Berean Studies / Ber03 - Knowledge
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1. What is the importance of knowledge?
(Mat 4:4) But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.
R3058-3060 - LIVING BY EVERY WORD OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD.
"Man shall not live by bread alone; but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God."--`Matt. 4:4`.
BREAD is a general name for food; for that which satisfies the cravings of hunger; for that which builds up and strengthens; for that which enables the continuance of life. It was appropriate, therefore, that the Lord should use bread as a symbol, or figure of that heavenly sustenance which God has arranged should now upbuild and strengthen his people, and eventually, by the first resurrection, impart to them life everlasting. Divine truth is represented as being such spiritual food; and our Lord himself, because in the divine plan he is the channel of the truth,--"the way, the truth, the life,"--is spoken of as being also "the bread of life" for his people. We are to eat, or partake of the life-giving qualities which he freely gives us in himself, if we would reach the goal of our hope--eternal life.
Our text is our Lord's reply to the Tempter when he was in the wilderness fasting and hungry. The Tempter had suggested the use of the powers which Jesus had received a few days previous when, at his baptism in Jordan, he received the holy spirit, and with it the gifts and powers which subsequently enabled him not only to heal the sick, but to turn water into wine and to feed a multitude by increasing the two barley loaves and the two small fishes. The Adversary's proposition was that the Lord should use this power for the gratification of his own appetite. He said, "Command that these stones be made bread."
However pleased the Lord was to have these divine powers communicated through the holy spirit he had received, however glad he was, at appropriate times, to perform the miracles incidental to his ministry, he knew that the powers were not given him for any selfish use, for any self-gratification; and, therefore, he declined the suggestion and his reply is our text. In passing, we note that there is a lesson here worthy of the attention of all God's people; that spiritual and divine things are not to be used in a mercenary or selfish manner. So far as they can discern matters, the Lord's people are to keep separate and distinct their own personal preferences, desires and appetites, from the heavenly and spiritual things; and not use the latter for the services of the flesh, however pure and good the fleshly desires may be.
Our Lord's words accept the suggestion that bread, food, necessary to human sustenance under present conditions; but they carry the thought further --they draw our attention to a higher life than the present one. The present life is not really life, but death: the world is under divine sentence of death; and only those who have come by faith into relationship with God have "passed from death unto life;" as our Master on another occasion said, "He that hath the Son hath life, he that hath not the Son shall not see life." And again he said to one who was thinking of becoming his servant, his follower--"Let the dead bury their dead, follow thou me."
From this standpoint we see that man cannot live by bread alone. He has the divine sentence against him, "dying thou shalt die"; and he can find no kind of bread, no kind of food, that will produce life in the full and complete sense of that word--that will swallow up death in life. He must look for another kind of "bread of life" than any earthly food; he must have another kind of "water of life" than any earthly drink. It is this heavenly food or supply to which our Lord refers; saying, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God."
But how is it possible for us to live by the words that proceed out of the mouth of God? What did Jesus mean? How can God's words give us life?
He meant that all hopes of eternal life depend upon God--upon the divine plan and its promises. Looking into these promises we can see distinctly that the divine plan, dating from before the foundation of the world, is that all of God's creatures, created in his likeness and abiding in faith, love and obedience, in harmony with him, shall have life everlasting. This is God's general word upon the subject; namely, that obedience is the condition of life everlasting. This is, undoubtedly, what our Lord had in mind in using the words of our text: he may also have had the thought that he had come into the world upon a special mission, to do the Father's will, and that his understanding from the beginning was that his perfect obedience to the divine will would insure him glory, honor, immortality with the Father, eventually; but that any disobedience would mean the forfeiture of divine favor, and would involve the sentence of disobedience; namely, death.
Our Lord's prompt decision, therefore, was that to disobey the Father's will, and thus to secure bread for the sustenance of his body, would be a great mistake; that food thus secured could sustain life for but a little while;--that his better plan would be to trust in the Word of God, the divine promise that those who love and serve and obey him shall ultimately come off conquerors and more, and have eternal life with God. And this, our Master's conclusion, is full of instruction for us who are his disciples, seeking to walk in his footsteps. We are to learn the lesson that a man's life consists not in the abundance of things which he possesseth--food and raiment-- but that his life in the fullest, grandest, highest sense, is dependent upon his complete submission to the divine will--his careful attention to every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.
The words of God's mouth to us are not exactly the same as to our Lord Jesus and to the holy angels; --because we are by nature children of wrath even as others--sinners: we must, therefore, be addressed from a true standpoint to begin with. Thus it is that we hear the words of God's mouth in different languages at different times in our experiences.
(1) The first word of God's mouth to us is the message of justice--informing us that we are sinners, imperfect, helpless, as respects our own restoration to the divine image. This first word which proceedeth out of God's mouth to us is alarming; he declares us to be under a sentence or curse of death because of sin;--that "the soul that sinneth shall die"; that "the wages of sin is death." It tells us that by nature we are "children of wrath even as others,"-- strangers and foreigners, aliens from God and all his blessings, which are held in reservation for those who love him and obey him and maintain the perfection in which they were created. It is necessary that we should hear this voice; necessary that we should be alarmed and feel fearful of the penalty of death; and necessary that we feel lonely and discouraged in our separation from God and our alienation from his gracious provisions for those who love him and whom he loves. This fear and dejection are necessary in a general way to prepare us for the next word which proceedeth out of the mouth of God; namely,
THE WORD OF GOD'S PITY AND AID.
(2) The message that God, while manifesting his absolute justice and the immutable integrity of his first word and sentence, is, nevertheless, kindly disposed toward us--that he pities us in our fallen condition. This word is not to the effect that divine pity will admit us as sinners into divine favor, present and future; but that divine pity contemplated in advance a ransom-price which, meeting the claims of divine justice, would permit of man's recovery from his condition of sin and death,--back to a condition of holiness and life everlasting--as though he had never sinned, had never been sentenced. This word which proceeded out of the mouth of God, prophesying a blessing and opportunity for recovery to as many as will accept, was first a voice to Abraham saying, "In thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed." As this hope begins to dawn in the heart of the penitent one, seeking life-eternal at the fountain of grace and truth, the ears of his understanding listen intently for other words of life from his Creator and he hears (`Acts 10:36`),
THE VOICE OF GOD "SPEAKING PEACE BY JESUS CHRIST."
(3) The message of peace is that God has already provided the ransom price for sinners;--that Jesus Christ by the grace of God tasted death for every man"; that "Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures and rose again for our justification." This word from God's mouth informs us that through this transaction, which is entirely his own without our instigation or aid, "He may be just and yet the justifier of those who believe in Jesus." (`Rom. 3:26`.) Oh, what joy, what hope of life comes into our hearts as we hear this word which proceeded out of the mouth of God! We exclaim with the Apostle, "If God be for us who can be against us?" If God so loved us while we were yet sinners, much more does he love us since we are seeking him, desirous of returning to fellowship with him, and since we accept the provision of his grace in Christ Jesus our Lord. Thus to all who accept the atonement which is in Christ Jesus, through his blood, God indeed speaks words of grace and peace--forgiveness, reconciliation, mercy, love, kindness.
GOD'S WORD TO RECLAIMED SONS.
(4) Another word or message proceeds from the mouth of God, to such as have heard of his grace in Christ and have accepted it. He calls them children-- not now "children of wrath," not now "children of the Evil One," but he addresses them as reclaimed children, as his own, as those to whom he is pleased to give his blessings upon certain conditions which he specifies; saying, "My son, give me thine heart." This call for the heart is a call for full consecration, for complete setting apart to the Lord and to his service. Our will is the center of our intelligence, our being; if the heart, the will, be given to God, it carries with it the title to every action, word and thought. It is such only as delight to respond to this Word or message from the mouth of God that he is pleased to own in the special sense of sonship which pertains to this Gospel age--sonship in the house of sons, of which Christ Jesus, our Lord, is the Head.
"THE WORD OF PROMISE."
(5) In our ignorance of the greatness of our Heavenly Father and the richness of his grace toward us in Christ Jesus our Lord, we might fail to appreciate the necessity or desirability of a full consecration of our hearts to him. In our ignorance we might prefer to say, "Some of self and some of thee." Knowing this, God, in his compassion, has been pleased to set before us certain features of his plan, and hence we hear his voice again in the "exceeding great and precious promises" of his Word. In these he points out to us the wisdom of a full consecration and complete obedience to him--assuring us in these promises that by obedience to them we may become partakers of the greatest of all blessings,--the divine nature. (`2 Pet. 1:4`.) Oh, how wonderful that the great Creator should condescend not only to redeem sinners but to urge, to entice them to receive his bounties and blessings! From the time the consecration begins a measure of the holy spirit is granted, that the consecrated one may, by application--by hungering and thirsting for the words which proceed out of the mouth of God, and by feeding upon them, --be enabled to "Comprehend with all saints what is the breadth and length and depth and height, and to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge." (`Eph. 3:18,19`.) Ah, yes! those who have heard and have fed upon "the words which proceed out of the mouth of God" thus far, find indeed a new life begun, a new vitality, a new energy,--new hopes, new aims, new ambitions, "old things are passed away," everything is tinged with the glories of the heavenly things which "eye hath not seen nor ear heard, neither hath entered into the heart of man to conceive"--the things which God hath in reservation for them that love him;--an understanding and appreciation of which God, in some measure, gives to such by his spirit, which "searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God."
FEEDING ON THE WORD OF ADMONITION.
(6) Hearkening further for the words which proceed from the mouth of God--"Beautiful words, wonderful words, wonderful words of life"--we hear a word of admonition. The Father instructs us, that the glorious things to which he now calls us cannot possibly be ours unless our consecration to him and submission to the influences of his providences and promises shall change, transform, renew our minds; --so that the things once loved we will hate, and the things once hated we will love. As a father spareth not the rod of chastisement from the son whom he loves, so the Lord will not spare the rod of affliction and chastisement from those who are truly his; because he loves them, and because he desires to develop in them such a character as will be pleasing to him, and as will permit him eventually to make them his sons on the plane of glory, heirs of God, joint-heirs with Jesus Christ, their Lord.
This word respecting the necessity of chastisement and our correction in righteousness, that we may become conformed to the image of God's dear Son (`Rom. 8:29`), is accompanied with assurances of love from the Father--assurances that "Like as a Father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that reverence him." He says to us also, through another apostle, "Faint not when thou art rebuked of him: for whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth." He explains that such discipline is not prompted by anger towards us, but by his love, and if we are rightly exercised by the disciplines, trials, experiences of life, they will "work out for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;"--they will work out in us such characters as the Lord will be able to use in the service to which he hath called us--the service of the Millennial age--the service of the royal priesthood, to be associated with Christ in the work of judging and blessing the world of mankind. The proper response of all who have the true spirit of sonship is expressed in the language of our Lord and Master, "Not my will but thine be done," O Lord; "I delight to do thy will, O my God; yea, thy law is within my heart." Such as thus respond to the chastisement of the Lord, step more and more into divine favor, and hear other words of comfort, of grace, of help.
"YE HAVE NEED OF PATIENCE."
(7) God's Word or message of patience is, "Let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing." (`Jas. 1:4`.) How necessary to our perfection is this divine counsel--this Word which proceeds from the mouth of God! We might imagine that we had received sufficient testing and proving to indicate our loyalty to the Lord, to the principles of righteousness, long before we had been sufficiently proved according to the Lord's standards in the testing of character. He therefore graciously explains to us how necessary patience will be, that we should not think it strange concerning the fiery trials which must test us, as though some strange thing had happened unto us. (`I Pet. 4:12`.) On the contrary he points out to us as we grow in grace and in knowledge and in ability to comprehend --that the glory, honor and immortality to which he has invited the Church of this Gospel age, is so high, so grand a position, that those who would share those honors must expect, necessarily, to be severely tried and tested that their absolute loyalty to the Lord and to the principles of his righteousness-- justice, truth, love--shall be beyond question. Our characters must become crystalized along these lines, firm as adamant, before we shall be ready to be received as the "overcomers" who shall inherit all things, and share the kingdom and glory with the Captain of our salvation. He points out to us, further, that if it was necessary for the Captain of our salvation to be tempted and tried, tested and proved, much more reasonable is it that we who were children of wrath, and justified only through his grace, should be thoroughly proven as respects our loyalty.
WORDS OF CONSOLATION FROM THE MOUTH OF GOD.
(8) We might well be exercised with the strictness of the divine requirements as respects this overcoming class, and might say to ourselves, Others may attain to such glories and blessings; but we are too weak in the flesh through the fall and cannot hope to come off victors--cannot hope to stand the trials and tests which the Lord would impose. And here the Lord speaks again, a gracious word of comfort, consolation and encouragement, informing us that the perfection he is expecting is not a perfection in the flesh and of the flesh which is weak and imperfect, but a perfection of the heart, of the will, of the mind, of the intention. He informs us that he is not judging us as human beings according to the flesh, but as new creatures according to the mind, the new will. He informs us that although he will expect the new mind to do its very best in the matter of controlling the flesh and bringing it into subjection, yet, nevertheless, he knows that the flesh being imperfect, perfection according to the flesh is an impossibility to any of the fallen race: and that, therefore, his arrangement through Christ under the New Covenant is, that the imperfections of the flesh which are not assented to by our wills are not counted as ours. They are covered by the merit of Christ's sacrifice, and are ignored in the Heavenly Father's reckoning with us. He assures us that we are to be judged according to the spirit (will, intent) and not according to the flesh.
What comfort and consolation are in these assurances! These are wonderful words of life, indeed! They inspire us with hope. If God will accept perfect heart-intentions, as instead of the absolute perfection of the flesh,--then indeed we have hope of attaining to the standard which he has marked for us,--the standard of perfection. We can be perfect in intention, in will, or, as the Master expresses it, "pure in heart", even though we cannot be perfect in the flesh. We hear through the Apostle the word proceeding out of the mouth of God to this effect, "The righteousness of the law is fulfilled in us who walk not after the flesh but after the spirit." (`Rom. 8:4`.) We can walk after the spirit, though, so far as our mortal bodies are concerned, we cannot walk up to the spirit's requirements. Our minds can walk up to the spirit, our intentions can be perfect; and this is what our Heavenly Father seeks in us, perfection of intention.
THE WORD OF RESURRECTION.
(9) A further word from the mouth of God assures us that he knoweth our frame, he remembereth that we are dust--under sentence of death, "Dust thou art and unto dust shalt thou return"--weak, imperfect, dying; and that it is not his purpose that we shall always be in conflict with ourselves--perfect will against imperfect body,--that he has provided that in the resurrection we shall have new, perfect bodies in full accord with our new minds. He assures us that he is able and willing to do all this, and that he proposes to give to his "elect" bodies of a still higher order than the human--that he will give us spiritual bodies. They shall have a part in the first resurrection, and thenceforth be able to do the Father's will perfectly in every respect--as they now show themselves desirous of doing his will so far as they are able. Oh, gracious provisions! O wonderful words of compassion, inspiring us to wonderful hopes of eternal life and glory! It will be to such as thus overcome in spirit, in faith (`I John 5:4`), that the Lord will give the final word of his mouth--"Well done good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joys of thy Lord."
Every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God--every admonition, every encouragement, every promise, is necessary to the development of those whom God is now calling to eternal life as joint-heirs with his Son in the Kingdom. The eating of natural food could not bring this life-eternal, nor its attendant glories; but the eating and appropriating of these words from the mouth of God can bring to us all these blessings which we crave. Let us then, more and more, as the disciples, pupils, of the Lord Jesus, keep in memory and act upon the suggestion of the words of this text, "Man shall not live by bread alone: but by every word which proceedeth out of the mouth of God."
There is among Christians today a great lack of established faith on any point of doctrine. They say, "I think," "I hope," or "Perhaps it may be so, but this is only my opinion, and it may be right or it may be wrong. I have charity, however, for your opposing opinion, and for every man's opinion; for who knows which is right? I'm sure I cannot say; but, nevertheless, I have great faith and charity (?). I shake hands with every body and call him brother if he claims to be a Christian, no matter what he believes and teaches, whether he is pointing to Christ as the door to the sheepfold, or whether he is trying to teach men how to climb up some other way. In Christian love I bid them all Godspeed and pray for the success of all their teachings, no matter how antagonistic they may be to each other or to the Scriptures as I read them."
All this passes among Christians generally for large-hearted benevolence and personal humility, while in fact it is an ignoble, compromising spirit that is unwilling to forego the friendship of those who oppose the Lord by opposing the truth; and which would rather see the truth suffer, and those weak in the faith stumbled, than that they should bear the reproach of Christ. Those who have real and sincere faith in God are willing to take him at his word; and with these the first principles of the doctrine should long ago have been established; much of the superstructure of gold and silver and precious stones should already be erected, and the work be steadily progressing. Such are able, if they are loyal and true to God, to discern between truth and error. The Apostle John, recognizing this ability, says, "If there come any unto you and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him Godspeed; for he that biddeth him Godspeed is partaker of his evil deeds." (`2 John 10`.) We ought to know what we believe and why we believe it, and then should be bold and uncompromising in declaring it; for "if the trumpet give an uncertain sound who shall prepare himself to the battle?"
Again says the Apostle (`1 Cor. 2:6-10`), "However, we speak wisdom among them that are perfect [developed; we are not to cast our pearls before swine]; yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes [the popular leaders and teachers] of this world, that come to naught. But we speak the wisdom of God, which was hidden in a mystery, which God ordained before the world unto our glory; which none of the princes of this world knew....Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his spirit; for the spirit [or mind of God in us, is so anxious to know his truth, that it] searcheth all things; yea, the deep things of God."
The princes of this world do know something of astronomy and geology, and have their ideas of the shape of the earth, etc., but they have not known this hidden wisdom of the divine plan, which maps out a destiny so glorious to the faithful saints who will constitute the royalty of the age to come. Let the world speculate as it may about its own themes of interest, but let us devote ourselves to the one thing in hand, avoiding foolish questions and genealogies and contentions, ...for they are unprofitable and vain. (`Titus 3:9`.) Let us be faithful to our commission to preach this gospel to the meek who are ready to hear it. (`Isa. 61:1`.) Let the bride of Christ be diligent in making herself ready (`Rev. 19:7`), for the marriage of the Lamb is the event of the very near future.
2. In what four ways may knowledge be obtained?
3. In which of these ways did Adam possess a knowledge of evil before he sinned?
4. Where is the source of all true knowledge?
5. How is knowledge ‘God’s first gift to man’?
6. What is the relation between knowledge and faith?
7. Who only are counted ‘worthy’ to know ‘the deep things of God’?
(Psa 25:9) The meek will he guide in judgment: and the meek will he teach his way.
(Psa 25:12) What man is he that feareth the LORD? him shall he teach in the way that he shall choose.
(Psa 25:14) The secret of the LORD is with them that fear him; and he will show them his covenant.
(Mat 11:25) At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.
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How comforting are our Lord's words, that these things are revealed, nevertheless, to some--to babes, to those who are not great, not wise, according to the course of this world; to those who are of humble mind, ready to be taught of the Lord, instead of wishing to teach the Lord. This great blessing, dearly beloved, is ours, and let us be very careful that we maintain the attitude of childlikeness and simplicity, that we may continue to be taught of God, and to "know the things that are freely given unto us of God." Let us rejoice in them and use them, and let the light shine out to others. The explanation of the fact that the divine plan is hidden from the great majority of the learned, the doctors of divinity, etc., is that so it has pleased the Father to let "the wise be taken in their own craftiness," and to reveal his purposes to those of an humble mind. "Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight." (`1 Cor. 3:19`.) The Father drew to the Son at the first advent, not the doctors of the law, the scribes and the notables, but certain "Israelites indeed," in whom was no guile, though they were but an humble few. And the same class has received the blessing all down the age.
R3103 c1 p5 and c2 p2
The knowledge of God's purposes is due only to those able and anxious to co-operate with him in their development; for God does not display his plans to satisfy mere idle curiosity. First, then, if we would comprehend what is revealed within the scroll we must have faith in what is written on the outside--the promised redemption through the precious blood of Christ--and must be sincerely desirous of knowing the details of God's plan in order to an earnest co-operation with it. In other words, there must be the earnest inquiry arising from a heart grateful for the promise of life through the Redeemer--"Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" Such, and such only, are worthy to know, and such only ever come to see, in the sense of understanding and appreciating, the deep things of God written within the scroll. Such are the called according to the divine purpose, to be educated in and to serve the truth. Such are the righteous for whom the light (truth) is sown. Such was our Lord's attitude when he said, "Lo, I come to do thy will, O God." (`Heb. 10:7`.) He was meek and lowly of heart and ever ready to render implicit obedience to the will of God; and it is to those who are similarly meek that he was sent to preach the good tidings (`Isa. 61:1`)-- to open the scroll. "The meek will he guide in judgment; the meek will he teach his way." (`Psa. 25:9`.) If any man have this evidence of worthiness--this acquaintance with the truth--let him rejoice in his privilege and by his works manifest his continued worthiness.
All along the way, as we have said, we will find tests applied to prove our worthiness to proceed from knowledge to knowledge and from grace to grace. Who is worthy?--worthy to receive the truth, worthy to continue in the truth, worthy to suffer and to endure hardness as a good soldier for the truth, and finally to be exalted to power and great glory when truth and righteousness shall be exalted in the earth and their glorious triumph begun?
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DIVINE SECRETS REVEALED
"The Secret of the Lord is with them that fear him; and he will show them his Covenant."--`Psa. 25:14`.
IS THERE any secret in connection with the divine plan? Are not all of God's arrangements so plain that "a wayfaring man, tho unlearned, need not err therein?" Are not all of the steps of the plan of salvation so simple that even a child may understand them?
Oh no! very evidently not; for everywhere we find the utmost diversity of opinion respecting the divine plan. Not only is there a great variety of heathen theories utterly false, but the various theories which obtain amongst Christian people are in violent antagonism the one to the other. Even amongst the worldly-wise of Christendom how various are the conceptions of God's intention and method respecting his creatures? These differences are represented in the various theologies of all the various sects. His plan is claimed to be one of "Free Grace" in which he gives an equal opportunity to all his creatures to share; yet, looking about us we see most evidently that all are not alike privileged, not alike informed and not alike circumstanced. On the other hand, there is the claim of an "Election" which denies that grace is free to all, and holds that it is restricted to the favored few. Besides these, we have various other conflicting theories in Christendom, and the most obtuse thinker must admit that where so many theologians, college professors and doctors of divinity are in dispute, the unlearned "wayfaring man" has many chances to err in his endeavor to grasp the divine plan.
Observation therefore sustains, as most literally true, the statement of our text that the Lord's plan is a secret: and it is in agreement with the statement of other Scriptures respecting the "mystery of God," "hidden from past ages and dispensations." In harmony with this is the fact that all the prophets have spoken more or less obscurely and in parables, not excepting the Great Prophet, our Lord Jesus, of whom it is written, that "he taught the people in parables and dark sayings"--"and without a parable spake he not unto the people." He promised, nevertheless, that in due time the holy spirit would be granted as a guide and instructor to his true disciples: "He will guide you into all truth" and "show you things to come." (`Jno. 16:13`.) Some of the mysteries of God were due to be understood at once, and some more gradually down through the age, but the great unfolding of the divine mystery we are expressly told was reserved until the close of the Gospel age, when "the mystery of God should be finished," which he hath kept secret from the foundation of the world.--`Rev. 10:7`.
Even so much of the divine plan as was due to be revealed by the spirit and to be understood step by step during this Gospel age, was intended only for a special class, and not for the world in general. The Apostle Paul emphasized this when he declared, "The natural man receiveth not the things of the spirit of God, neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." "But God hath revealed them unto us by his spirit; for the spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep [hidden, obscure] things of God." --`1 Cor. 2:14,10`.
This same thought is before us in our text, "The Secret of the Lord is with them that fear him." As this has been true all the way down throughout this age, it is still true, and the finishing of "the mystery of God" in the close of this Gospel age must therefore be expected to be understood and appreciated only by this special class of the Lord's people,--those who fear or reverence him. We are to make a distinction between those who fear or reverence the Lord and those who fear or reverence man and the work of man, sectarian systems, creeds, etc. "The fear of man [and of man's churches] bringeth a snare," and hinders growth both in grace and in knowledge;--hinders an appreciation of the "Secret of the Lord." "But the fear [reverence] of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom," and this wisdom, if continued, leads to fuller knowledge of God, to greater confidence in him, and to that degree of intimate friendship and sonship which is the key to the understanding of the "Secret of the Lord."
Abraham was called the "friend of God;" because he had the divine confidence, so that God made known to him certain things that he did not make known to others: "The Secret of the Lord" was with Abraham, so far as that Secret could be communicated to any one at that time. For instance, in the matter of the destruction of Sodom, the Lord said, "Shall I hide from Abraham [my friend] that thing which I do?" And it was because Abraham was the friend of God that he also made known to him something of the divine plan for human salvation: as the Apostle declares, God "preached beforehand the gospel to Abraham, saying: 'In thee shall all the nations be blessed.'"--`Gal. 3:8`.
While it was not possible for Abraham or any one else than God to fully comprehend this statement, or to understand therefrom the lengths and the breadths of the divine plan of salvation, yet it contained the whole gospel, in the same sense that an acorn contains a great oak tree. So likewise our Lord at the first advent spoke in parables to the nominal house of Israel, that "Seeing they might see and not believe, and hearing they might hear and not understand;" yet, a certain few, full of faith and obedience and consecration to the Lord, were not thus treated; but, on the contrary, were treated as "friends" and had much explained to them. Thus our Lord said to the disciples when they inquired concerning the significance of a parable, "To you it is given to know the mysteries of the Kingdom of God; but to them that are without, these things are spoken in parables." And again he said to the same devoted disciples, I have not called you servants, for the servant knoweth not what his Lord doeth; but I have called you friends, because whatsoever I hear of the Father I have made known unto you.--`John 15:15`.
This "mystery" of the divine plan, hidden in parables, in figures, and in symbols from the world, and from the nominal Christian,--hidden from all except the fully consecrated children of God--is most beautifully symbolized in the Book of Revelation. As therein recounted, John was shown in a vision a symbolic panorama, illustrative of the subject. The heavenly glories were symbolized and the Father shown seated upon the throne of his glory, holding in his right hand a scroll sealed with seven seals. This was the Mystery, the Secret of the Lord, unknown to any one but himself--his plan for the salvation of the world. John in the symbol hears the proclamation, "Who is worthy to open the Book and to loose the seals?"-- who is worthy to have committed to his care, the execution of the great divine plan, wonderful for its wisdom and love, and its lengths and breadths and depths and heights past human comprehension--that he may open it and execute it? A silence followed; and John fearing that this signified that none would be found worthy, and that hence the divine plan would never be fully revealed, and therefore could not be fully executed, wept much. But in the symbol the angel again touched him and said, "Weep not! for the Lion of the tribe of Judah,' the 'Root of David,' hath prevailed to open the Book, and to loose the seven seals thereon."
Ah yes! this was one significance of the severe trials and sufferings of our dear Redeemer;--in humbling himself, leaving the glory with the Father, becoming a man and ultimately giving his life a ransom for all, he was doing two works: not only (1) redeeming us with his own precious blood, but (2) additionally by this obedience he was commending himself to the Father, and proving himself worthy to be the Father's agent and representative in carrying out all the great "mystery of God" hidden from previous ages and dispensations. --`Eph. 3:3-5`.
The interim of thirty odd years, in which our Lord's humiliation and subsequent exaltation took place, is all passed over in the vision, and the symbol merely shows in the midst of the throne "a lamb, as it had been slain:" how forceful the illustration to those whose eyes are anointed that they may discern its meaning. And now the symbolical panorama proceeds, and shows us the Lamb approaching Jehovah and receiving from him "the mystery of his will," the great plan of the ages, as mapped out in the divine purpose from before the foundation of the world. As soon as the "mystery of God" was committed to "the Lamb of God;" who had already fulfilled an important part of that plan by redeeming the world with his own precious blood, he receives homage, as it is written: "Him hath God highly exalted, and given him a name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow of things in heaven and things on earth," and "that all men should honor the Son even as they honor the Father."
Then came the opening of the seals: the disclosing of one after another of the various features connected with the divine purpose. Each seal as it was loosed permitted the scroll as a whole to open a little wider, and a little wider, thus permitting "the mystery of God" to be a little more clearly discerned. And so God's people down through this Gospel age have been privileged to know something of the "Secret of the Lord;"--the divine plan. But not until the last seal was broken, did the scroll fly wide open, permitting the "Mystery of God" to be fully disclosed; as it is written: "In the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound, the Mystery of God should be finished, as he hath declared to his servants the prophets."--`Rev. 5:1`; `10:7`.
This same thought, that God's consecrated people will have intelligence respecting his plans far different from any the world will have, is everywhere kept prominently before us in the Scriptures, and must therefore be considered a very important indication with all who profess to be God's people;--distinguishing whether they are merely his "servants," or whether they are still more intimately connected and have received the spirit of adoption as serving "sons," and are being treated as sons;--made acquainted with the Heavenly Father's plan.
Our text speaks merely of the fear (reverence) of the Lord, but, as we have seen, this reverence continued leads into the very deepest work of grace obtainable; --to a fullness of consecration to the Father's will and service. It is of this class who fear (reverence) the Lord that we read,--"They that feared the Lord spake often one to another, and the Lord hearkened and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared [reverenced] the Lord, and that thought upon his word [esteeming his Name, his Honor, his Will above any earthly, sectarian name or work]. And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them [they "shall be accounted worthy to escape" the severity of the great time of trouble with which this age shall end], as a man spareth his own son that serveth him." These who reverence the Lord, in this full and Scriptural sense, are surely the Lord's "elect," "the body of Christ," the "overcomers," the "little flock," the "royal priesthood," who shall reign with Christ, and with him bless all the families of the earth in due time.
The privilege of this "royal priesthood" to know "the Secret of the Lord," to comprehend "the deep things of God" hidden from others, was beautifully symbolized and typified in the privileges of the Jewish priesthood. When the Tabernacle was set up, with its beautiful golden furniture, lamp stand, table of shew bread, golden altar, etc., all symbolizing spiritual things, they were covered over, hidden, not only from the ordinary Israelite, but even from the Levitical "servants" of the Tabernacle, who were not even permitted to look therein. The privilege of seeing those typical secret things, reserved exclusively for the priests, thus typified "the royal priesthood" and their exclusive privilege of understanding the mysteries of God, his Secret.
8. Is knowledge necessary to salvation ?
9. What is the difference between knowing about God and knowing God ?
10. Does knowledge increase responsibility?
11. What is our duty toward building up each other in knowledge?
12. How do we know we are accepted as probationary members of the body of Christ?
13. What is our present inheritance through obedience to our knowledge of God’s will?
14. What effect does the knowledge of the truth have upon superstitious fears?
15. How do we ‘ grow in knowledge’?
16. What is the significance of ‘the helmet of salvation,’ and is it more important now than in the past?
17. Can we give too much attention to acquiring knowledge?
18. What is the relation between knowledge and love ?
(1Co 13:2) And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.
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Before describing the operation of love the Apostle impresses upon us its importance, assuring us that if we possess the very choicest of the "gifts" already explained, and do not have therewith love, we will still lack the evidence of our being New Creatures in Christ Jesus. We should be merely "sounding brass or cymbal" --making a noise, but having no acceptable feeling or virtue in ourselves in connection with our words. He assures us thus that ability to speak fluently on gospel themes, even, might not be a proof of our relationship to the Lord as New Creatures. The Apostle's declaration is introduced with an "if," which might be challenged, to a certain extent, by the assertion that no one could speak forth with power, with force, the gospel of God's dear Son unless he possessed the spirit of love. Although we have all met public speakers who could deliver very beautiful essays, we have generally perceived a hollowness in their teaching unless they spoke from the heart, prompted by love of the truth,--not by love of applause, nor for love of money.
Amongst the gifts, prophecy or oratory was one which the Apostle commended. Knowledge of mysteries of God is also commended, and large faith is reckoned amongst the chief of the Christian requirements; yet the Apostle declares that if he possessed all of these in their fullest measure, and love were absent, he would be nothing,--a mere cipher--not a member of the New Creation at all, since love is the very spirit of the begetting to the new nature. What a wonderful test this is! let us each apply it to himself. Whether I am something or nothing in God's estimation is to be measured by my love for him, for his brethren, for his cause, for the world in general, and even for my enemies, --rather than by my knowledge or fame or oratory. Yet we are not to understand that one could have a knowledge of the deep mysteries of God without having been begotten by the holy spirit of love; for the deep things of God knoweth no man, but by the spirit of God; but one might lose the spirit before losing the knowledge it brought him. In the measurement of character, therefore, we are to put love first, and to consider it the chief test of our nearness and acceptance to the Lord.
(2Pe 1:8) For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
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Furthermore, the holy Spirit witnesses to us, through the Word, that if we are the children of God we will not be ignorant of things present nor of "things to come," because we will be enlightened and taught of God, through the Word of his grace--the Word of his Spirit. As we mature, "grow in grace," we will desire and seek and obtain, in addition to the milk of the Word, the "strong meat" which the Apostle declares is for those of fuller development. (1 Pet. 2:2; Heb. 5:13,14) The development in the graces of the Spirit, faith, fortitude, knowledge, self-control, patience, piety, brotherly kindness, love, will bring us into closer fellowship with the Father and with the Lord Jesus, so that the Lord will be able and willing to communicate to us more and more clearly a knowledge of his gracious plans, as well as of his own gracious character.
Referring to this growth, the Apostle Peter says: "If these things be in you and abound, they make you that ye shall be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ; but he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off....For if ye do these things ye shall never fall; for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." 2 Pet. 1:5-11. Compare John 16:12,15.
Each should ask himself whether or not he has this witness of the Spirit, this testimony to his growth as a new creature in Christ Jesus, and whether or not he is developing and maturing the kind of fruit here specified. Let us remember also that our growth in love and in all the fruits of the Spirit is dependent largely upon our growth in knowledge; and our growth in knowledge of divine things is dependent also upon our growth in the fruits of the Spirit. Each step of knowledge brings a corresponding step of duty and obedience, and each step of duty and obedience taken will be followed by a further step in knowledge, for so, the Spirit witnesseth, shall be the experience of all those who shall be taught of God in the school of Christ. If we have this witness of the Spirit of growth, both in grace and in knowledge, let us rejoice therein, and let us follow on in the same pathway until it shall bring us, under divine guidance, to that which is perfect, both in knowledge and in grace.
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Knowledge is valuable, but only incidentally; of itself the Apostle assures us knowledge would be inclined to puff us up, make us vain and boastful, and thus quite out of harmony with the spirit of God, the spirit of love, meekness, gentleness. Knowledge might make us merely tinkling cymbals giving out a sound, but possessing no real merit in the Lord's sight. But knowledge, when it serves its proper purpose, brings us to the appreciation of "the love [that is] of God" and to a realization of the wisdom of copying his character, that we should seek so far as possible to be like our Father which is in heaven, copies of his dear Son, our Lord. The Apostle brings this position clearly to our attention when he says, "That ye being rooted and grounded in love may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth and length and depth and height and to know [appreciate] the love of Christ... and be filled with all the fulness of God.--`Eph. 3:17-19`.
Undoubtedly love is the principal thing to be studied, to be appreciated, to be copied and practiced in our lives. We trust that a large proportion of the WATCH TOWER readers have already become partakers of this "love of God," and that all such are seeking to have it perfected in them, and to be rooted and grounded in it. We have the Apostle's assurance that only those who take this standpoint can make permanent and thorough progress in grace and knowledge. Those who have entered the school of Christ, and who refuse to progress in it toward perfection, may assuredly expect that sooner or later their knowledge of the divine plan will slip from them; while those who do make progress in this proper direction may expect that the lengths and breadths of the divine plan will continue opening before them, and that their growth in knowledge will keep pace with their growth in love.
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But what is it to grow in grace? It is to grow in favor with the Lord through an intimate personal acquaintance and fellowship of spirit with him. It implies, first, a knowledge and recognition on our part of our redemption through his precious blood and a personal faith in and dependence upon all the promises of the Father made to us through him, and then an intimate communion with him in our daily life of prayer, and of observation of his will and obedience to it. If such be our constant attitude of mind and heart, there must be a constant ripening of the fruits of the spirit, rendering us more and more pleasing and acceptable to our Lord. A sense of the divine acceptance and favor is given to us from day to day in increasing measure, in fulfilment of that blessed promise of our Lord, "If a man love me he will keep my words; and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him."-- `John 14:23`.
This, as nearly as words can express it, is what it is to grow in grace; but the full and blessed understanding of it is best appreciated by those who from day to day walk with God in faith and obedience and love.
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But if this knowledge and liberty be not accompanied by a full self-surrender to God, a complete consecration of one's self to him who is the Author of our liberties and privileges, we stand in great danger; for, as the apostle here declares, knowledge alone without self-submission to God would incline to puff us up, to make us heady, arrogant, self-sufficient. But if the knowledge be accompanied by a love to God, which leads to self-consecration in his service, in harmony with his instructions, the knowledge will work good for us, by thus introducing the spirit of love as the controling factor in our lives, because the effect of love is to "build up" instead of to "puff up." Love is constructive, and tends not only to build up our own characters after the Divine pattern, but by so doing it makes us co-workers together with God, in our sympathies for and interest in others--in their upbuilding and general welfare.
19. What is the difference between the knowledge which precedes justifying faith, and the knowledge...
20. How are ‘grace and peace multiplied’ unto us through knowledge?
21. What is the relation between knowledge and prayer ?
(Joh 15:7) If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.
"Ask and Ye Shall Receive, that Your Joy may be Full" --John 16:24—
"In thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand are pleasures forevermore," declares the prophet. (Psa. 16:11) It is because prayer brings the soul into the presence of the Lord that it prepares the way for divine blessing and superlative joys. Evidently the opening of the way for the Lord's people to approach the throne of grace is not with the object of their changing the divine will or plans. Such a thought is incompatible with every reasonable consideration of the subject; hence, the Lord instructs us that proper praying is not along the line of making requests that our wills be done, in opposition to the divine will, but along the line of full submission to the latter. The Apostle declares of some, "Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss"--in harmony with your own desires, and not in harmony with the divine arrangement and plan. James 4:3
Along the same line our Lord admonished: "Use not vain repetitions, as the Gentiles do, for they think they shall be heard for their much speaking; but your heavenly Father knoweth what things ye have need of before ye ask him. Be not careful [worried], therefore, respecting what ye shall eat or what ye shall drink, and wherewithal ye shall be clothed, for after these things do the Gentiles seek; but seek ye primarily the Kingdom of God and righteousness in harmony with it, and all these needful earthly things shall be added unto you--by your Father in heaven, according to his wisdom." (Matt. 6:25-34) Again, our Lord says, "If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will and it shall be done unto you." (John 15:7) The following conditions are all-important:
(1) The one offering the prayer must be in Christ--must have come into vital relationship with him by the acceptance of the merit of his atonement sacrifice, and by a consecration to his will and service; and, more than this, he must continue to abide thus in Christ as a member of his body, as a member of the New Creation, in order to have the privileges of prayer here referred to.
(2) He must also let the Lord's Word abide in him; he must partake of the Word of truth and grace if he would have the wisdom necessary to ask, in harmony with the Lord's will, things which he would be pleased to grant-- otherwise, even though in Christ a New Creature, his prayers might frequently go unanswered, because "amiss." It is only those who profess both of these qualifications who may expect to approach the throne of heavenly grace with full confidence, full assurance of faith that their petitions will be answered--in God's due time. Only such can realize fullness of joy.
As the Scriptures explain, prayer is the attempt to gain access to the presence of God, and to hold communion with him. Who then may approach the throne of the heavenly grace to "obtain mercy and find grace to help in every time of need?" (Heb. 4:16) We answer, with the Apostle, that the world in general does not have this access, does not have this privilege of prayer. True, indeed, millions of heathen people are offering prayers to Deity with varying conceptions of who and what he is; but their prayers are not acceptable to God. "He that cometh unto God must believe that he is [must recognize him as the self-existing One], and that he is the rewarder of those who diligently seek him [seek to know him, to obey him, to serve him]." (Heb. 11:6) Cornelius was one of this latter kind, who recognized the true God and reverenced him, and sought to know and do his will; and, as soon as the divine plan had reached the necessary stage of development to permit God's favor to be extended to the Gentiles, his prayers and his alms received a response. He was not, however, permitted to have communion with God in the full, proper sense; but was instructed to send for Peter, who would tell him "words" by which he might be brought from his condition of alienation and separation into a condition of harmony and sonship, in which he would have the privilege of a son--the privilege of access to the Father at the throne of heavenly grace.
It was the wisdom from above, the holy Spirit, which guided the Apostle Paul when going into a new city with the Gospel, to seek out those assembled at a place "where prayer was wont to be made." (Acts 16:13) And it is a fact, still, that both the knowledge and the love of God abound most amongst those of his people who pray one for another, that their joy may be full. However many meetings the Lord's people may have for the study of his Word, and for the building up of one another in the most holy faith, we advocate that no service be considered as properly commenced except the Lord's blessing upon the study be first invoked; and that no meeting be considered properly closed until the Lord be thanked for the privilege and blessings enjoyed, and for his blessing bestowed--that the Word of his grace may be meat indeed to the hearts of those who have heard with sincere desire to know and do his will.
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What we thus see exemplified on a large and national scale we may see exemplified in a small way closer to us. How many of us in our ignorance and blindness have at some time in life prayed for the various systems of bondage, for the various sects of Christendom, and labored, too, for their upbuilding, only to find ourselves injured spiritually by that which we prayed for and labored for. We asked amiss, as did the Elders of Israel, while, instead, our hearts as well as theirs should have inquired continually for the ways of the Lord, for his leadings, not asking to have him favor and bless that which we ignorantly and mistakenly supposed to be for his glory and our own good. Let us learn to pray aright, as well as to labor and to hope aright; and in order so to do let us be swift to hear, slow to speak, swift to hearken to the Word of the Lord and to the lesson which he has already given us, and to his method of instructing us and guiding us and blessing us. Let us be slow to tell him what our preferences are; indeed, let us seek to attain that development of Christian character which will permit us always not to seek our own wills, but the will and way of our Father in heaven. (August 29 Manna)
The same principle will apply in the more private affairs of our daily lives. Several parents have told us, with aching hearts, of prayers answered which subsequently they could have wished never answered; they have told us of companions and children on their deathbeds for whose lives they had prayed with importunity and without either the words or the sentiment, Thy will be done, and how the Lord answered those prayers, and what terrible evils had come to them through the answers. All cases may not be alike, but the properly exercised and heart-developed children of God should expect to attain to the place where all of their prayers are answered, and answered in the best possible way, and most satisfactorily, because the Lord's Word dwells in them richly. They would not ask amiss-- would not ask anything contrary to the divine will and providences; but rather, trusting to the divine wisdom, their prayer would be, "Lord, thy will, not mine, be done."
22. Do all kinds of knowledge profit us?
23. How can we explain the Apostle’s statement, ‘Ye know all things,’ and ‘need not that any man teach you’?
24. Explain Isa 53:11.
25. Should we expect to have any knowledge of the future?
(Amo 3:7) Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.
(Joh 16:13) Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come.
We find that the end of the Gospel age, like the end of the Jewish age, is called a harvest (Matt. 9:37; 13:24,30,39); that like that also, it is a period of forty years; and that upon the harvests of the ages the rays of prophetic testimony are specially concentrated, particularly upon the harvest of this age, where even all the light of the Jewish age--because of its typical character--converges in a glorious focus. In this light we may now distinctly see the stately steppings of our God, not only in the long vista of the ages past, but also in the present outworkings of his plan. And not only so, but according to his promise to show us things to come (John 16:13), we see, with wonderful distinctness of vision, his wise policy for the blessing of all in the incoming Millennial age--even down to its glorious consummation in the restitution of all things. We find that many great and wonderful events center in this harvest: that in it occur the great time of trouble, the day of Jehovah; the final and complete overthrow of Antichrist and the fall of Great Babylon; the beginning of returning favor to the Jew; the second advent of our Lord and the establishment of his kingdom; and the resurrection and reward of the saints.
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The Watchers look not merely at the outward signs, as seen in the world. They scrutinize carefully and repeatedly their "chart," the Bible's prophetic outline of the world's history furnished by the King himself. It is because they see the time of trouble outlined in the prophetic chart that they know that it is sure to come, and are able in advance of others to "discern the signs of the times," and not to be in darkness respecting the "things to come." It was in respect to this that the Lord promised the Watchers that the holy spirit should guide them into all truth, as each feature became due, and would show them things to come--future things--in advance of the world's knowledge, and in advance of the facts themselves. (`John 16:13`.) But the same chart which shows the downfall of all earthly institutions, political, social and ecclesiastical, shows also that their fall is so timed in the great plan of Jehovah that it shall be the very hour in which he will establish his kingdom in the hands of the elect Church (who then shall be a royal priesthood glorified,--priests upon their thrones,--the religious as well as the civil rulers of the world), whose exaltation shall be to the glory of God and to the blessing of every creature.
26. What evidences have we that Da 12:4 is being fulfilled?
27. When will ‘the knowledge of the Lord fill the earth as the waters cover the sea,’ and...
28. What will be the relation between knowledge and faith in the Millennial Age ?