2 TIMOTHY 4
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
5 But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.
By nature, we tend to drift with the immediate present - that which is pressing in on us -with comfort and desire and all the passing little animal interests that make up ordinary life. There must be a strong underlying love for God that will motivate memory and desire. Remembering is easy for love. If love is strong enough, it takes absolutely no effort to remember. It is impossible to forget.
Where the effort is required is in developing and sustaining this love at a strength that will override all other loves and desires and interests. This is a spiritual thing, and can never come naturally without effort, because by nature we are fleshly. And our natural desires are all related to present, tangible, fleshly things. This is the mind of the flesh - the natural ordinary mind that we all have and are.
The mind of the spirit is something introduced from without - something put into our minds by study and meditation upon the Word of God. It is an educating of the mind to something higher, and more satisfying and more substantial, than the brief things that all end in the grave. It is the truest kind of education. In fact, it is the only real education at all - from ignorance and death to knowledge and life. All natural education is merely an embroidering of the dying flesh, for the sake of the flesh.
There will be no mind of the spirit to bring Christ's acceptance, if there is not a consistent and large-scale application to the Word. This applies to brethren and sisters alike, and equally. God requires that we fill our minds with His Word, so that the mind is transformed from natural rubbish to divine riches.
Twenty minutes a day doing the readings is useless of itself, without a strong effort at concentration, and a determined endeavor to subsequently think about and meditate upon what was read, and to put into practice what has been learned. Doing the readings should be our most alert and intense daily activity-our basic watching.
The commands of God apply to every moment of life. They are a total new way of life - a way of directing our thoughts and conduct at all times and in all circumstances. We should do nothing without a sound reason that has a relation to the purpose of God. We should never just drift thoughtlessly, following natural desires. We should always be spiritually alert - watching - moving forcefully and purposefully up the tide toward our glorious goal. Life is very short.
Bro Growcott - Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments
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
The other side of the picture is to be seen in that opposite course which certainly brings a hardness of heart for which a man will be held responsible. In this opposite course, the man neglects the reading of the word. He does not absolutely leave the Bible unread but he adopts no system; he does it at haphazard, as time and inclination may suit. The consequence is, it is never very convenient, and never very enjoyable.
The affairs of this life are always exacting, and he always accords to them the first claim. Bible reading is attended to at odd times, when he has nothing else particularly to do-perhaps on a Sunday afternoon occasionally, when he is heavy, or on a weeknight, when he is tired out with a day's work. It becomes more and more occasional, as time goes on, until it is practically shelved altogether.
By and by, he wonders if the Bible is true, and becomes finally perhaps an easy prey to the shallow objections of a very superficial and unprincipled scepticism. If he does not exactly sink to this depth, he hangs on, a dead branch-a weight and a grief of mind to those who are flourishing on the sap of the true vine. This man. Whose delight is not in the law of the Lord, soon ceases to pray. He is tired at night, and he is in a hurry in the morning, and he does not see any particular use in praying.
And so in the habitual absence of this opening and subduing and sanctifying act of the mind, his carnal heart settles gradually into a state of hopeless hardness. The meetings he thinks are all very well in their place, and he is easily kept at home; and as for bringing the precepts of Christ to bear on daily surroundings, he will be heard to whisper that religion should be kept in its own place.
Money-making, by any means, is his charm; and he will be found standing in the way of sinners, and sitting in the seat of the scornful, and prominent in all pleasure-taking, and condescending even to worse follies in which he "does not see any harm." His heart is hardened, and he has hardened it; and in the hardness of his impenitent heart, he is treasuring up wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render to every man according to his deeds.
Brethren, be it ours to listen to the Spirit's exhortation to harden not our hearts as in the day of Israel's provocation. Let us obey the other exhortation which says,
"My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings. Let them not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thine heart. For they are life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh. Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life . . .. For the ways of man are before the eyes of the Lord, and he pondereth all his goings. His own iniquities shall take the wicked himself, and he shall be holden with the cords of his sins. He shall die without instruction; and in the greatness of his folly he shall go astray."