1 I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit,
Was Paul a reliable witness?
We answer, Yes; he was the best kind of a witness. He was a bitter, murderous, ignorant rabbinist, doing all he could to suppress and exterminate the Nazarenes and their doctrine. This is the account he gives of himself while an unbeliever. He was exceedingly mad against all Christ[adelphian]s, and conscientiously thought to do God service in destroying them.
The loaves and fishes, too, were all on the side of unbelief. Honour, riches, and power were all against the Nazarenes. If such a man had suddenly ceased his animosity and become an advocate of their doctrine, but remained among their enemies, you might say he was not to be relied on; that he was a hypocrite or a coward, or afraid of losing his social position or his living, or all of these; but when he not only declared that he had seen Jesus after his resurrection, and that he believed he was indeed the Christ of God, but was immersed into him by Ananias, and exposed himself to persecution, imprisonment, and death in the work of planting the faith he had sought to destroy, such a man is a most reliable witness, and at least equal, if not superior, to any that can be produced.
Furthermore, we maintain that he was not only a true witness, but a man inspired by the Spirit of God, by which he could teach without mistake. If it be admitted that he is reliable, then this is true; for he testifies that his speech and preaching were in demonstration of spirit and power; that the faith of his hearers might stand, or be based upon, the power of God-1st Cor. 2:4-5.
But apart from his own testimony to the fact, his writings prove that he was inspired by God. ... The 'Names and Denominations' which constitute 'the church' against whose 'Christianity' Israelites object with so much force, are nothing more nor less than the apostacy Paul predicted would arise in later times. His words are,
'The Spirit speaketh expressly that in later times some will apostatize from the faith (αποστησονται) giving heed to seducing spirits, and to teachings of Divines; speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their own conscience cauterized; forbidding to marry and commanding to abstain from meats.'-1st Tim. 4:1.
Here is the prediction; look abroad into the 'religious world,' and behold the fact. There are the Divines or Doctors of Divinity, 'seducing spirits' of all orders of the clergy 'speaking lies in hypocrisy under the profitable sanction of the Names and Denominations to which they belong.
When the Spirit spoke expressly by Paul these things did not exist, yet he declared with certainty that they would. 'The time will come,' said he,
'when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned to fables.'-2 Tim. 4:3, 4.
This is Christendom to the life; and the 'fables' are its Christianities from which our Israelitish friends are at a loss which to select as the true! Our advice is, have nothing to do with any of them, but study the Old and New Testaments for yourselves; they will not deceive you. They speak the same thing. They will seduce you only from error and sin. The New Testament doctrine is attested by the law and the prophets, for whose testimonies all its writers were zealous to imprisonment and death.
Herald of the Kingdom and Age to Come, Aug 1857
2 That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart.
- Paul experiences the kind of emotion similar to that which was deeply felt by the Lord Jesus as he approached Jerusalem. He expressed his intense anguish:
"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem... how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not" (Lk. 13:34).
Their stubborn refusal to accept his message of salvation was one of the reasons why the Lord was "a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief (Isa. 53:3). Paul shared that pathos. The cause of his grief was the fact that so large a part of the nation called to manifest God's glory on earth, would be rejected and cast off because of its rebellion against Him.
The word "heaviness" signifies sorrow and pangs of grief; whereas "continual sorrow" emphasizes the longstanding nature of his sadness. There were obvious ties of family and associations of earlier days, that came to his mind at this moment, and which, to a man of large sympathies, brought such distress.
Though writing under the direction of the Holy Spirit, Paul is permitted to reveal his deep, personal feelings. This is a wonderful example of Yahweh working "together for good" with those that "love God" (ch. 8:28). If we wish to understand what it means "to love one another" we should look firstly at the perfect example of the Son of God. Then we can observe the life of this great apostle and others like him.
Paul's spiritual and emotional feelings for his fellow man were based upon his clear understanding of the Truth, and not upon mere sentiment and personal likes and dislikes. "Great sorrow and unceasing pain" (RV) are descriptive terms. The first indicates emotional anguish; the second refers to a physical condition. Thus, Paul was both mentally and physically affected when contemplating the spiritual state of his Jewish brethren. It is evident from his writings that Paul was an extremely intense man. He gave himself fully and unreservedly to whatever cause he espoused.
Since his conversion to Christ he had known no other stimulus nor motivation. As a man of God, devoted to the cause of his Master, Paul's life remains an outstanding example for all who strive to follow in the steps of the Son of God.
The Christadelphian Expositor
3 For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh: [Who are Israelites]
This is one of the most difficult passages in the New Testament, as it now stands in the English version. In the preceding chapter he had asked, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Nay," says he, "I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Should all these things fail to make him accursed, and should the anxiety he felt for the salvation of his persecuting countrymen even hypothetically prevail? This cannot be. His wish to be accursed, or separated from the love of God to be manifested in full through Christ Jesus, must have some other import than this.
Mr. Frey, an Israelite who admits the claims of Jesus to Messiahship, has proposed the following solution of the difficulty: Read the second and third verses, omitting the words, "I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ;" then, afterwards replace them where they belong, and read them as in a parenthesis, with "I did wish" instead of "I could wish." Thus, "I have a great heaviness, and continued sorrow in my heart * * * for my brethren, my kinsmen according to flesh, who are Israelites:" then, "I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart (for I did myself wish to be accursed from Christ) for my brethren, my kinsmen according to flesh, who are Israelites."
This exhibits the mind of the apostle very clearly. He had great heaviness and sorrow for Israel, because they were while he was dictating his letter, as he was before his conversion. He had doubtless wished himself accursed from Jesus; and was probably an individual of the crowd which cried out "His blood be on us, and on our children!" After Paul was enlightened, and came to measure his position at that crisis of Christ's affliction, he beheld it in all its hideousness, so as to create in him a poignant sympathy for his kinsmen, who still remained under that self imprecated curse.
Euchomeen, the original word, translated "could wish" in the common version, is the imperfect middle, and is rendered by "I was wishing," "I wished," or "I did wish." This accords with what we have said above. He imprecated a curse upon himself-a past action-while he was in an unconverted state-another thing in the past: but when enlightened, neither all Israelites, "nor any other created thing," could induce him to wish himself accursed again.
This part of Paul's experience well fitted him for sympathy with his unbelieving countrymen. Mr. Frey has well said, "He who has just been rescued from a dangerous fit of sickness, feels more for a sick person, than he who never knew what sickness means. Hence, even the Son of God himself needed to be tempted and tried, that he might be able to succour them that are tempted."
Herald of the Kingdom and Age to come, Feb 1853
4 Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises;
We look first at the adoption which Paul says belongs to Israel. What does this mean? We know something of adoption as applied to the introduction of a child into a family circle to which it did not originally belong. It means that the child so adopted had no connection with the family beforehand. The idea of adoption could never arise in connection with a child belonging to the family. Here then is a relation between God and man styled adoption which, Paul says, pertains to Israel.
Is it so that man, as a race, is in such a position as to require adoption before he becomes connected with God? Is man as a race estranged from God, away from God, having no connection with Him?
The Bible telling us of the adoption, tells this also; that 'all have sinned and come short of the glory of God," that they are alienated in their minds by wicked works and through the ignorance that is in them (Eph. 4:18), that they are without God and have no hope (Eph. 2:12); that they are altogether gone out of the way and together have become unprofitable (Psa. 14).
The Bible gives us the very beginning of this unhappy situation. It shows us man at the first, disobedient under law; sinning while friendship and communion prevailed in Eden. It shows us man driven out of Eden in consequence, to till a cursed soil and live out a life of trouble, till resolved into his original dust.
Before his expulsion, communion and light were his. After it, he was in a position of exile, estrangement, condemnation. If God had done nothing more, human life must have remained a hopeless vanity, tending ever more to that awful time, when population would exceed the limits of subsistence, and hellish chaos set in. But God did not purpose the earth to be a failure.
'Working all things after the counsel of His own will," 'according to the good pleasure which He purposed in Himself,"
He predestinated another result altogether, even that the earth should be filled with His glory, as depicted in the closing chapters of the Apocalypse, when there shall be no more curse, and no more pain, and no more death.
But He works towards this result by a method, and it is the method of adoption. If He dealt with man according to his inherent deserts, man must be exterminated. But His plan was to be developed in mercy by grace, by favour, through faith which honours God, and blesses those who exercise it. In kindness He made an adoption, a selection on this principle of faith and obedience. The plan, Paul says, pertains to Israel.
......No other nation was adopted, and even Israel's adoption was conditional on submission to the conditions of adoption; for there were conditions. They were the conditions that held good in Abraham's case: faith in the promises and obedience to the commandments of God. With regard to these conditions, myriads of Israel failed, and hence it came to be the case as stated by Paul, that,
'They are not all Israel that are of Israel."
6 Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel:
7 Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called.
To carry out the allegory, God has yet to make of the Ishmael-seed a great nation; for though Ishmael was an outcast and a wanderer in the wilderness, God promised that he should be great, and dwell in the presence of his brethren (Gen. 16:12; 17:20).
The children of Abraham according to the flesh are "the children of the kingdom," as well as the children of the promise; only these two classes of children stand in a different relation to the government and glory of the commonwealth, and to the dominion of the nations in the age to come. The Ishmael-children were cast out of the government by the Romans; but the children in Isaac will "shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father," when the kingdom is restored again to Israel (Acts 1:6).
"In the regeneration when the Son of Man shall sit on the throne of His glory," the children in Isaac will reign as "sons" while the children of the flesh will be the King's subjects, or "servants." This distinction is apparent from the following testimony:
"Instead of thy fathers shall be thy children, whom thou mayest make princes throughout all the earth" (Psalm 45:16); of whom it is said, "If the Prince give a gift unto any of His sons, the inheritance thereof shall be His sons'; it shall be their possesion by inheritance. But if He give a gift of His inheritance to one of His servants, then it shall be his to the year of liberty; and after it shall return to the Prince: but His inheritance shalt be His sons' for them" (Ezek. 46:16, 17).
The sons of the Prince are joint heirs with Him; but the servants of the Prince are only lease-holders for a certain number of years.
Elpis Israel 2.2.
8 That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.
No one had the right, or the power, to appoint "the Heir of all things," but God. Abraham could not appoint Him, neither could He be self-appointed. Abraham wished that Ishmael might be the heir; or as he expressed it, "0 that Ishmael might live before Thee." But God would not consent to this. He therefore promised to give him one for the heir, whom be should call Isaac; and of whom He said, I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him" (Gen. 17:19).
But Isaac was not only born of promise; he believed the promises likewise; for the Scripture saith, "by faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come." Now, it is written, "in Isaac shall thy seed be called ;" that is, Christ shall descend frorn him, and all who believe thcpromises, and put on Christ, shall be considered as "in Isaac;" and, being thus "the children of the promise," shall be "counted for the seed" (Rom. 9:6-8; Gal. 4:28), who shall inherit the land and the world for ever.
"The seed," then, is a phrase that must be understood in a twofold sense; first as referring to Christ, and secondly, to all who are constitutionally in Him. Isaac is representative of both; for Christ was in his loins, and all "in Him," must be constitutionally in Isaac also.
For want of understanding the Scripture doctrine of the two seeds some very fatal mistakes have been made by many well meaning persons. They have gone so far as to deny that the seed of Abraham after the flesh will ever be restored to the land of Canaan; which is in effect to deny the fulfilment of a vast proportion of "the testimony of God." The seed of the serpent, and the seed of the woman, indicated before the flood, were afterwards distinguished in the seed of Ishmael, and the seed of Isaac."
Elpis Israel 2.2.
21 Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?
...man, having a free will, is compared to a utensil, which God uses in certain cases, ...Man is not a machine, but a living rational being, who, however, as containing an excellence not self-derived, may be considered as a vessel.
The Christadelphian, Feb 1886
We are the clay in the hand of the Potter. We are the material. He has made us as we are, and He will make us into whatever we shall be. We ask then, Is anything expected of us? Does God just pick some here and there haphazardly for His purpose? We do not entertain that idea for a moment.
Something is expected even of the potter's clay. It must be suitable material. First and above all, it must be workable. Not stiff and hard and crusted. It must yield itself to the hand of the potter. Clay that was satisfied with its present shapelessness and resisted the Potter, or wanted a shape of its own, would be useless.
Then it must have sufficient consistency to hold the shape into which the Potter forms it. Flabby material is no good. "God hath no pleasure in fools" (Ecc. 5:4). He knows our possibilities and will not be deceived, though we deceive ourselves.
Then, to fill a useful role, the clay must pass through the fire. It must be hardened -- not too much fire or it will forever be destroyed -- but just that degree that is necessary to achieve the best results. The All-wise Potter knows exactly how much each vessel needs, and exactly how much each can stand.
Bro Growcott - Holy and Blameless in Love