Studies in the Scriptures
Zion's Watch Tower
NEED OF GREAT CONFIDENCE IN GOD’S WORD
"Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath
great recompense of reward."
There is a practical side to the Gospel. Everything enjoined upon the followers of Christ and all their trying experiences in life are wisely designed to work out for them character-development of good, firm, fine texture.
It is a mistake to think, as some have thought in the past, that it is the will of God that we should merely hear of Christ and give a nominal assent to the message of His death as our Redeemer and turn from outward forms of sin—and then, contented with our progress, help others to the same low standards.
THE FATHER DOES THE DRAWING
Quite to the contrary, the teachings of Jesus and His Apostles ignore the world as a whole and merely seek for a special class with hearing ears and appreciative hearts. The Gospel Message set forth in the Bible knows nothing of the ordinary mission work of rescuing drunkards, harlots and the profane. While not refusing publicans and harlots it did not go about seeking them. It waited for them to seek for righteousness; and, as the Master said, "No man can come unto Me except the Father which sent Me draw him"; and "whosoever cometh unto Me I will in no wise cast out." (
.) As a matter of fact, those who came to the Master and those who have been interested in His Message ever since, have not, in any large proportion, been the rich, the great, the learned, the noble, according to the course of this world, but chiefly the poor, rich in faith toward our God.—
; Jas. 2:5.
Take as an illustration St. Paul’s course when he went to Athens. We do not find that he started a mission
Sunday School and offered the children the prospects of a picnic or a Sunday School treat, in order to gather them for a half hour’s talk about nothing, "to keep them off the street." Neither did he seek out the drunkards in the slums and establish a slum mission. On the contrary He sought the ear of the intelligent classes, the thinking classes, irrespective of their wealth or station; for He had a Message—a Message which children could not understand, a Message which drunkards were incapacitated from understanding, a Message which should appeal to the best people of Athens, whether rich or poor.
Have we not had to a considerable extent the wrong idea? Are we wiser than the Lord and the Apostles, and able to give them pointers as to methods instead of following their example, as we were instructed to do? They proclaimed the Second Coming of Messiah and the establishment of His Kingdom. They preached that the very object of His Reign of Righteousness for a thousand years will be the putting down of sin in its every form and the lifting up of poor, fallen humanity. They taught that there was danger of attempting to make a proselyte and really doing more harm than good thereby. They taught that the special work to which God’s people are now commissioned as ministers or servants of Christ is the proclaiming of the Gospel—"the Good Tidings of the Kingdom"—not the proclaiming of eternal torment nor the attempt to drive the world of mankind from sin through fear. They taught that the work of this present Age is the selection from amongst mankind of the Bride class, to be Messiah’s associates in His Kingdom, for the blessing of all the world. It is this Message of the goodness of God that our text declares should be proclaimed with courage, with boldness, with outspokenness.
St. Paul is criticizing some who had for quite a time been Christians and who had been granted large opportunities for growth in grace and knowledge. He says to these, "For the time ye ought to be teachers, but ye need
that one teach you again which be the first principles of the doctrine of Christ." They had lost the first principles.
They had gotten entangled with vain philosophies, and their spirituality was at a low ebb. Conditions are very similar today. After eighteen centuries of Divine instruction, and with the wonderful Bibles now at our command and with helps for Bible study, what manner of Christians ought we to be—in faith, in love, in obedience, in courage!—
#Heb 5:12-14; 6:1-3
A MOST SOLEMN THOUGHT
St. Paul points out the necessity for the Lord’s people to assemble themselves together for fellowship and for the study of His Word and to provoke one another to love and good works. The necessity for this, he suggests, is that sin on the part of those who have received a knowledge of the Truth and been made partakers of the Holy Spirit is a much more serious matter than the same conduct would have been before they came into the precious relationship of spirit-begotten children of God.
He says, "For if we sin after that we have received a knowledge of the Truth, there remaineth no more a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of condemnation and fiery indignation which shall devour us as God’s adversaries."—
Have we grasped the import of the thought? It signifies that those of us who have accepted the Divine terms and entered the family of God will have no future opportunity in another life. We must either make our "calling and election sure" under the terms of the call, as accepted, or be rejected as unworthy of life everlasting—as fit for the Second Death—annihilation. He who despised Moses’ Law died without mercy. But he who, having come to a clear knowledge of the Truth, shall be found a willing sinner, will not only be cut off from a further opportunity in the present Age, but be everlastingly cut off from life, destroyed. "God is able to
destroy both soul and body"—the present life and our future hope. These thoughts should make very earnest, very diligent, all who have accepted Christ and been accepted by Him.—
NEVERTHELESS BE NOT DISCOURAGED
These things were written, not only for the Hebrew Christians of St. Paul’s day, but designed by the Holy Spirit for all the Household of Faith. We should not rock ourselves to sleep, nor give to each other opiates.
is not yet on trial for eternal life, the
is now being tested—for life or death eternal.
The thought should sober us. As the Apostle suggests, "Be diligent, be sober," be faithful, following in the footsteps of Jesus.
But St. Paul or, rather, the Holy Spirit through him, took cognizance of the fact that the Lord’s people are in a world that is "no friend to grace to help them on to God." The Apostle recognized that we might become discouraged with our own faults and weaknesses. Hence, after earnestly exhorting to faithfulness and energy, and after pointing out the dangers of slothfulness and of being over-charged with the cares of this life and the deceitfulness of riches and thus losing the spirit of Christ, he turns from this threatening attitude and uses encouraging words.
He says, "Call to mind the former days in which, following your illumination of the Holy Spirit, you endured a great fight of afflictions." St. Paul’s intimation is that at that time, while suffering persecutions, the brethren were really in a better, more alive, spiritual condition than later. The prosperity, privileges, freedom from persecution enjoyed, had made them slothful and less courageous. He would have them and us call to mind the victories won in the past, that we might have courage for the present and the future. How gracious, how helpful, are all the provisions of our God for those
who now hear His call and seek to walk in Jesus’ steps!
To these He guarantees that every experience of life which His providence shall permit shall work for good, for blessing, for valuable experience and education along lines of righteousness and character development.
TWO CLASSES OF THE FAITHFUL
In time of war not all can go forth as soldiers. Some unfit for such service may perform a useful part at home supporting, encouraging, sending supplies to those at the front, etc. And so it is in the army of the Lord; Jesus is the Captain of all those who voluntarily enlist as soldiers of the Cross to battle against sin, especially in themselves—fighting a "good fight of faith" and overcoming the spirit of the world, which surges all about them, threatening to overwhelm them as New Creatures in Christ.—
St. Paul intimates a strong persecution, openly manifested by the worldly-spirited, Satan-deceived people of God. He says, "Ye endured a great fight of afflictions, partly whilst ye were made a gazing stock both by reproaches and afflictions and partly whilst ye became companions of them that were so used. For ye had compassion of me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods."—
St. Paul and others prominent amongst the Lord’s followers naturally would receive the brunt of Satan’s attacks. It is presumed that the Epistle of which our text is a part was written while St. Paul was a prisoner at Rome. Fellow Jews, so far from being sympathetic for a countryman, reproached him as a traitor, unorthodox, seeking to tear down the work of God and to ignore the Divine promises belonging to Israel and their sacred traditions. By the Romans, too, be was regarded with suspicion, as one giving allegiance to another King, Jesus, and not therefore disposed to use his Roman citizenship especially for the pride and glory of
the Empire. St. Paul declares that thus himself and those who espouse the cause of the Lord are despised and rejected by all. He says that we are counted as the filth and offscouring of the earth—that which nobody cares for or values, but which all would like to get rid of; for the darkness always hates the light and seeks to quench it and reigns completely only when all lights are extinguished. Christians, far and near, either by expressing sympathy for the Apostle or fellowshipping with him, or by defending him from the unjust and malicious slanders circulated against him, thereby exposed themselves to similar reproaches and their disesteem, opposition from their neighbors, etc.
History tells us of various terrible persecutions of the Christians by the Roman Emperors. It declares, for instance, that to gratify his depraved mind, Nero, the Emperor, caused a certain portion of Rome to be burned by incendiaries, and that when he found how angry the people were he blamed the entire matter upon the inoffensive Christians—partly, no doubt, because these had no friends, either at court or amongst the people. They could be blamed with impunity and the Emperor’s own vicious criminality would thus be hidden. On this account many Christians were publicly and brutally put to death.
"GREAT RECOMPENSE OF REWARD"
Poor human nature finds it difficult to stand alone with God and with the few who are on his side—the side of righteousness and truth. When, additionally, there comes persecution it tries their hearts, proves their loyalty. This is exactly what the Lord designs. He is now seeking a special class of overcomers to be joint-heirs with His Son on the spirit plane as the Bride of Messiah. Through these He designs shortly to grant to Israel and, through Israel, to all mankind glorious blessings of instruction and restitution. To be qualified to thus serve in the instruction and uplifting of humanity
it is necessary that these called ones should be of strong character—copies of their Master, in the spirit of their minds. To these he says, "To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with Me in My Throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with My Father in His Throne."—
; Rom. 8:l6,17.
We can readily see how some of the more prominent followers of the Lord who suffered martyrdom because of their loyalty to the principles of righteousness and to the name of Jesus would be accounted overcomers and members of the Kingdom class. But sometimes it is difficult for us to discern clearly how the less prominent, less persecuted ones stand with God. St. Paul’s argument proves that they stand
—that God counts them in as martyrs, as faithful unto death, if they have the martyr spirit, if they are loyal, courageous for the Truth, even though they never seal their testimony at the stake, even though they never are counted worthy of open or public opposition or persecution. Here is an encouragement for all; and this is exactly what St. Paul would stimulate us to in the words of our text.
WE MUST LET THE LIGHT SHINE
He says, "Cast not away, therefore, your outspokenness, which hath great recompense of reward." The Lord has not promised a great reward to us for merely believing, merely trusting, and in a cowardly manner keeping our light hidden, lest its exposure should bring to us persecution or reproach. He seeketh not such.
They will not be counted worthy of a place in the Kingdom which is to bless the world.
St. Paul elsewhere declares, "If we deny Him, He will also deny us" (
). If we have accepted the Lord as our Counsellor, Guide, Captain, Teacher, Exemplar, Bridegroom, He expects of us courage to confess Him as such and on all suitable and proper occasions to "let our light so shine before men that they may see our good works and glorify our Father which is
in Heaven." (
.) Our good works are to so accord with the Master’s teachings that, however we may be represented by others, all who know us intimately will take knowledge of us that we have been with Jesus and have learned of Him. They should also see that our courage, our boldness, our outspokenness, is not a desire to preach ourselves, not vainglory in ourselves, but that, on the contrary, we preach Christ and the glorious Message of His Word, which always has brought opposition and persecution from the Adversary and from all who are under his blinding influence.—
Every faithful follower of Jesus must be a confessor—must show his colors. We do not mean by this that he must be belligerent and fight a carnal warfare, either with swords or spears or hands or tongue. On the contrary, like his Master, he must ever be alert to do good.
His orders from the Captain are, "Speak evil of no man."
What he must speak forth and show forth by his life is the doctrine of Christ—the Truth, the Light, in contrast with the prevailing Error and Darkness.
The reward which the Scriptures hold before our eyes of faith is so great that, to the worldly, it seems foolish to believe in it. It is to consist of a share with our Lord in His glory, honor and immortality, in His Mediatorial Kingdom soon to be established, in His great work as the Mediator of the New Covenant in granting Divine blessings, through the merit of the better sacrifices, to the people of Israel and eventually through them to all mankind.
Not all have a knowledge of this great reward.
Not all, therefore, have the encouragement to faithfulness which this knowledge inspires. Not all even have the ears to hear. It is written, "The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him, and He will show them His Covenant."—
Equip me for the war, And teach me how to fight: My mind and heart, O Lord, prepare, And guide my words aright.