An Interpretation of the English Bible

 

JAMES, 1 and 2 THESSALONIANS

1 and 2 CORINTHIANS

 

by B. H. CARROLL

Late President of Southwestern Baptist

Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas

 

Edited by

J. B. Cranfill

 

BAKER BOOK HOUSE

Grand Rapids, Michigan

 

New and complete edition

 Copyright 1948, Broadman Press

Reprinted by Baker Book House

with permission of

Broadman Press

ISBN: 0-8010-2344-0

First Printing, September 1973

Second Printing, September 1976

 

PHOTOLITHOPRINTED BY GUSHING - MALLOY, INC.

ANN ARBOR, MICHIGAN, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

 

1976

 

CONTENTS

 

(Return to Main Contents)

 

James

I                  Historical Introduction to James

II                 An Analysis and Exposition of Chapter 1 (1:1-27)

III                The Faith of Our Lord Jesus Christ (2:1-26)

IV               Teacher and Tongues (3:1-18)

V                 General Admonitions and Applications (4:1-5:20)

 

1 Thessalonians

VI               Introduction to 1 Thessalonians

VII              Exposition (1:1-3:13)

VIII             A Lesson on Christian Morals (4:1-18)

IX               A Body of Rules (5:1-28)

 

2 Thessalonians

X                 Introduction and Exposition to 2 Thessalonians (1:1-12)

XI               The Second Coming of Christ and the Man of Sin (2:1-12)

XII              The Plan of Salvation – Some Lesson on Discipline (2:13-3:18)

 

1 Corinthians

XIII             Introduction to 1 Corinthians

XIV             The Salutation – Eloquence and Factional Divisions (1:1-31)

XV              The Preacher and Factions (2:1-4:7)

XVI             The Revolt Against Paul's Apostolic Authority (4:8-21; 9:1-27)

XVII           The Relaxation of Morals (5:1-6:20)

XVIII          The Perversion of the Lord's Supper (10:1-22; 11:17-34)

XIX             The Misuse and Abuse of Miraculous Gifts (12:1-31)

XX              Love, the Greatest Thing in the World (13:1-13)

XXI             The Gift of Tongues (14:1-33)

XXII           Marriage, Divorce, and the Position of Women

                   in Public Assemblies (7:1-40; 11:2-16; 14:33-40)

XXIII          The Resurrection of the Dead

XXIV          Death and the Resurrection of the Dead (15:1-58)

XXV           The Great Collection; Many Adversaries; Inferior,  but  Worthy  Brethren; 

                   Household Churches; and Anathema Maranatha (16:1-34)

 

2 Corinthians

XXVI          Historical Introduction and Exposition to 2 Corinthians (1:1-20)

XXVII         The Two Covenants (1:21-3:18)

XXVIII       The Gospel Ministry and the Glory That Is to Come (4:1-5:15)

XXIX          The Ministry of Reconciliation (6:17-7:16)

XXX           The Great Collection for the Poor Saints Jerusalem (8:1-9:15)

XXXI          Exposition and Paul's Reply to His Enemies (10:1-12:21)

 

 

 

JAMES

 

I

 

(Return to Contents)

 

HISTORICAL INTRODUCTION TO JAMES

 


The first point to which attention is called is the place of this epistle in the New Testament canon. This letter of James, and some others, were called antilegomena. In other words, they were in dispute or in doubt. Later on the letter of James received universal acceptance. After a careful examination into its claim it was received by all Christian people as a part of the New Testament, until the Reformation. Luther, in the preface to his commentary on it, uses language which may be translated thus: "A very strawy epistle." The thought with him was that it flatly contradicted the teaching of Paul on justification by faith, and Luther would not accept anything from anybody that contradicted that teaching. The trouble with Luther was that he misconceived the teaching of James. It is quite true that the letter of James was slow in coming into circulation, but it gradually worked its way into general acceptance, and there is no just ground for questioning its authenticity or canonical place.


The heading in the King James Version is, "The General Epistle of James." The word "general" is left out of the American Standard Revised Version. The Greek word, katholikos, meaning "general," or "universal," is not found in the Bible, neither in the Greek of the Old Testament nor in the Greek of the New Testament. That is one of my objections to the position of certain Baptists on the universal, or Catholic Church; they should not insist upon using a word which has not the recognition of the Word of God, neither in the Old Testament nor in the New Testament. It is certain that the word "general" was put there some centuries after Christ, and it was meant to indicate the character of seven letters: James; 1 and 2 Peter; 1, 2, and 3 John; and Jude. The letters of Paul to the Romans, to the Corinthians and to Timothy, are special letters. The word "catholic," when it first came into use, did not mean orthodox, but simply general, as opposed to particular, or special. Later it came to mean orthodox – "the holy Catholic Church." It does not belong in the New Testament, and hence the revisers very wisely left it out.


Who wrote this letter, how, when, why, and to whom was it written? As to who wrote this book, our own answer is, James, the eldest half-brother of our Lord; that is, he was younger than Jesus, who was Mary's first-born, and the first son of both Joseph and Mary. And yet it is a question which has been very much controverted in some of its phases, and I must go a little into the controversy. In Mark 6:3, the people of Nazareth say concerning Jesus, "Is not this the carpenter, the Son of Mary, and brother of James, and Joses, and Judas, and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended in him." The first question to be determined is, what was the relation of these four brothers there mentioned, and these sisters whose names are not given, to Jesus, the Son of Mary? I refer the reader to some elaborate discussions on the conflicting theories. The best, clearest, simplest, and most forcible is found in Dr. Broadus' Commentary on Matthew on chapter 13:55. In Schaff's "History of the Christian Church" (page 272, Vol. I, second edition), the author discusses the matter with great clearness and force, and agrees with Dr. Broadus throughout. Another book is Lightfoot on Galatians, one of the finest commentaries ever prepared. Dr. Lightfoot elaborately discusses the question of the relationship of these four men and these unnamed sisters of our Lord. He takes a different position from Dr. Broadus and Dr. Schaff. These authorities are accessible, and a bright student who wants to keep up with the discussions on important matters in the Bible should acquaint himself with these discussions.


Here is the sum of the whole matter: There are three theories as to who these people were. One theory is the one advanced in my answer, that they were the younger half brothers and sisters of Jesus, Joseph and Mary being their parents; hence it is called the brother-theory, as Dr. Broadus describes it. This is styled in classical history, "The Helvetian Theory." About A.D. 383 Rome, which was coming into power, attacked this position.


Second theory: They were the children of Joseph by a former marriage and were half-brothers of our Lord. That is called the theory of Epitheanus. That is the theory Lightfoot advocates, and the theory upon which the Greek Catholic Church stands. (The first theory is sometimes called the Protestant theory.)


Third theory: That they were cousins of Jesus, the children of Mary who was a sister of Mary, the mother of Jesus. And this theory maintains the identity of James, the brother of our Lord, and James the son of Alpheus, in the list of the twelve apostles. It also maintains the identity of Jude, the author of another letter, with Judas, not Iscariot, another one of the apostles, and that the Simon mentioned in Mark 6:3 was another one of the apostles. So this theory claims that three of the brothers of Jesus Christ were apostles. Then it also identifies Alpheus and Cleopas. This is the Roman Catholic theory, and its object is to prove the perpetual virginity of Mary, the Mother of our Lord. Later, the Roman Catholics by an "infallible" bull declared the perpetual virginity of Mary, and made its acceptance essential to salvation.


The Catholic theory is in every way preposterous. The idea of making three brothers of Jesus members of the original twelve of the apostolic college, when just a little while before Jesus was crucified, John says emphatically that his brothers did not believe on him, and every time they are mentioned it is in contradistinction to the apostles, has no basis in fact. They are never mentioned in a way to make it possible to believe that they were apostles. Evidently sentiment had much to do in influencing some Protestants to deny that they were brothers of Jesus.


We count it settled that James, Judas, Joses, and Simon, mentioned in Mark 6:3 as brothers of Jesus, were really his brothers. This brings us to another question: Did James, this brother of Jesus, write this letter? It could never have been James, the son of Zebedee, because we have an account of his death in Acts 12. All of the arguments go to show that the author of this book is James, the half-brother of Jesus.


Having settled as to who wrote the letter, we want to get an idea of the writer, and shall now form a connected Bible history of the man. We will take Dr. Broadus' Harmony of the Gospels and follow it as far as it goes.


1. John 2:12 (Harmony, p. 20), reads: "After this we went down to Capernaum, he, and his mother, and his brethren and his disciples; and there they abode not many days." Here the names of the brothers are not given, but it shows that this family of children follow that mother and go around after Jesus. That is just after Jesus worked his first miracle. In the working of the first miracle it speaks only of Jesus and his mother being present, but undoubtedly his brothers were there then. That is to say, that when he left to go to that wedding, his mother and brothers went with him, and from that wedding they went and sojourned all together a little while in Capernaum. Jesus gets an invitation to a wedding, and in order to get Jesus they invite his mother and the more obscure members of the family.


2. Matthew 12:46-47, with Mark 3:31-32, with Luke 8:19 (Harmony, p. 59). Let us see Matthew 12:46-47: "While he was yet speaking to the multitudes, behold, his mother and his brethren stood without, seeking to speak to him. And one said -unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, seeking to speak to thee." Then Mark: "And there come his mother and his brethren; and, standing without, they gent unto him, calling him. And a multitude was sitting about him; and they say unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren without seek for thee." Luke says: "And there came to him his mother and brethren, and they could not come at him for the crowd." It must be clearly stated as to what the object was. Here Jesus was teaching, and he was so very busy that he did not stop to eat. The report of that comes to his mother and these half-brothers of his, and they come there to arrest him, just exactly as we would get out a writ of lunacy for any man that will work so continuously without stopping to eat. It is important to see the relation of these brothers to Jesus as it 'is presented in the scripture. It is on that occasion that he says, resenting the interference with his work by his family, "Who is my mother and my brethren?" And waving his hand to his disciples he says, "These are my brothers. Whosoever doeth the will of my Father, the same is my mother, my brother, and my sister," placing discipleship and obedience far above any fleshly relation to him. As later he was going to the cross a woman cried out, "Blessed is the mother that bore thee," and he said, "Yea, rather blessed is she that doeth the word of God."


3. Matthew 13:55 with Mark 6:3 (Harmony, p. 70): This is the second time that Jesus comes to Nazareth, and coming into his own country he taught them in their synagogue, insomuch that they were astonished and said, "Whence hath this man wisdom, and these mighty works? Is not this the carpenter's son? Is not his mother called Mary?" Notice what Jesus said about that: "A prophet is not without honor, save in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house." So we see that up to this time he was without honor with his own kin.


4. John 7:3 (Harmony, p. 3): "Depart hence, and go into Judea, that thy disciples also may behold thy works which thou doest. For no man doeth anything in secret, and himself seeketh to be known openly. If thou doest these things, manifest thyself to the world. For even his brethren did not believe on him. Jesus therefore saith unto them, My time is not yet come; but your time is always ready. . . . I go not up yet unto this feast." That was not a very great while before his crucifixion, and shows the attitude of his family toward him so far.


5. 1 Corinthians 15:7 (Harmony, p. 229): After he arose from the dead he appeared unto his brother James. So far as the Bible teaching goes, up to the time after the resurrection when Jesus appeared to James, the very man that wrote this letter, he had not been a Christian. Hence he could not have been one of the twelve apostles.


6. Acts 1:14. When he ascended into heaven, the angel said to those who were looking at his up-going, "Why stand ye looking into heaven?" Then it is said that they went back to the upper room, Mary and his brethren. There, doubtless with the crowd, they received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. There were 120, including the brothers.


7. Galatians 1:19 with Acts 9:27. That is Paul's first visit to Jerusalem. He says, "When I made that first visit to see Peter, I saw him, but did not see any other of the apostles, but I did see James, the brother of our Lord." He did not say that James was an apostle. Dr. Broadus and Dr. Schaff both say that the Greek and also the margin in the revision do not imply that James was an apostle; it says, "I saw no other apostle but Peter, but I saw James."


8. Acts 12:17. Peter escaped from prison and told the crowd that was praying in the house of John Mark's mother to go and tell James that he had escaped, indicating that by this time James occupied a position of authority. In other words he was pastor of the first church at Jerusalem. The apostles were not pastors; they had general work to do.


9. Acts 15, with which compare Galatians 2:9. That is the time that the great conference was held at Jerusalem concerning Paul's work as to whether the Gentiles were to be received into the kingdom of God without becoming Jews. James presided over that meeting, as the pastor of the Jerusalem church, because the man who made the trouble came from his church, and the first church at Antioch had referred this question to the church where the trouble had originated. James makes a speech on that occasion, as well as Peter, Paul and others, and James is unquestionably the author of the letter which was adopted by the church.


10. Galatians 2:12. That is after the whole matter had been settled by that conference; Paul says that, at Antioch when certain ones came from James, Peter and Barnabas began to dissimulate; they had heretofore been eating with the Gentiles.


11. 1 Corinthians 9:5. That shows he was a married man.


12. Acts 21:18. That is on the occasion of Paul's last visit. James is still the pastor.


13. The last reference, except the letter itself, Jude, verse 1: "Jude, . . . brother of James." Here then are thirteen references which put clearly before us the author of this letter. He was an intense Jew, very much devoted to the law and to the customs of his people. That he never did become such a Christian as Paul and others we shall see as we study his epistle.


We have found the writer of this letter to be James, the son of Joseph and Mary, and half-brother of our Lord. And we have studied his history in the Gospels, Acts, and Epistles, up to the time that he writes this letter. Now for some further questions.


1. To whom does he write this letter? The answer is: Not to the Gentiles anywhere, not to Jews of any kind in the Holy Land, not to Christian Jews in the Holy Land, but to Christian Jews of the dispersion. As verse I says, "James, . . . to the twelve tribes which are of the dispersion." That brings up the old question of the "lost ten tribes." And this context shows that James does not consider that they were lost. The Old Testament shows that the ten tribes who were transported to Assyria, and most of whom never returned, were not lost. A great many of them came back, and the continuity of the tribes was kept up, which can be proved by many scriptural references, in both the Old and New Testaments. The Greek word, diaspora, "the dispersion," needs to be understood. The word, "dispersion," occurs a number of times in the Bible, and it means that a large class of Jews, who at different times were carried away into several captivities, or who went away for purposes of commerce, or trade, and settled in foreign countries, losing in the long lapse of time their mother tongue, and speaking only the tongues of the people where they lived, losing a great many of the scriptural customs of the people who lived in the Holy Land, yet maintained their nationality. These people came up to the great feasts. They were there on the day of Pentecost, when James received the baptism of the Holy Spirit; they were there from the banks of the Euphrates and the Tigris, from Mesopotamia, which means "between the rivers"; from all places in Asia Minor; from Southern Greece and Rome and Northern Africa. And they remained there until they were first dispersed by the persecution of Saul of Tarsus and the persecution mentioned in Acts 12. As they bad gone away, James writes to-them. They had been there together in that great meeting, very probably, on the day of Pentecost. The first deportation of these people was when the ten tribes were carried into captivity, then later the Jews in Judea were carried away, still later Alexander established a great number at Alexandria, in Northern Egypt, at the mouth of the Nile, and Pompey carried a great number of them into captivity to Rome. In Egypt they received special privileges. A temple was built there, and an immense part of the influence on the thought of the world comes from the Alexandrian Jews. I am explaining now to whom this letter was written, and what was the occasion of the writing. These people had been there and had been through this long persecution; now they were scattered to their several homes, and James is writing to them.


2. When did he write it? He could not have written it after A.D. 62, for he was killed at that time, as is told by Josephus. He did not write it after A.D. 50, because there is an absence of reference in it to later controversies. So that my opinion of the time is somewhere about A.D. 45, corresponding in date with the incidents mentioned in Acts 12. There was then a great persecution raging. James, the son of Zebedee, was killed, and Peter was imprisoned. The members of the church were scattered abroad. James was the head, or pastor of that church. There were probably 100,000 members in it. We can see the concern he would feel when these people were all driven abroad. The reasons for this early date are not merely the appropriateness of the occasion, which has just been stated, but it is evident from this letter itself that the line of demarcation between Christians and Jews was very slight. The Christians were still meeting in the synagogues. Later, they separated from the Jews at the synagogues, and either rented houses of worship, built them houses, or met in private homes.


3. Why did he write this letter, or what was his object? Three reasons, from the letter itself, evidently influenced him more than all others put together. The first one is that these dispersed Jews were suffering severe trials and persecution, and he wanted to show them how to receive and to bear these trials. In the second place, a great many Jews had accepted Christ intellectually, but were not regenerated. Just like the devil, they believed in God, and so James says, "Thou believest there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe and tremble." It was this barren faith that was not influencing many of their lives for good. And then a characteristic of them at home and abroad was that they were a very "fussy" people, regular "Kilkenny cats," fighting in their synagogues at every meeting, and eight years later destroying the nation by their fighting in the streets of Jerusalem against one another. He is writing to these suffering people, some of them holding on to Christ with a spirit of nominal faith, to show them that the true faith endures suffering and is fruitful in life.

 

QUESTIONS

 

1. What is the meaning of antilegomena, and what are the antilegomena epistles?

 

2. What did Luther call the epistle of James, and why?

 

3. Is there any just ground for questioning the authenticity of this letter?

 

4. How did catholikos come to be used in this title, and when?

 

5. What did it mean originally?

 

6. What did it come to mean later?

 

7. Who wrote this letter?

 

8. What three theories concerning the relation to our Lord sustained by the children named in Mark 6:3?

 

9. What is included in each of these theories?

 

10. In general terms, how do Protestants, Greek Catholics, and Roman Catholics align themselves on these theories?

 

11. What is the object of the Catholic theory?

 

12. What was the "infallible" bull respecting this?

 

13. What caused some Protestants to deny that those named in Mark were brothers of our Lord?

 

14. Where may we find the clearest and strongest presentation of each theory?

 

15. Why could it not have been James, the son of Zebedee, who wrote this letter?

 

16. In the Protestant theory, meet the objections based on John 19:26-27?

 

17. Observing the order of time in citing passages, trace the New Testament history of the James named in Mark 6:3.

 

18. From this history show how it was impossible for him to be one of the twelve.

 

19. Who, then, was the author of this letter?

 

20.What was his character, reputation, and death, according to Josephus?

 

21. What his acquired position among Jerusalem Christians?

 

22. What his position both as a Jew and a Christian?

 

23. To whom was this letter written?

 

24. What old question does verse I bring up?

 

25. What James's position on that question?

 

26. What is the meaning of the Greek word diaspora?

 

27. What is the difference between the Jews of the dispersion and of Palestine?

 

28. On what occasions did they assemble at Jerusalem?

 

29. What were the great deportations of the Jews?

 

30. What the occasion of this letter?

 

31. When did he write it?

 

32. What the proof?

 

33. Why did he write this letter?

 

 

II

 

(Return to Contents)

 

AN ANALYSIS AND EXPOSITION OF CHAPTER I

James 1:1-27.

 

 

ANALYSIS


The salutation, from whom to whom, 1:1.


The body, or matter, of the letter:


I. Concerning trials from without. God himself chastens his children in love, and often permits Satan and evil men to afflict them in malice as a test of faith and as a discipline, therefore –


1. Count them for a joy through discipline (1:2-4). (Compare with the case of Job, who did not know how nor from whom to count them, and with the case of Paul, who did know.)


2. If you need wisdom in order to do this – ask God for it (1:5-8). (Compare the case of Solomon, I Kings 3:5-13; and 4:29-34.)


3. But ask in faith (1:6). (Compare the Lord's teaching in Mark 5:36; 9:23-24; and Paul's, Romans 4:18-21; and Hebrews 11:6.)


4. Having regard to other laws or conditions of acceptable prayer (4:3).


5. For there are two kinds of wisdom, unlike in origin, nature and result (3:13-18). (Compare Genesis 3:6; 2 Corinthians 11:3; Galatians 3:1; 1 Corinthians 1:18-22.) (Compare the Greek legend of Minerva, the goddess of wisdom, springing full grown from the brain of Jupiter, with Milton's representation of Sin, in the form of a beautiful woman, coming from the brain of Satan – Paradise Lost, Book II.)


6. How the foregoing directions may be made to apply impartially to both rich and poor brethren (1:9-11).


II. Concerning temptations from within (1:13-17).


Note how the same word in one connection means a trial, in another connection means an incitement to evil.


1. Incitement to evil not from God (1:13-17).


(1) Because opposed to his nature (1:13, 17-28). He is the Father of lights. He is unchangeable. He willeth our regeneration. (Compare 1 Timothy 2:4 and Ezekiel 33:11.)


(See the author's sermon on "God and the Sinner.")


(2) Because opposed to his practice of giving good things only (1:17).


2. Incitement to evil from the devil (4:7). (Compare Genesis 3:1-5; 2 Corinthians 11:3; Galatians 3:1; I John 3:8-12.)


3. The commission of sin man's own act (1:14). This appears from the analysis of sin (1:14-15.) The complete order is:


(1) Incitement by Satan. (2) Desire. (3) Will to gratify it. (4) The deed. (5) Death. (6) Hell. (Compare the genesis and development of the first human sin, Genesis 3:1-8; and the case of Achan, Joshua 7:20-21. See the relations of Satan, Sin, Death, and Hell) and Dogs or Remorse in Paradise Lost, Book II, lines 648-814.)


III. Concerning the word of God.


1. Its offices:


(a) The means of regeneration (1:18).


(b) The mirror for disclosing imperfections (1:23).


(c) The perfect law of liberty (1:25).


2. How communicated in effecting regeneration (1:21).


Note the implanting of a seed, and compare the parable of the sower, the seed, and the four kinds of soil, Matthew 13: 4-9, 18-23; with Jeremiah 4:3. See also 1 Peter 1:23.


3. How received when so communicated (1:21).


4. How treated when received:


(1) Forsake the evil it condemns (1:21).


(2) Do the good it enjoins (1:22).


(Compare Isaiah 1:16-17; 55:7; Matthew 7:24-27. See also John 14:15; 15:14; Acts 2:37; 16:30-31; 22:10; with 26:19.)

 

OBSERVATIONS


The Mirror. – Let the reader explain the mirror illustration, showing how and why the word of God is so used.


The case of Mr. Moody, his dirty boy and the mirror, showing the mirror's use, not for washing, but to disclose dirt, or imperfection, and by thus convincing the one looking in it of the need of cleansing. Let the reader compare the mirror illustration of James with Paul's mirror illustration (2 Cor. 3:18) and point out clearly the distinctions. Illustrate Paul's use by the Peruvian Temple of the Sun in Cuzco. Read Keeble's poem on Paul's illustration.


The Law of Liberty. – Let the reader fix clearly and firmly in his mind the New Testament idea of liberty, who is the liberator, what the bondage from which he delivers, how the word of God operates in securing the liberty, and why it is a perfect law of liberty. To this end see the discussion in John 8:31-36; Galatians 4:21-31 and 5:1; Romans 6:14-20.


Compare Ingersoll's lecture on "Liberty for Man, Woman, and Child," delivered in Waco, with the author's reply thereto. Read Bishop Soule's sermon on "Perfect Law of Liberty," in Methodist Pupil of the South, and mark the points from which you dissent, if there be any.


IV. A definition of practical religion.


1. Negative, i.e., vain religion (1:26).


(1) Deception of heart


(2) Unbridled tongue


2. Positive, i.e., pure and undefiled (1:27).


(1) Keeping oneself unspotted from the world


(2) Visiting the fatherless and widows in their affliction

 

OBSERVATIONS


Note all the New Testament uses of the words here rendered "religion," "religious."


Derivation of the English word.


Read F. W. Robertson's sermon (in Vol. Ill) showing the mission of James to teach the moral rectitude side of the gospel rather than dogma.


V. Concerning faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.


1. It must be held without respect of persons (2:1-7), i.e., the conduct of one believer in Jesus toward another believer in Jesus must have regard only to the claims of a common humanity and of a common salvation, disregarding distinctions based on race, nationality, tribe, caste, sex, titles, honors, social position, wealth, or poverty. (Compare Deuteronomy 1:7; Luke 18:42-45; 22:24-27; Acts 10:34; Galatians 3:28; Colossians 3:10-11.)


2. It must fulfil the royal law (2:8).


3. It must be held without respect of commandments (2:912).


Note the unity, or solidarity, of the law. Illustrate it. Who wrote the following couplet?
Compound for sins they are inclined to, By damning those they have no mind to?


What the legend of Jupiter and the two bags?


4. It must be evidenced by good works (2:14-20). Case of Abraham (2:21-24). Case of Rahab (2:25). Questions:


(1) What said Luther of this letter, and why?


(2) And yet what says Luther about faith and works in his preface to the epistle to the Romans?


(3) In what sense do works justify?


(4) Meaning of "perfect" in 2:22?


(5) What says Paul of the relations between grace and faith on the one hand, and good works on the other hand? (See Ephesians 2:8-10; Titus 2:11-15; 3:4-8.)


(6) What the theory of Dr. J. B. Link, editor Texas Baptist Herald?


(7) Why was Rahab's case selected by James, and in Hebrews 11:31?


VI. Concerning teachers (3:1-18).


1. A caution against many teachers (3:1).


2. The teacher must bridle his tongue, because:


(1) This makes the perfect man. Note the relative power of the tongue (3:2-4). Note the illustrations – the bridle, the helm, the forest fire.


(2) Because the devil's tongues of fire are contrasted with the Spirit's tongues of fire at Pentecost (3:6-12). These tongues are restless, untamable, forked, full of deadly poison, worlds of iniquity, set on fire of hell, setting on fire the whole course of nature.


(3) The teacher must seek the true wisdom, because there is another wisdom earthly, sensual, demoniacal.


Note: – The tongue has slain more than the sword, and has burned up more homes and cities than all the incendiaries in the annals of time.


VII. General applications and exhortations


1. Inordinate lusts originate strife and nullify prayer (4: 1-3).


2. The spirit of divine love within us is jealous against the world love tempting us (4:4-6).


3. The great direction (4:7-10).


4. Censoriousness libels laws and usurps the divine prerogative of judgment (4:11-12).


5. The twelve tribes are dispersed by the lust of commerce, which presumes on the future and ignores the divine will (4: 13-17).


6. The follies and 'iniquities of the rich (5:1-6).


7. The coming of the Lord teaches patience (5:7-8).


8. The outlet for great emotions (5:9-13).


(1) Not murmuring


(2) Not swearing


(3) But prayer or praise; the case of Job


9. Directions for the sick (5:14-18).


(1) Send for the elders of the church


Query: Who are they?


(2) Anoint the patient with oil


Why? Is this direction binding now? Is this the Romanist extreme unction?


(3) The promise


(4) Confession of sin


Query: Is this the Romanist auricular confession?


(5) Elijah's case the example of prayer


Query: Is it right now to pray for rain?


10. Conversion of a sinner (5:19-20).


Query: Meaning of "shall cover a multitude of sins"?


We shall now give the main points in the analysis of chapter I, as follows:


(1) Salutation – from whom to whom (1:1).


(2) Trials from without and how to receive them (1:2-13).


(3) Trials from within – their origin, development, and termination (1:13-17).


(4) The Word of God – its nature, its offices, and how to treat it (1:18-25).


(5) Seeming and Real Religion (1:26-27).


I will now commence the exegesis according to that analysis. I would not, for worlds, have this letter of James left out, and if when we get through, the reader does not see that it is a great letter and of inestimable value, then I shall question his judgment.


First the salutation, 1:1: "James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are of the dispersion, greeting." We have, in an introductory chapter, specified what James this was. We see that he counts himself God's servant, and the servant of Jesus. Considering that all during the life of Christ he did not believe in his brother, and that he was converted only at the resurrection of Christ, it is astonishing in this book to see how complete is his faith in Jesus as the Messiah: "The Lord Jesus, the Christ." Those to whom he writes, the twelve tribes of the dispersion, we have just considered.


We now take up trials from without, and how they are to be received. "Count it all Joy, my brethren, when you fall into manifold temptations." Pretty hard thing to do, isn't it? Job had a hard time counting his trials joy, and we notice in Paul's case it makes him shouting happy because God counted him worthy to suffer for the Lord Jesus Christ. But we have to have religion to do that. "Count it all joy." Why should it be? "Because the trying of your faith worketh patience." "Tribulation," says Peter, "worketh patience."


A most charming lady, a member of my church in Waco, and one of the sweetest spirits that I ever knew, came to me one day and said:


"I just pray and pray for patience, and about the time I think I am patient, here comes some new trouble. Tell me about it."


"Why," I said, "that is the mill that grinds patience, viz.: tribulation, and so if you really want to be patient, then you must count these tribulations that come on you, joy, for they will bring you the patience, if you are rightly exercised by them. And in order to profit by it, let patience have her perfect work, that you may be patient and endure, wanting nothing."


The word, "perfect," does not mean sinless in the New Testament at any time. It means mature. Perfection means maturity. Just here the trouble comes up with any of us when subject to these trials from without – we are not wise enough to know how to receive them. Hence, the next direction, "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God that giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him." He knows that a lack of wisdom oftentimes causes us to fail.


The case of Solomon is in point. He was a young man when he was made successor to his father, and while he was offering sacrifices in the tabernacle, God came to him in a dream at night and said (how would you, dear reader, like to be approached by day or night and have God pressing this question on you?), "What do you want? Make a selection. I will give it to you." Solomon says, "Lord, give me wisdom. I am a little child, and I do not know how to go out or to come in, and you have put me at the head of a great people, and I have to discharge my duty. I must have wisdom." God was so pleased that he not only gave him wisdom, but riches and honor, and many other blessings.


How different would be the answer of most people to that question. Perhaps one would say, "I want a spring bonnet. That is the thing that is standing between me and happiness." Another would say, "I want to feel my fingers in the neck of my enemy." What a tremendous thing is that wisdom! I do not mean knowledge. There is much difference between wisdom and knowledge. The wisest man is not the man that knows. Wisdom is the application of knowledge. To know just what to do, to know just how to do it, and to know how to do it at the right time – that is wisdom. It is a rare gift or qualification.


I heard an old Baptist deacon say, "Our pastor, if we ever get him up in the pulpit, is not only a Boanerges, a son of thunder, but he is a Barnabas, a son of consolation, but just as soon as he steps down out of the pulpit, he has not sense enough to lead a goose to water. He needs a guardian." And the old deacon told the truth. He was called "the Spurgeon of Texas," and he was called also the "inspired idiot." Out of the pulpit an idiot, and in the pulpit a flame of fire. He was a schoolmate of mine.


Most of the trouble that comes upon churches comes from a lack of wisdom on the part of the pastor. They do not know how to handle with the proper delicacy cases of discipline. Without ever understanding it, a great many pastors make themselves the occasion of a split in a church) of endless strife and confusion. We can get wisdom in no other way than by asking for it. One says, "I asked for it, but did not get it." Let me give the next verse. "But let him ask in faith, nothing doubting, for he that doubteth is like-the surge of the sea, driven by the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord; a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways." Ask in faith: "Whatsoever ye ask in my name, according to the law of God, and believe, ye shall receive."


The most of us are like the old woman, who read where it says, "If you have faith equal to a grain of mustard seed you could say to the mountain, be moved into the sea, and it would be moved." So she concluded she would try it, and she prayed that a certain mountain might be moved into the sea. The next morning she says, "There it is. I knew it was going to be there. It is Just as I expected." This is the way of our faith in praying.


These trials from without come upon rich and poor alike. The rich in the trial finds that his wealth has taken to itself wings and flown away, and he is brought down to a low estate. They have their trials. The poor man also has his. They are not the same in all cases, but there is no road from here to heaven that does not pass through tribulations. A man that properly endures trials that come upon him from without has this glorious incentive, that when he is tried he shall receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to them that love him. In the letters of Peter we find out how he treats the same subject.


We now come to the trials from within: "Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God; for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempteth no man: but each man is tempted, when he is drawn away by his own lust." We have the responsibility of that inward sin, and we must not put it on God. God never enticed anybody to do evil. The food. She desired; she was enticed by her desire. Achan, not enticement must come from our own desire. Eve looked upon the fruit of the tree of death, and it seemed to her good for withstanding the prohibition of God about the spoils of Jericho that were devoted, consecrated to God, saw the goodly Babylonish garment, and a wedge of gold, and he wanted them. Now, it isn't worth while for Achan to say, "God put me in a position to see that." The origin of our desires cannot be put on the shoulders of some one else.


Here is the finest analysis of the inside sin, its development and its termination, that I know of anywhere: "Then the lust, when it hath conceived, beareth sin: and the sin, when it is full grown, bringeth forth death." Desire; sin, death! We will have occasion more than once to call attention to James's power to analyze a fact, to show its development, its culmination, and its fruit. In verse 17 he shows why that this enticement to sin does not come from God: "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom can be no variation, neither shadow that is cast by turning." That is what comes from God. If it is a good gift, a perfect gift, it comes from above; it comes from the Father of lights, it comes from that God with whom is no variableness or even shadow of turning. Apply what James says as to how to treat trials that come from the inside. That is the secret of life. This is an intensely practical writer, and if one cannot apply what he says, then he will go through life soured, unhappy, unprofitable.


Let us look at his great discussion on the word of God (w. 18-25). The analysis says, "The word of God, its nature, its offices, and how to treat it." It is a seed, an implanted seed: "Receive with meekness the implanted word." The word is "planted" – "the implanted word of God." And how often do we find that the word of God is treated as a seed! "The sower went forth to sow," the parable of tares, the parable of the seed that groweth by itself, and then in the Psalms, "He that soweth in tears shall reap in joy," and "he that goeth forth weeping bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him." And the passage in Peter, "born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God that liveth and abideth forever."


If the word of God as to its nature is an implanted seed, then what are its offices? First, it is an instrument of regeneration. The record says, "Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth." How is regeneration to be brought about? By preaching the word. The sower goes out and sows the word – the seed, which is implanted, and becomes the instrument of regeneration by the Holy Spirit. What is the second office of this word? That is expressed in verse 25: "But he that looketh into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and so continueth, being not a hearer that forgetteth, but a doer that worketh, this man shall be blessed in his doing." There the word of God is called the law of liberty, that is to say, "Whoever takes the word of God reaches real liberty."


Ingersoll came to Waco when I was pastor there, and delivered his notorious lecture on "Liberty for Men, Women, and Children," and I replied to it from the pulpit: "If the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed," and showed what was real liberty and how this liberty is to be found.


The word of God brings liberty; to deliver from the bondage of sin, the bondage of Satan; it translates us into the kingdom of God. We can get these three lessons: (1) It is the instrument of regeneration. (2) It is a mirror for revealing sin. (3) It is the perfect law of liberty.


I heard Dr. Richard Burleson preach a great sermon on "How shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto according to thy word." That is 'in Psalm 119. Every verse of it has reference to the word of God. The young man in his ways is inclined to be a slave. How shall he be free? "How shall be cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto according to thy word." "The entrance of thy word giveth light." Whosoever liveth in darkness and dark places is in slavery. There must be light in order to be free.


One of the most famous Irish orators in an address pictured Ireland as a woman in shamrock and bound, and then pleaded for the liberty of Ireland, and as he held up his hands he said, "There shall come a day in the providence of God when Erin, poor Erin, shall be redeemed and regenerated and disenthralled forever." If it ever comes it shall be by the Irish people's taking greater heed to the Word of God. This is the way to get that kind of liberty.


Let us now review a little. This letter was written by James, the half-brother of our Lord, the son of Joseph and Mary. It was written from Jerusalem. It was written about A.D. 45. It was written to the dispersed Jews that had become Christians. In the analysis of this letter there was presented: First, what James had to say concerning trials from without; that God himself chasteneth his people for their discipline, and permits the devil and evil men to persecute them in malice. He then tells them how to receive these trials; to count them a joy through discipline, and if they need wisdom, to ask God for it. But they must ask in faith, and they must have regard to the other laws of God. For instance, a man may ask and not receive because his object is to use what he asks for his own pleasure. The direction to go to God for this wisdom arises from the fact that there are two kinds of wisdom, one from above, first pure and then peaceable, and bringing forth the fruits of righteousness; the other earthly, sensual, devilish; that does not come from God. He then shows that these directions apply just as much to the rich man as to the poor man. His first point is that. Still speaking in review, he then takes up the same word, "temptation," but uses it in another sense. And concerning these temptations from within he shows that God is not the author of them – that God never entices any man to evil. He cannot do it on account of his nature, and he gives only good things and never evil things; that this enticement to evil may indeed come from the devil or from some other man, but when the sin is committed by the man the responsibility rests upon him. It is his act, no matter who entices – man or devil. This appears from the analysis of sin which he gives, that every man is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desire, and that desire when it has conceived bringeth forth sin and sin when it is full grown bringeth forth death. One of the finest points in the epistle is the fixing of the responsibility of the commission of sin upon man.


The next subject that he discusses is the Word of God, in its nature, as a seed implanted. In this letter James gives the offices of the Word of God. In its first office, it is a means of regeneration – "Begotten by the word." In its second office, it serves as a mirror. A man looking into a mirror discovers his own imperfections. The mirror faithfully presents himself to himself, just as he is. The Word of God is to be used as a mirror. Paul also uses the mirror illustration in another sense. Where and what?


In the next office of the Word, it is the perfect law of liberty, that is, it is the means through which, when properly observed, the slave to sin becomes a freeman to Jesus Christ. That perfect law of liberty is a great pulpit theme. There is a sermon on "The Perfect Law of Liberty" by a leading Methodist, Joshua Soule, who was bishop in the South when the division took place between the North and the South. It may be found in a book, The Methodist Pulpit of the South, and it will jostle a young preacher to read it. No Baptist will accept all of it, but it is intensely interesting.


The Word of God is the means of regeneration, a mirror for convicting of sin and the perfect law of liberty. James then tells how this Word is communicated, and in that way he brings out its nature as of a seed implanted: "Receive ye the implanted word of God." And then he asks how it is to be treated when it is received. Then he answers, "Forsake the evil which it condemns and do the good which it enjoins." Then he gives a loose, but very practical definition of practical religion in four strokes, two of them negatives: "If any man thinketh himself to be religious, while he bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his heart, this man's religion is vain." And then defines pure and undefiled religion with two strokes: He must keep himself unspotted from the world; he must visit the fatherless and the widows in their affliction. The reader will notice the ethical use of the phrase, "Pure and undefiled religion." Look up the etymological definition of religion. How is the word derived? It is a big word over the world. Here we recall the song:
“Tis religion that can give sweetest pleasures while we live; "Tis religion must supply solid comfort when we die.

 

QUESTIONS

 

1. Give the main points in the analysis of chapter 1.

 

2. How does James characterize himself in the salutation?

 

3. What is in this book about James that is astonishing?

 

4. How are trials from without to be received, and why? Illustrate by Job and Paul.

 

5. What illustration from the author's life?

 

6. What the meaning of the word "perfect" in the New Testament?

 

7. Why the direction just here concerning wisdom?

 

8. Illustrate by the life of Solomon.

 

9. What the difference between wisdom and knowledge?

 

10. What the point of the case of the "inspired idiot"?

 

11. How obtain wisdom, and what the one essential in obtaining it? Compare our Lord's and Paul's teaching on this point.

 

12. What the two kinds of wisdom, and what the characteristics of each? Compare the Greek legend of Minerva and Milton's representation of sin.

 

13. What incentive to endure trials?

 

14. How may the foregoing directions be applied to rich and poor?

 

15. Whence come trials from within?

 

16. Why does not this enticement to sin come from God? From whom does it come, and what the proof?

 

17. What examples in the letter, of James's power of analysis in tracing things to their fountain head.

 

18. What the complete order of his analysis of sin? Compare the cases of Eve and Achan, and also Milton's description of the relation of Satan, Sin, and Death.

 

19. What is the Word of God as to its nature?

 

20. What are its offices according to James?

 

21. Compare James's use of the word "mirror" with Paul's, and illustrate each.

 

22. What the New Testament idea of liberty, who the liberator, what the bondage from which delivered, how does the Word of God operate in securing liberty, and what the perfect law of liberty? Compare Ingersoll's lecture on it.

 

23. What is one of the finest points of this letter?

 

24. In four strokes give James’ practical definition of religion.

 

25. What is the etymological definition of religion?

 

 

III

 

(Return to Contents)

 

THE FAITH OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST

James 2:1-26.

 


The second chapter of James is a discussion of one theme. It is concerning the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ. James attempts no definition, either abstract or theological. But in an intensely practical way he shows the distinction between the true and the false faith in so many particulars that the chapter is a perfect mine of religious wealth. First, the true faith must be held without respect to persons. A man wants to know whether he has faith in Jesus Christ or not, and James gives him the practical side of it. Good and true faith in the Lord Jesus Christ must be without respect of persons. The man who has faith in Jesus must not, in the exercise of that faith, make a discrimination between people of high degree and low degree, between rich and poor people.


There is one plane of humanity and one plan of salvation, just as the eagle had to swoop down and fly into the door of the ark over whose portals the snail crawled.


There was not any top place for the eagle to come in. All who stand upon one plane of humanity are to be favored with absolute impartiality, and as Paul puts it, "In Christ there is neither male nor female, Barbarian, Scythian, Greek nor Jew." In other words, all distinctions based on race, nationality, tribe, property, wealth – everything of that kind is lost sight of in the exercise of true faith in Jesus.


He gives some reasons why there must be no discrimination in the exercise of faith in favor of the rich as against the poor: "You observe that it is from the poor that God calls those who are richest in the faith, and that it is the rich that oppress you, and that if you make discrimination in favor of the rich, and you do that in the church when you meet, you dishonor the poor." This is the first test of faith. It must be without respect to persons.


Second, it must fulfil the royal law, i.e., the words of the King of law: "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." Paul says that love is the fulfilling of the law. James calls the law to love your neighbor as yourself the royal commandment – the king of all the commandments. Who first wrote, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself"? Who originated that? The third test of faith is that it must be held without respect of commandments. This faith in Jesus Christ cannot go to God's commandments and pick out some of them and say, "I like these; I will keep them," and to others and say, "I do not like these; I will not keep them." He goes on to show the unity and solidarity of the law, and in that way proving that one must not have faith with respect to commandments; that the law is a unit; it is a solid thing, and that if a man is guilty of one thing he is guilty of all. A rope is no stronger than its weakest part, and a chain is no stronger than its weakest link. Suppose a man has stolen $500, and when he is brought into court he says, "I have not killed anybody." The fact that he had not killed anybody does not save him from any other part of the law. Therefore, James says that they must hold their faith without any respect to commandments. In a sermon on this subject I ventured to quote Samuel Butler, an old English poet, who tells of those who
Compound for sins they are inclin'd to, By damning those they have no mind to. Many people lay to themselves an unction of complacency by talking about the sins of other people: "Just look at that murderer, or that thief," while they may, though innocent of those particular offenses, be guilty of others just as bad.


A fair illustration of this is what I call "The New England Conscience." I call attention to some points upon which the New England conscience acted very strangely. Nearly all the writers from New England write about the purity of the New England conscience. It has always been a strange conscience to me. That conscience said, "For you to persecute us is sin. It is all right for us to persecute you." That conscience said, "The sin of the Southern slavery will not let us sleep, but our own sectional sins put us to sleep." That conscience said, "It was an awful thing for South Carolina to threaten only to nullify a Federal law, but it was patriotism for us to nullify many times, actually, a Federal law." That New England conscience says, "It is a sin for you people in England to persecute us, but if we whip Roger Williams and burn a few witches that is not sin." That conscience said, "Southern secession is treason, but it is patriotism for us to originate and teach the doctrine of secession as the best thing for ourselves." That conscience said, "It was treason for Beauregard to train his guns upon the Federal flag floating over Fort Sumter," and at the same time it canonized John Brown for pulling down the Federal flag. That conscience said, "It was a sin for the South to disrupt the Constitution, " while they themselves said, "The Constitution was a covenant with death and a league with hell." That conscience pilloried Gen. Early for burning one town, but it glorified Sheridan for burning all the homes in the Shenandoah Valley and Sherman for burning a section seventy miles wide from Atlanta to Savannah. That conscience said that it was a great sin for Federal soldiers to be ill treated in the Civil War, but it was not pained at all at the ill treatment of the Southern soldiers. I doubt not that there are Southern sins of a like nature, for which we condemn Northern people.


James says that when one exercises faith he must exercise it without respect to commandments. He must not discriminate. One man says, "I am a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, but I don't see any use in being baptized and joining the church." In other words, he says, "It is true that baptism means immersion, but why take a damp road to heaven, seeing that a few drops of water are just as efficacious as the ocean?" A soul that trusts in the Lord Jesus Christ will say, like Paul, "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" And then say, "Whereupon, 0 King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision." The word of Jesus Christ will be sufficient, and that is what James has to say upon that point.


Then he goes to the next point when he says that this faith must be fruit-bearing. A man may say, "I will show you my faith without my works." James says, "I show you my faith by my works." It must be evidenced to all by work. If a thing has life there must be some sign of that life: "Faith without works is barren." "Faith apart from works is dead." That is what James says. You may have a faith, but just as sure as it never works it is not worth a snap of the finger. Then he gives an illustration in which he says, "If a brother or sister be naked and in lack of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Go in peace, be ye warmed and filled, and yet ye give them not the things needful to the body, what doth it profit?"


But the reader makes a great mistake if he supposes that James's teaching upon this subject is different from the teachings of the other New Testament writers, our Lord, for 'instance, or Paul, who is sometimes held up in opposition to James. Our Lord says, "Whosoever heareth these sayings of mine and doeth them not, shall be like a man who built his house upon the sand. When the storm came . . . that house fell, and great was the fall thereof," and it was our Lord who said, "If ye love me keep my commandments," and, "Ye are my friends if ye do whatsoever I command you," and it was Paul who said, "It is true, by grace ye are saved through faith and that not of yourselves. But ye are created unto good works." Then, in the letter to Titus he says, "When the kindness and mercy of heaven to man appeared, not by works of righteousness that we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us by the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Spirit." And he goes right on to say this, that it is the grace of God that bringeth salvation; that we should live soberly and godly in this present world.


Both Christ and Paul agree with James that faith must evidence itself in good works. There never would have been any controversy at all if James had not used the word "justify" there in a peculiar sense, just like the word "temptation." "Justify" may be a legal, forensic term, a term of the court. We are justified by faith. That is the acquittal of God. But our Lord uses the word "justify" in quite a different sense. He says, "By your words shall you be justified and by your words shall ye be condemned." So that James has in mind when he discusses justification by works, a thought that was not in the mind of Paul. Paul takes the case of a sinner and is trying to ascertain how that lost sinner can be declared just before God, and he says that it is through faith and apart from works. James takes a Christian, not a sinner, and shows how that Christian's works justify the Christian's profession. Just as our Lord said, "The publicans and harlots justified God." That does not mean that they acquitted God, but they vindicated God, being baptized with the baptism of John.


James uses a second illustration in the case of Abraham, who was justified by faith and received salvation, according to Genesis 15. That is when he was converted. It is true in a certain sense that he believed in God, but he was never a converted man until we find him in Genesis 15, that remarkable chapter that introduces so many words. There it is said that Abraham believed, and it is the first time that we come to the word. He believed Jehovah, and when he believed he was converted. Forty years after that, this believer, Abraham, did what God would have him to do in the case of Isaac, and the works justified him. Justified him in what sense? Not in a legal sense, but justified him in the sense of vindicating the profession of faith which he made. They did not make a sinner into a Christian, but justified the profession of the Christian.


I have never yet known a commentator nor a public speaker to give any evidence that he had noticed even this point that James now makes. He says that when forty years after Abraham's conversion he did what God told him to do, that then was fulfilled the scripture, which said, "And he believed on Jehovah and it was reckoned to him for righteousness." Every time afterward 'in his life that he obeyed God as a Christian he fulfilled the scripture which speaks of his conversion. In other words, it was the verification, "filled full," or "fulfilled." He says, bearing upon what was said forty years before, that it was imputed unto him for righteousness.


Many years ago Dr. J. B. Link was the editor of The Texas Baptist Herald, and he wrote an essay for critical examination, taking this position: "The sinner is justified by faith; the Christian is justified by works." You see the position. I wrote a reply to the article at the time, conceding that a part of the 'idea in his mind was correct. A Christian makes a profession. That Christian is a servant of Jesus Christ; his fidelity to Christ must be attested. If he is faithful, he is declared righteous in his fidelity. In that secondary sense works justify, not in the sense of justifying a sinner in order to that sinner's becoming a Christian.


Precisely the same thing comes up in the case of Rahab. Her faith saved her. That saving faith was evidenced by works, corresponding to the profession, and these works justified the avowal of her faith, as in that passage in Timothy where Paul says Christ was justified by the Holy Spirit, i.e., the Holy Spirit vindicated Christ, who claimed to be the Son of God. It seems somewhat curious to me that James and Paul, the author of the letter to the Hebrews, both of them selected Rahab, the harlot, i.e., who had been a harlot. The reason that she was selected is that she became an ancestress of the Lord, just like Ruth, the Gentile; just like Bathsheba, who had been the wife of Uriah, and afterward the real wife of David. All of these were the mothers, in the ancestral sense, of Jesus.

 

QUESTIONS

 

1. What is the theme of chapter 2?

 

2. What the marks of true faith?

 

3. What the reasons for not discriminating faith in favor of the rich against the poor?

 

4. What is the "royal law," and why so called?

 

5. Who originated it?

 

6. What is meant by the unity, or solidarity, of the law, and how does James show it?

 

7. What English poet is quoted here? Compound for sins they are inclined to, By damning those they have no mind to.

 

8. What modern discriminations are made in the commandments of Jesus?

 

9. What was Paul's attitude on this point?

 

10. What is meant by a dead faith?

 

11. What James's illustration of this kind of faith?

 

12. What the teaching of Jesus on this point?

 

13. What the teaching of Paul on the same point?

 

14. What one word used by James caused the controversy about his letter?

 

15. What its meaning as used by James? by Paul?

 

16. Illustrate

 

17. Why was Rahab selected by James and Paul as an example of faith?




 
IV

 

(Return to Contents)

 

TEACHERS AND TONGUES

James 3:1-18

 


All of James 3 is concerning teachers. It starts out this way: "Be not many of you teachers, my brethren, knowing that we shall receive heavier judgment." That is, don't be in a rush to crowd into the teacher's office, since the teacher is held to a more stringent account than the pupil. Dr. Broadus used to say that the ministry had a great attraction for weak minds. And it is certain that a great many weak minds do turn to the ministry. James merely wishes that the entering into the ministry should be a very careful, prayerful, thoughtful step. This chapter is one of the most important parts of the book of James, and 'indeed the Bible, and its value is simply incalculable to young preachers. By their profession they become teachers of the word of God; hence, no other chapter ought to be more important to them in their official character than this chapter. He then says, "If any stumbleth not in word, the same is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body also." He is saying that the most difficult perfection to attain is perfection in talking; that it is harder to do right in talking than in anything else in the world. He uses three illustrations:


1. A bridle is put into a horse's mouth – a very little thing – yet with that bridle one can guide that horse wherever he wants him to go.


2. He uses the helm of a big ship. The helmsman with that little instrument makes that ship go in the direction that he wants it to go.


3. "Behold, how much wood is kindled by how small a fire!" As it is expressed in the margin, "Behold, how great a forest of trees is consumed by a little fire!" Some one scampered along and carelessly left a fire. A spark blew out and caught the leaves and burned up a hundred million feet of wood timber. In the northern states and Canada, every year we have the most appalling accounts of forest fires, and very richly the saying of James expresses the thought, "Behold, how great a forest a little fire will burn down!" J. R. Graves, in one of his flights of eloquence, describes a man walking down the street lighting a cigar and throwing the match down; the match set fire to a shaving which curled over on some other shavings, and they caught fire and burned, and set fire to a great pile of lumber; and that lumber to a house and that house to a block and that block to a city, and a conflagration came that painted hell on the sky and left a hundred thousand people without homes.


James says of teachers that when they rush into the teacher's office, they must remember the power of the tongue for good or evil, and that it must be controlled, as the horse must have the bridle, and the great ship the helm; and as the thoughtlessly kindled spark may destroy a world, so must they set a watch for the fire of their lips. In one of my opening addresses before the Seminary, I took as my theme, "Tongues of Fire and Rivers of Water."


But we come now to a part of James that is set over against Pentecost. Pentecost shows how the Holy Spirit sets on fire the tongues of preachers to preach the salvation of men. Here James brings out the devil's tongues of fire – set on fire with tongues of demons. What a theme for a sermon – Pentecost tongues and the devil's tongues! The tongue is a little member, it is a restless member, it is an unruly member, it is full of poison. It is set on fire of hell, and it sets on fire the whole course of nature, when it is kindled, just as the Holy Spirit fills the hearts of good men and gives them tongues of fire to proclaim the word of life in love and meekness, so the devil may kindle the tongues with a fire of hell, and use them as a means of universal ruin. Somebody, someday, will win immortal fame in contrasting the devil's tongues of fire and the Spirit's tongues of fire, in a sermon.


I recapitulate: The first admonition to the preachers: "Be not in haste to enter into the teacher's office." How well our Lord speaks to this point: "Be ye not called Rabbi; for one is your teacher and ye are all brethren. And call no man father on the earth; for one is your Father, even he who is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters (magister, from which we get the word "master") for one is your master, even the Christ."


It was the characteristic fault of a Jew both at home and abroad to covet the honor of the teacher's office more than the efficiency in the service of a teacher. Vanity and conceit would lead men to thrust themselves forward where angels dared not tread. Whoever is inspired to enter the teacher's office from a spirit of vanity rather than the spirit of hard work is utterly unworthy of the position.


Paul, in Romans 2, says, "But if thou bearest the name of a Jew, and restest upon the law, and gloriest in God, and knowest his will, and approvest the things that are excellent, being instructed out of the law, and art confident that thou thyself art a guide of the blind, a light of them that are in darkness, a corrector of the foolish, a teacher of babes, having in the law the form of knowledge and of the truth; thou therefore that teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal? thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou rob temples? thou who gloriest in the law, through thy transgression of the law, dishonorest thou God?" The thought of Paul is that the life of the teacher must harmonize with what he teaches. Read Cowper on this.


Again, we are told by Paul (I Cor. 14:29) that the teaching gift must be exercised, even when possessed, with due discretion, looking always to order and never to confusion. His picture of the Corinthian church shows that there were many teachers in that congregation. He says, "What is it then, brethren? When ye come together, each one hath a psalm, hath a teaching, hath a revelation, hath a tongue, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying." He rebukes this church because of the disorderly method of teaching. Instead of convicting sinners, they produced an impression upon the mind of the ignorant man and of the skeptical man that they were crazy.


Again, Paul says that one who seeks the office of a bishop must be apt to teach. He must have the capacity to attract and hold the attention, to instruct the mind, to awaken the conscience, to lead the convicted sinner to Christ, to expound the word of God, rightly dividing that word. Unfortunately, the candidates for the teacher's office are not all apt to teach. The caution to these would-be teachers is on the line that vanity should not be the cause of one entering the work of a teacher, seeing that he should not covet the honor more than the work itself, and that his life and his gifts must be exercised to the upbuilding of the church, and not confusion, and that unless he be apt to teach, he should not seek the position of a teacher. There are men with natural aptitude for teaching that are very ignorant. There are men full of information and a wide range of knowledge that cannot teach at all. They cannot impart what they know. They never wake up a soul, they never stir an audience, as Demosthenes did his audiences. When he got through, the crowd would be wild, and would say, "Let us fight Philip!"


His second admonition enjoins that the teacher must bridle his tongue. He gives two reasons for this governing of the tongue. He who can govern his tongue is a perfect man. I repeat that the word "perfect" is never used in the New Testament in the sense of sinlessness, but 'in the sense of maturity; and James certainly does not mean sinlessness, because he preceded his statement with the saying that we all stumble; that we all sin some. What he means by a "perfect" man is one who is mature; he who has bridled his tongue we call a mature man, just as a grown person is called an adult. His two reasons for bridling the tongue arise from its relative power for either good or evil. He uses the illustration to which attention has already been called. We put a bridle on a horse so as to turn his body wherever we may desire; so a bridle should be put on our own mouths. And as a helmsman steers a mighty ship in the storm through the use of the helm, so the one who would be a teacher must be able in every storm of life to have power of rightly directing his course, whatever be the direction of the wind or the force of the waves. He is led to say in illustration of the power of the tongue, "How great a forest a little fire destroyeth!"


His illustration is familiar in the classics. A writer has well said, "A little torch can burn the summit of Ida." Homer says, "A spark scarce seen fires a boundless forest." Vergil tells us of a careless shepherd who "wraps the forest in a robe of flame" by his carelessness at his campfire. Edgar Allan Poe tells of one who in a dream was caught up and carried away by an angel until he saw a volcanic island without soil or fountains or vegetation, hideous with ashes, its lava and its scars. "What is this?" he said to the angel. The angel replied, "This is an evil word that you spoke in yonder world that went on acting and reacting until it struck the shores of eternity, and God crystallized it into this horrible volcanic island." The angel then carried the dreamer away to behold another island covered with verdure; the grass carpeted it, the flowers beautified it and filled it with perfume. Luscious fruits bung from the boughs of many trees. Birds were singing in the groves. Fountains were playing and sending forth living waters. It looked like a paradise of God. Said the dreamer to the angel, "What is this?" "This," said he, "is a good word you spoke in yonder world. It went on acting and reacting until, striking the shores of eternity, it was crystallized into this island of the blessed."


Another reason assigned for the teacher's keeping his tongue consists in the fact that through the devil's gift men receive tongues of fire. As James expresses it, "Set on fire of Gehenna." We have seen the Spirit's display of power on the day of Pentecost, and these tongues are employed in speaking of the wonderful works of God in leading men to salvation. He declares that this tongue, set on fire of hell, is restless, duplex, body-defiling, and that it sets on fire the whole wheel of nature. Man's control is vividly set forth by James. Everything that swims, that walks, that crawls, that flies, bath been tamed. The elephant has been trapped and trained and employed in man's service. The huge python has been brought from his home in the forest to become a show, and women take these hideous monsters and coil them around their bodies with impunity. The tiger's cub has been bound with a chain, and the lion has been caged and forced to be harmless and dumb in the presence of the trainer. It is a fearful commentary on the untamable nature of the tongue that it is more untamable than any wild animal of the jungle, or bird of the air, or serpent of the rock, or fish of the sea. When set on fire of hell, this tongue is said to be full of deadly poison. Indeed, it is declared to be a world of iniquity; that is, there is no evil ever known to man that has not in some instance been brought about through evil speaking.


Solomon declares that in the lips of the worthless man is a scorching fire. David, in denouncing the evil counselor who sought his overthrow, says, "His mouth was smooth as butter, but his heart was war. His words were softer than oil, yet they were drawn swords." Again he prays, "Deliver me, great Jehovah, from lying lips and from a deceitful tongue. What shall be given unto thee, and what shall be done more unto thee, thou deceitful tongue, sharp arrows of the mighty coals of juniper?"


The tongues of the devil in malice curse men, made in the image of God. It becomes duplex, that is, it uses words to conceal ideas. This tongue, set on fire by the fires of hell, whispers away the good name of the innocent. It is given to backbiting, while friendly to the face; it slanders when the man's back is turned. As the prophet says that the wicked in their talking eat up the sins of God's people, the tongue set on fire of the devil is always murmuring, always scolding and is always foul.


In an early day in the history of the Waco Association, Dr. Riddle and myself were visiting all the churches, and one night we were bound to camp, and while looking at the stars the conversation turned upon the conversation of preachers, and I proposed that we enter into a solemn covenant, never while we lived would we tell a questionable anecdote. In the course of time we got about one hundred preachers into that covenant. And when Dr. Riddle was dying he called his wife to him and said, "Wife, we have been together a long time and now I am leaving you. Now, when I am dead, don't you be one of those complaining women." Tears have come into her eyes, at least a dozen times since the dying admonition of her husband, as she has explained to me why she is not a murmurer or a complainer.


The third admonition is that the teacher must seek true wisdom. And as the Spirit's tongues of fire had their opposite, the devil's tongues of fire, so the true wisdom has its opposite, the devil's wisdom. The contrast between the two kinds of wisdom is very sharp. One is from above and the other is earthly. One is full of mercy and good works without variance, without hypocrisy; the other sensual, carnal, devilish. The fruits are also contrasted. Peace is the fruit of one and strife of the other. This contrast between the two ought to be read whenever there is friction, evil speaking, and strife.


When I was a young man I became impressed by the vast amount of trouble that comes from talking the wrong kind of talk, and I caught myself in talking the wrong thing, so when I read that chapter I determined to see if I could find a way by which I could keep from evil speech, and, particularly, from anger. Naturally, I am impulsive, quick to take offense, quick to strike, and quick to say, and seeing that fault 'in myself I determined to learn a way by which when I was angry I could be silent; that I wouldn't say anything. Well, it was the hardest thing to do that I ever tried. To be angry and not say anything! But I certainly accomplished it. I heard my daughter when she was twenty-one years old, say, "Papa, I have never heard you speak an angry word." That is the best way that I know to cure anger, that is, don't say anything. If a man just won't say anything he is safe, but he cannot when his mind is on fire with anger keep from doing wrong if he just lets his tongue be tied in the middle and wag at both ends.


Now, dear reader, try it. It will be a big job. When you have worked hard and are tired it is so easy to be petulant; it is easy to growl and whine, and it is so easy to become a man with a grievance. The world gets tired very soon of the man who has a grievance. Just carry your sorrow in your own heart.


There are great things in this for preachers. A man might steal from a man, might burn his house, but, if he burns a house, that burns out after a while, but if he says something, that goes on in every direction. I have known some lives blasted by gossip and slander just as a mighty forest fire blasts the vast trees.

 

QUESTIONS

 

1. What is the theme of chapter 3?

 

2. What is the first admonition concerning the teacher's office?

 

3. What Dr. Broadus' saying on this point?

 

4. What the special value of this chapter to preachers?

 

5. What is the most difficult perfection to attain?

 

6. What three illustrations used by James on this point?

 

7. What theme for a sermon suggested?

 

8. What the teaching of our Lord on the point of rushing into the teacher's office?

 

9. What the characteristic fault of the Jew?

 

10. What does Paul say about the teacher and his teaching?

 

11. What Paul's rebuke to the Corinthians on this line?

 

12. What qualification does Paul show that one must have who seeks the office of a bishop?

 

13. What his second admonition, and the application to teachers?

 

14. What the first reason why a teacher should guard his tongue?

 

15. Give classic illustrations of James's use of fire.

 

16. What Poe's illustration of the power of a spoken word?

 

17. What is the second reason of James why the teacher should keep his tongue?

 

18. What Solomon's testimony on this point?

 

19. What David's?

 

20. What are some of the things the devil's tongue can do?

 

21. What was the Carroll-Riddle covenant?

 

22. What the teacher's need of true wisdom?

 

23. Contrast the two kinds of wisdom, as to origin, elements, and fruits.

 

24. What is the beat way to cure anger?

 

 

V

 

(Return to Contents)

 

GENERAL ADMONITIONS AND APPLICATIONS

James 4:1 to 5:20.

 


We will not examine the seventh general head of the analysis. Chapters 4-5 consist of general admonitions and applications. In chapter 4 we have five of these. First, he speaks concerning the swaying of the passions, and shows that inordinate lusts originate strife and nullify prayer. The letter of James is remarkable for its analysis of human action. In. tracing things to their fountain head, just as he traces sin in the abstract, so here he traces strife and faction in the concrete – that when we covet things contrary to God's law this lust leads us to make war upon all who oppose our selfish ends. The evil of yielding to these inordinate desires is manifested in the fact that a man's prayers are unanswered. He comes before God with his petitions, but God does not hear him. He is not seeking God's glory. He is not seeking God's will, but he is seeking that he may obtain things to be consumed upon his appetites, and on this account his prayers are unanswered.


In the next place James shows that friendship with the world is enmity to God. With all the clearness of our Lord himself, who taught that we cannot love God and mammon, he sets forth the fact that one who seeks the friendship of the world is guilty of spiritual adultery. Spiritual adultery is idolatry. The soul has been espoused to Christ. To seek our greatest pleasure and happiness in the world is to be guilty of marital infidelity.


Just here we come upon two difficulties. In 4:5 the common version reads, "Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy?" The new version reads, "Or think ye that the scripture speaketh in vain? Doth the spirit which he made to dwell in us long unto envying?" The first difficulty is in finding the scripture which, according to the old version, James seems to quote. Commentators are unable to find any passage of scripture which reads, "The spirit which dwelleth in us lusteth to envy." Indeed, there is no such scripture. Then to what scripture does James refer? Some have supposed that he referred to a scripture showing that the friendship of the world is enmity with God. This could be obtained from Matthew's gospel, but that gospel was not yet written. And it is hardly probable that James has a back reference. We must look further on to find the scripture, and we do find it in the restatement at the close of verse 6: "Wherefore the scripture saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble."


Our next difficulty on that verse consists in determining what spirit is meant when it says, "Doth the spirit which he made to dwell in us long unto envying?" In other words, does it refer to the Holy Spirit dwelling in the Christian, or does it refer to our own spirit? If we interpret it to mean our own spirit, then this is the idea: Those men whom James is rebuking were justifying their envyings and strife by charging it to God, since the envyings arose from the spirit which he made to dwell in them; that is, they were naturally so constituted that they could not help this envying. Hence, James would meet this statement by asking, "Does the spirit which he made to dwell in us long unto envying?" His form of question indicates a denial. Supported by his next statement, "But he giveth more grace"; that is, "suppose you say your envying comes from your corrupt soul; God did not corrupt your soul, and even though God did corrupt it, the corruption is your fault or Adam's fault; yet there is no justification for yielding to it, since he has promised grace with which to overcome this envying, and the grace is stronger than the depravity." If, however, we make the spirit that dwelleth in us mean the Holy Spirit, then the meaning, must be this, according to the marginal rendering: That Spirit which he made to dwell in us yearns for us, even unto a jealous envy. This follows the idea that the Lord God is a jealous God; he will brook no rival. And if the soul commits adultery by seeking the friendship of the world, it provokes the jealousy of the Spirit which he made to dwell in us. While the passage is exceedingly difficult, my own impression is that the first meaning given is the better one.


We now come to some of the most important directions in the Word of God (4:7-10), which reads as follows: "Be subject therefore unto God; but resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double-minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord, and he shall exalt you." This expression gives the means by which we obtain control of our passions, and by which we resist the enticements of the world. This text is twice expounded in the author's first book of sermons. It constitutes a marvelous theme for a revival meeting. It shows that we must be under one leader or the other – God or the devil. It not only calls upon us to resist the devil, but assures us that we have the power to resist him and turn him to flight. It is an exhortation to contrition, repentance, and faith. The contrition is expressed by the words, "Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep. Humble yourself in the sight of God." The reformation following repentance is expressed by cleansing of the hands from sin and purifying the heart from double-mindedness; the faith is expressed by submission to God.


It is greatly to be feared that much of the preaching of modem times has lost its depth and power. The plow does not run deep enough. There is no deep conviction of sin. There is no mourning for sin such as we find set forth in Zechariah 13. We find our way to a modern profession of religion, dry-eyed. There is no weeping in it. And hence, feeling ourselves to be but little sinners, we need only a little Saviour.


The next admonition relates to censoriousness – that spirit that continually judges another. Here James follows, as almost throughout the epistle, our Lord's great Sermon on the Mount where he says, "Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured unto you." The censorious spirit, says James, violates the law of God and usurps the divine prerogative of judgment. There is one Judge and one Law maker.


From the evil of censoriousness he passes to consider the evil of the commercial spirit, a sin of which the Jews of the dispersion were pre-eminently guilty. It is true that their several captivities led to the deportation of many thousands of their people in different ages of the world. But a mightier power than the Assyrians, mightier than Nebuchadnezzar, mightier than Pompey, deported the Jews from their own land, and this was the spirit of trade. Cut off from the great honors of a free national government, all of their energies were turned to money making. Their merchant ships were on every sea; their peddlers in every land. As they were then, so they are now. James does not condemn commerce. They presumed on the uncertainty of the future and ignored God. Without counting on the brevity of human life and their ignorance of what a day might bring forth, without considering the providence of God, the Jew, incited by his love of trade, would say in mapping out his plans, "To-morrow we will go into this city, and spend a year there, and trade and get gain." James said they should have said, "If the Lord will, we shall both live, and do this or that." His teaching harmonizes with the old proverb, "Man proposes, but God disposes." The recklessness evinced by the Jews of the dispersion in yielding to a commercial spirit which took no account of time or the brevity of life or of the government of God. in less degree characterizes the traders of the Gentile world today. Men leave God out of their calculations. Men consider not their own frailty or the uncertainties of life.


Chapter 5 also is devoted to five applications of these admonitions. The first is a denunciation of the rich. Of course he means the Godless rich, and what he says is more needed now than when he said it. He sees the miseries of the rich coming upon them. They accumulate more wealth than they can use, and hence become corrupt. In their strenuous desire to become wealthy, they disregarded the rights of their employees. The men whose money made their wealth are treated as machines or as dumb brutes. The cry of the toilers goes up to the Lord of hosts, just as the Israelites in bondage in Egypt cried out and God heard their cry and came down to intervene. They are warned that they are sapping their virility by delicate living, and that in their greed to amass fortunes, they have not hesitated to kill the righteous. The pages of modern magazines and newspapers are ablaze with denunciations of millionaires and syndicates and their measures. Political parties are aligning themselves upon the issues raised between the rich and their employees, or between the rich men and the people who have been robbed by their methods of trade.


The general theme of this letter is patient endurance of affliction. In 5:12 we have this language: "But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by the heaven, nor by the earth, nor by any other oath: but let your yea be yea, and your nay be nay; that you fall not under judgment." James is not talking at all about oaths that one takes in a court room, nor oaths unto God, but he is discussing the question of the outlet of our emotions when we are in great trouble or great joy. He says that if we are in great trouble, we should not swear. Notice how common it is for men who are afflicted to curse. And in the same way some people, when they are very happy, give an outlet to their emotions in swearing. The thought of James is this: In the deep emotions which come to a human being in the vicissitudes of his life, never let swearing be the outlet.


Then he goes on to tell what shall be the outlet. He says, "If any of you are suffering, don't swear, but pray. Let prayer be the outlet." Again, if filled with great joy; if the heart is bubbling over with happiness, how may one keep from making a mistake in the outlet of these emotions? James says in that case, "Sing psalms."


We will be sure to misinterpret this letter unless we understand what his object is. The object is to show both negatively and positively what outlet shall be given to the emotions when one is greatly stirred up, either from afflictions or joy. Just at the point of great suffering or great joy comes a danger. What are you going to say? Are you going to swear or pray or sing psalms?


James now comes to a case of sickness. "Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: and the prayer of faith shall save him that is sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, it shall be forgiven him."


The first thought in connection with the scripture is the word, "elders." Carefully note these scriptures: Acts 11:30, which precedes in time James's letter; Acts 14:23; 15:2, 4, 6, 22; 16:4; 21:18. No one can read these passages about the elders without noting that .there is a distinction between a layman and an elder – that the latter has an office – that he occupies a representative position. In the pastoral epistles there are many references to elders, and the term elder, (Greek, presbuteros,) is used interchangeably with episkopos, "bishop" or "pastor," showing that an elder was a preacher. The only difference I see between the New Testament churches and the Baptist churches of the present time upon that subject is that at the present time Baptist churches pay no sort of regard to any sort of elder in their church unless he is their pastor. In the New Testament churches the preachers of the church, those who had been set apart as God's ministers, though only one of them could be pastor of the flock, yet every one of the others was treated as an officer of the church of Jesus Christ and entitled to consideration. In Acts II when Paul and the bishops took that collection to Jerusalem, they turned it over to the elders. If a man is sick let him send for the elders of the church. Good commentators see in that direction that when the elders respond to that invitation they come in a representative capacity. It is as if the church had been assembled to pray for the sick man. The preachers come together and pray in the name of the church.


The next thing is, What do they do? This scripture says, "Let them anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord." We come to this question, Was that oil to be used for medicinal purposes, as Dr. Eaton says in The Recorder, and as Dr. Winkler says in his Commentary on the Book of James I (A part of the "American Commentary," and withal about the best commentary on James that I know.)


I cannot agree with these brethren. I don't think that oil was used as a medicine. I think if there had been a desire to secure medical help, James would have said, "Send for the doctor." But he says, "Send for the elders of the church and let them anoint him with oil." Another reason why I don't think oil was put upon the sick man for medicinal purposes is that while oil is a splendid remedy for some sickness, it is no remedy for a good many others. It is a good medicine when a man has a fever. The third reason is that it was not the oil that procured the recovery from sickness. It distinctly says that the prayer of faith and not the oil shall heal the man. It seems clear to my mind, then, that the anointing with oil was not to make doctors out of preachers.


Then it must have been used symbolically. A holy anointing of oil was poured upon the heads of kings, prophets, and priests, and this oil signified the influence of the Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ is the Anointed One. He is not anointed with the symbolic oil, but with what the oil symbolizes. I think, then, that the use of the oil was symbolic of the accompanying power of the Holy Spirit, just as the laying on of the hands in ordination is a symbolic act. It symbolizes the descent of the Holy Spirit on the man ordained, to qualify him for preaching.


Here is another question: Is James giving a direction for all times? In other words, is that direction binding upon us now? Or was it simply carrying out what is expressed in Mark 6: 13? When Jesus sent out the twelve apostles and told them to heal the sick, cast out demons, the record says (Mark 6:10), "They anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them." That is to say, it was in the apostolic days a miraculous, divine attestation of those who employed it. And James is living and writing in the days of the apostles. He is the earliest of the New Testament writers. At that time the apostles were still living and had that commission of our Lord to anoint with oil and heal the sick, and that commission through the apostles comes to the church.


My own judgment is that James speaks of the miraculous attestation of the church, and when the attesting was complete, the sign ended.


I have never felt that an obligation rested upon me as a preacher to go to the sick and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord in the expectation that they should be miraculously healed.


There are some good brethren who believe that this injunction was meant for all time, and so all along through the ages there have been those that held that the right thing to do with the sick was to send for the preachers and let the preachers carry out this injunction. I have never carried out the injunction because I did not believe the injunction rested on me. It is evident that this method of healing, a miraculous method, even in the days of the apostles, was not a constant thing. It was simply a sign occasionally used.


For instance, Paul says, "I left Trophimus at Miletus sick." Why did not he anoint him with oil and raise him up, if this was the standing order? To Timothy, who was in feeble health, he prescribes wine, not oil. Timothy was a teetotaler and did not believe he ought to touch ardent drinks. Paul says in this particular case, "Use a little wine for thy stomach's sake." Why did not he tell them to anoint Timothy with oil? Paul had a thorn in his own flesh) but he did not send for the elders of the church to come and anoint him with oil.


My point is that these were directions of attestation, a marvelous manifestation of the miraculous power of the Spirit of God for specific purposes, just as tongues were for a sign. But tongues were to cease, and miracles were to cease, and prophecies were to fail just as soon as they accomplished their object. That is what James refers to here.


But one may ask me if at the present time I pray for sick people to get well. I say, "Yes." Prayer is to be kept up; prayer never ceases. The anointing with oil that was a symbol of the miraculous power may cease, but the praying does not cease, and I pray for sick people that if it be God's will they may get well. In some instances they do get well, but in some instances it is not God's will that they should get well, so they die. When a man is invited to pray for the recovery of a sick person he ought to do it, and he ought when he prays to submit the disposition of the matter to the will of God, otherwise it would mean that if a little band of praying people got together it would stop death over the world, which was not the purpose of God. We cannot escape death.


The Roman Catholic Church establishes upon this passage of James what they call the sacrament of "extreme unction," one of the seven sacraments. When a Catholic is given up by his physicians, and he is in articulo mortis, they anoint him, and on account of his dying state they call it extreme unction – the last anointing. The trouble about getting that from this passage is that James prescribes a duty for recovery. They appoint a sacrament for the dying. The Romanist also tells us how that oil is to be made – that it is valueless unless the bishop makes it and the priest anoints.


The Roman Catholic was at one time the state religion of England and continued so until the time of Henry VIII, and the Episcopalians retained in their ritual a great many things that had been handed down to them through the Romanists. Here is what their prayer book says must be done when a man is about to die. It is in the first prayer book of Edward VI: "If the sick person desires to be anointed, then shall the priest anoint him upon the forehead or breast only, making the sign of the cross, saying, 'As with this oil I anoint thee, may Almighty God grant of his infinite goodness that thy soul inwardly may be anointed with the Holy Ghost who is the spirit of all strength from relief and sickness, and vouchsafe from his great mercy, if it be his perfect will to restore unto thee bodily health and strength to serve him.' " There is no harm in the prayer itself. From the particular case James enlarges: "Confess therefore your sins one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed." This extends beyond elders. The confession of sins is a doctrine of both the Old Testament and the New Testament. John the Baptist would not baptize a man who did not confess his sins. He baptized them in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. John says, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins."


A question here arises about the confession, and on that is a great deal of remarkable history in the annals of the so-called churches. They have gotten themselves into a good deal of trouble on it. Some of them used to take the position that a man was under obligation to get up and confess every sin publicly that he had been guilty of since the church met before. Then they fell upon the method that the confession should indeed be made, but it should be made privately and let the preacher advise whether it should be made public. They tried that until one preacher made a public announcement of sin confessed without the consent of the man who confessed to him, and that created such a fury that they stopped it.


What James means is this: If I do wrong to a brother I must confess to him my wrong. If he wrongs me, he confesses that wrong to me. If I have sinned against God, I must confess that sin to God. The confession, then, must be made to the one who has been wronged. Sometimes a man wrongs the church, that is to say, he is guilty of such open, public, outrageous sin, like drunkenness, that a confession is due to the church and he must confess to the church in such a case. But suppose I have only had wrong thoughts in my mind, must I confess to the church? No, I should confess that to God. Go right along and confess that wrong fully to him, but not to the world.


Upon what James has said about confession the Romanists have another doctrine called "auricular confession," or a confession in the ear. Every priest has a certain station in the church building, with a little bit of a window. He is shut up on the inside and puts his ear to that opening, and each member of the congregation is compelled once every year at least to come and whisper into the ear of the priest every sin he has committed. In that way they get possession of the secrets of the world. They know all the skeletons in every family. It becomes a tremendous power in their hands.


They connect this doctrine with penance. When a lady leans over and tells what sins she is guilty of, he prescribes a penance: "You must recite so many Ave Maria's. You must fast so many days. You must pay so much money." When the penance is performed, then they have their doctrine of absolution. The priest absolves from sin the one who has confessed and done penance. There is not one thing in this passage to warrant auricular confession with its attendant usage. In the time of the Protestant Revolution the Council of Trent passed a decree to this effect: "Let anyone be anathematized who denies that sacramental confession was instituted of divine right, or who denies that it is necessary to salvation, or who says that the manner of confession to the priest alone, which the church has observed from the beginning and doth still observe, is alien from the institution and command of Christ and is a human invention." So they make it essential to salvation.


Many a time have persons come to me and started to tell things. I say, "Stop; hold on, I am no priest. I don't know what you are going to tell me. It may be something you ought not to tell me. If it is absolutely essential to right advice that I know, you may tell me, but you must carefully think over in your mind before you make that confession." Three times in my life I have had jarring, startling confessions made to me. It would beat a novel if I were to tell what they were, but I will not. I say to the one who is in trouble, if you have sinned against God, go and confess to God. If you have sinned against your neighbor, go and confess to your neighbor; but I am sure that because I am a preacher, I cannot be made the receptacle of every slimy thought that ever crawled through the minds of the people where I live, and of every evil imagination. I would rather be dead than have to listen to such things. But sometimes I have to let them tell me to get them out of the ditch they are in.


James then cites the case of the power of Elijah's praying, and lest anyone might say that Elijah was a prophet, he goes on to state that Elijah was a man of like passions with us and be prayed that it might not rain and it rained not; and he prayed that it might rain and it did rain. That brings up the question whether it is the proper thing now to pray for rain.


I say, "Yes, pray for anything." There is nothing in the world that man needs either in body or soul that should be excluded from the petition.


I never shall forget a statement made by Dr. Ford when he returned from England, having visited Mr. Muller, called "the man of faith." When he got to the place he was very anxious to see the most remarkable man of faith living in the world, but Mr. Muller had gone away and had not returned. They were all assembled, and it was a time of horrible drought. Dr. Ford himself had been choked with dust in getting to the place where they had called all the people together to pray for rain. About that time Mr. Muller himself walked in, covered with dust. One of the deacons got up and said, 'Mr. Muller, we are distressed about the drought, and we thought we ought to take it to the Lord. Is it right to pray for rain?" And he said, "Yes, let us pray." Then he stood up and prayed just like a little child: "Oh Lord, look at the dumb brutes, lowing for water and perishing. See the travelers choked with the dust on the thoroughfares. See the people's crops and gardens impoverished; Lord God, send rain to thy people." And before they were dismissed the rain came that flooded all that section of the country. Dr. Ford in telling about it said the most impressive thing he ever witnessed in his life was Mr. Muller's childlike manner and the faith with which he took hold of the promises of God.


The scientists say that to pray for rain is an attempt to change the laws of nature. Not a bit of it. Why, then, pray for anything else? The scientists say that the way to get wisdom is to study for it. There is not anything that we can pray for at all if we let that argument hold.


We now reach the last thing in the book: "My brethren, if any among you err from the truth." James does not mean if he goes astray in doctrine. James does not discuss doctrine. To err from the truth with James was to go astray in practical religion from God. "And one convert him, let him know that he who converteth a sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall cover a multitude of sins." What is the signification of "cover a multitude of sins"? Then, whose sins? The Romanist says it is the sins of the man who does the converting, as if to say, "Now if you want to accumulate a fund of righteousness that will be to your account by which you may be justified on the last great day, convert some one else from the error of his way and thus cover your sins." That is the thought and that is the doctrine involved in it, but that was not the thought of James. It is not the converter's sin that will be covered, for nothing is said about his sins, but it is the sins of the one to be converted that are to be covered.


Then, what does "cover" mean? There is a proverbial expression that charity covereth a multitude of sins. It is so used in the book of Proverbs. It is so used in the letter of Peter. That is to say, "Love is not censoriousness." It does not look for specks and spots and deficiencies, and when it sees faults, it is more apt to put the mantle of charity over them than to unveil them. Does this mean that kind of covering of sin? I will tell you why I don't think so. "He who converteth a sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall cover a multitude of sins." It is his salvation that is accomplished. Here is a sinner who has erred in his life and has gone away from the law of God. He is one whose steps take hold of death and hell, and we are exhorted to try to save him by prayer, by faithful admonitions, by preaching to him the means of salvation, and then encouragement is given us that if we do become the means of his salvation, we have saved a soul from death and covered a multitude of sins. What does that "cover" mean? In Psalm 32 David says, "Blessed is the man whose sin is covered. Unto him the Lord imputeth not iniquity." There the covering gets its idea from the mercy seat, that the sin is counted covered which by faith has been placed in Jesus Christ and forgiveness comes. Paul quotes David: "Blessed is the man whose sin is covered," and shows that it means justification, forgiveness of sins.

 

QUESTIONS

 

1. Of what do chapters 4-5 consist?

 

2. How many in chapter 4?

 

3. What is the first one, and its relation to prayer?

 

4. How does James characterize the friendship of the world?

 

5. What the two difficulties of 4:5, and what their solution?

 

6. What is taught. in 4:7-10?

 

7. What apprehension about modern preaching?

 

8. What admonitions on censoriousness, where is found the same teaching of our Lord, and in what does the sin consist?

 

9. What was the sin of which the Jews of the dispersion were preeminently guilty?

 

10. now did this sin cause their dispersion, and in what did it consist?

 

11. What prescription was given by James for those possessed with this spirit?

 

12. What is James's attitude toward the problems of "capital and labor"?

 

13. What the general theme of this letter?

 

14. What does James mean, both negatively and positively, by "swear not at all"?

 

15. What prescription does he give for the outlet of sorrow or joy?

 

16. What the distinction between elder and pastor, and what capacity of the elder here referred to?

 

17. Was the anointing oil here to be used as medicine? Give three reasons for your answer.

 

18. What then the use made of the oil?

 

19. Does James give a direction for all times? If not, then explain and give proof.

 

20. Is it right to pray for the sick? If so, how?

 

21. What "sacrament" of the Catholic Church based upon this passage?

 

22. What the fallacy of this Romanist position?

 

23. What does James say about confession, what remarkable history connected with it, and what the real meaning of the passage?

 

24. What institution of the Catholic's based upon this passage, and what its evils?

 

25. Is it right to pray for rain? Illustrate.

 

26. In 5:19 what is meant by "err from the truth"?

 

27. In 5:20 whose sins are referred to?

 

28. What is meant by "cover a multitude of sins"?

 

 

1 THESSALONIANS

 

VI

 

(Return to Contents)

 

INTRODUCTION TO 1 THESSALONIANS

 


We shall now consider "the apostolic letters which made glad the young and foe-girt churches of the Lord." These letters of Paul constitute the richest legacy of inspiration and inestimable treasure – a sacred deposit of truth. The apostle Paul 'is connected directly with fourteen of the New Testament books and indirectly with four others, making eighteen in all. So that one may get a connected New Testament spirit of Paul by reading in the following order these eighteen books of the New Testament:


1. Luke, which is called the Pauline Gospel.


2. Acts.


3. 1 and 2 Thessalonians.


4. 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, and Romans.


5. Philippians, Philemon, Colossians, Ephesians, and Hebrews.


6. 1 Timothy, Titus, 2 Timothy.


7. James.


8. 2 Peter

 

The letters of Paul are divided into four groups. The first group was written on his second great missionary tour, and consists of I and 2 Thessalonians. The second group was written on his third great missionary tour, consisting of 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Romans. The third group consists of letters written when he was first a prisoner at Rome, viz.: Philippians, Philemon, Colossians, Ephesians, and Hebrews. The fourth group consists of letters written after his release from the first captivity at Rome, viz.; 1 Timothy, Titus, and 2 Timothy. These were written in the interval between his first and second imprisonments, and at Rome during his second captivity just before his martyrdom.


These groups differ from one another very much in the doctrinal matters discussed, and in style. The first group, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, discusses mainly what in theology is called Eschatology – the doctrine of the last things. The whole of these two letters is grouped around the doctrine of the second coming of Christ. The clearest teachings on the second coming of Christ are in 1 and 2 Thessalonians. There are other places where the doctrine is taught, particularly in our Lord's great prophecy, 1 Corinthians 15 and 2 Peter 3, but these letters were written specifically upon that subject.


The next group of letters, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, and Romans, was called forth mainly by the controversy between the Judaizing spirit in the churches, which would make Christianity a mere sect of the Jews, and the Pauline spirit in the churches, which would lead the churches away from the narrow Jewish limitations into a worldwide religion. In the third group, his doctrine goes to higher things, the controversy not being -on making Gentiles become Jews in order to be Christians, but shall Christians reject Christ and his gospel and relapse into Judaism?


Before commencing the study of Paul's letters it is well to fix the following things in our minds about him:


1. His history from his birth to his conversion, that is, up to the time that he is thirty-three or thirty-four years old.


2. That nine years of his life from his conversion until he entered on his great missionary work. Three years of this period were devoted to the preparation in receiving the gospel and six years in preaching at Damascus, at Jerusalem, in Cilicia, and in Syria. There is very little history about that nine years in the Bible.


3. The period of active missionary labor, about fifteen years, covering the three great missionary tours described in Acts 13-21, and in which he wrote the letters to the Theasalonians, Corinthians, Galatians, and Romans.


4. The period of his imprisonment at Jerusalem, at Caesarea, on his voyage to Rome, and in Rome. In that time he wrote five great letters – Philippians, Philemon, Colossians, Ephesians, and Hebrews. We have very little account of this part of his life.


5. The period of his release from captivity, in which he wrote 1 Timothy and Titus. We gather the history of this period from his pastoral letters.


6. The period of his second captivity at Rome and his martyrdom. In this period he wrote 2 Timothy.


In the Acts we see Paul as he appears to the historian, Luke. In his letters we see him as he appeared to himself. These letters constitute a literature in themselves, of great variety in matter and style. Some of them, like Galatians, are a rushing, impetuous torrent; others, like Romans, Ephesians, and Hebrews, are calm, deliberate, logical, approaching the form of an elaborate treatise; some are personal and exquisitely tender, as Philemon; some are developments of the main thought 'in previous and more local letters, as Romans from Galatians, Ephesians from Colossians and Philippians, and all of them matchless, each of its kind.


In commencing this great series with 1 Thessalonians, we should fix in our minds the geographical place of the city, Thessalonica, and somewhat of its history. On the second great missionary journey Paul came to Troas, starting from Antioch. There he received a call to go into Macedonia and help the people there. At Philippi a church was established. That is the first place where he preached the gospel in Europe. There he strikes the Roman road which extends from Constantinople, or Byzantium, to Rome. That was one of the best worked roads in the world. It connected Rome, the Western Empire, with Constantinople, the Eastern Empire. When Paul left Philippi, he came to Thessalonica, passing two places on the way without stopping. The geographical position of that place in every age of history has been reckoned as very important, not only because it was on that great road, but because it was at the head of the commerce of the Aegean Sea, connecting with the Mediterranean Sea, and also because it commands the passes between the high mountains.


Every Bible student ought to know something about Thessalonica before Paul came there. Away back in Grecian history the name was Therma, or Hot Springs, just like Hot Springs, Arkansas. Three hundred and fifteen years before Christ, just after Alexander the Great died, Cassander, one of his generals, married Thessalonica, and made that Hot Springs a great city and named it after his wife, Thessalonica. She was the daughter of King Philip of Macedon, and the daughter of Alexander the Great. It became a very populous and very important city. About 168 B.C. Macedonia was conquered by Rome and divided into four districts, and the capital of one of these districts was Thessalonica. Afterward the districts were abolished, and they had just one province, and Thessalonica was the capital of that province. About A.D. 42, just after the great battle at Philippi between Octavius Caesar and Mark Anthony on the one side, and Brutus and Cassius on the other side, Thessalonica was made a free city. Strabo, the great geographer of the age about 24 B.C., said that Thessalonica was the most populous town in Macedonia, and the same thing was said in the second century after Christ, and in the fifth century after Christ it had 200,000 inhabitants. There are about 100,000 people there now. It is today the second city in importance in what is called Turkey in Europe, and the third in population. About a third of these people are Jews. Up to a short time ago three great cathedrals were there, built by Christians, but they have passed into the hands of Mohammedans and become mosques. Something over twenty years ago the chief one of these cathedrals, the Mosque of St. Sofia, was destroyed by fire, to the regret of the whole world on account of its magnificence and of marvelous relics of ancient times kept there.


This city was captured by the Saracens, or Mohammedans, in A.D. 934, after a long and desperate siege. These Saracens held it until A.D. 1185, when the Crusaders recaptured it. There are some marvelous things in the history of these two sieges. The Crusaders held it until 1430, not far from the time that Columbus discovered America, when the Turks captured it, and have held it ever since.


It was a favorite stopping place of Cicero. Some of his most famous letters were written from Thessalonica. He was there with Pompey's army just before that army was defeated at the battle of Pharsolus. It is interesting to compare those letters of Cicero, written from Thessalonica, with those two letters that Paul wrote to the people of Thessalonica not more than 100 years later. (See introduction to Thessalonians in Cambridge Bible.)


The church established by Paul at Thessalonica, with all of its subsequent development down to the present time, has been a very famous theme in church history. It got the reputation of being called the orthodox city, and it became the center of the wonderful missionary activity when the Goths and the Slavs invaded that country. These Christian people determined to convert them, and Thessalonica headed the great missionary movement. It now affiliates with the Greek Catholic Church and has done so for many hundred years. A Greek Catholic Archbishop lives there,, and most of them haven't much religion. This is a brief account of that place before and after the apostle Paul touched it.


But let us see how Christianity reached Thessalonica. Turn to Acts 17 and read carefully verses 1-9 which give the histopical account of the establishment of the church at Thessalonica by Paul, Silas, and Timothy: "Now when they had passed through Amphiboles and Apologia, they came to Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews." They always liked to commence their preaching at a synagogue because, first, they felt they ought to lead the Jews to Christ, and second, because grouped around the synagogue was always a large class of Gentiles who had been proselyted with different degrees of proselytism to the Jews. There were quite a number of them in Thessalonica who had become disgusted with the idolatry of the heathen and were attracted by the pure monotheism of the Jews. The gospel was received more readily by Jewish proselytes than by any other class. Then the synagogue gave them a house in which to preach, as well as a congregation, until the line had to be sharply drawn. "And Paul, as his custom was, went in unto them, and for three sabbath days [He met them on their own sabbath days.] reasoned with them from the scriptures." In their synagogue, on their sabbath day, out of their Holy Book he reasoned with them.


Let us see what he talked about: "Opening and alleging that it behooved the Christ to suffer." He showed that the Old Testament books taught that the Messiah must die, plainly as prophesied by Isaiah (Isa. 5S), or typically, as in the sacrifices which foreshadowed his vicarious expiation. It was a hard thing to convince a Jew that when his Messiah came he must die. Then Paul had to prove his second position: "This Jesus whom I proclaim unto you is your Messiah." You see what a logician Paul was, and how tactful: "I will come to your house. I will come to your day of worship. I will take your own books and let them be my text-books, and prove from these Old Testament scriptures that the Messiah set forth in them was to die and rise again the third day. That is my first proposition. Then I will prove to you that Jesus of Nazareth, whom I preached unto you, is that Messiah."


That lasted three sabbath days. Let us see with what result: "And some of them were persuaded, and consorted with Paul and Silas; and of the devout Greeks a great multitude [They always came in more readily.], and of the chief women. not a few." Notice how the gospel reaches women. See how it reached Lydia back yonder at the place for a prayer meeting in Philippi, where they did not have a synagogue. Notice how it reached them under the preaching of Christ. Imagine those chief Greek ladies in that city, those that thought and had hearts, and consciences, seeing the shameful degradation of woman under the heathen idolatries, how intently they listened to a religion that exalts woman, lifts her from slavery, makes her the companion and equal of man and the subject of divine grace.


"But the Jews [here we come to the struggle], being moved with jealousy, took unto them certain vile fellows of the rabble." We have them in every city, called the "riff-raff – toughs." What a mean thing it was to conspire with that kind of a crowd to raise a mob against those preachers! Yet, I have known similar things to be done. "And gathering a crowd, set all the city in an uproar; and assaulting the house of Jason, they sought to bring them forth to the people. And when they found them not, they dragged Jason and certain brethren before the rulers of the city, crying, These that have turned the world upside down have come hither also."


This is the accusation – that they were revolutionary; that they were guilty of treason against Caesar, since they set up another king, one Jesus. Precisely the same charges were brought against Christ – treason and sedition. "And they troubled the multitude and the rulers of the city, when they heard these things." Those Roman judges, however, were not very easily led aside to do a wrong thing. In jurisprudence, the Romans were the most just of all the governments of the ancient world. So they took security. Far back goes the custom of putting a man under bond: "And when they had taken security from Jason and the rest, they let them go." That is the history in the Acts.


The first and second letters to the Thessalonians bring out many details of that work that Luke in his account in the Acts does not give. Let us see what Paul preached while he was there. First, as I have shown, he preached to the Jews, showing that the Old Testament Messiah must suffer and die and rise again from the dead, and that Jesus was that Messiah. Then he set forth the purpose of that death. That was to the Jews. When they spoke to the Gentiles they told forth the falsity and the wickedness of idolatry. We learn that many of them turned from their idols and served the true and living God. They preached the glorious kingdom of God, and Jesus Christ the King. Here was one world empire, Rome. They preached another world empire and Jesus Christ as the King. And particularly did he emphasize that Jesus, who died, rose again, and ascended to heaven, will come a second time to judge the world in righteousness. I will show how this matter is brought out. In 1 Thessalonians 1:10 it says, "And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, who delivereth us from the wrath to come."


Take 2:19: "For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of glorying? Are not even ye, before our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming?" Take 3:13: "To the end he may establish your hearts unblamable in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints." Take 4:1418; it is all about the second coming of Christ. Take 5:23: your spirit and soul and body be preserved entire, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." I have given you a passage in each chapter of that letter bearing upon the second coming of Christ. We will discuss these things more particularly when we go to discuss the letter itself. I am showing you what he preached at Thessalonica.


The doctrines that he preached were closely followed by moral applications. The morals of the poor people among the heathen were awful, and the upper classes were worse than they. Paul preached to them that they must be pure in life. The worship of their idols was accompanied with debasing forms of adultery and fornication. These people of Thessalonica were not half as moral in their lives as the lowest and most ignorant of the Negroes here in this country, with their crude ideas of the sanctity of marriage and the purity of life. Paul emphasized the doctrine of purity. Then he emphasized the doctrine of loving the brethren and, particularly, he struck them a hard blow on honest self-support. The streets of those old cities then were filled with idlers and loafers, hanging around and begging. If we were to walk through the streets of Thessalonica today, we would need a guard to keep off the professional beggars. Paul laid down the unwelcome proposition that professors of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ who would not work, should not eat. What a wonderful doctrine for the time and place! What a reforming power it must have been with that kind of a population! It is a pity that the great cities of the Latin race and of the Orient do not now have the doctrine that a grown man who hangs around in rags and begs, without visible means of support, is not entitled to respect and ought not to be allowed to eat. It was on this account that he himself worked night and day to support himself. He wanted to give them an example. He writes to them and tells them that he had a right to demand a support from them, but he did not exact his right. He wanted to uphold the dignity and majesty and honor of good, honest, hard work. We ought not to have any respect for a religion that makes idlers now.


That is what he preached, and the results we have already seen: a few Jews, a great many proselytes, including the most honorable women in the city, were converted, and as soon as the line was drawn the Jews began to persecute, and he told them when he came back with his sores from stripes received at Philippi that there was nothing ahead of him but death, bonds, and imprisonment. He told these poor people, and reminded them of the fact that he had told them before, that they who follow Christ must suffer persecution. It was no easy path that he pointed out to them.


Now, compelled to leave there under the circumstances of that persecution, we want to know how long it was before he wrote this letter. Luke tells us that he went from there to Berea. He left that big road and went off to the quiet country. He stayed there until the Jews at Thessalonica followed him and raised a persecution against him. Then he left Berea and they took him to Athens. There he preached, and from Athens he went to Corinth. From Athens he sent Timothy back to Thessalonica to find out how these people were getting along, and so we learn in Acts 18:5 that Timothy rejoined him at Corinth, and we learn from 1 Thessalonians 3:6, his first letter, the same thing: "But when Timothy came even now unto us from you, and brought us glad tidings of your faith and love, and that ye have good remembrance of us always, longing to see us, even as we also to see you." There is the occasion of the letter. Who wrote it? Paul. Where? At Corinth. When? About five or six months after be left Thessalonica.


What is the character, or style, of this letter as a piece of composition? Everybody is glad that it is not a logical treatise; that it is not a sermon. Everybody is glad that it is a letter from the heart, Just as if he were speaking face to face with these people, pouring out his heart to them. The letter of a missionary to a church where he has labored with much pain and affliction, and yet with great success; full of love, full of consolation, full of exhortation, every line of it blazes with his own fiery impulse and passionate devotion to Christ, and love for them.

 

ANALYSIS OF DR. BROADUS


Introduction (1:1).


1. Reminding them of the past (1:2 to 3:13).


(a) When he was with them (1:2 to 2:20).


(b) Since his departure (3:1-13).


2. Exhortations for the future (4:1 to 5:25).


Farewell Salutation (5:26-28).

 

QUESTIONS

 

1. What the comparative value of Paul's letters?

 

2. What eighteen books must one read to understand fully the spirit of Paul?

 

3. How many and what groups of Paul's letters, what the books of each group, and when and where was each book written?

 

4. Of what does each group treat?

 

5. What are the periods of Paul's life?

 

6. What the different views of Paul in the Acts and his letters?

 

7. What the variety of style in his letters?

 

8. What the geographical situation of Thessalonica, and what the land and sea advantages?

 

9. What the history of Thessalonica before Paul went there??

 

10. What its history since Paul's day, and what its present condition?

 

11. What distinguished Roman citizen wrote letters from Thessalonica, and how do they compare with Paul's letters to the church there?

 

12. What the place of the church at Thessalonica in history, what its missionary activity, and with what church do the people there now affiliate?

 

13. Give briefly how Christianity reached Thessalonica, Paul's method there, and the results?

 

14. What did Paul preach while he was there?

 

15. What of the moral condition of these people, and how did Paul deal with it?

 

16. What the occasion of this letter?

 

17. Who wrote it?

 

18. Where did he write it?

 

19. When did he write it?

 

20. What is the character, or style, of this letter as a piece of composition?

 

21. Give the short analysis by Broadus.

 

 

VII

 

(Return to Contents)

 

EXPOSITION 1 Thessalonians 1:1 to 3: 13.

 


We shall follow a full and extended analysis that takes cognizance of everything in this letter. In that analysis the first thing that we consider is the salutation: "Paul, and Silvanus, and Timothy, unto the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace." It was customary in ancient times for a salutation to introduce two matters. The Romans particularly had that habit.


In this salutation the first question is, Who saluted? The answer is, Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, who co-labored in the establishment of this church. The next question is, Whom saluted? "The church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." Note (speaking of the Greek word ekklesia, which is rendered "church") that there were three ecclesias in Thessalonica at one time: First, the Jewish synagogue; second, the Greek ecclesia – that civil body which managed the affairs of the city. To these two that are already there a new ecclesia comes, a new congregation having a new business, giving a new atmosphere, and that is the church or ecclesia of God the Father. But when it adds "and the Lord Jesus Christ," that separates it from the Jewish church. That also separated it from that civil business body, the Greek ecclesia.


Is this the first letter ever written to a Christian church of which we have any knowledge? Before answering, read Acts 15. James's letter precedes it in order of time, but it was not addressed to a church.


The next item in the letter is the salutation proper, "Grace and peace." If one will pass rapidly over the letters of Paul, he will find that he followed the Oriental custom of salutations. Nearly all the time he brought in "grace and peace" and sometimes added "mercy." It is interesting to take the beginning of all his letters and see how in writing them he salutes them in that way. It was the grace of God that secured their salvation, and through their justification they found peace with God.


The next division is the thanksgiving. That commences at verse 2 and includes verse 10ωa most marvelous thanksgiving: "We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers; remembering without ceasing your work of faith and labor of love and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, before our God and Father." Here it would be interesting to take up the letters of Paul and notice his custom, right after the salutation, of putting in a thanksgiving if he had anything to be thankful for. Trace that through his letters and see if he does not, as here, in wishing grace and peace to the people to whom he writes, first seek out the ground of thankfulness that he has toward God concerning them. There was one letter that he wrote in which he omitted the thanksgiving – the letter to the churches of the Galatians. They had taken the back track to such a fearful degree that Paul, when he wrote to them, left out the thanksgiving.


Notice in the second place the extent and broadness of his thanksgiving here. It exceeds any that we find anywhere else: "We give thanks unto God always for you ail," all the way and all the time. When he wrote a letter to the Corinthians and put in his thanksgiving he could not give thanks for everyone of them, for one of them had been guilty of an awful sin, and of others of them he said that, even weeping, he must say that they were enemies of Christ.


Paul says to these Thessalonians, "Every time I pray for you I thank God for you; and second, every time I remember three things about you, your work of faith, your labor of love, your patience of hope, I also thank God for you." Notice Paul's trinity of Christian graces – faith, hope, and love. He brings that out in his letter to the Colossians and again in 1 Corinthians 13: "But now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; and the greatest of these is love." Here compare the three heathen graces, which may be found in Anthon's "Classical Dictionary," with the three Christian graces, and tell wherein the Christian graces are superior to the heathen graces.


Notice the work of faith, Greek ergon, the labor of love, kopos, and the endurance of hope, hupomone. I am inclined to think that these Thessalonians through their faith had done some miraculous work that we do not know anything about. When we read Hebrews II we see the great work that faith did, and each one has a particular work: "By faith Enoch was translated . . . by faith Abraham . . . by faith Noah . . . by faith Rahab . . . ," etc. Each one performed some mighty exploit, an ergon, or work – "the work of faith." This being singular, ergon, I am inclined to think that there was some explicit exploit rendered by these Thessalonians to which Paul refers when he says, "Every time I remember your work of faith I am thankful." Just what the particular work was I do not know. It was a work of faith in the Roman amphitheater when the brave Christian woman preferred to be cast to the wild beasts rather than abjure her faith. These Thessalonians were very much persecuted after they had professed the Christian religion, and there may have been some signal incident of persecution. Anyhow, faith that does not work is not worth a cent. These are the three things that every time Paul thought of the Thessalonians he was thankful about.


Now we come to a new topic, beginning with verse 4: "Knowing, brethren beloved of God, your election, how that our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit, and in much assurance; even as you know what manner of men we showed ourselves toward you for your sake. And ye became imitators of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit; so that ye became an ensample to all that believe in Macedonia and in Achaia. For from you hath sounded forth the word of the Lord, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place your faith to Godward is gone forth; so that we need not to speak anything. For they themselves report concerning us what manner of entering in we had unto you; and how ye turned unto God from idols, to serve a living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, who delivereth us from the wrath to come."


"I am thankful," says Paul (mentioning three reasons why he is thankful), "every time I pray; every time I remember the three things; every time I know that you are elected, I am thankful."


Let us consider somewhat the matter of election. It is something that may be known. He says he knew it. Once I helped to ordain a man for whom I conducted the examination. I asked the questions just as fast as I could fire the shots at him: "What does election mean?" "To choose." "Who chooses?" "God." "When?" "Before the foundation of the world." "Unto what?" "Salvation." "In whom?" "In Christ."


"Was this election based on foreseen repentance and faith, or did repentance and faith result from the election?"


This was the thing that Paul was discussing: "I am thankful, brethren, because I know you are elected. You are chosen of God unto salvation through sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth in Jesus Christ."


That being the doctrine of election, -that God chose those people in eternity, yet Paul here in time could find out. So what are the tokens or signs that one is elected? These tokens are of two kinds: signs to Paul, the preacher, and signs in them, or the evidence that they are the elect. When he saw these signs he knew they were elect. How important that thing is for us. Our articles of faith say it is our privilege and duty to ascertain whether we are elected. We ought to find out whether we have been chosen of God. There is a way to find out: "How that our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance."


I heard a man once quote that to show that these Thessalonians had assurance because they had faith. He is not talking about their assurance but his assurance – that he (Paul) preached not in word only, but in power and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance. From this he argued: "I come to a place to preach. Do I find that I can preach there? Do I feel drawn to preach there? Am I impressed in my heart that the Lord has a people to call out? Does it impress me so that when I go to preach I feel that the power of the Holy Spirit is with me? If I can feel these things, that is a token that somebody there belongs to the elect."


But that does not locate .the elect. It shows that they are there, but not which ones. But these are the signs in them: "Ye received this word which I preached, not as from men, but as God's word, or the manner in which you listened to me; second, your conversion: 'Ye turned unto God from idols to serve the living and true God.' "


Notice next: "And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, who delivereth us from the wrath to come." In other words, "When I see how you heard me, from what you turned, to what you turned, that patient waiting for the risen Lord, that you had faith in him, the patience of hope – hope which takes cognizance of the second coming of Christ, your waiting under great afflictions, I know that you are elect."


Another token is, "You became imitators of the church of Judea in suffering affliction and persecution. If when you were persecuted you had fallen away and said, If being a Christian is to walk this hot road I will turn back and seek the shade,' " then, he would have known that they were not the elect, but since they heard his preaching as the word of God, turned from idols and patiently waited for the coming of the Lord, who was to deliver from the wrath to come, and since while waiting they followed the footsteps of Christians elsewhere, imitating these Christians in bearing up patiently under the. persecutions to which they were subjected, he had that assurance. For instance, Jason whom they arrested and took before the magistrate and put under bond to keep the peace, they would have put to death if they had had the power. "Jason, does this prejudice you against the religion you profess?" John Bunyan tells how Christian and Pliable came to the Slough of Despond, and they both fell in the mire, and Pliable began to say, "Is this the great road you are talking about to the great country you are going to? I am going back to the country I came from." As we look at him we know that he was not elect. But if this other man, though sinking in the Slough of Despond, finally pulls out, covered with dirt, yet with his face toward the heavenly city, that is a token that he is elect.


Still another token: "So that ye became an ensample to all that believe in Macedonia and in Achaia." That is, they became an example in all Greece and Peloponnesus. "For from you hath sounded forth the word of the Lord, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place your faith to Godward is gone forth." When we want to consider the question of election, here we have it.


God does not permit us to climb a ladder and go into his secret archives and turn the pages and see if a man's name is written in the Lamb's Book of Life. But he does permit us to know whether we are elect or whether anybody else is elect.


When this knowledge comes to the missionary that the men to whom he preaches are elect, then he is thankful, as Paul says, "knowing your election."


We come now to the next 'item in the full analysis. The fifth general head is, "The Reminder of the Past." What is it he reminds them of? See 2:1-2: "For yourselves, brethren, know our entering in unto you, that it hath not been found vain; but having suffered before and been shamefully treated, as ye know, at Philippi, we waxed bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God in much conflict." In other words, "Now, you know when I got there from Philippi, so bruised from those stripes received from the lictor's rod, and weak from imprisonment, brethren, ye remember how boldly I came to you and preached the gospel of Jesus Christ. I was not scared. I was not discouraged on account of receiving punishment at the hands of the lictors in Philippi. I had no idea of turning back."


Here are some negative things to which he wants to call our attention, and what a pity that every preacher could not say this: "For our exhortation is not of error [he brought them no heresy], nor of uncleanness, nor in guile; . . . not as pleasing men, . . . for neither at any time were we found using words of flattery, as ye know, nor a cloak of covetousness, God is witness; nor seeking glory of men." Let us get these "nots." He is reminding them of things when he was with them before, calling their attention to his manner of entering in and preaching to them; that wherever he went and preached, he didn't preach a heresy; that he didn't go in uncleanness as the teachers of the heathen did, using their influence over their disciples to bring them to shame; not in guile; not to make money; not, indeed to please. "I am not seeking your pleasure, nor flattering you." How hard it is to keep a preacher, when he sits down by some member of his church, from saying a few flattering words. Paul calls their attention to the fact that when he preached among them he did not use flattery.


Let us see what he did: "But we were gentle in the midst of you, as when a nurse cherisheth her own children; how gentle .she is!" Paul says, "I was not rough, affectionately desirous of you." "I was with you in affection." "Willing not only to impart the gospel to you, but my own soul. For ye remember, brethren, our labor and travail, that we might not be a burden to you, working every day and night." They were heathen; it was missionary ground, and they knew nothing about the principles of missionary support. If he had demanded a salary of these heathen, he never would have gotten them. That is why we have to pay a missionary a salary. They are going where there are no churches and where the very mention of compensation turns the people away that we want to convert.


Notice again: "Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and righteously and unblamably we behaved ourselves toward you that believe; as ye know how we dealt with each one of you, as a father with his own children."


When I get to reading Paul, it digs me up by the roots, so that I feel like I have never done the right kind of preaching and did not have the right kind of spirit.


The next thing is his impeachment of the Jews, 2:14: "For ye also suffered the same things of your own countrymen, even -as they did of the Jews; who both killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove out us, and please not God, and are 'contrary to all men; forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they may be saved; to fill up their sins always; but the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost." That is a fearful indictment against his people, and every word of it is true.


From 2:17 on to the end of chapter 3, he reminds them of the things since he left them. He goes on to show that since he left them he had continually desired to come back, and twice tried to come back, but Satan hindered him, and in order that something might be added to their faith, he was willing to be left alone at Athens in order that Timothy might go back and supply what was lacking in their faith. So on through chapter 3.

 

QUESTIONS

 

1. What the salutation of this letter, verbatim, who saluted, and whom saluted?

 

2. What the three ecclesias at Thessalonica, and what the distinguishing characteristics of each?

 

3. Was this the first New Testament letter written to a church?

 

4. What two things does Paul, according to Oriental custom, introduce in this salutation, and why?

 

5. What was Paul's habit as to what followed the salutation of his letters, and what notable exception?

 

6. Show the extent and broadness of this thanksgiving, and how Paul was limited in some other thanksgivings in his letters.

 

7. What Paul's trinity of Christian graces, and wherein are they superior to the heathen graces?

 

8. What did Paul remember in the Thessalonians which furnished a ground of thanksgiving, and what the meaning and application of these things?

 

9. What is election, who elects, when, unto what, in whom, and what the relation of election to repentance and faith?

 

10. Show how Paul knew of their election of God, (1) from signs in him, and (2) from signs in them.

 

11. What the literal meaning of conversion, and what illustration of it in this letter?

 

12. What the characteristics of Paul's preaching while at Thessalonica, and what the characteristics of their reception of his preaching?

 

13. What claim does Paul make for his life among them?

 

14. Describe the terrible indictment Paul brings against his own people in 2:14-16.

 

15. Give an. analysis of 2:17 to 3:13, pointing out its principal teachings.

 

 

VIII

 

(Return to Contents)

 

A LESSON ON CHRISTIAN MORALS

1 Thessalonians 4:1-18.

 


This exposition commences at 1 Thessalonians 4, which brings us to the sixth item of the extended analysis, the title of which is, "A Lesson on Christian Morals," that is, it consists of an exhortation to purity/of life, to brotherly love, and to honest work.


Let us observe here, as in all of Paul's letters, how the practical is deduced from the doctrinal. He had no conception of the practical apart from the doctrinal, otherwise this letter might have closed with the end of chapter 3, making good doctrinal sense, but it was ever Paul's custom, after he had written the body of the discourse and of the theory, to transmute this further into the fruits of godliness.


Let us look at the first lesson on Christian morals: "Finally then, brethren, we beseech and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that, as ye received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, even as ye do walk, – that ye abound more and more. For ye know what charge we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, even your sanctification; that ye abstain from fornication; that each one of you know how to possess himself of his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in the passion of lust, even as the Gentiles who know not God; that no man transgress, and wrong his brother in the matter; because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as also we forewarned you and testified. For God called us not for uncleanness, but in sanctification. Therefore, he that rejecteth, rejecteth not man, but God, who giveth his Holy Spirit unto you."


That is a remarkable lesson, and particularly let us observe the necessity, in the case of these Gentile converts, for this exhortation, owing to the past habits of their lives. I mean that their religious habits were associated with the most debasing crimes and uncleanness, and it was a difficulty in the way of gospel preachers then, as our missionaries in heathen lands find it today, after men are converted to keep them from relapsing into those vile, beastly sins of the body.


I witnessed our missionaries dealing with that problem in Mexico, where the peons, or low class of Mexicans, know not what decency of life means. They were converted or professed to be, but what a difficult thing it was for the missionary to impress upon their consciences the sanctity of the family, or the chastity of the marriage relation.


Note this reference: "God called us not for uncleanness, but in sanctification." It is as noticeable in the conversion of a sinner as it is in the call to the ministry. The call, made through the gospel and by the power of the Holy Spirit, singles out a man and brings him in touch with God, and wherever it is a true and effectual calling it always ends in justification, sanctification, and the glorification of the body. Paul says, "Whom he called them he also justified; and whom he justified them he also glorified." The glorification of the body is its complete sanctification and freedom from all dishonor, weakness, and immorality. Whoever then sins, sins against the call that he received that made him a Christian. On that account, notice the nature of the offense: "Therefore, he that rejecteth [that command], rejecteth not man, but God, [because it was God who called him], who giveth his Holy Spirit unto you." If he be a Christian, the Holy Spirit is dwelling in him. In many places in Paul's letters the exhortation to purity of life is based on the doctrine that our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit, and that whosoever defileth or destroyeth the temple of God, him will God destroy.


The second exhortation is brotherly love: "But concerning the love of the brethren ye have no need that one write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another; for indeed ye do it toward all the brethren that are in all Macedonia. But we exhort you, brethren, that ye abound [in this love] more and more." There is a beautiful thought there, that the love which a Christian has for a fellow Christian is the result of going to school to God – that God himself teaches the lesson. Hence our old-time Baptist preachers, in preaching upon the evidence of conversion, dealt particularly on love: "We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren."


I remember once in a great meeting a little girl timidly came forward and offered to join the church. She was very small, and one of the brethren moved that the case be deferred – that she seemed too young to understand. I said, "Let us be sure we are right before we defer this case. This child is old enough to trust and old enough to love, and we will hear what she says for herself." So I put this question: "Little daughter, how do you know that you love God's people?" She said, "I have thought about that, and I have asked myself this question, 'If I should come to a place where the road of life forks, one way very pleasant and the other very unpleasant, and God's people went the unpleasant way, which crowd would I prefer to follow?' and I thought that I should prefer to go with God's people over a bad road than with ungodly people over a good road, because I love God's people more than the other people." Whereupon, the objectors began to distrust their wisdom, and when I examined her on faith she seemed to possess the sweetest trust in Jesus that I ever heard related. Where did she get it? She was God taught. Young as she was, she had been a pupil of the Almighty, and she had learned to love and trust Jehovah, and she had just as clear ideas about what is meant by loving the people of God by which we may know that we have passed from death unto life, as any grown person. There was not an objection in the house when we took the vote on receiving her for baptism. Young people are more apt to prove faithful than those who are converted when they are advanced in life.


He continues his exhortation: "And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your hands, even as we charged you; that ye may walk becomingly toward them that are without, and may have need of nothing." What a sturdy Christianity Paul had! A loafer and a deadbeat got no respect from him at all. If able, anybody ought to work, not only that he may not lack anything, but in order that he may walk honestly before them that are without. Idleness leads to theft and dishonesty, and Paul elevates labor very high in dignity.


I read two things in the papers recently that pleased me very much. One was that the Ladies' Aid Society of the Baptist Church at Mart, wanting to make a contribution, got in a wagon and went two miles in the country to a farm and picked a lot of cotton for which they received $12. That was no degradation to those women. The other thing was, that Deacon M. H. Standifer, of the First Church at Waco, took a wagon load of Baylor University boys out one Saturday and picked cotton, although it rained. Surely the Christian religion is in favor of good honest work. There is not a bit of shame in it.


Paul told these Thessalonians squarely that if anybody would not work, he must not ea – that he was not entitled even to his one meal a day, much less three meals, if he was an idler. If a man had a hundred million dollars, he would be both sinful and unhappy if he did not work. One of the kings of France had a carpenter's shop fixed up for him, and he went out there and worked at that business. His wife had a dairy, and there she would take her maids of honor and teach them how to keep their milk vessels clean, and have sweeter cream and make better butter than anyone else in the whole kingdom.


We come now to the richest and sweetest things in all the Word of God, which brings us to the seventh item of the analysis. This extends from 4:13 to 5:11, and bears upon the great doctrine of the second advent, using certain facts to enable him to comfort all the people who were needlessly distressed concerning their dead.


I want to make perfectly clear the significance of this great passage of scripture. I will venture the assertion that almost every preacher who has conducted many funeral services has used this scripture. Let us see how rich it is in thought and meaning, and see if we can't get some new light: "But we would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning them that fall asleep; that ye sorrow not, even as the rest who have no hope." Ignorance concerning the state of the dead necessarily brings great anxiety and sorrow. We may be ignorant about human history, or the sciences, about the commonest facts of the world, but it is awful for us to be ignorant concerning the state of the dead. Upon that subject God has flashed the light of the brightest knowledge, and because of that bright light the keenness of sorrow is taken out of our hearts when our Christian loved ones die.


The special point of their ignorance that caused them sorrow was their belief that to die before Christ came would be a calamity. If one could just live until Christ came it would be all right, but he would suffer loss to die before Christ came. Paul wants to show them that it does not make the snap of a finger's difference about whether we die before Christ comes or not, and it is foolish to set our hearts upon being alive when Christ comes. That desire arises from ignorance of the state of the righteous dead. If we notice the state of the righteous dead, we would see no difference in dying before Christ comes or being alive when he comes.


The next thought is that when a good man dies his spirit goes to Jesus. In that respect he is ahead of us who are alive. Hence, Paul says, "Brethren, for me to die is gain, for when I am absent from the body I am present with the Lord." No loss there. As Jesus said, "Father, into thy hands I commend my Spirit." As the book of Ecclesiastes says, "Then shall the body return to the dust as it was, but the spirit unto God who gave it." Get that fixed, that when the earthly house of this tabernacle is dissolved we have a building with God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. The advantage, then, is with the one that dies. Paul says, "On my part it will be a gain to die; personally, I would be much better off, for when I am dead I shall be with the Lord."


Here are some doctrines: If the soul of a Christian lodges in some halfway house, and is under some disability while there, and has to stay there until the resurrection day, well may we weep over our dead; well may we desire to be alive till Jesus comes. If the soul is imprisoned somewhere and does not go directly to heaven, I can understand those Thessalonians weeping over their dead. If the Roman Catholic theory that when a soul dies it goes into some intermediate place and is in suffering and flames, be true, well may we weep and make gifts to the priests to pray our people out of that awful place. But if the soul, just as soon as the body dies, goes right to heaven, and right to the presence of God himself, we ought not to be ignorant of that. What a corrective of unnecessary sorrow I


Therefore, I have always combated the theory of any middle place where the soul lodges and stays till the judgment day. I am sure it is not a teaching of the New Testament. I am sure if it had been the teaching of the New Testament the Thessalonians would have had something to sorrow about, and Paul could not have comforted them. They are gone to God, the Judge. They are where God is, where the angels are, the new Jerusalem, the heavenly Zion, to the spirits of the just made perfect, to Jesus, the Mediator.


Jesus said to the thief on the cross, "Today shalt thou be with me in paradise." The poor, ignorant thief prayed, "Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom." Not "then," but "today, shalt thou be with me in paradise," says Jesus.


In the book of Revelation, we see that the tree of life is on the river of life that rises under the throne of God. Let us get that point deep in our hearts, and let us not preach any halfway house for the dead. "It came to pass that the rich man also died and in hell he lifted up his eyes." He did not lodge anywhere.


That idea of a middle life was derived in medieval Christianity, in the dark ages, coming from heathen origin. The heathen (and these were the heathen that had Just been converted, these very Greeks), believed that if one died and was unburied, for example if drowned and the body not recovered, then the soul or shade would wander around unblessed until the body was buried. In the book of Vergil, a shade meets the poet as he is descending into the lower world, a flitting, restless spirit, and says, "Oh bury me, bury me! And if you cannot put me under the ground, then it may serve to sprinkle a little sand on me, and count it for a burial." It was precisely that thought that led to the institution of sprinkling instead of immersion. Those poor Thessalonian people had all the terrors about those who died.


Notice, in the next place, that when Jesus comes he will bring with him those spirits of the Christians whose bodies died here upon the earth. They are up there, and when he starts back here, the spirits will be with him. It is only the body that sleeps. So the truth of the hymn, "Asleep in Jesus, blessed sleep!" Charles Wesley, in his dying hymn, presented the change, or transfiguring, of the bodies of the living, so there is no advantage in living on the earth until the second coming of Christ, and the souls of the living people do not get to Christ first, because Christ brings those Christian souls who are dead with him.


There is an equal participation between those who live until he does come and those who died before he comes. The dead are raised, and the living are changed, so together they are caught up. Where is any advantage? We may ask where Paul gets all this. He says, "I received this gospel, and with it I received knowledge of the word of God, and I am taking away all this trouble concerning the dead. The Lord himself shall descend."


It will be a real coming. The coming of the Lord is a personal thing. He comes in death, he comes in the judgment, but I have always contended that the personal coming of the Lord is the hope of the world.


"For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God."


In studying the Gospels we find what the shout is: "Behold the bridegroom cometh! Go ye out to meet him!" And we have found out who sounds the trumpet.


It was not Gabriel. That is Negro theology. The object of the blowing of that trumpet is not to wake the dead, but to summon the holy angels. All the angels will come down when he comes, and there will be that great trumpet sound that waxes louder and louder and louder until their hearts within them shall be stirred. Job says, "Hide me in the grave until thy wrath has passed; thou wilt call and I will answer thee."


Just as Jesus stood before the tomb of Lazarus and said, "Lazarus, come forth!" so he will speak and call our names, and our bodies will arise, and when he comes that second time there will be a mighty shout, "Behold the bridegroom!" All of the earth and heaven will ring with sonorous peals of that shout, the sealed doors of death will be opened, and the Spirit's power will then throw off the cerements of the grave in response to the voice of Jesus Christ.


Notice the double voice: To the living: "Behold the bridegroom!" To the dead: "Come forth!" You see how the voice is adapted to each case. It also says the voice of the archangel.


There is a passage in the book of Revelation that has sometimes been interpreted to mean what the archangel says. That says, "I saw another mighty angel come down from heaven . . . and he set his right foot upon the sea, and his left foot on the earth . . . and lifted up his hand to heaven and swear . . . that there should be time no longer," i.e., the end of time. That 'is beautiful, but I question the interpretation. I think that it means when that angel plants one foot upon the sea and the other foot upon the shore, it is an answer to the prayers of those Christians, "How long, 0 Lord, how long?" Then the angel says, "Time was, time is, but there shall be time no longer. You will get your answer now." I think that is the meaning. There are hierarchies in the angelic body, principalities and powers. Michael is called the prince, Gabriel is a prince, and in connection with him we have all the traditions about the trumpet.


It is that trumpet sound that brings the angels. They have double work to do. In the parable of the tares it is said that the tares and the wheat grow together until the harvest. The harvest is the end of the world. The good seed are the Christians; the bad seed are the devil's children. They grow together until the harvest. At the end of the world the angels shall gather up the tares ready for burning, and that is one reason why another parable tells us that at the coming of the Lord the angels shall gather up the wicked out of every place on the earth, and that is the office of the angels. That is why in that great prophecy he tells about two women, one of whom is taken and the other left. The angel swoops down and that woman is taken – one gathered to the harvest for heaven, and the other gathered for the pit of hell.


Imagine the joy! It comforts me a great deal. As it is, my body is not a very satisfactory body. The head gets sick; the heart sore; the hand gets a finger nail mashed off; the muscles take the rheumatism; it looks like everything in it is a disappointment. But at that time the body is at rest. It is sown in the image of the first Adam, and raised in the image of the Second Adam. When that time comes and the disembodied spirit now being able to get back into the old house which has been regenerated, will rejoice, and it will be a time of great joy.


I noticed a bird last year, which seemed to come from afar. I knew the bird, for it had a broken wing. We had allowed it to build its nest in a certain place. When she saw the nest still there she commenced to rejoice and sing her glad song of home-coming. In like manner the soul, like a bird which flies into its old nest, leaps into the body glorified, and then, as Paul says, it is sanctified, body, soul, and spirit. What a happy time when the long separated parts are brought together!

 

QUESTIONS

 

1. What three moral virtues are inculcated in 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12?

 

2. What Paul's conception of the relation between doctrine and morals? Illustrate from this letter.

 

3. What the special application of 4:1-8 to the Thessalonians, and what illustration from modern missionary work?

 

4. What the relation of the Gospel to a sinner and the life? What the nature of the offense when a Christian sins, and why?

 

5. What the great lesson on Love in 4:9-10?

 

6. What the great lesson on honest work in 4:11-12?

 

7. What illustration of this in modern history?

 

8. What great consolation is given in 4:13-18?

 

9. What the relation of the ignorance of the future state to human sorrow?

 

10. What the special point of their ignorance which caused their sorrow, and how does Paul relieve their fears?

 

11. With whom is the advantage, those who live till Christ's second advent, or those who die before, and why?

 

12. What great heresy suggested by this passage, and what the proof to the contrary?

 

13. What the origin of this heresy, and what examples cited?

 

14. When the poet wrote, "Asleep in Jesus! blessed sleep!" what was his meaning?

 

15. How does Paul show that there is an equal participation between those who live till Christ comes and those who die before he comes?

 

16. What the shout of 4:16?

 

17. Who will sound the trumpet, and what its purpose?

 

18. What the double voice? Illustrate.

 

19. What questionable interpretation here cited, and what the true interpretation?

 

20. Are there hierarchies among the angels, and what the proof?

 

21. What the double work of the angels at Christ's second advent?

 

22. illustrate the joy of the soul returning to its glorified body.

 

 

IX

 

(Return to Contents)

 

A BODY OF RULES

1 Thessalonians 5:1-28.

 


This fifth chapter is mainly a body of rules. The first part of it needs explanation. The chapter commences thus:


"But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that aught be written unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night." He has just been comforting the Thessalonians with the account of the second coming of our Lord, with the resurrection of the bodies of the righteous before the change in the living righteous, saying that the two classes are caught up together in the air to join the Lord and are ever to be with the Lord. So far he has not discussed the effect of the coming of our Lord upon the wicked. We will have the case of the wicked in the second letter.


He says here, "But concerning the times and the seasons," and there is a distinction in the meaning of "times" and "seasons." "Times" means stretches of time, or periods. They had doubtless written a question to him to this effect: "Tell us precisely how long it will be before Jesus comes, on what day he will come, and what hour." He is here replying to that question, saying that it is not necessary for him to write on that, because he has already explained to them that neither the times nor the seasons has God put in any man's power. That is what our Saviour taught. No angel in heaven and no apostle knew, and the Son of man, in the limitations of his humanity, did not know.


But while our Lord as to his human nature did not know, while no angel knew, and while no apostle knew, we are not at all surprised to find a great many who do know exactly this very thing of all others that God has hidden from any human or angelic sight. I call attention now, particularly, to this subject, as it is fascinating, and as some people are attracted so much by the curious and sensational things of religion. They prefer to preach sermons on these subjects rather than upon faith, hope, and love. They seek an answer to questions that God has not answered to any angel of heaven, or apostle on the earth, and that was hidden even from the humanity of Jesus Christ.


There seems to be a little irony in Paul's reply. They want to know precisely. He says, "For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night." Our Lord himself discussed that very question. He taught that if the householder knew exactly what month a burglar would come around, and on what night of the month, and at what hour of the night, it would be a very easy thing to forestall him. But God hid those things, and now just as a burglar does not write to a man that on November 9 at II P.M. he will call at his house and come in through the back window in order to steal his jewelry and whatever money is lying around, so we need not expect such information with reference to the second coming of Christ.


Christ's second coming will be like a flash of lightning from one end of the heavens to the other. There will be no external premonition of it.


He then assures them that this fact need not disturb them, however terrible it may be to the wicked. He says, "God has not appointed you unto wrath but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ who died for you that whether you wake or sleep you shall live together with him. Inasmuch as you are guaranteed against the thief by the protecting care of God, it makes no difference what night the thief comes. Whether you live till Christ comes, whether he comes heralded or unheralded, it is utterly immaterial with you, because from the beginning he has chosen you for salvation and you will get the benefit of that salvation when he comes."


Now come some rules, a few of which need comment. The others are all so obvious in their meaning that an attempt at explanation will only mystify. The first one is in verses 12-13: "But we beseech you, brethren, to know them that labor among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; and to esteem them exceeding highly in love for their work's sake." That shows that even this early there were those set apart by the Lord as preachers, and having the oversight of churches, and he is writing that they should approve their preachers and should be subordinated to the rule of the pastor in the things in which it is lawful for him to rule, and there are things in which God has made him the overseer. That is what the word, "bishop," or episkopos, means.


I have heard some people say that the work of the church should be determined by the deacons. That is expressly not so.


The deacons have committed unto them the finances of the church, but the great work of the church is dependent upon the spiritual leader. It is his voice that must give the signal, it is his sermon that must give the instruction, it is his exposition of God's word that must lay down the law, and in this high sense he is the legitimate ruler.


There is a spirit of lawlessness in the world that objects to all rule. There are some people so constituted that they won't work "in the harness" at all. There are some horses that won't work except in the lead, and some that are not good except as wheel-horses, and others that will not work at all with a bridle or harness; they kick and squeal and prance, and finally tear off at a tangent. There are some people of that kind in the churches.


Here are some rules that need no comment: "Be at peace among yourselves, admonish the disorderly, encourage the faint-hearted, support the weak, be long-suffering toward all. See that none render unto anyone evil for evil; but always follow after that which is good, one toward another, and toward all. Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus to youward." These are rules which everybody ought to memorize, and be able to call up each one. They ought to be on the walls of every church as the standing orders of the Lord Jesus Christ concerning Christian communities.


Here are others that need some explanation: "Quench not the Spirit; despise not prophesyings; prove all things; hold fast that which is good." Every one of these directions relates to the spiritual gifts conferred on the day of Pentecost and later in the apostolic days. I have heard preachers preach from the text, "Quench not the Spirit," and speak on it as if it referred to the witness of the Spirit within a man, or to the indwelling Spirit in a man or to the Spirit of regeneration. But none of these can be quenched. What he says, "Quench you not," in this special miraculous endowment that God bestowed so richly upon the apostolic churches for the purpose of attesting them. He gives rules both ways on these spiritual gifts: "Don't quench them. They were given for a useful purpose." He taught in the letter to the Corinthians that a man had control over them, and he could so act that they would depart from him altogether. "Despise not prophesyings," i.e., don't hold in contempt these utterances that come from the lips of men that have these gifts. A man would leap up in the church and say, "Brethren, the Spirit is moving me, and under the Spirit I want to make a declaration," and he would make it. In other words, "No matter what you may think about what he will say, don't quench the spiritual gifts, and don't despise prophesyings, but test what he is saying." In another letter John says, "Try the spirits to see whether they be from God." There are some spirits that are not from God. There is an inspiration that comes not from God. There is devil inspiration.


We had in Waco, when I was a young pastor, a great stir upon the subject of spirit rapping, mediums and alleged communications from the dead. I preached on the subject about a week and put these things to the test, just as God commands that they should be tested. The question I put to one of these mediums was this: "Did Jesus Christ as God become manifest in the flesh?" The answer was; "No, that is a misapprehension." That answer settled his case, and I said, "You are condemned, because the scripture says that whosoever denieth that Christ is come in the flesh is a liar and the truth is not in him." That is what Paul means here. He is not referring to their conversion, nor to the Spirit that bore witness with their spirits that they were children of God, nor to regeneration) but this temporary miraculous gift that resteth with such signal power upon the apostolic church.


He says, "Prove all," not all things, but all these prophesyings, that claim to come from the Spirit. "Hold fast to that which is good." In other words, "If it corresponds to the revealed will of God set forth in the Bible, you may take it. If it is contrary to that, reject it."


The next rule calls also for some explanation. In the King James Version, it reads: "Abstain from all appearance of evil." In my younger days how many times have I heard the old brethren quote that! It was not enough for them that a thing was bad; if it appeared to be evil, one had to shun it. That is not the meaning of it at all. The rendering is bound to be one of these two: "Abstain from every form of evil," not something that simply appears to be evil; or else it means, "Abstain from every evil show." There are some shows we ought not to attend. I went once in my life to a theatrical representation and I was glad I had no young lady with me. When I got out I apologized to myself and told the Lord if he would forgive me I would never go to see an evil show of that kind any more. There are some shows so suggestive of indecency, in word, or posture, or dress, they advertise their vileness. What he teaches is, "Let evil come in any shape it may – abstain from it."


Another passage, just here, needs a little explanation. It is his prayer, "The God of peace himself sanctify you wholly." That means "entire." If we say concerning a thing composed of fourteen parts, "Let it be sanctified wholly," that would mean in every one of its parts. And he continues, "And may your spirit and soul and body be preserved entire, without blame, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." Here a question has been asked as to whether there be a threefold distinction in the nature of man. Are there three distinct parts in man – body, soul, and spirit, or a tripartite nature? Or is man of a dual nature – soul and body? In systematic theology, those that hold to the dual nature of man are called dichotomists, and those who hold to the threefold nature of man are called trichotomists. My view of the subject is that from the beginning God represents man as consisting of two distinct elements, the inward man, and the outward man. The outward man is the body; the inward man is the soul. When we consider the inward man from another viewpoint we call it spirit. Here it is important to note the time when sanctification is consummated – "At the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ," that is, when the body is raised from the dead and glorified. Then only is a man completely sanctified. His soul, or spirit, is sanctified at death, but his body is not sanctified until the resurrection, and that is when Christ comes.


The last thing I need to say about anything in this chapter is this: "I adjure you by the Lord that this epistle be read unto all the brethren." He wrote this letter to the church. Every member of the church is entitled to hear it. What a lesson that is to us that the Word of God is for everybody! It is not for the preacher to take the letter and deal out as much of it as he pleases to the congregation; not for him to say, "I have here a letter from your Heavenly Father, and I will read you such parts of 'it as I think will do you good."


Let the man himself have his Father's letter – all of it. It was written to him. It was not written to the priest. There is no justification in withholding any part of it from a child of God.


I heard Dr. McDonald, one of the mightiest preachers and one of the sweetest spirits of the Southern Baptist Convention, who recently passed away, give an account of his conversion from Roman Catholicism. He had been reared in that faith in Ireland, and on his visit to the United States he saw for the first time in his life a gathering in an old log house, and he went in to find a Baptist meeting in progress. He was wonderfully impressed with the way they did things, and he was surprised to hear the preacher ask the people to take their Bibles and see that everything he said was so. He did not know that he had a right of that kind, and when the old preacher very solemnly said, "Brethren, this book is God's letter to each one of you. If my mother were to write me a letter, what man would have a right to capture my mail, and come to me and tell me that he would read such passages of my mother's letter to me as he thought was best for me?" There the thought first entered his mind that became the entering wedge which separated him from the Romanist faith, and which led to his conversion. Paul wanted this letter read to every one of the members of that church.


I will comment a little on one other expression: "Salute all the brethren with a holy kiss." The reader will excuse a humorous allusion: When the great controversy between the Baptist and the Campbellite brethren came up, the latter claimed that they stood by what the book said, and one day down in South Texas one of their preachers said to the congregation, as the book says, "Salute each other with a holy kiss," that they must kiss each other, and he had been troubled about it in view of the fact that some of the brothers in the church were colored. But he says, "I insist that we do just what it says." Whereupon, another brother got up and said, "Brother moderator, we had better go slow on this; I don't believe I could kiss a colored member of this church nor some of the white ones." His wife spoke up and said, "That's right, John, if you kiss a Negro you shall never kiss me again."


And yet this scripture has a meaning. In the directions of our Lord to the apostles when he sent them out he said, "Sa-' lute no man by the way." He did not mean that one of his preachers should be discourteous, nor refuse to say, "How do you do?" or, "Good-by." But in that country the forms of salutation took up a vast amount of time – they had so many "bowings and scrapings" and waving of hands. But because these apostles were on urgent business he told them to salute no man by the way. As it was an Oriental custom to salute even men with a kiss, this is put in here, not prescribing that we shall kiss, but when we salute, let it be a holy salutation. Let it be the salutation of a Christian, and not insincere and simply form.

 

QUESTIONS

 

1. What the distinction in meaning between "times" and "seasons" in 1 Thessalonians 5:1, and what the application?

 

2. What fascinating theme for many preachers suggested here, and what the Bible teaching on it?

 

3. What is Paul's illustration of this thought, and what our Lord's illustration of the same point?

 

4. What assuring fact does Paul here give them relative to this point?

 

5. State the rules of holy living in 5:12-18.

 

6. What does 5:12-13 show relative to "bishops," or pastors?

 

7. What are Paul's four rules concerning miraculous spiritual gifts?

 

8. What the meaning of "Quench not the Spirit"?

 

9. What the meaning of "Despise not prophesying"? Illustrate.

 

10. What the meaning of "Prove all things?"

 

11. What the meaning of "Hold fast that which is good"?

 

12. In 5:22, the common version reads, "Abstain from all appearance of evil;" does the original mean, "Abstain from everything seeming to be evil," or "from every form of actual evil," or "from every kind of an evil show"?

 

13. What does "sanctify you wholly" mean, when does sanctification begin, and when will it be consummated?

 

14. Is man dichotomous or trichotomous, and what is the distinction between "soul" and "spirit" in 5:23?

 

15. What great privilege maybe fairly deduced from the charge “that this epistle e read unto all the brethren,: what religious denomination violates this principle most, and what illustration cited by the author?

 

16. How may be interpreted the "holy kiss" so as to make the perfect binding now?

 

 

2 THESSALONIANS

 

X

 

(Return to Contents)

 

INTRODUCTION AND EXPOSITION TO 2 THESSALONIANS

2 Thessalonians 1:1-12.

 


We commence this discussion with an outline of 2 Thessalonians and then we will give an exposition of chapter I of the book.

 

OUTLINE


1. The occasion of this second letter to the Thessalonians. – After writing the first letter, tidings had been received concerning the reception of the first letter and concerning the state of affairs in that church. These things particularly he had learned:


(1) That the persecution was more violent than when he was there; that their love and their faith increased with the persecution.


(2) That a report was circulated as coming from one with miraculous gifts that Paul himself, either by word or letter, had taught that the day of Christ's second coming was close at hand.


(3) That in consequence of believing this report, some of these Thessalonians quit every other business. The merchant dropped his yardstick; the blacksmith threw down his hammer; the farmer left his plow in the field, and all stood around with nothing else to do except talk about the ascension to heaven. You see why it was that Paul told them to prove those prophesyings.


2. The time and the place. – The place was Corinth. It was from Corinth that he wrote the first letter. The time is somewhat uncertain. Paul remained at Corinth, as we know from Acts, for eighteen months, and it may have been as much as a year between the two letters. The outline itself consists of all the points:


(1) Salutation like the first letter.


(2) New ground for thanksgiving.


(3) Another view of our Lord's second advent.


(4) Paul's prayer for them.


(5) His correction of the misapprehension of the time of the advent, showing in his correction that two things must precede that advent: (a) the great apostasy, and (b) the revelation of the man of sin.


(6) The plan of salvation: how that plan conduces to steadfastness, and in view of that plan, what things to hold fast.


(7) Another prayer for them.


(8) He asks their prayers for him.


(9) Directions for corrective discipline in the church.


(10) In view of reported letters from him which he did not write, he adopts for the future a method of authenticating his letters. Paul was nearly blind, and usually dictated his letters, but from now on he signs his letters with his own hand, all except one, Hebrews, and I will explain why he did not sign that when we get to it.


(11) An orderly arrangement of every passage that bears upon the second coming of Christ, with the analysis of those several statements showing the sum of the teachings of them.


The first item of the analysis of this letter is the salutation, but I have no remarks to make on the salutation contained in this second letter to the Thessalonians because everything necessary has been said on the similar one in the first letter. But in the thanksgiving that follows the salutation there is this new element: Their faith, hope, and love increased in proportion to their afflictions. That is a fine testimony. Many Christian people, depressed by afflictions, say if they had an easier time they could exercise more faith and love. But these Thessalonians increased in faith and love as their tribulations increased.


We now come to the important part of the second letter. Here is a new viewpoint on the day of our Lord – the second coming of Christ. The closing paragraph of 1 Thessalonians 4 and the first paragraph of 1 Thessalonians 5, present the second coming of our Lord with reference to the Christian people, giving up some incidents, to wit: That Jesus will bring with him the spirits of all Christians who have died, and that their bodies will be raised before the living Christians are changed. In chapter 5 he adds that on the wicked, that day will come like a thief in the night, and their destruction will be wholly unanticipated. But he has very little to say about the wicked there. Here he deals with the result of the second coming just as much on the wicked as on the righteous. He does not re-open the discussion of the resurrection, which has already been clearly set forth in the first letter, but presents the doctrine of the judgment that follows the coming of our Lord. We are always to understand that there will be first a resurrection, and then a judgment. We are now to look at the judgment part of this letter.


The first thought concerns the earth. This is the language, referring to the increase of their patience and faith in all their persecutions and afflictions: "Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God," that is, here in this world when good people, pious and God-fearing, are crushed under persecutions, the mind begins to inquire, why does not God punish the wicked? Is there divine justice? Paul says the fact that these Christians bear with love and patience the wrongs put upon them is a token of the righteous judgment of God. It proves that if exact justice is not meted out in this world it will be in the world to come. When we see the good down, and evil on top, and that state continues for a great length of time, it is a token that there must be a judgment hereafter to right that wrong, or else one must doubt the justice of God.


The next thought is, that when Jesus comes he will recompense rest to the afflicted people, and afflictions to those that afflict them. Both take place when Jesus comes. There will be no difference in time, no gap between these two. It is a mistaken interpretation of the word of God that judgment on the righteous will be separated by any great lapse of time from judgment on the wicked. The double judgment takes place at the same time. Let us see if that point is not clear: "If so be that it is a righteous thing with God to recompense affliction to them that afflict you, and to you that are afflicted rest with us, at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with the angels of his power in flaming fire, rendering vengeance to them that know not God, and to them that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus: who shall suffer punishment, even eternal destruction from the face of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be marvelled at in all them that believed."


As this is the letter that discusses the second coming of Christ as no other part of God's Word, giving such a comprehensive view of it, great weight should be attached to every statement in it.


No public teacher is excusable who fails to see in many perfectly plain, literal, unfigurative teachings of God's Word that the resurrection is a general resurrection, and the judgment is a general judgment, and that the two classes come before the Lord at the same time.


Particularly, note the remarkable prophecy of our Lord in Matthew 25, where he says, "When the Son of man shall come in his glory [in his first advent he came in humiliation], and all his holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory and before him shall be gathered all nations and he shall separate them as a man separates the goats from the sheep. And he shall say to those on the left hand, 'Depart, ye cursed, into everlasting fire,' and to those on the right hand, 'Come, ye blessed of my Father.' "


That is not allegory, parable, symbol, nor vision, but plain, literal teaching.


That is in perfect accord with his other teaching where he says that the Ninevites that were converted in the time of Jonah should rise up in the judgment with this generation. Here were converted and unconverted people rising up in the judgment together. That is exactly as he states it in the next paragraph, when he says, "The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation and shall condemn it." It is in exact accord with the literal part of Revelation, commencing at 20:11, where the white throne appears, and him that sat thereon, and where all the dead, great and small, are brought before him for judgment, and the books are opened. Those that are found written in the Lamb's Book of Life are saved, and those not found written in that book are cast into the lake of fire.


I emphasize the teaching of many plain, literal passages – that when Jesus comes the whole world will stand before him, all the angels good and bad, and judgment will be rendered to all angels and all men at the same time.


The evil angels have already received their punishment for leaving their first estate, but there is new matter for judgment in the treatment which they gave to the cause of Christ and his people. If the good angels have been ministering spirits to them that are the heirs of salvation, they will be so confirmed that it will never be possible for another angel to fall, and if the evil angels have hindered the cause of Christ they will be cast into the eternal hell prepared for them.


The judgment rendered upon good and bad is an eternal judgment. Listen at this language "Who shall suffer punishment, even eternal destruction from the face of the Lord and from the glory of his might."


When the saints are glorified, when their souls and bodies are reunited, there will never be any possibility for one of them to incur a future judgment, because it will be impossible for them in their new condition to sin.


Not only is the destiny eternal, but it is expressly called "punishment," and not "consequence" in the case of the wicked. There are some people whose sensibilities shrink from the thought of anyone's suffering eternal punishment. They certainly have not studied the Bible. Even here on this earth if a man become incorrigible in wickedness, we stop him by eternal laws so far as our power can go, from doing further harm. If he be not executed on the gallows, he is at least imprisoned for life. It is the love of God that inflicts that punishment and makes it eternal. See a parent awaking in the night and beholding a wolf about to seize the baby lying on the floor asleep. Do the mother and father fold their hands and say, "Oh, it is cruel to hurt anything! Go away, Mr. Wolf, I won't hurt you"? Or does the love of that parent prompt to strike fast, hit hard, and hit to kill?


When for thousands of years the wicked have been opposing God's people, ridiculing them, inflicting wrong after wrong, and when age after age God's people have prayed, "Come, Lord Jesus," and the souls of God's saints under the altar have cried out, "How long 0 Lord, holy and true, wilt thou not avenge us upon our adversaries?" there must come a time when God hears that prayer and puts it forever out of the power of the wicked to oppress his people.


There is always a tendency to fixedness of type. Man after a while becomes so wicked, waxing worse and worse, that his character crystallizes. That man hates light, and he would be in hell if he were in heaven. I am not right sure but heaven would be more painful to him than hell, because he would have no sympathy with anything there. He would have only hatred and antagonism toward it. Science unites with revelation in that fixity of type. Science tells us that the tendency toward fixedness of type will bring crystallization of character that cannot change and is without remedy.


Then take this thought: What is 'it that keeps men here on earth from becoming totally bad? It is the restraining presence of human law, the light of religion, the illustrious examples of the saints, the preaching of the word of God, and the Holy Spirit. Hundreds of thousands of loving fathers and mothers of Christian people are working for their salvation, but when Jesus comes, preaching stops, praying for the lost stops, and in the place to which they go, they may indeed pray, but not be heard; their tears may fall, but not in mercy's sight. There is no gospel preached to them. The Spirit dispensation is ended, and without the power of the Spirit they could not be converted, and thus the means of salvation are withdrawn. That alone would make their status eternal.


The eye of every Christian should be fixed on the second coming of the Lord in view of the judgment that will follow that coming, and his heart should turn to the fact that with that day everything that goes wrong in time will be righted. I do not suppose that there was ever a man on earth, good or bad, but who some time or other in his life has asked for a general judgment in the world to come. Every wicked man will tell about certain wrongs he has suffered, and these wrongs here have never been righted, and the consciousness of his wrongs has made him appeal to the final arbitrament of their cases and to a decision that will be both righteous and inexorable.


There is here a thought of marvelous beauty -to which I wish to call attention: "When he shall come to be glorified in his saints and to be marvelled at in all them that believed." The thought is that the power of any man and the benevolence of his intelligence are estimated by the greatest product of his mind and hand.


Sir Christopher Wren is glorified in Westminster Abbey, which was the greatest work of his genius, and as one steps into the abbey he passed under a sentence which reads, "Whoever wishes to see the monument of the architect, let him look around."


The illustration helps us to see what will be the character of the glory of Jesus Christ in his people. When he saw them they were utterly lost, their nature depraved, under condemnation, without a friend, sinking down beneath the righteous frown of God. He came to save them, some of them drunkards, some of them whore-mongers, some robbers, some murderers, and commencing the good work in them by regeneration, and continuing it by sanctification, until their spirits were perfected, and consummating it by the resurrection and glorification of their bodies so that these that had been drunkards, liars, thieves, murderers, adulterers, stand there on that day in his own glorious image. Who did this? What mighty architect? It was Jesus. Jesus will be glorified in his people just as the sculptor will be glorified in the statue that comes from the skill of his hands and the thought of his mind. The sculptor looks on a piece of rough, unhewn marble, that a thousand people can see nothing in but marble, but with his eye of genius he sees in it the angel that can be carved from it. He begins to chip and chisel until, at last, form and outline appear. The rough outline assumes symmetry; the face takes on 'expression, the eyes seem to glow with fire, and as the finishing touch is put upon the statue, we marvel at the artist in his work. In that way Christ will be glorified in his people. This is the last thought in chapter 1.

 

QUESTIONS

 

1. What the occasion of the second letter to the Thessalonians, when and where written?

 

2. What the analysis of the letter, seriatim?

 

3. What new ground for thanksgiving?

 

4. What advance in the discussion of the second advent here?

 

5. How does the patient endurance of the Thessalonians under persecution become a token of future and final judgment of God?

 

6. What does Paul teach in this letter as to the effect of Christ's coming on the wicked and the righteous?

 

7. What the teaching of our Lord on the same point?

 

8. What the teaching of Revelation on this same point?

 

9. What new matter for judgment relative to the angels?

 

10. What the nature of the judgment discussed here, and the proof?

 

11. What is the nature of the destiny of the wicked as revealed in this letter?

 

12. What the relation between God's love and the punishment of the wicked? Illustrate.

 

13. What tendency of human nature here pointed out? Illustrate.

 

14. What keeps men here on earth from becoming totally bad?

 

15. Why should the Christian have his eye fixed on the second coming of our Lord?

 

16. How will Christ at his second coming be glorified in his saints? Illustrate.

 

 

XI

 

(Return to Contents)

 

THE SECOND COMING OF CHRIST AND THE MAN OF SIN

2 Thessalonians 2:1-12.

 


In the beginning of chapter 2 Paul says that the second coming of Christ is not only not at hand, but it is not even imminent: "Now we beseech you, brethren, touching the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together unto him; to the end that ye be not quickly shaken from your mind, not yet be troubled, either by spirit, or by word, or by epistle as from us, as that the day of the Lord is just at hand; let no man beguile you in any wise; for it will not be," and then he goes on to tell what must precede it.


Upon that point I wish to speak very plainly. The second advent of our Lord Jesus Christ is the doctrine of the Christian's future, and a wrong belief about a doctrine cannot escape damage. There were good people when the promise was made about the first coming of Christ that expected it in their day. Eve thought that the Seed of the woman had come in the birth of Cain. Poor woman, how badly she was deceived! How far off it was till the coming of the Lord! Prophets and kings longed to see the day, and men lived and generations passed away, and governments underwent revolutions, and ages and ages rolled on, and not till the fulness of time, the time appointed, the very day set aside by Almighty God, did Jesus Christ come the first time. Every predicted antecedent event had to precede it. So everything unrolled before the eye of the prophet touching any nation, any person, any church, any apostasy, any great religious movement, must come before Jesus can come the second time. Jesus said just before he went away that he would send the Holy Spirit, and they must wait until the Holy Spirit came. Was it possible for him to come before that descent of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost? Jesus said to Peter, "You shall die on the cross." Could Peter then expect to see the coming of the Lord in his time? In the very letter where he is discussing the second coming of Christ, Peter says, "The Lord has shown me how I must put off this mortal body, and I think it is right as long as I am in it to stir your minds up to a remembrance of the teachings concerning the second coming of Jesus Christ." Then he goes on to tell the long series. of events that must come first. Precisely in that way did Jesus, as recorded in Matthew 24, when the disciples crowded around and said, "Lord, what is the sign of thy coming and of the end of the world?" And Paul does just like Christ. Jesus says, "Let no man deceive you. There will come a great many false christs. There will be wars and rumors of wars. There will be earthquakes and fearful signs in the heavens. But this is only the beginning of things. The end is not yet." How careful he was to show them that they must not every morning, when they got up, look out of the window to see if Jesus had come. John fills the whole book of Revelation with a series of mighty events covering hundreds and even thousands of years that must take place before the coming of Jesus, and it does not make a particle of difference to us about our dying before he comes. One dying is better for it. His soul gets to heaven quicker and his body gets to rest quicker.


Paul points out two stupendous events that must precede: "Except the falling away," or apostasy, comes first. Here was a marvelous turning away from sound principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ by professed Christians. That must take place first, and he says that the mystery of that thing was already at work; that is, there were men in his time that were beginning to deny certain fundamental doctrines of the gospel.


My own opinion is that this apostasy began to take definite form in the second and third centuries, and later ripened into the papacy and culminated in the Pope in 1870. So we ourselves have a view of the apostasy, already prolonged more than 1,000 years, and we are not to the end of it yet. We see the simplicity of the gospel changed, the engrafting of that simple gospel all of the types and shadows of the Old Testament, and mixing them with many heathen legends and customs, the union of church and state, the power organization called the scarlet woman seated upon the beast of seven heads, making herself drunk with the blood of the saints that she had slain. Nor has that apostasy yet reached its full fruition. How can it be possible for Jesus to come before that time? He has just said of that time, "the season and the hour are hidden from you."


But another marvelous event must precede our Lord's final advent – the revelation of the man of sin: "Let no man beguile you in any wise: for it will not be, except the falling away comes first, and the man of sin will be revealed, the son of perdition, he that opposeth and exalteth himself against all that is called God or that is worshipped; so that he sitteth in the temple of God, setting himself forth as God. Remember ye not, that when I was yet with you, I told you these things? And now ye know that which restraineth, to the end that he may be revealed in his own season. For the mystery of lawlessness doth already work: only there is one that restraineth now, until he be taken out of the way. And then shall be revealed the lawless one, whom the Lord Jesus shall slay with the breath of his mouth, and bring to nought by the manifestation of his coming." If I had proof that the man of sin was living I would know that Christ would come in the lifetime of that man, because it is expressly declared that Jesus shall, at his coming, slay the man of sin.


This is one of the most mysterious passages in the Word of God, and on its interpretation, much as I have studied it, I will not assume to be dogmatic. I concede to anybody the privilege of differing with me about its meaning. Indeed, only the fulfilment itself when it comes can make plain and verify the true interpretation. The apostle is explaining why they should not expect the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ any time soon, and he assigns as the first reason that there must first come a great apostasy. That apostasy I have already discussed, but let us have the passage before us: "Now we beseech you, brethren, touching the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together unto him; to the end that ye be not quickly shaken from your mind, nor yet be troubled, either by spirit, or by word, or by epistle as from us, as that the day of the Lord 'is just at hand; let no man beguile you in any wise: for it will not be, except the falling away come first, and the man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition, he that opposeth and exalteth himself against all that is called God or that is worshipped; so that he sitteth in the temple of God, setting himself forth as God. Remember ye not, that when I was yet with you, I told you these things? And now ye know that which restraineth, to the end that he may be revealed in his own season. For the mystery of lawlessness doth already work: Only there is one that restraineth now, until he be taken out of the way. And then shall be revealed the lawless one, whom the Lord Jesus shall slay with the breath of his mouth, and bring to nought by the manifestation of his coming; even he, whose coming is according to the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceit of unrighteousness for them that perish; because they receive not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God sendeth them a working of error, that they should believe a lie: that they all might be judged who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness."


That is utterly unlike any other paragraph in the Bible. In the Old Testament there are some prophecies that are questionably construed to refer to the same thing, particularly Daniel 11:45, but in Revelation one passage at least connects in meaning with it, though it is symbolical language. But this passage here is literal, plain, straight-out prophecy. From the time these words were written by Paul until this hour this paragraph has perhaps excited more attention, called forth more discussion and developed a more voluminous literature than any other part of the Word of God. Indeed, every century has developed a special literature upon the subject, and many commentators devote a special excursus to it.


In the whole period of the Reformation it excited much attention, and by Protestants generally was construed to refer to the Romanish Church and the papacy, but it is not possible, considering the context, to refer both 2 Thessalonians 2:4 and Revelation 13:1-8 to the same person or institution. The importance of the subject is indicated by the persistent interest it has awakened and the controversies it has excited. One crucial fact differentiates this man of sin from all other antichrists: He will be alive when Jesus comes, and will be destroyed by the brightness of the Lord at his final advent. Another thing is certain – Jesus cannot come before that man of sin. In order to approach this subject properly, we need to consider other parts of the scripture leading up to it, which must be studied in connection with it, particularly Daniel, Matthew 24, and Revelation 13-20.


It is characteristic of prophecy to make a primary reference to an event forecast a more distant and important future event, and that event forecast a greater one beyond, just as the foothills between a spectator and a mountain peak are merged into one view with the peak, and a still higher peak beyond blends with the same view as if all three constituted one peak. But as the spectator draws nearer, the widely separated parts differentiate, and each elevation is isolated from the one beyond. So is the perspective of prophecy. A prophecy may commence with Solomon and then pass on to David's greater Son, our Lord himself.


In the prophetic scriptures appear four great antichrists with characteristics so similar that they have been hopelessly confused by most interpreters. The person so forecast is never the same in any two instances, but each foreshadows his successor. Certain characteristics belong to all, which blend the view as if all were one. But as the first becomes historical, we see there is a greater one beyond, and so on through the series. Two of these persons have already become historical, and two are yet to come, the climax being the last, which is Paul's man of sin. Anticipating the argument, I name the four in order:


1. Antiochus Epiphanes (Dan. 8:9-12), the little horn of the Greek Empire.


2. The papacy (Dan. 7:8, 23-25), the little horn of the divided and changed Roman Empire. In Revelation he is the beast that looked like a lamb, but had a voice like a dragon (Rev. 13:11), who was developed out of the heathen Roman Empire after it, and who, by union of church and state, became "The Holy Roman Empire" (Rev. 13:1-10).


3. The secular ruler who seeks to destroy the Jews after their restoration to the Holy Land (Dan. 11:34-45; Zech. 14: 1-11; Rev. 19:11-21; Isa. 63:1-6). This conversion puts the Jews in the lead as an evangelizing force, and ushers in the millennium (Isa. 66:7-24; Zech. 14:16-21; Rev. 20:1-6).


4. Paul's man of sin, the last device of Satan after the millennium (2 Thess. 2:3-12; Rev. 20:7-10). His destruction is brought about by our Lord's final advent, to wind up the affairs of time (2 Thess. 2:8; Matt. 24:29-31; 25:31-46; Rev. 20:11-15).


Something of the details of the argument is this:


1. All the subsequent visions of Daniel are based on Nebuchadnezzar's dream of the great, luminous image whose head was gold, whose chest and arms were silver, whose body and thighs were brass, and whose lower limbs were iron, which was destroyed by the little stone cut out of the mountain without hands (Dan. 2:31-35), and which was interpreted to mean five great world empires in succession, namely: the Babylonian, the Medo-Persian, the Greek, the Roman, and the kingdom of God.


2. The vision of the great tree in Daniel 4 gives a development of the head of gold under a new imagery.


3. The vision of the four beasts in Daniel 7 present under a different imagery the same four secular world empires with elaborations concerning the fourth not before given, and passes on to present the ascension and exaltation of one like a Son of man, who is the King of the fifth world empire, and receives an everlasting dominion. This elaborates the little stone kingdom of Daniel 2.


4. The vision of chapter 8 presents under different images the details of the Medo-Persian Empire, and the Greek Empire after its division into four kingdoms.


5. The revelation in Daniel 9:24-27 dates the first advent of the King of the fifth world empire, his life and vicarious death, as Daniel 7 shows his exaltation and enthronement after his resurrection.


6. The vision in Daniel 10 is the same King in the glory of his royal priesthood as John saw him on Patmos (Rev. 1:13-18).


7. Daniel 11:1-33 describes the conflict between the Syrian and Egyptian divisions of the Greek Empire, with a distinct climax and pause at verse 33, while from verse 34 to the end of the chapter is a transition to the third antichrist – a vile person who worshiped only the god of forces. It is this person who embodies the atheism of modern evolution, a spirit already gaining strength in the world, and which is utterly godless. His reign is characterized by an absence of all reverence, and is dominated by a radical spirit of commercialism, materialism, and of mechanical and natural forces. He it is that seeks to blot out the Jewish people, and is destroyed by mighty displays of that supernatural power the very idea of whose existence he had scorned. It may not be a long time before he materializes. The trend of modern events forecasts his speedy coming. The coming of the Lord which destroys him is not a personal coming, but a coming in marvelous judgments, as at the destruction of Jerusalem. With him atheism, materialism, and godless commercialism forever die.


8. In Daniel 12:1-3 there is either a transition to the final and personal advent of the Lord, with a literal resurrection, or as is more probable, the paragraph is the climax of the preceding event with its figurative resurrections, as in Ezekiel 37 and in Revelation 20:1-6. In the latter and more probable sense, Daniel sees only the ultimate glory of the Jewish people in millennial days, and has no vision of Paul's man of sin.


The similar characteristics of the four antichrists appear by comparing what is said of each. Of Antiochus Epiphanes, the little horn of the third, or Grecian Empire, it is said: "And out of one of them came forth a little horn, which waxed exceeding great, toward the south, and toward the east, and toward the glorious land. And it waxed great, even to the host of heaven; and some of the host and of the stars it cast down to the ground, and trampled upon them. Yea) it magnified itself, even to the prince of the host; and it took away from him the continual burnt offering, and the place of his sanctuary was cast down. And the host was given over to it together with the continual burnt offering through transgression; and it cast down truth to the ground, and it did its pleasure and prospered" (Dan. 8:9-12). Of the papacy, or little horn of the fourth, or Roman Empire, it is said, "And he shall speak words against the most high, and shall wear out the saints of the most high; and he shall think to change the times and the law; and they shall be given unto his hand until a time and times and half a time" (Dan. 7:25). "And there was given to him authority to continue forty and two months. And he opened his mouth for blasphemies against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, even them that dwell in heaven. And it was given him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them; and there was given to him authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation. And all that dwell on the earth shall worship him, every one whose name hath not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb that hath been slain" (Rev. 13:5-8).


Of the atheistic, secular ruler who seeks to destroy the Jews, it is said, "And the king shall do according to his will; and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvelous things against the God of gods; and he shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished; for that which is determined shall be done. Neither shall he regard the gods of his fathers, nor the desire of women, nor regard any god; for he shall magnify himself above all. But in his place shall he honor the god of fortresses; and a god whom his fathers knew not shall he honor with gold, and silver, and with precious stones and pleasant things. And he shall deal with strongest fortresses with the help of a foreign god; whosoever acknowledgeth him he will increase with glory; and he shall cause them to rule over many, and shall divide the land for a price" (Dan. 11:36-39). Of Paul's man of sin it is said, "He that opposeth and exalteth himself against all that is called God or that is worshipped; so that he sitteth in the temple of God, setting himself forth as God" (2 Thess. 2:4). We see thus how in the perspective of prophecy, before any one of them became historical, all may so blend into one view as to appear to be one, each so strikingly forecasting his more towering successor. The similarity of characteristics arises from a common origin. They have one father, the devil, who, while possessing a few original 'ideas, is a past master in variety of labels and costumes.


Passing now from the consideration of all preceding antichrists, let us analyze what is taught concerning Paul's man of sin:


1. He is a person, and not a principle, nor an institution.


2. He will be alive at the final coming of the Lord. This one crucial fact differentiates him from all other antichrists, and makes it impossible to find him in history.


3. And since he is Satan's last agent, making the last play of evil for the destruction of God's kingdom, as is evident from his being alive and at work when the Lord comes, he cannot be located in any period before the millennium.


4. This is further evident from the restraint put upon Satan, in trying to bring him to the front, until God's appointed season. It is idle to talk of the heathen Rome resurrection, since that power passed away more than a thousand years ago, and the man of sin has not yet appeared. God himself, directly or indirectly, is restrainer. And we recognize the restraint as we see Satan bound for a thousand years in order to introduce the millennium. He has successfully deceived the nations in bringing out and giving power to the first and second antichrists, and will again deceive them, and that soon, in bringing out and empowering the third and atheistic antichrist. But the prophecy says, "And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, the old serpent, which is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and cast him into the abyss, and shut it, and sealed it over him, that he should deceive the nations no more, until the thousand years should be finished; after this he must be loosed a little time" (Rev. 20:1-3).


In that long period the saints are on top, and the kingdoms of the world have become the kingdom of our Lord. The knowledge of the Lord will overspread the world as the waters cover the deep. Satan bound cannot deceive the nation nor palm off his impostures. And even when he is loosed from that restraint, it is only for a little season. Here, and here only, in this little season after the millennium, can appear the man of sin, who will be alive when the Lord comes, and be destroyed by the brightness of his appearing.


5. Paul says, "the coming of this son of perdition, this lawless one, is according to the workings of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceit of unrighteousness for them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God sendeth them a working of error, that they should believe a lie: that they all might be judged who believe not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness." Evidently this is Satan's masterpiece of imposture, and by far the most highly accredited. Here we behold the depths of Satan.


6. But what most strikingly impresses the mind is not Satan's originality of device, but his imitative power. This is more evident in the original Greek text than in any translation. But it is evident even in the translation:


(1) As Christ's kingdom has a mystery of godliness, so Satan's kingdom has a mystery of lawlessness.


(2) As Christ's kingdom has an energy of the Holy Spirit, so Satan's has an energy of his malignant spirit.


(3) As Christ's kingdom was accredited by signs, wonders, powers and works, so Satan's' is accredited by all these.


(4) As Christ's kingdom is received by faith, so Satan's requires belief: the first, however, is the belief of the truth, while the second is the belief of a lie.


(5) As Christ's kingdom has a pleasure in holiness (Greek – eudokia), so Satan's subjects find a pleasure 'in unrighteousness.


(6) As the King of the divine kingdom is a human person, so here in the prophecy Satan's kingdom enthrones a human viceregent.


7) As the Messiah of God's kingdom had a first coming (elthe) and will have a manifestation (parousia) or second coming, so both terms are applied to the person of Satan's man of sin. These terms lead up to the most startling characteristic of Paul's man of sin.


(8) As Christ's first coming (elthe) was an incarnation in human nature by the Holy Spirit, so this man of sin will be an incarnation by Satan. He will be the devil incarnate.


(9) And as Christ will appear in glory at his final advent {parousia), so this devil incarnate will seek to anticipate Christ's parousia by a counterfeit manifestation. In other words, he will claim to be the long-expected Messiah. No other wile or depth of Satan equals this. The millennium world will have reached the final advent, and will have prayed, "Come, Lord Jesus," and will be expecting the advent of the Judge.


Recognizing this expectation as good ground for the sowing of evil seed, and himself dreading that final advent, Satan introduces his man of sin as the long-expected Messiah, and accredits him with all manner of signs, wonders, and works. It will be as if he said, "Hear, you expectant world! Your Messiah has come! 0 Church or temple of God, receive your Lord! 0 bride, long waiting, behold the bridegroom!" Through his miracles he will deceive all but the elect, and he will lead his dupes to a final assault on the true churches which refuse to accept him. It is then that the sign of the real Christ appears in the heavens, namely, the great white throne of judgment. It is then that our Lord himself appears in glory, and all the holy angels with him. Then is fulfilled: "And when the thousand years are finished, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, and shall come forth to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, God and Magog, to gather them together to the war: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. And they went up over the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down out of heaven, and devoured them. And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where are also the beast and the false prophet; and they shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever" (Rev. 20:7-10).


There are just two more thoughts in connection with the man of sin which I will discuss briefly. In the account of the man of sin we have these two expressions in chapter 2: "And now ye know that which restraineth, to the end that he may be revealed in his own season," and, "Only there is one that restraineth now, until he [the restrainer] be taken out of the way." In other words, the man of sin cannot come until the one who has been restraining him is taken away. Now, what or who 'is it that restrains him?


I frankly confess that I do not know satisfactorily to myself. But I can tell you what commentators, wiser than myself, have said from the days of Paul to the present time. They say that the restraining power which kept down the mystery of lawlessness, and the consequent development of the man of lawlessness, or sin was the Roman power. The imperial government of Rome stood for order, and it ruled the world with an iron hand, and anywhere in the word that anything like disintegration or sedition or tumult or lawlessness in any form appeared, there is where the Roman thunderbolt struck. That is the general opinion of commentators. We do know that after this Roman power was removed, the Roman Empire collapsed. You will find a history of it in Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, and as that great central power went down, everywhere in the world men sprang up, prompted by a spirit of lawlessness, and there was no such reign of disorder in the history of the world aa came after the downfall of the Roman Empire.


That is what the most intelligent commentators say, but it is not satisfactory to me, because that restraint has been taken away for many hundred years and the man of sin has not yet appeared. It seems more reasonable that God himself, either directly or through intermediary agents, is the restraining power, and will keep on restraining until the appointed time. While that does not thoroughly satisfy me, it does satisfy me so much better than the one that the commentators give that I cannot accept theirs. The impression is that the one inspired of lawlessness would appear in a moment but for a pressure – a restraining power – and when that is taken away, then the man of sin will appear.


While I am on my opinion (and I give it as an opinion, but as a reasonable one), it is evident that in the millennial period the restraining power will be put on the devil. He will be bound for a thousand years, and there will be a great tide of revivalism, such as the world never heard of, for a thousand years. So long as that chain is on Satan he cannot develop his man of sin; but the account in Revelation says that after the thousand years is ended, Satan will be loosed, so there the restraining power is taken off) and then appears the last master stroke of the devil. I am standing on that interpretation.


The other thought is this: "For this cause God sendeth them a working of error, that they should believe a lie." The men who turn away from God are sure to believe something worse than that from which they turn away, and they have not the liberty of choosing the delusion of error into which they fall, and the devil cannot choose it for them. God chooses it. He permits the devil to work it off on them, but the devil himself cannot arbitrarily select the kind of foolishness with which to fool the people that are to be lost.

 

QUESTIONS

 

1. According to this letter, is the second coming of Christ imminent?

 

2. Prove this from the analogy of his first coming.

 

3. What did Jesus Bay would come before his second coming?

 

4. What two great events, according to 2 Thessalonians, must precede the second advent of our Lord?

 

5. What the great apostasy?

 

6.What crucial fact differentiates the man of sin from all other antichrists?

 

7. What is characteristic of prophecy relative to a great future event? Illus.

 

8. Following this line of thought, who the four antichrists, and what the time of the appearance of each?

 

9. What in outline are the details of the argument?

 

10. Cite the Daniel passage referring to the first antichrist, and show in order of time how he is distinguished from the other antichrists.

 

11. Quote the passage from Daniel which gives him the typical characteristics of Paul's man of sin.

 

12. Cite the passage from Daniel that foreshadows the second anti-christ.

 

13. How, in order of time, is he distinguished from the first?

 

14. Quote the passage from Daniel giving him also the typical characteristics of Paul's man of sin.

 

15. Identify in Revelation Daniel's second antichrist.

 

16. What the passage from Daniel for the third antichrist, and what other scriptures touching him?

 

17. What his characteristic in the reference in Daniel?

 

18. What spirit of modern times does he embody, and what forever dies with him?

 

19. On what mission is he engaged when destruction over-takes him?

 

20. What glorious events follow, and what scriptures refer to each them?

 

21. What the nature of the coming of the Lord which defeats him, and just where is this great battle to be fought?

 

22. What six facts of revelation concerning Paul's man of sin, or the fourth antichrist?

 

23. Just where in the book of Revelation must Paul's man of sin come in?

 

24. In what is the wonderful imitative power of Paul's man of sin evident, even in the translation?

 

25. What furnishes a good ground for Satan's deception in this, his last effort to defeat our Lord Jesus Christ?

 

26. What stupendous events immediately follow, and what scripture will then be fulfilled?

 

27. How do commentators interpret the "restraining power" (2 Thess. 2:6-7) that keeps back the revelation of the man of sin?

 

28. Why is this explanation inadequate?

 

29. Supply a better interpretation, and give scriptural proof.

 

30. What the interpretation of "God sendeth them a working of error," etc.?

 

 

XII

 

(Return to Contents)

 

THE PLAN OF SALVATION – SOME LESSONS ON DISCIPLINE

2 Thessalonians 2:13 to 3:18.

 


We shall close this second letter to the Thessalonians by presenting four thoughts that follow a consideration of the man of sin.


1. Paul's plan of salvation. It is expressed in these words (2:13-14): "But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, for that God chose you from the beginning unto salvation in sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: whereunto he called you through our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ."


Once I was talking to a distinguished theologian who has had much to do with the teaching of the Word of God to collegiates, and I asked him how he developed the analytical power in his students, and then I read this well-ordered plan of salvation. Let us reduce it to its constituent elements. Confining ourselves to what is here, let us see-what God's plan is:


(1) "God chose you." What then is the first element of the plan? Election.


(2) "From the beginning." When did he choose you? In eternity.


(3) Unto what did he choose you? Salvation.


(4) What the means? "Through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth," i.e., that through which we get to salvation is faith in the gospel and the renovating power of the Holy Spirit.


(5) "Whereunto," that is, unto these things that have just been said, "He calls you." There is the calling of God.


(6) How did he call you? "Through the gospel." Away back yonder in eternity, God chose a man, and we do not know anything about it. Down here in time God calls the man that he chose. How does he do it? Someday that man hears a gospel sermon preached, and the Holy Spirit reaches his heart just as if a voice said to him, "Come to me! Come to me now!" That is his call.


(7) What is the object of the calling? "To the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ." Christ was glorified when he was raised from the dead and exalted to his place at the right hand of God in heaven. When he calls us, he calls us unto that glory; that where Jesus is, we may be; that what Jesus is we shall be; that the power that Jesus exercises we shall exercise; that what Jesus inherits, we shall inherit. That is the plan of salvation in these two verses – election from eternity, unto salvation, in sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth, called in him through the gospel and the work of the Spirit unto the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.


2. The prayer that Paul asked those people to offer for him. We get so accustomed to saying, "pray for me," that we do not mean it, and the people who say, "yes, I will," do not mean it. Paul never asked that unmeaningly, and he always knew exactly what he wanted them to pray for in his behalf. He put great stress upon the prayers of God's people for the preachers. Now, we in our greatness may not need such things, but the little apostle was bound to have it. He felt that he could not get along unless God's people lovingly and earnestly prayed for him.


The preacher goes out in his self-sufficiency, thinking that he has the world in a sling, and that he can do like Brother J. B. Jeter and Jesse Witt, who were employed by Virginia as missionaries. Riding along two and two, they came to an old log church and saw a great many horses hitched. Concluding that there was a religious service, they went in and heard the sermon. The first thing people say on leaving a church is, "What do you think of that sermon?" So as these two preachers stepped out, Jeter says to Witt, "What do you think of that sermon?" Witt modestly said, "Well, Brother Jeter, I am not much, but I do believe, that by the help of the Lord, I could beat that sermon myself." Jeter responded, "I could beat it, Lord or no Lord." When the young preacher or Christian goes out into his work with perfect confidence that he can do a thing, "Lord or no Lord," whether the brethren sympathize with him and pray for him or not, he makes a mistake.


In the days of my pastorate there were two or three people, particularly two old ladies, that when I felt very much depressed and my mind was dark, and I could not determine just what to preach about nor how to say it, and Saturday night had come, I would step over to see one or the other of these old ladies and state my case, and I would say, "Now, you pray for me." The solemnity with which either one of them would listen to what I said, the tenderness with which they would talk to me, and the suggestions they would make would be such that when I would leave that house I would have a sermon, and I would know how to preach.


Here is what Paul asked for, "Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may run and be glorified, even as also it is with you." That preaching at Thessalonica was the most successful preaching Paul ever did, and he always wanted to do as well somewhere else; that the word might have free course. Compare that prayer with one like this: "Lord, I have to preach next Sunday before a crowd of critical people; I need a new spotted cravat; I would like to have a mince pie for dinner, and I would like to know where I am to get my winter suit." Notice what he asked for. This is the thing on Paul's mind – not eating, clothing, worldly honor, or money, but that the word of the Lord that he preached might have free course and be glorified. In other words, "Just let me do as well as I did at Thessalonica." Sometimes a failure does more good than a success.


I knew an old Baptist preacher – one of our early missionaries here in Texas. Sometimes he would get upon a mountaintop, and at other times he would be "snowed." I have sympathized with him in the midst of a great revival meeting when he realized what a miserable failure he had made. Once he said, "Brethren, my mind is dark tonight; I am not using this great occasion for the Lord; pray for me." There was a wave of sympathy produced by the modesty and humility of the man that would so tenderly and so pathetically confess his failure. There were more conversions that night than any other night in the meeting.


The next thing that Paul prayed is that he might be delivered from unreasonable men. The greatest thorn that a preacher can confront is an unreasonable man, or woman. Just one obstinate, fussy man in a community can block the way of angels. He 'is the toughest proposition that ever the aspiring mind of man attempted to dispose of. Paul knew all about it, and he wanted to be delivered from that class of men. Then from unreasonableness there was wickedness. One sinner can do much evil. One man can go around the outskirts of a meeting and whisper and slander and sneer and suggest, and almost break up the meeting. He says, "For all have not faith."


J. M. Pendleton made that his favorite text, and what a sermon he could preach from it! When he got to be an old man he visited his daughter, Mrs. Waggoner, wife of the president of the State University. I had read different sermons of his on that text. But I paid his expenses and gave him $20 to come to Waco and preach a new sermon on the same text. It was a great sermon – one that I shall never forget.


I have seen brethren get down in a meeting and pray that the meeting would not close until every man, woman, and child in the community had been converted. That does not happen, "for all people have not faith," and if we stopped at a place until we led everybody in that place to Christ before we go anywhere else, we would never move.


3. A case of discipline: 2 Thessalonians 3:6: "Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which they received of us." That is just as positive and binding as if Jesus Christ in person had commanded it. "If a member of any church will not walk in the gospel which has been preached by the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven, and has a fixed standard of his own, and won't make the gospel the rule of his life, and stubbornly goes against it, then we command you brethren in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to withdraw from that man."


One of the greatest evils in the world today is the lack of scriptural discipline in the churches.


A great many country churches have a great deal of discipline; much of it is very injudicious and unscriptural. A great many city churches have no discipline at all; they just let things wag along. They would not take up a case of drunkenness, of audacious murder, of awful fraud, though the whole cause of Jesus Christ be suffering from the lack of scriptural discipline, and if I had to mention today wherein the ministry is most deficient, I would instantly put my finger upon discipline. First, they do not know what it is. Second, they do not know how to manage it. Third, when they find out they are afraid of it.


Let us look into this case of discipline: Paul appeals first to his teaching, next to his example: "You know my example; I never walked disorderly. I was guilty of no deceit, covetousness, or uncleanness. Boldly, justly, unblamably I lived among you when I was preaching to you. There you have my teaching and my example. Now, you have my commands."


Let us see at what particular point this disorder came in. We want to know exactly the nature of the offense. First, some of them would not work; they were lazy deadbeats, hanging around, living off the brethren. That is an awful sin. Paul saw that unless he could impress upon these people, the dignity of honest labor – no matter what kind of labor, whether honest work with a wheelbarrow, cutting wood, plowing, spinning, weaving, cooking, washing, it is honorable, and that there is a dignity and majesty about labor – then religion would lose the respect of the honest and industrious. Second, they were busybodies. Of course, an idle man is bound to have some business; a man that has no work to do is bound to be working at something, and if he is idle, then he will move around and do a great deal of talking. He will be busy about somebody else's business.


Paul knew some women of that kind, as we find in a subsequent letter. He tells Timothy that they were tattlers and gadabouts. When once the tongues get to wagging and buzzing and humming in a community, then the archangel and a legion of his angels could not pick up the evil impressions as fast as they can sow them. They had idle people at Thessalonica. Most of these people were poor, hardworking people, and here was a lot of fellows that would put their hands in their vest pockets (if they had any vest) and talk about the glories of the coming of Christ, and they were filling their souls with the anticipation of Christ coming down, and they did not want such a thing as working for a day's victuals to come between them and their joyful reflections.


John Wesley was once asked: "Mr. Wesley, if you knew that Jesus Christ was coming tomorrow night, what would you do?" He said, "I would go right along filling my appointments for tomorrow up to the time. When he comes I would like for him to find me working just that way." These men thought it a mark of superior Christianity that they should so retire from all occupation as to contemplate in pious, sweet meditation the second coming of Christ. It is a glorious theme to meditate about, but never quit doing a duty to meditate about anything.


Let us look further into this case. He says, "Brethren, you remember when we were with you, this we commanded you, if any will not work, neither let him eat. For we hear of some that walk among you disorderly, that work not at all, but are busy bodies." Here is his command to the disorderly: "We command and exhort in Jesus Christ that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread." But if they wouldn't, here is the injunction to the church: "If any man obeyeth not our word by this epistle, note that man, that ye have no company with him, to the end that he may be ashamed."


I have never yet seen that kind of corrective discipline. He says if there is a man who is walking disorderly (and he mentions what he calls disorderly walking), don't let him partake of the Lord's Supper. As he says elsewhere, "with such a one, no, not to eat." That is not turning him out of the church. Let a man of that kind see good men not wishing for his company; not rudely, but quietly turning away from him; it makes an impression on him. He sees that he is shunned by those who discountenance his disorderly methods.


Look again at the discipline: Why should they not keep company with them? It is to bring him to be ashamed of himself. But we are not through with it yet: "Count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother." The idea in most of the country churches is, "I move that we turn him out." That leaves out a wide scope of corrective discipline, of laboring discipline, of faithful dealing with brethren.


4. Paul's authorship. In the last verse it is written: "The salutation of me, Paul, with mine own hand, which is the token in every epistle, so I write." That proves, first, what is elsewhere so frequently asserted, that Paul was not accustomed to writing his letters. He dictated them. He suffered from acute ophthalmia, or to put it in plainer English, sore eyes. And when he wrote he made great sprawling letters. He wrote only one of his letters with his own hand, and that was the letter to the Galatians, and he called their attention to it: "You see with what sprawling letters I have written to you." Inasmuch as his custom was to dictate his letters, when. he heard that the Thessalonians were reporting that they had seen a letter from Paul that said that Christ was coming right away, Paul says, "I wrote no such letter." And to guard against imposition upon the minds of his churches, coming from forged letters, as soon as he found out that a letter had been forged in his name, he adopted the expedient here of attesting his letters. "Now, hereafter you will know whether a letter is from me thus: 'The salutation of me, Paul, with mine own hand; so I write.' " In other words, "When a man says he has a letter from me, you look to see if it has my signature. If I dictate a letter my signature will be there to show that it is really a letter from me." That is the token of the Pauline epistles. And it is only in the letter to the Hebrews that he did not do it, and I will tell you why he did not follow his custom and append his name to that letter when we come to it.

 

QUESTIONS

 

1. On 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14, answer: (1) What the first constituent element of salvation? (2) When did God choose them? (3) Unto what did he choose them? (4) Through what? (5) How made effectual? (6) Through what did he call? (7) What the object of his calling?

 

2. What the meaning of "the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ"?

 

3. In 3:1-2 what two things does Paul ask the brethren in his behalf?

 

4. What may we infer as to our need of the prayers of our brethren, and the suitable objects of prayer?

 

5. What illustration of self-sufficiency given?

 

6. What the meaning of "all have not faith"?

 

7. What the case of discipline in 3:6, and what the greatest deficiency of the ministry today?

 

8. What three reasons assigned for this deficiency?

 

9. To what two things does Paul appeal in this case of discipline?

 

10. What the nature of the offense?

 

11. What was the general topic of discussion among -these people, and how does Wesley's program illustrate the contrary idea?

 

12. What remedy did Paul propose for the case?

 

13. What should be the attitude of the church toward one who if subject to corrective discipline?

 

14. What bearing has 3:14 on the extent of apostolic authority and the inspiration of the letter?

 

15. What the proof from this letter that Paul found it necessary to attest his letters with his own signature; why did he usually dictate his letters to an amanuensis, and which one of his letters was written altogether in his own handwriting?

 

 

1 CORINTHIANS

 

XIII

 

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INTRODUCTION TO 1 CORINTHIANS



The first group of Paul's letters is I and 2 Thessalonians, and the great theme of those letters is eschatology, or the doctrine of the last things, particularly the second coming of Christ. The next group is 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, and Romans – these great letters that brought immortality for their author from any standpoint, whether in literature, logic, or pathos. In argument and in power of persuasion they have no equal 'in the world's literature. This discussion will be a general introduction to the Corinthian literature.


Let us locate Corinth on the map of the Roman Empire, and state the advantages of its position. The reader will notice the little neck of land connecting the Peloponnesus, or lower Greece, with Macedonia and Thrace, or upper Greece, an isthmus between the two seas. The port on the east side was Cenchrea, where Phoebe was converted, and where a church was established. The city is on a rock over 200 feet above the sea level, and on a hill over 1,600 feet higher is the citadel, or Akro-Korinthos. In the study of history we find that straits and isthmuses are the world's strategic points. More exploring of them is done, more fighting for them, and attempts to hold mastery of them than for any other parts of the world. As the Isthmus of Suez, or Panama in modern times, so in the ancient world was the famous isthmus commanded by the city of Corinth.


The advantages of the position are evident. First, it commands the passage-way from Macedonia, Achaia, and Thrace into the Peloponneus, or lower Greece. It was dangerous navigation around the lower points of the Peloponnesus, hence, merchants would take their shins to this isthmus, where there was a way to drag the ships across to the other sea – a crude ship railroad. On a very crude scale great conquerors have imitated this transportation of ships by land. Cortes, when he conquered the City of Mexico, had his ships taken to pieces and transported over the high mountain ranges and launched in Lake Tezcuco, which was on the east side of the city. So, the position of Corinth made it a place of international importance.


Old classic Greek tells about Sparta and Athens – Athens the intellectual and political head, and Sparta the military head of the Greek world. Corinth contended neither in intellect with Athens nor in martial spirit with Sparta. It devoted 'itself to commerce, so that the Lacedaemonians rebuked them for worshiping the almighty dollar. When the Spartan power fell before Philip of Macedon, the father of Alexander the Great, these great cities – Athens and Sparta – decayed. Corinth came to the front, and was the chief city of Greece under Philip and Alexander, his son. It was a city of great importance until the Roman general captured and destroyed it. It lay desolate for over a hundred years. Julius Caesar, the first Roman emperor, then rebuilt it.


Rome conferred great privileges on it, by making it a free city. At the time of Christ it was one of the most important cities in the world. Here the Isthmian games constituted the glory of all the world, so that Corinth was "Vanity Fair." Corinth was Paris; Corinth was London. There was the temple of Aphrodite, or Venus, who was the chief goddess worshiped, and one thousand maidens were selected to be the debauched servants of that infamous temple. As a great writer has said, "With all of its intellectual culture, wealth, and luxury, Corinth rotted morally." No place on earth was more debauched. They worshiped their gods with the most shameful orgies of obscenity and vice. It was while Paul was there, knowing the degradation of the heathen countries, and particularly of their worship, that he wrote that terrible indictment contained in Romans I, where he describes the corruption of the heathen nations who had no knowledge of God.


The Jews, of course, came on account of its commercial advantages. About the time that Paul got there, there was an unusual number of Jews in Corinth, because the Roman emperor had just banished them from Rome. Aquila and Priscilla, that noted Christian man and wife, had just come from Rome under that decree, and were living in Corinth. The Greeks, of course, were there, and there were vast multitudes of Romans. There were more slaves than in any other place in proportion to the population. Many slaves were among Paul's converts.


The city was seemingly covered with gold. They had an artificial finish that they gave their buildings which in the light of the sun would make the whole building seem to be of gold. The Corinthian brass was of great commercial value. The style of architecture, called the Corinthian, is the most ornate of all the styles of architecture now in the world. So, for intellectual development, architectural skill, athletic skill, athletic culture, skill of navigation, great wealth and great luxury, this city was renowned. It is not very much of a place now.


The greatest celebrity of this city was the Akro-Korinthos – the citadel. One could stand on that citadel and see Athens across the sea. Another was the Isthmian games, then the worship of Aphrodite and her temple. Cicero called Corinth "the eye of Greece." Another Roman author called it the capital and the grace of Greece. A Roman proverb was, "It becomes every man to go to Corinth," just aa we say in modern times, "See Naples and die."


We gather the history of the establishment of the church in this city from Acts 18:1-18, the letters to the Corinthians, and then the letter to the Philippians. There are some expressions of value also in the letter to the Romans.


Let us now give a summary of the history of the establishment of that church. With the Acts before us, and Goodwin's Harmony of the Life of Paul, we will have no trouble. Briefly, Paul had visited Athens after he left Berea. That is the only time he tried to preach an eloquent sermon, and quote from heathen poets, and scatter a little star-dust over the crowd. It is the only place where he ever failed, and he never tried that any more. He was very sore over the result of his work in Athens, and so in about six hours' sail he passed from Athens to Corinth. He took a boat to Cenchrea, and walked the other ten miles. When he got there he moved among the Jews until he found Aquila and Priscilla, that remarkable Christian family that had a great deal to do with his subsequent history. He had no money. He was by himself, sick all the time, nearly blind, and worked day and night with them to make a living while he did his preaching.


He preached first in the synagogue there. His object, as in all other synagogues, was to show that the Jewish Messiah was to be a suffering Messiah, and that Jesus of Nazareth was that Messiah. As usual there were some converts among them, and particularly among the Jewish proselytes. Crispus, the leader of the synagogue, with all his house, was converted. The rest of the Jews blasphemed horribly, and opposed him, so that he drew a line of demarcation, as he did at Ephesus a little later. Hard by the synagogue was a man named Justus, a proselyte, who had been converted. Paul held his meetings at his house. Then he began to preach to the Gentiles. On. every side of him were slaves with human masters and slaves of long-continued drunkenness. A vast number of Paul's converts were drunkards) thieves, liars, and murderers. He tells them that when he writes to them. He determines not to try the Athenian method of preaching. He determined to go before them in fear and trembling, to rely only on and to glory in nothing but the cross of Christ, and to pray as he preached that their faith should stand in the power of God, and God most wonderfully accompanied with power the preaching of this man.


There were not only vast numbers converted, but great multitudes were baptized in the Spirit, receiving that Pentecostal baptism, the power to speak with tongues, to heal the sick, to raise the dead, to discern spirits. That house of Justus became very famous. There were marvelous displays of divine power there. Here was a man who had been an abject slave, speaking in unknown tongues. Here a cripple made whole in a moment, and himself having the power to heal others. Here was every display of spiritual Charismata. As he says in 1 Corinthians: "What is it then, brethren? When ye come together, each one hath a psalm, hath a teaching, hath a revelation, hath a tongue, hath an interpretation." There never was any church that received the miraculous gift of the Spirit more than this first church at Corinth.


The difficulties were very great. Timothy and Silas joined him, and even then one night Paul – the great Paul – got scared. He seemed to be so lonely, and there was that awful unconsecrated wealth, the fearful debauchery of their religious worship, the "Vanity Fair" of their Isthmian games – and Paul got scared. But that night his Lord came to him in a vision and said, "Be not afraid, but speak and hold not thy peace, for I am with thee and no man shall set on thee to harm thee, for I have much people in this city." All the fear left his heart and under the realization of the sense of the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ, he forgot everything human and earthly. His faith took hold of every divine promise. His hope soared up to heaven. His love radiated its light and heat like the sun. There seemed to him nothing impossible, and great multitudes were converted.


Oh, when we go out to preach in a corrupt city, a worldly minded city, given over to the acquisition of the almighty dollar, where the boys and girls are living lives of debauchery and shame, and we are there by ourselves, and begin to get scared, then we need only to have a meeting with the Lord Jesus Christ. That is the secret of power.


And whatever we do, when we go to a place like that, let us not try the oratorical method. But let us get low before God and hold up the cross. Then we ourselves won't be able to take in the fulness of the blessing God will send upon us. If we take hold of a great enterprise, if we have a spark of reason left in us, let us remember that if the work is of God, and it is right to do it – if it ought to be done, and we feel impressed that we are the ones to do it, and we want to win, we can win only by the realization that the Lord Jesus Christ is with us.


About this time the new Roman proconsul arrived. All provinces under the Roman senate were governed by a proconsul. This new man is known among the preachers as Gallic.


One of the first things I ever heard in a public service was a Baptist man praying, and he said, "Lord let us not be like Gallic, caring for none of these things." I heard that until I got the idea that Gallic was indifferent to religion. But he was one of the sweetest characters in Roman history, a brother of Seneca, and devoted to justice. When the Jews arrested Paul and preferred charges against him, and Paul got up to speak, Gallic stopped him: "You need not make a speech, Paul; I will quash this indictment. This does not come before a Roman court." He told his lictors to scatter the Jews out of the house. I wonder if Gallic ever thought that he missed hearing a message of eternal life when he dismissed the case without hearing Paul's defense. I wonder if he ever supposed that he and his brother, Seneca, and all men like him, great and mighty in the Roman world, would live in history simply because at one point their lives touched Paul's. After the Jews were driven away, the street rabble decided that they would lynch a few Jews, since the governor held them in such contempt. They beat Sosthenes, and it was this treatment of the Jews about which Gallic cared nothing.


Paul stayed there a year and a half, preaching in all the regions round about. He established churches, not only at Corinth but in other places. When he made a visit, on his third tour, to Ephesus, he came back to Corinth for a little while, but we have no history of it except a vague allusion in one of his letters. Then, he wrote a letter to the Corinthians that is lost, for he himself says, "I wrote unto you not to keep company with fornicators." Not everything that Moses, Paul or any other Bible writer wrote did the Holy Spirit think necessary to preserve.


Paul began to hear some strange reports about Corinth. He had been at Ephesus for a year or two. At last a delegation of the people that he had baptized came to bring him a letter from the church at Corinth, inviting him to come over, paying a good deal of adulation to themselves, and asking certain questions which he answers in his first letter. There had come some Jews from Palestine and raised the old issue against Paul that he was not an apostle, that he had never seen the Lord, that he did not even claim the support of an apostle, but worked for a living, but that Peter was the man to follow. After Paul left Corinth, Apollos, a great Alexandrian rhetorician, a greater orator than Paul, came there, and they were much taken with him. They began to say, "I am for Peter, or for Apollos, or for Christ, or for Paul." They began to misuse those gifts in a way to bring confusion. Their meetings were disorderly; their women became unseemly. When they celebrated the Lord's Supper they made a regular meal of it, and became drunk. A certain man in the Corinthian church had taken his father's wife, and the church stood up for him. Paul's heart was almost broken. He sent Titus with this letter.


Here is a bibliography of Paul for this period:


1. Conybeare and Howson's Life and Epistles of Paul.


2. Farrar's Life of Paul.


3. Stalker's Life of Paul, particularly his chapter on the New Testament church.


4. McGregor's Divine Authority of Paul's Writings.


5. Monod's Five Lectures on Paul.


6. Wilkinson's Epic of Paul.


Here follows a complete analysis of the letter:


I. The Historical Introduction, which gives the place, its history, the establishment of the church, succeeding events, the occasion of the letter, when, where, and by whom written.


II. Salutation and Thanksgiving (1:1-9).


III. The third, and perhaps the most important division of the analysis, is the Ecclesiastical Disorders; there are seven of these, as follows:


1. Factions (1:10 to 4:7), and this is a matter of very great importance, especially to preachers.


2. Revolt against the apostolic authority (4:8-21; 9:1-27).


3. Consequent relaxation of morals and discipline (5).


4. Going to law against brethren (6:1-10).


5. Perversion of the Lord's Supper (10:1-22; 11:18-34).


6. Abuse and misuse of spiritual gifts (12-14).


7. The perversion of woman's position, conduct, and dress (11:1-7; 14:34-37).


IV. The fourth general division is Social Questions, including the following items:


1. Meat offered to idols.


2. Marriage and divorce.


3. Circumcision and slavery.


V. The fifth general division is False Doctrine concerning the resurrection (15). The subdivisions of the false doctrine are:


1. Resurrection is a spiritual affair, and is past already.


2. Philosophical objections to bodily resurrection and the reply to these objections. In the reply he shows, (1) that the resurrection is a fundamental doctrine: (2) the fact of Christ's resurrection establishes our resurrection. Our resurrection depends on him.


VI. The sixth division of the analysis: General Directions and explanation about collections, Timothy and Apollos, Stephanas and Achaicus (16:1-12; 15-18).


VII. The seventh division of the analysis: Exhortation (16: 13-14).


VIII. Closing salutations (16:19-21).


IX. The Anathema (16:22).


X. Benediction (16:23-24).


Paul left there and went to Ephesus in a roundabout w.. T, and while he was at Ephesus holding a great meeting, he received notification from certain persons from the church at Corinth bringing him the most doleful intelligence. The household of Chloe brought him the word; they were urging him to come back. He wouldn't quit the meeting to come back, but he writes: "I will tarry at Ephesus until Pentecost; for a great door and effectual is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries." He felt that two duties could not conflict, and instead of returning to Corinth he wrote this letter. He had previously written a letter that was not preserved. He now writes this letter through Sosthenes, an amanuensis, and sends Timothy as his delegate over to Corinth. He is intensely anxious to hear before he visits Corinth. That was the occasion of the letter. The letter was written at Ephesus, and written on account of the reports that came to him concerning the demoralization in that great new church that he had established at Corinth.

 

QUESTIONS

 

1. What the first and second groups of Paul's letters, and what the theme of each group?

 

2. How do the letters of the second group compare with other literature?

 

3. What the location of Corinth on a map of the Roman Empire, and what the advantages of its position?

 

4. Give briefly the ancient Greek history of Corinth.

 

5. Give briefly its history under Roman domination.

 

6. What of its moral status during this time, what of their religion, and where may we find a description of the moral degradation of these people?

 

7. What constituted the population of Corinth at this time, why so many Jews there, and what noted couple among them did Paul find there?

 

8. What of the architecture and renown of the city?

 

9. What were some of the celebrities of this city?

 

10. From what New Testament books do we gather the history of the establishment of the church in this city?

 

11. Give a summary of the history of the establishment of this church, answering the following questions:

 

(1) Whence came Paul to Corinth, and what was his method of preaching in his last effort before coming to Corinth?

 

(2) How was he conveyed to Corinth?

 

(3) What his physical condition when he arrived at Corinth?

 

(4) With whom did he do his first missionary work here, what his method, and what the results?

 

(5) From what class of people were most of Paul's converts at Corinth, and what marvelous displays of divine power among them?

 

(6) What the difficulties, how was Paul nerved to meet them, and what the lesson for us?

 

(7) Give an account of Gallic in his relation to this work at Corinth.

 

(8) How long did Paul stay at Corinth?

 

(9) Where did he go when he left Corinth, and what of the work at Corinth after he left there?

 

12. Give a bibliography of Paul for this period.

 

13. What the main points of the analysis?

 

14. When and where was this letter written, and what the occasion of it?

 

 

XIV

 

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THE SALUTATION – ELOQUENCE AND FACTIONAL DIVISIONS

1 Corinthians 1:1-31.

 


In this discussion we commence with the salutation and thanksgiving as the second item of the analysis. The salutation is verses 1-3. The thanksgiving, verses 4-9. Let us look at that salutation: "Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God." If we turn back to the salutation of 1 Thessalonians, we find that it says: "Paul, and Silvanus, and Timothy, unto the church of the Thessalonians." But this one says, "Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God." The change arises from the objection that had been raised against him in the city of Corinth. Therefore from now on, he never commences a letter without affirming his call to the apostleship and his qualification for it.


One of the occasions for the letter was that a man from Judea, bearing letters of recommendation, had sought to undermine Paul's influence by denouncing his apostleship, and now Paul puts into his letters a statement of his full apostolic claim: "Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, unto the church of God which is at Corinth, even them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ in every place, their Lord and ours."


The salutation, then, is from Paul and Sosthenes, who is the amanuensis. When we come to the end of the letter we will see that Paul grabs the pen and writes that anathema with his own hand. The only letter that he did write with his own hand throughout, was the letter to the Galatians. His eyes were very bad, and he wrote in great sprawling letters, about which he says, "See with how large letters I write unto you with mine own hand." Because of this defect in his eyesight he employed a clerk.


Great fundamental principles are discussed in this letter, and it is addressed to them directly, but it was not intended to be merely a local letter. The expression, "With all that call, . . . ," lifts it above local restrictions. We notice in the salutation his use of the words, "sanctified," and "saints," one indicating past time, and the other present time: "Them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints." The two words come from a common root. Sanctification has three Bible significations: Primarily it means to set apart. God sanctified the seventh day and set it apart. Jesus said, "I sanctify myself," that is, "I set myself apart to do the work I am to do." In one instance at least, the word "sanctification" is used as an equivalent of regeneration, because sanctification commences in regeneration, and the passage is this: "The elect . . . according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit." There, sanctification includes both sanctification and regeneration. The third sense is where it is limited to what is called the doctrine of sanctification as distinguished from justification and regeneration. Regeneration is an instantaneous act of the Spirit of God, giving a holy disposition to the mind, renewing the man, applying to him the cleansing blood of Christ. But sanctification, in its doctrinal aspect, is the progressive work of making completely holy that new life which is commenced in regeneration. And then it goes on until the man's soul is made completely holy – as holy as God is holy. In justification Christ's righteousness is imputed to us through faith; in sanctification, before the work is completed, or when it is completed, we personally are made righteous altogether. Sanctification of the spirit culminates in death. When the soul is separated from the body it is sanctified – made perfect. Paul says) "The spirits of just men made perfect." Death is the last lesson in sanctification. He continues the salutation: "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." Paul's salutations always consist, first, of "grace," and then "peace," because peace depends on grace.


In every letter that he writes, just after the salutation is a thanksgiving statement. He had hard work in finding ground for thanksgiving here, but he always finds it if it is there. He always gives his thanks to God for the good that there is, before he begins to point out evil. I take great blame to myself that I do not follow Paul with regard to thankfulness concerning the brethren. I am afraid many of us are addicted to censoriousness; because of the spirit of criticism we see but little reason for thankfulness in many of our brethren.


An old deacon of the church to which I first preached told me of one man who never condemned, who in every case found some good in whomsoever was mentioned. Finally they made a bet that even the deacon could not find a good thing to say about a certain man that was a notoriously bad character and who had just died. They told the old deacon about it and he stood a while and then said, "Brethren, we ought to be thankful that he was a good whistler." He just wouldn't say a condemnatory thing about anybody.


This letter of Paul to the church at Corinth was a sharp letter, and particularly when he criticizes the abuse and misuse of the miraculous spiritual gifts. I once heard a preacher say, "Don't burn the ship in order to get rid of the rats." So Paul does not discount the great spiritual gifts because by some people they were so abused and misused. These gifts were more widely diffused among the Corinthians than at any other place of which we have any account in the Bible. It was a great necessity at that place for these spiritual gifts in order to get a hearing. Referring to these gifts Paul says, "In everything ye were enriched in him, in all utterance and all knowledge; even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you: so that ye come behind in no gift." That is a new ground of thanksgiving that we have not found before.


With this brief prelude Paul launches at once into the discussion of the great questions that occasioned the letter. First of all were the eight ecclesiastical disorders. This 'is what he says: "Now I beseech you, brethren, through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that you be perfected together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it hath been signified unto me concerning you, my brethren, by them that are of the household of Chloe, that there are contentions among you." Let us see what kind of contentions, and how factions started in that church, and let us see if, so far as our knowledge of factions goes, that they arise from the same cause. I don't suppose that there ever was a preacher who didn't at some time or other see a divided church. There are men today with a great burden on their hearts because of divisions in the church where they preach. We want to know how these factions started. He said, "Each one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I am of Apollos; and I am of Cephas; and I am of Christ." What then is the contention about? The members of the church are partial toward spiritual leaders. After Paul left there, Apollos, of Alexandria, an eloquent rhetorician, came there, and he was a mighty orator, and the people were led away by his eloquence, and later there came these brethren from Judea who thought that Peter was a great man. Apollos himself was not to blame; he had nothing to do with it. But a faction rallied around Apollos, another around Peter, another rallied around Christ. Some held to Peter and some held to themselves, and said, "I am a 'Christ-i-an,' " others, "I am Apollosite," "I am a Peterite," or "I am a Christite." While Paul was away Apollos came there and preached, and being a very eloquent man and a rhetorician, with all of the arts of polished speech, with well-rounded periods) his speech so very fine that admiration for the rhetoric of it led some to disregard the matter of it, so that to them the speech was lost in its oratory.


At various conventions I have heard men remarking on certain speakers. One said concerning a certain address, "That was the most logical, best rounded, and of the most homiletic art," showing that they were studying the manner and casting of the speech more than the preaching itself, just like discussing a woman's dress instead of the woman.


The gravest factions that ever agitated the churches of Jesus Christ have come up around persons more than doctrines, politics, or measures. In ninety-nine cases out of one hundred, rows in the church come up around preachers. Laymen as a rule don't like a fuss in a church, but the preacher oftentimes makes a great deal of harm, intending really to do good instead of evil, and yet because he doesn't know how to do certain things, and particularly how to handle delicate cases of discipline, there will be a scene, and directly the cause of a splitting of the church wide open. Generally we can get men to compromise, and by reasoning and prayer, we may bring them into doctrinal agreement, but the hardest men to harmonize in the world are those who are contentious about men. That is why we should never seek after a "stack-pole" unification, i. e., stack around a man. He may die, and then what becomes of our unit?


It was a grief to Paul because people had made his name a cause of faction. Let us carefully and prayerfully make the application to our own hearts, and note the great arguments Paul gives against these factions. He says, "Is Christ divided?" i. e., is our Lord Jesus Christ to be cut up and parceled and measured out, one piece to one man, another to another man? So long as Christ is the center of our unification, kingship, priesthood, there should be no division about men.


When I was a schoolboy I was an enthusiastic supporter of the Union, though when my state seceded, I entered the Southern army and remained in it four years. In my last days at school I stood on a goods box in the streets of Independence under the last Star-Spangled Banner ever lifted to the sun of Texas before the war, and with a great mob gathered round to pull down the flag, I commenced my oration by repeating the poem:
Think ye that I could brook to see That banner I have loved so long, Borne piecemeal o'er the distant sea, Divided, measured, parceled out, Tamely surrendered up forever, To satisfy the soulless rabble? Never, never!


I have to confess that I changed my conviction about the right policy of secession, after I saw that they had to secede. There was not anything else to be done, but I am just showing how here in measuring, parceling out, the thought is just the same.


Notice Paul's next argument: "Was Paul crucified for you? You say you are for Paul, Cephas, or for Apollos: is any one of these your Saviour? Was Peter judged before Pilate? Was it Peter that entered the three hours of darkness and cried out, 'My God, why hast thou forsaken me?' Was it by the shed blood of Paul that your sins were forgiven? If none of these men was crucified for you, then in the name of consistency, why name them as rallying points? When you came up and testified for Christ's sake that God had forgiven yours sins, and when you were led into the water, and the preacher lifted up his hand over your head, did he say, "Upon your public profession, I baptize you in the name of Peter"? He makes his argument still stronger, saying, "I thank God that I baptized none of you save Crispus and Gaius – and the household of Stephanus."


Never shall I forget one of my earliest controversies. A man came to my town and was affirming that baptism was essential to salvation, like repentance and faith. I stood up before him and said,


"Will you tell me then, why Paul said, 1 thank God I baptized none of you save Crispus and Gains'? You say baptism is essential to salvation; Paul said, 'God sent me not to baptize but to preach the gospel.' " Notice how he puts baptism in opposition to the gospel.


Then further, if there were no other words in the Bible than the words we have here, they are forever fatal to the doctrine of baptismal salvation.


Those who were converted were usually baptized by other ministers. Perhaps he baptized these when he first reached Corinth and was by himself. But soon after Timothy, Titus, and Silas joined him and performed the rest of the baptizing. Christ never baptized at all, but Christ saved men, therefore his baptism was not essential to salvation.


It was Peter who opened the door to the Gentiles, and they through faith received remission of sins. He commanded them to be baptized; he did not do it himself. Baptism is a commandment of great importance, but it is not a condition of salvation. Paul says, "I thank God I baptized none of you lest somebody, in saying, 1 am of Paul,' should give as a reason 1 am better than you are because Paul baptized me.' " I can understand that one who is to be baptized would prefer that a dear friend should perform that ordinance, just as people marry and want some dear friend to perform that rite; but it is not necessary that a particular person should do it. If it is a fact that a certain person should not do the baptizing, then that should be made no ground for division, or from the fact that there are three denominations at least who recognize us as proper subjects of baptism, but who refuse to recognize it because we were not baptized by the bishop or some person high in church position.


Notice the continuation of Paul's argument: "For the word of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us who are saved it is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise. And the discernment of the discerning will I bring to nought. Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For seeing that in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom knew not God, it was God's good pleasure through the foolishness of the preaching to save them that believe."


The application is this: One of the factions of that Corinthian church arose out of the great dialectic skill of Apollos in his preaching and in his argument. That, says Paul, can be no ground for a faction in the church of Jesus Christ, because true preaching holds up the cross only as a means of salvation, and not the oratorical manner in which one talks about the cross. He goes on to show why it was in his preaching that he refused that oratorical method. He says, "I came, not relying upon the wisdom of the world and argumentation. I came in weakness, fear and trembling, praying that your faith should not stand in man, but in the demonstration of the Spirit, and I held up nothing before you but the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. If a church is to be divided on a question of rhetoric or philosophic training, then I propound Paul's questions, "Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world?" God had poured his contempt upon the whole of it. The world by wisdom knew not God. All the wise men of the world were never able to find him nor to devise a single plank of the bridge of salvation that spans the chasm between hell and heaven.


He continues to argue: "Not only is this true, but I appeal to your experience, For behold your calling, brethren, that not many wise after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: but God chose the foolish things of the world, that he might put to shame them that are wise; and God chose the weak things of the world, that he might put to shame the things that were strong; and the base things of the world, and the things that are despised, did God choose, yea, and the things that are not, that he might bring to nought the things that are; that no flesh should glory before God." If salvation is dependent upon the eloquence of preachers, the logic of Aristotle and wisdom of Socrates; if the number of converts are to be measured by the preacher's acquaintance with flights of fancy, and with great epic poems that he has either written or read, then, indeed, might one make that a ground of contention, but the very highest estimate that one can put upon any of that is that it is merely a scaffolding.


I have oftentimes seen a great sermon fail to convict because it was too ornate, too delicate, too polished. It did not deal directly with the naked souls of men.


That was a shrewd thing in Paul to appeal to their experience: "Look at yourselves! You were a ragamuffin crowd – thieves, murderers, adulterers. Did rhetoric come to you in the mud, and wash you clean? Was it the power of the orator that could charm you from the degradation of sin, and could lift you up and put your feet upon the rock? 0 brethren, it was the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ! The cross of Christ is the only true thing in preaching that saves men, and here you are splitting up the church because one preacher is more eloquent than another."


I feel pressed in spirit to enforce upon the minds of preachers the subject of contention. Let them beware that there should come death unto the church of Jesus Christ on their account. Though a Christian cannot be lost, the church can be destroyed. Because that church organization is the temple of the Holy Spirit, God says, and Paul brings out the statement of God in this letter, "Him that destroyeth the temple of God will God destroy, and his temple are ye." That does not mean that the preacher loses his soul, but that on account of his church he may be stricken and temporarily destroyed so that he will never get over it; his usefulness gone and his name on record as the man who divided the church, and the light was put out, and all because "him that destroyeth the temple of God will God destroy."


What graver lesson does Texas need than she has had? Some years ago all our work was paralyzed on account of hypercriticism, until at last the brethren saw that there could never be a forward move, the people of God could never advance with banner unfurled, and from the very day that they drew the line of demarcation until now, there has been one colossal stride after another toward greater things. Let us go back in our mind over the list of ministers who have lost their hold on congregations, not as Christians, but as preachers, and have made shipwreck of their lives. There was a man that destroyed a certain church of Jesus; he came in as a ground of faction; he worked up a party of division around himself, and the power of the church was lost. When he did that he signed his death warrant as a useful preacher.

 

QUESTIONS

 

1. What constitutes the second item of the analysis, and what the scripture for each division?

 

2. What particularly distinguishes the salutation of this letter from the preceding salutations in 1 and 2 Thessalonians, and why?

 

3. What expression lifts the letter above local restrictions, and why should this letter not be so restricted?

 

4. On the phrase, "sanctified, called to be saints," what the several New Testament meanings of the word "sanctify," who could the sanctification of the Corinthians be past, present, and future, what the particular meaning of the word expressing what Baptists call the doctrine of sanctification, and how distinguish it from regeneration and justification?

 

5. What the relation of "grace" and "peace," and how is this relation indicated?

 

6. What was Paul's habit in writing his letters, and what the lesson on censoriousness? Illustrate.

 

7. What the new ground of hi? thanksgiving here?

 

8. Were the gifts mentioned in this thanksgiving the ordinary graces of the Spirit or those miraculous endowments of the Spirit constituting the "baptism in the Holy Spirit"?

 

9. What passages in the letter show the extent and variety of the miraculous endowments bestowed upon the Corinthians?

 

10. In view of their misuse and abuse of these gifts, what the explanation of Paul's thankfulness for their reception of them? Illustrate.

 

11. What the first ecclesiastical disorder, and what part of the letter discusses it?

 

12. What the occasion of this disorder – persons, doctrines, or discipline, etc.?

 

13. If persons, were they laymen or preachers, and who were they?

 

14. What proportion of church divisions now are caused or occasioned by preachers, and when thus occasioned are the preachers always to blame?

 

15. What is Paul's first argument against factions, and what the present-day application?

 

16. What his second argument and its application?

 

17. What his third argument, how does he reinforce this argument, and what is its bearing on baptismal salvation?

 

18. What the fourth argument, and what the application to the Corinthians?

 

19. What the fifth argument, and what the special application to the Corinthians?

 

20. What the sixth argument, appealing to their personal experience, and what illustration from modern Baptist history?

 

21. What the meaning of "if any man destroyeth the temple of God, him shall God destroy"?

 

 

XV

 

(Return to Contents)

 

THE PREACHER AND FACTIONS

1 Corinthians 2:1 to 4:7.

 


We shall proceed to repeat part of the ground of the last chapter. We were discussing the third division of the outline, ecclesiastical disorders. The first is factions. There were divisions. Paul, in replying to the evil of divisions in churches about persons, made an argument that the world has never equaled, and which will be important for all time upon the subject of factions.


His first argument against factions is that Christ Is not divided. Second, the preacher was not crucified for them. They were making divisions about preachers, yet nobody was crucified but Christ. Third, nobody was baptized in the name of a preacher. Fourth, one of the grounds of division was that some preachers were more oratorical than others in their speaking, and used eloquence and philosophies of the schools. In replying to that he stated the wise or oratorical preacher does not save men. They are saved by the cross. Therefore, it is perfectly foolish to have a division about persons on the ground that one is more oratorical than another. Fifth, that worldly wisdom never did discover God, and never could have devised a plan of salvation. God gave the wisdom of the world all the opportunity that it wanted from the beginning of time to the coming of Christ. There had been many wise men, particularly among the Greeks and Romans, but what did their wisdom amount to? It had never discovered the nature of God, devised a system of morals or a plan of salvation. History presents the awful anomaly that the wisest cities in the world, such as Athens, Ephesus, and Corinth, were morally rotten, spiritually putrid. Their wisdom did not save them from obscenity or debauchery. The sixth argument is that as a matter of fact few of the wise and the great men were saved. Somehow their wisdom and their greatness prevented their stooping down and becoming little children in receiving the gospel of Jesus Christ. He proves this by appealing to their own case. "You know, brethren, from your own experience that not many wise, great, or noble are called." The seventh argument against division, where it was predicated on superior worldly wisdom on the part of any of the persona about whom the division was centered, is that Christ himself is the wisdom of the Christian, the righteousness, sanctification, and redemption of the Christian. How beautifully he works in the thought of the Trinity, "Who was made unto us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption." While Christ is the wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption of his people, the application is different. He is not our sanctification in the sense that he is our righteousness. Our righteousness is imputed to us, and we receive it by a single act of faith. Our sanctification is applied to us differently by the Holy Spirit, and becomes at last a personal righteousness.


His eighth argument is that the gospel which saves men is not discerned according to carnal wisdom, but is spiritually discerned. Whether a man be wise or ignorant does not enter into the question. We might take a Negro that could not read a letter in a book, and put seven wise men of Greece against him, and the Negro might spiritually discern the gospel of eternal life preached to him as a poor, ignorant, lost soul quicker than the seven wise men of Greece.


I have often used as an illustration of that, the case of Gen. Speight, whose children live in Waco now. He was a great man in many respects. He was the best organizer and trainer of a regiment I ever knew, and his intellect was quick as lightning, and yet he could not see how to be converted until his old Negro servant took him off in the gin house and showed him how to come to Christ.


That applies in Paul's argument. One of the grounds of division, was that they were instituting comparisons between Paul and Apollos. Apollos was a wise man, expert in Alexandrian philosophy. Paul wants to know what that counts in a case of this kind. The natural man receives not the things of God. They are foolishness to him.


His ninth argument is that factions hinder spiritual progress. They were yet babes in Christ when they ought to have been teachers. I don't know anything that can more quickly destroy the spiritual progress of the church than divisions. Let a church be divided into two parties, one following Deacon A and the other Deacon B; one clamoring for this preacher and the other for that; let the line be drawn sharply, then all spirituality dies. There cannot be power 'in the church while that continues.


The tenth argument consists of some questions: "What then is Apollos? and what is Paul?" At a last analysis they are only the instruments or ministers by whom they believed; God himself gave the increase.


He advances in the eleventh argument: "You are divided about preachers. You are not the preacher's field or his building. You are God's field; you are God's building. Then if you are God's building you don't belong to this preacher or to that preacher."


The twelfth argument is that the only foundation in this building is Jesus Christ: "Other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ." The thirteenth argument is that all the incongruous material the preacher puts on that foundation will be destroyed in the great judgment day – tried by fire. He refers to the material received for church membership. Paul laid a divine foundation for the church at Corinth. Other men proposed to build on that foundation. Suppose a man puts into the temple of God "wood, hay, stubble." Some people thatch the roof of the house with hay or stubble. Every addition to that church, when the Master comes to examine his building, that has not been made of living stone, lasting spiritual material, will be cut out and will go up in fire and smoke. So we will say that one reason for the division was that a preacher held a meeting and received a thousand members and 975 came in without conviction or repentance – a dry-eyed, easy, little faith, little sinner, little savior – and it did not amount to anything. The preacher, if a Christian, will be saved, but every bit of the unworthy material he put in the church will be lost, and because the work is lost he will suffer loss of reward for his labors.


His fourteenth argument is that factions destroy the church, which is the temple of God, which temple they were: "Him that destroyeth the temple of God will God destroy." I never knew it to fail where a man through his fault destroyed a church of Christ that that man was destroyed world without end. Even if he was a Christian he was destroyed. Not as to eternal life, but certainly as to his usefulness in this world. His fifteenth argument is – what a text! I heard Dr. Hatcher, of Richmond, preach a sermon on it. The church does not belong to the preachers; the preachers belong to the church: "All things are yours; whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come, all are yours; and ye are Christ's; and Christ is God's."


The sixteenth argument is that these preachers about which they were dividing this church must be counted simply as stewards of the grace of God, the deposit of the gospel which has been given to them. They were not to be looked on as the builders, the authors, and the savior of the church. What they were to do in their case was to ask the one question, "Has this steward been faithful?" The seventeenth argument is that they were dividing this church on their human judgment of men, and their human judgment didn't count at all. The King James version of 4:3 is, "But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man's judgment; yea, I judge not mine own self. For I know nothing by myself." How many sermons I have heard on that when the thought is not that at all! This is the meaning of the true text of the Greek: “For though I know nothing against myself, yet I am not hereby justified," i.e., human judgment doesn't count. In other words, I may seem to myself perfect, but I may have a thousand faults. The judge is God, and when God lets the light shine, he brings out some spot I don't see in the dim light of my wisdom. You remember David's prayer, "Cleanse thou me from secret faults," i.e., not faults that I am keeping hid from my wife and my friends, but faults secret to me. "The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked; who can know it?"


The eighteenth and last argument is this: Preachers deserve no credit for difference in gifts, and yet they were making their different gifts the ground of their division: "For who maketh thee to differ? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive?" One of the greatest blessings in this world today is the difference of gifts that God gives to the church and his preachers. Two of the most important chapters in the Bible are devoted to a discussion of that question (Rom. 12; I Cor. 12). God has never yet called a man to preach who cannot do some things better than anybody else in the world. He never gives two men exactly the same gifts. I am conscious that I can do some things better than other people. I am sure that God has given me the gift of interpretation of his Word. But others can do some things better than I can. I would hate it very much if I were the best sample in the kingdom all along the line. It would be a very sad thing for the world if some of God's preachers could not beat me in some things. They had made this difference in gifts the ground of their factions. Now, call each man up and say, "Paul, where did you get your gifts?" He answers, "God gave them to me." "Did you earn them?" "No, they are free grace." "Apollos, where did you get your gifts?" "God gave them to me." "You did not purchase them from God?" "No, they came through free grace."


One of the greatest preachers I ever heard stood up in the pulpit and pointed to a homely old Baptist preacher in the crowd and said, "Brethren, I would give all I am worth in the world to be able to preach like that man." The most of the crowd would have said, "You beat him." He could beat him, but not in all things. That man could preach a sermon by the way he got up in the pulpit and opened the Bible. The humility and tenderness of soul with which he looked into the faces of the sinners was marvelous. That fact alone ought to keep down the jealousy of one preacher against another preacher. There is such s, thing as improving one's gifts, and for that a man does deserve credit. A man may have a gift, and by disuse of that gift it will go into bankruptcy; one may be lazy and won't study, and for that he is to be blamed. I care not how dull a man is naturally, if God has called that man, he had a reason for calling him. He has some work for him to do that Michael and Gabriel could not do. That man is responsible for just what gifts he has, and he ought to try to improve those gifts, and not try to imitate somebody whose gifts are different from his.


I am glad our Lord did not, in this matter, imitate a candiemaker who brings a great tub full of tallow and pours it into one mould. All candles come out of candle-moulds exactly alike. I am glad the Lord's preacher-material is not like a tub of tallow, and that it is not all run into one mould. We want diversity of gifts and division of labor. Some have the gift of exhortation; others, exposition, pastoral power, tactfulness in visiting the sick and the strangers. Some have the evangelistic gift, and some one thing and some another. Thus we have the eighteen arguments which Paul gives against the first of these ecclesiastical disorders – factions.


The second ecclesiastical disorder was a revolt against apostolic authority (1:8-21; 9:1-27). In order to unify this discussion, I have taken everything in the letter that bears upon the revolt against apostolic authority. But who questioned Paul's apostolic authority? Visiting Jewish professors of religion, coming from Jerusalem and having that Judaizing spirit, which would make the Christian religion nothing but a sect of Judaism, came up to Corinth. In the second letter we have this same topic for discussion. These visiting brethren brought letters of recommendation from people in Judea, as we learn in the second letter, and they questioned Paul's apostolic authority. On what grounds did they question his apostolic authority?


1. Because he was not one of the original twelve apostles, and had not seen the Lord in his lifetime.


2. He did not exercise the apostolic powers when his authority was questioned. Ananias and Sapphira tried to fool Peter and they were struck dead by exertion of apostolic power. But Paul did not use the power of an apostle to strike men dead in Corinth that differed with him.


3. He had not claimed apostolic support for himself, therefore it was evident that he did not count himself as deserving it. The twelve apostles, particularly Cephas and the brothers of our Lord, being married men, as apostles, for devoting themselves to the apostolic office, demanded support for themselves and their families.


4. His suffering proclaimed that he was not an apostle. If he were God's apostle, he would not get into so much trouble, for the Lord would take care of him.


5. His was not the true gospel. The true gospel was given to those who accompanied the Lord Jesus Christ, beginning with the baptism of John down to the time he was taken to heaven. Paul was not even a Christian when that took place.


6. His folly. He did a great many foolish things in the way of expediency.


7. His bodily infirmities and weaknesses. He was a little sore-eyed Jew, bald-headed, with no grace of oratory and no rhetorical form of speech.


8. He was against Moses and the Mosaic law.


9. He was a preacher to the Gentiles. These are the nine distinct grounds upon which these living, visiting brethren, who had done nothing for that church, came over there to work up a case. Whenever I read about it I always feel indignant against that scaly crowd. This is a part of Paul's great controversy to which Stalker devotes a chapter in his Life of Paul. The letters which are alive with the items of this controversy are 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, and Romans. Later it comes up in another form in Philippians, Colossians, and Ephesians, and the same matter in yet a different form later in Hebrews. We will see how Paul replies to this question of his apostleship in the next chapter.

 

QUESTIONS

 

1. Restate the first six arguments against factions.

 

2. What the seventh argument against division predicated on superior worldly wisdom, and how does Paul here bring in the thought of the Trinity?

 

3. How is Christ our righteousness, sanctification, and redemption?

 

4. What the eighth argument, relating to the gospel, and what illustrations given?

 

5. What the ninth argument, relating to spiritual progress?

 

6. What the tenth argument, relating to the instruments of their faith?

 

7. What the eleventh argument, relating to God's field, or building?

 

8. What the twelfth argument, relating to the foundation?

 

9. What the thirteenth argument, relating to incongruous material?

 

10. What the fourteenth argument, relating to the temple of God?

 

11. What the fifteenth argument, relating to church ownership, and what sermon noted on this as a text?

 

12. What the sixteenth argument, referring to the deposit of the gospel?

 

13. What the seventeenth argument, referring to human, judgment, and how is this text often misapplied?

 

14. What the eighteenth argument, referring to gifts, and what special blessing in the diversity of gifts?

 

15. What the second ecclesiastical disorder at Corinth, and who caused it?

 

16. On what grounds did they question Paul's apostolic authority?

 

17. In what letters of Paul do we have this great controversy?

 

 

XVI

 

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THE REVOLT AGAINST PAUL'S APOSTOLIC AUTHORITY

1 Corinthians 4:8-21; 9:1-27.

 


In the last chapter this question was asked, "Who questioned Paul's authority?" And our answer was, "Visiting brethren from Jerusalem," and we discussed the various grounds upon which they based their questionings. Paul's reply is found in 4:8-21; 9:1-27; and three or four verses in chapter 15. We take two sections somewhat distant apart and put them together in order to put everything together that bears upon the discussion.


The first charge was that he was not one of the original twelve. He admits the allegation, but denies the deduction. Jesus Christ had as much right to appoint an apostle after his resurrection as he had while in the flesh. It will be remembered that in Acts I, through the Spirit, Matthias, not one of the original twelve, was numbered with the twelve, received the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and became in every way a qualified apostle of Jesus Christ. Paul was as truly appointed an apostle by the will of God as Peter was. There never was any more definite or important a transaction than his meeting the Lord on the way to Damascus at which time he was not only converted, but was specially called into the apostolic office. Over and over again in his letters and in his life are evidences that the Lord not only originally called him, but appeared to him many times in confirmation of that call. So he well says in commencing this letter, "Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ, through the will of God."


Then they charged that he had not seen Jesus in the flesh. He admits the fact, but he says it is altogether unimportant whether he had seen Jesus in the flesh or not. He had seen him after he rose from. the dead, and that was the point upon which the apostleship rested. That he had seen the risen Lord constituted his qualification to be a witness as an apostle. They charged that he had not exercised his apostolic authority in vindicating himself by punitive judgments on those that questioned him. Peter had Ananias and Sapphira struck dead for telling a lie. It is said that Paul talked big enough, but did not act. To that Paul replies that on account of mercy he had refrained from vindicating, by punitive right, his power, but that he had a right and could exercise it, and when he got among them he would do it unless they repented of the wrongs that they had done.


They charged that he had not exacted apostolic support for himself and wife. They argued that he, in his own conscience, did not feel entitled to it. His reply to that is superb, and is completely unanswerable. He commences with chapter 9, which is the chapter of the Bible on the scriptural grounds for ministerial support, by saying, "Am I not free?" This matter of support is a right, not a duty. "May I not waive the right 'if I choose?" There are some things we can waive if we choose to do so.


A certain man whom I knew, an exceedingly eccentric man, was, as a widower, paying his addresses to a widow. The lady said when he asked her to marry him, "I have some objections to marrying you." He said, "I have a great many objections to marrying you, but I waive them."


Next, Paul gives the reasons why he waived the right. They were missionary reasons. If he had come there and made his first speech on their paying him a salary, nobody would have listened to him. It was not after the plan of God's gospel that a missionary, reaching territory that had never been occupied, should lay great stress on the people's paying him to preach to them. The next is, that his desires were for them, not for their money: "I coveted you for Christ, and not anything that you had." Third, as a matter of fact it was not true, since in part he bad been supported while among them, through a contribution of the church. Next, that he labored with his own hands, not because an apostle had to do that, but because it was a necessity for an important lesson to them in that community. Tens of thousands of Corinthians were loafers. Paul wanted to be able to say, "You remember – you people who won't work – that when I was among you I worked by night and preached to you by day. These hands ministered unto my support in order that you might understand that he who won't work should not eat." There is no sentimentality about Paul on the beggar question. They charged that he had exacted no pay for his preaching. He replied that that did not make him inferior, but made them inferior: "For what is there wherein ye were made inferior to the rest of the churches, except it be that ye were brought to Christ and established and built up by my ministry, and ye did not pay me a cent?" Then he said, "Forgive me this wrong. It was wrong for me to waive my right to a support that you should not be instructed to minister to those who minister to you." Then he goes on to prove his right.


To the end of time, 1 Corinthians 9, will be the chapter in the New Testament on the subject of ministerial support. I once took as a text this scripture: "My defense to them that examine me is this." They put him upon examination. He bases his answer, first, upon analogy from human conduct in other things, and cites three things: First, the soldier: "Who goeth forth to warfare at his own charges?" They objected to a preacher being supported for his ministry. On all sides these people could see soldiers. "Do they pay for their rations, their uniforms, their weapons, their hospital in which they stay, and the medicine which they take?" It would be impossible to have an army permanently without setting aside from some source adequate support for them. So applying that analogy to the preacher, why may he not have a right to a support? Paul might have gone further: Officers in the army are not merely provided for the field, but are educated at national expense, like Army cadets at West Point, or Naval cadets at Annapolis.


My wife's brother, Willie Harrison, is in the Navy. I remember well when he was just a boy he entered Annapolis as a cadet. He knew no more about a ship than he did about a balloon. He is now lieutenant on one of the great battleships, and has charge of a most responsible position in its navigation. I went to see him a few years ago and went all over the yards at Annapolis, Washington, and Baltimore. It became perfectly evident to me that no untrained man could be a naval officer. His training must commence very early. As protected those enormous guns, I realized that one slight mis1 looked at every process of making defensive armor that take and the whole ship would blow up, and that the keenest, highest education was necessary in order to know how to handle those ships in time of war.


Then he cites the case of the vine-dresser: "Who planteth a vineyard and eateth not the fruit thereof?" One cannot drag a man to a piece of ground, make him clear it, cultivate and gather the grapes, and not pay him anything. He asks: "Who feedeth the flock and eateth not of the milk of the flock." Will a Texas cowboy take charge of a herd of cattle, watch by day and night, nearly kill himself avoiding a stampede, be burned in the sun, and do all for nothing? Hasn't he a right to a piece of beef, to milk and butter? Or if it be sheep, to a piece of mutton, or to woolen clothes? That argument is perfectly unanswerable.


Second, he appeals to the law of Moses. The Jews were questioning his right. He refers to their law, "Say I these things as a man? It is written in the law of Moses. Does the Mosaic law forbid a man to muzzle his ox that is threshing the grain?" In those days they threshed the grain by oxen treading on it continuously. That was their primitive way of threshing. "Now would you begrudge an ox his food if he stooped to get a bite of grain? The Mosaic law forbids you to muzzle the ox that treads out the grain. If it be a sin to muzzle an ox, is it not a greater sin to muzzle a man that brings the message of eternal life to the people? He brings not the bread of earth, but the bread of heaven. Certainly it applies more to men than to oxen." He says, "If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things? The preacher finds you in darkness under the power of Satan, lost; and in tears and love he pleads with you and you are led to Christ and find eternal life. The spiritual things to which he leads you are worth more than all the world. Is it then unreasonable that he should reap your carnal things?" In other words, a man who by the grace of God and through the ministry of a faithful preacher has been led to eternal life and made a partaker of the inheritance of the saints, who would grudge help in a carnal way to the one who had been the means of his salvation, would certainly throw a question over his salvation.


Notice his next argument, viz.: their own conduct: "If there be those who are partakers of this power over you, are not we rather?" In other words, "The preachers you have had, you have paid for their services. You concede the right to Peter and others, and if this support is for them, why not Paul? Ask yourselves which one of these led you to salvation. Paul is the one that found you and led you out of darkness into light." Then he passes to his next argument, still on the law of Moses, the Levites, and the priests: "Do you know that they who minister about the holy things of life, of the things in the Temple, and they which wait at the altar are partakers of the altar? The tribe of Levi, which had no territory given to them, had become the Lord's servants to do the Lord's work and minister to the Lord's sanctuary, and the Lord provides for their support."


He thus makes the application of these five distinct arguments: "Even so did the Lord ordain that they that preach the gospel should live of the gospel." It certainly is an important declaration. As a government maintains its soldiers, and when they get old and feeble, it provides hospitals and infirmaries, and when officers are retired they receive half pay, so "God hath ordained that they that preach the gospel should live of the gospel."


When Christ sent out his apostles he commanded them to take no means of support, saying, "The laborer is worthy of his meat and his hire." In other words, "I would be a very poor employer if I sent you out to confine your attention strictly to my work, and make you hustle to get your living from other things." Wherever there is no adequate provision for ministerial support, and the preacher must do things for his living, run a farm or practice medicine, we may rest assured that he cannot give his undivided attention to the ministry, and that churches that receive that kind of ministry do not receive the. full work of the ministry. The calamity in that case is on the church. Oftentimes it is downright covetousness that is the cause of it. Churches think we can get Brother So-and-so for fifty dollars a year, and we can just have preaching once a month. Can a church prosper on once a month's preaching?


I have always taken this position: If any preacher, truly called of God to preach, will implicitly trust, not the churches, but the Lord Jesus Christ to take care of him, and will consecrate his entire time to the work of the ministry, verily he shall be clothed and fed, or else the heavens will fall, and God's word will not be so.


I made that statement once and some of the brethren questioned it. I still stand on it.


If I were a young man again, I would do just as I did then, burn all the bridges behind and push out on the promises of God, that perhaps not in my way, not in the church's way, but in some way the Lord Jesus Christ would take care of my wife and children.


I would say in my heart, "I am God's man; I am to go out as his minister, to do his work, to do no other business; and sink or swim, live or die, survive or perish, I will trust the Lord and stick to my work." I have tried trusting Jesus and he has never failed; I have had men to lie to me straight-out; I have had 1,000 promises to fail, coming from men, but never has any promise of God failed that he has ever made.


An illustration on this point occurred at an early day in Waco. We had a very skeptical man there, Mr. Berry, whom Dr. Burleson invited to attend an association. He had no buggy, and so Dr. Burleson said, "You may ride with me." When he saw Dr. Burleson's shabby old buggy and rattletrap harness and lean, raw-boned horse, he said, "Dr. Burleson, you have faith that you will get there in that buggy, but I have not; I am going to get a buggy from the livery stable." But Dr. Burleson beat him there just the same. I have known preachers to get there in ramshackle buggies and pieced-out harness, tied with shoe-strings. Once I saw a collar on a horse tied with a necktie, and the preacher had to preach without one, but "he got there just the same."


When Jesus gave the commission he said, "These things shall follow: If a serpent bite you, or you drink deadly poison, it will not hurt you." They applied that to Paul and said, "We infer from your extraordinary afflictions – the Roman lictors, the stripes and scourges of the Jews, and the thorn in your flesh, and that bad eyesight, that if you were an apostle of the Lord he would take care of you." His reply to that is certainly great. It is in chapter 4: "I think God hath set us, the apostles, last of all, as men doomed to death; for we are made a spectacle unto the world (kosmos), both to angels and men. . . . Even unto this present hour we both hunger and thirst and are naked." In other words, "You bring up that charge against me and I accent the facts, but it is worse than you know. You are rich from our labors; you are kings through our labors. We are weak and poor and suffering." Just as Jesus, the Captain of our salvation, was made perfect through suffering, these apostolic leaders were to share his suffering and fill up what remained, and to bear all things.


A demonstration was needed upon this subject, and therefore he says, "I glory in it." The word "spectacle" was taken from the custom of the amphitheater where from 50,000 to 200,000 people were gathered – as many as could be gathered in the great Roman amphitheater – and down below a gladiator was to fight a Numidian lion or a Bengal tiger. High upon the platform was the emperor and his suite, and all around in this semicircle thousands of the people were gathered, and that man was the spectacle. He fights the wild beast, and as his blood gushes out of his wounds he salutes the emperor and says, "Caesar, I salute thee," and so Paul, about to make his exodus, ready to have his blood poured out as a libation, salutes the Emperor and says, "I have fought the good fight – I have kept the faith; henceforth there 'is laid up for me the crown of righteousness."


Again he says, not to some Roman, Corinthian, or Athenian amphitheater, but to the kosmos – to the universe of angels and men, that all the galleries of heaven are filled with the onlooking angels, and all the population of the earth have their eyes fixed upon these apostles, and they are in the arena appointed unto death. This is proof of their apostleship, as Jesus told him when he called him.

If a man is going to turn his back on the ministry on account of the suffering, the sooner the ministry is rid of him the better. If he is only going to be a sunshine, fair-weather, daylight man, who, because the darkness comes, the march is long, or the battle is terrible, or the cold severe, or the watching is trying, or the wounds are painful – if he is going to turn away from the ministry of Jesus Christ on that account – let him go.


His reply to their charges that he could not be an apostle because he was not exempt from suffering is one of the finest arguments in literature. Jesus Christ could not be Saviour according to that argument, for it was by his suffering he became Saviour.


NOTE. – The other charges given in chapter 3 are answered in chapter 31 of this volume.

 

QUESTIONS

 

1. What the second ecclesiastical disorder, who raised the question, and what the scriptures containing his masterful reply?

 

2. What Paul's reply to the charge that he was not one of the original twelve, and had not seen Jesus in the flesh?

 

3. What his reply to the charge that he bad not exercised his apostolic authority in punitive judgments?

 

4. What his reply to the charge that he did not exact support for himself and wife?

 

5. What the condition at Corinth that made it necessary for him to waive this right?

 

6. What reflection on them does Paul show in his second letter that they had allowed him to waive his right in the matter of support?

 

7. What good text on ministerial support cited?

 

8. What three instances of human conduct does he cite in defense of ministerial support?

 

9. What his argument from the law of Moses relating to the ox?

 

10, What his argument from the benefit they received?

 

11. What his argument from their own conduct?

 

12. What his argument based on the support of the priests and Levites?

 

13. What the general application of the five preceding distinctive arguments?

 

14. What the teaching of Christ on this same line?

 

15. What the result generally of a poorly paid ministry?

 

16. What the author's position with regard to the preacher and his support?

 

17. What Paul's reply to the charge that he had extraordinary afflictions?

 

18. What the origin and application of the word "spectacle" as used here?

 

19 What Paul's reply to the charge that his was not the true gospel?

 

20. What Paul's reply to the charge that he did a great many foolish things?

 

21. What Paul's reply to the charge that he had bodily infirmities and weaknesses?

 

22. What his reply to the charge that he was against the law of Moses?

 

23. What his reply to the charge that he was a preacher to the Gentiles?

 

NOTE: For answer to questions 1&-23, study carefully the scriptures cited, and for continuation of the discussion of this subject see last chapter in this book.

 

 

XVII

 

(Return to Contents)

 

THE RELAXATION OF MORALS

1 Corinthians 5:1 to 6:20.

 


In the last chapter we considered the revolt against apostolic authority, and now we are to take up another disorder that is a con-sequence of that one – the relaxation of morals. It is a settled principle that one sin begets another. In hunting I have sometimes thought that I saw just one quail, but when I flushed him there were two, and sometimes a covey. Longfellow in Hiawatha uses this language:
Never stoops the soaring vulture On his quarry in the desert, On the sick or wounded bison, But another vulture, watching From his high aerial lockout, Sees the downward plunge and follows; And a third pursues a second, Coming from invisible ether, First a speck and then a vulture, Till the air is dark with pinions.


That illustrates how sins are gregarious – going in troops. I do not believe it is possible for any man or any church to commit a single sin. There are sure to be more than one, if we ever commence at all. It seemed a little thing that they should sin in the way of factions, or that they should sin in the way of revolt against apostolic authority, but these two sins begat this third sin that we are discussing – the relaxation of morals.


The case in point is thus referred to in chapter 5:


It is actually reported that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not even among the Gentiles, that one of you hath his father's wife. And ye are puffed up, and did not rather mourn, that he that had done this deed might be taken away from 'among you. For I verily, being absent in the body but present in spirit, have already as though I were present judged him that hath so wrought this thing, in the name of our Lord Jesus, ye being gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus, to deliver such a one unto 'Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? Purge out the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, even as ye are unleavened. For our Passover also hath been s
acrificed, even Christ: wherefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.


I wrote unto you in my epistle to have no company with fornicators; not at all meaning with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous and extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world; but as it is, I wrote unto you not to keep company, if any man that is named a brother be a fomicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such a one no, not to eat. For what have I to do with judging them that are without? Do not ye judge them that are within? But them that are without God judgeth. Put away the wicked man from among yourselves.


That is the whole of chapter 5. It is a fine thing for preachers of this day when they have a case of discipline that they have express apostolic authority as to how to treat the case. This man's father had doubtless married the second time, and the son by the first wife took his wife away from the father, i.e., took his stepmother. Paul says, "Ye are puffed up . . . your glorifying is not good." They had written to him saying very complimentary things about themselves – that they were doing fine. He didn't agree with them, not with such disorder as this on hand, and the other disorders that have been discussed.


He tells what to do. He says, "This man must be taken away from among yourselves." The church must do that as a proof that it is a church action. He says, "When you are gathered together," and in the second letter we find that what was done in obedience to this letter was done by a majority vote. So that here is a case that unmistakably calls for church action. Offenses of this kind must not be committed in the church of Jesus Christ, and the injunction is peremptory that the church must withdraw fellowship in such cases.


The next thing besides this church action was apostolic action. Paul could do what the church could not do – what no other preacher except an apostle could do – that is, he could deliver such a one over to Satan. They had accused him of not exercising his apostolic power, and he proposes if they do not heed that, he will use his power. He had the power from Jesus Christ to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, but the spirit would be saved in the day of Jesus Christ.


We want to understand what that means. It shows that this sin in the church may be by a Christian, and that delivering him to Satan is not his ultimate destruction, but the destruction of his flesh, that his soul may be saved in the day of Jesus Christ. It is necessary that we understand what this means. We find in the book of Job that God turns Job over to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, and grievous sores came on him, but it was not that Job might be destroyed by the devil. God says to the devil, "Touch not his life." We see the case of the apostles when Jesus says, "Simon, Satan hath obtained you apostles by asking that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for thee that thy faith fail not." Satan came up to Christ and asked that he might deal with them as wheat, and if they were wheat the sifting would help them, and so even this remarkable case of sifting was not done to destroy the offending brother, but to gain him; and there are some cases that cannot be gained except by stern, prompt discipline.


All over the country we have churches that are suffering for the lack of just that thing, and they are injuring these church sinners. I will illustrate: Suppose in the jungles of Africa a company of people and animals were camped for the night, and they built a stockade to keep off wild beasts, and some of the animals, a cow perhaps, gets unmanageable and bellows and butts around and tries to get out. They turn her out, and let her hear the lion roar, and she wants to get back. The thought is that the one that won't be quiet in good company should be showed that there is worse company on the outside. I heard an old Baptist preacher say, "If you put a wild hog in a pen and he goes to squealing, let him out, and he will strike for the woods and never come back, because he is a hog. But if a sheep is turned out it will bleat around the gate until you open the pen and let the sheep come back on good behavior." If a man is not a converted man he ought not to be in there; let the hog out and let him strike for the woods; if he is a sheep and hears the lion roar he will bleat around to get back, and he will behave himself next time.


The primary object, if a converted man, is to save him; and the second is to purify the church, and this Paul proceeds to argue. He says, "Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? Purge out therefore the old leaven that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ, our Passover, is sacrificed for us." Here he uses an Old Testament illustration – the preparation for the Passover. Before the Passover was observed there was the preparation for the Passover. The houses were inspected, the walls were scraped lest there was something left, and leprosy would leave particles sticking to the wall. They were going to keep the feast, and Paul says, "Christ, our Passover Lamb, is sacrificed for us." In other words, "We have a feast to keep – the Lord's Supper – and in order that we may keep that feast let us examine ourselves and see if we be in the faith. Let us inspect our hearts and our lives, because the law is, with the man that is living disorderly, ye must not eat." It does not refer to a common meal. It refers to the Lord's Supper, and the one in disorder may not rightfully partake of the Lord's Supper. Henry Ward Beecher boasted that in his church there never had been a case of discipline since it was organized. Not that it was a pure church, for it was very impure; never having discipline in it, they had no standard of doctrine and no standard of life. And the first case that ever came up was Beecher himself, and they will bring us up if we, as pastors of churches, are forever silent on the subject of discipline.


Paul now explains. He says, "I wrote you a letter." It was not preserved. It was not necessary to preserve every one of his letters. John says if everything that Jesus said and did had been preserved the world would not hold the books. But enough is preserved to form a guide for God's people. He continues: "And in that letter I wrote you not to keep company with fornicators, and ye misunderstood me." He says, "I did not mean that with respect to the world, for that would mean for you to go out of the world; when I said to keep no company and not eat, I meant with a man who is called a brother; if such a one be a fornicator or an adulterer you are to judge those that are within. What have ye to do with those that are within? What have ye to do with those that are without?" He is showing over whom the church has authority to exercise discipline – not outsiders, but insiders.


The next disorder is in chapter 6: "Dare any of you, having a matter against his neighbor, go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints? Or know ye not that the saints shall judge the world? And if the world is judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Know ye not that ye shall judge angels? how much more, things that pertain to this life? If then ye have to judge things pertaining to this life, do ye set them to judge who are of no account in the church? I say this to move you to shame. What? Cannot there be found among you a wise man who shall be able to decide between his brethren, but brother goeth to law with brother, and that before unbelievers? Nay, already it is altogether a defect in you, that ye have lawsuits one with another. Why not rather take wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? Nay, but ye yourselves do wrong, and defraud, and that your brethren."


This is a remarkable declaration. I will discuss it a little in order to make an impression on the minds of young preachers, for we have almost gone astray on it in our religious life. There isn't a country or a community in the state that some members in the church do not violate that law, and they say they are not heathen. That is not Paul's point at all. His point is that the saints have the highest Judicatory power vested in them – that they will judge the world and the angels. It is simply a question of two courts – the church-court or the world-court. Which will we take? To which court are we going to appeal the case? That is what he is discussing. This is illustrated in my book, Baptists and Their Doctrines, which gives a view of the world-court and the church-court.


He brings up the following points on this discussion: First, that God had placed the judicatory power in the church, as our Lord says, "If any man sin, go right along and convict him of his sin. You have gained the brother." He does not say, "If any member of the church sin against you, whether it is a personal or a public offense, and you know it, you go right along and convict him. of that sin. If you fail, take two of the brethren with you; if he will not hear them, tell it to the human court." No, tell it to the church. There is the judicatory court that Christ established. Here comes up a difference between two brethren on a matter of business. A says that B owes him $100. B denies it. Shall A go to law with B? A starts to go to law and a third man, G, comes to him and says, "A, you are committing an offense; you are doing wrong," and A refuses to hear C, and C goes off and gets D and E, and A won't yield. Then. if C, D and E come before the church and say, "We are not judging as to the merits in the case; we do not say A is doing wrong in going to law, but we do say A is doing wrong in the kind of court he goes to." Who shall be the arbitrator? A says that he won't listen to the church; B may owe A that $100, we don't deny that. Here A denies the jurisdiction of Jesus Christ. Suppose A says, "I will hear the church," and the case is put on its merits. Paul says (and the revised version puts an entirely new sense on it), "If then ye have to judge things pertaining to this life, do you set them to judge who are of no account in the church?" In other words, "Is that the way you are going to do? When the case comes up between A and B) are you going to select people that are no account? Haven't you got some disinterested party? Are you going to select a committee of B-partisans, or of A-partisans?" The common version does not give that sense at all. It says, "Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you?"


We come now to the case that will prevent final church action: Suppose you say to A, "Are you willing to leave this matter to a disinterested committee of brethren as to what are the merits of your question? They do not want to say B robbed you, and they do not want to say you harmed B; are you willing for a third disinterested party to take it up and bring it up on the merits of the case before you get to final church action?"


There is a passage upon which I preached one sermon, "Jesus the Arbiter of the Nations." I preached it on the occasion of the meeting of The Hague Conference. It shows even in matters of diplomacy that it is better to settle the matter by arbitration than to go to war. In the millennium there will be no war because Jesus is the arbiter between the nations. If that is to take place on a scale in which nations are involved, why cannot we find in the church a small committee of wise and disinterested brethren that will look into the case and settle it without ever going to final church action? But suppose this committee does not settle the case. They say, "Brethren, we have tried to settle it, and here it is before the church. The question is, does B owe A this $100? If he does he ought to pay it; if he does not, A ought not to worry about it." If a man won't let his brethren settle these matters for him. what is he going to do at the judgment? He presents a case; he says that rather than go to an outsider why not say, "I will just bear this wrong." Well, but suppose they defrauded him?


I have been defrauded many a time, more than once since I moved to Fort Worth. Why should I parade before outsiders my case?


The saddest case in the Texas affairs of our denomination illustrates that. Here we had a brother, very prominent, who kept bringing cases before the General Convention of Texas, and every time he would bring it they decided against him. He would not let it stay undecided. Finally, he took the case into court, and if any man was ever present one day when that case was on trial and heard the infidel lawyers and the lawyers of other denominations gloat over the Baptist trouble, he would never forget it. Suppose that man had had the sounds preserved in a graphophone, and had that in his family, and when any one would come to see him he would have that instrument to reproduce those vile sentences against our very best men? Oh, it was infamous! Of course it ruined that man. It didn't ultimately hurt the other men, but it surely killed the man that resorted to it.


Paul then announces a fundamental principle. He is discussing the point whether a fornicator or adulterer should be retained in the church, and he says, "Know ye not that a fornicator, an adulterer, a covetous man shall not inherit the kingdom of heaven?" He will be excluded there certainly; he will never get in; the gates will be barred. In other words, Christianity is designed to be a maker of character. If it does not make a man better than he was before, it is not worth anything; 'if it does not make a father a better father, a mother a better mother, a sister a better sister, a brother a better brother, a child a better child – if there is no improvement in the character of the man, then we may be sure that he has never been born again, because the Spirit does not produce that kind of fruit. And Paul says that the fruits of the flesh are manifest. Then he tells what they are and says that the fruits of the Spirit are manifest. "By their fruits ye shall know them," says Jesus.


And then again they were liable to misunderstand. He says, "I don't mean that the murderer never gets to heaven; I don't mean that men who were fornicators never get to heaven, for such were some of you. You belonged to that very crowd, but ye were washed; the Holy Spirit took you in charge; you desired to obey God, not to disobey him."


In other words, the Holy Spirit is greater than total depravity. It can overcome total depravity, because total depravity is of the first birth; but this being born again by the power of the Holy Spirit makes one of another seed, of the word of God, that liveth and abideth forever.


And the murderer can be saved, as thousands of them have been saved. It was the greatest triumph of Christianity to look upon that Corinthian crowd. All the depths of infamy through which some of them had passed could not be named in a mixed audience, but by the power of God they were washed, and they lived, and one of the most remarkable cases as bearing upon it, is the case of the celebrated Augustine. His mother was a saint, and she loved her wild, wayward boy. It seemed that the bridle had been taken off, and the devil was riding him "bareback" down to hell. He, after his conversion, often referred to the shameless infamies he committed. This is a case worthy of consideration. Everyone ought to read Augustine's confessions. He did not keep on living that life after he was converted; he was one of the greatest preachers that ever lived. What we call Calvinism is the doctrine of Augustine. He saved the church for 300 years from going astray. So Paul says, "Such were some of you; but ye were washed, but ye were sanctified."


He comes now to something more difficult. He is discussing this debasing sin of fornication, and says, "Every sin that a man doeth is without the body (except this one)." Now instead of sin's residing in the body and corrupting the spirit, it is the spirit that sins and corrupts the body. Envy, that is not a bodily sin; hate, that is not a bodily sin; malice, that is not a bodily sin; pride, presumption, every sin that a man commits is apart from his body except fornication. There the body is made the instrument of the sin. And Paul brings up this argument, "Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you?" Generally when he refers to the temple, he refers to a church, as he says to this church, "Ye are God's building, ye are the temple of God," and where he says, "Every separate congregation groweth up into the holy temple of God, a habitation of the Spirit," but in this particular case he makes the body of the Christian a temple of the Spirit, because the Holy Spirit enters into him and dwells in him, and if he dwells in him, then the body is the temple in which he dwells.

 

QUESTIONS

 

1. What the relation between the revolt against apostolic authority and the relaxation of morals?

 

2. Illustrate how sins are gregarious.

 

3. What the case of discipline discussed in chapter 5?

 

4. What relation did this man sustain to the woman whom he took?

 

5. What church action did Paul prescribe?

 

6. What apostolic action in this case, what illustration from the Old Testament, and what one also from the New Testament?

 

7. What the object of correction discipline in the church member, and what illustration given?

 

8. What is the object relative to the church, what Paul's argument, what Old Testament illustration, and what the New Testament application?

 

9. What the meaning and application of 1 Corinthians 5:11?

 

10. What the meaning and application of 1 Corinthians 5:12-13?

 

11. What the fourth ecclesiastical disorder, and where discussed?

 

 

12. What of the prevalence of this sin?

 

13. What Paul's argument against this disorder?

 

14. What Christ's direction in such cases?

 

15. Describe a typical case of "going to law" scripturally.

 

16. In case a proper adjustment cannot be made, what does Paul recommend?

 

18. What fundamental principle does Paul enunciate in this connection?

 

19. What the design of Christianity?

 

20. What Paul's teaching elsewhere on this point, and what does Christ say also?

 

21. What the character of the Corinthians before hearing the gospel, and what their character afterwards?

 

22. What remarkable case of this transformation cited, and what is Calvinism.?

 

23. What is the meaning of "Every sin that a man. doeth is without the body . . .” and what the application?

 

 

XVIII

 

(Return to Contents)

 

THE PERVERSION OF THE LORD'S SUPPER

1 Corinthians 10:1-22; 11:17-34.

 


The next great ecclesiastical disorder, resulting from these other two, is the Perversion of the Lord's Supper, and all that there is about it is in 10:1-22; 11:17-34. The first perversion was open communion. They had been living among the heathen, and had been keeping the heathen festivals as a religious act. When one member of the family was converted and joined the church, perchance his wife, who was a heathen, says, "Let us be liberal. You come and commune with me at my festival, and I will commune with you at your festival." But Paul says, "You cannot eat at the table of the Lord and the table of the devil; you cannot drink from the cup of the Lord and from the cup of the devil."


I had a woman once to say, "Yes, but that is a different sort of communion." I will admit that it is the greater extreme, but the principle is precisely the same, that is, that it perverts the foundation principle of the Christian religion; that the form of religious act should be the result of individual conviction; that one should not do a thing on account of his wife. It is his own case; it isn't her case.


I was sitting in the Old Methodist Church in Waco one time and a very handsome, cultured lady at the very top of the social world, leaned over and whispered to me,


"I am going to join your church next Sunday."


I said, "What for?" and she said,


"Well, my husband is a Baptist, and will never be anything else."


I said, "What are you?"


"I am a Presbyterian."


"Well," I said, "if you come to my church Sunday to join I will vote against you. You should not take a step of that kind for that reason. Suppose your husband were a Presbyterian, would you come to the Baptist Church?"


"Never!"


"Then stay where you are forever," I said.


Notice the fact that it is the Lord's table, the Lord's cup. A man comes and says,


"May I come to your table? I am perfectly willing for you to come to mine."


I say, "Yes, come on in."


He says, "Not that table; I am referring to the Lord's table."


"It was not to the Lord's table that I invited you."


We cannot put the Lord's table out in the woods. He tells who shall come.


"Well, won't you take a sup with me?"


"Certainly! Come over to my well and I will let you have cool, delicious, clear water."


"I mean drink with me out of the same communion cup."