SUCH combination of Scripture, apparently contradictory, is quite a stumbling-block to worldly people; and some of those who have inclinations toward the Lord, but have not much knowledge of his Word and Plan, experience all kinds of trouble in a vain attempt to reconcile them. To these God's Word is apparently proven to be untrue. Only from the standpoint of faith can it be recognized as always true and harmonious. Yet the standpoint of faith may not always be exactly the same. We might use the word "thee" in the text, as applying to the Lord (the New Creature) and the members of the Body (the New Creatures) and consider that the flesh is the great enemy, the great opponent, to be gotten rid of. Or we might think of the flesh as their earthly tabernacle for the time, and take the matter in a more figurative way.
We, however, prefer to consider the New Creature entirely apart from the flesh. "No evil shall befall thee." Applying this to our Lord, we see that no evil befell him as a New Creature. All the things that happened to him were necessary. Without these he could not have fulfilled the calling that was given him. Similarly we, as New Creatures, as his followers, could never have attained to this calling except by the crucifixion of the Lord. "Mortify, therefore, your members which are upon the earth."—Col. 3:5.
Our Lord's followers have to some extent lost the esteem of their friends and neighbors; they have been counted as the offscouring of the earth. They have been tested in every possible manner. These things were necessary for them; therefore, they were not evil.
Our Lord asked, "Ought not Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into his glory?" (Luke 24:26.) To be fitted for the priestly office to which he was called, our Lord must be proved beyond all peradventure. His loyalty was put to the extremest test in the Garden of Gethsemane. Possibly he himself did not realize the strength of his righteous character until brought face to face with this last trial. There he was tried and proved to the uttermost, and under the trial his character—always perfect to the full measure of its testing—gained, by Divine grace, its glorious perfection of completeness.
Thus, through suffering, he learned obedience to the perfect will of God, down to the lowest depths of self-abnegation; and God permitted it so to be, because such proving was necessary, both for the development and the manifestation of that perfection of character which would be worthy of the high exaltation to which he was called.
And so we also must suffer if we would be footstep-followers of the Lamb. Character cannot be developed wholly without trial. It is like a plant; at first it is very tender; it needs an abundance of the sunshine of God's love; frequent watering with the showers of his grace; much cultivating through the applied knowledge of his character, as a foundation for faith and an inspiration to obedience. Then, when thus developed under these favorable conditions, it is ready for the pruning hand of discipline, and is also able to endure some hardness. And little by little, as strength of character is developed, the tests applied to it serve only to develop more strength, more beauty, more grace, until it is finally fixed, developed, established, perfected through suffering. Thus we learn to realize that "All things work together for good...to the called according to his purpose," to those who are to be members of his Body.—Rom. 8:28.
We are to recognize that there are two classes of spirit-begotten ones, and that our text has reference to only one class of these. There is the Body of Christ, representing the priestly order, the antitypical Melchisedec—Jesus the Head and the Church his Body. They have kept nothing back of their love and devotion; things may happen disastrous to their fleshly interests; but they remember that they are "not in the flesh, but in the spirit," and realize that no outside influence can mar their real interest as New Creatures, nor hinder them, if faithful, from attaining to the glories of the Kingdom with their Lord and Head. They have entered into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, and do not withdraw; they "abide in the secret place of the Most High"; they will continue unto the very end. It is to this class, and to all the things that may befall them, that the assurance is given—"There shall no evil befall thee."
As for the other of the two classes—the "Great Company"—some evils do befall them. They will be put into great tribulation. It was an evil on their part that they neglected the Lord's Word and the privileges of the "high calling." This coolness brought them into a condition which must be made right. They loved "father or mother or houses or lands," or something else, to such [R4767 : page 59] an extent that they failed to keep their covenant of sacrifice, and will be accounted unworthy of a share in the Kingdom, and will, instead, be subjected to the great time of trouble—"the day of wrath." It will be necessary that these evils come upon them to bring destruction of the flesh.