Apparently Contradictory Scriptures Examined--Quench not the Spirit-- Grieve not the Holy Spirit--The Spirit of Truth--The Comforter-- Filled with the Holy Spirit--Lying to the Holy Spirit--Tempting the Spirit of the Lord--Sin Against the Holy Spirit--"The Spirit Said"-- "It Seemed Good to the Holy Spirit"--"Forbidden of the Holy Ghost"--"The Holy Ghost Witnesseth"--"The Holy Ghost hath Made You Overseers"--The Holy Spirit a Teacher--"An Unction from the Holy One"--The Spirit Maketh Intercessions with Groanings-- How the Spirit Reproves the World--"Hereby Know Ye the Spirit of God" from "The Spirit of Antichrist."
IN CONSEQUENCE of the translating of the Scriptures having been done by Trinitarians
(both the Common Version and the Revised) many passages have been given a bias or twist
which causes an apparent disagreement between some of these and what we have seen
foregoing to be the Scriptural as well as the reasonable view of the subject under
discussion--that the holy Spirit of the Father and by the Son is in the Lord's people the
Spirit of at-one-ment. We will, therefore, now take up a variety of scriptures--all that
we can think of as likely to be confusing to the minds of many. Let us examine these
together, with our hearts fully loyal to the Word of God, and desirous of being led by the
Spirit of Truth: then we will proceed to other phases of the subject, which cannot so well
be understood until these supposed objections are removed. [E264]
"Quench Not the Spirit"
To quench signifies to extinguish, as when we quench a fire, or extinguish a light. The Greek word here rendered "quench" occurs eight times in the New Testament, and in every other instance it refers to quenching fire or light. Carrying this thought with us, let us remember that by reason of our possession of the holy Spirit or mind of God, enlightening us, we are called "the light of the world" (Matt. 5:14): thus we see that the Apostle meant that if we should be seduced into worldliness by the spirit of the world, the effect would be to extinguish or quench the light of the holy mind or Spirit of God in us, and shining from us upon others. In harmony with this is our Lord's expression, "If the light that is in thee become darkness [be extinguished], how great is that darkness." Matt. 6:23
"Grieve Not the Holy Spirit of God,
To seal signifies to mark or designate. The children of this world may be distinguished by certain marks, and the children of God, the new creatures in Christ, by other marks or characteristics. The mark of the one class is the spirit (mind, disposition, will) of the world; in the other class the seal or mark is of the Spirit (mind, disposition, will) of God. From the moment of true consecration to God, the evidence, marks or sealing may be noted in the words, thoughts and conduct. These marks grow more and more distinct as the new mind grows in grace, knowledge and love. In other words, the Spirit (mind) of God becomes our mind or spirit, in proportion as we give up our human will or spirit, and submit in all things to the will or Spirit of God. Thus we are exhorted to permit or let the same mind [E265] be in us which was also in Christ Jesus our Lord--a mind or disposition to do only the Father's will. Hence, our new mind or Spirit is holy or God-directed. In the text under consideration the Apostle urges that we do nothing which would be a violation of our covenant--that we do nothing to cause grief to our new minds or smiting of conscience from dereliction of duty--nothing that would wound our conscience, as new creatures in Christ. Grieve not the holy Spirit, mind of God, in you, which is your seal of divine sonship.
"The Spirit of the Truth"
"The Spirit of Truth...shall not speak of himself, but whatsoever he shall hear he shall speak, and he will show you things to come." John 16:13
This scripture has already had consideration on page 170, but some additional features require consideration here. The disciples, as Jews and natural men, had been looking at matters from an earthly standpoint, expecting a human deliverance, and an earthly kingdom in the hands of fallen men. Our Lord had talked to them concerning the Kingdom of God, but not until now had he explained that he must die, must leave them, and go into a far country, to receive the Kingdom authority, and to return to establish his Kingdom and glorify his faithful ones with himself as joint-heirs in that Kingdom. (Luke 19:12) Consoling them, in view of the disappointment awakened by his declaration, he assures them that they shall not be left wholly alone, but that as the Father had sent him to do a work, so, during his absence, the Father would send another Comforter, in his name, or as his representative for the time. They must not get the idea that the coming Comforter is to be another Messiah, or a different teacher; hence he says, "He shall not speak of himself"; he shall not teach independently and out of harmony with my teaching, which you already have received; "but whatsoever he shall hear that shall he speak." [E266]
That is to say, this Comforter will be merely a channel of communication between the Father and myself, on the one hand, and you, my faithful followers, on the other: the Spirit of Truth, as my representative, will elaborate and bring to your attention more particularly various truths which I have already stated to you, but which you are not yet prepared to clearly comprehend--which, indeed, it is not proper for you to understand until first I shall have paid your ransom, and have ascended into the Father's presence, and presented it before him on your behalf. Then in harmony with the Father's plan, I shall be enabled, through this Comforter, to communicate to you the spiritual things, for which you are now unprepared, and to which now, being not yet atoned for, you have no right. And as future things become due to be understood by you, this Spirit of the Father, my Spirit, sent in my name, and as a result of my redemptive work, shall guide you step by step into the full understanding of everything necessary and proper for you to understand--"He [the Father's holy Spirit, influence or power] shall glorify me, for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine [his plans and mine are in perfect union]; therefore said I that he shall take of mine and show it unto you."
You are not, therefore, to expect a new teaching, subversive of my teaching, but rather a further development and instruction along the lines of my teaching: for all the teachings of the coming Comforter will be in harmony with mine, and designed to show you more fully that I am the Messiah. Neither need you doubt the truth of this Comforter's teachings, for it is the very Spirit of Truth, and proceeds from the Father. This Spirit of Truth will be my messenger to communicate to you my doctrines, and will show you things to come. John 16:13
And thus it has been: the Spirit of Truth has been showing to the Church throughout this Gospel age more and more respecting the sufferings of Christ and the necessity for every member of his "body" to share them, and the pathway that we should take in following our Redeemer [E267] and Lord: showing us also the height of the glory of his reward, and our privilege of becoming "heirs of God, joint-heirs with Jesus Christ our Lord, if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together." Jehovah, the Father of all, is the Author of all this truth, and hence all that we have received throughout this age has proceeded from him, from whom cometh every good and every perfect gift. He has sent it through channels long since prepared-- through the prophetic and typical teachings of the past opened up to us through the inspired words of our Lord Jesus and his inspired apostles: and by receiving of the holy Spirit in our hearts, and by conduct into harmony with the Father's Word and plan, we are enabled to appreciate the things which God hath in reservation for them that love him, and to walk by faith and not by sight.
"But the Comforter, Which Is the Holy Ghost,
We have already examined this misleading word "ghost" (page 169), but we now notice the statement that the holy Spirit is to be sent by the Father, which indicates that it is an influence or power wholly under the Father's control; and not another being equal in power and glory, as the creeds of men falsely assert. All of God's powers are fully under his own control, as our powers are under our control, and hence the declaration that the Father would send his Spirit, or, as the prophet has expressed it, "I will put my Spirit within thee." Moreover, the holy Spirit is declared to have been sent in Jesus' name--just as a servant is sent in the name of his master and not in his own name. Here we have another contradiction of the unscriptural theory of three Gods of equal power and glory. Here the Father's superiority is clearly stated: the holy Spirit is the Father's Spirit, power, influence, sent at the instance and in the name of our Redeemer, Jesus. Why in the name of Jesus? Because [E268] the entire work of redemption and restitution of sinners, the entire work of Atonement, has been committed unto the Son, and the holy Spirit of the Father is the channel by which the Son operates in conferring the blessings purchased by his precious blood.
When the holy Spirit of the Father came upon our Lord Jesus at his baptism and consecration, it was a comfort indeed, a great blessing, but it nevertheless meant to him the sacrifice of every earthly aim and hope in the execution of the divine plan. Had our Lord been otherwise minded, self-willed and self-seeking, the guidance of the holy Spirit, instead of being comforting to him, would have been disquieting; his heart would have been full of dissatisfaction, discontent, rebellion. And so it is with the Lord's people: the more of the mind of the Lord the natural man can discern, the more unhappy and uncomfortable he becomes, because it conflicts with his spirit, mind or will, and reproves him. But the "new creature in Christ," whose own will is dead, and who seeks to know the Father's will, and to do it--to him the clear apprehension of the Father's will and plan and the leading of divine providence in connection with the instruction of the divine Word, are comforting indeed--bringing peace, joy and contentment, even in the midst of tribulations and persecutions. In harmony with this thought is the Apostle's declaration respecting the Word of truth, whose Spirit must be received and appreciated in order to give comfort. He says, "Whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our admonition, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope." Rom. 15:4
"Filled with the Holy Spirit"
"They were all filled with the holy Spirit, and began to speak with tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance." Acts 2:4
This text describes a twofold operation of the holy Spirit: (1) It was the mind, disposition, Spirit of God, operating in [E269] the disciples, as the Spirit of adoption, bringing their hearts into closeness of sympathy and touch with the Father and with the glorified Redeemer. (2) God's holy Spirit or power or influence acted also upon them, conferring special miraculous gifts for a testimony to the world, and for the establishment of the Church. While it would be unreasonable in the extreme to think of a God getting personally into one man, and still more unreasonable to think of God getting personally into a hundred, a thousand, or a million men, there is not the slightest unreasonableness in the thought that the power of the Highest, the power, the influence of Jehovah could be in and upon hundreds, thousands or millions without in anywise interfering with the personal presence of Jehovah upon the throne of the universe.
Lying to the Holy Spirit
"Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thy heart, to lie to the holy Spirit, and to keep back part of the price of the land?" Acts 5:3
Satan filled Ananias' heart in the same manner as God fills the hearts of his
people--by his Spirit, his influence. Satan's Spirit is one of covetousness and
selfishness, which does not hesitate at deceit to accomplish its ends. Peter, who had been
made the recipient of a special "gift of discerning of spirits," was able to
read the heart, to read the mind, and thus could see that Ananias and Sapphira were acting
dishonestly, pretending to do what they were not really doing. It will be noticed, in this
connection, that the Apostle uses the words "God" and "holy Spirit"
interchangeably, saying, in verse 3, that they had lied unto the holy Spirit, and, in
verse 4, that they had lied unto God. The thought is the same. God's holy Spirit, acting
through the apostles, was God's representative, most emphatically; and consequently, in
lying to the apostles who represented God and his holy Spirit, Ananias and Sapphira were
lying to God, lying to the holy Spirit of God, whose agent and representative Peter was. [E270]
Tempting the Holy Spirit
"Then Peter said unto her [Sapphira], How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord?" Acts 5:9
This is to be understood in the same way as the foregoing, but the same Spirit is here referred to as being "the Spirit of the Lord," by which the Apostle probably meant the Lord Jesus. We can readily see the reasonableness of this also. The Spirit of the Father, the holy Spirit, was especially in the Church, the representative of the Church's Lord or Head--operating through the mind of his "body"--in this instance his Spirit-inspired and actuated Apostle.
Sin Against the Holy Spirit
"Whosoever speaketh against the holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come." Matt. 12:32
The thought generally deduced from this statement by those who consider the holy Spirit to be a personal God, separate and distinct from the Father and the Son, is that the holy Spirit is a much more important personage than either the Father or the Son. But as we have already seen, the Scriptures nowhere acknowledge more than one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and he superior to all; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and he next to the Father, exalted to that position by the Father's power. The holy Spirit was of the Father and by the Son, and hence could not be superior to them, if a person; but we have seen that there is no personality connected with the holy Spirit; rather it is the Spirit of a person or being, the Spirit of the Lord, his influence, his power, and, in this sense of the word, himself, representative of all his wisdom, majesty, power and love. Let us see, then, what the passage does signify.
From the context, we notice that our Lord Jesus had just been using this divine power, or holy Spirit, conferred upon [E271] him by the Father, to cast out a devil. The Pharisees who saw the miracle, and could not deny it, sought to turn aside its force by claiming that it was performed by Satanic power. In reply to them our Lord distinctly disclaimed the power he used as being his own, and asserts that it was divine power or influence, saying, "I cast out devils by the Spirit of God." He then upbraided the Pharisees for being so malicious as to attribute to an evil source that which they could not deny was a good work, and accompanied by no evidence whatever of sin, selfishness, or even ambition. He denominates them a generation of vipers, so set upon the traditions of their church that their minds were blinded to most simple and manifest truths. It was plainly evident that the power or influence which had possessed the afflicted one was devilish, malignant; and that any power which would dispossess it must be out of harmony with that evil disposition, so that these teachers were inexcusable, when they claimed, without any cause, that the miracle was performed by the power of Satan.
Our Lord pointed out further, that although they had not intentionally blasphemed Jehovah, nor had they particularly blasphemed himself, they had blasphemed against the holy power or Spirit which was operating in him. For them to have misunderstood and misrepresented the invisible God would have been a much lighter offense; and to have spoken evil of our Lord Jesus and to have misinterpreted his motives, claiming that he was merely trying to usurp a throne and to exalt himself in power, would also have been a comparatively light offense--measuring his motives by their own selfish ambition and pride. But their conduct was worse: after they had witnessed the manifestation of divine power in performing a good deed for the relief of one of their fellow-creatures from the power of the devil--to blaspheme this holy power, meant a degree of wickedness and animosity of heart of much deeper dye than either of the other offenses would have implied.
Our Lord pointed out to them that in their ignorance [E272] and blindness they might have misinterpreted him, his words, his efforts; and in similar blindness they might have misinterpreted many of God's dealings, and spoken evil thereof; but when once the power of God had been witnessed by them, in direct contrast with the power of the devil, the fact that they spoke evil of it implied most unmistakably that their hearts were in a most unholy condition. Sins of ignorance may be forgiven men--will be forgiven men-- because the ignorance came through the fall, and a ransom has been paid for all who shared in the fall and its curse. But sins against clear manifestations of divine grace cannot be attributed to weakness of the flesh and heredity, but must be properly charged up as wilful viciousness of the heart, which is unforgivable.
Wilful, intentional evil will never have forgiveness--neither in this age, nor in the coming age. God's proposition is not to force men into harmony with himself; but after redeeming them he will furnish to all an opportunity of coming to a knowledge of the truth and witnessing the goodness of God through the operation of his holy Spirit: whoever then continues out of harmony with the divine arrangement proves himself a wilful sinner, an intelligent opponent of the holy power of God--for such the Lord has no further provisions of grace.
Whether or not the Scribes and Pharisees came to a sufficiently clear appreciation of God's holy power to constitute them amenable to the Second Death, for reproaching it as an evil power, we cannot judge. We are not able to judge, because we are unable to read their hearts, and because our Lord did not fully state the matter in this connection. If assured they sinned against clear light, sinned to the full against the power of God, we could have no further hope for them, but should merely expect them to perish in the Second Death, as wilful rejectors of God's grace. But if they did not receive a sufficiency of light and knowledge, sufficient contact with the holy power of God, to constitute for them a full trial, they must ultimately come to such a full trial, before they could suffer the full penalty--Second Death. [E273]
But every sin against the holy Spirit, against clear light and knowledge of divine power, is unforgivable, because wilful. If it be a wilful sin against a measure of light, then "stripes," punishment, will result, unavoidably; if it be wilful sin against a larger measure of light and a greater favor in connection with the holy power of God, then a greater measure of stripes; but if the transgression involves a full, clear conception of right and wrong, and full, knowing opposition to the holy power of God, it would mean everlasting destruction, the Second Death, the full wages of sin. The forgiveness of sins secured by the ransom covers sins of ignorance or weakness resulting from the fall, and not personal, wilful, deliberate sins against light. We are not to forget, however, that many sins which contain a measure of wilfulness blend with it a measure of weakness or of ignorance of right principles or of both. To the proportion of its ignorance and weakness any sin is forgivable through the grace of God in Christ--through faith in and acceptance of his atonement: and to the proportion that any sin was wilful, intentional sin it is unforgivable--must be expiated by punishment--"stripes," so long as some forgivable quality inheres in the sin; death, destruction, when no forgivable quality can be found in the sin.
Thus seen, all wilful sin is sin against light, sin against the holy Spirit of truth--and such sin hath never forgiveness.
"The Spirit Said Unto Philip,
Nothing associated with these words, nor with the context, seems to imply the necessity for another God. On the contrary, every requirement is met, and harmony with the remainder of the Scriptures maintained, when we understand that the Lord, by his Spirit, influence, power, directed and instructed Philip to approach the chariot of the eunuch. In what manner Philip was directed of the holy Spirit we are not informed, and it would be unwise to speculate. [E274] Our God has at his disposal unlimited means for communicating his wishes to his people. Compare verse 39.
"The Spirit Said Unto Him, Behold,
The same answer is applicable to this as to the preceding objection. It is quite immaterial to us how the power, influence, Spirit of God, addressed Peter, giving him this information. It is sufficient that we know that the Lord did direct the Apostle, and in such a manner that the Apostle clearly discerned it, and that correctly, as is shown by the sequel of the narrative.
"The Holy Ghost Said, Separate Me Barnabas
Here, as in other instances, the holy Spirit uses the personal and masculine form of expression, according to our text. No objection certainly can be found to this, since God everywhere uses the personal and masculine form of expression respecting himself. It is not less appropriate here, in speaking of Jehovah's power, and the information which he gave. In what manner the holy Spirit communicated, "said," or indicated the setting apart of Paul and Barnabas we are not informed. We do know, however, that all the Lord's consecrated people are called by his Spirit to be ministers or servants of the truth, and according to their abilities and opportunities they should be faithful and active servants. The Spirit says to all such through the general call, "Why stand ye here idle?...Go ye also into the vineyard." And special ability and favorable opportunity should be recognized as a special call of the Lord to more public work in the service of the truth. But while the talents possessed by Paul and Barnabas should be considered as emphasizing the general call of the holy Spirit to them, to [E275] render services for which they had special talents, it is quite probable that the holy Spirit at this time made use of one of the "gifts" which were then operative in the Church--the gift of prophecy--to indicate the Lord's will respecting Paul and Barnabas, for we read: "Now there were in the Church that was at Antioch certain prophets." Acts 13:1
We are to remember, however, the Apostle's words to the Galatians (1:1) respecting his call to the ministry. He declares that his authority came from the Father and the Son, but entirely ignores the holy Spirit as another and coequal God, saying: "Paul, an apostle, not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father who raised him from the dead." If the holy Spirit were a person, if it were the God, whose special providence it is to appoint the ministers of the truth (and this is the general claim), such an omission to mention the holy Spirit would be thoroughly inconsistent, unreasonable; but when we have the proper view of the holy Spirit, viz., that it is the Spirit, influence, power, or authority of the Father and of the Son, or of both conjointly, because their purposes are one, then all is harmonious and reasonable.
"It Seemed Good to the Holy Spirit and
The apostles met as a Conference, to answer the questions of the Church at Antioch, respecting the obligations to the Jewish or Law Covenant of those who were not Jews by birth. The decision reached was, we are assured, not merely the judgment of the apostles themselves; but additionally, their judgment was corroborated in some manner by the Lord, and they had the evidence that their decision was the mind of the Lord, the Spirit of the Lord, the will of the Lord.
The Apostle James, the chief speaker of the council, gives a clue as to how God's will or mind was then ascertained: and we find it the same method commended to the entire [E276] Church, and used by the faithful today; namely, through searching the Scriptures in the light of divine Providence. He reasons out the mind of the Lord on the subject, by reviewing the special providential leading of Peter--sending him to Cornelius, the first Gentile convert--he followed this by an appeal to an unfulfilled prophecy, which he quotes. The conclusion drawn from these, he and all the Church accepted as the holy Spirit's teaching. Examine Acts 15:13-18.
"Forbidden of the Holy Ghost to Preach
The form of expression here would seem to imply the common thought, that the holy Spirit is a person, and spoke and forbade, etc. Yet an examination of this text in the light of its context shows it to be in full accord with all that we have seen on the subject: corroborating the thought that the holy Spirit is the holy influence or power of Jehovah God, and of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the will of the Father and the Son are brought to the attention of the consecrated--whatever the process. We are not informed specifically how the Apostle and his companions were forbidden to prosecute the preaching work in Asia, but apparently they were hindered or not permitted to go into Asia-- unfavorable circumstances preventing. But no matter how they were hindered; the lesson is that God himself was guiding his own work, and that the direction and course of the apostles was a matter of divine supervision; they were directed by the Lord's Spirit; he used invisible power to direct them as his servants.
In any event, we may be sure that the Lord's guidance was more than a mere mental impression to the Apostle. An illustration of one of the Spirit's ways of leading in such matters is furnished by the context: A vision appeared to Paul in the night. There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us; and after he had seen the vision, immediately they endeavored [E277] to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called them to preach the Gospel unto them. (Verse 9) These various dealings show us that the methods by which God taught and led in those days were not so very different from those he now employs in the guidance of his servants. And all such indirect, non-personal instructions are properly described as from or by the Lord's holy Spirit or influence or power. Had an angel delivered the message, as to Peter in prison (Acts 5:19; 12:7), or had our Lord addressed Paul personally, as he did when he was on the way to Damascus (Acts 9:4; 1 Cor. 15:8), it would not be credited to the holy Spirit or power of the Lord but to the Lord himself or to the angel.
"The Holy Ghost Witnesseth in Every City,
Nothing here necessitates the thought of the personality of the holy Spirit. On the contrary, as an illustration of the agencies by which God's holy will or Spirit informed Paul of the bonds awaiting him at Jerusalem, note the account of one of these occasions of witnessing at Caesarea. In the Church at that place was one named Agabus, who had the gift of prophecy common at this time. The record is, "When he was come unto us, he took Paul's girdle, and bound his own hands and feet, and said, Thus saith the holy Ghost, so shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owns this girdle, and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles." (Acts 21:11) The friends of the cause attempted at first to dissuade the Apostle from going to Jerusalem, but he determined that he would in no manner interfere with the Lord's program in respect to himself; declaring, on the contrary, that he was not only ready to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem, for the name of the Lord Jesus. (It should be noticed that the Apostle did not refer to the holy Spirit--that he would be willing to die for the holy Spirit's name.) [E278]
When the friends at Caesarea perceived the Apostle's steadfastness, they said, "The will of the Lord be done." Thus, in every instance, the testimony of the holy Spirit was accepted by the early Church as merely being the will of our Lord Jesus, whose will was also the Father's will. Acts 21:10-14
The Holy Spirit Made Some Overseers
"Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over which the holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the Church of God." Acts 20:28
These words were addressed to the Elders of the Church at Ephesus. The Apostle here calls attention to the fact that their position in the Church as servants of the truth was not merely a self-appointment, nor merely an appointment or recognition by the Church: but that the Lord had operated by his holy Spirit in the matter of their selection. He would have them realize that all the virtue of their office was in view of the fact that it had the divine recognition, and that they were servants of the Church, by the Lord's appointment, through his holy Spirit or influence which had guided, directed and overruled in the matter of their selection. So, in another place, the Apostle says, addressing the Church, not the world, "The manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man [in Christ] to profit withal...God hath set some in the Church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers...And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God that worketh all [things] in [among] all." 1 Cor. 12:6,7,28
In this statement the Apostle shows that the appointment of all the servants of the Church is of God, by or through the manifestation of his holy Spirit--and not a work of the holy Spirit separate and apart from the Father and the Son. God in Christ supervises the affairs of his own people, the Church, by his Spirit--his holy power operative omnipotently and omnisciently--throughout his universe. This contradicts the thought that the holy Spirit is another person, [E279] and shows that the work was accomplished by the Lord through his holy Spirit. Those elders of the Church had consecrated themselves to the Lord's service, and were chosen to be ministers, teachers, elders, of the Church, because of special fitness and talent under the direction of the holy Spirit--in accord with the will, or Spirit, or mind, or purpose of God. And although called to office through human instrumentality, they had accepted the service as of God's direction and appointment, and were to consider the responsibilities of their position accordingly.
The Holy Spirit a Teacher
"God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit; for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God...which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the holy Ghost teacheth." 1 Cor. 2:10,13 and context.
This scripture, as we have already suggested, proves that the holy Spirit or mind of God, when received by his children, fits or prepares or enables their minds to comprehend his plan. Only by coming into full harmony with God, through his Word of truth, and through the spirit or real meaning of that Word, are we enabled to comprehend the deep things of God. Here the Apostle, it will be noticed, contrasts "the Spirit which is of [from] God," which operates in us, with "the spirit of the world," which dwells in and influences the natural man. How clear it is that the spirit of the world is not a person, but a worldly mind or disposition or influence! Likewise the Spirit of God in his people is not a person, but the holy mind or influence or disposition of God in them.
"The Things of the Spirit of God"
"But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him. Neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." 1 Cor. 2:14
This is a very forceful statement, and fully in harmony [E280] with all that we have seen. The man who is filled with the worldly spirit is proportionately unprepared to see and appreciate the deep, hidden, glorious things of God--"the things which God hath in reservation for them that love him." These deep things, or as our Lord designates them, "pearls," are not for the swinish, the selfish, full of the spirit of this world; but for those who are cleansed by the washing of water through the Word, who are brought nigh to the Lord through faith in the precious blood, and sanctified, fully consecrated to the Lord. To these God is pleased to reveal his deep things, yea, all the riches of his grace, step by step--as the various items of truth become "meat in due season."
This is a very crucial test, as all may discern. It distinguishes sharply between the fallen man and the new creature, the spiritual. Whoever is blind to the deeper spiritual truths certainly lacks the witness or evidence here mentioned as proof of his sonship, his relationship to the heavenly Father, and his fidelity under such a relationship. Those who are indifferent to the matters which the Apostle here mentions, "The things which God hath in reservation for them that love him," have, in this statement, a suggestion that the reason for their indifference is that they lack the Lord's Spirit. And yet we have known professed teachers in the church who not only admitted their own ignorance of these things, but who boasted of that ignorance. Thereby they proclaim that they have not the mind of God, do not know of his plans, and hence cannot have much of his Spirit, the Spirit of the truth--and proportionately they cannot have much of the truth. The test is here given of our possession of the Spirit, and our ability to discern and appreciate the things of God, which are hidden from the worldly--"God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit."
An Unction from the Holy One
"Ye have an unction from the Holy One and ye know all things."
"The anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye [E281] need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things and is truth and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him." 1 John 2:20,27
These words unction and anointing awaken in intelligent Bible students recollections of the holy anointing oil poured upon the heads of each successor to the offices of High Priest and King in Israel. As the people of Israel were typical of "the true Israel of God," so their priests and kings were typical of Christ, the great antitypical High Priest and King. And as their priests and kings were anointed with the "holy anointing oil" as an induction into office, so our Lord Jesus was anointed with the holy Spirit at the time of his consecration. He thus became the Christ--the anointed of Jehovah.
The elect church is to be a "royal priesthood" (king-priests) under their Lord and Head--"members of the body of the Anointed [the Christ]." The holy Spirit of anointing which came to our Lord Jesus at his baptism at Jordan, and with "all power in heaven and in earth," when he was raised from the dead by the holy Spirit or power of the Father (Matt. 28:18; Eph. 1:19,20), he with the Father's approval "shed forth" or poured out as the antitypical anointing oil upon the representatives of his Church at Pentecost. There (keeping in thought the type) the anointing oil passed from the "Head" to his "body," the Church, and thenceforth the faithful, abiding in the body, were recognized in the divine Word as "the very elect" of God, anointed of him (in Christ) to rule and bless the world after being first "taught of God" under the guidance of the anointing Spirit.
The signification of unction (and of its Greek original chrisma) is smoothness, oiliness, lubrication. From custom the word carried with it also the thought of fragrance, perfume. How beautifully and forcefully this word represents the effect of God's influence toward goodness, upon those who come under this antitypical anointing--holiness, gentleness, patience, brotherly kindness--love! What a sweet, pure perfume does this anointing of the holy Spirit of love [E282] bring with it to all who receive it! However ungainly or coarse or rude or ignorant the outer man, "the earthen vessel," how speedily it partakes of the sweetening and purifying influence of the treasure of the "new heart," the new will within--anointed with the holy Spirit and brought into harmony with "whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely!" Phil. 4:8
These words "unction" and "anointing" are in full accord with the correct view of the holy Spirit--that it is an influence from God, an invisible power of God exercised through his precepts, his promises, or otherwise as may seem good to the all-wise omnipotent One. These words certainly do not convey the thought of a person. How could we be anointed with a person?
But some one perhaps will suggest that in the expression, "an unction from the Holy One," not the unction but the Holy One represents the holy Spirit. We answer, No; the Holy One is the Father. Peter, describing the Pentecostal blessing, declares that it was "shed forth" or poured out--as anointing oil, but not as a person would be said to be sent. He says, speaking of Jesus, "Having received of the Father the holy Spirit promised [in Joel] he hath shed forth this which ye see and hear"--this miraculous power or influence which manifests itself variously, in quickening thoughts, in tongues of flame and divers languages uttered by unlearned men. Again Joel's prophecy was "I will pour out my Spirit." Can any one claim that this would be appropriate language to use respecting any person? That he was given by the Father to the Son, and that he was poured or shed forth and seen and heard as "this"? Surely not. And surely such language would be disrespectful, if applied to a third person of a trinity of Gods "equal in power and glory."
The item however which strikes everyone as most astounding is that those who have this unction "know all things." How many of the Lord's people have felt absolutely certain that they did not "know all things," and therefore [E283] doubted if they had received the anointing of the holy Spirit! How the matter is simplified when translated, "Ye have an unction from the Holy One and ye all know it!"* Yes, indeed; all the true children of God know very well the difference between the natural mind or heart or will and the new heart, new mind, new disposition, controlled by love and righteousness.
*The words "all things" are omitted by oldest Greek MSS.
And how many of God's best and humblest children have read with amazement the words, "The anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you and ye need not that any man teach you!" Alas! they said, we have received no such anointing, for we have very much need that some man teach us, and know very little that has not come to us either directly or indirectly through human instrumentality. And these humble souls would feel greatly cast down and discouraged by reason of their honesty of thought, did they not see that the very best of the saints of their acquaintance similarly need and appreciate human teachers. On the other hand, some of the less honest, less candid, less saintly, endeavor to deceive themselves and others by claiming that they have learned nothing of men but have been taught all they know by direct inspiration of the holy Spirit. They see not that they are thus claiming infallibility for their thoughts and words, in the most absolute sense. They fail, too, to see that their errors of thought, word and deed, claimed to be under plenary inspiration of the holy Spirit, reflect against God's holy Spirit, as the author of their errors and follies.
Taking this passage just as it stands, it contradicts the general testimony of Scripture. Does not the Apostle Paul mention among the Spirit's gifts to the Church--apostles, prophets [orators], pastors, teachers, evangelists? And why give these if the Church had no need that any man teach them? What does the Apostle say of the reason for setting these special gifts in the Church? Hear him: "For the perfecting [E284] of the saints for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God." (Eph. 4:11-13) Compare 1 Cor. 12:28-31.
It is not supposable that the Apostle John was contradicting the Apostle Paul and the other apostles--all of whom were teachers and who instructed the Church to seek out the Spirit's choice of pastors, teachers and overseers, and to honor those who thus had the "rule over" the Church and who were to watch for the interests of souls as those who must give an account to the Lord. (Heb. 13:17) It was undoubtedly in full accord with the Apostle Paul's advice that the Church had need to select as its servants men "apt at teaching," "able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers," and when necessary to "rebuke sharply that they may be sound in faith." They were to recognize under-shepherds, who would not "lord it over God's heritage," but would "feed the flock" with meat in due season--avoiding teachers having ears which itched for popularity and flattery. 1 Pet. 5:2-4; 1 Tim. 3:2; 2 Tim. 2:25; Titus 1:9,13
Furthermore, John himself was a teacher, and in this very epistle was teaching what he and we appreciate as sound doctrine--necessary to be taught. Surely no one reading John's writings could draw the inference that he meant them merely as social letters, devoid of doctrine or teaching. Does he not open the epistle by saying, "That which we have seen and heard declare [teach] we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us?" (1:3) Again he says, "These things write I unto you [to teach you] that ye sin not." (2:1) Again, "A new commandment [teaching] I write unto you." (2:8) Again, "Little children, let no man deceive you [but heed my teaching]: he that doeth righteousness is righteous." (3:7) Again, "We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us [obeys our instructions, our teachings]." (4:6) Again, "These things have I written unto you...that ye may know [be taught]." (5:13) He closes his epistle with [E285] a very important teaching, saying, "Little children, keep yourselves from idols [permit no person or thing to supplant God himself in your affections and reverence]."
Seeing then that the Apostle cannot be understood as meaning that the Church has no need of human teachers-- seeing on the contrary that he recognized human teachers as the agency employed by the holy Spirit specially "set in the Church" for this very service, what can he mean by these words, "Ye need not that any man teach you," and "the same anointing teacheth you all things"? The proper answer to this query will be readily seen by examining the context in the light of facts already discussed.
This epistle is supposed by scholars to have been written in the year A.D. 90. By that date Christianity had attained considerable prominence in the world. It had gathered the "remnant" of fleshly Israel and drawn upon itself the hatred and persecution of the vast blinded majority of that people and been scattered everywhere throughout the then civilized world. Many things in Christianity commended it to the Greek philosophers of that time who sought to combine with it and to become philosophic Christians and Christian philosophers--still holding their philosophies which the Apostle Paul points out were "falsely so-called." (1 Tim. 6:20) These philosophers were quite willing to acknowledge Jesus as a good man and a wise teacher but not as the Son of God who left a spirit nature, "a form of God," and was "made flesh," to thereby become man's Redeemer, and the author of eternal life to all who obey him. They were, however, teaching a future, eternal life and were glad to find Christians teaching the same: the difference being that the philosophers (Plato and others) taught that eternal life is a human quality, an inherent power in mankind-- deathlessness, immortality, whereas the Christians taught that eternal life was not inherent in man but a gift of God through Christ, intended only for those who accept him. Rom. 2:7; 5:15,21; 6:23; 2 Cor. 9:15
These philosophers practically said to the Christians-- [E286] We are glad to meet so respectable and sensible and free a people. Your great teacher, Jesus, surely did make you free from many of the customs and superstitions of the Jews and we congratulate you accordingly. But you are still in a measure of bondage: when you have investigated our philosophies you will have still more liberty and will find that much you still hold in common with the Jews--their hopes of a Messianic kingdom, their peculiar ideas of one God and your peculiar ideas that your Teacher, Jesus, was his only Son, etc., these things you will soon outgrow, with the aid of our philosophy. 2 Pet. 2:19; Jude 4
John's epistle is written to fortify Christians against these subversive doctrines. He exhorts them in this chapter (2:24) to hold fast the teachings heard by them from the beginning and to consider these philosophizing teachings as lies and all such false teachers representatives of the Antichrist which they had so often heard would be manifested in the Church. (2 Thess. 2:3-7; 1 John 2:18) He says, "These things have I written unto you concerning them that [seek to] seduce you [from Christ]." Verse 26
Then comes the peculiar language of verse 27, now under discussion, which we paraphrase thus:
But, dearly beloved, the true children of God cannot be seduced by any such philosophies: with us no philosophy can take the place of Christ in our hearts--no theory could cause us to question the fulness and the correctness of the great message which we received as the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ--the Father's Beloved, the Father's Anointed. Besides the reasonableness of "the faith once delivered unto the saints," consider the marvelous effect of that message upon you: it was accompanied by miraculous "gifts" of "tongues," "miracles," etc., which these philosophers declare are duplicated by the fakirs of the East; but aside from this you have another testimony in your own new hearts-- in the anointing which has transformed and renewed your minds, producing in your daily life fruits of the Spirit of [E287] holiness which the fakirs cannot duplicate and which the philosophers who would seduce you cannot deny.
On these fundamentals of our holy religion--that Christ Jesus was not an impostor but the very Son of God and our Redeemer; and that eternal life can be obtained only through vital union with him--you have no need of instruction, neither from these false teachers nor from me. And so long as you have this holy Spirit of love abiding in you, it will serve as a guard against all such blasphemous, antichristian theories. So long as you remember that "the peace of God which passeth all understanding" came to your hearts through an acceptance of Jesus as the Son of God and the only power of God unto salvation, so long will this spirit hold you firm, steadfast, on this point. And you will find this same test (of loyalty to the holy Spirit of love received through the Father and the Son) helpful in proving all matters: for whatever contradicts or ignores this Spirit of love is an unholy spirit--a false teaching. And remember that its teaching is that if we would receive any reward we must "abide in him"--to abandon Christ is to abandon all.
Groanings Which Cannot Be Uttered
"The Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered; and he that searcheth the heart, knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit." Rom. 8:26,27
This expression, intended to convey to God's people an understanding of the heavenly Father's love and care toward them, has been sadly misunderstood by many. They tell us that the holy Spirit groans for them to the Father; and some attempt to give audible utterance to the groans themselves; and by some it is supposed that the amount of groaning which they do, somehow helps the holy Spirit in the matter, compensating for the groanings which it cannot utter--though they cannot see just how. It would indeed be strange, if the holy Spirit were a person, and, as the catechisms assert, "equal in power" with the Father and the [E288] Son, that he should find it necessary to address the Father and the Son on behalf of the Lord's people, with unutterable groans. Our Lord Jesus said that we might come direct to him and that we might come direct to the Father, assuring us, "The Father himself loveth you." Yet from this scripture under consideration some have gotten the idea that we must needs go to the Father and to the Son through the holy Spirit as a mediator, who would groan for us, and intercede for us, that we might be accepted of the Father and of the Son. This is in harmony with the prevailing confusion of thought respecting the holy Spirit and its office.
The error of this interpretation is further noticeable when we consider that if the groans could not be uttered they would not be groans at all; for what is not uttered is not a groan. But this passage would appear equally strange and inconsistent, if we were to interpret it to mean that the holy Spirit, the influence or power of Almighty Jehovah, is unable to express itself intelligently. We know that in past ages God's mind, will, Spirit, found abundant expression through the words and deeds of the prophets, and we cannot suppose that he has any less power or ability today. What, then, can this scripture signify--"The Spirit itself maketh intercession for us, with groanings which cannot be uttered"?
The mistake is in supposing that it is God's Spirit which supplicates. On the contrary, the Spirit which maketh intercession for us is our own spirit, the spirit of the saint, which supplicates God, and often fails to express itself properly. A glance at the text, with its connections, will make manifest the propriety of this interpretation. The Apostle had just been writing of the sin-burdened humanity groaning in its fetters. He assures us that it shall be granted liberty from the bondage, when the Church, the "sons of God," under the Captain of their Salvation, shall have been glorified. (Verses 19-21) He then passes from the groanings of the world to the present condition of the Church, in which we groan: "Ourselves also, which have the first fruits of the [E289] Spirit, even we groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the deliverance of our body." Verse 23
The renewed or transformed mind or spirit in the Church, once worldly, is now holy and spiritual: but our bodies are still human, and have the Adamic imperfections. Hence we, as new creatures, are burdened by the flesh, and groan for the promised deliverance into Christ's likeness in the first resurrection. The Apostle explains that we may, by faith, reckon the earthly body dead, and think of ourselves as new creatures perfected, and thus realize ourselves saved now--"saved by hope." (Verse 24) Then, having shown how we may reckon ourselves, he explains to us that from the divine standpoint we are reckoned as "new" and "holy" and "spiritual" beings: he shows that God, viewing us from this standpoint, recognizes not the flesh and its weaknesses and imperfections--but the spirit, the mind, the intentions, the will, the "new creature," devoted to his service. God knows when our holy spirit (new mind) is willing and the flesh weak, and he judges us not according to the flesh, but according to the spirit.
It was our begetting of the Spirit, our adoption of a new will, fully consecrated to the Lord, that brought us into a new relationship to God, and into these new hopes wherein we rejoice: and so "likewise the spirit [our new, holy mind] also helpeth [maketh up for] our [bodily] infirmities. For we know not [even] what we should pray for as we ought [much less are we always able to do as we would like]; but the spirit itself [our holy mind] maketh intercession [for us-- omitted by oldest MSS] with groanings which cannot be uttered [in words]. And he that searcheth the hearts [God] knoweth what is the mind [Greek phronema--inclination] of [our] spirit, because he [or it--our spirit] maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God."
In other words, God is pleased to accept the heart desires of his people, both in prayer and in service, notwithstanding the imperfection of their flesh--their earthen vessels. And he does accept these heart desires. [E290]
How fortunate for us, in our ignorance and weakness, that our heavenly Father accepts the intentions of our hearts instead of our words; for frequently his people have seriously asked amiss! We think of this whenever we hear God's people pray that God would baptize them with the holy Spirit and with fire. The prayer is offered in a good conscience, and with a desire for a blessing only; but not understanding the passage of scripture which he quotes, the petitioner really asks for a blessing to be followed by a curse. The prediction that Christ would baptize with the holy Spirit and with fire was made by John the baptizer. The blessing portion of this came upon the waiting Church, at Pentecost, and subsequently upon all the faithful "remnant" of Israel, but its latter feature was fulfilled upon the rejected Jewish nation--in the baptism of fire, destruction, trouble, which wholly destroyed their polity in the year A.D. 70. But very graciously God does not answer his people's prayers according to their asking, but according to the intentions of the petitioner--he granting them blessing only.
Some have had the experience of being overtaken in a fault, and trapped by the Adversary through some weakness of the fallen human nature: they felt almost disheartened as they approached the throne of the heavenly grace in prayer. They had no words for utterance, but merely groaned in spirit to God, "being burdened." But the heavenly Father did not insist that they must formulate the petition in exactly proper language before he would hear them: instead he graciously answered their heart's desires, the unexpressed groans of their heart, which sought his forgiveness, his blessing and comfort. He answered the unuttered prayers, granted strength and blessing, with a blessed realization of forgiveness.
This is the Apostle's argument in this whole connection, and it will be observed that he sums up the argument by saying, "What shall we say then? [In view of the fact that God has made every arrangement on our behalf, ignoring our weaknesses and imperfections, which are contrary to [E291] our wills, and not reckoning them as our deeds--and ignoring the lameness of our petitions, and our inability to express our desire, and on the contrary, making arrangements to bless us according to the spirit of our minds, as we are unable even to give utterance to our groans in our imperfect prayers, we will conclude--] If God be [thus] for us, who can be against us?" Verse 31
How the Spirit Reproves the World
"When he [the Spirit of truth] is come he will reprove the world of sin and of righteousness and of judgment." John 16:8
We have already considered the ground upon which the masculine pronoun is applied to the Spirit of truth--because it represents God who is masculine. We now examine this text, used by some as a proof that the holy Spirit operates in sinners for their reformation. We contend that such a view is wholly incorrect--that the Scriptures, rightly understood, teach that the holy Spirit is granted only to the consecrated believers; that it is not given to the unbelievers and consequently could not operate in them, after the manner generally claimed. Quite to the contrary, the children of this world have the spirit of the world; and only the children of God have the Spirit of God, the holy Spirit, mind, disposition or will. "The spirit of the world," or "the carnal mind, is enmity against God." Neither can the carnally minded know the things of the Spirit of God, because they are spiritually discerned--can be discerned only by those who have the holy Spirit. Hence it is, that wherever we find it, the holy Spirit of harmony with God and obedience to his will and providence, evidences regeneration, begetting to newness of life. In harmony with this we read the Apostle's words, "If any man have not the Spirit of Christ he is none of his." Those who have not the Spirit of Christ, and who are not of his, are the world in general--they are not Christ's, because they have not received of the Father's Spirit.
The Spirit of God, by means of its fruits and its witnessing [E292] through the Word, is the evidence of our having been regenerated. It is evident to all that the holy Spirit of God which is in the Church is not the same Spirit which is in the worldly--that the Spirit of God is in no sense in the worldly, carnally minded, who consequently in the Scriptures are designated "children of wrath," "children of this world" and "children of their father, the devil." Nevertheless, we should not forget that the "Spirit of truth," the "Spirit of love" has, to a considerable extent, modified the spirit of the world; so that while it is still a spirit of darkness, a spirit of selfishness, a carnal spirit, yet the world to some extent is copying, in a formal, outward manner, some of the graces of the holy Spirit. It would be strange, indeed, if the beauties of the Spirit of holiness, as represented in gentleness, kindness and patience, made no impression upon the unregenerate.
Some people of the world cultivate these graces of the Spirit because they are styled part of the amenities of life, signs of good breeding, etc., and many whose hearts are wholly out of harmony with the principles of the Spirit of holiness, copy these graces as a gloss or surface gilding, to cover the baser metal of a depraved nature--unregenerate, unsanctified, selfish, out of harmony with the Lord and the Spirit of his holiness. We are, therefore, to closely distinguish between those who gild the surface of their conduct and those whose hearts have been transformed by the Spirit of the Lord. The latter only are the sons of God, who have his favor, and who will shortly be blessed and glorified.
The question then arises, If the Spirit of the Lord is communicated only to those who are his, through faith in Christ and consecration, what did our Lord mean by the above statement, that the Spirit of truth would reprove the world of sin, of righteousness, and of coming judgment?
The meaning of our Lord's words will be readily discernible when we remember his declaration, that his followers, upon whom his Spirit would come, and in whom it [E293] would dwell richly, in proportion to their faith and obedience, were to be the light of the world. It is this light of truth which shines forth from the truly consecrated Church, upon the world and the worldly minded of the nominal church, that tends to reprove their darkness. Our Lord said of himself, after he had been anointed with the Spirit of God, "I am the light of the world," and again, "As long as I am in the world I am the light of the world." (John 8:12; 9:5) And addressing his Church of this Gospel age, sanctified by the same holy Spirit, he said, "Ye are the light of the world....Let your light shine before men." Matt. 5:14-16
The Apostle Paul, addressing the same body of Christ, says, "Ye were at one time darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of the light." (Eph. 5:8; 1 Thess. 5:5) Again he says, "For God [the Spirit of God, the Spirit of truth] hath shined into our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God." (2 Cor. 4:6) Thus we see that it is the light of God's truth, the holy Spirit, mind or disposition, shining in our hearts, which shines out upon the world; and hence the exhortation, "Do all things without murmurings and disputings, that ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, amongst whom ye shine as lights in the world." Phil. 2:14,15
Thus we see that the holy Spirit shines upon the world-- not directly but reflexly. It is not the Spirit of God communicated to them and operating in them, but the holy Spirit of God operating in his people, who are sealed by it, which shines forth upon the darkness of the world.
The Apostle gives us a clue as to how the world is to be reproved by the Spirit of holiness in the consecrated Church, saying, "Walk as children of the light...and have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them....All things that are reproved are made manifest [shown to be wrong] by the light." (Eph. 5:8,11,13) The light of God's truth, which is the expressing of [E294] his mind or Spirit, as it shines through a sanctified life, is the holy Spirit, reproving the darkness of the world, showing those who see it what sin is, in contrast with righteousness. And from this enlightenment will come to them the conviction of a coming judgment, when righteousness will receive some reward, and sin some punishment. A godly life is always a reproof to the ungodly, even where no word of truth may be possible or proper.
It is because the holy Spirit in God's people reproves the unholy and selfish spirit in those about them that the Apostle urges the sanctified to remember that they are living epistles, known and read of all men. (2 Cor. 3:2) The justified and sanctified Church, following in the footsteps of Christ, has always been a light in the world, even though its light has not always had as much influence as it desired. Thus it was also with our Lord, who declared that all who were of the spirit of darkness hated him the more because their spirit of darkness was reproved by his Spirit of light. For this reason, not only the Lord, the great Light-bearer, was persecuted unto death, but similarly all the light-bearers who follow in his footsteps must be sharers also of his persecution and suffering. John 16:3; Rom. 8:17,18
While the chief mission of the Church has been her own development, "building up yourselves on your most holy faith," etc. (Jude 20), yet she has always had a secondary mission, that of witnessing to the truth, letting the light shine, reproving the world. And this reproving has necessarily been more toward nominal professors than toward the openly worldly, just as in our Lord's day his light was shed upon the professedly godly and holy, reproving their darkness. And our Lord warns us of the necessity of letting our light shine continually, saying, "If the light that is in thee be [become] darkness, how great is that darkness!" both to the individual soul in whom the light has gone out, and to the world, from whom the light is thus obscured. Satan achieves no greater triumph than when he seduces a soul which was once enlightened and sanctified by the truth. The influence of such an one for evil is more than doubled. [E295] "Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall," and remember that to put his "light under a bushel" is a sure step toward darkness.
"Hereby Know Ye the Spirit of God"
"Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of Antichrist."
Nothing should be plainer to any intelligent mind than that the Apostle is not referring to a person, but to an influence, doctrine or teaching. The context (verses 1 and 3) shows beyond a doubt that the Apostle's meaning is that the Lord's people must discriminate between doctrines presented to them as truth--they must "try the spirits," whether they be holy or evil, of God or of the Evil One--the Spirit of truth or the spirit of error. These both are introduced by prophets or teachers. Our Lord and the apostles and others following in their footsteps sowed the truth or "wheat" seed, begetting consecrated believers to newness of life and holiness of spirit. The enemy and his servants sowed error or "tare" seed, which has brought into the nominal church (or wheat field) multitudes of "tares"-- having not the holy "Spirit of Christ," but a modified, sugar-coated "spirit of the world." Hence every one presenting himself as a teacher and claiming to be a servant of the truth and to have holiness of spirit is to be tried, tested, as to whether he is preaching truth or error--inculcating the Spirit of truth or the spirit of error. The Word of God is to be the standard by which each is to be received as a true teacher or rejected as a false teacher: "for many false prophets are gone forth."
The Apostle points out one general test respecting true and false faith, true and false teachers--the Spirit of truth [E296] and the spirit of error--the holy Spirit of Christ guiding into all truth, and the unholy spirit of Antichrist, leading into all error, destructive to the faith once delivered to the saints and leading to a denial of the Lord's having bought us with his own precious blood. (2 Pet. 2:1) This test was the affirmation or denial of Messiah's having come in the flesh. And this was and still is a sure test--the ransom test stated in one of its forms: every doctrine that denies it is an active opponent of the truth, is anti-(against) Christ: every doctrine that ignores it is seriously wrong, not of God, however much of good may be blended with it; it is dangerous: every doctrine that confesses it is fundamentally correct--"of God," tending in the right direction.
Very early the Adversary began attacks on the true faith set forth by the Lord and the apostles from two standpoints, both of which denied that he came in the flesh.
(1) The heathen philosophies (against which the Apostle Paul also warned, 1 Tim. 6:20,21) claimed that Jesus was indeed a great prophet, a great teacher, and ranked him with their own philosophers; but they insisted that he was not the Son of God more than the others--not the Messiah of the Jews, whose hopes and prophecies they accredited to narrowness and national pride and ambition to consider themselves the divinely favored nation. Thus they denied our Lord's pre-human existence--denied that he came in the flesh--denied that he was anything else than a member of the fallen race, though admitting that he was a bright specimen of it.
(2) According to his usual custom the Adversary early began to set one extreme of error against another extreme, that in the warfare between the two errors the truth between them might be left undefended and be forgotten. Hence he started the other extreme error on this subject, whose claim was and still is that Messiah was not a man at all--that he was the very God, the Father, who merely pretended to be flesh for a time, while really maintaining all his divine powers--using the body of flesh as a covering or [E297] disguise to hide his glory and to permit him to appear to weep and hunger and thirst and die. This view also denies that Messiah came in the flesh--that "he was made flesh." John 1:14
As we look about us today we may well be astonished to find that the majority of Christian people hold one or the other of these false doctrines opposed to the Spirit of truth-- of the spirit of antichrist; and the remainder are generally quite confused--bewildered--do not see the truth on this subject clearly, and accordingly are not firmly founded on the ransom. For all who fail to see clearly that "the Word [Logos] was made flesh," became "the man Christ Jesus," are as unable to see the ransom [corresponding price] as are those who see Jesus as an imperfect man, begotten of the flesh by an earthly father. Thus we see that the simple test set forth by the holy Spirit through the Apostle is still a test of doctrines-- whether they be of God and the holy Spirit, or of Satan and the spirit of antichrist.
While considering these texts we will note an objection raised against the translation of our common version Bibles to show that it is not valid--that the translation is a good one; that the fault lies in the critic who evidently has not a sufficient knowledge of Greek grammar rules on syntax to attempt a criticism. His claim is:
(1) That the Greek words in these two texts rendered "has come" signify coming.
(2) That with this change the Apostle's words would signify that any teaching which denies that the second advent of our Lord will be in the flesh is an antichrist spirit.
We reply to this claim--
(1) It is true that the word erchomai, the root word from which is derived eleluthota (1 John 4:2) and erchomenon (2 John 7) signifies coming or arrival; but whether the coming referred to is a past or a future event must be determined by the construction of the sentence, just as we may use our English word "coming" in referring to matters past and future [E298] and say--"Faith in the first coming of our Lord is general among Christians, but not so general is the faith in his second coming." The context proves beyond peradventure that an occurrence of the past is referred to, for the record is "many deceivers are gone forth" or "went forth"; and the two statements quite evidently refer to the same thing.
(2) This claim is put forth by some who have an object in claiming that the text refers to a future event--they claim that our Lord is not "changed" to the divine nature, that he is still flesh and that he will continue to be a man, a human, fleshly being, and bear the scars of his human sufferings to all eternity. They deny, or at least ignore, the many Scriptural declarations to the effect that "Him hath God highly exalted"; "Now the Lord is that Spirit," and "Though we have known Christ after the flesh [yet] henceforth know we him [so] no more." (Phil. 2:9; 2 Cor. 3:17; 5:16) Their wish to find some Scriptural statements to support their unreasonable and unscriptural position deceives them as respects these passages. Indeed we may say that the vast majority of Christian people hold this erroneous view, among them nearly all who have ever had anything to do with translating the Scriptures.
But we will buttress our position by quoting the criticisms of these texts by Prof. J. R. Rinehart, Ph.D., Professor of Languages in Waynesburg College (Cumberland Presbyterian). After quoting the text of 1 John 4:2 and 2 John 7, Prof. Rinehart says:
"(1) The foregoing quotations are from the Emphatic Diaglott of Wilson, purporting to be from the original Greek text of the New Testament. The word eleluthota is the accusative, singular masculine, of the second perfect participle of the verb erchomai, having the same relation to this verb that any other perfect participle has to its verb. It stands with the verb homolegei in indirect discourse, and represents a finite, perfect tense, according to ordinary Greek syntax. Goodwin's Greek Grammar, ##1588, 1288
"The following translation of the first quotation is, therefore, [E299] essentially correct. 'Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh, is of God.'
"(2) The word erchomenon in the second quotation is the accusative, singular, masculine, of the present participle of the verb erchomai, and is subject to the same rules of syntax as the word above. Its relation to eiselthon through homologountes, as well as the context, justifies its translation as of past time. Ibid, #1289
"The translation of the second quotation, therefore, is properly given as follows: 'For many deceivers went forth into the world--those who do not confess that Jesus Christ did come in the flesh.'"
No Greek scholar, we believe, will ever be found to contradict this definition, even though he hold to the second coming of our Lord in flesh, and might thus have a preference for a construction favorable to his conceptions.
Finally, we notice that as a confession that Christ came in the flesh at his first
advent is essential to a proper belief in the ransom, and a denial of that fact means a
denial of the ransom (because otherwise he could not give a corresponding price
for man), so all who believe that Christ is a man since his resurrection and that
he will come a second time as a man, are thereby denying the ransom--for if our
Lord is still a man he either did not give his manhood as our ransom, or, giving it
for three days, took it back again--took back the redemption price and thus
vitiated the purchase. But on the contrary the purchase was final; our Lord's humanity
never was taken back: Him hath God highly exalted and given a name and nature far above
angels, principalities and powers and every name that is named (the Father's alone
excepted). He is no longer a man nor in any sense like us: we if faithful shall be
"changed" and made like him and "see him as he is." 1
John 3:2 [E300]
He is Altogether Lovely
Majestic sweetness sits enthroned
None other could with him compare
He saw men plunged in deep distress,
God's promises, exceeding great,
O! the rich depths of love divine,