The Ministry of Intercession
“If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it.” (1 John 5:16)
If we read the next verse of this scripture, we find that all unrighteousness is sin; that is, there are things in which people come short, realize secret faults, and have needs which have not yet been adjusted, and these trespasses are not unto death because they do not involve rebellion and willful transgression. “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” (Matthew 6:12) “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:32)
There are sins that involve willful transgression and rebellion. These are unto death and beyond the reach of this kind of intercession on the part of another.
There is a ministry of life for them that sin not unto death. In other words, God appoints a place for other children of God to enter into the needs of another in such a way that a child of God with this ministry of life is able to nurture a child of God who is failing and coming short, but who is not dead spiritually. “Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees.” (Hebrews 12:12) “For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.” (1 Corinthians 11:29-30) Such children of God as these need nursing care to recover, to get well, to grow strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.
Every godly pastor is given some of this gift as part of their calling. Here is the exercise of it in the apostle’s words, “But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children: So being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us.” (1 Thessalonians 2:7-8) The context of this scripture tells us that he could have conducted himself differently, but so deeply did he enter into the burden of their need, that he forbore to act with more firmness and authority. When a certain minister was proceeding to deal with a troublemaker in the congregation who constantly gossiped and “edited” the weekly messages to the detriment of many in the congregation, the Spirit of God spoke to him as he drove to visit her and deal with her with Bible steps. “You do have a right to take Bible steps [Matthew 18:15-17] in going to her,” the Spirit of God told him, “but if you do, it will destroy her!” He said he pulled off the road. He sat there a while and meditated on the matter. Then he made a u-turn and went back home. She continued to act as before.
It is impossible to be an effective nurturer for God unless the Spirit of God opens to you enough of the particular burden of that needy one for you to understand their need. Generalities are not good enough here. You need to understand the particular nature of their need, just as a nurse needs to understand the peculiar affliction of the patient. General things do apply, but more pinpoint knowledge is needed.
In every life, there is a unique balance between the flesh (the natural flesh) and the spirit, and this balance in each one absolutely must be gained and maintained for good spiritual health. All of God’s children are required to live holy lives without sin, but the degree of plainness in their dress, the nature of their fleshly recreation (in the sense of mental and physical relaxation and rest), and the degree of their involvement with the affairs of this life (what is entangling to one is not necessarily spiritually entangling to another) differs from each other. For this reason, we are advised not to compare ourselves with each other (2 Corinthians 10:12). The right balance in our lives is not found by such comparisons. “But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For every man shall bear his own burden.” (Galatians 6:4-5)
Now the Spirit of God works always with a given individual in terms of the priorities that He sets in his life. The Spirit of God is coordinating a great number of things in setting a given child of God in the body as it pleases Him, and this has a bearing on the priorities that He sets. It is not up to us to set the priorities in what should be dealt with in a child of God. We do not know what we are doing, anyway, (even if we think we do), and to do so usurps the place of the Holy Ghost. Read Ecclesiastes 5:1-2. Be quiet. Keep your foot; that is, watch what you do. Be sure that God has opened the matter to you sufficiently that you are a worker together with Him. Be sober-minded and pay attention. It is possible for you to put a stumbling block in your brother’s pathway. It is possible for you to discourage a child of God from responding to the Spirit of God’s chastisement, and you are not too big to be spanked, too. A lot of people are meddling in things too big for them. A lot of people take too much upon themselves in the name of God. They get too big for their britches, so to speak. They forget that they, too, are a child among the other children and start trying to act like a parent. We stay children, however, and the Bible tells us to forgive other men their trespasses even (in the same way) as we want God to forgive us ours. Sometimes God uses spankable children to deal with other spankable children, but we sure had better be careful to stay right within the guidelines that God gives us. “Lord, deal with me just as I deal with others.” God delegates a certain limited authority for a child of His to deal with another child of His. This authority is most definitely limited, and it is vital that I stay right in the guidelines. It is also vital that I not neglect to do what I am delegated by God to do.
This insight from God into the real needs of others along with a great consciousness that I only stay balanced by the help of that same Holy Ghost, goes a long way toward helping me to work the works of God with someone else, rather than my works (my best efforts). And this is the essence of the nurturing burden.
Love is absolutely necessary, but even a moment’s pause will show that love is not enough. There are many parents that hopelessly, longingly love their children, but have no or few clues as to how to nurture them. They want to nurture; they see the desperate need for nurture; perhaps they would pay any price to be able to nurture. Still they cannot find how to do it. Again, only the Spirit of God knows the exact balance point, the exact need, in each individual’s life. And He is capable, so capable, of imparting enough of that perfect understanding to you and me that we can be workers together with God.
Our Lord, in the days of His flesh, said, “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.” (John 5:17) This way of dealing with the problems and awful conditions of the Jews came zinging in right on target. It was just right. It was tough love mingled with mercy in just the right proportions. It warned of impending judgment faithfully. It didn’t give undue room for fudging and evading. It came as a marvelous uplift to those who had ears to hear and an incredibly damning rebuke to those who held the truth in unrighteousness. Oh, what a work! What a work of God! Glory be to Him who thus deals with mankind! What a kiss! (Psalms 85:10).
We observe the same work of God wherever men are used of the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost reproves, and He reproves just right with respect to the particular need. The Word does not go forth void. “For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:10-11) There is laser-like accuracy with God; He never misses.
Now we see a child of God struggling. We need discernment. We do not need to lean to our own understanding of God’s ways and truth to help him. That could only accidently help him, and what are the chances of that happening? We need something timely and accurate from the Holy Ghost, timely and accurate in the needy one’s experience. We must wait on God’s revealing to get it. He knows. He wants to help. He wants us to wait and be humbled in waiting until He reveals what we need to see. “I will stand upon my watch, and set me upon the tower, and will watch to see what he will say unto me, and what I shall answer when I am reproved. And the LORD answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it. For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry.” (Habakkuk 2:1-3) Habakkuk says, “I need an answer.” Then he says, “I’m going to stand on my watch to see what He will say unto me.” Sure enough, God answered him. If you read the verses above, you see the pinpoint accuracy of God’s vision, supplied for Habakkuk’s use in the work of God.
Every soul has a vision for them. Every soul has an answer from God, a vision that can be made plain upon tables (that is, communicated) “that he may run that readeth it.” Praise God! Something that works! Oh, how the vision of God for each of us works! Glory! God knows just what we each need.
It is a characteristic of the works of men to understand in generalities, in policies, in creeds. It is characteristic of them to experiment, to formulate, to craft from experience. It is characteristic of the work of God to be led by absolute, right-on-target pinpoint knowledge. We serve Him who knows all things. There is not a single problem, no matter how perplexing, that He cannot resolve, that He does not completely understand. Therefore, “we are perplexed, but not in despair.” (2 Corinthians 4:8) God knows the secret of good spiritual health of every child of God. He knows how to direct the nurturing.
Brother C. E. Orr states in The Rule of a Saintly Life:
Jesus says, “My sheep hear my voice and they follow me.” (John 10:27) You are to hear more than the preacher’s voice, but there are those who are hearing no more. You are to listen for the voice of Jesus in the voice of the preacher, and if you cannot hear it, do not follow. You have heaven to gain for yourself. You have your own life to live. Do not look around and compare yourself with someone else. Look to heaven and live to please God. He will tell you how to live. His Spirit will write it in your heart.
No two lambs bleat just alike. Jesus knows each sheep by its own particular bleat. No life will ever be just like yours, because there never was anyone just like you. It takes your own individual life to complete the all-glorious temple of God. Seek the God of heaven to teach your heart how to live. You can live the life God wants you to live, but you cannot live the life of another. There are some variations in every life. It is the law of heaven. Get your eyes off of others.
God has created mankind (and continues to create mankind) so they are very diverse. He designed this diversity on purpose, and it is to be respected. Unity is not uniformity. As a little tract states, “Others May, You Cannot.” A mother or father who attempts to treat every child in the family exactly alike will be unjust with some, even as they attempt to avoid injustice. Some children need more spankings than others. Some need to be dealt with in their fragility. Others need severity. And everything in between. If a stubborn, strongly self-willed child is dealt with as a fragile, gentle child, it will not be good. The opposite is true, also. Not only is this generally true overall, but a given child may be fragile one day, and in need of strong, firm dealing the next day. The diversity and changing face of diversity in us is one reason we are so out of our depth in dealing with each other at the heart level. The skills to deal with people together in business or in other group settings are not skills at the heart level. We catch a sense of this in Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: Who can know it?” And the answer to this profound question is in the next verse: “I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.” (Jeremiah 17:10) God is our only hope to effectively deal with each other.
A certain minister preached a message at the end of his ministry to two congregations that contained a shocking statement. “If I had realized the hardness of men’s hearts when I started preaching as a young man, I would have conducted my ministry differently over the years.” Now this statement is worthy of our attention. It is a confession. It is an indictment of natural thinking and understanding, even in a man saved and sanctified. And it is very honest. This brother was inclined by natural temperament to be gentle, reasonable, and conciliatory. He did not care for confrontations, yet he was faithful to God and obedient. He was meek and humble. He nurtured well with a combination of his own natural nature and the dealings of the Holy Ghost, and as long as he dealt with certain kinds of people who responded well to that kind of dealing, the work of God was accomplished. But the overall characteristic of men’s hearts is not gentleness and a hunger to do right. As this brother saw at the close of his course, men’s hearts are hard. They need more than just meek dealings—yet at times, they need just what was in this brother. He was confessing an imbalance in his life—an imbalance that came from too much of him in this certain way. We can easily see that the imbalance can go the other way, too. There can be too little meekness and too much combativeness. We also see that God was still balancing His minister up—hence the confession. At this point, we are strongly reminded of the Lord’s description of human ministry, the foolishness of preaching. “It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” (1 Corinthians 1:21) It has pleased God to call some to this way of dealings with others. When the work of the Lord is done right, there is no room for the flesh to glory.
So here I am, dealing with a precious, eternity-bound soul. What is the burden (God’s burden) of Brother —— or Sister ——? To do this right, I need the mind of Christ. I need to know how he regards the matter, and I need to be a worker with God. The more I am able to sink down before Him and get His thoughts and grace to regard the matter as He regards it, the better able I will be to be a worker with Him. Can I make a mistake in this? Of course. Just as I can mistake the leading of the Lord in other matters, I can get it wrong here. I need to get still; yea, “Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10) An enormous amount of grace and guidance is in this verse.
In a tract on child-raising by Brother Fred Pruitt, we read:
According to the Apostle Paul, one of the qualifications of an elder is, that “he ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity.” (1 Timothy 3:4) Now this gravity is not a gravity through fear of being flogged, but is a gravity through love. There is nothing that draws more than divine love, as it will bear the fruits of gentleness, tenderness, kindness, longsuffering, patience, meekness, and faith. We do not mean by this that one should never whip the child, for some children will become naughty under the best treatment. Yes, many of them will do so because the enemy is always working against righteousness and will spoil a happy Christian home if possible; and sometimes it is only manifesting love to the child to give them a good whipping with a strap or keen switch to awaken them to the fact that you feel the responsibility of their welfare, and also to let them know that you expect obedience, even if it is necessary to whip. Of course, always do this with calmness, instruction, and prayer; letting the child know that you are sorry that you have to whip them, but you have to do it as he or she will not obey without it. Generally they will weep and beg not to be whipped and will promise that they will not disobey any more; but if they have repeated the offense, it is best to whip them, then they will remember and be thoughtful of your wishes.
A child should never be grabbed and beaten without mercy, for it does not become a saint to do this, neither is it an example of godliness to the child nor to others and shows a disrespect to God and clear leadings from Him. Neither should we be hasty to accuse a child of doing a wrong deed, without being sure the accusation is correct, for fear of causing the child to lose confidence in us as having true judgment.
We wish to relate an instance that happened to us: One of our boys, when eight or nine years of age, began to slip money. Wife would lay some change on the cupboard shelf, and would sometimes miss a nickel or a dime. We suspected this boy of taking it, but refrained from accusing him of it. We prayed about it, asking God to clearly uncover the matter in some way. One day while I was working in the office, wife came in and told me that our oldest boy had missed a quarter from his money and that he was accusing the other boy of taking it. He was stirring around about it considerably and said that he saw him eating candy and felt sure that he had bought it with his money. This news made us feel bad, for we felt it would be a serious thing to charge the boy of stealing, should he not be guilty. With heavy hearts, we fell on our faces before God and asked Him to give us wisdom in the matter so the boy could be corrected and taught a lesson that he would not forget. After the day’s work was done, we went to the house and called the boy to us. We told him that we were feeling bad and very much grieved, for we had always taught him to do right. As we continued to speak, he burst into tears and confessed taking the money. We talked to him of the wrong of this and what it would lead to, and told him that it was needful for us to whip him for this, as it was too great a thing to let go, and that we wanted him to remember not to do that way any more. Also, he was to pay back the money just as fast as he got it, so his wrongs would all be made right. We have never had reason since that time to think that he ever took any more money. In this time of need we simply looked to God for wisdom and all came out well, and so it will in all things that perplex and puzzle us. As we look to God, He will untangle and show us how, when, and what to do.
Praise God! How the Lord wants to “show us how, when, and what to do!”
“The Savior can solve every problem,
The tangles of life can undo;
There is nothing too hard for Jesus,
There is nothing that He cannot do.”
It is a terrible thing when the children attempt to pass judgment on how well they are nurtured, for they are not qualified to do this. They suffer if they are not nurtured, and they may even be aware that things are not as they should be, yet this understanding does not qualify them to ascertain how well they are being dealt with. In an article in The Gospel Trumpet in 1900, Sister Jennie Rutty writes:
When those who have received and advocated wrong doctrine were reproved, they have resisted the reproof because they deemed it improperly given; thus they fall under the accusing spirit against God’s children. The effects of this spirit is to make what the church does appear dark and repulsive, and unworthy of attention; or else censure falls upon a few individuals or upon certain methods of reproof or correction and all the workers who use them.
To parent children successfully, the parents must have a very clear vision of just what is essential to good character and good family citizenship. This is different than just imposing their preferences and desires on the child. In exact like manner, a child of God with the ministry of intercession from God for others, must grasp what is absolutely essential for saintly living for all children of God and for a particular child of God.
We might say that a bird might teach that all other birds must need build nests, and that it is not optional whether to have a nest or not. We may use certain materials to construct the nest or other materials, but the nest must be built in such a way as to safely retain eggs, with all the activities that go with turning eggs, protecting them, etc. Furthermore, it is necessary to build them an certain heights to protect the contents from predators, etc. All of this would be a description of the wisdom of nest building.
In the same way, we might insist that every child of God must walk in the light that the Spirit of God shines on his pathway, and that light fixes responsibility. Then we must advise any given child of God of how the Lord deals with him on a particular matter, of how that dealing goes beyond his reasoning; that once God has dealt with him on a given matter, he no longer has an option except whether to please the Lord or not to please Him. For example, God deals with a brother about listening to talk shows on the radio. He begins to feel uncomfortable with how things go with him when he listens. He reasons that he is not listening to anything that he knows is wrong, yet the uncomfortable realization that it brings leanness to his soul continues to bother him. Another child of God with the ministry of intercession perceives that God is dealing with his heart. He perceives that the one in need does not have a firm hold of the principle of not pleasing himself, of not doing all to the glory of God. This is the problem behind the problem, so to speak, and this is where the Spirit of God is going with the convictions about the radio listening. The radio indulgence is but a symptom. Here is where the minister (servant) of the other may be of help by reinforcing the Spirit’s dealing. Here is where we can be workers together with God in the experience of another.
To insist on a policy of no-one-listening-to-a-radio-program will not bring about a resolving of the problem behind the problem. Not everyone who listens to the radio is affected as the child of God with the lack of consecration. The standard for all is a consecration to be the Lord’s entirely. All children of God should bid death to all the mind and heart’s longing to know just whatever it wants to know. The curiosity of the mind and heart must be held subject to the mind of Christ. This standard affects a great deal more than just this one symptom, and it should be presented with great power and blessing. It should be illustrated in the life of the one who is ministering to the other. They must be first partaker of the fruit.
This distinguishment between life and the fruit that the life naturally produces when the life is inspired and guided by the Holy Ghost is one of the necessary things to understand to make sense of God’s dealings. There is more to it than just thirty, sixty, one-hundred fold; these terms refer to maximum capacity, i.e., the most that God knows is reasonably expected. Our thirty, sixty, one-hundred fold standard is set by what our ancestors have done in their lives before us. How they lived has an effect on us. “For I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me.” (Exodus 20:5) One of the solemn truths that we must face is that we are indeed the offspring of our parents, grandparents, and great grandparents. We are not islands; we are affected by what was before. Their choices affect our internal composition. These things are part of what the Spirit of God takes into account in His shaping and working of us, in His appointment of our trials. In some individuals, so great are the handicaps inflicted by the previous generations, that it will take a lifetime of adjustment with an absolute consecration to live up to thirty-fold.
It is not our part to try and determine where ourselves or anyone else is. We could not possibly do so completely accurately, anyhow. We must be led, step by step, by Him who knows all things. He knows what He is doing, and He will bring it out right, if we will let Him.
In Acts 15:28, we read, “For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things.” Notice that this is a partnership between the Holy Ghost and people filled with Him. The situation was amazingly profound. The difference between gentile and Jew was mind-boggling. What should be required of the gentile brother or sister? What would go too far—“no greater burden”? What was necessary? These brethren were in a time of transition between the Old Testament and the New. They were learning the way, step by step, from the Holy Ghost. What were the necessary things? And what were the unnecessary? What should be taught? The mature understanding of these differences is our inheritance from those battles and conflicts of so many years ago. The mature understanding of the needs of our times is being revealed, step by step, by that same Holy Ghost, today. Oh, who will be workers together with God?
There are things that belong to holy living that are absolutely necessary for all. Without these necessary things, there is a departure from holy living. Scripturally, this is the measure of one reed. “And the man said unto me, Son of man, behold with thine eyes, and hear with thine ears, and set thine heart upon all that I shall show thee; for to the intent that I might show them unto thee art thou brought hither: declare all that thou seest to the house of Israel. And behold a wall on the outside of the house round about, and in the man’s hand a measuring reed of six cubits long by the cubit and an hand breadth:” (Ezekiel 40:4-5) Now by its very nature, a measuring device, such as this reed, is an absolute. It cannot possibly be variable and fulfil the function of its use. Now the application of the measuring reed:
“So he measured the breadth of the building, one reed; and the height, one reed. Then came he unto the gate which looketh toward the east, and went up the stairs thereof, and measured the threshold of the gate, which was one reed broad; and the other threshold of the gate, which was one reed broad. And every little chamber was one reed long, and one reed broad; and between the little chambers were five cubits; and the threshold of the gate by the porch of the gate within was one reed. He measured also the porch of the gate within, one reed.” (Ezekiel 40:5-8) We notice a physical impossibility. Everything had the dimension of this measuring reed. The entire building was one reed in height and breadth. The threshold of the gate was one reed broad, and every little chamber was one reed long and one reed broad. All of this comes together in this text, “Be ye holy; for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:16) “This is the law of the house; Upon the top of the mountain the whole limit thereof round about shall be most holy. Behold, this is the law of the house.” (Ezekiel 43:12) Just before this last scripture quoted, the prophet is directed to “show the house to the house of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities: and let them measure the pattern.” (Ezekiel 42:10) To preach and teach the gospel as God would have us, we must be thoroughly familiar with this pattern. The familiarity is acquired by first living it ourselves (2 Timothy 2:6), then “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.” (2 Timothy 4:2) The Word of God is far more detailed and comprehensive than many realize, and when it is used of the Holy Ghost in a human vessel, it is capable of bringing all saints to this: “That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” (2 Timothy 3:17) The individual’s light on what is taught fixes his responsibility before God. That is, some may have sufficient inner light from God to live up to what is Holy Ghost preached to the one-hundred standard, while others only realize sufficiently to grasp the sixty-fold, and so forth. If we examine the breadth and height of this God-appointed way of saving them that believe by the foolishness of preaching, we realize:
1) The ministers may not be faithful in preaching all the Word of God. Their rendition of the truth may not be as complete and full-bodied, as juicy, as accurate, as it should be. This gets perilously close to the line of having men’s blood upon our hands.
2) There is a disposition among men to go farther than the necessary things—a zeal that would substitute the self-righteousness obtained by self’s reasoning for the righteousness and assurance that comes from humbly following God. “No greater burden.” This zeal arises at the individual level and the ministerial level. It is not inspired of God, and it does not yield the peaceable fruits of righteousness. James tells us that this wisdom from above is “first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits.” (James 3:17) It is accurate and right, too, but first…. God is getting us to where we need to be in the easiest way possible, but this zeal that cometh not from above would send us charging out of Egypt into the land of Philistines, contrary to the guidance of the Lord.
We see different ones under the accusing, zealous spirit who heap upon themselves great burdens (and upon others, too), and we discern that something is telling them, “Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law,” (Acts 15:24) so to speak, and we cry out against this unholy zeal in the name of Him who loves us and will get us to heaven in the right way, if we will let Him, “to whom we gave no such commandment.” These things trouble people (instead of bringing a blessing), and they subvert the soul.
If a wife gets into her mind an artificial standard of pleasing her husband, and begins to live up to that “ideal,” instead of developing and maintaining communication with her companion, the marriage will suffer. She might think she is laboring hard to make a success of things, but she has “a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge,” (Romans 10:2) so to speak.There is a great need to meet all this kind of manifestation with sober-minded truth. “God is not like that.” “God does not want that kind of sacrifice.” “God does not take pleasure in your straining.” Such fruits from such zeal are not peaceable. Such zeal betrays that it is not easy to be entreated. Not just individuals, but whole movements and congregations are subverted by such zeal. The word subvert means to undermine, to corrupt. How powerfully the words of the apostle apply! “But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.” (2 Corinthians 11:3-4)
We fear that many do not preach a timeless gospel. Instead, they preach a gospel of changing expediencies. It adds up to a crooked path for the feet. “I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before him.” (Ecclesiastes 3:14) We see right away that timelessness is a characteristic of God, whereas timelessness is not a characteristic of the works of men. The Bible is timeless truth. What is written and shown by example to be modest dress and conduct in the Bible, even though penned in times that are past, is just as relevant and sound today, as ever. The same is true of other lines of truth.
We come now to the Bible standard of sound doctrine. Let us notice some of the scriptures on this point.
“But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine.” (Titus 2:1) “Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.” (Titus 1:9) “…if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine; According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust.” (1 Timothy 1:10-11) “Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us.” (2 Timothy 1:13-14) We might think of soundness as that which will prove out, that which endures even to eternity.
We have in our possession a little tract of correspondence around 1914 between Jenny Rutty and R. L. Berry. Mr. Berry was advocating and allowing the wearing of the necktie, contrary to prior teaching of about twenty-years’ duration, and Jenny Rutty was holding the position that the Spirit of God had taught them the laying aside of the necktie. Mr. Berry took the position that the necktie was not specifically condemned in the Bible. His position appeared to enjoy the majority of support among the people of that day. Some ninety-five years later, the fruits of each stand are plain to see. The relevance of Sister Rutty’s objections are most definitely borne out by subsequent events.
We might say the same about circumcision in the early years of the gospel.
“If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings.” (1 Timothy 6:3-4) What does this word doting mean? It means to show excessive love or fondness for. These are symptoms of pride. The doting about questions and strifes of words produces an evil harvest. It stirs up the flesh. It brings out envy, strife, railings, and evil surmisings. There is a time to ignore argument and certain questions, because they are distractions to the real need of the hour. Perhaps some questions can be answered when the pride is gone, but until then, there is nothing to do but look the real problem in the face and carry a burden for deliverance.
If you are getting the impression that discernment from God is an essential part of gospel work, then you are getting the right impression. Let us notice the Bible’s teaching on this point.
“And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots: And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD; And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the LORD: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears: But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.” (Isaiah 11:1-4)
We understand that the margin gives us a slightly different translation of the “quick understanding.” It reads, “quick scent.” This refers to the ability to detect different odors. “And shall make him of quick scent.” Our Lord, untainted by the perverted nature of Adam, and constantly in touch with the purity of heaven through prayer and holy meditation, was able to sense accurately the various odors of the spiritual condition of the various human beings around Him. To one, He said, “Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!” (John 1:47) So great was the spiritual nose of the Lord Jesus, that “He knew all men, And needed not that any should testify of man: for He knew what was in man.” (John 2:24-25)
We see then that there is such a thing as having “their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” (Hebrews 5:14) Speaking of the gospel day, Ezekiel said, “And they shall teach my people the difference between the holy and profane, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean.” (Ezekiel 44:23) “Therefore thus saith the LORD, If thou return, then will I bring thee again, and thou shalt stand before me: and if thou take forth the precious from the vile, thou shalt be as my mouth: let them return unto thee; but return not thou unto them”” (Jeremiah 15:19)
“And there sat a certain man at Lystra, impotent in his feet, being a cripple from his mother’s womb, who never had walked: The same heard Paul speak: who stedfastly beholding him, and perceiving that he had faith to be healed….” (Acts 14:8-9)
We fear again that many are blind or badly afflicted in the eyes and in need of the King’s eyesalve, and they attempt to do the work of the Lord without perception from above. Others substitute human perception and general knowledge of the ways of men’s thinking for the discernment given by the Holy Ghost. Such technique leads to a hodge-podge of confusion. God has made the diversity of men such that it defies human ingenuity, and He made it in such a way for a reason. Here again, we are meant to be guided and led by the Holy Ghost.
“Without Me,” our Master said, “ye can do nothing.” (John 15:5) You cannot properly nurture spiritually without God’s help. “But,” someone says, “I know so-and-so, and they are just wonderful at nurturing their children!” Yes. There are excellent marriages without people living for God. There are excellent parents without people living for God. There are wise business leaders, etc. But none of these work the work of God. God has allowed us considerable ability in the flesh to work the works of men. But the work of God can only be done rightly by His help.
We want to speak of the need of suffering in nurturing. True nurturing is sacrificial. The true parents literally give their lives for their children. They pour in their energy, their livelihood. The child lives off of their lives. This is the nature of nurturing, and there is definite suffering involved.
The greater the need for nurturing, the more suffering will be expended. When people have done great wrong and departed far from God, there must be great suffering on the part of those who labor with them to recover the ground that has been lost.
There is a beautiful picture in the Bible of a donkey that God used as an intercessor with Baalam, the prophet who was going down under covetousness. How did the donkey become an effective intercessor? God opened the donkey’s eyes. “And the ass saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand: and the ass turned aside out of the way, and went into the field: and Balaam smote the ass, to turn her into the way.” (Numbers 22:23) Children of God who are being nurtured while under some unhealthy influence do not understand what is going on and what is at stake. If they did, they would not need to be nurtured. They could walk on their own two feet and nurture others.
God is saddling people with other’s burdens. He is showing them things—true things—about the one who rides upon them, and when God’s donkeys react to the real danger, the one being borne reacts just as Baalam did. When the burden and situation reaches a certain point that God determines, He opens the mouth of the burden-bearer. “And the LORD opened the mouth of the ass, and she said unto Balaam, What have I done unto thee, that thou hast smitten me these three times?” (Numbers 22:28) Balaam did not even seem to think it bizarre to be talking with his donkey, and he actually started arguing with his donkey until God opened his eyes. This is the point with any nurturer of spiritual things. It is to serve to bring the nurtured one to Almighty God. It is to point to Him who alone has sufficiency for us all in all things. And to get to that point, we must suffer and be consecrated to suffer.
“And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.” (2 Timothy 2:24-26)
Here is the saddled donkey patience of God’s nurturer. Gentle unto all men. Apt to teach. Patient. An understanding that the needy one is often opposed to their own best interest. Like a baby who desperately needs to rest, but to rest is the last thing that it wants to do. To meekly instruct such ones over and over, until they finally come to terms with God and His way in their need and with their nature. It is to deal with many who do not make it, and some who do. Reader, are you ready to be ridden?
Spiritual agriculture. “Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain.” (James 5:7)
“Give us, Lord, much grace and wisdom,
With the countless seeds we sow;
Though we scatter some at random,
They may germinate and grow;
Some may fall in crowded places,
On the dry, unyielding plain,
But, if watered by Thy graces,
Not a seed is sown in vain.”*
Oh, the potential of the gospel seed in the life of a human being! It is worth the whole world. “For the redemption of their soul is precious.” (Psalm 49:8)
“Our God, to save from sin’s control,
Gave His Son: a sacrifice;
His grace, abounding in the soul,
Makes the earth a paradise.”*
“Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.” (Isaiah 53:10-11)
It is our privilege to enter into the intercession of Jesus for mankind in a very small, limited way. Let us take His yoke upon us and learn of Him.