2 TIMOTHY 4
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3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;
We know that the whole vast body of so-called Christendom has long since reached this state. They cannot bear to listen to sound teaching, for it interferes with their way of life. This is the biggest stumbling-block to acceptance of the Truth. The lesson for us is to be sure that we are not among the number who are annoyed and resentful when the call to ever-increasing godliness is presented.
We dare not regard it as a burden. That was wherein Israel grievously offended God. "The burden of the Lord." Can it be a burden that God asks us to draw closer and closer to Him and His way? We must hunger and thirst after righteousness -- we must perceive its divine beauty and value, and the repulsive, deadly ugliness of the natural fleshly mind. *
FELLOWSHIP IN THE TRUTH.
In a private communication to a friend in the North, who had put some questions, Dr. Thomas writes on this subject, as follows:
The Lord Jesus said: "I pray not for the world, but for them which Thou hast given me, that they may be one, being sanctified through the truth; that they all may be one, as Thou, Father, art in me and I in Thee, that they also may be one in us, as we are one, made perfect in One."-(John xvii.) This unity of spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. iv. 3), is what John styles our fellowship, the fellowship of the apostles, resulting from sanctification through the truth.
Hence all who are sanctified through the truth, are sanctified by the second Will, through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once. For by one offering he hath perfected for a continuance them that are sanctified (Heb. x. 10, 14), which one offering of the body was the annulling and condemnation of sin, by the sacrifice thereof.-(Heb. ix. 26.)
This body, which descended from David "according to the flesh," was the sacrificial victim offered by the Eternal Spirit.-(Heb. ix. 14.) If David's flesh were immaculate, this victim, descended from him, might possibly be spotless; but in that event, it would not have answered for the annulling and condemnation of sin in the flesh that sinned.-(Rom. viii. 4.)
If it were an immaculate body that was crucified, it could not have borne our sins in it, while hanging on the tree.-(1 Peter ii. 24) To affirm, therefore, that it was immaculate (as do all papists and sectarian daughters of the Roman Mother), is to render of none effect the truth which is only sanctifying for us by virtue of the principle that Jesus Christ came IN THE FLESH, in that sort of flesh with which Paul was afflicted when he exclaimed "O, wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from this body of death?"-(Rom. vii. 11, 24.)
It is not my province to issue bulls of excommunication, but simply to shew what the truth teaches and commands. I have to do with principles, not men. If anyone say that Jesus Christ did not come in the flesh common to us all, the apostle John saith that that spirit or teacher is not of God; is the deceiver and the anti-Christ, and abides not in the doctrine of Christ; and is therefore not to be received into the house, neither to be bidden God-speed.-(1 John iv. 3, 2; 2 Ep. 7, 9, 10.)
I have nothing to add to or take from this. It is the sanctifying truth of the things concerning the "name of Jesus Christ." All whom the apostles fellowshipped, believed it; and all in the apostolic ecclesias who believed it not-and there were such-had not fellowship with the apostles, but opposed their teachings; and when they found they could not have their own way, John says "They went out from us, but they-the anti-Christ-were not of us; for if they had been of us (of our fellowship), they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us."-(1 John ii. 19.) The apostles did not cast them out, but they went out of their own accord, not being able to endure sound doctrine.-(2 Tim. iv. 3.)
Then preach the word, &c., and exhort with all long-suffering and teaching. This is the purifying agency. Ignore brother this and brother that in said teaching; for personalities do not help the argument. Declare what you as a body believe to be the apostles' doctrines. Invite fellowship upon that basis alone. If upon that declaration, any take the bread and wine, not being offered by you, they do so upon their own responsibility, not on yours. If they help themselves to the elements, they endorse your declaration of doctrine, and eat condemnation to themselves.
For myself, I am not in fellowship with the dogma that Jesus Christ did not come in the flesh, or that he died as a substitute to appease the fury and wrath of God. The love of God is manifest in all that He has done for man. "When all wish to do what is right," the right surely is within their grasp. I trust you will be able to see it from what is now before you. And may the truth preside over all your deliberations, for Christ Jesus is the truth, and dwells with those with whom the truth is. Where this is I desire to be.
If I believe the truth as it is in the Jesus Paul preached, and fellowship the doctrine of an immaculate Jesus Paul did not preach, in celebrating the death of the latter with those who repudiate the maculate body set forth by God for a propitiation, is affirming one thing and practising another.
Those who hold Paul's doctrine, ought not to worship with a body that does not.
This is holding with the hare and running with the hounds-a position of extraordinary difficulty. Does not such an one love the hounds better than the hare? When the hounds come upon the hare, where will he be? No; if I agree with you in doctrine, I will forsake the assembling of myself with a body that opposes your doctrine, although it might require me to separate from the nearest and dearest. No good is effected by compromising the principles of the truth; and to deny that Jesus came in sinful flesh, is to destroy the sacrifice of Christ.
The Christadelphian, Jan 1870. p16-17
6 For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.
Paul had come to the end of his course, apart from the Master himself no man had given more, or suffered more, for the Household of Faith. One would expect that as the great apostle to the Gentiles went to his death for the Truth, the whole brotherhood would surround him in love and sorrow. But just the opposite was the case --
"All Asia (the heart of his labours) be turned away from me"
And when he stood before the Roman bar, his life at stake --
"No man stood with me -- all forsook me."
Twice the aged apostle says to Timothy in this last chapter --
"Do your best to come to me soon." *
7 I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:
It was a fight. It still is a fight -- a bitter, yet glorious battle. A battle whose weapons are kindness, and patience, and gentleness, and endless self-searching, and hope in the darkness, and an enduring, unquestioning faith. BUT --
"He that overcometh shall inherit all things." *
10 For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia.
Demas was at one time a close fellow-laborer with Paul, and joins lovingly with him in greetings in two former epistles. But apparently he had never truly grasped the real value and beauty of the Truth; never had its divine transforming power sink into his heart. There is no indication that Demas had necessarily openly "left the Truth," as the saying goes. He had just come to "love the world" and had left Paul.
The falling-away of the once-earnest Demas is the saddest part of the whole epistle -- far sadder than the lonely, forsaken position of Paul himself. The sadness is that for Demas the picture had faded. He had once shared with Paul bright visions of eternal joy in Christ, but now he "loved this present world."
Why? Surely we would expect the vision of the future to grow brighter as one continued in the Truth. It does -- if we are ever striving to get closer to God. But if we regard being in the Truth as an end in itself -- an accomplished thing that just requires routine maintenance -- then the vital, living reality of it will gradually, imperceptibly, fade from our minds. For we are so constituted. We get used to things -- and their effect on us diminishes.
Consider Israel and the marvelous, divine pillar of fire that became so commonplace to them. We cannot maintain an interest and an enthusiasm unless we are striving for something. Paul said to the Philippians (3:13-14) --
"Brethren, I do not count myself yet to have laid hold, but one thing I do, forgetting the things which are behind and stretching forward to those things which are before, I press on toward the goal unto the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."
He did not consider that he had attained. He could see that all the time that remained to him had to be accounted for by a continual movement toward the ideal in Christ. Not a mechanical approach -- just a "doing" or "not doing" -- but as he says, that he might better apprehend, or comprehend; that is, a continuous mental drawing closer to the ideal. Let us note that this man says in the same Philippian epistle --
"I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me."
"I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content,"
"I have suffered the loss of all things and do count them but dung that I may win Christ."
But still he could at the same time say: "I have not attained, I have further to go. I stretch forward to the mark of the high calling." That is the beauty and glory and power of the mark of the high calling in Christ Jesus -- its unattainable but ever-inspiring perfection of godliness.
This was the secret that kept Paul's zeal on tiptoe -- counting each moment an opportunity to improve his offering, to draw closer to God, to intensify the joy of divine fellowship -- eagerly spending the time in loving preparation, always adding by anticipation to the pleasure of the final perfect, endless communion. *
* Bro Growcott - I am ready to be offered