Studies in the Scriptures
Zion's Watch Tower
HEAD MUST RULE MEMBERS OF BODY
"See that ye refuse not Him that speaketh! for if they
escaped not who refused Him that spake on earth, much
more shall not we escape if we turn away from Him that
speaketh from Heaven."
These words are not addressed to the world, but to the members of the Body of Christ, those who have left the world and entered into covenant relationship with God.
The Apostle has just been describing the scenes enacted at Mount Sinai, when God by His angel spoke to His typical people Israel. He then declares that if sore punishment came to all in Israel who disobeyed the voice which then gave them commandments, much sorer shall be the punishment of those Spiritual Israelites of the Gospel Age, who, after having come into vital relationship with the Son of God as members of His mystical Body, shall then refuse to hear and obey.
In order to have harmony in the human body each member must respond promptly to the dictates of the head. Suppose that my hand were afflicted with St. Vitus Dance, so that when my brain instructed the hand to lift a glass of water that I might drink, the hand would twitch, tremble, suddenly throw the glass over my shoulder and spill the contents. What would be the trouble with my hand? It was a sick member; the connection between it and my head was interrupted; and thus the hand refused to obey the mandates of the head. Or suppose that my limb were paralyzed; and that when my head directed it to move, it would remain motionless and refuse to carry my body. The connection between this member and the brain had become interrupted, and the message from the head was not received. What confusion and trouble would thus be caused in my body!
Thus it is with the Body of Christ. If any member of that Body become spiritually sick, if the perfect harmony between the Head, Christ Jesus, and any member be interrupted, there will be trouble and distress throughout the entire Body. If the connection become altogether destroyed, the member is thenceforth useless, and is cut off from the Body. Our Lord pictures this matter when He called Himself the Vine and the members of His mystical Body the branches, and declared that every branch in Him that failed to bear fruit would be cut off.
THE HEAD THE MOST IMPORTANT MEMBER
What carefulness this thought should inspire in each member of Christ! We should realize that of ourselves we are nothing. We are only the humble instruments that God is using in the outworking of His wonderful Plan.
Not one of us is at all necessary to His purposes. It is a very great favor that the Father permits us to co-operate in His great work under the Headship of His Son Jesus Christ. God formed the Plan, and is carrying it out according to His own purposes. Our Lord Jesus is the important factor in the accomplishment of God’s designs.
We are invited in, not to be rulers, but to follow instructions, to be obedient. The greatest blessing which we can have is to be permitted to co-operate with our great Head, who under Jehovah, the great Head over all, is guiding the work.
Through experience and observation the thought has impressed itself that there may be a considerable number cut off from membership in the Body of Christ, and not only so, but cut off from all hope of future life. There can be no place, now or ever, in God’s family for one who is wilful and refractory, one who will not be guided by the Lord, one who wants his own way and who thus refuses Him that speaks from Heaven.
the Apostle declares that those who disobeyed Moses "died without mercy." Then he speaks of those who will receive a much "sorer punishment."
Israel being a typical people, the death penalty visited upon them for certain offenses was only a type of the death penalty to be visited upon those of Spiritual Israel who wilfully disobey the voice of God speaking to us through His Son. The penalty suffered by refractory members of Natural Israel was but a temporary one; for during the Millennial Age they will be awakened and have the opportunity, with all the remainder of the world, of accepting Christ and coming under the terms of the New Covenant, then operative. But those who during the present Age have been enlightened and begotten of God’s Holy Spirit, shall, if they fall away—renounce allegiance to Christ—come under the penalty of the Second Death—total annihilation.
This, then, is the "sorer punishment" to which the Apostle refers. This penalty of death without any hope of a recovery will be inflicted also upon those of the world at large who, during their time of trial in the next Age, shall wilfully disobey the voice of God speaking through the great Mediator of the New Covenant—The Christ, Head and Body—Jesus and His Church.
EVIL EFFECT OF REJECTING LIGHT
The Apostle’s argument is, Look back, brethren, to the history of Israel in the past. See how from time to time they were negligent of the messages which God sent to them at the mouth of angels and of Moses, the servant of God; and how disasters often came upon them for their disobedience and neglect, many of them even suffering the death penalty. If the penalty was so severe for negligence under the Law given through Moses, what would be the result of neglecting and of doing despite to the words of Him who now speaks from Heaven, of counting the blood of the Covenant by which we have been sanctified an unholy thing, a common thing, and of doing despite to the Spirit of grace—despising God by ignoring His only arrangement for atonement!—
#Heb 6:4-8; 10:26-31
There are some who have never made a full consecration of themselves, who have never enlisted upon the Lord’s side, and yet have had considerable knowledge of the Truth. They have heard the true Gospel Message; they have felt its power, its reasonableness; they have realized in their hearts that it was God’s Message. They have felt a certain measure of drawing toward it. Yet for some reason these have turned away from the Heavenly Voice. These are not the class addressed by the Apostle in our text, however; for like all of the Apostolic Epistles, that to the Hebrews is addressed to the "holy brethren" (Chapter 3:1), "the saints."
But all who have heard the Gospel Message with a measure of understanding and appreciation have thereby some responsibility concerning it. To turn away from any degree of light brings a hardening of the heart. It would seem that whoever has rejected the Message after a measure of understanding of its import would never again be drawn to it in the same degree as before. The Message would not seem so wonderful as at first. Whoever gets a glimpse beyond into the future, whoever hears now of the goodness of God and is not melted by the thought of his own imperfection and his need of a Savior, may never accept God’s favor, even during the next Age, when the opportunity for Restitution is opened to all mankind. This is a thought which all who hear will do well to consider.—
No one becomes fully responsible, however, until he has entered into the spirit-begotten condition; for no one can be tried for eternal life until first he has gotten free from the Adamic death sentence. The first death sentence must be removed before anybody can be put on trial for life or death again. Thus we see the wonderful mercy of God in providing that those who would come now into Christ are not put on trial at the moment when they hear about Christ, when they learn that there is a door of return to God open to all who comply with conditions.
CHRIST SUFFERING IN THE FLESH
Whoever endeavors to draw near to God will find that every step nearer will bring him a blessing; for he is going in the right way—toward justification by faith.
But he has not yet come into full trial, full testing. As he continues to draw nearer, learning more and more about God, cleansing himself more and more from the natural filthiness of the flesh resulting from the Adamic fall, he finally comes to the parting of the ways. He finds that he cannot go forward unless he make a full consecration of himself to God. He learns that he can have no standing with God unless our Redeemer Himself accept him and present him to God; and that our Lord Jesus will not accept any one who does not give himself fully and unreservedly to the Father through the Son.
So he has reached the point of decision. Whoever reaches this place and then gives himself unreservedly is accepted of the Lord Jesus, in harmony with the Father’s Plan. Immediately after He has accepted the one presenting himself in consecration, He imputes of the merit of His sacrificial death to the one offering himself and counts that one as His flesh. Then the Father also accepts that flesh, and begets the person to a new, spiritual nature. Thus the flesh of Christ has been in process of being offered in sacrifice throughout this Gospel Age.
First, our Lord Jesus offered His own flesh. Then, when He had finished that work, He appeared in the presence of God and made satisfaction for the sins of all who would follow in His steps—the Church.—
As soon as our Lord had made satisfaction for His followers, the Father immediately accepted their sacrifices, as was indicated by His giving them the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. So all other believers throughout this Age have received the begetting of the Holy Spirit as soon as the Father had accepted them through the great Advocate of the Church. The flesh of these consecrated ones having been counted as the flesh of Jesus (
Christ has been suffering in the flesh all down the Age.
Thus we perceive the fulfilment of the Scripture which declares that we are filling up "that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ."—
Various Scriptures tell us that now is the time for suffering with Christ, and that afterward will come the time for sharing His glory. St. Peter says that the Prophets of old spoke of the sufferings of Christ—Jesus the Head, and all the members of the Body—and of the glory to follow. That glory will follow promptly just as soon as the sufferings are accomplished. Whoever shares in the sufferings now will also share in the coming blessings of glory, honor and immortality—the Divine nature.—
PHASES OF THE BODY OF CHRIST
The Lord Jesus counts the flesh of His Body members as His flesh. So we now have before our minds the thought that the human bodies of the Church constitute a part of our Lord’s flesh, in the larger sense.
Then there is the present spiritual Body of Christ, composed of the spirit-begotten new nature of the New Creatures in the Christ Company dwelling in these earthly tabernacles and seeking to bring them to the sacrificial point in every respect day by day. Then there is also the thought of the glorified Body of Christ, to be composed of the "more than conquerors" only, after the two companies shall have been eliminated who have failed to make their calling and election sure.
The Scriptures inform us that those who compose the Body of Christ in the flesh will finally be divided into three classes, after the testings and provings have been applied by our Lord. The first class will constitute the Body of Christ in glory, the "more than conquerors" mentioned by St. Paul in
. The second class will be composed of those who have not been wholly faithful to the Covenant of Sacrifice which they made with the
Lord, and who must consequently lose their places in the Body. Later, these will come up out of the great tribulation with which this Age will close, and will make their robes white in the blood of the Lamb. Then they will stand before the Throne, with palm branches in their hands, instead of sitting in the Throne, wearing crowns. (
#Re 7:9-17; 3:21; 20:4,6; 2:10
.) The third class will be composed of those who repudiate their covenant with God, and who therefore will suffer the penalty of the Second Death.
During the Gospel Age God deals only with those who constitute these classes. He does not receive any one who has not come to the point of full consecration; for it is the New Creature, not the flesh, that is on trial for life or death. Whoever becomes a New Creature hears the voice of God in a special sense; for the spirit-begotten class receive, as it were, a new hearing and a new sight, so that as New Creatures they can understand spiritual things, can hear and see as never before.
SANCTIFIED THROUGH THE TRUTH
It is very important that all of the spirit-begotten keep their hearts so loyal, and their walk in life so consistent, that they shall be of the Body of Christ in glory. To this class our Lord still speaks; and it is for each of them to see that he refuse not anything that the Head says to His Church. The will of the Head is to be done in the Body.
In His last prayer with His disciples our Lord prayed for them, "Sanctify them through Thy Truth; Thy Word is Truth." (
.) We cannot be sanctified without the Word of God. Nothing else can take it place. Let us listen to His Voice speaking to us there. He tells us that we are in the School of Christ, who has become our Teacher. Through His teachings, through the prophecies and through the various experiences of life He is teaching His disciples meekness, gentleness, patience, long-suffering, brotherly kindness, love.
Whoever has not learned meekness has not learned
even the primary lesson in the School of Christ. Meekness is the foundation for love. Gentleness is very important.
The person who is rude and boisterous is not in proper condition to be used of the Lord. He must become gentle in order that he may not offend or stumble the brethren. He must learn brotherly kindness in order to love them, to be helpful to them. This is the Lord’s Spirit.
We must become so meek, so humble, so teachable, that in whatever way God may send us instruction—whether through trials, difficulties, sickness, or through books, pamphlets or hymnals—we shall be ready to learn.
Whatever scatters our darkness, our ignorance, our superstition, whatever brings us out of darkness into the marvelous light of God, is surely of Him; for we cannot do this of ourselves.
THE VOICE THAT SPEAKS FROM HEAVEN
God’s Voice is sounding throughout the earth today, speaking louder than ever before, telling us that the world is on the eve of a great change of dispensation—that the Redeemer is about to take His great power and reign.
Let those who hear see that they do not refuse the Message of the hour. If they refuse Him who speaks from Heaven—as most of them are doing—all the more severe will be the tribulation which will come upon them—"a Time of Trouble such as never was since there was a nation, no, nor ever shall be" the like hereafter.
Centuries ago, when the Law Covenant of which Moses was the mediator was made at Mount Sinai, the Voice of God then shook the earth. St. Paul, standing prophetically down here in our day and pointing back to that time, says that once more will God’s Voice shake not only the earth—society—but the heavens also—the ecclesiastical powers. (
.) Let us heed this Voice. Let us humble ourselves and cultivate the qualities of character which will prepare us to be used of the Master to speak of the New Dispensation and the blessings coming to all mankind through Messiah’s Kingdom.