2 CORINTHIANS 11
2 For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.
What Paul feared, and to prevent which he was
"jealous over all with a godly jealousy,"
was even then secretly at work, impregnating the Christian Eve with principles which in fruition caused her to give birth to a Cain, who has been murdering his brother Abel for fifteen hundred years.
It was even then at work. He styles it "the Mystery of the Iniquity" - the secret principles of that lawlessness which would develop itself into the Lawless One, or Man of Sin - anthropos tes hamartia - THE MAN OF THE APOSTASY.
The seed-germ of this man was already in the womb of the espoused.
"The mystery of the iniquity is already effectually working,"
says the apostle in 2 Thess. 2:7. Yes, it was this working, which, in verse 9, he styles "the inworking of the Satan," gave him so much trouble, and caused him such great anxiety, as evinced in his epistles. The principles of the apostasy were being inwrought, as he informs us,
"with all power, and signs, and miracles of falsehood, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish."
So effectual and specious was this inworking that, as Jesus predicted, even the elect would be endangered (Matt. 24:24).
3 But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.
Highly satisfied with his newly discovered views of the situation, he presented himself before the mother of all living, and opened a conversation with her upon the subject of the law and its penalty, in which he submitted to her the conclusions to which he had come from the premises before him. He introduced the conference by showing that he knew what the Elohim had said, "Yea," said he,
"hath Elohim said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden!"
The "yea" implies that he knew the fact; but he put what he knew interrogatively to draw the woman out. She admitted that it had been so said, and specified the particular tree, and its locality in the midst of the garden, and added that they were forbidden even to touch it upon pain of death. This was the point he wished her to come to as it enabled him at once to state the discovery he had made of what Deity really intended contrary to his word.
He replied, "Dying ye shall not die:" that is, "Your dying shall not end in death." This was a point-blank denial of what the Deity had said. He had said they should die, and the serpent said they should not, and undertook to establish his position by declaring his acquaintance with the secret of the Deity hidden from her -
"Dying ye shall not die; for Elohim knows that in the day of your eating thereof then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as Elohim, knowing good and evil."
The Elohim do not die, they know good and evil, and you will become like them.
The woman listened to his sermon on the law, and thought his exposition of the word might be its true spiritual import. It was possible that the Deity did not mean what he said; that it was the letter of the law only that killed; but the spiritual or secret meaning expounded by the intelligent and eloquent serpent, was the real life-imparting truth.
She entertained this supposition, since become so popular with her descendants; and, half convinced, she moved towards the tree to take a look at it, and more practically consider the matter. Her faith in the unadulterated Word was shaken. She believed the spiritualizing serpent, and she believed the Deity; for she believed the eating of the tree would impart
the knowledge of the good and the evil divinely indicated; but then she believed also, that the death-penalty might be evaded according to the doctrine of the serpent.
'The Simplicity and Obviousness of The Truth (Elpis Israel)'
Real truth is always simple. The deep things of God, though profound, are not complicated. Learning to know God is a gradual process of simplification -- of learning the basic principles and the underlying harmony of countless, apparently unrelated circumstances. The more clearly the picture is seen, the simpler it appears to be.
Simple Scriptural knowledge will clear away all the complicated errors of speculation. The case Paul cites is to the point. The command to Adam and Eve was very clear and simple. The serpent went to work on it and soon had it complicated by half-truths and unrevealed speculations, appealing to the mind of the flesh. The clear issue between obeying God and disobeying Him was lost sight of, and Eve was beguiled.
If she had refused to be drawn away from the simple truth, she would have been safe.
Paul warningly speaks of "another Jesus." What is "another Jesus?" Clearly it means attaching a meaning to the name and personality that is not in harmony with the revealed facts. The name Jesus is on every tongue, but how many really know Jesus?
How easy it is to have a form of words without any true conception behind it! We cannot know Jesus without continually reading and thinking upon what is written about him. Mere familiarity with the name and a few surface facts is useless. We must be intimately familiar with the person for whom the name stands. And this familiarity must be actual. It must arise from the fulfillment of the promise -- "If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him." Although this is spiritual, it is still actual, and must happen if there is to be any hope of salvation -- (Jn. 14).
Bro Growcott - The Test of Love
In the serpent there is no truth, nor ever was, the creature not having capacity for its reception; neither is there truth in a man ignorant of the word. A man untaught of God is a serpent in human form, that hisses at any bible sentiment not in harmony with the thinking of his brain-flesh. ...
...The mind of the Serpent transferred to man, the serpent henceforth occupied the place only of an emblem, or symbol, representative of all Sin's doings, that is, the Devil's, in man; and through him. I repeat, what I conceive I have elsewhere proved, that Diabolos translated devil, is SIN in the flesh, which causes those who yield to it, to cross the line forbidden to be passed by the Divine law. It is for this reason called diabolos; and is clearly shown by Moses to be the Serpent's son, begotten in the heart of the Mother of all living, who, as reproducers of their kind, give birth only to sinners, and therefore grandsons of the Serpent, and children of Sin.
This is the parentage of all mankind, be they the children of infidels or believers. "If ye," said Jesus to the apostles, "being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, by how much more shall your Father who is in the heavens, give good things to them that ask him?" If he styled those evil who have God for their father, how much more so are they who are not of God, but of sinful flesh only. The apostles were evil in the sense expressed by Paul, in Romans 7: 17-18, saying, "Sin dwelleth in me; for I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing;" and in the thirteenth verse, this sin he personifies by the phrase a hyperbolical, or pre-eminent sinner.
Herald of the Kingdom and Age to Come, Aug 1853.
5 For I suppose I was not a whit behind the very chiefest apostles.
6 But though I be rude in speech, yet not in knowledge; but we have been throughly made manifest among you in all things.
They had ample evidence of Paul's genuineness and the harmony of his teaching with the Truth. They knew that all he said was true. Why were they then against him? As he said earlier, "We write none other things unto you, than what ye read or acknowledge." They could not deny this. They had to admit he was a faithful teacher of the Truth. How then did they justify their antagonism? By objecting to his manner. In this way they hoped to confuse and side-track the main issue and thereby escape the force of his words.
Bro Growcott - The Test of Love
8 I robbed other ecclesias, taking wages of them, to do you service.
9 And when I was present with you, and wanted, I was chargeable to no man: for that which was lacking to me the brethren which came from Macedonia supplied: and in all things I have kept myself from being burdensome unto you, and so will I keep myself.
The Antipas Association of Christadelphians at New York, proclaims itself for the time being the head quarters of the Testimony, that it may serve 'the least' who is disposed to 'receive with meekness, the engrafted word which is able to save souls.' It seeks no other honour or profit. If all those questionable things styled 'churches,' in Britain and America, were to acknowledge it as the radiating centre of the Testimony, it would not profit a single Christadelphian one cent.
The Antipas has no desire to make merchandise of souls; it only desires souls to be benefited and honoured, in receiving 'without money and without price,' the testimony of God. That they may be enabled to do this, John Christadelphos works among them without compensation, and 'finds' himself. If he depended upon the Antipas in N. Y. City for support, he would have been, with all dependent upon him, under the green turf long ago.
'I robbed,' says Paul (εδυλησα, rightfully seized from) other ecclesias, receiving recompense, to do you service.' He called this abasing himself, that the Christadelphians of the Antipas in Corinth might be exalted, because thus he preached to them the gospel of God 'freely.' This is the scriptural relation which subsists between John Christadelphos and the Antipas in N. Y. City. See what Paul says in 2 Cor. xi. 9., then he adds, 'as the truth of Christ is in me, this boasting shall not be stopped in me, in all the regions of Achaia,' and so says John Christadelphos. He is the servant of the least, and seeks only them, and nothing they possess. Such is his ambition, nothing more.
EXTRACTS FROM AN UNPUBLISHED LETTER OF DR. THOMAS
The Christadelphian, May 1868
11 Wherefore? because I love you not? God knoweth.
12 But what I do, that I will do, that I may cut off occasion from them which desire occasion; that wherein they glory, they may be found even as we.
This is an important rule of action.
"All things are lawful, but all things are not expedient."
"Judge this rather," Paul says elsewhere "that no man put a stumbling block or an occasion to fall in his brother's way. Destroy not him with thy meat for whom Christ died. All things indeed are pure, but it is evil for that man who eateth with offense."
It is an evil thing to do anything that unnecessarily offends others or causes them to stumble. Here is a searching test of a man's comprehension of the second commandment,
"Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." John says, "He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him"
-- nothing that gives sorrow to his brother or grounds for reproach to the adversary -- (Rom. 14; 1 John 2).
Jesus and the Spirit-guided apostles attached great importance to this test of love -- the careful avoidance of any occasion of friction or offence. A faithful obedience to this commandand it is a positive command -- would eliminate most if not all ecclesial sorrow.
The whole law, says Jesus, hangs upon two great commandments -- love to God and love to neighbour. John says that if the second is not obeyed, this is proof that a claim to the first is simply a lie: "If a man say I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar" -- (1 Jn. 4). Hating here means failing to love in the Scriptural sense -- this is clear from the rest of the verse. Here is a very present and practical test of our profession. The test goes into action when it conflicts with our own desires.
As long as it runs in the same channel as our desires it is no test at all. As Jesus says, even sinners do that much. There is much meaningless self-congratulation for doing things that are in full harmony with our natural inclinations. There is no need for self-deception. The Scriptures offer many searching tests which the wise man will apply, regardless of the offence to his vanity or complacency. A few such tests, honestly applied, will reveal how little we are doing for God, and how much labour we cheerfully exert for ourselves.
Paul was willing to give up meat if his partaking of it offended his brother. We know he was sincere for he had already given up practically everything else that men consider makes life worth while. And a large part of the return he received from those for whom he labored was ridicule and repudiation and abuse. He nursed the ecclesias into life, and as soon as they became self-supporting many of them cast him aside. Beside the reactions in such places as Corinth and Galatia as revealed in his epistles, we have his words at one time that "All Asia is turned away from me," at the very time he needed their comfort and support -- (2Tim. 1).
If meeting a few brethren on his prison journey to Rome caused him to thank God and take courage, what must have been the effect of the wholesale forsaking in his hour of need by those for whom he had suffered?
But we do not pity Paul. We rather pity those who had not the faith and courage to stand with him. We do not pity Paul as he stands before the condescending scorn of these self-satisfied Corinthians and pleads meekly with them, but we do marvel at the blindness and ignorance of such men claiming to know and love the Truth.
They just did not know it. That is all we can conclude. The Truth is pre-eminently a matter of the heart and character. The doctrine, though essential, is just the outer shell. The Truth is a matter of gentleness and meekness and patience and love, of service and sacrifice and spiritual transformation.
It is impossible to know the Truth without being transformed by it, for that is what knowing it means. People who bicker and quarrel and follow the flesh just do not know the Truth, and there is no use pretending they do.
The heart of the Truth is loving God, and the test of loving God is loving our brother, and loving our brother means making the avoidance of offending him our first concern. We may not have all the deeper doctrines at our finger-tips, but if we haven't got this, we haven't even begun.
Let us free ourselves from the common but deadly misconception that "knowing the Truth" means simply a mental acquaintance with the facts of revelation. If such knowledge doesn't produce a startling and revolutionary change of character and outlook and activity, then it simply has failed its whole purpose and has become merely a savour of death unto death" -- a "ministry of condemnation."
Let us, if we are inclined to measure ourselves by others, measure ourselves by the stature and experiences of this humble servant [the apostle Paul] of Christ. Let us do it repeatedly whenever the flesh is inclined to whisper congratulations for some puny accomplishment. Let us get a true and healthy perspective.
Bro Growcott - The Test of Love
13 For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.
But one may say, is it to be supposed that the great, the wise, the pious of our age, who are esteemed orthodox, are all mistaken? We reply, no; such a thing is by no means to be supposed. The case is beyond supposition; it is a demonstrable certainty.
A thing cannot be at once both true and false. If it be true, that which is contrary to it, is not hypothetically, but positively not true; in other words, it is false.
...Piety and zeal can save no man while he denies nearly all the truth, except a few facts admitted to be real by even the worst of men. An immersed believer of facts, who denies the second appearing of Jesus, and his reign in Zion on David's throne there, is but a religious infidel and enemy of "the gospel of the kingdom" in disguise.
Herald of the Kingdom and Age to Come, Dec 1855
14 And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.
...while words sufficiently significant fail to express our utter detestation of the hideous spectacle of spiritual rottenness, which seethes and festers in dying putrefaction on every side, we have nothing but kindness in our hearts towards the persons of our contemporaries.
We thunder in their ears, and flash before their eyes, the sharp, bright, and rattling words of plain unvarnished truth, to awake them, if it be possible, from that deep sleep, which numbs them with the potency of death.
We urge upon our fellow men, that unless they be sealed with the Pentecostian Faith, they cannot be saved. The preaching of the clergy and ministers of the day, is a mere darkening of counsel by words without knowledge. They preach
"another Jesus, another Spirit, and another Gospel,"
than Paul preached; and upon such, though the preachers might come direct from heaven, he imprecates a curse; and proscribes them from the fold of Christ as deceitful workers, transforming themselves into his apostles; but really like their master Satan, who long since transformed himself into an angel of light, mere ministers of righteousness in outward show (Gal. i. 8; 2 Cor. xi. 4,13).
We therefore invite all who have ears, to lend their ears to what the Spirit hath said of old to the children of men. We are all by nature and practice dead in trespasses and sins, and therefore the children of wrath. Made subject to vanity, but not willingly, the Deity commiserates our helplessness, and invites us into his favour.
Why should we not, as the Anglican Harlot in her "Common Prayer" expresses it, "renounce the Devil and all his works;" and in so doing, renounce her and all her sister-prostitutes; whose touch uncleansed, defiles to hopeless exclusion from the Virgin-Community of the Holy Square (Apoc. xiv. 4).
"Come out of them, my people, that ye partake not of their sins, and receive not of their plagues;"
for, if ye partake of the one, there is no escape from the infliction of the other. Be sealed, then, in your foreheads with the truth; and
"henceforth walk no more as others walk, in the vanity of their minds, having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of the Deity through the ignorance that is in them because of the hardness of their hearts."
23 Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft.
This is not self- glorying (1 Cor 15: 9; 1 Tim. 1: 15).
Paul is driven to an appearance of self-justification and self-glorification, in his seeking to impress the Corinthians with the true state of affairs.
In labours more abundant - Constant, lifelong, day-and-night complete dedication to the Truth's work. Beaten more often than he could keep count of. Few of us have even ONCE been imprisoned for the Truth. Always in peril of death. Often he was on the verge of death. (The beatings he had were often enough to kill).
Once at least that we know of he was stoned and his body dragged out of the city, supposing he was dead (Acts 14:19).
Bro Growcott - 'In Labours More Abundant.'
24 Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one.
Forty was all the Law allowed (Deut. 25:3). They gave him one stripe less each time, out of perverted carefulness lest they break the Law! What blind hypocrisy!
25 Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep;
Roman punishment. These he could possibly have avoided by pleading his freeborn citizenship, but it may then have meant greater hardships for others with him. This may have been why he submitted to it at Philippi (Acts 16:22).
Once was I stoned. That was at Lystra, just a short time after they had tried to worship him as a god for healing the sick. How brief and undependable is human gratitude!
We have no record of these three shipwrecks (Melita was later). It makes us realize how small a part of Paul's labours and trials we know of, and yet the little we do know is infinitely more than any of us ever experience.
Bro Growcott - 'In Labours More Abundant.'
26 In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren;
Mostly on foot -- hundreds and hundreds of miles -- often in pain through abuse or sickness; often in hardship; always in danger.
Consider the hardships of travel in those days -- the problems of eating, and washing, and protection from the rain and cold. It wasn't always balmy weather and shining sun.
We are appalled even by the hardships brother Roberts encountered in his travels less than one hundred years ago -- hard, springless carts on hilly, rutty, rocky trails, where relaxation or comfort was out of the question, and even staying in the cart a constant struggle.
And brother Thomas' many and long journeyings for the Truth were similarly rigorous and uncomfortable.
In perils of waters . . ." The original is "rivers"; he would often have to find a way across floods and torrents.
"In perils of robbers. . ." Travel from city to city was slow and hazardous. Robbers abounded who left their victims beaten and helpless.
"In perils by mine own countrymen. . ." They continually plotted to kill him. He had to constantly be on guard; often had to change his plans (Acts 20:3).
Bro Growcott - 'In Labours More Abundant.'
27 In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.
He was under the constant pressure of time and Iabour. He worked night and day to support not only himself but others, too, besides all the labour for the Truth. Tent-making was a menial task: long hours, little pay.
"In watchings often. . ." What were these "watchings?" Literally it means "sleeplessness," which would be from many causes and circumstances in his incessant travels and labours. It is a great burden to have to carry on intense mental and physical activity without sufficient sleep, and this would be Paul's usual experience.
"In hunger and thirst. . ." We do not even KNOW what real hunger and thirst are, but they were Paul's frequent companions. Our idea of thirst is when we play too hard in the sun, and just can't wait till we go across the street to buy a cold drink. And "hunger" just means going an hour or two past dinner.
"In fastings often. . ." Here is voluntary abstention from food. Why? Because of the intensity of his zeal for God and concern for man. Fasting is the natural reaction of great spiritual absorption and devotion. Working and ministering and teaching would often take precedence over care for self.
"In cold and nakedness . . ." We take comfort so much for granted that the slightest discomfort of cold or heat is seized upon as a justification for cancelling or postponing the work of the Truth. We just couldn't have a meeting if the room was above or below a certain temperature!
v23-27. '...surely one of the most powerful antidotes to self-complacency, self-glorification and self-pity in all the Bible.
Who can read this without feeling utterly useless, and abased, and ashamed of the slightest manifestation of self satisfaction or self-pity?
Bro Growcott - 'In Labours More Abundant.'
28 Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the ecclesias.
29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not?
To what extent do we enter into the spirit of Paul -- the spirit of constant, intimate concern for, and identification with, the problems and burdens of the least and the remotest of Christ's brethren and sisters?
30 If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities.
The "thorn in the flesh," which was an object of scorn and ridicule and disgust to Paul's enemies, really was the very opposite of what they took it to be, for it was actually the result and evidence of Christ's special favour toward him. It was given him because of his special and unique exaltation in God's use and purpose, to protect him from the temptations of pride
Bro Growcott - 'In Labours More Abundant.'