Studies in the Scriptures
Zion's Watch Tower
Fatal Ambition—Noble Ambition
By C. T. Russell
Pastor New York, Washington and Cleveland Temples and the Brooklyn and London Tabernacles
The Third of a Series of Articles by Pastor Russell on Satan’s Origin, his Present Occupation, and Future prospects.
WE SHOULD remember that practically the entire Bible is addressed to the Church of Christ—to those who have left the world, who have given their all to the Lord, acceptable through Christ, and who are intent upon knowing and doing God’s will. The world is left by the Lord to try out its own ambitions, to realize, eventually that these result in disappointment. It is when we experience the disappointment of our own plans and ambitions that we are truly prepared to look to the Lord.
We wish at this time to quote a text in connection with the subject of this article—a preferred rendering of
, to which scholarship is fully agreed: "Who (the Logos, Jesus) being in the form of God, did not meditate a usurpation to be on an equality with Him, but (contrariwise) made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant."
In this text the Apostle does not specify Satan in contrast with Jesus; yet we may read between the lines that He had in mind the opposite course pursued by Lucifer, who became Satan, and the Logos, who became Christ. The Scriptural record is that Lucifer was one of the highest and most glorious spirit beings—a cherub. But a sinful ambition took possession of him. Instead of a righteous ambition to serve and honor his Creator, he thought that if he had an empire of his own he could improve upon the Divine order of things. —
This ambition ultimately led Lucifer to carry out the program in connection with mankind. Thenceforth he was known as Satan, God’s Adversary, "the prince of this world, which now worketh in the hearts of the children of disobedience." According to the Bible, Satan has been permitted to have a certain degree of liberty, to show what the evil course would be and what its evil results. But according to the Bible he is soon to be restrained for a thousand years, while Messiah’s Kingdom will break the shackles of sin and death, and give all the fullest opportunity to return to harmony with God and to attain everlasting life. Ultimately, Satan is to be destroyed, together with all who have his spirit of antagonism to God—insubordination—evil ambition.—
The Logos Humbled Himself
Mark the sharp contrast between Satan’s course and that of the Logos, the Only Begotten Son of God. The
OV307 latter meditated no such usurpation of Divine authority as Lucifer aimed to attain. On the contrary, He was the very personification of loving obedience and self-abnegation instead of meditating a usurpation to make Himself equal to the Father, He declared, "My Father is greater than I;" "My Father is greater than all;" "I delight to do Thy will, O My God."—
#Joh 14:28; 10:29
As in due time Satan found opportunity for manifesting his ambition, so in due time the Logos found opportunity for manifesting His humility and obedience. Man’s fall brought the opportunity—the need of a Redeemer. As it was man who was condemned to death, so the redemption of Adam and his race must be accomplished by the death of a man. The death of bulls and goats could be only typical. Neither would an angel be a corresponding price. Hence the Divine proposal to the Logos—that if He would become a man, taking the sinner’s nature, but not participating in the sinner’s weakness or sin, He might thus be the Redeemer of men and accomplish the Divine will.
Attached to this proposal was the promise that so great a manifestation of love, loyalty and obedience to the Father would receive a great reward—an exaltation to the Divine nature, glory, honor and immortality. Thus Jesus declared that for His faithfulness He had been rewarded by His Father with a place in His Throne.—
The Lesson of Humility
Saint Paul was seeking to impress the lesson of humility, as the context shows. Jesus exemplified in His own course of humility the ambition to be and to do just what would be pleasing to the Heavenly Father, not meditating for an instant to grasp Divine glory and honor, and association with the Father in His Throne. He did God’s will at the cost of His life—even the death of the Cross.
And behold God’s wonderful grace! He who sought not to usurp the Throne, but who humbled Himself, has been exalted to the right hand of God! What an exemplification of the teachings of God’s Word! Did not God declare, "Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall?" He permitted Satan to be an illustration of just such a result; and this forceful illustration is forceful in its application to all. "God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble."
The Apostle points out that the Heavenly Father who so highly rewarded our Savior’s loving obedience, has made a similar proposition to those whom He is calling during this Age to become associates with His Son. If we become dead to the world and lay down our lives in obedience to the Father’s will as Jesus did, we shall share His Throne, as He has promised. Justified by faith in our Redeemer’s sacrifice, presenting our bodies as living sacrifices, and faithfully persevering in the narrow way, we shall "make our calling and election sure."
Every Knee Shall Bow.
The Apostle (V. 10) declares that our Master’s exaltation, as the result of His humility, is so great that all eventually must recognize Him as Lord of all. Unto Him every knee shall bow of the Heavenly and earthly families. Already the angels acknowledged Him. As we read, the Father saith, "Let all the angels of God worship (acknowledge) Him." The bowing of the earth will come later.
The work of the entire thousand years of Messiah’s reign will be for the uplifting of mankind from sin and death. But all those made free will know that their release is due to the great sacrifice which Jesus accomplished in the carrying out of the Divine Plan.
And all will know that the Redeemer has been honored of the Father and exalted to the chief
OV308 place. And those reaching perfection will be glad to bow the knee to Him and to confess Him with their tongues.
The Father is Excepted
We are not to gather from these statements that Jesus, in any sense of the word, will take the place, the glory, the honor, of the Father. Jesus will be hailed as Lord of all, nevertheless it is manifest that He is excepted who put all things thus in subjection to the Son. Saint Paul emphasizes this by telling us (
) that it will be the Father’s power that will bring everything in subjection to the Son; and that when the Son, in carrying out the Father’s most gracious plans, shall have put all things in obedience to Himself, then shall He deliver up the Kingdom to the Father, that the Father may be all in all.
Truly the Divine Program, as stated in the Bible, is beautiful and wonderful. It illustrates to us elements of the Divine character that we never could have appreciated except as man’s fall into sin and death gave opportunity for the exercise of Divine Wisdom, Justice, Love and Power. Had there been no sin, no death, there would have been no opportunity for God to manifest His Justice in dealing with the Sinner, no opportunity to manifest His Love for the world in providing that they should be rescued from the power of sin and death. Neither would there have been an opportunity for demonstrating Satan’s disloyalty and whereunto it would lead. Neither would there have been an opportunity for testing the Only Begotten of the Father and demonstrating the depth of His love and loyalty even to the death of the Cross, unless sin had been permitted.
Neither would there have been an opportunity for God to show His generosity in dealing with the Logos in His high exaltation to the Divine nature and glory. There would have been no opportunity to show the length, breadth, height and depth of the love of God in lifting the Church from the horrible pit and miry clay of sin and death, justifying them freely through the merit of Christ’s sacrifice, inviting them to share in His glory, honor and immortality, and finally bringing the Elect to participation in the Divine nature, and in the great work of Messiah.—
Room for Boundless Ambition
In view of what we have seen of the Divine arrangement there surely is room for exercise of the most boundless ambition imaginable amongst those blest with the hearing ear and the Gospel Message. It would be a great ambition to strive to become kings and queens of the kingdoms of the world. It would be a great ambition to hope to become judges, senators, or the President of the United States. But such ambitions would be as nothing when compared with that set before the believers of God’s Word—the ambition to be received by the Great Creator as Sons, partakers of the Divine nature (
), heirs of God and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ our Lord, to a Heavenly inheritance and Kingdom everlasting.
If anyone wants a grand ambition, here is one worth dying for! Indeed, it can be attained only by dying. First must come the death of the will as respects earthly aims, projects, ambitions, etc. Then gradually must come a transformed mind, which rejoices to die daily and to suffer with Christ, if so be that we may be also glorified with Him. (
.) This is the ambition necessary to make true, loyal soldiers of the Cross, willing to endure hardness in the Cause of the Captain of their Salvation, and to lay down life in the service of the King of kings.
A Grand Rush for it.
One might suppose that such a Message would find millions anxious
OV309 and willing to lay hold upon its terms. But no, only a few have faith—and without faith they cannot be pleasing to God. Some have a little faith and render a little obedience, take some steps, refrain from certain sins and seek to walk hand in hand with the Lord—and with mammon. But these make a mistake. There is no promise to joint-heirship with the Savior except by a full cutting loose from the world and by a vital union with God through Christ.
"He that hath an ear to hear, let him hear." He that hath a humble heart of obedience, let him lay hold of the promise and attain the greatest of all ambitions. As for others, let them choose the noblest ambitions of which they are capable, assured that in proportion as they are honest and loyal they shall eventually be blest under Messiah’s Kingdom.
Whoever has no ambition has not properly begun to live. Ambition implies appreciation of the value of life—a weighing of prospects and possibilities—a decision and a fixed determination of will. Parents and teachers should aim to lift before the mental vision of the young noble ideals, and to assist them in determining what they would copy and which goal they will bend life’s energies to reach. To such parents and teachers many of those successful in life refer in terms of endearment, declaring how much they owe to the encouragement of ideals and ambitions to which these assisted them.
Many Woe-Begone Faces
As we learn to read character and observe people, we perceive that many are wholly without ambition; or that their ambitions are so low and trivial as not to be of real benefit. In a crowd of a thousand people, less than a hundred will show by their faces and their energy that they have an ideal, an ambition, and are pursuing it. In other words, nine-tenths of our poor, fallen race lack the very mainspring of life.
This lack of proper ambition not only makes life a drudgery instead of a pleasure but it is a menace to our social fabric. According to the Bible, it is this nine-tenths of the human family, without lawful ambitions, that will be anarchists, striving to pull down the structure of civilization in a kind of blind fury—the awakening of an ambition which, knowing not how to vent itself, will bring trouble upon all.
Worldly Ambitions Profitable
It is the ambitious tenth of humanity that cause the wheels of progress to turn. Their ambitions are keeping their own minds actively occupied and are giving employment to the remainder of men. The ambitious mechanic hopes to become an inventor and to rise in the social scale. The ambitious clerk strives for success, hoping to become a successful merchant. The successful merchants, princes and captains of industry take pride in building up vast enterprises, in the erection of monumental edifices, in the construction of great bridges, tunnels, etc. Others have ambitions along professional lines.
There is a general tendency among the ambitionless to view these successful people harshly, to think of their ambitions as purely selfish, giving no credit to the pleasure of an exercise of ambition which the majority cannot appreciate because they have none themselves.
Contrary Thoughts Should Prevail
Men with ambition leading on to genius should be admired, appreciated; and it should be remembered that they have helped mankind in general to larger conceptions of life and to wider possibilities. We grant, indeed, the necessity for legislation in restraining the rich, and especially trusts and combinations of brain and money which might endanger the liberties and prosperity of the masses. But let us never forget how much we owe to the ambitious men whom we
OV310 seek to restrain from power to crush those of less ambition and less capacity, who are more or less dependent upon them.
As proving that some of our successful men were moved by ambition rather than love of money, we note the fact that, having accumulated vast fortunes some are directing their energies in expending their money in the endowment of colleges, the building of libraries, the financing of political and medical investigations for public weal. Whether their judgment and ours agree, as respects the wisdom of their benefactions, is another matter. They have a right to exercise their own judgments in the use of money which came to them through the exercise of their own brains and ambitions.
We can surely agree that a beautiful library building becomes an incentive for the erection of other beautiful buildings, even though comparatively few of the public make use of the books therein, and prefer the trashy kind. Perhaps some good may also result from the endowment of great colleges, even though they are doing more than anything else to undermine faith in the personal God of the Bible, and thus hastening the great day when anarchy by destroying faith and hope in Messiah’s promised Kingdom, which are an offset to the trials and difficulties of the present life.
And if to you or me should come the thought of how much more wisely we could use the money, let us check the thought, remembering that God has not entrusted it to us, and that all our time and thought may be more wisely used in connection with our own stewardship of what talent, influence and money we do possess.
I DO not ask, dear Lord, that life may be A pleasant road; I do not ask that Thou wouldst take from me Aught of its load; I do not ask that flowers should always spring Beneath my feet; I know too well the poison and the sting Of things too sweet.
For one thing only, Lord, dear Lord, I plead: Lead me aright, Tho’ strength should falter, and tho’ heart should bleed, Through peace to light.
I do not ask, dear Lord, that Thou shouldst shed Full radiance here; Give but a ray of peace, that I may tread Without a fear; I do not ask my cross to understand, My way to see; Better, in darkness, just to feel Thy hand, And follow Thee.
Joy is like restless day, but peace Divine Like quiet night; Lead me, O Lord, till perfect day shall shine, Through peace to light.