The Word of Truth
“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)
What is the Holy Spirit’s role vs. our role in dealing with each other?
One dear brother had been a blessing to me, and I very sincerely entreated him to come to me if he saw anything wrong with me and tell me. He looked at me, comprehending my youth and inexperience, and said, “Brother ———, God bless you; if I see anything wrong with you, I think I’ll go tell Jesus and let Him tell you.”
In the light of what Jesus says in Matthew 18:15; Luke 17:3; and what Paul says in 1 Timothy 5:20, 2 Timothy 4:2; Titus 1:13; etc, it appears that the brother was not trying to lay down a general principle here, but was only reacting to a particular situation. Right? “They would not lay hands upon the ark.” It appears like this needs to be explained better as it is a very important principle in the church. Can you please comment further?
According to the Bible, God gives gifts to those He has called and intends to use in the ministry (1 Corinthians 12:28; Ephesians 4:11; 1 Corinthians 12:8-10; Romans 12:6-8). I do not suppose it would be classified as “laying hands on the ark” when one is using the gift God has given him or her.
Greetings today in the name of Him who understands all things. There is no searching of His understanding. He never scratches His head and wonders what to do; He always knows, and knows perfectly. He gets it right the first time. He has undertaken to get us to heaven, and He will get us there if we let Him.
I believe that the brother was acting on a general principle that is extremely important when he told me that he thought he would go tell Jesus and let Him tell me. That principle is this: We are not really qualified to help each other spiritually in God’s church, except as the Lord helps us to help each other. Or perhaps it could be put this way: Jesus needs to be doing the work within us, the yielded earthen vessels, for the work that is done to be really the work of God. (“What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?” (John 6:28)) We know that the active, living presence of Jesus must be in us to live a holy life; there must be a reality working within us that is more than just our own efforts (Galatians 2:20). The same is true in regard to really helping others. “One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” (Ephesians 4:6)
The spiritual gifts given to different members of the body of Christ are simply a manifestation of Jesus within them in a special way. To one, He opens faith, and is pleased to work within that child of God in a way that goes beyond the ordinary gift of faith in every child of God. The manifestation of the gift is a manifestation of the indwelling Christ, working in this special way, to be a blessing to all within the body. To another, the indwelling Christ stimulates the mind and heart to a grasp of spiritual understanding; to another Jesus works within in a special understanding of knowledge, to another miracles, and so forth in all the gifts. Christ has them all in abundance, for in Him is gathered “all the fulness of the Godhead bodily” (Colossians 2:9) (both when He was in the world and now in His body, the church). The body edifies itself in love because Christ is in every member of his body edifying and cross-blessing, as it were. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they see Him, and they see Him everywhere He is, in truth.
And so the brother, faced with a very naive simpleton of a brother, who had rashly and ill-advisedly opened himself for guidance to another without realizing the extreme peril in the approach—so young, so foolish—the brother fell back on this basic principle and instinctively resolved to lay all before the Head. Ah, what wisdom from above! It spoke (and it speaks) volumes to my soul. The mortar, the precious, tempered mortar (even our Lord, a tried and precious adhesive) not only holds the lively stones together, it also holds them apart. It provides ample room for courtesy (1 Peter 3:8) and humility (1 Peter 5:5).
We submit one another to God. He operates in such a way that the sound of the hammer is not needed in the normal operation of the Spirit of God within the heart (1 Kings 6:7).
Now God does not need us to do His work. He could effectively deal with the hearts of all who respond to Him, and get them to heaven without human help. But it pleases Him to use human instrumentalities to help other humans (1 Corinthians 1:21). For person to be bound to person through Him. And this works beautifully when all are totally submitted to Him, i.e., totally sanctified and pliable in His hands. It is humbling to be used to do the work of God, and it is humbling to be benefited by earthen vessels used of God. It seems inefficient and even counterproductive (foolish) to see the work of God unfold by Him using these stammering, weak, base, and despised vessels as instrumentalities (1 Corinthians 1:26-28). I will tell you from personal experience that God will strip you of your self-confidence, your sense of achievement and attainment, and bring you to a sense of neediness that will make you only want to preach Christ and Him crucified. He will cause you to regard all else as dung. He will teach you not to lean to your own understanding, but to trust in the Lord with all your heart, your soul, your mind, and your strength.
Now all the scriptures that you have quoted regarding the duty, obligation, weightiness, and mandate to rebuke and teach, apply to fearlessly following the voice of inspiration to deal with others as God deals with us. I do not do this because I conclude that it is a good idea and time to do it; I do it because my Lord bade it be done. As a servant, I have no right to take it on my initiative by my wisdom, but must wait for the “go ahead” and the inspiration from God. “If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth.” (1 Peter 4:11) Note, “if any man speak.” If you are not speaking as the oracles of God, be quiet. You can do no real good unless you are used by God as an oracle. There must be more than you in the speaking. You must have the living presence of God in you and in what you say.
Preaching and living in this way puts an authority in the efforts which is not yours or mine. It comes from God Himself and is right and proves to be right over and over. Those who speak so as to engage the mind of man according to the ways of fleshly wisdom, approach the matter differently. “And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:1) People who have accepted a form of Christianity on the basis of excellency of speech or of wisdom do not like the testimony of God given in the Spirit with the wisdom sent down from above. They brand it arrogance, for it leaves no room for argument and debate. They cannot meet it on equal terms, for it is not negotiable and it is no respecter of persons. “And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine: For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.” (Matthew 7:28-29) This preaching can only be accepted by humble acknowledgment and confession. It leads to the prevailing of the Word of God over everything else within us. “So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed.” (Acts 19:20) It will raise up a people whose constant quest is for what is right, with a heart to do it as soon as they realize what it is.
Now the counterfeit of this divine authority is an usurped authority which proceeds from some other source than God. The excesses of these tyrannical and oppressive authorities are such that men believe humility to be a mentality that carefully and cautiously presents a teaching as a teaching among many other teachings, readily amendable in the listener’s ear. This approach is largely regarded among the church-going population (except for those of a fanatical bend) as commendable. But it does not yield the peaceable fruits of righteousness.
The salesmanship of the gospel is not the same as the wisdom of this world. If I wish to sell someone my house, I take care to make him feel as relaxed, comfortable, and generally favorable as possible. I want him in a buying mood; that is, I want him to feel good and not offended. But the gospel sells the cross and the necessity of facing the most shameful, awful events of my life. For the gospel to be bought, the buyer must feel HORRIBLE! Worse than he or she ever felt before! All the things that one naturally most desires to forget must come up. I am getting somewhere when I feel really awful, when I weep and cry, regret and sorrow unto Godly sorrow, which “worketh repentance… not to be repented of.” (2 Corinthians 7:10) It is the difference between the Old Testament altar, which smelt like a butcher/charnel shop, and the beautiful groves and parks of the heathen with their graceful symbolism and well-presented philosophies. But the one brought to face ugly realities and the only right path to be reconciled to God (in type and shadow), while the other soothed and papered over.
When the brother said that he would tell Jesus and let Him tell me, he was not precluding that a human vessel might be used of Jesus to tell me. He was not trying to avoid his responsibilities. He was avoiding going one-on-one with me. He knew that Jesus needed to be in charge.
There are situations in the local congregation here right now that could be handled directly person to person. They could be handled, but I am thoroughly convinced that I must wait for the Lord’s time, if indeed He has this unworthy vessel do anything at all in certain of these matters. I am called to the position I occupy, and God uses me in that capacity, but I beg you to note the lowliness of an earthen vessel. No matter how I preach, teach, admonish, rebuke, or exhort, the graces within or in use are not mine. The work is not mine, either. My place is very lowly in the house of God. It is wonderful that I, as a human being, have any place at all. God is up in heaven, and I am on the earth; therefore it is appropriate and fitting that my words be few and right in order. “I know not how to go out or come in.” (1 Kings 3:7) As a little child, I am privileged to take part in things far above me, even the work of God in the hearts of men. My steps must be ordered of the Lord.
It comes to mind that a summation of the disciples’ labors before the day of Pentecost consisted of trying a lot of things that seemed good to them, and Jesus exercising considerable constraint on them. “Let us make three tabernacles.” (Luke 9:33) “Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did?” (Luke 9:54) After they were filled, we see a much more subdued group of ministers. How much it means to be Spirit-led!
It is amazing how much the devil can do with a little leaning to our own understanding! A few steps down that path—and you will be vaunting yourself in the name of the Lord. And you will fight “as one that beateth the air.” (1 Corinthians 9:26) Possibly you will be convinced, by the fatigue of your sacrifices, that you are doing all that can be done. Meanwhile Jesus waits for you. He waits for you to come to an end of yourself. He waits for you to acknowledge (by deeds as well as words) the superiority of His way. He waits for you to come to waiting on Him. How many out there are following big ideas and sweeping visions while Jesus waits for them to get small and little! “Who hath despised the day of small things?” (Zechariah 4:10) We think it desirable and pleasing to the Lord to want a grand mansion with lots of room for lots of projects, while Jesus says, “Do the dishes, and be sure that you get them clean by doing them just as I tell you!” So we want all the saints having a good time together down here on earth, and seeing eye to eye and having the same judgment in a way that cannot be gainsaid. “Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6) That is our hope, too; but Jesus says, “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” (Acts 1:7-8) Now, dear brother, I certify to you, that God has the power for us to receive that which will make us as little as we need to be, so that we may fit in our teeny, tiny place of something of unimaginable grandeur and scale—even the work of God on the earth. Day after day we raise our little voice in the vast wilderness—how perfectly futile it seems to human reasoning! But Jesus assures us He is pleased, as we move at His orders. Ah, brother, the King knows what He is doing! I am but an enlistee in His army. I must be told, and I must do as I am told.
I am going to close these thoughts with a quotation from Brother Pink’s writing, Old Paths vs. New Light. I believe that the condition that he describes is exactly what God has for us and that we should not settle for anything less.
When I came in contact with this movement in 1903, I met a people that manifested great love for each other, all spoke the same thing, and at least seemed to see eye-to-eye (1 Corinthians 1:10).
I attended a campmeeting where there were 325 preachers, and there were no lords over God’s heritage, no Rev’s, D.D.’s, or other lordly titles, only brethren. There were no programs in advance, or committees to guard the pulpit. They believed God was able to overrule any crook that might take the pulpit. There were four services each day for ten days, and usually there would be 30 or 35 ministers on or around the platform when time came for services. Usually someone moved out leisurely and delivered the message. I never saw two make a start for the pulpit at the same time. A time or two they would sing and pray and no one went to the pulpit. They sang and prayed again but still no one moved. Finally someone rose up and said, “I believe the Lord wants a general testimony service.” It proved to be a real blessed time in the Lord. Other times someone would get up right in the rear of the audience and walk leisurely to the pulpit and deliver the message.
No one was ever over-anxious to get to the pulpit, nor afraid someone would beat them to it. They knew that no matter who delivered the message, it would be the same truth. Surely the Spirit of God was leading as it should. I have remarked many times that that was the nearest sitting in heavenly places in Christ of any time I have known when there was a large assembly. The meeting was run on the free-will offering plan (2 Corinthians 9:7) and it was reported at the end of the meeting that the bills were all met, many souls were saved, and believers were sanctified, many sick folk were healed, and devils cast out. Surely God was in the midst of this people.
I was pastor of a little flock at that time of whom I have thought and said often I believed were as near living to the Bible standard as any congregation I ever knew. Some had to come as far as six or eight miles, usually in the street cars, but the attendance was almost perfect. If one was absent, some of us went to see what was wrong. If they were sick, the prayer of faith was prayed and they were healed. The sad part of all this, and the thing that makes our hearts sick is that such conditions did not continue. The type, or the shadow of this very movement did not move on ceaselessly. After the children of Israel were released from Babylon and were building the temple, the type of the church of this evening time, the enemy made it so hard for them that the work ceased for a time (Ezra 4:23-24). Again as mentioned before, the morning church with all its unity, holiness, and power did not move on ceaselessly as it looked like it might, but soon drifted into the wilderness. The work on the temple did not cease for good, neither did the work on the anti-type. Though the devil gave a terrible blow to the work, it is again moving forward, gathering the pure, holy bride together, making ready to meet the Bridegroom in the air. Praise God!
Does the Lord use evil spirits?
(a) “The Lord sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing by him.” (1 Kings 22:19) This seems to be the evil host, since they were going to be used to bring judgment to Ahab. I have been wondering why the Lord would have to use the evil spirits to bring judgment to somebody. Can you help with a Godly comment?
(b) “The Lord hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these.” (1 Kings 22:23) It appears like God uses bad spirits to separate the saints from the fallen systems. I get this impression from reading 2 Thessalonians 2:11 along with this scripture. What do you feel about it?
(c) Taking 1 Kings 22:19-23 along with Job 1:6, 2:1 and James 2:19b, it appears like God is approached by both the evil and the holy ones, each for their own purposes. The devil and his imps seem to be working through the evil people whereas the Holy Spirit is using the holy ones. I have been wondering why the Lord would want to give the evil ones a hearing and allow them to cause so much harm physically to the saints. Couldn’t the Lord just try them directly like the case of Abraham?
There are always evil spirits waiting to attack or deceive us. If unrestrained or unchecked, they would overwhelm us and deceive even the very elect (Mark 13:22). We would have no chance against them. But a control is exercised over them, not only over the saved, such as Job, but with great mercy, over the unsaved as well. If the devil could do as he wished, he would immediately slay a great number of mankind, so as to have them out of the way; and he would come down in great wrath, knowing that his time is short, and rapidly bring the rest of mankind to a degradation and lowness that we can scarcely imagine. He is not allowed to do so, generally speaking; but there are individuals who give themselves to wrong and sear their conscience until hell is allowed to drag them further and debauch them more than is allowed with those who put a frame about their doings and fear God more.
As to the details of this control, just how it works, how Satan and his angels of darkness are allowed to petition the Almighty, we have a few glimpses in the Bible.
“Art thou come hither to torment us before the time?” (Matthew 8:29)
When disputing with the archangel about the body of Moses (Jude 1:9).
The devil appearing before God about Job (Job 1:6-12).
It would appear from the two latter accounts that Satan is always watching for his chance to make a claim. He cannot do what he would like to do without God allowing him to work, so he seeks every little opportunity to push the boundaries that restrain him. The question then naturally arises, Why does God allow him to do anything at all? God “puts” a lying spirit in the mouth of false prophets by allowing the lying spirits of the devil to move in and possess them.
Before they were lying prophets, they were just sinful men, perhaps inclined by temperament to “put darkness for light, and light for darkness.” (Isaiah 5:20) Perhaps they were drawn to the ways of deception and liked the arts of manipulation before they became lying prophets, possessed by lying spirits of the devil. But something else had happened to them. God had dealt with each of them fairly; they had each had a chance. They would not respond to the striving of God’s Holy Spirit as they should. The devil saw his opportunity to work in them to a greater degree. Satan was allowed to possess them to the extent that they could be described as having a lying spirit. The same understanding would apply to 2 Thessalonians 2:11. When a group of people will resist God by clamoring for what seemeth best to them, contrary to the dealings of the Lord with them, at some point which God determines, He removes their candlestick and forsakes them in the sense of being their head (Revelation 2:5). He continues to deal with them in mercy, but as representatives of the truth, they are fallen, and God calls His children out of them. They are sent a strong delusion, as God allows the spirits of delusion to take them, and thus dishonesty and errors in understanding turn into something else: A Strong Delusion. This is fearful, indeed.
When we cast out devils by the finger of God, we exercise some of this authority that God uses all of the time. The forces of darkness know where this authority is. When the seven sons of one Sceva attempted to employ this authority without being empowered by God to do so, “the evil spirit answered and said, Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye?” (Acts 19:15) Tragedy followed. But when we are used of God, “even the devils are subject unto us.” (Luke 10:17)
It is difficult to view the layout of things in the spirit world. We are not given a great deal of detail about the overall scheme of things. We know there is a heaven and a hell. We know that the wicked and the righteous go to an intermediate spirit world that is termed Hades. The wicked go to Tartarus (lower Hades). The righteous go to Paradise (upper Hades). We know that heaven is for the righteous after the resurrection and hell (the lake of fire) is for the wicked after the resurrection. We know that Jesus went to Hades, the Paradise part, after his death, but his soul was not left there (Luke 23:43; Acts 2:27). After the resurrection, He went to heaven, for He is “the firstfruits of them that [sleep].” (1 Corinthians 15:20) All of these have to do with our destinations as humans.
But there is more. There is evidently a setting where God deals with and exercises control over the forces of darkness—a kind of courtroom setting, it seems to us. This scripture also seems to hint at this, “But the Lord is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him.” (Habakkuk 2:20) This may seem at first to refer to God in His temple on earth among the Israelites, but the following scriptures make it plain that He is there is a greater sense than just in that temple. “He stood, and measured the earth: he beheld, and drove asunder the nations; and the everlasting mountains were scattered, the perpetual hills did bow: his ways are everlasting.” (Habakkuk 3:6) Again we see the administrative aspect of Almighty God, the Creator and Sovereign in session, as it were. The language is allegorical, but so are our descriptions of heaven. What would spirits have to do with streets paved with gold? The description is obviously given to help us realize the immense value of that land, as we attempt to evaluate it through the veil of the flesh. I understand these pictures of the forces of darkness applying for permission, or being sent by God (by Him giving permission), to wreak havoc in this kind of courtroom setting as an attempt to convey to us down here that God is in control. There is absolutely zero chance that the forces of darkness will prevail over the forces of right.
It appears like God uses bad spirits to separate the saints from the fallen systems.
It can work that way. When I realize that there is more to problems among a group of people where I am than simply spiritual weakness or errors in understanding that are just mistakes, when I realize that I am part of a people who are committed to a delusion, then it is easier to see my path clear to obey the Bible and come out of them.
I have been wondering why the Lord would want to give the evil ones a hearing and allow them to cause so much harm physically to the saints. Couldn’t the Lord just try them directly like the case of Abraham?
“To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.” (Romans 3:26) This scripture refers specifically to the atonement and how the atonement is a proof of God’s justness. God is indeed just in how He approached thesalvation of mankind. That perfect fairness and justness is also portrayed to the devil and his angels, as well as everyone else. God is fair with the devil, as well as everyone else. The devil and his angels know this even though they hate the fact. They even know their punishment is sure and just. The devil complained that God was unfair in shielding Job as He did. That was a lie, and God demonstrated that it was a lie. At the same time, He proved and refined Job.
Sometimes God allows the devil some latitude, and sometimes He doesn’t. That matchless wisdom that orders the steps of a good man, that perfect knowledge and counsel, always knows what to do. If the devil is turned loose on you, God knew that you needed the devil turnedloose on you. He measures out the trial to you. The pain is worth the gain if you will prove true.
The devil thought he had a case against Moses. By provoking the man of God to anger at the people (Numbers 20:10), the devil was successful in causing Moses to be kept from the promised land. So when the archangel was burying the body of Moses, up comes the devil to make his claim. It was a false claim; there was no merit in it. Still, the archangel did not attempt to strive with him about the matter, but simply said, “The Lord rebuke thee.” (Jude 1:9)
“Shall the prey be taken from the mighty, or the lawful captive delivered?” (Isaiah 49:24) Please note that men and women who choose to sin and rebel against God become the lawful prey of the devil. He has a right to them when they cross that line. When God takes the prey from the mighty (the devil), He does it lawfully. A mighty price was paid. The deliverance is legal, sound, and righteous. It will hold up in court, even the judgment of all things. The justness of God will shine forth along with the happy band of the lawfully delivered. Praise God!
What will the last time be like?
The Bible says in the last time there will be hunger, war, terrible sickness, etc., but in old times there was all these things. What really will happen in the last time?
I am certain that if we had lived at any point of history since the prophecies of the last days were given, it would have seemed to have applied to our times. We would have interpreted what we could understand in terms of the atrocities and calamities that we lived in at that point. It appears that the people who lived before us did just that.
I am also convinced that God has designed the prophecies of the scriptures on these points in such a way as to comfort our hearts and steady our faith in Him. That is, to bring a blessing to us as we need it. And a great part of this blessing is in retrospect (after the fact), as we began to understand what is happening and get a sense of perspective.
Now, in our times, horrible things have occurred. If you or I were in a Nazi death camp, suffering awfully, it would be hard for us to realize that people had suffered just as much in other ages of the world. For instance, when Genghis Khan seemed to be wiping (so-called) Christianity off the face of the earth. Or the Black Plague. And so on.
All prophecy is based on the nature of sin. Sin steadily worsens. It never recovers itself; it never, of itself, gets any better. If a person takes a step in sin, there is a clear downward path before the individual. If a nation sins, there is a clear downward path. The same is true of mankind overall. At the end of each path is judgment, whether it is the judgment of an individual, a nation, or mankind overall. If there is repentance or even a softening toward things that are right, the downward velocity is stopped or slowed. These things come from God interfering and man responding. Now these thoughts are taught in the Bible. “Evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.” (2 Timothy 3:13) “For the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.” (Genesis 15:16)
The disciples asked the same question that you have asked. “Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign when all these things shall be fulfilled?” (Mark 13:4) And the final conclusion in the answer of Jesus: “But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father. Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is.” (Mark 13:32-33)
You and I can see plainly from this last scripture that we are given enough to know to help us live right through it all, but not enough to help us pinpoint the day and hour when God ends things.
It is safe to conclude that we are going to get more of the same catastrophes that have befallen mankind all along, and that it is going to be too much to stand (just as those before us) unless we get help of the Lord. The effects of sin are so monstrous and awful that men’s hearts fail for fear and there is no remedy—outside of God (Luke 21:26; 2 Chronicles 6:16). Men’s doings are visited on their heads. God keeps dealing with mankind collectively on an awesome scale, as well as individually. Surely, God wants people to turn. Why will they die? Why will the vast majority of people persist in going to hell? Surely, the final judgment day will show that God has done all He can to help poor, sinful, fallen man, but people would not.