BABINC offers this marvelous treatment on the topic of GRACE knowing that you will receive a tremendous spiritual blessing as you carefully review the truths contained within the following chapters. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
Founder/President of Dallas Theological Seminary, Dallas, Texas; Professor of Systematic Biblical Theology; Editor, Bibliotheca Sacra
(C) Copyright, 1922, by LEWIS SPERRY CHAFER
Part i | Part II | Part III
The distinction between the reign of law and the reign of grace is at no point more sharply drawn than in the question of the observance of the seventh day of the week or the first day of the week; for these two days are symbolical of the dispensations to which they are related. Likewise, at no point is personal religious prejudice, which is born of early training and sentiment, more assertive than on the sabbath question. It was His liberal teaching on the observance of the Sabbath which, more than aught else, provoked the wrath of the Jewish leaders against Christ, and, it may be observed, there is no religious subject today which so draws out personal convictions and opinions. The reason is evident. Few have really comprehended the exact character and principle of grace. To many, Christianity is a system of human works and character building from which merit accrues. And the observance of a sabbath day presents extraordinary opportunities for the exercise of meritorious works. The question is a far deeper one than the observance, or the manner of observance, of a day. It is the fundamental question whether grace is to reign supreme in place of law, or whether it is to be co-mingled with law. The roots of this problem reach down to the bedrock issue which forms the very structure of the two opposing principles of pure law and pure grace. For its solution, the question demands more than a superficial opinion. Truly the choice of a particular day and the manner of its observance is a test question as to the individual's intelligent adjustment to the whole grace revelation. As there can be no proper co-mingling of the reign of law and the reign of grace, there can be no proper co-mingling of elements which, according to the Scriptures, are the essential features of these widely different days. A "Christian Sabbath" is a misnomer, and the very use of the term indicates inexcusable inattention to Bible terms, and an unchallenged freedom of mind and heart which is willing to sacrifice the richest treasures of grace by co-mingling them with law. It is not a problem of interpretation; it is a question of whether personal sentiment, prejudice, or ignorance, shall blindly override the very foundation of the right divisions of Scripture.
These two days, typical of two opposing governing principles and two great dispensations, are absolutely unrelated. Of the whole Decalogue, it is the sabbath-day commandment only which is not carried forward in any manner whatsoever into the reign of grace, nor could it be. Failure to base the distinction between these age-representing days upon the essential character of their respective relationships -- pure law and pure grace -- is resulting in an almost universal confusion of mind on the subject among Christians, and this, in turn, provides the opportunity for present-day legalists to promote their Christ-rejecting heresies.
Intelligent comprehension of pure law is clarifying to the mind, for its very oppositeness to pure grace safeguards a clear comprehension of grace. On the other hand, the greatest foe of such clear comprehension of pure grace and its issues is the confusing, soul-wrecking and unscriptural admixture of these opposing principles. This admixture is ruinous at every point; but at no point is it more destructive of Scriptural distinctions than in the confusion of a Jewish sabbath with the Christian's day -- the Lord's day, or Sunday.
Consideration at length might be given to many vital differences between the law obligations and the obligations under grace, such as circumcision, tithing, and sacrifices; but unlike the sabbath question, these issues are self-adjusting when the glory of grace in some measure is comprehended. To many, on the other hand, the sabbath question bulks largest as an essential of their religion. It, therefore, demands particular consideration.
The reasons for this discussion are four: (1) It vitally determines the individual's conception of, and blessing in, grace. (2) It, of necessity, determines the character of the believer's conduct and measure of comprehension of his Scriptural obligation to God. (3) It is the central issue of a misleading heresy. And, (4) it is now urged as a national reform, in which it is proposed to legislate a Jewish sabbath on a Christ-rejecting world.
This consideration of the Sabbath question is based on the preceding analysis of the principles of law and grace and this discussion cannot be followed clearly apart from an understanding of what has gone before. So, also, in so far as an earnest appeal may avail, the reader is besought to leave prejudice behind, and to stand on the uncompromised "Thus saith the Lord."
Two major aspects of this subject are here considered. (1) The Biblical testimony regarding the Jewish sabbath, and (2) The Biblical testimony concerning the Christian's "Lord's day." To this is added (3) A consideration of certain current errors.
I. THE BIBLICAL TESTIMONY REGARDING THE JEWISH SABBATH
This theme is to be taken up in subdivisions in which the Jewish sabbath is considered as related to various periods of time:
First. The Period from Adam to Moses.
Two theories obtain concerning the question of sabbath observance during this period. There are those who contend that the sabbath was committed to man in Eden, and there are those who contend that the sabbath was given to Israel only, at the hand of Moses.
The first theory is usually advanced with a view to applying the institution of the sabbath to all men before the law even was given, in order that the sabbath law may be treated as now applicable to all men, even after the termination of the Mosaic law in the cross. This form of argument is not restricted to the Seventh-Day legalists; it is employed by many writers and religious leaders who are attempting to transfer the Biblical authority concerning the Jewish sabbath to the observance of the Lord's day. These, by Judaizing Christianity, are obscuring the truth about grace.
When it is claimed that the sabbath obtained from Adam to Moses it is said: "The sabbath was divinely sanctified at creation." This sanctification, it is true, is clearly stated in Gen. 2:1-3: "Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made."
When it is assumed that the sabbath was imposed on man at Eden, it is based on the supposition that this passage so teaches; which, however, the passage does not necessarily imply. And it should also be remembered that Genesis was not written until Moses' time, and, when seeking for Biblical evidence regarding the pre-Mosaic observance of the seventh day it will be found that, unlike other religious activities, such as prayer, circumcision (cf John 7:22), and sacrifices the observance of which is recorded of that period, there is no mention of a sabbath observance from creation to Moses.
It is incredible that this great institution of the sabbath could have existed during all these centuries and there be no mention of it in the Scriptures dealing with that time. The words of Job, who lived five hundred years and more before Moses, offer an illustration. His experience discloses the spiritual life of the pre-Mosaic saint, having no written Scriptures, and striving to know his whole duty to God. Job and his friends refer to creation, the flood, and many details of human obligation to God; but not once do they mention the sabbath. Again, it is impossible that this great institution, with all that it contemplated of relationship between God and man, could have existed at that time and not have been mentioned in any portion of the argument of the book of Job.
There is little force in the contention that a seven day week was recognized as early as Jacob's time, and therefore a sabbath day must have existed which marked off the week. The seven-day week is the natural fourth part of a lunar month and does not necessarily demand a sabbath day with religious significance for its measurement. Likewise, there is little force in the suggestion that Chinese history hints at the observance of one sacred day in every week. Such argument, even if true, should not be set over against the positive testimony of the Scriptures.
There is one passage which determines this question beyond all discussion. The following quotation from the confession of the priests and Levites under Nehemiah definitely fixes the time of the institution of the sabbath: "Thou camest down also upon Mount Sinai, and spakest with them from heaven, and gavest them right judgments, and true laws, good statutes and commandments: and madest known unto them thy holy Sabbath, and commandedst them precepts, statutes, and laws, by the hand of Moses thy servant" (Neh. 9:13, 14). The Sabbath given to Israel as a sign (Ex. 31:12-17), was never given to Gentiles. There is no record that Gentiles ever recognized the Sabbath, either between Adam and Moses, or between Moses and Christ. The Sabbath is of the law; but the law did not begin to reign until Moses (Rom. 5:12-14).
It is to be concluded, then, that the Sabbath was imposed upon Israel only and as a part of the law as given by Moses.
Second, The Period from Moses to Christ.
The Sabbath began to be observed by Israel from the time of its institution through Moses. Invested with the character of a sign between Jehovah and the nation Israel, it was in no sense extended to Gentiles. These facts are disclosed in the following Scriptures:
"The LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak thou also unto the children of Israel, saying, Verily my sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the LORD that doth sanctify you. Ye shall keep the Sabbath therefore; for it is holy unto you: every one that defileth it shall surely be put to death: for whosoever doeth any work therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Six days may work be done; but in the seventh is the Sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD: whosoever doeth any work in the Sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death. Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the sabbath, to observe the sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever: for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed" (Ex. 31:12-17).
Nothing but blind prejudice could apply this or any other Old Testament Scripture concerning the sabbath, to the Gentiles. The sabbath was a part of Israel's law, and it was the possession of that law which distinguished that nation from all other peoples of the earth.
It is equally erroneous to insist that the sabbath was always celebrated on the last day of the week. The sabbath, but for necessary exceptions, was the seventh in a series of seven, whether days or years. Of necessity it often fell on other days of the week as well as on Saturday. There were at least fifteen sabbaths which were fixed dates in their given month, and these sabbaths fell on those particular dates regardless of the day of the week. (From Lev. 23:37, 38, it has been claimed by some that these fixed sabbaths were extra sabbaths which were added to the regular sabbaths. This claim, however, is not supported by Num. 28:9, 10. The comparison of these important Scriptures reveals the fact that the word "besides" of Lev. 23:37, 38, does not indicate more sabbaths; but rather refers to additional offerings to be made over and above the regular sabbath offerings.)
In one instance, seven sabbaths were counted from the fifteenth day of the month, and the day following that last sabbath of the seven, was Pentecost (Lev. 23:15, 16). These seven sabbaths, it is evident, became pre-determined dates by arbitrary reckoning from the first sabbath. So, likewise, the day that Christ was in the tomb was a fixed sabbath. It was the fifteenth of Abib, which by divine arrangement in that particular year fell on a Saturday. That this was a fixed sabbath is proven by the fact that the day before was "preparation" day (Mk. 15:42), which day was determined for the fourteenth of that month (Ex. 12:2, 6). Again, certain working days were established days. The lamb must be taken on the tenth day of the first month and be killed, roasted with fire, and eaten on the fourteenth day of the month. Likewise, Abib sixteenth could in no wise have been a sabbath for that date was appointed as the beginning of harvest (Deut. 16:9. Cf Lev. 23:15). All these labors would have been direct violations of the sabbath law; yet these ceremonies were appointed for certain pre-determined dates, and from time to time must inevitably have been in conflict with the pre-determined sabbaths.
By all of this it is evident that the sacred character of the day belonged to its relative place in a series of seven days, and not to a particular day of the week.
During the period from Moses to Christ in which the sabbath obtained under the direct sanction of God, it was, as the word sabbath indicates, a day of physical rest. It was binding on the whole nation Israel, and death was the penalty for its violation. No fire was to be kindled, no food prepared, no journey undertaken, no buying or selling permitted, and no burden to be borne. Even the land was to have its sabbaths, (Ex. 31:12-17; 35:3; 16:22-26; Neh. 10:31; 13:15-21; Lev. 25:4; 2 Chron. 36:21). The sabbath law, like all of the law, was so poorly observed that Jehovah finally carried the nation into captivity with the declared purpose that the land might enjoy its sabbaths.
The sabbath was inter-related with the law, just as it is embedded in the heart of the Decalogue. The exact manner of its observance is revealed only in the teachings of Moses, and since the law was a covenant of human works, the sabbath was the divine provision for rest under that covenant. The modern conception of a sabbath, isolated from the laws which governed it, and adapted to the Christian dispensation as the day of religious activity, public meetings, Christian service, and worship, is entirely out of harmony with every Scripture bearing on the sabbath. It is taught by some that although the laws which conditioned the manner of sabbath observance have ceased, the recognition of the day, whether it be Saturday, or Sunday, remains as a binding obligation. The result of such teaching is the imposition of the observance of a day without any exact instruction as to the manner of such observance. This teaching is both inconsistent and unscriptural. Moreover, the unscriptural inconsistency is greatly increased when the celebration of the sabbath is changed from Saturday to Sunday, and is imposed on Gentiles.
The sabbath was a vital institution under the reign of the law. It depended on the entire law system for its proper observance, and the law system depended on the sabbath for its normal action. The complete legal system stands, or falls, together. The Mosaic age was given over to the uncomplicated functioning of the entire law system; but that age, and all that characterized it, was, when Christ died, superseded by the reign of grace.
Third. The Period Represented by the Gospels.
Much confusion concerning the sabbath is due to a failure to recognize the peculiar character of the period represented by the Gospels. It should be remembered that Christ was first a "minister of the circumcision"; He was "made under the law"; and He lived and wrought under the law. The law did not pass at His birth. It passed at His death. During the days of His ministry, He recognized, kept, and enforced the sabbath as an integral part of the whole Mosaic system. True, He insisted that the Mosaic system, and the sabbath in particular, be delivered from the encrusted teachings of men which had been superimposed on the law of Moses. These man-made additions to the law were held by the Jews to be as binding and sacred as the very Word of God. Because He ignored all else but the Word of God, Christ appeared as a liberalist on the question of the sabbath. He also claimed to be "Lord of the sabbath," which He was, and by virtue of that position, He had authority to change the sabbath, or, if He chose, to abolish it forever. A greater than Moses, through whom the law came, was in their midst. It is certain that He purposed to rescue the sabbath from being an enslaving institution and to restore its functions as a benefit to man. This He announced when He said: "The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath." That is, man was not made to be sacrificed for a day; but the day was made for the blessing of man.
Before His death, the sabbath was one of the most important issues in the experience and ministry of Christ. However, it is both obvious and suggestive that He never mentioned that day in the upper-room discourse, nor is that day once mentioned as an obligation in all of His post-resurrection ministry. It is inconceivable that the sabbath, which was so vital a part of the Mosaic system, should be omitted from these great age-characterizing teachings of Christ, if it was the purpose of God that this Jewish day should have any place in the present reign of grace.
It has also been claimed that Christ extended the sabbath-keeping obligation to all men, when He said: "The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath." This issue turns on the exact meaning of the word man as here used. Did Christ signify by this statement that the Jewish sabbath was by His authority extended to all men? Or did He use the word man in its more limited sense as applying only to the nation Israel? Two facts determine the answer: (1) The sabbath is never by any subsequent Scripture applied to Gentiles, and (2) the word man is used in the Old Testament no less than 336 times, when referring to Israel alone, and many times in the New Testament when referring only to Christians. It is said: "Christ is the head of every man"; the Spirit "is given to every man"; "If any man build on this foundation"; "Every man shall have praise"; "That we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus." In all these Scriptures the word man has only the limited meaning. It is therefore evident that Christ said, in harmony with all Scripture, that the sabbath was made for Israel; for there is no Biblical evidence that Christ ever imposed the Jewish sabbath on either Gentiles or Christians; but true to the law, He did recognize its important place and obligation in relation to Israel until the reign of the law should be terminated through His death.
Fourth. The Period Represented by the Acts and the Epistles.
In considering the sabbath question, great importance must be attributed to the exact character of those teachings of the New Testament which come after the founding of Christianity through the death and resurrection of Christ, and by the advent of the Spirit on Pentecost.
It should be observed first that the law, as a rule of conduct, is not once applied to the Christian, and that these Scriptures by overwhelming revelation, assert that the law has passed, through the death of Christ. They assert that the law has ceased both as a means of justification, and as a rule of life for the one who is justified (John 1:16, 17; Rom. 6:14; 7:1-6; 2 Cor. 3:1-18; Eph. 2:15; Col. 2:14; Gal. 3:19-25). If it is claimed that the Decalogue, in which the sabbath is embedded, was not of the law, and therefore was not terminated with the death of Christ, this contention is disposed of completely by the reference in Rom. 7:7-14 to the last of the commandments, in which Scripture this commandment is explicitly mentioned as "the law." So, also, according to 2 Cor. 3:7-14, that which was "written and engraven in stones" -- the Decalogue, including the sabbath day -- is "done away" and "abolished."
It should be observed next that, if an issue so vital as was the sabbath under the law, is imposed on the Church, it is incredible (1) that the early Christians would not be reported as having at some time discharged their personal obligation to the sabbath, or (2) that the necessity of recognizing the sabbath would not be somewhere incorporated in the new teachings of grace. Turning to these Scriptures we discover:
1. The sabbath in the Book of The Acts.
The word sabbath is used nine times in the Acts, and wherever it is referred to as a day which is observed, it is related only to the unbelieving Jews, who, as would be expected, perpetuated, and who still perpetuate, the observance of the sabbath day. Not once in this Book is it stated, or even implied, that Christians kept a sabbath day. It is said that the Apostle Paul went into the synagogue of the Jews and reasoned with them every sabbath; but this can imply nothing more than that he took advantage of their gathering together on that day in order that he might preach to them. Such may be the experience of any missionary to the Jews today.
2. The sabbath in the Epistles.
Turning to the Epistles, it will be seen in this portion of the Scriptures, as in the Book of Acts, that no Christian is said to have observed a sabbath day. It is highly probable that some in the early church who were drawn into the observance of the law were also complicated with issues of sabbath keeping; but the Spirit of God has omitted every such incident, if such there was, from the pages of Scripture. Thus the Inspired Record does not reveal the complication of one believer with the Jewish sabbath, even as an error in conduct; nor are sinners termed Sabbath breakers.
Upon examination of the direct injunctions and doctrinal teachings of the Epistles, it is discovered that the word sabbath is used but once, the term seventh day mentioned in one passage only, and the legalistic observance of a day is referred to but once. These passages deserve particular attention:
Col. 2:16, 17. In the context in which this Scripture is found, the Apostle warns believers against any complicity with the law, or works-covenant, since they have been transferred to a position under grace. The passage states that they have been made "complete" in Christ, to which estate nothing could ever be added; hence for the one who is "in Christ," the objective of all meritorious works is already gained, and the legal obligation to do good works is forever met (v. 10). The believer is also said to be "circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ." Therefore, since the flesh, the one thing the law proposed to control, is, in the sight of God, put away, there is no need of the law. The Jewish child was circumcised on the eighth day, which was the first day of a new week following the passing of a completed week. The circumcision on the eighth day, or first day of a new week, typified the deliverance from the old creation which would be accomplished for believers through the resurrection of Christ from the dead; for in that death He bore all the curse of the old creation. For this reason the believer under grace is not called upon to celebrate any aspect of the old creation which was represented by the sabbath (v. 11). The one who is saved has been "buried with him in baptism, wherein [the baptism] also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God [his own faith in God's power], who hath raised him from the dead." The use of the aorist tense In connection with the reference to a burial with Him in baptism, places that burial as being contemporaneous with the circumcision just mentioned. Therefore it is evident that the baptism with the Spirit which vitally relates the believer to Christ is in view (1 Cor. 12:13. cf Gal. 3:27). In that baptism, as in no other, the Christian partakes of all that Christ is, and all that Christ has done. He shares in Christ's crucifixion, death, burial, and resurrection (Rom. 6:1-10). With the old creation thus buried in the tomb of Christ, the believer is in no wise obligated to any observance related to the old creation (v. 12). Again, the believer has been delivered from the law by no less an undertaking than the nailing of the law with its handwritings and ordinances to the cross. After this great transaction, how can the child of God reasonably recognize the law in any respect whatsoever (v. 14)? To the one who is thus complete in Christ, circumcised in Christ, buried with Christ, and delivered from the authority of all handwritings and ordinances, the Apostle writes: "Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days [day]: which are a shadow of things to come; but the body [substance] is Christ." All these were essential features of the law (1 Chron. 23:31; 2 Chron. 2:4; 31:3), and as such were to cease in the present age of Israel's chastisement (Hos. 2:11), and are to be reinstated in the coming kingdom (Ezk. 45:17). They were but shadows of the Substance Christ. Having the Substance, the believer is warned against turning to the mere shadow. According to this Scripture, the law, which included the sabbath day, is abolished. If it is objected that the reference in this passage is to extra ceremonial sabbaths, the contention cannot be sustained; for the words here used are _ton _sabbaton, which are the exact words that are invariably used to designate the regular Jewish sabbath.
It is significant, then, that in all the Epistles, wherein the believer's obligation under grace is set forth, the only use of the word sabbath is under absolute prohibition concerning its observance, and that it is there held to be in conflict with the most vital and superseding elements of grace.
Heb. 4:4. In this passage the one reference in all the Epistles to the seventh day is found. We read: "For he spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, And God did rest the seventh day from all his works." As before, the occasion for this reference to a seventh day is explicit in the context. In the whole passage (4:1-13) Hebrew Christians are warned lest, as their fathers failed to enter into rest under Joshua (v. 8), they themselves should fail to enter, experimentally, into the rest provided in the finished work of Christ, of whom Joshua was but a type. In the application of this passage, it may be noted that the rest under Christ is not for one day in the week, nor is it that sabbath-rest which was due after a six-day strain of meritorious works. It is rather the abiding rest of faith in Another who, as Substitute, has wrought all the "works of God." This blessed rest is promised "to him that worketh not." Likewise, it is in no sense the rest of death. It is rather the rest of Christ's imparted, resurrection life, and that life is ceaselessly active. The extent and character of the activity of the new life in Christ is a violation of every commandment which enjoins a sabbath day of rest.
Gal. 4:9, 10. At this point in this Epistle, the Apostle chides the Galatian believers for observing "days" which are borrowed from the law, and tells them that by the keeping of legal days they have turned from grace to the law: "But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage? Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years." The phrase, "weak and beggarly elements," is a description of the character of the law. As a means of securing moral and spiritual conduct, the law was "weak" since its correct observance was impossible through the "weakness of the flesh" (Rom. 8:3). As a source of heart-blessing, the law was "beggarly" (lit. poverty stricken) as compared to the riches of grace in Christ Jesus.
From this consideration of the Scriptures which describe and define the life of the believer after the cross, it is notable that in these Scriptures there is no example of the observance of a sabbath day by any believer, and no injunction for such observance. On the other hand, there is the most conclusive teaching concerning the complete ending of the law by the death of Christ, and the most faithful warnings lest the believer shall become ensnared by complicity with sabbath-day observance.
Fifth. The Sabbath in Prophecy.
There are two distinct aspects of the sabbath in prophecy: (1) Concerning its cessation in this age of Israel's chastisement, and (2) concerning its reestablishment when the present purpose in the Church is accomplished.
1. The cessation of the sabbath.
It is clear from Hos. 2:11 that the chastisement which was to fall on Israel, and which she is now experiencing, would be characterized by the cessation of all her solemn feasts and sabbaths: "I will also cause all her mirth to cease, her feast days, her new moons, and her sabbaths, and all her solemn feasts." Such is the unalterable decree of God, and had one word of this prophecy failed, He would have been proven untrue. These Jewish observances which were to cease included all her sabbaths. They ceased at the beginning of this age of grace, so far as any recognition from God is concerned. Otherwise, when will this prophecy be fulfilled? Uninstructed people may impose a solemn feast, or a Jewish sabbath, upon themselves; but this will accomplish no more than the creation of an abnormal conscience which either accuses or excuses but never satisfies the heart. Such is the invariable effect of self-imposed law (Rom. 2:14, 15).
2. The reestablishment of the sabbath.
Upon the completion of the present divine purpose in the Church, Israel's sabbaths will be reinstated. This is assured both for the great tribulation which must precede the glorious coming of Christ, and for the kingdom age which follows that coming. Concerning the great tribulation it is said: "But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day" (Mt. 24:20). No Christian has ever been inclined to offer this prayer. The time of its fulfillment does not concern him, nor does he have any relation to a sabbath day. It will be in the "time of Jacob's trouble," and Israel's sabbaths will then be observed again. Concerning the kingdom age we read: "And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the LORD" (Isa. 66:23); "Thus saith the LORD GOD; The gate of the inner court that looketh toward the east shall be shut the six working days; but on the sabbath it shall be opened, and in the day of the new moon it shall be opened" (Ezk. 46:1). This is according to all prophecy concerning the kingdom. It is then that Israel shall "do all his commandments," including the sabbath (Deut. 30:8). The sabbath must be reinstated; for it is a "perpetual covenant" and sign between Jehovah and Israel, except for such time as He shall cause it to cease in His chastisement of that people (Ex. 31:16).
Sixth. The Exact Day.
The supposition that an exact continuation of weekly sabbaths is now being kept by all who observe the seventh day, is without foundation. It should be noted: (a) No day is holy in itself. From the natural standpoint, all days are alike and are equally subject to the same physical conditions. A day is holy by divine decree, and that decree is subject to change at the appointment of God. By no means did the day always fall on Saturday, nor were the sabbaths always separated by six full working days. (b) The sabbath was to begin with sunset and end with sunset. This was simple enough when ordered for Israel in the small geographical boundaries of Palestine. It is far different when applied to the whole earth, and, as some dare to claim, to heaven as well. No uniformity of the observance of an exact day is possible over the whole earth. While some are keeping Saturday on one hemisphere, others are keeping Sunday (as sabbath) on the other. Should two persons start from a given point to go around the earth in opposite directions, and both observe each sabbath from sundown to sundown, upon their return to the starting point, one would be observing Friday and the other Sunday. The question of observing an exact day from sunset is even more perplexing in the far North. The sun sets there but once in six months. In that region, to be Biblical and exact, there must be a twelve-month sabbath, and a week of seven years. (c) The exact day in which God finished creation and rested is quite unknown. He rested on the seventh day; but it could hardly be proven that sundown on Friday night at a given place on the earth is the perpetuation of the exact moment when God began to rest from His work of creation. Who can trace the exact moment, day, or year, through Eden, the flood, the bondage in Egypt, and the dark ages? Yet apart from the assurance that Saturday at a given place on the earth is the exact day in rotation of weeks from creation, there is no basis for the claim to the sacredness of the exact time to be observed. Ignorant people are too often encouraged in the belief that they are actually celebrating the rest of God in creation when they observe the hours as they fall on Saturday in the locality where they chance to live.
It is therefore the manner of the observance of the day, and not the exact time, which is in question. Shall it be the seventh day, or the first day! It must be one or the other; for there is nothing more unreasonable, illogical, and unbiblical, than the observance of the seventh day with confusion of Christian issues of worship and service, which is the practice of every sabbatarian, or the observance of the first day with confusion of the sabbath law, which is the present practice of Christendom. There would be little occasion for discussion of the question if the simple distinctions between law and grace were recognized.
II. THE BIBLICAL TESTIMONY CONCERNING THE LORD'S DAY
This aspect of truth will be considered under two general divisions: (1) The reason for the observance of the day, and (2) The manner of observance of the day.
First. The Reason for the Observance of the New Day.
Even a cursory reading of those portions of Scripture which condition the daily life of the Christian will reveal the fact that, while every other fundamental principle of righteousness found in the Decalogue is restated in the teachings of grace, the sabbath is not once imposed upon the believer. On the contrary, as before shown, there is explicit warning against the observance of a sabbath day. This is a fact of revelation which should not be overlooked.
Throughout the history of the church, a new day has been observed which superseded the Jewish sabbath, and this change of days has not been contrary to the teaching of the Scriptures, as some insist; it has, rather, been according to the revealed plan and purpose of God. There are certain Biblical reasons for this change:
1. The Mosaic system has ceased.
The whole Mosaic system, including its sabbath day, has given way to the reign of grace. To this important truth sufficient proof has already been presented, but in spite of the clearest Biblical statement on this subject, there are two groups of professing Christians who evidently do not receive this divine testimony. (a) Those who persist in the observance of the seventh day; and (b) those who observe the first day, but who invest it with the character of the Jewish sabbath, and observe it on the authority of the law which was given to Israel by Moses. The position of these two classes should be considered separately:
(a) Those who persist in the observance of the seventh day, do so on the claim that, while the law passed away in the death of Christ, the Decalogue is not a part of the law and therefore it, with its sabbath day, has not been abolished. The answer to this subtle argument is clear and conclusive. Not only is the Decalogue included and embedded in the Old Testament statement of the law, but, in the New Testament, the Decalogue, as has already been shown, is distinctly said to be "the law." In Rom. 7:7, the Apostle Paul has written of the tendency of his own heart toward sin. He states: "I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet." Thus he refers to the Tenth Commandment as "the law."
Furthermore, it is impossible now for any Jew or Gentile to keep the Ceremonial law of Moses, and thus it is evident that the New Testament warnings against law observance could not be a warning against an observance of the Ceremonial law. The Ceremonial law required for its observance the presence of Jehovah in the holy of holies, an altar, a priesthood and a temple in Jerusalem. All these prerequisites for the observance of the Ceremonial law were withdrawn at the beginning of the present age. The church of Rome, in its attempt to continue the law system, proposed to meet this difficulty by creating its own altar, temple service, and priesthood, and alleges that the Lord is present in the consecrated bread. The warnings which are found under grace against the keeping of the law are of necessity applicable only to the Decalogue, and not to the Ceremonial law.
The Ceremonial law governed the precise manner of the observance of the sabbath and there is great unreasonableness, with attending confusion, when the attempt is now made to keep the Jewish sabbath apart from the Ceremonial law. The class of legalists who now try to observe the seventh day, having no way to introduce the Ceremonial law, borrow the features of the new day of grace. They hold services, worship, and do much religious work on the seventh day, which, being strictly a day of rest, was never designed to be a day of activity, religious or otherwise, nor was such activity ever allowed on this day during the reign of the law.
(b) There is even greater inconsistency in the position of those who recognize the first day of the week, but invest that day with the character of the sabbath, and keep the day on the authority of the law of Moses. Not only has the whole Mosaic system ceased with its sabbath and every requirement related to that day; but there could be no consistency in borrowing even one of the features of the Jewish sabbath. This error of borrowing certain features of the Jewish sabbath is committed by both of these classes of legalists. The law of Moses was never subject to a partial observance. It is a unit; for "what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law;" and, "the man which doeth those things shall live by them;" and again, "cursed, is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of law to do them." There is no Scriptural warrant for a partial acceptance of the law, or a partial recognition of its sabbath day. The observance of the day with all its requirements must be perfectly kept, or not at all. The slightest recognition of the least of all the features of the sabbath commits a person who attempts it to keep the whole law. It therefore follows that the Christian who, while keeping the first day of the week, is influenced in the slightest degree by the law of Moses concerning a sabbath day, is, both by Scripture and reason, committed to keep every feature of the Jewish sabbath, as well as the whole Mosaic system. For example, the person who adopts even one feature of sabbath observance on the ground that it is enjoined by the law, is bound by that same sabbath law to stone to death every person who fails to keep any feature of that law. In fact, if he himself had been so guilty as to observe the first day of the week in place of the seventh, he must bow to the death penalty, in vindication of the righteous judgments of God. This death penalty is the uncompromising provision made in God's Word for sabbath breakers.
The original heresy of the church was the attempted admixture of law and grace teachings. It is one of the most destructive heresies of the present hour, and at no point of contact do the opposing principles of law and grace become more clearly crystallized than in the question of the exact day which is to be observed. There is no "Christian Sabbath." The new day which belongs to grace is in no way related to the sabbath. Observance must be either of one day or the other. To co-mingle them, as every legalist does, is to frustrate grace.
2. A new day is divinely appointed under grace.
This new day is also a particular day of the week and has been given a name which is in accordance with its character. Its divine appointment is first recorded in a prophetic message: "The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner. This is the LORD's doing; it is marvellous in our eyes. This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it (Ps. 118:22-24).
In this Scripture, both the death and the resurrection of Christ are in view. He was the rejected Stone, and His Father, through the resurrection, has made Him the Head Stone of the Corner. The resurrection was appointed to take place on a certain day which the Lord had determined, and that day was by divine intention to be celebrated with joy and gladness. The divine commentary on this passage is given through the Apostle Peter as recorded in Acts 4:10, 11: "Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole. This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner."
Therefore the day which the Lord had appointed when the rejected Stone would become the Head Stone of the Corner, is the day of His resurrection. This is the "day which the LORD hath made." It is therefore the Lord's day. In that day we are to "rejoice and be glad." This new day is the day to which the Apostle John makes reference when he said, "I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day" (Rev. 1:10). These words of John were written fully sixty years after the death of Christ and at a time when the new day had become the accepted day among all believers.
The Lord's day should in no wise be confused with "The Day of the LORD." One is the first day of every week, which is observed as a commemoration of the resurrection of Christ. The other is a prophetic period, which is still future, and which concerns Israel and the whole creation.
The first Lord's day was the pattern of all the Lord's days that should follow. It being "very early in the morning" when the risen Lord said, "All Hail" (lit. rejoice)! It continued with His precious fellowship, and closed with His benediction of peace. From that early morning to its close it was a day of worship, activity, and joy. The sabbath, on the other hand, with no less symbolical significance, began with the setting sun, which spoke of complete cessation of activity, and of perfect rest.
The Christian has an unchangeable day. He may extend its observance to all days, but He cannot change the one day, which is divinely appointed, any more than Israel, or any one else, could change the divinely appointed seventh day. A change of the first day to another breaks the symbolic meaning of the day as it represents the true relationships under grace. It results in robbing Christ of that glory which is His alone. This is one of the wrongs committed by all those who persist in an attempted seventh-day observance. The two days do not present an optional choice to the Christian. The choice between these days is one which carries either acceptance or rejection of the most vital relationships between Christ and the believer under grace.
3. A new day is indicated by important events.
Beginning with the resurrection, and following it, every event recorded in the New Testament which had important religious significance fell on the first day of the week, or the Lord's day. No greater emphasis through events could be given to this new day than that found in the teachings of grace, and, added to this, is the fact that in these same Scriptures the sabbath day is wholly set aside. If it be claimed that there is no direct commandment for the keeping of the Lord's day, it should be observed that there is explicit command against the observance of the sabbath day, and that the lack of commandments concerning the Lord's day is both in accordance with the character of the new day, and the entire order of grace which it represents and to which it is related. Mention should be made of the great events which fell on the first day of the week.
a. On the first day of the week Christ arose from the dead. His resurrection is vitally related to the ages past, to the fulfillment of all prophecy, to the values of His death, to the Church, to Israel, to creation, to the purposes of God in grace which reach beyond to the ages to come, and to the eternal glory of God. Fulfillment of the eternal purposes related to all of these was dependent upon the coming forth of the Son of God from that tomb. He arose from the dead, and the greatness of that event is indicated by the importance of its place in Christian doctrine. Had not Christ arisen -- He by whom all things were created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers, He for whom things were created, who is before all things, and by whom all things consist (hold together) -- every divine purpose and blessing would have failed, yea, the very universe and the throne of God would have dissolved and would have been dismissed forever. All life, light, and hope would have ceased. Death, darkness, and despair would have reigned. Though the spiritual powers of darkness might have continued, the last hope for a ruined world would have been banished eternally. It is impossible for the mind to grasp the mighty issues which were at stake at the moment when Christ came forth from the tomb. At no moment of time, however, were these great issues in jeopardy. The consummation of His resurrection was sure, for omnipotent power was engaged to bring it to pass. Every feature of the Christian's salvation, position, and hope was dependent on the resurrection of his Lord. Very much depended on the death of Christ, but every value of that death would have been sacrificed apart from the resurrection. When Christ arose from the dead, Christianity was born, and the new creation was brought into existence. There is nothing in the old order for the believer. He stands on resurrection ground. He belongs only to the new creation. God is faithful to all that He has wrought in Christ and He, according to His Word, will not suffer the child of the new creation to go back and celebrate the beginning of the old and fallen creation from which His child has been saved through infinite riches of grace. If the children of grace persist in relating themselves to the old creation by the observance of the sabbath, it is evidence of their limitations in the knowledge of the Word and will of God; it is to fall from grace.
Since the day of Christ's resurrection is the day in which the new creation was formed, and all that enters into the Christian's life and hope was brought into being, both according to Scripture and according to reason, the Christian can celebrate no other day than the Lord's day.
b. On the first day of the week Christ met His disciples in the new power and fellowship of His resurrection life.
c. On the first day of the week Christ symbolized the new resurrection fellowship by breaking bread with His disciples.
d. On the first day of the week He gave them instructions in their new resurrection ministry and life for Him.
e. On the first day of the week He commanded the disciples to preach the new message to all the world.
f. On the first day of the week Christ ascended into heaven as the "Wave Sheaf." In fulfilling the Old Testament type and the eternal purpose of God, it was necessary that He should appear in heaven as the earnest of the mighty harvest of souls whom He had redeemed and who came out of that tomb with Him to share His eternal life and glory. So, also, He must, having accomplished the sacrifice for sin, present His own blood in heaven (Lev. 16:1-34; Heb. 9:16-28). Having not yet ascended, He said to Mary, "Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren and say unto them, I ascend unto my father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God" (John 20:17). How little the mighty import of this message from Christ was understood then, and how little it is understood even now! That He ascended on that day is evident; for He said unto them at evening of that day, "Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see" (Lk. 24:39). He had ascended to heaven, accomplished His work there, and returned to earth to complete His postresurrection ministry.
g. On the first day of the week He breathed on His disciples and imparted the Holy Spirit to them.
h. On the first day of the week the Spirit descended to take up His age-characterizing ministries in the world.
i. On the first day of the week the Apostle Paul preached to the assembled believers at Troas. The Spirit of God has distinctly emphasized the fact that the Apostle was in Troas seven days. Of necessity, then, the stay in that city included both a seventh day and a first day of the week. The Apostle was thus free to choose either day for his public ministry to the assembled saints. The record reads: "We ... came unto them to Troas ... where we abode seven days. And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them" (Acts 20:6, 7).
j. The Apostle commanded the Corinthian believer to "lay by him in store," on the first day of the week, "as God hath prospered him" (1 Cor. 16:2).
k. On the first day of the week Christ appeared to John on Patmos in that revelation of Himself in all His present resurrection, heavenly glory. He appeared to John on the Lord's day.
4. The new day typifies the new creation.
The rite of circumcision, being accomplished on the eighth day, was a suggestion of the spiritual circumcision of the flesh which Christ wrought by His death and resurrection. The eighth day was the first day following a completed week. It is thus a picture of that new order which came through the death and resurrection of Christ. The Apostle writes: "In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ" (Col. 2:11). Not only has the old nature been judged in the crucifixion, death, and burial of the Son of God, and the new victory in the resurrection life of Christ been made possible; but, for the believer, the old creation went into that tomb and a new creation with its heavenly power and glory came out. The old creation was abolished and with it the sabbath which commemorated it. Only a new standing in the resurrected Christ abides and this both demands and provides a new day. That new day is the eighth day, or the first day following the ending of the old creation.
5. The new day is typical of unmerited grace.
The first day of the week is a type of the facts and relationships which are under grace; while the seventh day is a type of the facts and relationships which are under the law. On the seventh day man rested from all his work. This is in harmony with the law covenant of works, which required a man to do good in order that he might receive the blessing of God. Under the law, six days of faithful labor are followed by one day of absolute rest. On the other hand, the observance of the first day of the week is typical of the believer's position under unmerited grace. He begins with a day of blessing before any works are wrought, and then he is expected to live the following six days in the power and blessing he has received on that day. This is the order of the grace covenant of faith in which all saving grace is first bestowed as a gift from God, and is then followed by a life which is lived in the power of that new relationship with God. A day of rest belonged to a people who were related to God by works which were to be accomplished. A day of ceaseless worship and service belongs to a people who are related to God by the finished work of Christ. The seventh day was governed by an unyielding, ironclad law. The first day is characterized by the latitude and liberty belonging to grace. The seventh day was observed with the hope that by it one might be accepted of God. The first day is observed with the assurance that one is already accepted of God. The keeping of the seventh day was wrought by the flesh. The keeping of the first day is to be wrought by the indwelling Spirit.
6. The new day began to be observed with the resurrection of Christ.
It is claimed by a certain group of sabbatarians that the sabbath was kept by the early church until the day was changed by the Emperor Constantine in the year 321 A.D., or even later by the Pope of Rome. There is no ground for this erroneous and misleading teaching. The sabbath was never changed. It could not be. A new and far different day in significance, which alone could belong to this age of grace, superseded it. When this age is completed and law reigns again in the earth, the sabbath will be observed; but in no wise will man have changed the day. There is conclusive evidence that the first day of the week has been observed by the church from the very resurrection of Christ. This evidence is found both (a) in the Scriptures and (b) in the writings of the early fathers:
(a) Turning to the Epistles of the New Testament, wherein is conditioned the believer's life under grace, we discover that there is prohibition against the observance of a sabbath day, and that there is not one record that any Christian kept a sabbath day, even in error. On the other hand, there is abundant evidence, as has been seen, that the first day of the week was observed in the manner consistent with its significance.
(b) The testimony from the early fathers is also conclusive. (These quotations from the early fathers are taken from Bowman's Historical Evidence of the New Testament, Pgs. 130-135; The Encyclopedia Britannica under "Sunday;" and Mosheim's "Ecclesiastical History," Vol. I. Pg. 135.)
Eusebius, 315 A.D., says: "The churches throughout the rest of the world observe the practice that has prevailed from Apostolic tradition until the present time so that it would not be proper to terminate our fast on any other day but the resurrection day of our Saviour. Hence there were synods and convocations of our Bishops on this question and all unanimously drew up an ecclesiastical decree which they communicated to churches in all places that the mystery of the Lord's resurrection should be celebrated on no other than the Lord's Day."
Peter, Bishop of Alexandria, 300 A.D., says: "We keep the Lord's Day as a day of joy because of him who rose thereon."
Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage, 253 A.D., says: "The Lord's Day is both the 1st, and the 8th day."
Tertullian, of Carthage, 200 A.D., says, speaking of the "sun-worshippers": "Though we share with them Sunday, we are not apprehensive lest we seem to be heathen."
Clement of Alexandria, 194 A.D., says: "The old sabbath day has become nothing more than a working day."
Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons, 178 A.D., says: "The mystery of the Lord's resurrection may not be celebrated on any other day than the Lord's Day."
Bardesanes, 160 A.D., says: "Wherever we be, all of us are called by the one name of the Messiah, namely Christians, and upon one day, which is the first day of the week, we assemble ourselves together and on the appointed days we abstain from food."
Justin Martyr, 135 A.D., says: "Sunday is the day upon which we all hold our communion assembly, because it is the first day on which God having wrought a change in the darkness and matter made the world and Jesus Christ our Saviour, on that day, rose from the dead and on the day called Sunday all who live in cities or in the country gather together in one place and the memoirs of the Apostles, or the writings of the prophets are read as long as time permits." "On the Lord's Day all Christians in the city or country meet together because that is the day of our Lord's resurrection; and then we read the apostles and prophets. This being done, the president makes an oration to the assembly exhorting them to imitate and to practice the things which they have heard, and then we all join in prayer, and after that we celebrate the Lord's Supper."
Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, 110 A.D., says: "If then those who walked in the ancient practices attain unto newness of hope no longer observing sabbaths, but fashioning their lives after the Lord's Day, on which our life also arose through him, that we may be found disciples of Jesus Christ, our only teacher."
Barnabas, one of the Apostolic fathers, writing 70 A.D., says: "Finally He saith, 'Your present sabbaths are not acceptable to me. I shall make a new beginning of the eighth day, that is the beginning of another world,' wherefore also we keep the Lord's Day with joyfulness, the day also on which Jesus rose from the dead."
Also, the "Didache of the Apostles" 70 A.D., says: "On the Lord's own Day gather yourselves together and break bread and give thanks."
By this line of unbroken testimony the evidence concerning the observance of the Lord's day is carried back to the days of the writings of the New Testament. It is quite true that Emperors and Popes have made decrees regarding the first day of the week. Everything was done that could be done to persecute the Jew, and to abolish Jewish practices; but the Jewish sabbath passed, and the new day came to be, not by the decree of man, but by the resurrection of Christ which brought in all that the Lord's day signifies.
7. The new day has been blessed of God
Christians have observed the Lord's day under the evident blessing of God for nearly 2000 years. Among them have been the most devout believers, the martyrs, the missionaries, and a countless throng of those who would have passed through any trial or persecution to know and do the will of God. It is a very serious charge to say that all these faithful saints have been disobedient, or as some sabbatarians now call all Christians who do not keep sabbath, "heretics," "deceivers," "having the mark of the Beast," and "blinded by Satan." The Gospel of grace is by these people substituted by "another gospel" which is to the effect that only those who keep the sabbath will be saved, and they also teach that God has "forsaken His church" and that she is "abandoned to Satan who rules her." In spite of the fact that God has never once imposed the sabbath upon the age of grace, they make the preaching of the sabbath their major theme, and in seeming bitterness, do not hesitate to hinder the good works of all who love and keep the Lord's day. Along with the error of preaching the law in place of the Gospel, these sabbatarians hold and teach other misleading heresies and unbiblical doctrines. Being so much in error concerning many fundamental doctrines of the Bible, it is not strange that they persist in sabbath legality.
The reasons for keeping the Lord's day, or the first day of the week, are clear and sufficient to those who will receive the teachings of God's Word without prejudice.
Second. The Biblical Observance of the Lord's Day.
The manner in which the first day of the week should be observed is clearly indicated by the very name which is given to it in the Scriptures. Being the Lord's day, it is to be lived in that manner which will most honor and glorify the Lord. Whatever enters into the present relationship between the believer and his Lord, such as prayer, joyful worship, and service, will naturally characterize the observance of the day. Particular care should be exercised that no element of a Jewish sabbath be incorporated into the manner of the keeping of the Lord's day. Not only does such an intrusion create confusion in the mind as to the meaning and purpose of the day, but it is a co-mingling of the elements of law and grace, and this, it is certain, is not according to the mind of God. The two days are similar only in one respect: they both sustain the ratio of one particular day in seven. There is not the slightest reason for any combination of their respective features. Should this exhortation to watchfulness lest these days be confused seem to be extreme, it should be remembered that only thus can a believer stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has made him free, and not be entangled again in a yoke of bondage. Only thus can he be saved from violating the most precious aspect of his own relation to God under grace, and from disregarding the most vital injunctions of those Scriptures which condition his life under grace. Christians have been saved from the curse of the law by the death of Christ (Gal. 3:13). This marvelous deliverance has cost the sacrifice of the Son of God, and it cannot be an unimportant issue in the mind of God, The believer who would really keep the day in conformity to the revealed will of his Lord, should duly consider the fact that every aspect of sabbath observance is purely legal, and related only to law, and that Christ has died to save him from any complicity with the law. The observance of the Lord's day as recorded in the New Testament, is free from every relationship to the Jewish sabbath.
When contemplating the Scriptural observance of the Lord's day, three considerations arise: (1) It belongs to a particular people; (2) it is not subject to rules; and (3) its observance is not limited to one day.
1. The Lord's day belongs to a particular people.
As the sabbath under the law belonged only to the nation Israel, so, in like manner, the new day in grace belongs only to those who are regenerated by the Spirit. In arriving at the full force of this statement, it should be noted:
a. The Lord's day, like every other aspect of grace, is an appeal to the individual believer only.
As men are now saved by a personal faith, and afterwards their service is in the power of an individual gift by the Spirit, they walk alone in the Spirit, and they receive their own reward for faithfulness to God. In conformity with this truth, therefore, the observance of the day is to be personal. The exact manner of its observance is a matter between the individual believer and his Lord. The Scriptures presuppose that the believer is a normal Christian to the extent that he is yielded to God and walking in the Spirit, that it will be his delight to do the will of God, and to rejoice above all else in the larger freedom which the Lord's day affords for worship and service. If perchance he is not thus yielded to God, no forced, outward observance of the day will correct his carnal heart, nor would such an observance of a day be pleasing to God.
No day has been committed to the Church as a body. Apart from the two exceptions that the believer is to consider his possible influence upon a weaker brother, and his own conduct in the light of expediency, the day is to be observed by the individual out of the fullness of his own heart. Beyond this there are no rules, nor could there be; for apart from this there is no possibility of continuing in those exact relationships which belong to grace. Concerning the observance of the Lord's day the Apostle said: "Let every man [Christian] be fully persuaded in his own mind" (Rom. 14:5).
b. The Lord's day is not for the unregenerate.
The unsaved sustain no relation to the Lord's day, since that day belongs only to the new creation, and therefore the pressing of the observance of a religious day upon the individual who is unsaved, is misleading in the extreme; for it tends to the utter confusion of the Gospel of grace. God is not calling on the unsaved to keep a day to which they could in no way be related. The issue between God and the sinner is the one issue which the new Gospel of grace has raised and imposed. It is a question as to whether he will believe on the Lord Jesus Christ unto forgiveness and eternal life. The person who observes a day while rejecting Christ as Saviour, is no nearer salvation or acceptance with God than he would otherwise be. That supposed merit, gained by keeping a day, may be the one thing that hinders him from discovering Christ as the Saviour for a meritless sinner. Men are not saved by any works whatsoever, and any teaching which misdirects them at this point is "another gospel" and subject to the anathema of God (Gal. 1:8). If the motive in pressing the religious observance of a day upon the unregenerate be for the moral and civic good of the community, the question should be answered as to whether the moral and civic betterment of the world is more important than the salvation of men.
c. The Lord's day is not a national day.
When a day is imposed upon the nation it is, without exception, upon the authority of the Jewish sabbath of rest, and not on the authority of anything which obtains in the new creation. The error of this legalism needs no further exposition. God is certainly not imposing a legal sabbath on any nation, or the world, when He has given His Son to remove that whole law-curse and to place men where they might be saved apart from works of their own. In this age God is represented as dealing with the individual only. In matters of human government, it is the "times of the Gentiles," with all that is involved, and no individual or nation is now accepted of God on the basis of human works.
It is most imperative that a day of rest for man and beast be maintained by civic authority. No intelligent person could vote otherwise; but the day should be enforced as all other humanitarian laws and other portions of the Decalogue are enforced, and not as a meritorious religious observance. At any cost the sabbath-observance stumbling-stone should be kept from the path of the unsaved.
d. The Lord's day and the children.
The question often arises in the Christian home as to the manner in which the Lord's day should be observed by children. Upon this subject a suggestion may be advanced: Until he is of age, the child is properly under the direction of the parents and the government of the home. He should live in conformity to the wishes and customs of the parents, but it is vitally important that the child should be brought to know Christ as a Saviour at the earliest possible moment. Then the Lord's day becomes to him a matter of his own privilege and personal delight, and not a law prescribed by the parents. Care should be taken, as well, that the day of grace should not become a subject of dislike and prejudice in the mind of the child.
2. The Lord's day is not subject to rules.
Such is the character of all the teachings of grace, and at this point the grace teachings are wholly in contrast to the teachings of all law. The law contemplated the people to whom it was addressed as being children and thus subject to "tutors and governors." Every detail of their prescribed life was a matter of explicit law. The flesh was in no way depended upon to direct itself. The believer under grace is an adult son in the Father's house, with the wider latitude which belongs to the full-grown, self-responsible man. Therefore the teachings of grace are not explicit as to detail. They anticipate the immediate inner judgment by the indwelling Spirit. Under grace, great principles are announced, but the outworking of those principles is to be according to the leading of the Spirit in the individual. Liberality is enjoined, but the object and amount of the gift is a matter of prayerful dependence on the Spirit. As to service, every Christian is to be instant in season and out of season, but the gifts for service and the manner and place of their exercise is "as he will." Prayer is to be offered without ceasing, but we know not what to pray for as we ought. However in this again, the Spirit helpeth our infirmities and He maketh intercession for us according to the mind of God. The believer's life under grace is a "walk in the Spirit." Step by step, every detail is to be wrought in the heart by the Spirit, and there are no more detail-rules for the observance of the Lord's day than for the outworking of any other responsibility or privilege under grace. The flesh is not now to be controlled by laws; but by the Lordship of the Spirit. Not having specific rules for the keeping of the Christian's day, and not duly considering the divine provision for a spiritual life in the power of the Spirit, men, hoping to keep control of the flesh, have turned to the Jewish sabbath laws and forced them onto the Lord's day. In so doing, they have repudiated one of the most vital accomplishments of the death of Christ, they have robbed believers of their liberty in grace, and, so far as their influence goes, they have degraded the full-grown sons of God to the level of mere children who are under "tutors and governors."
The real question is not, How shall we preserve the sacredness of the day unless we have laws and enforce them? It is rather, can the believer, to whom the day belongs, be trusted, when filled with the Spirit, to glorify God on the Lord's day? Evidently there will be no failure to observe the day on the part of the Spirit-filled believer. But what of the great company of carnal Christians? Should they not be held by laws to the keeping of the day? In reply to this important question it should be stated: The position of a carnal Christian is different from that of the unsaved. The Lord's day belongs to the Christian, but it does not belong to the unregenerate. The Christian alone faces the problem related to the Lord's day. The problem, therefore, resolves itself into this: Is God satisfied when the Christian's life is merely a forced, outward conformity to unpleasant ideals? The answer is obvious. One of the essential glories of grace is that God-honoring manner of life which is an outflow and overflow of the heart. No painful observance of law will ever correct a carnal heart. The cure is found only in the right adjustment of the heart to the Spirit. Too often the Christian life is presented as being a matter of observing certain rules and sustaining a superficial outward conduct, to the neglect of the divinely provided, victorious, overflowing life in the Spirit. Notwithstanding the consternation of the untaught legalist who proposes to regulate Christian conduct by precept, the truth stands that the Lord's day imposes no rules, and yields to no law. True to grace, there are, however, certain well-defined principles to be stated:
a. It, being the Lord's day, is to be lived well-pleasing to Him.
This principle is the embodiment of all other principles related to the keeping of the Lord's day; but the detail of this heaven-high ideal, as has been seen, cannot be determined by rules, nor can it ever be wrought by the flesh. There is but one exception: It has pleased the Lord to give minute instruction as to the manner of the observance of His memorial supper.
b. The Lord's day celebrates the resurrection of Christ.
If this be true, then all obligation to observe the day of rest, which is related to the old creation, is excluded. The day is to be celebrated in the new life and service of the resurrected Christ.
c. The Lord's day yields to no law.
Like all law, the law of a certain day has been kept and fulfilled for the believer by Christ. There remains for the believer only overflowing praise and joyful service. The element of necessity has likewise passed. Men are not compelled to keep a day to be accepted of God. They, if saved, are already accepted "in the beloved." The day should be kept because of perfection in Christ, and not unto perfection in Christ.
d. It is a day of personal delight.
When the Lord's day becomes a burden to the individual, to him it is no longer a day of grace. It is characterized by that attitude of heart which delights to do the will of God. When this day was prophetically announced, it was said: "This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it." So, also, the first word from the lips of the resurrected Christ on the morning of His resurrection was, "All hail!" (The word here is _chairo, and means rejoice, or, O joy!.) The Lord's day should be celebrated in the fullest experience of the "joy of the Lord. "
e. The Lord's day is a day for the largest Christian activity.
The risen Lord revealed the character of the day on that same early morning when He said: "Go tell." This is the obligation toward the new evangel, the giving of which is to occupy every believer. As the Old Testament priests went in to perform a sacrifice, the New Testament priests, -- all believers under grace, -- are to go out to the ends of the earth to tell of the sacrifice which has been performed. The Lord's day is not a day for selfish entertainment or amusement. It is not a day for idleness and rest. Its privileges should be, and will be, preserved by all who delight to do His will. It becomes an opportunity for many who are held by secular work during the days of the week, to offer the fuller service of prayer, worship, and testimony which belongs to their Lord. The instructed Christian no longer labors to be accepted of God, which was the obligation under the law; but he, being accepted in grace, labors to glorify his Lord who saves him. He has ceased from his own works, and though ceaselessly active, is working in the power and energy of the Spirit. His activity is not limited to one day, or to six days: it is "in season and out of season" according to the mind and will of the Spirit. Spirit-filled believers have always violated every feature of a strict Jewish sabbath of rest when serving as "able ministers of the new covenant." If led of the Spirit thus to serve, the resulting violation of the sabbath is in reality the work of the Spirit. It would be a herculean task, indeed, to attempt to prove that all Christian service and activity exercised on the first day of the week for nineteen centuries has been offensive to God because it violated the demands of a sabbath of rest, or that the neglect of the seventh day by all the believers of the Christian era, has, in the mind of God, merited the penalty of death. Yet this is the logical charge to be made against all these believers unless it be admitted that they had individually entered, as a prerequisite to service, into the sabbath rest of that which is finished forever in the cross.
f. The Lord's day observance is to be governed by the law of expediency, and the law of love.
The law of expediency permits the undertaking on the Lord's day of only those things which are advisable, advantageous, and suitable. Judgment in these things should be formed only in view of the Biblical teachings concerning the Lord's day responsibility, -- not the Jewish sabbath, -- and in view of the need of others, and the possible influence which any particular action might have upon others. The Christian objective is not a slavish conformity to certain laws governing a day. It is concerned rather with the question as to what will most glorify Christ and advance the cause of His saving grace in the earth.
When adjusted to the law of love, the Christian will not exercise his own liberty in such a manner as to hinder and offend a weaker brother who through false teaching has developed a conscience toward a Jewish sabbath, nor will he rob others of the exercise of their own worship and service. Such issues have to be given due consideration when dealing with all questions of travel and of relationship to those who serve.
3. The manner of the observance of the Lord's day may be extended to all days.
The Lord's day observance alone is capable of being extended to all days; for in no wise could a Jewish sabbath be thus extended. It is evident, therefore, that the Apostle's reference to the keeping of a day, as found in Rom. 14:1-12 is a reference to the Lord's day and not to a sabbath day. He writes: "Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand. One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. ... For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. ... So then every one of us shall give an account of himself to God."
The primary teaching of this passage puts the emphasis on the fact that Christian conduct is largely a matter to be settled between the believer and his Lord. There need be no fear; "God is able to make him stand." The passage might be understood as presenting a contrast between a man who keeps one day, and a man who keeps no day at all. In such a case, God will deal with the wrong in His child, if wrong there be. In attempting to adjust such a situation, men might compel the erring one to observe a day, or, as a penalty for failure, exclude him from their fellowship. The divine method is to change the heart. This God alone can do.
But in this particular instance it will be observed that concerning the man of whom it is said that he does not regard the day, it is also said that "unto the Lord he doth not regard it." It is as much a matter of devotion to God in the case of the one man as it is in the case of the other. It is therefore probable that the contrast is between the man who keeps one day as unto the Lord, and another man who keeps all days as unto the Lord. There must be sufficient room in the Christian fellowship for these two equally sincere men to live in joyful companionship in Christ. It would be quite human for each of these men to form mutually exclusive denominations for the conservation of his own peculiar convictions. This, however, would not be in harmony with the life under grace. The man who esteems all days alike, extends the joyous worship, praise, and service belonging to the Lord's day into every day. This leads to the consideration of the fact that there is (a) a true sabbath under grace, and (b) there is yet to be a millennial sabbath in the earth.
a. The true sabbath under grace.
The sabbath under the law was a day. The sabbath under grace is a life. The law, even of the sabbath, was but "a shadow of good things to come," but Christ is now the Substance. The sabbath under grace knows no shadow. It is radiant with the glory of the resurrected Christ.
In Hebrews 4:1-16 there is full revelation concerning the sabbath under grace. This whole message is gathered up in one brief portion of the passage: "There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from His" (vs. 9, 10). There is no reference in this Scripture to the rest into which the Christian enters at death. It is rather, "For we which have believed do enter into rest" (v. 3). It is the rest of "him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly" (Rom. 4:5), and the rest of the one who, "walking in the Spirit," discovers that he does not fulfill the lust of the flesh, and who enters into the realization of the provision through the indwelling Spirit that the whole will of God is to be fulfilled in him, rather than by him. This great blessing is not restricted to a sabbath day; it is an unbroken sabbath life. The sabbath of the law was, then, a day of absolute rest; the sabbath under grace is a life which is delivered from all works of the flesh since Christ has wrought, and is free from every dependence on the flesh since the Spirit has been given. No burden was allowed to be borne on the sabbath under the law; every burden is to be cast on the Lord in the sabbath of grace. The sabbath of the law was a day of rest for self; the sabbath of grace is a rest from self. It is a life which is to be lived to the glory and praise of Another. In the sabbath under the law, man was to cease from doing his own will for one day in seven; in the sabbath under grace the believer is to be constantly and wholly yielded to God.*
* [There is significance in the fact that the Greek word for week is _sabbaton, which also means sabbath. Thus in Mt. 28:1, referring to the day of Christ's resurrection, we have the possible literal reading: "At the end of the sabbath as it began to dawn on the first day of sabbaths" (cf Mk. 16:2, 9; Lk. 24:1; John 20:1, 19; Acts 13:14; 16:13). At least three expositions of this passage are possible.
1. That there is no significance in the fact that the resurrection day is called sabbath since it is the same Greek word for week. This is evidently the position taken by translators generally. The one passage, "I fast twice in the week" (Lk. 18:12) would be difficult under a sabbath interpretation unless it be taken to mean, "I fast twice on the sabbath."
2. That the use of the word _sabbaton in connection with the day of resurrection warrants the use of the phrase, Christian Sabbath, but the strong objection to this usage is the absolute prohibition in the Epistles against the sabbath day under any form whatsoever.
3. That the resurrection morning was the first day of all the days which were to enter into the age of grace, and that age, so far as a sabbath is concerned, is a period in which the believer has entered into rest. Under this interpretation, the resurrection day was the first day of sabbaths, which series was to include every succeeding day until the Lord returns.]
Every vestige of the system which provided for the giving of one-seventh of the time in conformity to the will of God, is removed, and in its place the everyday, unchanging experience of that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God has been substituted. It is inconceivable that Christ was more devoted to His Father on one day than on another. To intrude the legal sabbath into the present order of fellowship with God, is to rob Him of six-sevenths of His glory in grace.
It is true that the Christian has a day which is given to him from God, and this day is to be observed; but its observance is never a matter of greater piety, devotion, or yieldedness to God than of any other day. Its observance consists in a larger freedom, because of the cessation of temporal cares, to do all that his heart is yearning to do all the days. The sabbath in grace is, therefore, an experience of all that enters into the highest ideals of the Christian's life and devotion to God. Blessed indeed are the children of God who learn to turn from holy days, from lenten seasons, and from all mere forms, if these even suggest the thought of fitfulness in fellowship and service with Christ. Doubtless, in spite of the glory of the true sabbath under grace, there will always be those who will continue to give their tenth, in place of giving themselves and all that they are and have, and who will give a mere fraction of their time for devotion to God, rather than their lives. The true sabbath under grace is well stated in these words: "Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God" (1 Cor. 10:31) "Be instant in season, out of season" (2 Tim. 4:2) "Pray without ceasing" (1 Thes. 5:17); "Giving thanks always for all things" (Eph. 5:20); "Rejoice evermore" (1 Thes. 5:16); and, "Be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord" (1 Cor. 15:58).
b. The millennial sabbath.
The sabbath, as a type, will have its final earthly fulfillment in the coming kingdom-reign of Christ. It seems probable that it will be at the end of its six thousand years of labor and oppression under the power of sin and Satan, that the earth will celebrate its predicted thousand-year, jubilee sabbath of rest. During that period the Church will be reigning with the King as His Bride, and Israel will again keep her seventh-day sabbath, but in the new enabling power which is to be provided in that age of the divine glory in the earth. Of that kingdom-age it is written: "And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the LORD" (Isa. 66:23).
III. CERTAIN CURRENT ERRORS
A brief recapitulation of what has already been covered of the current errors on the sabbath question is here given in conclusion of this aspect of the teachings of grace.
First. That the Sabbath Obtains from Creation to the End of Time.
There is no Scripture upon which this claim may be based, either for the period from Adam to the giving of the law, or from the death of Christ until the end of the present age of grace.
Second. That the Sabbath was Ever Given to Gentiles.
The disastrous results of the prevalent custom of borrowing certain features from Judaism, including its sabbath, and intruding them into Christianity cannot be too strongly emphasized. This error carries with it the obligation to keep the law in its totality, disregards one of the most vital accomplishments of Christ in His death, and creates a condition of hopeless confusion in all matters related to the right divisions of the Scriptures.
The whole seventh-day error is a logical outcome of an assumed freedom to apply Jewish Scriptures to the Church of God.
Third. That the Decalogue was Never a part of the Law, and Therefore the Sabbath of the Decalogue is Now Binding Though the Law is Done Away.
This claim is silenced by the Scriptures. The Decalogue is included, incorporated, and embedded in the Old Testament statement of the law; and in the New Testament, the Decalogue is explicitly declared to be "THE LAW" (Rom. 7:7).
Fourth. That the Jewish Sabbath was Changed to the Lord's Day.
Emperors, Popes, church councils, and creeds have declared the obligation to observe the first day of the week as the sabbath. Such decrees have never changed the sabbath to the Lord's day. The sabbath could not be changed. An entirely different day has been established by God Himself. This new day belongs to the transcendent realities of the new creation which was brought into existence through the resurrection of Christ. The Lord's day is different from the sabbath in every consideration but one, namely, like the Jewish sabbath, it is a reservation of one particular day in seven.
Fifth. That the Lord's Day Should he Called the Christian Sabbath.
The practice of speaking of the Lord's day as the Christian sabbath is wholly without Scriptural warrant, and is no doubt more often the result of careless habit, or lack of due consideration of the Bible teachings, than of unbelief.
Sixth. The Practice of Adopting Rules from the Jewish Sabbath Law to Supplement the Precious Absence of Rules for the Lord's Day.
This blasting error should be judged without mercy, for it, in effect, drives every grace-aspect of the Lord's day from the field, and induces one "to tempt God" (cf Acts 15:10). The toleration of this error not only reveals a total misconception of the glories of grace, but it darkens counsel, and complicates the saving Gospel of Christ.
Seventh. That the Universal Observance of a Sabbath, or Lord's Day, Should be Required by Legislation of a Town, a State, or a Nation.
This teaching, likewise, is foreign to Scripture. Let those who are pursuing this idea pause to consider whether their energy might not be employed in a manner which is more pleasing to Christ by heeding His last command to go into all the world and preach the Gospel, rather than to attempt to compel unwilling, Christ-rejecting hearts into a mere religious formality which only develops self -righteous Pharisees who are as surely doomed without Christ as though they had never heard of a holy day.
There is probably no word of Scripture which more clearly defines the essential fact concerning the Christian than the phrase, "In Christ," and as the Christian is the most important fact of all creation, there has never been a word uttered which was so far-reaching in its implication, or which is fraught with greater meaning to humanity than the phrase, "In Christ." This phrase, with its equivalents, "In Christ Jesus," "In Him," "In the Beloved," "By Him," "Through Him," and "With Him," appears in the grace teachings of the New Testament no less than 130 times. This most unusual emphasis upon one particular truth is arresting, and its import must not be slighted. Over against the emphasis which is given to this truth in the teachings of grace, is the corresponding fact that there is no hint of a possible position in Christ in any teaching of the law or of the kingdom. The believer's present position in Christ was not seen even in type or prophecy. In the ages past it was a secret hid in the mind and heart of God. He who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in Christ, "hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; having made known unto us the mystery [sacred secret] of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: that in the dispensation of the fulness of time he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: in whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: that we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ."
Who can comprehend the full scope of these eternal wonders? Knowing the limitation of the human heart, at this point the Apostle breaks forth into prayer: "Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: the eyes of your understanding [heart] being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints."
Having thus prayed that the Christian may know by divine illumination the hope of his calling and the riches of the glory of the inheritance which God now has in the saints, he continues to pray that they may also know by the same divine revelation, "the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: and hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all" (Eph. 1:2-23).
Growing out of this glorious relationship in Christ, is a most natural responsibility to walk worthy of the calling; but the issues of a daily life and the character of the conduct which should enter into it, though important in their place, are lost and forgotten in the blaze of the eternal glory of that unchangeable grace which has brought the believer into the new creation in Christ Jesus.
To be in Christ is to be in the sphere of His own infinite Person, power, and glory. He surrounds, He protects, He separates from all else, and He indwells the one in Him. He also supplies in Himself all that a soul will ever need in time or eternity.
The union which is formed in Christ is deeper than any relationship the human mind has ever conceived. In His priestly prayer, in which He had advanced onto resurrection ground, and where He contemplated the glory of His finished work as having been already accomplished (cf John 17:11), Christ spoke of three unities within the sphere of one relationship: (1) The unity within the Persons of the Blessed Trinity, (2) the unity between the Persons of the Trinity and all believers, and (3) the unity between the believers themselves, since they are in Him. We read: "Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us. ... I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one" (John 17:20-23). Who can fathom the depths of the revelation that the believer is related to Christ on the very plane of that oneness which exists between the Father and the Son?
Again, Christ likens the union which exists between Himself and the believer to the vital, organic relation that exists between the vine and its living branch. The branch is in the vine and the life of the vine is in the branch; but the branch possesses no independent life in itself. It cannot exist apart from the vine. The human child may outgrow dependence upon its parents and, in turn, support and sustain them; but the branch can never become independent of the vine. In like manner, the fruit and every manifestation of life in the branch is due to the ceaseless inflow of the vitality of the vine. The fruit is as much the fruit of the vine as it is the fruit of the branch (cf John 15:5; Rom. 7:4; Gal. 5:22, 23). Thus it is with the one who is in Christ.
Considering the same fact of unity, the Apostle Paul likens Christ to the head and the believers to members in a body. This figure illustrates the same vital, dependent relationship. The member in the body partakes of the merit and honor of the head, and the life and power of the head is imparted to the member. So perfect is this unity between the Head and the members of the body, that it is probable that Christ will never be seen in glory apart from His body, and the body will never be seen apart from Him (cf 1 Cor. 12:12).
From these illustrative Scriptures it will be observed that the unity between Christ and the believer is two-fold: The believer is in Christ., and Christ is in the believer. The believer is in Christ as to positions, possessions, safe-keeping, and association; and Christ is in the believer giving life, character and dynamic for conduct.
It has already been pointed out that the upper-room conversation, recorded in John, chapters 13 to 16, presents the grace teachings of Christ, and is the germ of all the truth that is found in the Epistles, which, in turn, contain the revelation of the essential fact of the new creation and the resulting obligation as to daily life. The doctrinal truth of the Epistles, which is the doctrinal truth of grace, is subject to the same two-fold division -- what the saved one is in Christ, and the character and power of the daily life that will be experienced when the victorious energy of the indwelling Christ is imparted.
At one point in the midst of the upper-room discourse, Christ compressed the whole doctrinal structure of grace into one brief phrase. This phrase is notable because it is the key to all the facts and relationships under grace, and because of its simplicity and brevity of language:
"Ye in me, and I in you" (John 14:20).
These two aspects of the truth under grace will be considered separately. (1) "Ye in me," (2) "I in you."
1. "YE IN ME"
Every child of God is vitally united to Christ. He is placed in Christ by the baptism with the Spirit, which ministry of the Spirit is not only a part of salvation and therefore already accomplished for all who are saved, but it is distinctly said to be a ministry that is wrought for all who believe on Christ. The Scriptures state: "For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit" (1 Cor. 12:13).
This is the one passage in the Word of God which reveals the precise meaning and objective of the baptism with the Spirit. Since its meaning is clear, there is no excuse for the prevalent errors connected with this truth. Being accomplished for "all," the baptism with the Spirit includes the one who has just been saved. Thus the time of its accomplishment is revealed. It is, of necessity, synchronous with salvation itself, and therefore a part of it. Likewise, the same passage presents the divine objective which is accomplished by the Spirit's baptism. It is "into one body," and that believers may be "made to drink into one Spirit." There was a time when the individual was not in Christ, which is the present estate of all who are unsaved. There follows a time when the individual, being saved, is in Christ. This great change consists in the fact that he has been placed in that vital organic union with Christ by the baptism with the Spirit. By the Spirit he has been baptized into the very body of Christ, and this ministry of the Spirit, likewise, unites all who are saved into a unity of their own; for they are "made to drink into one Spirit."
There is no other work of God for the individual which seems to accomplish so much as the baptism with the Spirit; for by it the living union with Christ is established forever, and by virtue of that union the believer has entered the sphere of all heavenly positions and all eternal possessions which in grace are provided for him in Christ. To the Christian, Christ has become, in the divine reckoning, the sphere of his being, and this reckoning contemplates all that the Christian is and all that he does. Certain aspects of this truth, among many, are to be noted:
First. Christ is the Sphere of the Believer's Positions.
A sphere is that which surrounds an object on every side and may even penetrate that object. To be within a sphere is to partake of all that it is and all that it imparts. Thus the bird is in the air and the air is in the bird; the fish is in the water and the water is in the fish; the iron is in the fire and the fire is in the iron. Likewise, in the spiritual realm, Christ is the sphere of the believer's position. He encompasses, surrounds, encloses, and indwells the believer. The believer is in Christ, and Christ is in the believer. Through the baptism with the Spirit, the Christian has become as much an organic part of Christ as the branch is a part of the vine, or the member is a part of the body. Being thus conjoined to Christ, the Father sees the saved one only in Christ, or as a living part of His own Son, and loves him as He loves His Son (Eph. 1:6; John 17:23).
As an accompanying result of this vital union in Christ certain facts of relationship are created which are the believer's new positions _in _Christ, and are the consequence of the work of God in grace. To present fully all the new positions into which the Christian is brought in Christ, would necessitate an analysis of all the great doctrinal portions of the Epistles. By way of illustration, a brief selection from these positions is here presented. (A more complete analysis of the believer's positions will be found in the author's book Salvation.)
Of the saved one it is said that he is:
Elect and called of God (1 Thes. 1:4; 5:24).
Redeemed by God through the blood of His Son (Col. 1:14).
Reconciled to God by the death of His Son (2 Cor. 5:19).
Sheltered eternally under the propitiation made in the blood of Christ (1 John 2:2).
Forgiven all trespasses, past, present, and future (Col. 2:13).
Condemned no more forever (Rom. 8:1).
Justified freely by His grace (Rom. 3:24).
Sanctified positionally, or set apart unto God in Christ (1 Cor. 1:30).
Perfected forever (Heb. 10:14).
Made meet to be a partaker of the inheritance of the saints in light (Col. 1:12).
Made accepted in the Beloved (Eph. 1:6).
Made the righteousness of God in Him (2 Cor. 5:21).
Made nigh to God in Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:13).
A child and son of God (John 1:12; 1 John 3:3).
Free from the law and dead to the law (Rom. 7:4, 6).
Delivered from the power of darkness (Col. 1:13).
Translated into the kingdom of God's dear Son (Col. 1:13).
Founded on the Rock Christ Jesus (1 Cor. 3:11).
God's gift to Christ (John 17:11, 12, 20; 10:29).
Circumcised in Christ (Col. 2:11).
An holy priest, chosen and peculiar (1 Pet. 2:5, 9).
Object of divine love, grace, power, faithfulness, peace, consolation (Eph. 2:4, 8; 1:9; Heb. 13:5; Col. 3:15; 2 Thes. 2:16).
Object of Christ's intercession (Heb. 7:25).
His inheritance (Eph. 1:18).
Seated in the heavenly in Christ (Eph. 2:6).
A citizen of heaven (Phil. 3:20 R.V.).
Of the family and household of God (Eph. 2:19; 3:15).
Light in the Lord (Eph. 5:8).
In God, in Christ, and in the Spirit (1 Thes. 1:1; John 14:20; Rom. 8:9).
Possessed with the first fruits of the Spirit. Born (John 3:6), baptized (1 Cor. 12:13), indwelt (1 Cor. 6:19), and sealed (Eph. 4:30).
Glorified (Rom. 8:30).
Complete in Him (Col, 2:10).
Possessing every spiritual blessing (Eph. 1:3).
Of these and all other positions which are the present possession of the child of God through his vital union with Christ, it may be said that they are:
The believer's positions, like all things related to the Spirit, are invisible; but as is true of spiritual things, they are more real and abiding than visible things. "For the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal" (2 Cor. 4:15), and, "Whom having not seen, ye love" (1 Pet. 1:8. cf 1 Tim. 1:17; 6:16; Heb. 11:27; 1 John 4:12). Even the present revelation by the Spirit is such as "Eye hath not seen."
The positions in Christ are never subject to human experience. They produce no sensation by which they may be identified. They are taken by faith, and joyous appreciation may come as a result of believing.
3. Apprehended by faith.
Faith is the new and effectual faculty of the spiritual life. By it what is said in the Word of God is received as true. Such apprehension is, at best, only partial; but, notwithstanding the limitations of human knowledge, the positions are all perfect through Christ. Of this perfection, "the half has never been told."
Scripture presents the warfare of Satan as being waged in the sphere of "the heavenly." There is abundant assurance that Satan's power can never spoil any aspect of the believer's actual positions in Christ; but Satan is able, except as the believer lays hold by faith of the power of God, to hinder the life of blessing which should flow out of that vital union with Christ.
Human merit, as in all the operations of grace, is excluded from the divine reckoning concerning these positions in Christ. They rest on the perfect merit of Christ. This is the very heart of the new standing before God. "In Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ" (Eph. 2:13).
The standing and position of the child of God in Christ cannot be increased or decreased. It abides as He is, "the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever" (Heb. 13:8).
Finally, since these positions in Christ are related to, and depend only on Christ, they will endure as long as He endures: "Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost [without end] that come unto God by him" (Heb. 7:25).
These great positions and relationships in Christ are the result of the unrestrained outflow of the exceeding grace of God. They, therefore, do not appear in any teaching of the law of Moses or of the kingdom. These positions could not be gained by law-works or by any human merit. Correspondingly, the manner of life which they propose cannot be lived according to the law in the energy of the flesh. The whole system of grace is both inter-related and complete within itself and cannot yield to the principle of the law at any point whatsoever.
Second. Christ is the Sphere of the Believer's Possessions.
Again the enumeration must be partial:
1. A new standing in Christ.
The new standing in Christ includes all the positions under grace, a portion of which have just been enumerated. These positions are "the riches of grace in Christ Jesus." The possession for a day even of one of these glories of grace would be well worth the trials and struggles of a lifetime. But in contrast to such a valuation, they are all gained, and all retained without struggle or trial; they are God's gift in grace. Such wealth cannot be comprehended by the unaided human mind. The Apostle prayed: "The eyes of your understanding [heart] being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints" (Eph. 1:18); "And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God" (Eph. 3:19); "That ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding" (Col. 1:9). There are no limits to be placed on the possibility of the illumination of the mind by the Spirit.
2. A new life in Christ.
The Scriptures lay great emphasis upon the fact that the Christian possesses a new life from God. That life is imparted. Christ said: "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly" (John 10:10). The satanic counterfeit of this fundamental truth is the teaching that the new life consists in a new manner of life, -- a new standard or ideal. A new life imparted will naturally result in a new manner of life; but no manner of life, old or new, constitutes the means through which the imparted life is gained. "The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom. 6:23); and, "I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish" (John 10:28). Life from God is bestowed through a new birth, results in sonship, and secures the Fatherhood of God.
3. The new presence and power of the Spirit.
It is stated in Rom. 5:5 that "the Spirit is given unto us." This is true of every person who is saved. The Spirit is the birth-right in the new life. By Him alone can the character and service that belongs to the normal daily life of the Christian be realized. The Spirit is the "All-Sufficient One." Every victory in the new life is gained by His strength, and every reward in glory will be won only as a result of His enabling power.
4. A new inheritance.
The inheritance of the old creation in Adam was beyond description in its horror. It was to be "without Christ ... having no hope, and without God in the world" (Eph. 2:12). With Christ, God hath freely given us all things else (Rom. 8:32). The Christian's inheritance is nothing short of "all things"; for he is an heir of God, and a joint heir with Christ (Rom. 8:17). Peter writes: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you" (1 Pet. 1:3, 4). The present blessings of the presence and power of the Spirit are but an "earnest of our inheritance" (Eph. 1:14. cf Acts 20:32; 26:18; Col. 1:12; Heb. 9:15). This inheritance is a present possession which is sealed to the child of God under grace. In addition to the "all things" of Christ, it includes the "all things of the Father" (John 16:12-15), and these are to be revealed to the heart now by the Spirit (1 Cor. 2:9, 10); "The living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy" (1 Tim. 6:17); "Therefore let no man glory in men. For 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" (1 Cor. 3:21-23).
5. A new enemy.
To be in Christ is to experience the same enmity and opposition from Satan which he entertains toward Christ. There is no enmity on Satan's part toward the unsaved. They form a part of his world system and are said to be under his power (Eph. 2:2; Col. 1:13; 1 John 5:19, R.V.; 2 Cor 4:3, 4). Satan's enmity is against God and against the people of God because God, by His divine nature, is in them, and they are in Christ. We read: "Finally, be strong in the Lord, and the strength of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Eph. 6:10-12. R.V.).
6. Access to God.
A mediator is required between God and man since God is holy and man is unholy. Job, who lived many centuries before Moses, gave utterance to his own sense of need of a mediator. Speaking of God he said: "For he is not a man, as I am, that I should answer him, and we should come together in judgment. Neither is there any daysman betwixt us, that might lay his hand upon us both" (Job 9:32, 33). There could be none to mediate between God and man unless God Himself should provide. This He did in the Person of His Son. It is written: "Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one" (Gal. 3:20). A mediator must stand between two parties; for there is no occasion that he mediate for one. The teaching of the Scriptures is that God mediated His own case. That is to say, He stood between Himself and sinful man. "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them" (2 Cor. 5:19). God undertook through the death of His Son to protect the sacredness of His own holy standards and law which had been outraged by sinful man, and at the same time to secure the welfare of the offender. This is the work of a mediator. Every demand of His holiness was met in Christ who, as Substitute, bore the judgment which God in righteousness must impose, and every interest of the sinner was provided for in the marvels of saving grace which were set free through the death and resurrection of Christ. Christ has thus become the one and only ground of meeting between God and man. "He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world" (1 John 2:2).
The present wide-spread tendency to slight the fact of the holy demands of God against sin and to assume that the sinner is free to come to God on the basis of divine goodness and mercy, is not only a gross misrepresentation of the truth of God's Word, it is a satanic device to keep men from the salvation that is in Christ. The goodness and mercy of God can never be questioned, but that goodness and mercy has been exercised to the last degree of divine ability in the provision of a Mediator who is mighty to save. Christ said: "I am the light," "I am the door," "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." There is, therefore, no approach to God for saint or sinner other than through the Mediator whom God has provided. All the types of the Old Testament which forshadowed the work of Christ for man were equally clear on this great truth. As the shed-blood of the animal sacrifices typified the efficacious blood of Christ, no individual of the Old Testament dispensation was permitted to come into the presence of God apart from the shedding and sprinkling of blood. Christ is the Mediator of a new and better covenant. His shed-blood is the antitype of all that was required in the sacrifices of the Old Testament; but in the present relation between God and man, the truth takes on an added reality and intensity which is beyond estimation. No man is now free to thrust himself into the presence of God simply because he wills to do so. Every door is closed but One. If God does not destroy the offender as He did in the old dispensation, it is not because the offense is any less worthy of death; it is because of His present attitude of longsuffering through grace. So much the more is man now obligated to respect the unchangeable truth that Christ is the only way to God. "For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" (1 Tim. 2:5). This mediation of the Son of God is seen in certain aspects:
a. Access into the grace of God.
It is through Christ and Him alone that we have access into the grace of God. "By whom also we have access into this grace" (Rom. 5:2). This is as true for the saved as it is for the unsaved. The unsaved are saved only through the grace which is in Christ Jesus. Likewise, the saved are kept and stand only through Christ, and all their relationship to God is through Christ alone.
b. Access into fellowship with God.
All communion and fellowship with God is on the basis alone of the Person and work of Christ. As the high priest of the old order went into the holy of holies once a year and communed with God, likewise, the priest of the new order -- the child of God -- is free to enter the presence of God and there to abide. But as the priest of the old order was received before God only because be was under the sprinkled blood, with the same divine discrimination, the priest of the new order is received only because he is under the precious blood of Christ. God receives His children into fellowship on the sole basis of the efficacious blood of Christ whether they understand this fact or not. How vitally important it is, however, that they should understand and give continual heart-acknowledgment of all that Christ is to them! "Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; and having an high priest over the house of God; let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water" (Heb. 10:19-22).
c. Access to God in prayer.
Christ is the only access to God in prayer. How misleading is the supposition that any one can reach the ear of God who will simply speak to Him! Apart from the Mediator Christ Jesus, there is no access to God in prayer and there can be no real prayer. The new basis of prayer in the present relationship to God is that, prayer is to be made in the Name of Christ. This is revealed by Christ in the upper room and is a part of His unfolding of the glories of grace. "If ye shall ask anything in my name, I will do it"; "And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full" (John 14:14; 16:23, 24). God receives all His children when they pray; but He receives them in Christ, and their prayer is effectual and prevailing only as it is in the Name that is above every name, and on the ground of the blood that has been shed. How important, again, that the saved one understand this truth and that he come to God with full heart-acknowledgment of the Mediator -- Christ!
The unsaved have no access to God in prayer. "But," it is often asked, "how then can they be saved, if they cannot ask God to save them?" The answer is simple: No person is ever saved because he asks God to do it. He is saved through grace only when he believes. God is offering salvation to men. He does not need to be implored or moved in their behalf. He has been moved to give His Son to die. What more could He do? This marvelous gift of His grace is for all who will believe.
7. The Word of God.
The written Word of God is one of the priceless possessions of the child of God in Christ. It is the unfolding of all the revelation concerning the majesty and grace of the Father, the salvation and glory that is in the Son, and the power and blessing that is in the Spirit, the facts about heaven and earth, about sin and salvation, about angels and Satan, about life and death, and all that is future and all that is past. "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works" (2 Tim. 3:16); "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path" (Ps. 119:105).
The Word of God is as a title deed to all that the Christian possesses in Christ. It is a covenant guaranty from God which is sealed in heaven. Assurance of the divine grace and blessing is never left to depend on the changeable feelings, or vain misunderstanding and imaginations of the human heart. "It is written." "These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God" (1 John 5:13). Third. Christ, the Sphere of the Believer's Safe-Keeping.
As the First Adam transmitted what he was to those who were born after the flesh, so the Last Adam transmits what He is to those who are born after the Spirit. The Christian's standing is in Christ, and there will be no fall in the Last Adam. He is as secure as God can make him secure, for the preservation of the believer is not conditioned by the thought which he has about the matter; it is according to the purpose of God. As has been stated, all the eternal purposes of infinite grace are involved in the issue of the safe-keeping of each one who is in Christ. In like manner, the security of the Christian is not merely the preservation of the possessions which together total his own inheritance; the believer is a part of the divine inheritance. God has an inheritance in the Christian (Eph. 1:18). The real question becomes one, therefore, as to whether God is able to keep that which is His inheritance and whether He is disposed to keep. Against His power nothing can prevail, and He has paid the price -- the blood of His own Son -- to redeem this possession to Himself. Since He is free through the cross to do so, and His love is unending, it is inconceivable that He will not keep the one He has saved. He has sealed His inheritance unto the day of redemption.
An illustration of the safe-keeping which results from being in Christ, is seen in the panoply which God has provided under which the believer may "stand" against the strategies and warfare of Satan. "Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God" (Eph. 6:13-17).
The fact that Christ is the armour is a hidden beauty in this passage. He is the Truth, our Righteousness, our Peace, our Faith, our Salvation, and the Word of God. Christ encompasses the believer and insulates him from the power of every foe.
Fourth. Christ, the Sphere of the Believer's Association.
The believer's association extends to every relationship he sustains, and the character of these associations is molded in conformity to his position in Christ. Some of these relationships are:
1. With God the Father.
Through the death of Christ, and through the regenerating work of the Spirit, an individual who believes is made a son of God by receiving the divine nature and is made to stand before God forgiven, righteous, and justified forever. He has entered the family and household of God, and the Father's tender care, which is all that infinite grace can provide, is over him. The unsaved do not know God; He is not in all their thoughts. They may know about God; but this is far short of knowing God. Such knowledge is only gained by the personal introduction to the Father by the Son: "Neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him" (Mt. 11:27). And to know the Father signifies the possession of eternal life: "And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent" (John 17:3).
God was not usually known as Father under the past dispensation. He was honored and trusted as a "covenant-keeping God." The Psalmist wrote: "Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him" (Ps. 103:13).
2. With Christ the Son.
The extent of this relationship is limitless since it contains all that enters into the new sphere in Christ. It includes all that He is as Saviour and Lord; all that He is in partnership with the believer in service, in suffering, and in betrothal; and all that He is in the Christian's fellowship, "and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ" (1 John 1:3). Christ is the object of ceaseless devotion and praise.
3. With the Spirit of God.
At this point, association is nothing less than identification itself in all matters of life, character, and service; for the believer is appointed to live only by the power of the indwelling Spirit. The association with the Spirit is immediate and intimate because He indwells every believer. The presence of the Spirit is not disclosed through human emotions and feelings; it is rather detected by the things which He does.
4. With Satan and his emissaries.
As has been stated, the believer is brought, through his new position in Christ, into a sphere wherein Satan's enmity is directed against him as it is directed against God. "For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, Against the powers, against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual host of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Eph. 6:12. R.V.). The victory is provided only through the indwelling Spirit: "because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world" (1 John 4:4).
5. With the angels.
The angels are messengers or ministering spirits "sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation" (Heb. 1:14). While their care attends the child of God, it has not pleased God to give the Christian fellowship with them. Their ministry as messengers is revealed throughout the Word of God.
6. With the world.
The Christian is not of this world. He has been translated into the kingdom of Christ. He is a citizen of heaven, and his only relation to this world is that of an ambassador and witness. He is in the enemy's land; for Satan is "the god of this world." The kingdoms of this world are given unto Satan under the permission and purpose of God (Lk. 4:6). The Christian is related to the world and all that is in the world only as he is related to it through Christ. This relationship is three-fold:
a. To the world system.
This is the whole sphere of human life with its institutions, ideals, and projects. Concerning this world-system the believer is thus warned: "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever" (1 John 2:15-17); "And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them" (Eph. 5:11); "Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time. Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man" (Col. 4:5, 6).
b. To human governments.
According to the Bible, these are under the direct authority of the Gentiles. The present is the times of the Gentiles (Lk. 21:24). Human government is of God only to the extent of His permissive will and the realization of His purpose; but the citizen of heaven is instructed to be in subjection to governments: "Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation [judgment]. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: for he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. For, for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour" (Rom. 13:1-7); "Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: as free, and not using your liberty for a cloak of maliciousness, but as the servants of God. Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king" (1 Pet. 2:13-17).
c. To the unsaved individual.
The consistent attitude of the Christian is the same as that of his Lord who died for lost men. As He is, so are we, and therefore we are to manifest His spirit in this world.
Of his own attitude toward lost men, the Apostle Paul wrote: "For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead [all died in the Substitute] ... Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more" (2 Cor. 5:14-16). Having beheld Christ as God's Lamb which taketh away the sin of the world, and the One who died for all, and in whose death all have partaken, the Apostle says: "Henceforth know we no man after the flesh." The usual distinctions among men, of Jew and Gentile, rich and poor, bond and free, are submerged in the overwhelming estimation of that which is accomplished for all men through the death of Christ. The Apostle now recognizes them only as men for whom Christ has died. This conception of the estate of the unsaved is the normal one for all Christians, and it leads on to a reasonable service for Christ in soul-winning.
7. With the whole body of Christ.
The Epistles of the New Testament disclose the basis for a fellowship and kinship within the company of the redeemed which exists in no other association of people in this world, and this union calls for a corresponding manner of conduct from the Christian toward fellow-believers. This relationship is seven-fold:
a. A Christian's relation to other Christians in general.
Love is revealed as the underlying principle of this relationship. It is embodied in the first commandment of Christ in the grace teachings of the upper room: "A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another" (John 13:34, 35). This same truth is set forth in many passages. "We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren" (1 John 3:14); "And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it" (1 Cor. 12:26); "And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us" (Eph. 5:2); "Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God"; "Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another" (1 John 4:7, 11); "Let brotherly love continue" (Heb. 13:1); "Let love be without dissimulation." This is one of the great passages on Christian love and care one for another. The whole context should be read (Rom. 12:9-16). "Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye" (Col. 3:12, 13). "Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous: not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing" (1 Pet. 3:8, 9); "And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins. Use hospitality one to another without grudging" (1 Pet. 4:8, 9).
The Christian is called upon to recognize the vital union into which he has been brought by the baptism with the spirit: "I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Eph. 4:1-3).
Special emphasis is given as well to Christian kindness: "Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: and be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you" (Eph. 4:31, 32); "That no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter: because that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified;" "But as touching brotherly love ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another" (1 Thes. 4:6, 9); "Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do" (1 Thes. 5:11); "Speak not evil one of another, brethren" (Jas. 4:11).
Christians are to submit one to another and in honor prefer one another: "Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God" (Eph. 5:21); "Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others" (Phil. 2:3, 4); "Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble" (1 Pet. 5:5).
The Christian's gifts are to be especially directed to the need of the children of God: "As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith" (Gal. 6:10); "But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?" (1 John 3:17).
Prayer is to be offered for all saints: "Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints" (Eph. 6:18); "Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed" (Jas. 5:16).
b. A Christian's relation to those who are in authority in the assembly of believers.
On this important question the Word of God is explicit and comment is unnecessary: "Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation" (Heb. 13:7); "Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you" (Heb. 13:17); "And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; and to esteem them very highly for their work's sake. And be at peace among yourselves" (1 Thes. 5:12, 13). To this body of truth should be added all of the pastoral Epistles.
c. The relation of Christian husbands and wives.
The grace teaching on this aspect of Christian relationship is also explicit: "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;" "Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord" (Eph. 5:22, 25. cf Eph. 5:21-33; Col. 3:18, 19; 1 Pet. 3:1-7).
d. The relation of Christian parents and children.
"And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord;" "Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right" (Eph. 6:1, 4. cf Eph. 6:1-4; Col. 3:20, 21). From this body of revelation it will be seen that the children of Christian parents are to be governed as in the Lord. One of the conditions which will characterize the last days of this age will be the disobedience of children (2 Tim. 3:2).
e. The relation of Christian masters and servants.
"Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God;" "Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal; knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven" (Col. 3:22 to 4:1. cf Eph. 6:5-9).
f. A Christian's obligation to an erring brother.
"Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted" (Gal. 6:1); "Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men" (1 Thes. 5:14); "Now we command you, brethren, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which ye received of us"; "For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies ... yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother" (2 Thes. 3:6, 11-15).
A sharp distinction must be drawn at this point between a disorderly brother who is a busybody, shirking his honest toil, and careless in matters of Christian conduct, on the one hand, and a sincere believer who may disagree with another on a matter of interpretation, on the other hand. Endless confusion and disgraceful contention has followed the exercise of unwarranted freedom among sincere believers in separating from each other over minor questions of doctrine. Should one fail to hold the true doctrine of Christ (2 John 9-11), that one can have no rightful place in a Christian communion; but men have divided over secondary issues and have gone so far as to exclude earnest Christians from their fellowship with whom perchance they disagree in a minor question of doctrine. Such separation is unscriptural, a violation of the priceless unity of the Spirit, and foreign to the order of grace. There is Scripture teaching concerning Christian discipline, but it does not necessarily impose a penalty of separation. The brother who may have been overtaken in a fault is to be restored, and only by one who is himself spiritual. This he must do in the spirit of meekness considering his own utter weakness apart from the enabling power of God. No other may undertake this important service. If the erring brother proves to be persistent in his fault, it is required that he be debarred from the fellowship of believers until he has seen the error of his way. Equally sincere brethren must not break fellowship, however, over minor issues. Of those who are thus disposed, the Apostle writes: "Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple" (Rom. 16:17, 18).
g. A Christian's obligations to a weak brother.
The tender conscience of a weak brother must be considered. This important principle applies to very many questions of the day. In the Apostles' time there was a grave question concerning the eating of meat which had been offered to idols and was afterwards placed in the public market for sale. There were those who had only recently been saved and rescued from the grip of the power of idol worship. There were others who were so deeply prejudiced by their former experiences with idols that, while saved and free, they were not willing even to touch anything connected with an idol. It would be natural to say that the first class should know better than to be drawn back to idols, and that the second class should be made to give up their prejudice; but this is not according to the "law of love." It is written: "Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations. For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs. Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him. Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand" (Rom. 14:1-4).
From this passage it is clear that instruction is also given to the weaker brother to the intent that he shall not "judge" the Christian who, through years of Christian training and deeper understanding of the liberty in grace, is free to do what he himself in his limitations may not be able to do. There is hardly a more important exhortation for Christians today than this. The cure is clearly revealed: God reserves the right to correct and direct the life of His own child. Much hurtful criticism might be avoided if Christians would only believe this and trust Him to do with His own child what He purposes to do. God is the master before whom alone the servant standeth or falleth. The passage continues: "But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died. ... For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offense [to his own convictions]. It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak. Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth. And he that doubteth is damned [condemned] if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin" (Rom. 14:15-23). "Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ" (Gal. 6:2).
Due regard for the conscience and liberty of others is two-fold: On the one hand, let the strong be charitable toward the weak. On the other hand, let the weak desist from judgment of the strong. The result will be a mutual fellowship and an exercise of all the liberties of grace.
2. "I IN YOU."
The believer's new sphere consists not only in his place in Christ with its positions, possessions, safekeeping, and associations; it consists as well, in the fact that Christ is in the believer.
The Scriptures teach that God the Father (Eph. 4:6), that God the Son (Col. 1:27), and that God the Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19) indwell every child of God. No doubt the mystery of the unity of the Godhead is involved in this revelation; for it is also said that the Christian has partaken of the divine nature, and this divine nature is not identified as being one only of the three Persons of the Trinity. The divine nature is evidently the indwelling presence of God -- Father, Son, and Spirit. There is a body of truth which teaches that God, in the unity of the three Persons, dwells in the heart of the child of God. Likewise there is an even greater body of Scripture which emphasizes the indwelling of the believer by the individual Persons of the Godhead. When the full unity of God is in view, it is usually spoken of as the indwelling Christ. As indwelling the Christian, the Spirit of God is once spoken of as "the Spirit of Christ" (Rom. 8:9).
It may be concluded, therefore, that the phrase "I in you" is to be received as referring to the whole divine Person -- Father, Son, and Spirit. The result of this indwelling of Christ is three-fold: (1) A new divine life, (2) A new enabling power, and (3) A new "hope of glory."
First. A New Divine Life.
The branch is in the vine and the vine by its life and vitality is in the branch. Thus the believer is in Christ and Christ is in the believer. The new imparted life is Christ, and is therefore eternal because He is eternal. When only the question of an unbroken manifestation of that new life is under consideration, it is said to depend on abiding in Christ as the sole condition. The believer's place, or position, in Christ is neither attained, nor maintained, through abiding in Him. That position is instantly wrought by the power of God through grace for every one who believes. Nor is the possession of the divine life, which is the indwelling Christ, secured by abiding in Him; it is the "gift of God." However, the normal manifestation of that life does depend on abiding in Him. Abiding is simply the right adjustment between the Christian and his Lord. "If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love" (John 15:10). How important, then, it is that the Christian should understand precisely what is included and required in the commandments of Christ! As pointed out before, the commandments of Christ are only His grace teachings; this term being not once employed by Christ before He began in the upper room to unfold the believer's life and walk in grace.
Eternal, divine life, therefore, is Christ indwelling the believer by His Spirit and that life is the present possession of all who believe. The victories, joys, and fruits of that life depend upon abiding in Him which abiding is accomplished only by doing His will.
Second. A New Enabling Power.
The theme of the enabling power of God, being one of the most vital in the divine plan of grace, though before mentioned, should at this point be reviewed in its two-fold aspect:
1. Christian character.
Under the law relationship between God and man, character was the product of the energy and struggle of the flesh. This, too, is the conception of human character which is held by the world, and, alas, through false teaching, it is the only one in the minds of many Christians. It is commonly preached that the sum-total of an individual's acts will determine his habits, the sum-total of his habits will determine his character, and the sum-total of his character will determine his destiny. Whatever may have been true under the law, this doctrine is foreign to grace. Destiny is not now determined by self-promoted character; it depends only on the faith which receives the saving grace of God. Heaven's glory will not be a display of human character; it is to be the unveiling of the riches of grace in Christ Jesus. Nor is Christian character a product of the flesh; it is "the fruit of the Spirit." The divine record of all that enters into true Christian character is stated thus: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance" (self-control, Gal. 5:22, 23).
These graces are elements of divine character which are never found unless divinely wrought. They are "the fruit of the Spirit." They are never gained by struggle, long or short; they are the immediate experience of every believer who comes into right adjustment with the Spirit. Therefore the way to a victorious life is not by self-development; it is through a "walk in the Spirit." In the context in which the above passage appears, the Apostle also states: "This I say then, Walk in the Spirit [by means of the Spirit], and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh" (5:16). The believer's responsibility is not the walk; it is rather that of yieldedness to the Spirit who promotes the walk. When thus yielded, the result is instant and perfect: "Ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh." So long as the walk is continued by the power of the Spirit, this spiritual life will be experienced. Should the adjustment to the Spirit cease, the walk must cease, and the flesh will again be manifested.
The New Testament term, "the flesh," indicates the sum-total of what the natural man is -- body, soul and spirit. Within this whole, and as a part of it, is the fallen Adamic nature -- sin. Three means for the control of the sin-nature are taught -- two of which are the product of human reason and one the revealed provision of God:
a. Is the sin-nature controlled by eradication?
Though this theory is advanced by certain schools of thought it lacks the support of even one passage of Scripture. It is accepted because it seems reasonable, the thought being that if the source of sin is checked, would not the flow cease? Doubtless it would; but God has revealed no such program.
If eradication of the sin-nature were accomplished, there would be no physical death; for physical death is the result of that nature (Rom. 5:12-21); parents who had experienced eradication would, of necessity, generate unfallen children. But if eradication were secured, there would still be the conflict with the world, the flesh (apart from the sin-nature), and the devil; for eradication of these is obviously unscriptural and is not included in the theory itself. As God purposes to deal with the world, the flesh, and the devil, thus He proposes to deal with the sin-nature which is a part of the flesh. The full deliverance is by the overcoming power of the Spirit through the work of Christ on the cross. The work of Christ on the cross secured the judgment of the old nature (Rom. 6:6); but it also secured the judgment of the world (Gal. 6:14), the flesh (Gal. 5:24), and the devil (Col. 2:15). The work of Christ is a divine judgment which has made it righteously possible for God to control the world, the flesh and the devil as they may affect the believer. Within the flesh, and as a part of it, is the sin-nature. This nature is no more subject to eradication than is the world, the flesh, or the devil. The divine plan for the deliverance of the believer from the power of the sin-nature is exactly the same as for the deliverance from the other opposing principles. It is by the overcoming power of the Spirit made possible through the death of Christ.
This provision brings the child of God into moment-by-moment dependence upon his Lord. It drives him to the most intimate relationship with God. Eradication, if it were true, would tend to wean the Christian from Christ in the measure in which it would fit him to get on alone. In the midst of the description of the divine ideal for a spiritual walk, it is said that the victory is due to the fact that the Spirit is lusting against the flesh, therefore, when walking by means of the Spirit, "ye cannot do the things that ye otherwise would" (5:17). It is evident from this passage wherein the highest ideal of life is presented that the flesh is contemplated as being present, but it is under the control of the Spirit.
b. Is the sin-nature controlled by rules?
It is proposed by others that the flesh shall be controlled by rules and regulations. The seeming sanction of the Scriptures for this theory is gained by turning to the law; for under the law, the flesh was to be governed by rules. The law-history of 1500 years, however, is sufficient evidence of the failure of this method; yet it seems impossible for many to be delivered from the belief that a spiritual life may be gained by the keeping of rules. It is supposed that the divine ideal has been realized when people have been induced to attempt to regulate their lives by rules.
c. Is the sin-nature controlled by the Spirit?
According to the Scriptures, such is the divine plan for the control of the flesh in the believer's life under grace. It provides all that God desires or requires in any life, and brings the saved one into the closest fellowship with God, and into constant dependence upon the Spirit. It is the only victory possible for the Christian to experience; for it only is according to the purpose and Word of God.
If the quality of the believer's daily life is to be improved, what steps are to be taken? Will carnality and coldness of heart be corrected by enforcing rules of conduct? When a carnal Christian does not wish to do the will of God, will God be satisfied if that Christian merely complies externally with the law of God? The answer is obvious. God looks on the heart. In the provisions of grace, God proposes to change the desires of the heart and to empower unto the full realization of these God-wrought desires. The law could work no change in the heart, nor can the attempt to keep rules; but the Spirit can change the desires. The law could give no enabling power; but the Spirit can. Therefore it is said: "But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law" (Gal. 5:18); and against the "fruit of the Spirit," "there is no law" (Gal. 5:23); again, "For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace" (Rom. 6:14).
2. Christian conduct.
The manner of the Christian's life, including every activity of the child of God, is described in the Scriptures by the words walk and conversation. This aspect of the truth is to be distinguished from the believer's character. The walk refers to that which is outward; while character -- "the fruit of the Spirit" -- is inward. In point of importance, character is supreme for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. Under grace, God proposes by the Spirit first to create the heavenly motives and desires, and then, by the same Spirit, to empower the life unto the full realization of those desires. While these heavenly desires are said to be "the fruit of the Spirit," the resulting activities are said to be the exercise of a "gift" through the Spirit. A "gift," like the "fruit" of the Spirit, is never a product of the flesh nor any ability within the flesh. The Spirit may choose to use the native ability, but a "gift" is the direct undertaking of the Spirit in and through the human instrument. It is the Spirit doing a work and using the one in whom He dwells to do it. Thus both Christian character and Christian conduct are dependent on the enabling ministration of the Spirit. This divine provision is not merely for crisis-moments in the experience of the Christian; it is for every moment, whether it be one of activity or one of rest.
The divine standards for the believer's character and conduct are superhuman. This is reasonable since he is a citizen of heaven. The superhuman manner of life becoming to a heavenly citizen is to be lived by the enabling, supernatural power of the Spirit. The Spirit has taken up His abode in the heart in order that He may undertake this for the child of God, and if He does not accomplish His work, it is because He is hindered by the carnality of an unyielded life. The problem of improvement in the conduct of a Christian is never solved by the application of laws, nor by exhorting and stimulating the flesh; it is only solved by adjustment to the Spirit. When Spirit-filled, the child of God is both moved to glorify God in every moment of life, and is enabled to realize that heavenly ideal.
There is much said in the Scriptures about the Christian life being a "warfare," a "fight," and a "race." The Christian is to be watchful, steadfast, and unmovable. He is not exhorted to attempt to do what the Spirit alone can do; he is rather to maintain the attitude of co-operation with, and yieldedness to, and dependence on, the Spirit.
The grace-manner of life in the Spirit will be lived according to the grace teachings. These teachings, or principles of life, are written both to prepare the Christian for an intelligent walk in the Spirit, and to furnish a norm by which he may compare his daily life with the divine ideal. The grace teachings are not laws; they are suggestions. They are not demands; they are beseechings. They are not followed in order to gain acceptance or favor; they are acknowledged and followed in the glad assurance of present acceptance and completeness in Christ through grace.
There are three laws, or principles, which characterize the teachings of grace concerning the manner of the daily life of the believer:
a. The perfect law of liberty.
The child of God is free. He has been delivered from every aspect of the law -- as a rule of life, as an obligation to make himself acceptable to God, and as a dependence on the impotent flesh. Likewise, he has been delivered from ideals and conventionalities of the world. He is as free in himself as though he had already passed on into heaven. He has been brought into the priceless liberty of grace. Against the spoiling of this liberty the Christian is to contend: "Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage" (Gal. 5:1). The actual experience of contending for the preservation of liberty which is in Christ Jesus is foreign to the great mass of nominal Christians. Pressing in on every hand are the false teachings of a law-ridden church, the fleshly ideals of the world and its god, the natural rationalism of the human mind, and the ever-present tendency to depend on self. Against all this, the fact of true liberty in Christ is little known. It is therefore important that the scope and character of Christian liberty be defined, and, in so doing, no aspect of liberty is in view other than the liberty which belongs to the child of God under grace.
The word liberty is defined thus: "The state of being exempt from the dominion of others, or from restricting circumstances." It is freedom to do according to one's own preference and choice. It is emancipation. The thought of necessity and servitude is of the law. Grace glories in liberty and freedom.
Is it not imperative that the children of God should be placed within the bounds of reasonable law? Absolutely No! The Christian's liberty to do precisely as he chooses is as limitless and perfect as any other aspect of grace. But God has provided a sufficient safeguard which consists in the fact that the divine ideal is first wrought in the heart: "For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure" (Phil. 2:13).
In this one passage, the whole divine scheme for the believer's life under grace is crystalized. God can propose absolute liberty to the one in whom He is so working that the innermost choice is only that which He wills for him. Having molded the desires of the heart, He can give His child unbounded freedom. There is no other freedom in the world but this. By the inwrought "fruit of the Spirit," God Himself has determined the desires of the heart. The outworking of those desires will be according to His own energizing power.
Thus the character and the daily life of the Christian is wrought on the basis of pure grace. As God saves and keeps in grace apart from every human assistance and merit, so, in like manner, He proposes to produce the character and conduct of His child apart from every assistance or intrusion of the flesh. "Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?" (Gal. 3:3). In harmony with the whole program of divine grace, no other manner of life could be imposed on the believer than the one in which God alone undertakes and accomplishes. To be true to His own purposes in grace, He must not only create the motive and choice of the heart but He must provide the sufficient power for its execution.
Should it be objected that this is an idealism which is effective only with a limited company of believers who are so yielded to God as to be Spirit-filled, and that the great mass of carnal Christians must be held by rules, the reply would be that carnal Christians are no more subject to law than are the spiritual Christians. God does not countenance the attitude of the carnal Christian to the extent of providing a rule of government for him. As He holds only one issue before the unsaved -- the acceptance of Christ as Saviour -- likewise, He holds only one issue before the carnal Christian. That issue is not, "Will you live in a way which is in harmony with your carnality?" It is, rather, "Yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God" (Rom. 6:13).
The carnal Christian is abnormal. His position is perfect in Christ, but in character and conduct he violates the most precious principles and provisions of grace. The divine ideal for the believer's life under grace remains unchangeable. When God is molding the desires of the heart, there is liberty. When He is empowering the life, there is victory.
Thus it may be seen that grace is not a way of escaping obedience to God; it is the only possible way in which true obedience can be secured. The Spirit-filled believer is never abandoned to self-will; he is "inlawed to Christ." God in grace does not lower standards; He proposes and gloriously realizes the very character and conduct of heaven.
b. The law of expediency.
Because of the Christian's position and circumstances in the world, the law of personal liberty in Christ is subject to the law of expediency. That which is expedient is to be chosen for two reasons which are stated in the Scriptures: "All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any"; "All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not" (1 Cor. 6:12; 10:23). Thus it is seen that the law of expediency contemplates the danger to the believer's own life in the matter of personal habits or injury, and the responsibility to others in the matter of edification. Much that he is free to do, so far as his relation to God is concerned, he is not free to do when contemplating his own personal good and the good of others. His manner of life must be adapted to the ignorance and prejudice of men to whom he is a witness for his Lord and whom he would seek to lead to Christ or to build up in the faith. Any sacrifice of personal liberty will be made willingly if Christ thereby may be made known. When considering the law of expediency, one does not ask, "What harm is there in this, or that?" He rather seeks to know what is the good. In all your precious liberty, "see then that ye walk circumspectly" (Eph. 5:15).
c. The law of love.
Again the liberty of the Christian will be qualified by the love which he has for others. The sympathy of the unsaved must be gained and the conscience of the weaker brother must be considered: "But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse. But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to them that are weak. ... Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend" (1 Cor. 8:8-13). Liberty is easily set aside by those who would be "all things to all men that by all means" they might save some. The supreme example of the sacrificial principle of grace was manifested by Christ in His death: "He saved others; himself he cannot save" (Mk. 15:31).
Third. Christ in You the Hope of Glory.
The word mystery as used in the New Testament refers to a sacred secret, or something which was not revealed in the ages past, but is revealed in the present time. The body of truth which has been unfolded in the revelation contained in the mysteries is the present plan and purpose of grace. Among these mysteries are two which are primary and around these the other mysteries are gathered.
1. Christ the manifestation of God and of the Church.
That portion of this truth which directly concerns and involves the child of God is regarding Christ as the Head of the Church which is His body, and the believers as "members in particular." This figure speaks of identity. Being in Christ, the member of His body partakes of all that the Head has ever been, all that He is now, and all that He will ever be. So, also, being in Christ, the member of His body partakes of all that Christ has ever done, of all that He is doing, and all that He will ever do. No human mind is able to grasp this revelation. Its inexhaustible riches will occupy the heart throughout the ages to come.
In the letter to the Colossians the Apostle Paul, by the Spirit, unfolds the glory of Christ. He presents Christ as the manifestation of God, the One in whom all divine purposes center, and the One in whom, by the mystery of unity, the saved one is forever complete. He writes of the "mystery of God" which is Christ (2:2). From all Scripture it may be discovered that Christ is both the manifestation of God and the manifestation of the saints who are in Him. What God is, may be seen in Christ. So, likewise, what the saved one is may be seen in Christ. The Son of God is not only the Mediator between God and man and the Saviour of the lost; He is the manifestation of all that God is, and, at the same time, the manifestation of all that the believer is in Him. Christ has brought God to man, and He has brought man to God. Man now sees God in Christ, and God now sees saved men in Christ.
To the Christian, Christ is not only a position; He is also a possession. Through the marvels of divine grace, in the reckoning of God, whatever Christ is, the Christian is _in _Christ, -- "Ye in me."
2. The indwelling Christ.
Accordingly, the second primary sacred secret is that of the indwelling Christ, -- "I in you."
Turning again to the Colossian Epistle, we read: "To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory" (1:27).
Being in Christ, is a position which can have no corresponding experience. This is not true of the mystery of the indwelling Christ. His presence may be discerned and thus become an assurance and guaranty of every position and possession in Christ. The believer's heavenly glories will be unveiled when the Lord returns to receive His own: "For ye are dead [ye died], and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory" (Col. 3:3, 4). Not only is Christ Himself the "hope of glory," but, according to His own promise (John 14:1-3), that moment in which He will appear is a "blessed hope." The presence of "Christ in you" is the imperishable "hope of glory."
"Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus."
Both for want of space and that the thread of truth might not be broken, there has been but little mention in this section of the truth that these great features and properties of grace, which grow out of the fact that Christ is now the sphere of the believer's life, are not found, even to the slightest degree, in either the law of Moses or the kingdom teachings. These wonderful accomplishments in grace are what differentiate Christianity from Judaism. One is of the old creation with its earthly purpose and promise; the other is of the new creation with its heavenly glories. The believer could not be under law; he is "inlawed to Christ." He has been saved out of the world and is no longer a partaker of its past, its present, or its future. Its past is a record of sin and death; its present is a record of confusion under the permitted rule of "the god of this world"; and the future will be a record of judgment. Law is adapted to the earth. It is the divine method of dealing with the people of the earth whether it be in the age which is past, or in the age which is to come.
The child of God has been delivered from every aspect of the law. The code of rules contained in the law has been superseded by the injunctions and beseechings of grace. The legal necessity of becoming accepted of God by human merit, has been superseded by the divine accomplishment through grace wherein the Christian is already accepted and safe in Christ forever. And possessing the presence of God through the indwelling Spirit, the child of God is saved from that struggle and defeat of the flesh which characterized the law and because of which defeat, the law became a curse and an instrument of death.
In place of the law there is grace.
In place of condemnation there is salvation.
In place of death there is life.
In place of ruin in Adam there is resurrection in Christ.
In place of bondage there is liberty.
In place of defeat there is victory.
In place of hell there is heaven.
"But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, establish, strengthen, settle you. To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen."
GRACE, more than any other single word, is the expression of the sum-total of all that enters into Christianity. The various divine undertakings in grace have been stated in these pages and it has been seen that, through the work of Christ on the cross and through the divine purposes and decrees for this dispensation, it is through grace that hell-deserving sinners are saved, it is through grace that they are preserved and are to be presented like Christ in glory, and it is "under grace" that the saved one now lives. Being under grace, he is "dead" to the law, and "delivered" from the law, whether the law is conceived of as being a rule of life, an obligation to establish merit before God, or a reliance upon the energy of the flesh.
On the other hand, the Christian is in no wise an outlaw. Since he is in Christ as the new sphere of both his standing and his state, he is now inlawed to Christ and is therefore under the governing principles of grace. These principles provide both an explicit and complete rule of conduct which is superhuman, and the enabling power of the indwelling Spirit which is supernatural. This manner of life which is to be lived in the power of the Spirit is addressed to, and designed for, the people of the new creation in Christ. These teachings of grace may be defined as, that superhuman rule of life which grows out of acceptance with God and which is first wrought in the heart and then achieved by the enabling power of the Spirit. Grace makes all conformity to the will of God to be voluntary. Christian conduct and service must arise from within and be the expression of a free choice. Only such action is acceptable to God since it alone is in harmony with the new facts of relationship under grace. By faith in Christ the believer is instantly made complete in Him and the possessor of every spiritual blessing, the Spirit is given to indwell him, and he is "made accepted" in the Beloved. The Christian's life must be keyed to these new facts, and when this new relationship under grace is really comprehended, it is seen that there remains no ground for legality in any form whatsoever.
The people who are now saved by grace are of a new order of beings. They are a new creation. The people of the old creation are ruined by sin; the people of the new creation are renewed by the Spirit. The people of the old creation are wholly lost; the people of the new creation are perfectly saved. The people of the old creation are doomed forever; the people of the new creation are entirely safe in Christ Jesus. The people of the old creation have always failed to realize the holy will of God in their daily lives; the people of the new creation may now live well-pleasing to God by the new provisions in grace. They may know unbroken victory even on the plane of the high ideals and standards of heaven.
A clear understanding of the doctrines of grace will result in a discrimination between the transforming accomplishments of divine power through grace on the one hand, and the corresponding consistent manner of life which grows out of the salvation on the other hand. The relative importance of these two aspects of grace is also revealed.
Failure on the part of religious leaders to recognize the all important, supernatural salvation which is in Christ for all who believe, is largely responsible for the present tendency to treat Christianity as though it is merely an ethical system, and as though its standards of living were designed of God to be applied to a Christ-rejecting world. The unregenerate can hardly be expected to see more in Christianity than its ethical teachings, but the people of God should be led on to the full knowledge of the great realities in grace.
For those who attempt to explain the truth of God to others, there is need of a constant consideration of the measureless responsibility which accompanies any presentation of the Gospel. No amount of attention or painstaking study will be too great for the adequate preparation of a Gospel messenger. In the light of eternal issues it would be better that a tongue should be stilled in death rather than to voice misstatements concerning the way of salvation through Christ. Dealing with the destiny of men is a responsibility as limitless as eternity to which they hasten. The law of the state demands that a medical doctor who proposes to deal with the temporal, physical ills of man shall be fully educated for his task, subject to the closest examination by the government, and shall be held under severe legal penalty for any malpractice. All this is most reasonable and commendable; but how much greater is the responsibility of the person who traffics in those issues which determine the destiny of the soul! The state could not assume to educate, examine, and, in turn, punish the failure of those who assume to preach the Gospel to dying men. No human authority is capable of such action and no human sentence would be a proper penalty for the damage done through such failure. God alone must be the judge.
Three passages when taken together state the divine appeal and warning: "And hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation"; therefore, ",Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth"; for, "Though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed" (2 Cor. 5:18; 2 Tim. 2:15; Gal. 1:8, 9). The order and force of this truth needs no comment.
It is deplorable that Christian sentiment is not aroused to greater appreciation of the responsibility which is assumed by those who dare to preach, or to direct the steps of the lost. Good intentions and zeal cannot be substituted for the accurate knowledge of the exact facts which enter into the divine way of salvation by grace alone. The commission is given to every Christian and with it both the appeal for painstaking study, and the warning as to the terrible consequences for the misstatement of the Gospel.
Pause, reader, and consider! Are you attempting to explain the Gospel to others without the exact knowledge of your theme? Would you choose to take a remedy which had been compounded by a blind druggist? Are you persisting in error because of indolence, carelessness, or mere theological prejudice? Failure to state accurately the Gospel of saving grace may result in the damnation of the misguided, and the meriting, at least, of the anathema of God on the part of the blind guide. After due consideration, no sane person will treat these facts lightly.
Again, the daily life and service of the one who is alive unto God must be recognized as assuming infinite proportions when its issues are seen. Nothing short of that manner of life which is normal under grace glorifies God. Nothing short of this will be fruit-bearing with its eternal rewards. Nothing short of this will result in that personal experience of overflowing love, joy, and peace, without which the empty heart remains as a living witness against the truth of God. The importance of a daily life lived in the full measure of divine blessing provided under grace is likewise beyond human estimation.
"Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness. But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory now and for ever. Amen."
Part I | Part II | Part III