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"Beloved, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling;
for it is God which worketh in you both to will and to
do of His good pleasure."—Philippians 2:12,13 .
IN THIS chapter from which our text is taken, the Apostle Paul pays a beautiful tribute to the Church at Philippi. He refers in tender and loving terms to their obedience always to his instruction and counsel, not only when he was present with them, but likewise in his absence. He urges them to continued faithfulness and earnestness in this good way. He desires that they make still further progress in the Master's likeness, working out in themselves through humility and obedience the character-development necessary, with fear and trembling, doing their own part in the attainment of the salvation to which they had been called in Christ.
This exhortation of St. Paul is designed likewise for the sanctified in Christ Jesus of today. He reminds us, as he did the Philippian Church, that we are to work out our salvation. Elsewhere the Scriptures inform us that our salvation is by grace—that "not by works of righteousness which we have done, but by His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit." (Titus 3:5.) These Scriptures are not contradictory. Our salvation is "not of ourselves, lest any man should boast." The Father has appointed the Lord Jesus to be our Savior; and it is through Him that our salvation is to be accomplished.
We cannot work out our own justification; but being justified by the blood of Christ and being called with the Heavenly Calling, we can do our share in this great work of our own preparation for our future station and glory. We do this by giving heed to the instructions of our Lord, by following the example which He has set us. We can never attain perfection in the flesh; but from the beginning our heart, our intention, must be wholly loyal, and day by day this heart intention must become more and more crystallized, fixed, in the way of righteousness. We must continue the work of bringing our body into subjection, and enlisting in the service of the Lord.
It is encouraging for us to know that this warfare is not one which we must wage alone. All the powers of Heaven are enlisted on our behalf. Our God has led us thus far in the willing and the doing of His good pleasure, and He will continue thus to lead and help us and work in us by His Word of Truth, if we continue to give heed to His counsel. The Gospel is the "power of God unto salvation unto every one" who accepts it; and no greater stimulus can be found than the exceeding great and precious promises given unto us, that by these we might become "partakers of the Divine nature."
Our salvation is a salvation from death to life, from sin to righteousness. Moreover, it is a transformation [R5854 : page 55] from human nature to Divine—our "so great salvation!" The initiatory step to our salvation was the work accomplished by our Lord Jesus at Calvary. "He died for our sins." This dying for our sins was first necessary; for there was no one on earth who could pay the penalty of Adam's sin. The Law of God required "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a man's life for a man's life." There was no man perfect; hence God arranged that His Only Begotten Son should meet this death penalty upon man. The Father could have arranged it otherwise, but He did not; therefore we know that this was the best way.
The death of Christ, however, was not all that was necessary. "He rose again for our justification." His death was for the cancelation of our sins; but it could not effect our justification while He was still in the bonds of death—not until He had risen—and more, not until He had ascended up on High—and more, not until He had presented His merit on our behalf—on behalf of the Church. Still more than this, our justification is not accomplished until, in each individual case, the necessary steps of faith and full consecration have been taken, as a result of which the merit of our Redeemer is imputed.
This merit of Christ has not as yet been presented for the world, because their time has not yet come. Thus far it has been presented only for the Church—those who are called to be joint-heirs with Christ, and who accept the Call. When Jesus appeared in the presence of God for us, there was an arrangement then effected by which we might become justified. There are certain inflexible conditions upon which God is willing to impute this merit of Christ's death. It is those only who wish to turn away from sin, to be justified from sin, and to serve God, to whom this favor is offered. Only these can now become sons of God.
Whether these steps take years or days or a few minutes, all these steps must be taken before we are in the place where we can be accepted of Christ and presented by Him to the Father. When our Redeemer imputes to us His merit, covering our blemishes, this brings us to the place of vital justification. We have done nothing to accomplish this justification. We have merely presented ourselves that we might become servants of [R5855 : page 55] righteousness. We have merely placed ourselves in the position of readiness to receive the blessing. When our Savior's merit was thus imputed, all our past was forgiven, our blemishes covered, the Father accepted the offering, and our High Priest sacrificed us as justified human beings. At that moment we were begotten of the Father by His Holy Spirit, "to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in Heaven for us." (1 Peter 1:4.) We became embryo New Creatures, who were then to grow and develop day by day until, in due time, we would be born as spirit beings on the Divine plane, if faithful unto death.
This is a wonderful work, a marvelous transformation! Selected from a race of bondslaves of sin, beings of a fleshly nature, depraved, death-stricken, sin-cursed, we are lifted out of the miry clay; we are washed, cleansed, from our pollution, our soiled rags of unrighteousness, and a new nature has been begun in us. Then our earthward tendencies are gradually bent Heavenward. We are transformed day by day, rising up, UP, until, our resurrection completed, the work of transformation fully accomplished, we are exalted to heights unimaginable—passing the nature and rank of angels, of cherubim, of seraphim, and every name that is named, and seated upon Messiah's Throne, beside the Infinite Son of God, partakers of His glorious nature—the nature of Jehovah Himself—the Divine nature!
Can mortal man conceive so marvelous a glory? The very thought of such a Calling should cause us to bow our hearts in the dust before our God, realizing our great unworthiness of such stupendous grace—of bliss so transcendent! What can we render unto the Lord that can fittingly demonstrate our gratitude, our thankfulness, for so unspeakable a favor? Surely, the most faithful service we can give is but a very feeble return to Him who has so loved us, so blessed us, so honored us!
We are joint-heirs with the Lord of Glory to this wonderful inheritance, if only we are faithful unto death and keep our garments white. To us "old things have passed away, and all things have become new." As old creatures we had no standing with God; we were feeding on the beggarly elements of the world. We were dead in trespasses and in sins. It is only as New Creatures that we have any standing, that we can please God, that we can work for Him. It is this New Creature that the Apostle is addressing in our text.
As we have made a consecration of ourselves to God, our sins are all under the blood, and the new life has begun in us. We are under a solemn contract to see that the work of transformation steadily progresses. When the Father accepted our offering and our vows to Him, and granted us His Holy Spirit, He did not give us the full consummation of our hopes, but merely an "earnest of our inheritance." Our agreement was to be dead to the world, dead to earthly things, and alive toward God. It is therefore for each of us to demonstrate in our words, in our actions, in our thoughts, that everything in this contract is bona fide on our part—that we meant every word of it. When we become children of God, our one ambition should be to prove our loyalty to God, our loyalty to our Covenant of Sacrifice. Was it not so with our Lord Jesus?
Our Lord came into the world to be our Redeemer. But He was not the Redeemer when He was born, nor when He was thirty years of age, until He made His consecration. He was called the Savior from His birth, only in a prospective sense. He became our Redeemer in the real, the official, sense when He was baptized of John in Jordan, and the Holy Spirit came upon Him in begetting power. Then it remained for Him during the three and a half years of His active service to work out that consecration. Every act of life during that crucial period was the fulfilling of His Covenant of Sacrifice. He had covenanted to sacrifice His human nature with all its conditions and possibilities, in order that He might carry out the Father's purpose. For this cause He came into the world, and He faithfully fulfilled His Covenant. His glorious reward was the Divine nature and the authority to execute all the Father's great Program.
And so it is to be with us, His followers. We come in under the same arrangement, our weaknesses and imperfections being covered by our Redeemer's robe of righteousness, which constitutes our "wedding garment." Thus we stand before the Father complete in the Beloved. And His Word to us is, "My grace is sufficient for thee; for My strength is made perfect in weakness." (2 Corinthians 12:9.) All the children of God who are true to their covenant are working out their salvation from day to day. It is a work of sacrifice, a daily work of crucifixion of the flesh. From the beginning of our consecrated life we are reckoned as being fully "crucified with Christ"; but the actual crucifixion is a slow, painful, lingering process, and ends only with the completion of our sacrifice in death.
"Gather my saints together unto Me, those who have [R5855 : page 56] made a covenant with Me by sacrifice," is the command of Jehovah. (Psalm 50:5.) To what extent are we performing this work of sacrifice in ourselves? And to what extent are we seeking to assist in the work of gathering the saints of God unto Him? Are we faithful to the extent of our ability and opportunity? Are we sure that we are careful to note the opportunities, great or small, that are within our reach? If we do not see our opportunities, the Lord will use another to do the work that might have been ours; and we shall lose the blessing and the reward of the service that we might have rendered. How careful, then, we should be!
But this is not a matter in which we are to judge one another. It is not for me to say to you that you are not sufficiently earnest in your sacrificing. Neither can you properly say to me that I am not faithfully fulfilling my sacrifice. To his own Master each one stands or falls. It is for the Lord and ourselves to settle this important matter in our individual cases. And we may not fully judge even ourselves. We are to strive to do our best, and then leave the results for the Lord's determining. The Father will apportion to each faithful member of our Lord's Body his own place in the glorious Temple.
The brethren may give a word of suggestion to each other along these lines, but that is all. The Lord alone is to decide whether or not we are each living up to the terms of our covenant. He expects faithfulness in each one who has taken His Covenant upon him. It were far better that we never covenant to sacrifice our earthly life and its interests than that we take this vow upon us and then fail to pay that which we have vowed. (Ecclesiastes 5:4-6.) This is a most solemn matter, and the Lord will certainly require of us the fulfilment of our vows. If death is not voluntary, He will destroy our flesh. If we resist this, it will mean the hopeless death of our being.
"It is God who worketh in you," declares the Apostle Paul. We did not begin this work ourselves. It would never have occurred to us, uninvited, to endeavor to obtain a share in the glory, honor and immortality of the Lord Jesus. It would have been the height of presumption for us so to do without an express invitation. It is God who planned the whole matter. He has been working in us by His promises, by His providences in our daily experiences, and by all the instructions, warnings and counsels of His Word, and we rejoice in this. There is no changeableness with God; and when once He made this proposition, He meant it to the full. It would never mean anything else. He never makes an arrangement which He would wish to abrogate or amend.
We are assured by the Apostle Paul that "He who has begun the good work in us will complete it, unto the Day of Jesus Christ." The only condition is our own faithfulness. God will never fail. "We are His workmanship." He is really doing the work. We are submitting ourselves that God may work in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure. He is the great Master Workman. Thus the work of grace goes on in our hearts and lives, making us ready for the exalted position to which we are called. And it is only if we are negligent of these great privileges granted to us that God will take them from us and give them to others.
Those who are constructing a fine building need special power to accomplish the work—to hoist the great steel frames, the blocks of stone, the brick, etc. Now God purposes to furnish the power by which we may accomplish the work on our character-building, this wonderful structure we are setting up. But the Lord will not accomplish this great work in us unless we diligently cooperate with Him. He gave us the calling, the inspiration, and furnishes all the necessary assistance day by day; so we are to persevere in the building of this character which is essential and which He purposes shall be in all those whom He will make joint-heirs with His Son.
In following in the footsteps of our Lord Jesus, we are not to murmur by the way, finding fault with its difficulties and its narrowness; nor are we to dispute how or where we are to be led, nor to seek to have any other way than that which Divine providence marks out for us, realizing and trusting that the Lord knows exactly [R5856 : page 56] what experiences are necessary to our development in the character-likeness of Christ. We should realize also that if obedience were possible while our mouths are full of complaints and dissatisfaction with the Lord and with our lot, which He has permitted, it would indicate that we are out of sympathy with the spirit of His arrangement.
Such an obedience, if it were possible—and it is not—would not meet the Divine approval nor gain us the prize. Hence, as the Apostle exhorts, we should "do all things without murmurings and disputings, that we may be the sons of God without rebuke in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom we shine as lights in the world, holding forth the Word of Life."
In the expression of our text—"Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling"—we are not to understand that the Lord wishes His children literally to tremble with fear before Him. We should exercise the same judgment in interpreting the words and expressions of Scripture that we would in reading any other book, or in understanding the words of our friends. One called to a position of great responsibility will sometimes say afterwards, "I accepted that position with fear and trembling." He would not mean that he actually quaked with fear; but this is an expression used to indicate that one feels the need of great carefulness—that he realizes his great responsibility and his liability to fail to meet all the requirements without the most earnest attention. It means that one realizes that the matter is not one to be taken up lightly, as if it were a mere bagatelle, but that failure in it would bring serious consequences.
Just so when we read this Scripture, we are not to think that we should tremble with fear before our God; but we believe the Apostle's thought to be that in this great work that we have undertaken—of walking in the footsteps of Jesus that we may attain the prize of our High Calling—so much depends upon our faithfulness, our diligence. We have not undertaken a light thing. It is a very heavy responsibility. Our eternal interests are in the balance—the issue of life or death. Those who win the prize will be heirs of God to the highest honors and glories which have ever been offered—to a glory and honor beyond human power to imagine! We believe that no such offer will ever again be made.
The Son of God holds the position next to Jehovah, and can never have but one Bride. Surely, then, there is need that we work out our salvation with fear and trembling—with great carefulness, with great earnestness, in respect to everything in connection with it! We should be keenly appreciative of the fact that it is the most wonderful thing in all the Universe of God! We believe that if we do not make our calling and election sure and win in this fight within a very brief time now, the opportunity will be gone forever. No amount of [R5856 : page 57] wailing and gnashing of teeth will then avail. When the door is shut, it will never open again. Like Esau, those who fail will find "no place for repentance," though they seek it "carefully with tears." The glorious birthright will have slipped from their grasp forever.
But, beloved fellow-laborers, who are earnestly striving day by day to "so run as to obtain," "we are persuaded better things of you, though we thus speak." But it is well that we have our "pure minds stirred up by way of remembrance," that we may keep our eyes upon the Heavenly City and the prize set before us. The wearisome march will, we believe, soon be ended. At most it is only a little while. And so, with steadfast hearts, let us run with patience and perseverance to the end of our course.
"Joyful through hope, thy motto still must be—
The Dawn is here!
What glories does that Dawn unfold to thee!
Be of good cheer!
Gird up thy loins; bind sandals on thy feet!
The way was dark and long; the end is sweet."
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"Because iniquity shall be multiplied the love of
the many shall wax cold."—Matthew 24:12. R. V.
IT IS evident that our Lord is not here speaking of the world, for the world does not have this love. It is the Church of whom Jesus is speaking; it is only the Church with whom God is now dealing. As New Creatures, God's children have seen a great Light, Christ Jesus. Through this Light we have ourselves become illuminated, and we seek to let our light shine before men. We are not lighted candles to shed light upon others until we have become the Lord's, until we have received of His light.
The Bible declares that all men are by nature sinners, unworthy of God's notice. But He has made a provision of everlasting life for the perfect. How, then, will any member of our sinner race ever get everlasting life? Surely none of the children of Adam are worthy of everlasting life! The Lord, however, has provided for this emergency through the death of Christ. During the Gospel Age God has been delivering from death a certain class. During the incoming Millennial Age, He will lift up and make perfect the world of mankind. But only at the close of that Age, after they have been finally tested, will God grant them, if worthy, everlasting life. If they fail to attain perfection, He will not give them everlasting life at all, but will destroy them.
The Church is an especially called-out class. "Ye are not of the world, even as I am not of the world," said the Master. "I have chosen you out of the world." Mankind in general are in a different heart attitude from those who come into the Church. It is only the minority who now hunger and thirst after righteousness. God in mercy keeps back the Truth from those to whom it would not in the present time be a blessing. This class that the Lord is now calling out from the world are "called to be saints."
The word saint stands for one who is holy. The word holy has the significance of the word whole—that which is entire, lacking nothing. God, who is holy, calls His children to be holy, saying, "Be ye holy, for I am holy." (1 Peter 1:16.) But we were by nature unholy; hence His arrangement for our justification, our being made right, whole. The world in general will be made right during the Millennium. None is made right now in the actual sense.
In what way, then, does God make the Church right now? Ah, there is the beauty of God's Plan! They are made right reckonedly, by the counting to each of them of the perfect merit of Christ. This is a unique arrangement, peculiar to the present Age alone. God says, "My Call at this time is an invitation to a new nature. I am not inviting any now to Restitution; if so it would not be necessary to issue this special Call. I want a certain class for a specific purpose, to be used later in blessing the whole world. I know of some who will be glad to respond. So I am sending My Message, that those able to hear may hear."
We all know something of the wireless system of telegraphy. This is one of the blessings of this "day of the Lord's preparation" for the incoming New Age. It may serve as an illustration of how God has been sending out His Truth during the Gospel Age. If we would hear the Lord's Call, we must have coherers. If we do not have coherers, we cannot hear His Message at all. We need to have responsive hearts, ready to receive with gladness the Message of God's love and mercy.
If your heart is not rightly in tune, you cannot understand; but as you get it in tune with the Lord, the Message enters, and you can hear the wave tones. God speaks to us in tones of a certain character. We recognize those tones and respond, if our heart is in the proper attitude. We had a wrong tone given us by the Adversary—that God had damned the world, had made a place to eternally torture the majority of mankind. With that wrong tone given us, we were not in a position to get the true Message. God's true Message is a glorious tune, a marvelous melody.
Finally we got the right tune from the Word of God. "I can hear better now," we said. "Yes, yes; God is Love!" "God so loved the world that He gave His Only Begotten Son"; "Like as a Father pitieth His children, so the Lord pitieth!" Yes, I now understand something of the lengths and breadths and heights and depths of the love of God! It is too wonderful a symphony to fully comprehend, I cannot take it all in, but it is there. I am hearing it more and more clearly!
Only those who get their hearts in tune with God can hear it all, and the more fully in tune you get your heart the better you can hear. If your instrument is out of tune, if something happens to get you out of touch with the Heavenly electric wave, then you cannot hear the wonderful melody. If you do not keep in close touch with the Lord, you will fail to catch the harmony. You are out of tune with the Infinite One.
What is the character of God that we are learning more about as we study His Word? We find that the very basis of God's character is Justice, absolute Justice. If God were an unjust God, we could never depend upon Him. He might make some term or condition today and then alter it tomorrow. But He is absolutely just; "Justice and judgment are the foundation of His Throne." (Psalm 89:14.) He changes not; "I am Jehovah, I change not." (Malachi 3:6.) He is "the same yesterday, and today, and forever." He will never fail us, He will never deceive. Whoever desires to be in proper tune with God must practice upon that string of JUSTICE. Justice must come into our heart and into our [R5857 : page 58] life. The nearer we come in line with justice, the better we shall understand and enter into the spirit of God's great Plan. We trust that is what we are striving to do.
But there are many ways of being unjust. We may say unjust things about our neighbors; we may make trifling faults appear to be great faults; we may color things unjustly. We may use words with a certain intonation or emphasis, with a shrug of the shoulders, giving a wrong impression which might be detrimental to the reputation of another. Although we might not really mean to wrong another, yet this course would be wrong, and might do incalculable harm. When you say, "I would not wish to be seen in that man's company," you might not mean to do wrong, and yet be guilty of slander. Your coherer is out of tune with God.
Then in the mind one might be unjust. Many people seem to become prejudiced against certain things or persons without just reason. To that extent they are out of harmony with justice. What we need to do is to think righteously, soberly, kindly, along the lines of the Golden Rule, to let our words and deeds be in harmony with the principles of righteousness. Thus we shall be greatly assisted in the development of the sterling Christian character which is absolutely essential if we would have our Father's approval.
Justice, then, is the basis, the first thing necessary, in building character. From this basis we are to go on to the attainment of sympathy, benevolence, forgiveness, love. God has been very loving and sympathetic with us. He has provided us a Redeemer. He has covered our many blemishes from His sight. Then, as we seek to copy God, we shall wish to be kind and forbearing and helpful toward all. But we must be just first. If we have an unjust twist in our mind, it will interfere with our communion with God, and we shall be in danger of failing to make our calling and election sure.
We are continually surrounded by the spirit of the world—hatred, envy, malice, strife. So we must keep very close to the Lord to counteract this spirit. The world and the things of the fallen nature are so close to us that we can with difficulty avoid being contaminated by them. One can hardly pass through a vile neighborhood without carrying away vile odors. But the Lord has furnished us with a most effective disinfectant in His Word. All the cleansing we need is derived from the Message which God has given us, with its explicit instructions. This wireless Message from Him tells of His love for us, speaks peace through Jesus Christ our Lord, makes known to us our privilege of becoming heirs of God and joint-heirs with our Lord Jesus.
Having been called with this Heavenly Calling, we can readily understand that God would not have us in this class unless we have the right spirit. The selection is not according to a whim of Divine preference. On the contrary, God chooses according to character, according to natural qualifications of honesty and the desire to be just, to be right, whatever may be the fleshly weaknesses. Justice is the very basis of God's Throne, the foundation of His Government.
In our text the Lord Jesus declares that at a certain time in the Gospel Age, and apparently pointing down to our day, "because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold." The Revised Version given here is stronger than our Common Version rendering. It is not only many who will grow cold, but the many, the majority, of professed followers of Christ. How truly the Master's words have been fulfilled! Iniquity is inequity, injustice, unrighteousness. Our text might properly read, "Because unrighteousness shall abound, the love of the many shall grow cold." We are in the time against which the Lord sought to especially guard us. How few comparatively have heeded the warning!
The STUDIES IN THE SCRIPTURES point out that in God's arrangement the Prophet Elijah was a type of The Christ in the flesh—Jesus being the Head of the antitypical Elijah and the Church being His Body. The three and a half years, 1260 days, of Elijah's experiences while hiding in the wilderness from Queen Jezebel were symbolic, and corresponded to the 1260 years of the true Church in the wilderness condition, where she had fled from the antitypical Jezebel. (Revelation 12:6,14; Daniel 7:24,25.) Elijah's coming out of the wilderness prefigured the coming out of the true Church of God from her wilderness hiding after the year 1799 A. D., when Jezebel's power was broken, and the copious rains following represented the wide circulation of the Bible since that date.
The Church of Christ, the watching ones, are now in a particular time of waiting. The Elijah class is soon to be taken beyond the veil. The Elisha class will be left until later, to wash their soiled robes in the blood of the Lamb in the "Great Tribulation" just before the world. It seems that the Lord is now especially testing His people. Among many of the people of God love has waxed cold, because unrighteousness is abounding everywhere. Many today profess to believe things that they do not believe. Empty forms of godliness prevail. Love of pleasure is rampant. As a result many professed Christians are lukewarm or cold. They say, "Look at what the church systems are doing. What is right for our church leaders is right for me." Thus many are taking a very wavering course.
There is much injustice practiced everywhere. We find great neglect of the Golden Rule. Christian parents, too, are leaving the religious training of their children too frequently to the Sunday School, where the teachers are often wholly incompetent to instruct them in the Word of God. Christian parents should be the priests of their own family. They have a great responsibility. Because iniquity prevails, the temptation is strong with many to follow the multitude. But the Lord's children should not follow a multitude to do evil. We must learn quickly now all God's will concerning us. The end of the Church's probation is drawing near. We have not much time left in the School of Christ. The saints are soon to be judges of the world. Shall we be among those judges?
Let each child of God bestir himself. Let him encourage the brethren to faithfulness. Let us give close attention to God's Word, that we may become more and more like our Father in Heaven. Let us love the things which are true, right, noble, Godlike. Let us renounce all else for the Heavenly things. We cannot stand for our own rights in the world. We gave up our human rights when we gave ourselves to the Lord. There are times perhaps when we might offer a protest, as Jesus did when He was smitten. But He did not retaliate nor try to render evil for evil. And we are to walk as He walked. Let us not allow the inequity of others to cause our hearts to grow cold.
The One whom we are to please, the One with whom we have to do, the One whom we love above every human tie, is our Lord. We desire to do His will. As for the brethren, let us do the best we know how for them. Let Heavenly wisdom be our guide. Let us faithfully follow Jesus in the Narrow way, whatever others about us may do; and soon we shall hear His sweet "Well done!"