimony.
Now let us examine these statements which some claim as ground for the inference that God's revealed plan is that all men are to be saved everlastingly. Is the inference tenable under critical examination? Let us look at each statement in order with its context, and see just what it means and settle once and forever whether any of them support such an inference, even.
We say, settle it, because a condition of uncertainty is not a condition of faith. And it is our duty to have settled convictions of truth, convictions so rooted and grounded in God's Word that we cannot be moved therefrom.—See Col. 1:23; 1 Pet. 5:10.
(1)—This text shows clearly two classes of saved ones, the first, "all men," including the last, those who "believe," who are specially saved. All men, we know, lost life in Adam; and according to God's plan our Lord Jesus tasted death for every man; and therefore, in due time (either in the Gospel age or in the Millennial age) all shall be saved or delivered from that lost condition of hopeless condemnation, by being brought to a knowledge of Christ's redemptive work and the reconciliation and restitution thereby made possible for them. Each is thus made safe—saved from the condemnation to destruction which Adam's sin brought upon all. We who now accept of God's plan in Christ speak of ourselves properly as saved now; we are brought back into God's favor and recognition (in Christ, our Mediator); and according to God's promise and provision, all who become obedient to the Son of God shall be specially or lastingly safe. On such the second death shall have no power. Thus seen, this statement signifies that God saves all men from the loss experienced by all in Adam's fall, and will make that salvation special or lasting to those who believe. The word believe here does not signify to give general assent or have a knowledge; for all shall know of God, from the least to the greatest. The Greek word here rendered believe is pistos and its signification is trusty and trusting. Thus it is to the trusty and trusting ones that God shall work out special or lasting salvation. Nothing in this text, therefore, teaches the everlasting salvation of all.
(2)—The second text above quoted is in the same line exactly as the first. It recognizes, first of all, that men are lost, and thus agrees with our Lord's words that he "came to seek and to save [recover, restore] that which was lost," referring back directly to the failure of Adam and the condemnation to death and fall from perfection there brought upon all men. Next it shows what God's will is with reference to those lost ones: He wills that they shall be recovered from that lost or cast-off condition into which all fell through Adam's sin, and that they each and all shall come to a clear, full knowledge of the truth—that they shall come to see clearly what sin is and what its penalty is, death; and what righteousness is and what its reward is, life. Because this was God's will, he made provision for carrying it out. How? By providing in the sacrifice of Christ a ransom-price for Adam and all that was lost. But was any everlasting thing lost? Evidently not; its being lost, proved that Adam's life was not everlasting life. And the saving or restoring of men back to life and to favor and harmony with God (all that was lost) evidently is not, therefore, the giving of everlasting life. The everlasting continuance of the restored life depends upon the everlasting obedience of the restored beings—just as it did with Adam. Hence, God's further [R1218 : page 4] provision is, that after thus saving men from Adamic death he will have all men come to a full knowledge of the truth. And as they thus come to a knowledge of the truth, their responsibility toward it increases, and thus the knowledge brings trial or testing. And as Adam was tested, each one saved from the Adamic condemnation is to be tested and finally proved worthy or unworthy of life. Those ("the elect") found worthy under the severe trials of the present age will, at the close of this age, receive life in its highest form—inherent life, Immortality, as partakers of the divine nature. At the end of the Millennial age, all who shall pass their trial successfully will be confirmed in their possession of life everlastingly, while those not found worthy, and therefore not written in the book of life, will be destroyed. This destruction is symbolically termed the lake of fire, and is called the second death, because they had already been rescued through the ransom from the first or Adamic death; and thus their destruction then, as the penalty of their own sin, is distinguished from the first death or destruction in which all shared and from which it was God's will to save all through Christ. We find nothing here to teach the everlasting salvation of all men.
(3)—This text refers to how all of our race come under the dominion of sin and its penalty, death: not willingly, neither by any fault on God's part, but by the transgression, offense or disobedience of Adam.
It shows, also, how God arranged that through the obedience of Christ even unto death, on behalf of all, all might be justified to life. And it is to grant all men a full opportunity to attain unto a justification (or merit) of lasting life, that God has made the provision so ample, first by saving or ransoming all from the power of the [R1219 : page 4] grave; and second, by bringing all to the fullest knowledge of the truth. And the Millennial reign of Christ is not only the period in which this full, clear knowledge is to reach the masses of men, but it is the period of judgment, or trial, (Acts 17:31) to see how many, under fullest favor and greatest possible opportunity consistent with righteousness, will attain unto justification (merit) of LIFE EVERLASTING. We find nothing therefore in this text to teach the everlasting salvation of all men.
(4)—This text is a continuation of the thought of the foregoing one (3). The Apostle here contrasts the reign of sin and death during the 6000 years of the permission of evil, with the coming 1000 years reign of righteousness and life. The tendency of the reign of sin was always unto death: and so, too, the tendency of the reign of righteousness will always be unto life. But even as now sin does not reign in all (Rom. 6:12), so that some now, in heart, pass from death unto life notwithstanding the reign of sin and death, so in the future (as indicated by the contrast), though the reign of righteousness and tendency toward life will affect all, some then will pass from the general condition and in heart will be disaffected. And in the end of that trial—in the harvest of the Millennial age—a testing will take place which will clearly manifest all who at heart are opposed to the perfect law of God. And such shall "be destroyed from among the people."—Acts 3:23; Rev. 20:9.
(5)—Adam was appointed to be the father (life-giver) of the human family; but losing his right to life himself, when he disobeyed God, he has been unable to carry out his commission to fill or people the earth; for, like himself, all his progeny are dying men instead of living men. Had God created two head men or fathers and had only one of these sinned, then only that race in the sinful head or father would have died with him because of his disobedience. All should see how, in what manner, all men are in Adam, and therefore die. This should be clearly seen before going farther in the study of this text, because it is even so, that all in Christ are to be made alive. No man can be made alive in Christ or through Christ except by coming into him and through him. There is no other way to come to life and no other name given than his. When the knowledge of the Lord fills the earth and all come to an understanding of the truth, they will see that "He that hath the Son hath life, and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life"—hath no right to or promise of life. (1 John 5:12; John 3:36.) All who would have life in that age must become children of Christ, begotten of truth. (Isa. 9:6.) And just as all in Adam died, lost life, even so with all in Christ, they shall all be made alive—reach a state or condition of perfection and freedom from death. Surely nothing in this text teaches that all will be kept alive everlastingly.
(6)—This text not only shows that everlasting life is a boon, a favor, a special gift, but it teaches that there are certain limitations surrounding it. It is not common or given away regardlessly, but under the limitations and conditions of the New Covenant. It is given only through Jesus Christ, our Lord, the Mediator of that New Covenant. Thus again we are reminded that only all in Christ shall be made alive, and all not in him "shall not see life."—John 3:36.
The remainder of this text should never be forgotten, either. The entire verse declares that God is willing to give the gift of life everlasting only to those who accept it in and through Christ and on the condition of worthiness of everlasting life, which he as the appointed judge shall decide at the close of the Millennial age, the general trial or judgment day. For all others than those who accept the gift upon the proffered terms—righteousness—God declares he will pay the proper wages of sin—death. Surely nothing in this text teaches that all will be everlastingly saved.
(7)—The thought here is the same as in the foregoing text. We were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, hence in his due time the power of death over us shall be broken. To this end the Millennial reign of Christ has been appointed. During that age one after another of the curses and evils of the present time will be destroyed—most of them at the beginning of that reign, in the great time of trouble by which it shall be introduced. The one enemy which shall longest have a footing is Adamic death. It will continue to have a measure of power until near the close of the Millennium—not that people will then sicken and die as now, through weaknesses inherited; but though mankind will be getting stronger mentally, morally and physically, and nearer perfection and life, as they conform to the rules and regulations of the New Covenant, yet as any imperfection of mind or body is so much of death, it is evident that in this respect this Adamic death will be the last enemy to be banished and destroyed; for its last taint will not be gone until there is not one of the human family imperfect or in any manner under the control of Adamic death. If any are in death then, it will not be because of inherited weakness, but because of wilful sin of their own. And God does not offer any degree of life to such.
Adamic death is classed as an "enemy" because it has a hold upon some who are already reconciled to God by the death of his Son. And many others, also, who will become reconciled when brought to the full knowledge of the truth, are held by it and hindered from full harmony and communion with God and full obedience to his laws of righteousness. For this reason the ransom was provided and all are released; for God is not willing that any creature of his who desires good should be held back, or to any degree hindered from the same. God wills, therefore, that Adamic death shall be destroyed and that all shall go free from that sentence and that all shall have full knowledge and an individual trial for life.
The death which will come upon some (few, we trust and believe), as the result of their own wilful sins against clear light, will not be an enemy in God's sight, but the honorable servant of righteousness, executing the just decree of the King of kings. Nor will it be the enemy of any of those in harmony with God who will rejoice to see his will done in cleansing the universe from all whose ways are an abomination in the sight of God and all the lovers of righteousness.—Rev. 21:8.
The trial in the end of that age is briefly stated in Psa. 1:5. "The ungodly shall not be able to stand in the judgment [they will fall] nor sinners [be permitted to continue] in the congregation of the righteous." It will be an everlasting blessing to all the righteous that the wicked will not be everlastingly perpetuated. And the second death, which will cut them off from life forever, will be the friend of God and of righteousness and of all in harmony with these. So, then, the "enemy," death, that Christ will destroy during the Millennium, will be Adamic death, and this text can in no sense or degree be used as a proof of the everlasting salvation of all.—Isa. 25:8.
(8)—This text also refers to the Adamic death. This is clearly discernible from the context. (1 Cor. 15:12-18,26.) It therefore is no proof whatever that the restitution standing, given to all in Christ, will be maintained in the trial of the Millennial judgment and forever. This passage the Apostle quotes from Isa. 25:8. It is a pen picture of the blessings to be accomplished during (not after) Christ's reign of a thousand years. Verse 6 refers to the mountain or kingdom of Christ, in which God shall provide a feast of blessings for all mankind. Verse 7 declares that the shame (sinful weaknesses) of all and the shade (sorrow, gloom—"vail") of all shall be swallowed up in the blessings of that day. Verse 8 declares that even death itself shall yield to the powers of that King and the laws of his kingdom, and all tears shall be wiped away (just as the Book of Revelation also pictures it), and then to be of the Lord's people will no longer bring reproaches and dishonor and persecution. Thus, in this as in every place, the Lord does most positively declare his intention to utterly destroy Adamic death, from which his death ransomed all—it "shall be rendered powerless" to hold any back from obedience and life; it shall be no more, when all are thus freed from its condemnation and bondage and given full liberty and choice of life as Adam had before his condemnation.
But notice that it is not the Second Death which is here or anywhere represented as being destroyed, but the death whose baneful influence was spread over all people—the Adamic death. Note also that this death being destroyed by the release of all out of it would not hinder any so released from dying the second death as the penalty for their own wilful sins, when on trial. On the contrary, chapter 26, continuing the same picture of the Millennial reign, indicates that the second death will be the just retribution for wilful sinners. Verses 7-9 show that the way of the upright and the path of the just will be made level, and they shall delight therein; for it is what their souls longed for even in the night of sin. Such shall seek the Lord early in that Millennial morning, and all the inhabitants of earth will learn perfectly what righteousness is and what are its rewards. Yet verse 10 shows (just as Matt. 25:41-46 and Rev. 20:10 and many other passages do) that even then, with fullest knowledge, some will not learn (to love) righteousness. In the land of uprightness (Christ's Kingdom) will he deal unjustly, and will not recognize the majesty of the Lord's law. Lord, when thy hand is raised high they shall not see: oh! that they might see thy zeal for the people and be ashamed; yea, the fire shall devour them, thine enemies.
Not only do all of God's promises attest this to be his plan, but all of his arrangements and dealings agree to the same testimony. He condemned all through one man's disobedience (and gave all an experience with sin) in order that he might have mercy upon all through another one. And his provision of mercy is that the one who redeemed them shall establish a reign of righteousness in the world and grant to all the fullest knowledge of it and its workings, that thus their previous knowledge of sin and its workings may be offset by an equal knowledge of righteousness and its results, in order to a full, fair trial of each individual, to prove whether he prefers the fruits of the spirit—meekness, gentleness, patience, love; or whether he still has sympathy with the evil disposition which led to all the present woe, and which if permitted to work would lead to similar results again, viz.: pride, envy, selfishness. The tests which the Lord will provide will, we may be sure, be equal to the emergency. In the close of the thousand years reign of Christ, when men have reached perfection of being and when they have full knowledge of right and wrong, Satan will be permitted a measure of liberty (having been restrained during that reign) in order to test these so highly blessed, to prove which of them are worthy of everlasting life. None are worthy of that great gift and none will get it except those who, when possessed of all that knowledge and ability which all by that time will have attained, will stand the test of God's perfect law. And it is in order to give that test that Satan will be granted "a little season" of permission to deceive and thus to test all. It will not be a deception as to what is right and what wrong, but they will be deceived into supposing that they would not be interfered with or punished for the wrong. Just such was mother Eve's deception: she knew all along what God had forbidden and that disobedience would be sin, and that God had pronounced the penalty of death against sin. Her deception did not therefore lessen her guilt, and evidently consisted in supposing that God either could not or would not inflict the penalty pronounced.
Because of the inexperience of his creatures and their little knowledge of [R1220 : page 5] him and of the wisdom and justice of his laws against sin and all disobedience, God provided a redemption from all the evil results of that transgression and has arranged to give each of them a fresh trial for everlasting life, so that even the experience of that transgression and fall shall be valuable to the groaning creation when the time for their trial individually in Christ's kingdom shall come. But how different it will be in the close of the Millennium. The very knowledge and experience lacked in the first trial will be theirs, with the same perfections of mind and body, and hence that test will be final. If they do not hate sin, if they have the least sympathy with it, after all their experiences with it and its results, if they do not love righteousness and its blessings so that they delight in it, they are not in heart union with God and would be unfit to graduate into the ages of glory to follow where no sin nor any who love sin in any degree will be permitted to enter.
Get the thought clearly in mind, that God's mercy in Christ consists in redeeming and restoring to the race all that was lost in Adam. Ask yourself whether Adam possessed and lost everlasting life. If he had possessed everlasting life, he could not have died. What then did he possess, and what did he lose, and what does Christ propose to restore to all?
We answer, Adam possessed life in a perfect degree and had the promise of its everlasting continuance if he stood trial successfully. (And we have no reason to suppose that he would have been tried no more if that one trial of the forbidden fruit had been passed successfully. We believe that, before passing Adam into an everlasting condition, God would have given increasing tests of obedience with increasing knowledge until the test of fidelity would be complete). Adam, therefore, perfect but inexperienced, was enjoying a trial for lasting life, the results of which, if successful, would have proved him worthy of life everlastingly, and if unsuccessful would prove him unworthy of life, worthy of death. This trial was cut short, all share in God's offer of life as a reward of obedience was lost, and the sentence to death was incurred, by the act of disobedience. By paying the fine or sentence (death), for Adam and all in him, our Lord Jesus secured for all men a renewal of the trial, a renewal of the offer of lasting life to the obedient. In securing for all another trial or opportunity for proving themselves worthy of life everlasting, our Lord Jesus redeemed for the whole race, by his own blood (death), the very thing lost. To enable men to stand trial under the most favorable conditions possible, the Redeemer will make known his salvation to all, and will restore to perfection all who desire life, gradually, during the Millennium, schooling and disciplining them the while, so that before their (second) test shall have passed, they shall not only be perfect in powers, but perfect in knowledge and experience also.
Nor should we judge of the Lord's methods and laws by the standards adopted among fallen men, which permit all to live whose liberty would not be dangerous to society. The ideas of fallen men, upon what is a good condition of society and safe laws for its regulation and upon who would be fit to enjoy its blessings and be considered a good member of it, are very different from God's view of the same. (Isa. 55:9.) And among men the standard of good differs greatly. Some would class all who refrain from murder, profanity, liquor and tobacco as good and worthy to go beyond the Millennium and have everlasting life. Others would be more exacting and would suggest that in addition all filthiness of the flesh must be put away, all evil speaking and malice, and that tempers must be controlled, if the fair perfection of God's Kingdom would be maintained and his promise realized that there shall be no more sorrow or pain.
But, dearly beloved, even this last estimate falls far short of the perfection of heart that God will require of all who shall pass into the everlasting condition beyond the Millennium. It will be for the good and everlasting happiness of all who shall enjoy the everlasting conditions he is preparing for those who love him, that he will demand perfection, of all who shall enter it. And not only perfection in outward conduct, but perfection of heart—every desire and plan and thought, as well as every act and word, must be fully subjected to the Lord's plans and wishes, which are perfect.
We realize this when we come to a full appreciation of God's law, under which all will be tested. Our Lord explained that grand law—so just and perfect and good (Rom. 7:12)—when he declared that it was briefly comprehended in one word, Love; and it is of two parts: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy mind, with all thy being and with all thy strength;—and thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." Ah! how grandly perfect that law. How perfectly safe it will be to introduce beyond the Millennium, into the everlasting state, such of the then perfectly restored race as shall be heartily in accord with that grand law of Love. In hearts where such loyalty to God controls, no room for ambition such as Satan manifested will be found, seeking to usurp authority and honor. (Isa. 14:14.) In such hearts no strife to be greatest will find place; and no disposition to rule over or be served by another, but rather in honor to prefer one another. And such even as would prefer the present unequal conditions of wealth and poverty, princedom and serfdom, and who would not greatly prefer the new state of general blessing and equality, would, by that law of Love, be condemned as unworthy of everlasting life and worthy of the second death. Such, if permitted to live, would be dangerous to the future good and liable, if an opportunity were ever presented, to establish for the future an aristocracy and caste, contrary to the laws of God's Kingdom and a continual menace to the joy and blessing and peace of all his perfect creatures.
For some the above examination of the Scripture testimony on this subject will be quite sufficient. They will see that it is God's word and they will want no other way or plan than his. Loving God with all their hearts, and with all their minds, they will permit no will or thought of their own to oppose his. And many, if not all such, will at once see the reasonableness of God's arrangement as presented and the unreasonableness of any other, and thus their loyalty to God and to his plan will be rewarded by clearness of mental vision. To thus see clearly the why and wherefore and the grand outcome of the Lord's plan was not the privilege of God's saints in past centuries; but those who could not then see clearly all the reasons and the results were blessed in holding on to the first principles of the gospel—that sin is a terrible thing in God's sight, that the ransom given by our Lord was needful, and that all released by him must fully conform their wills to his laws if they would have the everlasting life promised. Now, however, God is preparing his people, forearming them, as it were, for the great conflict between truth and error, which his word declares is due to take place in the close of this age. Increase of knowledge and awakening increase of thought upon all subjects bring increased thought upon God's revelation of his will and plan. The crumbling of long cherished errors of every sort tends to shake confidence in everything that is [R1221 : page 5] old, and God therefore prepares his faithful ones by granting increased knowledge of his will and plan. This in symbol is aptly termed the sealing of the servants of God in their foreheads—intellectually. (Rev. 7:3.) And all this clearness of vision, so satisfying to all whose only desire is to know the will of God, is the result of this sealing and is for your joy and comfort and strengthening in the truth; that you may be able to sing with the spirit and with the understanding also:
Yet some, whether because their wills are not fully submitted to God's will we judge not—God judgeth, not we—have not submitted themselves to these plain statements of God's plan, but have gone about to establish a plan of their own (Heb. 10:2-5.), which they modestly (?) think a better one. And of course they succeed in satisfying themselves as to the invulnerableness of their own arguments and theories. And God permits them to do so; just as he has all down through the Gospel age permitted false theories. And they of course quote Scripture to prove or to give seeming support to their theories, just as every false system or doctrine of the church has been bolstered up by misapplied and misinterpreted isolated statements of Scripture.
This method of deceiving themselves as well as others, by building an argument upon a word or sentence of the Bible, regardless of the fact that such theory would be wholly out of harmony with the remainder of the paragraph or chapter, has long been the method of all errorists. Not only are the errors of Christendom, which separate God's people into various sects, thus supported, but whoever will read the theological discussions of past centuries should be struck with the same—even going back as far as Satan quoting isolated passages, out of harmony with their connections, to deceive our Lord during the forty days temptation of the wilderness.
But as it is the will of God to permit errors to take their course to test and to manifest those loyal to him and his word, so it is also his will that such errors be met with the truth and their unscripturalness exposed, not for the sake of such as are wilful and want their own way regardless of God's way, but for the sake of such as really at heart have no will of their own but merely desire to know the Lord's plan, whose heads only may be temporarily confused by the sophistical theories referred to.
For the benefit of such, then, and as a forearming of others to whom such theories have not yet come, we will in the succeeding articles examine some of these erroneous views. Let all remember, however, that we have already in the foregoing article examined every Scripture passage even seeming to teach the everlasting salvation of all, and have found them with their contexts not only not teaching thus, but opposed to the idea. So what we shall now discuss are not passages which really teach or seem to teach thus, but isolated statements which, by twisting and turning out of their connection and true meaning, they would make serve their purpose instead of clear statements.
This is one of those isolated statements used to sustain a portion of a theory, the outcome of which is to prove the everlasting salvation of all. How? Why? Why should any one desire to use any passage wrongfully? And how could this scrap of one verse be useful to such a theory?
In answer, we ask, Why have all errorists quoted portions of Scripture to prove their various theories, so that it has become a by-word with scoffers that the Bible is an old fiddle and that any tune may be played upon it? They see how each denomination selects a few proof texts and entrenches itself behind them; but they do not know and God's children do not generally realize that the texts are misused, that the whole passage or treatise would stand no such construction. It is, alas! too true that hundreds of passages have been quoted to prove, often, the very reverse of what their writers intended, as the context would prove if referred to. But a theorist anxious to establish his theory is often not particular to examine the context to see if it would justify his construction; and many of God's children are not sufficiently studious to criticize every theory by God's Word and to examine every text quoted by a teacher to see if its context will sustain his application of it. These, like the world, are of the opinion that the Bible is a fiddle upon which any tune may be played, and they want to hear all the tunes and choose the one which suits them best. But this is all wrong. The Bible taken as a whole, and each text considered in the light of the discourse of which it forms a part, plays but the one tune—that grand and harmonious melody, the song of Moses and the Lamb—the Love of God and the redemption and reconciliation provided in Christ.
No better text could be found, perhaps, than the one under consideration, as illustrating this very common way of wrongfully playing different tunes from God's Word, by human manipulation. In the first place it has been misused by "Orthodoxy" for a long time to support one false theory, while now it is being drafted into service to prove another and exactly opposite theory. And all this because the common translation happened to give an obscure form of expression which permitted the passage to be used with a seeming fitness to their theories, and because they could find none to fit better.
"Orthodoxy" has long used this statement, "To be carnally minded is death," as an offset to God's statement in Eden when he pronounced the penalty of disobedience to be death. "Orthodoxy" had the erroneous theory that everlasting torment is the penalty of sin, and would not accept of God's plain testimony, and this obscurely translated passage has long served their purpose to give them a reply against God's plain statement, "The wages of sin is death:" And they reply, "Yes, but not the death you think of, not the usual death which all die, not cessation of being." With their view of death a man can die, become carnally minded, and yet live on and on forever in torment. Thus they have seemingly justified their error in their own minds and held captive all [R1221 : page 6] who trusted implicitly their teachings without looking up the Scripture testimony on the subject.
But those who sought God's testimony found that God had declared positively what the penalty of sin should be in Adam's case and in every other case; that his general law against sin is—"The soul [being] that sinneth, it shall die." (Ezek. 18:4.) These, too, remembered Paul's explanation of how death (Rom. 5:12-19) came through Adam's disobedience and as the penalty of that disobedience; how we are redeemed from it by that very same penalty, death, being executed upon our Lord Jesus, who became thus our Redeemer; and how he is as a consequence to rescue all from that death penalty by a resurrection of the dead. Then turning back to Genesis to see how God has stated the penalty, they are left without a shadow of doubt by God's own explanation of his death sentence upon Adam—"Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return."
Now, we see the same blind translation made to do duty again, as God's people are getting free from the error of supposing everlasting torment to be the wages of sin. It is brought forward with its false application, as a new proof that real death is not the wages of sin.
But why? What object can they have? Surely these do not as the others want a support for a theory of everlasting torment? No; they want it for a prop to the very opposite theory—that all men shall attain to everlasting life.
In what way could the disproving of actual death as the wages of sin help their argument or theory? In this way: If it be admitted that God once tried Adam, to test his worthiness of everlasting life, the inference is plain that this will be God's method with every creature, for he is no respecter of persons and declares that he changes not. And it implies, too, that Adam had a will of his own and that God did not coerce it but let him have and follow his own free will, and thus, by choosing obedience or disobedience, choose between the clearly stated rewards of these. And of course, again, the inference is plain that if Adam was judged by a trial of his will without God's interference, so the judgment of the whole race (Matt. 25:31-46) will be, similarly, a judgment or trial of their wills without God's interference.
And, further, the admission that Adam was tried for life, and that disobedience brought the penalty prescribed—loss of life, death—implies that when all men are tried or judged the penalty for wilful sin of each one will be just the same as in Adam's case, death—"Dust thou art and unto dust shalt thou return"—"the soul [being] that sinneth, it shall die." For there is no escape from the conclusion that if God's law condemned one sinner to extinction [R1222 : page 6] of life, the same unchangeable God and the same unchangeable law would condemn any wilful sinner to the same penalty in the end of the world's trial, at the close of the Millennium.
Furthermore, it is well to know that the Scriptures (Rev. 20:9) foreshow that at the close of the Millennium some will be found (after all their favors, of instruction and restitution to perfection and experience with both sin and righteousness) unworthy of everlasting life, because found shortcomers when measured by the perfect golden rule of Love. And the fact that these, rescued by Christ's ransom-sacrifice from the first death, are at the close of the second trial (an individual one) sentenced to the second death makes it evident that the two death sentences must be the same in kind. Hence, their theory that any who fail in the end of the Millennial age will be tried over and over again until all have been forced to the condition of everlasting life must fall if the second death, the penalty of failure in the second trial, were admitted to be the same in kind as the first death, the penalty of the failure under the first trial—unless it could be somehow made to appear that the first death was not the actual loss of life and return of dust to dust. Hence the effort is made to prove from this text that carnal-mindedness is the only death—the only penalty of sin.
This, then, is the object of the teachings (not teachers) we are examining and reproving as false. They for this reason use this portion of the text under consideration to prove that the wages of sin is not and never was loss of life—never was the death of the soul or being. To serve the needed argument the text is turned thus: If to be carnally minded is death, then death must be the condition of carnal-mindedness, hence, the wages of sin is carnal-mindedness and not literal death, not extinction of being, not the return of dust to dust.
And straightway, without noticing the poor translation upon which they are about to build so much and on the strength of which they are about to cast aside so many plain statements of Scripture; without noticing that the application they are giving to a part of the sentence is not only out of harmony with the entire argument of the Apostle, but out of harmony with the remainder of the same verse, they begin to build upon it their theory. They reason and build, thus, with reference to
The first death, the penalty of the first failure in the first trial in Eden, was a death to righteousness (a ceasing to be righteous), a state of carnal-mindedness; the second death may be a death to carnal-mindedness (a ceasing to be carnal minded), a state of holiness. Or the second death may mean that those who experience it at the close of the Millennial age will be again sentenced to wages of sin—carnal-mindedness, and be again on trial repeatedly in ages after the Millennial age until they finally crucify their carnal minds. Either theory regarding second death will do, and they care not which is accepted so long as it is one which would support their theory, no matter how much common sense and Scripture would thus be antagonized.
For this, too, has a connection with this theory of everlasting salvation for all; and to retain the latter the former had to be denied. How? Why?—Do you not see? If it were admitted, as the Scriptures so plainly teach, that our Lord Jesus gave himself as the ransom price or substitute for Adam, to cancel the penalty of death—destruction, extinction of being—that came upon him and that through him came upon all, and that he did this when he died the just one for, or instead of, or as a substitute for, the unjust Adam,* and that he thus made reconciliation for iniquity according to God's will, it would effectually settle the theory they are so bent upon establishing, viz.: the everlasting salvation of all. Therefore substitution must be opposed, though they know or ought to know that the Greek word huper, occurring nearly one hundred times and variously rendered in the English (for, for the sake of, on behalf of, instead of, etc.), answers to our word substitute and in many instances could have no other meaning. But all will not at a glance see why it would be necessary to deny that Christ bought us with his own precious blood (death) in order to uphold the theory of the everlasting salvation of all. Therefore we briefly show why.
*Some one will perhaps ask how he was instead of, or a substitute for Adam, since Adam also died. We answer that God's argument is that the wages of sin is lasting death, and that Adam never could have been set free from it and the sentence to it, which was upon him from the time of his disobedience, except by the substituting of one in his place in death. For this reason our Lord Jesus became a man and gave himself (as a man) a ransom or corresponding price for Adam; that Adam and all his children might be released from the sentence and from the penalty of his transgression. The manhood then laid down as our substitute is still dead and will never be restored. Instead of manhood the Heavenly Father gave our Lord Jesus a new, a higher nature—made him, a sharer of his own divine nature.
If it be admitted that the transgression of Adam brought a condemnation which could not be gotten rid of except by the payment of the penalty [death] for him by a substitute or redeemer, then it would as clearly prove that those who by wilful sin come under the penalty of death the second time could not be released from the second death penalty without another payment of their ransom price. And then, too, it will be remembered that it was because only one man (Adam) had been tried and sentenced by the law of God that the sacrifice of one (the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself to carry out the Father's gracious plan) was sufficient, and by settling the condemnation of the one, in whom all others were unwillingly involved, the legal ransom for all was given. But it would be different with those who die the second death, for each one of them will have had an individual trial (just as in Adam's case), and each so sentenced will be sentenced for himself (as saith the Prophet—Ezek. 31:29,30). So if it were God's plan to redeem men out of the second death it would require a separate ransom-sacrifice for each individual.
The inconsistency of such a supposition, as well as the Apostle's statement that "Christ dieth no more," are proofs to any sane mind that hope for wilful sinners sentenced to the second death cannot lie in the direction of paying their ransoms for them. All can see that while it was consistent that God in indicating his justice and upholding his law should, in love for the strayed sheep, provide one willing sacrifice for all at Calvary, it would be inconsistent, absurd indeed, to talk of a Calvary intensified ten, or a hundred, or a thousand, or a million of times, according to the number of wilful sinners condemned to the second death.
Nor can any one show the slightest promise of God to do anything more for those who go into the second death, as the result of their second trial (the first individual trial except to Adam and Eve). Nor can the slightest reason for any release from the second death for further trial be urged; for it must be admitted that the Millennial day is the one appointed for judging or trying the world (See Acts 17:31; Rev. 20:6; 1 Cor. 6:2), and it must be admitted that the conditions during that period of trial will be most favorable—with evil bound and the knowledge of the Lord covering the earth as the waters cover the sea. And who dare dispute that Jehovah's Anointed One, whom he hath appointed for the very purpose of judging the world righteously, in that appointed day, will do the work properly and fully in the appointed time, or that he who loved the lost sheep so that he gladly laid down his life once on their behalf will give them anything less than a full, just trial?—so full, so favorable, so just, that it will need no further judging or testing to determine definitely which, after full knowledge and opportunity, are "sheep," followers of Christ's example of meekness, love and obedience, whom God desires to bring into his everlasting fold, and which are wilful, rebellious "goats," followers of Satan's course of pride and disobedience, and therefore unworthy of the gift of everlasting life, and whose everlasting cutting off from life, by destruction in the second death, will be the best thing for themselves and especially of advantage to the millions who then will be lovers of righteousness, lovers of God and lovers of each other.
So then we see—what? We see that an erroneous theory, even though it has not one text to give it a shadow of support, if accepted and tied to, leads the would-be teachers of this, their own brand of "new light," first to overlook the great mass of the Bible's testimony on the subject of sin, its penalty and its only remedy, and secondly to deny the real penalty and the real remedy and to pervert the plainest statements of God's word to accomplish their object.
We know not the amount of guilt that attaches to such a course—we know not how much a defective sense of justice may have to do with it—we cannot know to what extent such teachers are deceived by the very sophistries they are using to deceive others. But while not even wishing to pass sentence upon any fellow creature, and realizing our inability to allow for all the extenuating circumstances, we do nevertheless judge of the doctrines by the rule of God's word. And the writer can and does judge of himself, that if he should, with the light he has, ignore God's [R1223 : page 6] plan and thus wrest the Scriptures and teach others so to do, in order to establish a theory, it would be a terrible crime. And the claim that Christ's death was not the ransom price for Adam's sin, in order to prove that wilful sinners could be forgiven without a ransom, would, in the writer's case, be denying the blood of the Covenant, wherewith he was sanctified—made holy and acceptable and fit for the high calling. And we "warn" (Col. 1:28) every fellow member of the body of Christ not only to take heed not to accept any theory that does not, in harmony with the context, prove itself from God's Word, but more—to be very certain in coming to the study of God's Word that his heart is entirely emptied of self-will and plans which he wants to see carried out, and that every thought and desire is brought into captivity to that will of God, which is being worked out by him through Christ. (See 2 Cor. 10:5,6.) Be assured, that if you have a theory which you want to prove to yourself, the great adversary of God, who from the first has been a deceiver and misrepresenter of God's Word and plans (Gen. 3:5), will be ready to assist you in every conceivable manner. Whereas, if sincerely desirous of knowing and holding only what God reveals as his plan, he will just as surely not leave you without some helping hand, some index finger to guide you into the truth. Listen carefully for the voice of the Shepherd. His sheep will do this and will not follow strange voices—false doctrines—but will quickly know to flee from them.
As we have suggested, the translation of the verse already cited (Rom. 8:6) is faulty. But while this is true, the poor translation is not so much to blame for the error based upon the verse as the wrong condition of the hearts (wills) of those who, to find support for a theory, so readily seized upon half of Paul's sentence and hastened to apply it in opposition to the known general sentiment of Scripture, without noting either the faulty translation or the opposition of the context to the theory which they sought to build upon it.
The faulty translation (Rom. 8:6) reads: "To be carnally minded is death;" and remember that the inference drawn is that the death which is the wages of sin consists, solely and only, in being carnally minded. The Greek word sarx, here rendered carnal, occurs one hundred and thirty-nine times in the New Testament, and only twice it is blindly rendered carnal (in the above text and in Heb. 9:10). It is generally rendered flesh, as in other verses of this same chapter. (See verses 1,3,4,5,8,9,12,13.) The word sarx does not mean sinful at all, nor sinful flesh; it means flesh, simply and only, and is used in reference to Adam and Eve before they sinned (1 Cor. 6:16) as well as after; and twenty-five times it is used in referring to our Lord's flesh, which was perfect, spotless without blemish. (See John 1:14, and 6:51,52,53,54,55,56, and Heb. 10:2 and 1 Tim. 3:16.)
The expression "carnally minded," in Rom. 8:6, therefore signifies merely the mind or will of the flesh. Since the Apostle well knew, and had long taught, that all mankind had fallen from perfection through Adam's disobedience, and that all as a consequence were unsound, not only morally but mentally and physically as well, he did not need to distinguish between the will of the flesh as it would be if perfect and the will or preference of the flesh in its fallen condition; for he had already instructed them that he and they and all the fallen race had tastes, appetites and desires of the (depraved) flesh, which, if gratified, would lead to further degradation.
The sense of the passage is not difficult to discern if it be read in connection with the chain of discourse of which it forms a part, at least from Chap. 7:18 to 8:15. Other translations may assist (Rotherham's, the Diaglott, or the Revised Version); but the common version is simple enough when it is known and remembered that the phrase, "the carnal mind," should be rendered "the mind of the flesh" or "the will of the flesh."
For the sake of making clear the Apostle's argument, let us paraphrase briefly the epistle to the Romans, down to 8:15, amplifying as we reach the eighth chapter. First, Paul would have the believers at Rome know that the reason for his not having visited Rome to preach the gospel was not because of any shame, or any feeling that the gospel of Christ would not stand the light and criticism of Rome, then the capital city of the world, as well as that of the less notable cities of Asia Minor, which he had visited and evangelized. He declares himself not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, but ready, when the way should open, to preach it boldly in Rome also.
Next, he proceeds to answer objections and doubts liable to be raised by Jewish converts among the Romans. He shows that the ignorance, superstition and degradation prevailing were not the result of imperfect work on God's part in creating the people so. He declares that no such excuse can be allowed (Chap. 1:21 to 2:11); he shows that men are themselves to blame for their degradation, and that the Jews, too, are involved in sin under God's perfect law and would be condemned as unfit for lasting life as surely as the Gentiles. For as the Gentiles, without the law given at Sinai, were sinners and degraded, and died (punished) under sentence of some law aside from Sinai's law, so they (the Jews) who had received the law of Moses had been condemned by that law and had not escaped death nor obtained any right to further life.
He argues (Chap. 3) that though no Jew got life under Moses' law, and therefore all were in a state of condemnation as complete and hopeless as Gentiles, yet the Jew got some blessings through that Law Covenant—though lasting life was not one of them. He got a clearer idea of God's will from the Law, as well as a knowledge of his further gracious purposes from the testimonies of the prophets; yet all that he then learned, instead of justifying or proving him worthy of God's favor, only showed more and more how firm a hold sin had gotten and how impossible it is for any one with an imperfect organism and its depraved tastes and desires to live an absolutely perfect life, and thereby to commend himself to God. The more they learned of God's law the less they felt like saying—"Lord, I am perfect in thought, word and deed; there is nothing whatever unholy or selfish in me; I am therefore just such a one as thy law declares shall have lasting life." On the contrary, the law revealed most clearly the fact that all are sinners, that all are unworthy of divine recognition and favor; for all have sinned and come short of what would glorify God. So then the Law given to Israel, and under which they were condemned, served to prove to all men, what God already knew, that no man in his fallen condition is worthy or could make himself worthy of lasting life under the only conditions upon which God will give that blessing.
Then the Apostle shows (Chap. 3:21-26) how God provided in Christ a propitiatory-covering [See Rotherham's translation and foot note.] for all who exercise faith in the blood of the New Covenant—declaring to such the remission of sins past, and at the same time showing God's righteousness in the entire procedure—his justice in sentencing all the fallen ones as unworthy of life, and his justice, too, in the reversal of that sentence and the granting of life to some through the redemption provided.
He proceeds to show that though Israel had expected every blessing and advantage through their law, God had the larger plan of favor through Christ all along; and this fact he shows by references to the promises.
Chapter 6 shows that in thus justifying us, or imputing to us a righteousness not actually ours, God's intention is not to have us continue in sin, but rather to set us free from its condemnation in order that we may now begin to use ourselves in God's service and to strive against all things in us opposed to his perfect will. This setting free from sins past and from their just penalty, and making continual allowance for the weaknesses of the flesh which we have inherited, is not to be construed as a change of God's attitude toward sin and wilful sinners, but as an opportunity for those desiring harmony with God to show by their strivings against sin and for righteousness that in heart they fully approve his perfect law and delight in it, and that if they could do so, they would rejoice to have every word and thought and act obedient thereto. Such desire not to follow the will of the flesh but to follow the Spirit or will of God. For those who live in accord [and have no battles] with their flesh [which is depraved] indicate their preference, while they who live in accord with the spirit show their preference. Therefore, the preference of the flesh means death [the just sentence of the law], but the preference of the spirit means life and peace [the reward of obedience to the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus, which relieves such from condemnation on account of weaknesses of the flesh inherited from Adam]. For the preferences of our [depraved] flesh are in opposition to God; for the flesh is not in harmony with his law, and indeed it cannot be; and hence those whose existence is fleshly cannot please God.
But you [the consecrated] have not your existence in the flesh, but in the spirit, if truly the spirit of God dwells in you. And whoever has not Christ's spirit [disposition or mind] is not his. But if Christ is in you, the body is indeed dead as to sin [not reckoned of God in considering your case] but the spirit [intention or new will] has life [reckoned to it] because of its righteousness.
Moreover, if the spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also make alive even your mortal bodies, by the dwelling of his spirit within you. In a word, it will take far less of God's power to quicken your mortal bodies [reckoned dead] to activity in his service, than it took to raise Jesus from the dead; and as surely it will have an increasing influence upon your body, bringing it more and more into a course of righteousness.
So then, brethren, you see we do not owe any thing to the flesh [it brings us no advantage, present or future], that we should desire to follow its leadings and be its servants. Quite the contrary, indeed, we see that if we live according to the will and leading of our flesh, which is depraved, we shall die, but if we live according to the spirit, according to the renewed mind or spirit of Christ, we shall thereby obtain a great blessing—we shall live. Because as many as are guided by the spirit of God, the same are God's sons.—Rom. 8:14.
Following thus the Apostle's argument, we see that the sentiment expressed in verse 6 is reiterated in verse 14, and that the thought of giving a new definition to death—that the death which results from sin is a carnal mind—is an absurd as well as a false interpretation. Quite to the contrary, it teaches that if we live after the flesh, i.e., if we obey the will of our sin-depraved and death-condemned flesh, even after we have come to a knowledge of Christ, and after we have come under the new arrangement of the law of the spirit of life through Christ, we shall die the second death, the result of our preference or choice of the things that are contrary to the law of God. But as many as accept of Christ and partake of his spirit of obedience, and whose minds or spirits prefer the things of God, and seek to overcome and put an end to the depraved desires and weaknesses of the flesh, and to bring every thought into subjection to the will of God—these, under the Law of God which now judges only the spirit or intention of those in Christ, will receive lasting life.
But, the Apostle urges (Chap. 7), do not get a wrong impression of the Law given at Sinai. Do not think of it as an imperfect or unjust law which God found would not serve its purpose and from which, therefore, he released you. On the contrary, it was a good, just, perfect law; and only because of your inability to keep it, has God in his mercy released you from its obligation and placed you for a time under conditions suited to your infirmities. It has ceased to be over you through God's favor, he having all along intended the plan of justifying all sinners freely, through faith in Christ. When you begin to think of how the Law failed to be a blessing, you should realize that the fault was in yourselves and not in the Law. It demanded righteousness and you were unable to fill the requirement actually. Thus by the law comes the appreciation of what sin is, and of how our race has become enslaved to that terrible master, Sin, whose commands we are unable to fully resist, even though we despise them. (v. 15.) Then, in this very fact that we see and desire a perfection that we are unable to live up to, we attest that God's law, which demands perfection, is a proper, good law, and that the fault lies in ourselves.
But this very fact, that we desire to do better than we are able to do, proves that the fault is not in our wills, but the result of Sin's enslavement of our members. This is very evident, for the will represents us as individuals, and the will desires righteousness and approves God's perfect law. But it is frustrated often, and cannot control the Sin-enslaved body. And as a result of the mind or will being subjected to God's law, and the body being weak through the fall and enslaved to Sin, those things which our minds and God's law disapprove are constant snares and besetments. As a result, we often do those things which we disapprove, and leave undone many things which we approve of.—Verses 16-23.
Thus, if we come back to look at God's law given to Israel, we find it was just and right in condemning us, since we are constantly condemning ourselves as imperfect, in its light. Is there then no hope? Must we perish because we cannot obey God's law, when we really desire to do so but are prevented by this poor body over which Sin and death gained control through the fall? Surely this is a wretched condition to be in, desiring righteousness and its reward of lasting life, but unable to grasp the prize because the will is fettered to the sin-degraded body? O! is there no help? Must we die?
Ah! yes, there is help: God foresaw this very state and desires to rescue and bring to everlasting life all who thus hate sin and despise and strive against it in themselves. Thank God, this very deliverance has been provided. Our Lord Jesus died, and rose, and lives, to bring about this very result for all who are thus minded. It was the transgression of God's law by Adam that brought separation from Eden and from God's favor, and a sentence of death, resulting in the mental, moral and physical decay and death of himself and his race, under Sin, his new master. And God's way, by which his love operated to rescue us from the control of Sin and death, was, first, by payment of the legal penalty or sentence against Adam and his race, under which Sin and death held power or authority; and secondly, as a result of this redemption from the dominion of Sin and death by the Lord Jesus' death, he shall restore to physical [R1224 : page 8] perfection all of the class described, who with their minds serve the law of God, and who desire full deliverance from the control of Sin and death.
Thus accepting of Christ Jesus as the Redeemer, and trusting him for the new bodies promised in God's due time, we see God's way out of the difficulty from which we could never extricate ourselves. Thanks be to God for this way of salvation provided through Jesus Christ our Lord. So, then, we can realize that while with our minds (our wills, our hearts) we serve the law of God, even though with our flesh we to some extent obey the laws of Sin, yet for the reasons stated (God's grace in Christ's redemption) there is no longer any condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. All who have this new standing come under new conditions. As all in Adam were, under his sentence, brought under the control of sin and death, so all who now are in Christ Jesus, the Redeemer, are in God's reckoning brought under a new arrangement and judged according to their spirit, mind or intention, and thereby declared worthy of life.—Rom. 8:2.
Thus we see that though God's just, good law could not acquit sinners, no matter how much they abhorred their sins, nor grant lasting life to imperfect, erring beings, yet, without violating that law, but on the contrary upholding it, God has accomplished the work in another way, namely, by the sending of his own Son, in the same form (or nature) as the flesh which Sin had gotten control of, and on account of Sin. He with (or by) his flesh sentenced Sin, the great enslaver, to an overthrow; that thus the just requirement of the Law might be fully met by us who are in Christ Jesus.
Thus seen, Rom. 8:6 not only does not teach what some, out of all harmony with its context and in great violence to itself, attempt to make it prove, but it proves the very reverse—that only such of mankind will be everlastingly saved as receive of Christ's spirit, mind or disposition; only such as become sons of God.
But it must be borne in mind that only the few yet know of the ransom given by our Redeemer and Lord; only the few therefore know that now, in the strength of that atonement, they may have peace with God; that God will accept of them according to their spirit or intention, and that coming into their willing hearts by his power and truth, he will work in them mightily and use even their sin-depraved bodies in his service. The great mass of mankind as yet knows not of God's gracious plan. And since such could neither reject nor accept what they did not know of, God's gracious provision is that they all shall hear and appreciate the case fully. He will pour out his spirit [his power, his influence] upon all flesh; all shall be brought to a knowledge of the truth, and all shall have fullest opportunity to make a choice between the law of God which leads to life, and the law of sin which leads to death.—1 Tim. 2:4-6.
Before answering, it is but just that we explain the necessity for answering questions so simple that even "a babe in Christ" should have no difficulty with them. Nor would any need assistance, were it not that the great deceiver has misled some who, instead of needing help, ought for their time to be teachers of the truth. This claim which seems to be deceiving some has the same general characteristic of all Satan's deceptions, namely, that the wages of sin is not death, and that the soul that sinneth shall not die. This theory, like the one just examined, has for its object the establishing of the doctrine that all men will be everlastingly saved. But though the result intended to be proved is the same, the method or theory for proving it is different.
This theory declares that God is the author of sin; that he made man and his surroundings [R1225 : page 8] such that sin could not be avoided. It claims, too, that sin exists to-day in all its various forms and shades as the direct result of God's exercise of his omnipotent power which no man is able to resist. It declares that the world of mankind are the clay and that God is the potter; and that every curve and kink and wrinkle, mental, moral and physical, found in men, is as much the work of God and the manifestation of his pleasure as the kinks and twists and turns on a piece of pottery are the evidences of the power and will of the potter who formed it. It, therefore (and consistently with this foundation—if the foundation will stand), proceeds to say that as the clay was powerless to resist the potter, so poor, frail, finite humanity is powerless to resist God's will and whatever shaping toward sin or toward righteousness he may give it. The argument proceeds to claim that since God has caused men to sin they are no more responsible or punishable for their sins than the potter's vessel is blame-worthy for its shape. Hence the conclusions reached are, (1) that God could not punish men by death or in any other manner for sins that he alone was responsible for; and (2) that as God has been thus causing sin for 6000 years (To show how much sin and misery a God can produce—?) he will, by and by, turn about and show all men how much good he can accomplish by working over the clay of humanity into beautiful and perfect shapes. And for the same reason that he succeeded in creating sin, God, it is claimed, will succeed when he undertakes a work of righteousness, and will make every member of the race incapable of sin.
This wonderful, absurd theory of course claims to have Bible support. It and many other theories would have no weight among God's children, to deceive any, were it not for this. So this theory twists four texts of Scripture to answer as support or premises to rest upon. When we examine these we will find them misapplied, perverted, and really teaching no such thing.
(1)—"Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honor and another unto dishonor?"—Rom. 9:20.
(2)—"For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope."—Rom. 8:20.
(3)—"I form the light and create darkness: I make peace and create evil. I, the Lord, do all these things."—Isa. 45:7.
(4)—"Shall there be evil in a city and the Lord hath not done it?"—Amos 3:6.
Slim proofs these, to be the proofs of a doctrine charging the Almighty with being the direct and intentional author of sin. We need not cite the hundreds of texts to the contrary—that God is of purer eyes than to recognize iniquity, and cannot look upon sin with allowance; that he is holy, just and good, and "his work perfect." (Deut. 32:4; Job 37:16; Psa. 18:30.) Nor need we cite the frequent declarations of Scripture, that sin is contrary to God's laws and that whoever (willingly) commits sin is of the
devil. We notice, however, that according to this false theory God not only made man so bad that he could not avoid sin, but that he actually caused him to sin. If so, who was the sinner? Surely not man, who could not resist God, but God the irresistible one, whom they declare the creator or instigator of sin. And if this be so, who deserves the punishment due for sin? Surely not man, if, as this theory claims, he was the mere dupe, the mere puppet who carried out the sinful designs of God. Who but God could deserve punishment according to this blasphemous theory? And how terrible a punishment would be due such criminality could be measured only by the terrible suffering thus brought upon his helpless creatures. Nay; more, what a hypocrite this theory would make of God. For six thousand years he has been denouncing sin, declaring that man is the sinner, threatening penalties and declaring his pity for them in their fallen state—even sending his Son to be a sin-offering on their behalf, to "make an atonement for the sins of the people." If we shall now find that all these are falsehoods, told to deceive mankind, and that God is the real sinner, it will surely be a great discovery. But if it is true, surely the Bible would be the last place from which to expect proofs of it. If God be such a great fraud and deceiver, he surely would not tell it on himself. To suppose that he has done so would be to charge him with folly as well as with sin.
(1) Rom. 9:21—We must consider this text in the light of the whole argument of which it is a portion. Paul is showing that though God's promises were handed to Israel, and though they understood that they were for them only, God had a perfect right to make such selection as he saw fit, for the high-calling to joint-heirship with Christ. He was not bound to take that nation. He had never said that all of that nation should fill this position. He had, on the contrary, shown through the prophets that only a remnant would be worthy of this honor, and that all of nominal Israel were not the real Israel referred to in his promise.
Paul is justifying God's course and showing that since it is a favor that he is about to grant, and not a justice (a privilege of sharing with Messiah in the great work of dispensing still other favors and blessings), he had a perfect right to do what he chose with his favors. God had a perfect right, had he so chosen, to have selected only a part of Israel to honorable service in his great cause and a part to a less honorable share, or to no share at all, even if they had been all exactly alike, and all equally adapted to his work and equally pliable to the moulding influences he exerts through his truth, his providences, etc. He had already shown his right in this direction in the choice of Isaac to be of the line in which the blessing should come, and the rejection of Ishmael's line or family. Likewise he chose Jacob as the line instead of Esau, though both were sons of the same parents and he might have chosen either line. Nor can it be claimed that God's choice of Jacob above Esau, as the line or family through which he intended to favor and bless the world, was a choice dependent in any degree upon character; for God's selection of Jacob's line was declared before his birth. And not only has God thus chosen to use certain persons in his service to honor his name, but he can select and has at times selected others for other places, for the illustration of his power. For instance Pharaoh: in him God raised to power in Egypt a man who more than others was a hard and determined man, that the bringing of Israel out from a cruel bondage should not only furnish a just punishment upon Egypt, but also manifest God's power of deliverance against all opposition. In addition God made in the deliverance of Israel under Moses and the overthrow of Pharaoh a type of the ultimate deliverance of all his people under Christ from the bondage of Sin and the power of the devil, whom Pharaoh typified.
But though God had the right to make as absolute selections as those mentioned, when selecting those whom he will use as the "promised seed" through whom he will bless all nations, yet he has not done so. The selected ones are not entitled to the honor by reason of ability to do the work to be done, hence are selected according to favor (grace); yet there is a reason why they are selected, namely, their faith and obedience to the light and ability enjoyed.
Here, then, we have the proper view of this passage, and we see the fallacy of using it to prove that God now makes all people sinners, vessels of wrath, and by and by will make all vessels of honor possessed of everlasting life. The Apostle's argument has nothing whatever to do with salvation, but has to do entirely with the high-calling. The fact that Esau and Ishmael were used to typify those who fail to attain the high-calling (Heb. 12:15-17) has nothing whatever to do with their chances of attaining life during the Millennium. And the fact that Pharaoh and his hosts were used to typify the overthrow of Satan and his hosts by no means proves that they will be of those destroyed in the Second Death. God merely used them as typical vessels of wrath. They were already under sentence of death through Adam, and their day of judgment or trial for everlasting life will come under Christ's Millennial reign. They only represented the real vessels of wrath (those who sin wilfully after coming to a knowledge of God's gracious plan in Christ), just as Moses, Isaac and others were used as the typical vessels of mercy representative of those through whom God will manifest his mercy during the Millennium. The application of this text, then, as a proof that God caused any man to sin, is wholly wrong.
(2) Rom. 8:20.—This passage except the last two words is well shown in Rotherham's translation to be a parenthesis, which, so far as the argument is concerned, could be omitted, but which is thrown in as an explanation of the statement of verse 19. Rotherham translates verses 19,21 (we here omit the parenthesis) thus:
"For the eager outlook of Creation is ardently awaiting the revealing of the sons of God, in hope that even creation itself shall be freed from the servitude of corruption into the freedom of the glory [or glory of the freedom] of the children of God."
Thus seen, the hope is not God's hope, as some have imagined. Hope is a quality which belongs to finite creatures. It would be improper, therefore, to say that God subjected the world (creation) to frailty, in hope that he could do something for them. God never hopes: he knows. Where perfect knowledge exists, there is no more room for hope.
How beautifully simple the connection between verses 18 and 21 when this word "hope" connects them, and the remainder of verse 20 is recognized as a parenthesis. For long years all creation has been waiting and longing for relief from pain and death, and dreaming of a "Golden Age," when all things will be desirable. Life-giving balms, elixirs of life and healing springs have, for long centuries, had their places in the fictions which expressed the longing hope of the groaning, dying world. And still "hope springs perennial in the soul;" men are still longing and hoping amid their groanings for "a better day coming." Some look for it in one way, and some in another; but very few are looking in the right direction. Nevertheless, what they are groaning for and hoping for is coming, and, as the Apostle declares, will come at the manifestation of the sons of God who are now being chosen—the Church.
What, then, is the meaning of the 20th verse as a parenthesis, without the words in hope—"(For Creation was not made subject to vanity [frailty] voluntarily, but by him who put it under)"—? It is now very simple and easily understood. Mankind, longing and hoping for a better state of things, for deliverance from bondage to pain and death, did not voluntarily choose this dying state, but got into it by some one else's act. By whose act did they come into this condition of trouble, this bondage of corruption, from which they are longing to be free? Paul answers: I have already answered this question (Rom. 5:12) and declared that it was by the act of Adam that all mankind became subject to death, the bondage of corruption.
(3 and 4) Isa. 45:7 and Amos 3:6.—These passages teach the same thing. But notice that they do not speak of sin, but of evil. Sin is always an evil, but evil is not always a sin. A great trouble, disaster or calamity is an evil, but not a sin. As illustrations of the two kinds of evil (sin and calamity) mentioned in the same connection and in contrast notice Jer. 19:3, and 36:3. See also Isa. 47:10,11.
God's dealings with the Jewish nation were in many respects similar to what his dealings will be with the world in general during the Millennial age. Those nations and individuals who seek to make progress and to obey the Lord will be blessed, and others will be chastised. Thus God dealt with Israel, his typical kingdom. If the people of any city or tribe got into a state of idolatry or other gross sin, God would send a plague or other chastisement for their correction. But so long as they endeavored to walk in God's statutes, he preserved them. This was in accordance with the Covenant he had entered into with them at Sinai. Read carefully Leviticus, 26th chapter, throughout, for a detailed enumeration of the calamities (evils) which God declared would follow their neglect of his laws, and for the blessings which he promised if they should obey them.
It was with reference to those calamities (evils) which came upon Israel, that our Lord spoke to them through Isaiah and Amos. He would not have them lose the lesson. They should know, and he here tells them, that he brought the evil upon them purposely; that no matter what accidental evils might happen to other nations, no accident could occur in their case. He would carry out his part of the Covenant with them to the last—every blessing, and every evil, just as promised.
Now, with this view of these texts, which cannot be disputed, is it not evident that they do not support the blasphemous claim that God is the author of sin? We think that all candid minds will concede this, and we write for none other. With Paul we say, "Let God be true (righteous) though it prove all theories to the contrary to be falsehoods." If there is one thing above another which every well balanced heart and head should rejoice in, it is justice. To attempt, by such teaching as that referred to, to rob God of this quality is sacrilege of the vilest sort, and blasphemy the most atrocious.
Yet this is what is done by those who claim that he is the author of sin, and that man is merely his dupe. If we so believed how could we worship God, or how trust him for the future? If capable of perpetrating so great an injury to mind and body as we see sin to be, might he not be unjust enough to try it again in the future? If we believe that God unpityingly caused all the misery of the present time, needlessly and causelessly, and without its being merited by mankind as a penalty, how could we feel certain of any good thing for the future? If man was not the sinner—if God was the sinner and man merely his tool—God has been guilty not only of injustice, but of fraud, hypocrisy and lying. For God has declared man the sinner, he has declared that he doth not willingly afflict the children of men, and that it is our sins that have separated between us and him, and that the only way in which he could receive us back was by ransoming us. He therefore sent his Son, who died for our sins and who rose for our justification. But if the theory we are criticizing be true, God was the only sinner and the only one who needed to be justified.
But why proceed to argue on this line further? God's dealings, promises and threats, revealed in Scripture, everywhere recognize man as having a free will, a will which God refuses to coerce. Else why promise, exhort and threaten? What avail would threats or promises be to men if they were mere machines, overmastered and compelled by God to do right or wrong irrespective of their own will or choice. It is because man has a will of his own that experience can profit him. If man has not a free will (if God now forces him to sin and will by and by force him to righteousness), then the past six thousand years of sin and trouble were utterly useless, for experience could be of no value to a creature who has not a will of his own.
Our confidence, on the contrary, is, that because man has a free will, the sad plight of sin and death, with all their train of consequences, will, through God's abundant mercy in Christ (through his two fold work—ransom and restitution), result in the full appreciation of both good and evil, right and wrong, to the end that so many as will choose to do right may live and be blessed everlastingly.