Berean Studies / Ber03 - Knowledge
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Single Click a triangle below to see the references CT Russell selected for the associated question. The study questions (with the references) are also included as an attached Adobe PDF file at the bottom of this page.
1. What is the importance of knowledge?
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.
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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?
(Luk 12:47) And that servant, which knew his lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.
(Luk 12:48) But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.
Doubtless this was one reason why the Lord instructed us to "judge nothing before the time." Eventually the judgment will be in our hands--as it is written, "Know ye not that the saints shall judge the world?"--our Lord Jesus being the chief of these judges. The Lord's declaration is that he who knew his Master's will and did it not shall be beaten with many stripes, while he who knew not and did things worthy of stripes shall be beaten with few stripes. (Luke 12:47,48) This indicates to us that the guilt of wilful sin is to be measured largely by our knowledge of the Lord and of his will. Hence the Church, and those who have during this Gospel age come under the light and influence of the Church, will be held responsible in a larger degree than others. Nero, although not of the Church, not begotten of the Spirit, and therefore, less responsible proportionately than the Church, had, nevertheless, considerable contact with the children of the light; and hence, we may presume, had a large measure of responsibility in connection with his crimes.
And while the Bible is thus opening up from this standpoint, and disclosing wondrous things (Psa. 119:18), the light of the present day upon the various creeds and traditions of men is affecting them in an opposite manner. They are being recognized even by their worshipers as imperfect and deformed, and hence they are being measurably ignored; and though still subscribed to, they are seldom elaborated, for very shame. And the shame attaching to these human creeds and traditions is spreading to the Bible, which is supposed to uphold these deformities of thought as of divine origin. Hence the freedom with which the various advanced thinkers, so-called, are beginning to deny various parts of the Bible not congenial to their views. How striking, then, the providence of God, which at this very time opens before his children this truly glorious and harmonious plan--a plan that rejects not one, but harmonizes every part and item of his Word. Truth, when due, becomes meat for the household of faith, that they may grow thereby. (Matt. 24:45) Whoever comes in contact with truth, realizing its character, has thereby a responsibility with reference to it. It must be either received and acted upon, or rejected and despised. To ignore it does not release from responsibility. If we accept it ourselves, we have a responsibility TOWARD IT also, because it is for ALL the household of faith; and each one receiving it becomes its debtor, and, if a faithful steward, must dispense it to the other members of the family of God. Let your light shine! If it again becomes darkness, how great will be the darkness. Lift up the light! Lift up a standard for the people!
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 ?
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 ?
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?
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 ?
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What is now known to the Church of this Gospel age as "justification by faith" (in like manner also the ancient worthies were justified) will not be in operation during the Millennial age, nor be necessary; because the conditions then will be so different from present conditions. It is because "we walk by faith and not by sight,"--because faith is now so difficult, and therefore so rare, that it is so highly appreciated and rewarded of God. But when the Millennial age will have been ushered in, the age of faith will have passed--that will be the age of knowledge,--the age of evidences so clear, so unmistakable, that even "the wayfaring man, tho ignorant, shall not err therein, for the knowledge of the Lord shall fill the whole earth, as the waters cover the face of the great deep." With knowledge thus abundant, so that there shall be no need to say to one's neighbor, "Know the Lord, because all shall know him," it follows that special faith will be impossible, and hence the rewards of special faith will no longer be offered.
We do not mean to say that mankind during the Millennium will not believe; on the contrary, none can do otherwise than believe: we do mean to say, however, that there is a difference between believing and exercising faith. We now believe various things by faith, which the world in the next age will believe, not by faith but on evidence, by knowledge--it will be impossible for them to doubt them, seeing that the evidences will be so indisputable. For instance, now God tells us to reckon all of our past sins forgiven, and ourselves fully justified in his sight. Nevertheless, we continually see evidences of our own weaknesses in our minds and bodies. The sins are not blotted out; they are merely reckonedly covered. In the case of the Church's sins: they will not be blotted out until death shall destroy these mortal bodies, and until the Lord, in the first resurrection, shall grant us glorious, spiritual, perfect bodies. In them there will be no trace of sin or weakness or imperfection; all our sins will then be actually blotted out. But now we are required to believe in the covering of our sins; to exercise faith in God's declaration. Our next step of faith is in connection with the high calling to sacrifice earthly and temporal interests for the gaining of the heavenly glory, honor and immortality. But the heavenly crown and blessing are seen only with the eye of faith; and whoever runs in the race now set before us in the Gospel, must not only look with the eye of faith unto Jesus, as the author and finisher of our faith, but with the same eye of faith must see the crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous Judge, has laid up for those who are faithful. Thus ours is preeminently an age of faith, of reckoned conditions, and of trust in the promises: and it shall have its great and precious reward.
Not so will be the conditions of the Millennial age, when ushered in. Knowledge will be there, as we have seen; and each day's experiences will result either in mental, moral and physical development, or in chastisements for failures to make progress. Such experiences will give ample demonstration of what may be expected as the ultimate outcome,--restitution as the reward of obedience, or the Second Death as the punishment of disobedience.
The matter is clearly set before us in the Scriptures, which clearly teach that, during this age, the rule of divine dealing is, "According to thy faith be it unto thee," while the rule of the judgment of the world in the Millennial age is clearly laid down in `Rev. 20:12`: "I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God: and the books were opened; and another book of life was opened [the first book of life is called the Lamb's Book of Life, containing the names of the elect Church, his Bride:--this other Book of Life will be the book or record of those who shall pass the restitution trial or judgment satisfactorily], and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books [the Scriptures--`John 12:48`] according to their works."
It would be a mistake to suppose that God will call mankind to sonship during the Millennial age, and not require them to make full consecration of themselves to him, and to that righteousness of which he is the personal representative. None can ever have eternal life upon any other condition than this--absolute obedience, and more--absolute harmony with the very spirit of the divine law, the law of righteousness, the law of love. And all who will be in harmony with the Lord to such an extent as this, would of necessity sacrifice, if there were opposition to the Lord or to righteousness which would make necessary a sacrifice of any kind, rather than deny the Lord and the principles of his holiness.
The reason why there will be no sacrifices required of the world during the Millennial age is, that sin and Satan will no longer be in control--"this present evil world" (dispensation) will have passed away, and in its stead will have been ushered in "the world to come, wherein dwelleth righteousness"--wherein righteousness will be the rule, wherein the King and all in favor with him and every feature of government will be one of righteousness, truth and love.
To suppose the restitution call already commenced, would be to suppose that God had in some manner authorized some one to announce that henceforth no one would suffer for right doing, but only for wrong doing; and that henceforth whoever sought to do right to the best of his ability, would find himself unopposed therein, and that his every effort would promptly bring mental, moral and physical strength and recuperation, which, going on and on, would by and by reach absolute perfection. Furthermore, it would be to promise that any who accepted this restitution call would never die the Adamic death; but on the contrary, accepting this call heartily, would find that day by day, year by year, the power of death in him was being vanquished and the process of restitution progressing.
When that call shall go forth, and those restitution privileges shall be offered to mankind, it will be as the Prophet has declared, that no man shall thenceforth die for Adam's sin, nor for the sin of his fathers, but only for his own sin. (`Jer. 31:29,30`.) We understand that this time will not be reached until after the time of trouble--not until A.D. 1915. To our understanding, from that date onward, the Kingdom being fully established, the call of the world to restitution privileges will be opened, and whoever shall then die will die for his own sin [Second Death] and not for father Adam's; and whoever will then be obedient to the Lord will experience the blessings of his grace in restitution,--actual, perceptible recovery beginning at once, as the reward to the faithful under the restitution call.
The sense in which Millennial blessings and favors are already lapping upon the Gospel age, to our understanding, is this: First, knowledge, inventions, etc., are bringing to the world of mankind blessings never hitherto enjoyed, and which are really intended for the Millennial age, and are merely being gotten ready or prepared in this "day of God's preparation." (2) Restitution blessings are lapping also, in the sense that these inventions, etc., are gradually leading on to the great time of trouble, in which present institutions, social, financial, political, religious, will all be overthrown--that in their stead God may bring in the better provisions and arrangements of the Millennial Kingdom. (3) Restitution blessings are coming to the Church now, in the sense that she is permitted to foresee these coming blessings upon the world, and to rejoice exceedingly, and to lift up her heart in thankfulness and praise to him who loveth us and who bought us with his own precious blood, and to realize how it is "the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world."
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True, faith may even then be said to be essential to restitution progress toward actual justification, for "without faith it is impossible to please God," and because the restitution blessings and rewards will be bestowed along lines that will demand faith; but the faith that will then be required for progress in restitution will differ very much from the faith now required of those "called to be saints," "joint-heirs with Jesus," "New Creatures." When the Kingdom of God shall be in control and Satan bound and the knowledge of the Lord caused to fill the earth, these fulfilments of divine promises will be recognized by all, and thus sight or knowledge will grasp actually much that is now recognizable only by the eye of faith. But faith will be needed, nevertheless, that they may go on unto perfection; and thus the actual justification obtainable by the close of the Millennium will be attained only by those who will persistently exercise faith and works. Although of that time it is written, "The dead shall be judged out of the books according to their WORKS," as in contradistinction to the present judgment of the Church "according to your FAITH," yet their works will not be without faith, even as our faith must not be without works to the extent of our ability.
The Apostle's declaration that God will justify the heathen through faith (Gal. 3:8), is shown by the context to signify that the reconciliation by restitution will not come as a result of the Law Covenant, but by grace under the terms of the New Covenant, which must be believed in, accepted and complied with by all who would benefit by it. A difference between present and future justification, is that the consecrated of the present time are, upon the exercise of proper faith, granted instantly fellowship with the Father, through reckoned justification, by faith; whereas the exercise of obedient faith under the more favorable conditions of the next age will not bring reckoned justification at all, and will effect actual justification and fellowship with God only at the close of the Millennium. The world in the interim will be in the hands of the great Mediator, whose work it will be to represent to them the divine will and to deal with them, correcting and restoring such as obey, until he shall have actually justified them--at which time he will present them faultless before the Father, when about to deliver up his Kingdom to God, even the Father. 1 Cor. 15:24