"Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye
may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having
done all, to stand."—Eph. 6:13 .
THIS Scripture means much more to WATCH TOWER readers than to others, because we recognize that we are already in the "evil day." Nevertheless we fear that many fail to make a personal application of the Apostle's words to themselves. It is right enough to apply them to all in Christendom who make a sincere profession of faith in God and devotion to his cause. It is right enough to rejoice that we have by the Lord's grace come to a considerable knowledge of his great Plan of the Ages, and have learned to some extent rightly to divide the Word of Truth and to appreciate the portions which belong to past ages and to the future, and to distinguish these from the Scriptures which appertain to the present time, and to see the harmonious relationship of the whole. It is right enough that we should feel that this implies that we have to some extent heeded the Apostle's words, that we have to some extent taken to us the armor which God has provided in preparation for the present and approaching tests in this harvest time. But there is a danger: we fear that some in whom the good work of grace has begun are too well satisfied with their attainments. The fact that we know much more about the Word and plan than do many of our fellow-Christians is indeed a blessed assurance that we are in the school of the Lord and being taught of him; but it is no assurance that we are ready to graduate. We should all realize the force of the Apostle's words, "Now we know in part—then we shall know even as we are known."—I Cor. 13:12.
But even if we knew a great deal, if we knew twice as much as we now know, we should understand our acquisition of knowledge merely to correspond to the finding of the armor mentioned by the Apostle in our text. We should notice that he does not merely say that we should find the armor, but, much more to the point—he declares that we should put it on. The Lord's object in providing us with the knowledge was that thereby we might grow in grace. Knowledge, then, is merely a means to an end desired. Well does the Apostle say, "Knowledge puffeth up, but love buildeth up." (I Cor. 8:1.) If we could get love alone without getting knowledge it would be very much to be preferred above getting knowledge alone without getting love, but God has otherwise arranged, namely, that we must have knowledge as the basis for love, and that we must have love as the outgrowth of the knowledge if we would be acceptable to him as members of the Elect Church. Hence, we are to grow in grace, and to this end incidentally we must grow in knowledge, because how could we love God if we knew him not, and how could we develop his character-likeness except as we would be sanctified through the truth?
The Apostle, in enumerating the blessings that are ours through Christ and the attainments possible in faith, knowledge, hope and love, declares that the [R4042 : page 246] greatest of these is love. He points out that present faith and knowledge will be dwarfed and entirely lost sight of in the perfection of knowledge into which we shall be ushered in our glorious change in the First Resurrection, and that our present hopes will then expire because the realization will have come, and will so far transcend our expectations. But he argues the superiority of love in that it will endure throughout eternity: "Love never faileth," "God is love," "Love is the fulfilling of the law"; the new commandment is that we love one another with a pure heart fervently. Oh, how much room there still is for progress in this direction, in the putting on of the whole armor of God!
Were we to analyze the armor we would find it not merely an armor of knowledge but very largely indeed an armor of faith, an armor containing love as one of its chief elements, and surely in every part riveted together with love. What would our breastplate be worth without this love element? Ah, we see that our dear Redeemer's death constitutes our breastplate, that his love provided the redemption which covers us and protects us, and that it is our appropriation of his love and our reciprocating love for him and for the Father and for the divine law that led us to a full consecration of ourselves to his service. It is behind this breastplate of righteousness—of which the love of God [R4043 : page 246] and our love for God and for the Lord Jesus are the chief elements—that we are secure, justified through faith in the precious blood, counted righteous through the love and mercy of God.
And our helmet, does it signify an intellectual knowledge of the Lord? Yes! and yet it is a knowledge based not upon the things that are seen but upon the things that are unseen. Our helmet is a faith-knowledge, and the basis of this faith is an appreciation of the love of God which passeth all understanding, which has begun the good work, not only in our redemption, but in the sanctification of our hearts. The love of God for us and our love for him are most intimately related to this helmet, and whoever would put it on, whoever would be protected by it, must surely recognize the divine law and be responsive in love himself.
And what of our shield of faith? Is not the love of God, the mercy of God and of our Lord Jesus, the basis of our faith? We are not trusting either to our works or our knowledge for salvation, for both of these prove to us that we are unworthy of divine favor. We are trusting in God's love and in the loving sacrifice of our Redeemer, and this shield can be appreciated and will be thoroughly used only by those who have received of the love of God as well as of a measure of knowledge.
The sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, is a part of this armament. But do we not see that many who have the Word of God are holding it by the blade and not by the hilt? Do we not see that a failure to appreciate the love of God has been their difficulty, so that the study of the Word and the knowledge gained respecting the Word have been comparatively valueless to them, misleading—injurious—because they received not the Truth in the love of it. Most evidently some have received the Truth in large measure and some in lesser measure, in proportion as they had the right or the wrong kind of love. Pride and self-love have hindered many from taking the sword of the Spirit in the proper manner; pride and denominational love have hindered others; and we are safe to say that all who handle the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, are in great danger of doing injury to themselves thereby, except as they speak the Truth in love—"in the love of it"—in appreciation of it as God's great revelation of himself and of his purposes. If selfishness to any extent combines with this love, to that extent the sword is dangerous to the one who wields it. Love out of a pure heart is the only proper, the only safe condition.
The sandals of preparation for contact with the world and the ruggedness of the way are very necessary. Pride and ambition may enable us to pass over a considerable stretch of rough roadway without discouragement, but we may be sure that the Lord has so arranged the narrow way that selfish ambitions will never carry us to the end. On the contrary, the divine order is that only love for the Lord and for his flock and for his Truth will so protect us that we can go onward and upward in the narrow way clear to the end of the journey without discouragement that would turn us aside.
We are assured that the above words represent the sentiments of a considerable proportion of the readers of this journal. We are claiming nothing for the Editor, but freely admit that all the blessings are from the great Fountain of blessing, from the Lord himself. We are glad to be recipients of these bounties in common with you all, and glad to have been used of the Lord as a broken and emptied vessel to bear to his dear ones some of the refreshments he is now so bounteously providing. And we have a deep concern that the Lord's grace be received not in vain by any of us—that we should all be profited, strengthened by the meat in due season which our present Lord is dispensing to the household of faith as never before. How else could we understand the light that is now shining upon the divine Word? And is not this understanding of the matter in full accord with our Lord's precious promise that at his second coming, when he would make up his jewels, gather his very Elect, his Bride, he would first knock? and then to those servants who would open immediately and show their faithfulness, he would come in and sup with them? More than this, he would become their servant and gird himself and bring forth from the storehouse things new and old. (Matt. 13:52.) How wonderfully, how accurately, [R4043 : page 247] this matter is being fulfilled before us today! It is the Lord's doing and it is marvelous in our sight. The eyes of our understanding discern clearly and we rejoice therein.
These blessings of divine truth and grace consist not only of new features but also of old features. Do they not? How many years have many of us studied God's Word, heard preaching, read commentaries, etc., to very little account? Indeed our confusion seemed to increase rather than diminish, so that the most studious were often most confused. But now, the due time having come, our present Lord having come in to sup with us, having girded himself as our servant, having brought to our attention the things both new and old, we are feasting. All the precious food has a richer and a better flavor. It is cleaner, sweeter. For instance, setting aside those special features of the Truth which belong to the harvest time, respecting the reaping, the presence of the Lord, the fulfilment of the prophecies, etc., etc., look again at the old things that God's people have recognized as true for centuries, and note how appetizing they are to us now, how strengthening to faith, how refreshing!
Take, for instance, the "precious blood." From infancy we heard of the death of Christ, of its necessity, of its value. We read the Scriptures, yet we saw not the beauty and the grandeur, until now in the harvest time the Lord himself has disclosed the real significance of the word ransom—a purchase price—and shown us just how our Lord Jesus left the glory and became holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, the man Christ Jesus, and how then he "gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time." Ah! what a store of gracious knowledge, mingled with precious love, is opened to us by this appreciation of how Jesus Christ by the grace of God tasted death for every man. Now we can see, as we could not previously, the meaning of the word propitiation, satisfaction. Now we can see that he was the propitiation for our sins—the sins of believers of this present time.
We can see, too, how the satisfaction which he has already rendered to Justice is the ground or basis of our acceptance with the Father, and that now we are justified through faith in his blood, and correspondingly our peace with God has a firmer foundation and is every way more satisfactory. But still more, we can see the further value of the precious blood when we understand the Apostle's declaration—"He is a propitiation for our sins [the Church's sins, now], and also [through the Church, his Body] for the sins of the whole world." Now we can see how and why the gracious New Covenant will be introduced at the close of this Gospel Age—a New Covenant with Fleshly Israel, which ultimately will include all the families of the earth, signifying to them a complete release from Adamic condemnation, and a taking away of the stony heart out of their flesh and the renewing of a heart of flesh—during the Millennial Age—bringing them up from the degradation of sin and death back to all that was lost in Eden, during the times of restitution of all things. Oh, what the Atonement signifies to us now and how little it signified before! how incomprehensive it was before! Praise the Lord for the old things as well as for the new.
Take another illustration out of many: we knew something of what the Scriptures taught respecting justification, we knew something of how faith was related to this justification, but we comprehended it not, and but imperfectly realized that this justification by faith, this imputation of righteousness to believers, was merely the divine method of putting them on a plane where they could be acceptable sacrificers, and present their bodies, already acceptable to God, as living sacrifices, their reasonable service; nor did we see clearly either that this consecration to sacrifice, this setting apart or sanctification of life and heart and all to the Lord, is the condition upon which we may hope to share with our dear Redeemer in his glorious Kingdom. How real these matters become as the Lord brings to us the meat in due season, things new and old.
To illustrate further: A dear brother recently said to the Editor, "Oh, Brother Russell, I was an Evangelical Christian for years, but it seems as though I had been asleep all that time so far as Christian knowledge and experience go. How I wish I had known some of the things that are presented in the sixth volume of MILLENNIAL DAWN when I was rearing my family! How I wish that I had realized my personal responsibility as a father, and had brought my family up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord—had realized my home duties, my proper relationship and obligation to my wife, children and neighbors! Everything in the divine arrangement seems so simple and so beautiful now that I wonder how I was blind to these things for so long; and evidently others were similarly blinded, for our teachers might, at least, have told us how to live the godly life, the Scriptural life; [R4044 : page 247] they might have drawn our attention to these things which so greatly make for our peace, and which are so eminently our proper course of conduct in life; but we were held in a maze, we were all as it were asleep. And it seems peculiar that we are able to awaken so few even now; that so many prefer to slumber on, and have no ear to hear, and manifest only opposition to these glorious things in which they should delight." Very true, we agreed.
"THE OX KNOWETH HIS OWNER, AND THE ASS HIS MASTER'S
This is our Lord's complaint through the Prophet against many whom he has favored both in Natural Israel and in Spiritual Israel—that they do not exhibit the wisdom of even the brute beast. One would think after the experiences above narrated, after our blind gropings in the past, after our failure—our failure to find anything in the Bible that would satisfy our reason and our heart—that we all would know assuredly that the present satisfaction and blessing and enlightenment [R4044 : page 248] and refreshment are from the Lord himself. As the ox would be able to know his owner, we surely ought to be able to know our God and to recognize his supervision in our affairs. But not so with all. Some, we are sorry to say, seem to overlook the divine supervision of the Church and the divine arrangement respecting this harvest time and the present development of the Truth. The miraculous supply of manna to Natural Israel in the wilderness was not in our estimation more wonderful nor a better foundation for faith in the divine providences than is the present supply of spiritual manna to the Spiritual Israelites. Nevertheless some know not the Lord as their owner, but still "belong to" various sects and parties and denominations.
The Lord attaches no blame whatever to the wheat on account of the tares being mingled, but explains that in the time of harvest they are to separate. Neither does he express disapproval that his people were in "Babylon" for centuries—confused, bewildered by "traditions of men" and "doctrines of devils." But he does tell us that he does expect that, when the true light shines upon the path of the just in the harvest time of this age, all who are awake and loyal will see the Day Star and the dawning Millennium, and that they will hear as the voice of God the message of Present Truth, and that they will be strengthened and energized by his Word as meat in due season; and that, if then thus energized and awake, they are loyal to him and to the principles of his government and to the honor of his name and to their privileges of service, they will promptly recognize the Truth as the voice of God, saying to them, "Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins and receive not of her plagues.—Rev. 18:4.
"OF YOUR OWN SELVES SHALL MEN ARISE, SPEAKING PERVERSE
THINGS, TO DRAW AWAY DISCIPLES AFTER
THEM."—ACTS 20:30 .
The ass knoweth her Master's crib: She knows to look for her food as of her Master's providing, and goes again to the same crib, where she receives his bountiful supply, that she may be again and again refreshed and nourished. But our Lord intimates that the stupid ass could give pointers to some of his people. And how true this is! Here and there we find some who, after feeding at the Master's crib, practically say to themselves and to others, "Yes, there was good, clean provender in that crib; it tasted good, I feel refreshed; but it was not specially of the Master's providing; it was a happen-so; let us browse and wander about—we may come across another crib containing still better provender; let us nose about the various creeds, let us try Christian Science, let us try faith cure, let us try to make a crib of our own, and to fill it ourselves and eat therefrom. The Lord intimates that the ass is not as foolish as this; but if we could find one thus disposed we would say, Poor, foolish donkey, you do not know a good thing when you have it—you do not realize your Master's care.
Turning from the Lord's parable of the ox and the ass, we find the Apostle's direct statement respecting the trials and difficulties sure to beset the Lord's people along this line of forgetting who is their owner, who began the good work in them, and who it is that proposes, if we are faithful, to complete his work in us in the day of Jesus Christ—early in the morning of the Millennium. As the Apostle intimates, we find that some of the elders in the Church of Christ, instead of feeding the flock of the Lord and pointing them to their owner, to the food which he has provided, the meat in due season, are on the contrary seeking to turn the flock away—to draw disciples after themselves. Taking for granted that some of the Lord's people are more stupid than the ass, they do their best to turn them from the Master's crib—his provision for the necessities of his people in this evil day. Take an illustration of this: We heard recently from a little congregation of the Lord's people, who for years have been feasting upon the things new and old from the storehouse of truth and grace provided now by our present Lord, that their Elder had admonished them that he would preach to them, or, if they wished a Bible study, he would make one for them, but that he did not wish that they should have "Dawn-Scripture Studies," and hoped that none of them would refer to nor quote from those six volumes of "Scripture Studies" or other of the WATCH TOWER publications. He evidently desired to make them a new crib, into which he would put some new fodder, perhaps attractively topping it off with some of the kind from which they had gotten spiritual refreshment. The old crib he wished them now to entirely forget and go to no more for food. We have not yet learned to what extent those dear people have the common sense of the donkey; but we presume, in harmony with the Lord's suggestion, that some of them will show themselves lacking even donkey sense.
But what motive could any professed servant of the Lord have in such a course? The Apostle explains the motive in the text above, saying it is to draw away disciples after themselves. The desire for leadership, for prominence, to be chiefest, has seemingly been the besetment and difficulty of the Church from the days of Jesus until now. On no other score did our Lord so often warn his disciples as upon this one of a desire to be chief. Whoever manifests such a spirit should be firmly, kindly dealt with, to the intent that the flock might be preserved from such a pernicious spirit, and that the leader himself might be recovered from this snare of the Adversary. Selfishness is the opposite of love, and self-seeking is an evidence of selfishness. Hence, even if the foundation of doctrine, the ransom, be adhered to for a time, let us make no mistake that selfishness would sooner or later lead into outer darkness and thereby many be defiled—injured. The love which the Scriptures set before us as being the proper growth and development of the knowledge received from the Lord—seeketh not her own, is not puffed up—is solicitous chiefly for the glory of the Lord and the good of his flock.
Failure to recognize—or, if recognized, failure to remember—that the Lord is the Chief Reaper in the [R4044 : page 249] harvest work and has full supervision of it, is a fruitful cause of error. All who are in full accord with him, fully submitted to his will, wholly desirous of having his will done in their affairs and in the affairs of the Church, should look well to it that his will shall be fulfilled in every particular: in their thoughts, their words, their deeds, as these relate to their private affairs and to the interests of the Church. His servants we are to whom we render service: and this implies that we are either serving the Lord in connection with the reaping of this harvest time or serving the Adversary, who seeks to oppose this reaping work. Where are we? What are we doing? Are we gathering with the Lord or are we with the Adversary scattering abroad? There can be no doubt as to what the result will be. The harvest work will be accomplished and every true grain of wheat will be garnered; the important question to each of us is respecting our particular share in the matter. What is our attitude in this work? To what extent are we co-laborers and under-reapers? What may we hope for at the close of the harvest, when to the faithful laborers the Master shall say, "Well done, good and faithful servants?" Can he class us with those faithful ones who have sought not their own name or fame or glory or honor amongst men, but by the sacrifice of these have sought to do the will of the Father in heaven? This is a personal matter—each must answer to his own heart as best he may be able to see it.
There is a depth of meaning in our Lord's parable in which he represents one as desiring to take a mote, a small speck, out of another brother's eye, whereas he had a beam, a larger matter, in his own eye. The import of the parable is that each of the Lord's followers should look critically to himself and sympathetically at others of the household. This is the spirit of love; whoever lacks this spirit is in danger: hence we all should seek to cultivate this quality. Where an opposite spirit is entertained, encouraged, the beginnings may be small but the tendency is toward outer darkness. This spirit, we regret to say, manifests itself occasionally in various little companies of the Lord's people—a factional spirit—a fault-finding spirit. The proper spirit, on the contrary, [R4045 : page 249] should be loving consideration for one another, a gladness to see each other developing, and a willingness to assist in as kind and gentle a manner as possible. Any other spirit is sure to bring injury, and we urge all of the Lord's faithful to stand fast by the principle which the Lord enunciates on this subject and to cultivate in the heart the loving generosity which thinketh no evil, but, on the contrary, seeks to rightly understand and excuse an apparent error, especially if it be not along an important line of doctrine.
Such criticisms sometimes extend to the Editor of this journal, who, by the way, has never claimed infallibility, and who does not expect to reach that which is perfect until his change in the First Resurrection. As an illustration of this wrong principle we note the fact that a typographical error crept into a recent issue of the TOWER and made us appear to teach that it was the body of Jesus which was resurrected on the third day, whereas all of our readers know that our teaching in the DAWN-STUDIES has been that not the body but the soul of our Lord was quickened in his resurrection, in harmony with the statement of the Prophet and the Apostle, "Thou wilt not leave my soul in hades"—in the grave. We are glad that the dear friends generally read so critically that the mistake was noticed; but were sorry to learn that one, "who for the time ought to be a teacher" and helper of the flock, improved the opportunity to speak slightingly of this journal, and risked the interests of the flock through a shaking of confidence by remarking that here is the best of evidence that ZION'S WATCH TOWER is not reliable in its instructions on Scriptural themes. What object he had in making the remark only he and the Lord know; we judge him not. We suggest, however, that a different course would undoubtedly have been more to the Lord's glory, more to the good of the little company to whom the brother ministered, and more to his own credit and influence with that little company as a leader. He might have said: "This is a peculiar statement and I think must be a typographical error. This must be so, for it was the Editor himself who first drew the attention of all of us to the fact that our Lord was not raised from the dead a human being but a spirit being—that it was not his body that was resurrected but his soul, as a New Creature. When we come to understand this matter we shall surely find that a typographical error has crept in."
As a matter of fact the Editor dictates his matter to a stenographer, who takes it down in shorthand and then writes it out on a typewriter; the copy thus furnished then goes to a proof-reader and subsequently to the compositor, and the printer's proof is read by two different proof-readers. How in this case the word "body" instead of "soul" could have slipped by the attention of all the dear friends who are thoroughly versed on the subject, none of us understands. Perhaps the Lord allows such blunders for the very purpose of keeping us all very humble, and also to the intent that we all may be on the alert to note carefully what we read, and to square it all with the divine plan which we all now have so clearly in mind.
While at it, we will refer to another criticism—not, however, that the matter is of any special value, but by way of correction. In referring to the wafers which constitute a part of the offerings to the Lord on the Day of Atonement, we explained that they contained a mixture of honey, basing this explanation upon the fact that in Exodus 16:31 we are told that wafers were made of fine flour mingled with honey. Another Scripture, however, forbade that honey should be burned in any sacrifice to the Lord. There then arises a seeming conflict. If the wafers offered on the [R4045 : page 250] Day of Atonement contained honey, then that sacrifice was peculiar and different from the other sacrifices subsequent to the Day of Atonement. If on the other hand the prohibition of the burning of the honey be understood to apply to the Day of Atonement sacrifices as well as to others, then the specified "wafers" could not have contained honey, but if they did not contain honey, in what respect were they different from the other cakes mentioned in the same connection is not very apparent. So far as we can see the question is not a momentous one, but to avoid confusion or dispute, in our future editions of the Tabernacle Shadows we will omit the reference to the honey as a component part of these wafers.
The true spirit of brotherhood amongst the Lord's disciples is most necessary for them individually and collectively. Our Lord declared, "Hereby shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one for another." By these words he evidently meant us to understand that the rules and customs to prevail amongst his dear people should not be after the standards of the world but of a much higher, much nobler, much more generous standard. To the extent that we are able to keep this in memory and to live according to this rule will be our joy in the Lord in the present time and our prospect of being joint-heirs with him in his glorious Kingdom. Let us remember his words to the disciples on the subject of self-seeking—Except ye become as little children ye shall in no wise enter the Kingdom of heaven.—Matt. 18:3.