Studies in the Scriptures
Zion's Watch Tower
GOD’S STANDARD IS PERFECTION
"As He which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation."
The Scriptures explicitly declare that our great Creator made man in His own image and likeness, and pronounced His creature very good. But when sin entered the world, through the disobedience of Father Adam, he was cut off from fellowship with his Creator—as a part of the penalty of sin. This alienation from God must have been one of man’s most grievous trials. He must have hungered and thirsted to draw near to God once more, to have the Divine protection, the Divine love; otherwise he could not have been created in the perfect image of God.
But as centuries rolled on, Adam’s posterity became more and more depraved and demoralized; the original character-likeness to God became blurred, faint, indistinct.
So while the desire for God still remains, in some it is more pronounced than in others. In some it is so feeble that they care little for their Creator and are easily satisfied by the pleasures of the world.
Many are separated from God through ignorance, superstition and the doctrines of demons, as the Bible declares. Misunderstanding our gracious Creator, they are thus driven away from Him. Whatever of natural inclination they have had the Adversary seeks to thwart.
As St. Paul declares, "The god of this world hath blinded the minds of them that believe not, lest the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them" (
), should scatter the darkness and make known to them the true character of God; and thus they should be drawn to Him.
But with some of the race desire for God and righteousness
has prevailed above the stupefying influence of the world, the flesh and the Devil. This class are drawn by the natural inclination of their minds Godward—desiring to be in harmony with their Creator. While those who were not born of religious parents have had a large experience with sin and alienation from God, others, born in a measure of justification, have had a measure of fellowship with God always, as children of believers. This class are in a favorable condition to be drawn of God, and to hear His voice speaking peace to them and pointing them to Jesus Christ as the Way, the Truth, the Life.—
#Joh 6:44; 14:6
"LORD, SHOW US THE FATHER!"
As these come to appreciate our Lord’s beautiful character and His loyalty to the Father, and to understand that He came into the world to die for Adam’s sin, their hearts respond with increasing gratitude to the Redeemer and to the Heavenly Father, whose Plan our Lord was carrying out. More and more do they long to draw closer to God, and to be recognized of Him as members of His family. Through the Word the Master instructs them that whoever will walk in His steps shall eventually see God in the fulness of Heavenly glory.
Still further study of the Scriptures informs this class that the first step to be taken is one of faith. "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved."
Those who take this step must recognize that they are sinners, under the Adamic sentence, from which no one can be freed except in God’s appointed way—Jesus.
Then by faith they must accept Jesus as the Redeemer of Adam and his posterity. They must perceive that His death on Calvary was a sacrificial one; and that the grand outcome of this Ransom sacrifice will be that the Kingdom of God will be established in the earth for the purpose of uplifting mankind out of sin and death conditions—back to the full image of God in the flesh.—
THE CALL OF THE GOSPEL AGE
Those who take this first step may know what is the second step; and if they have sufficient faith to take this step, their sins will be forgiven and they will be granted a new nature. This second step is to accept God’s invitation to "present their bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, their reasonable service." Those who accept this invitation are thus privileged to sacrifice their all of earthly time, talent, wealth, etc. When they have so done, our Lord imputes to them individually His merit, and thus makes them holy and acceptable unto God, who immediately begets them of His Holy Spirit.
Thenceforth they are New Creatures—"old things have passed away and all things become new." They are now counted as members of His glorious Church. Their sins that are past are all cleansed; and the New Creature has no defilement of itself. But attaching to the flesh are certain imperfections, which from time to time crop out.
The New Creature is to be prompt to notice these; for the New Creature is the new will, which henceforth regulates the mortal body.—
Apparently some of God’s dear people have not realized what a contract they have on hand. Some are inclined to be careless about watching the very things which they have been told to watch. It is for all the consecrated to remember that their first obligation is in respect to their own flesh, not that of others. We may give each other valuable suggestions, but the responsibility for the body rests with each as a New Creature.
And here we have the task of our lives; for in our flesh, as the Apostle says, dwells no perfection. Some have one degree of imperfection and some another; some are more imperfect and blemished in one way and others in another.
But as the Scriptures continually assure us, there is none righteous, none perfect, no, not one. We all come short and need to recognize our shortcomings; and we are to fight the good fight against them.
THE NEW CREATURE IN SCHOOL
Whoever would be of the class to which God has called us must of necessity be developed; therefore whoever God has called, accepted and begotten of the Holy Spirit are in the School of Christ. Then begin the lessons which they must learn—they must grow in grace, in knowledge and in love. As the Apostle explains, they must be transformed—be formed over. If they are not thus transformed, they will not be ready for the Kingdom to which they are called. This transforming is not a work in the flesh, although it will affect the flesh to some extent. It is the renewing of the mind—their minds must become new. Thereafter matters are to be decided, not according to their preferences, but according to certain principles—justice and love. The New Creatures in Christ have a set of new rules, altogether different from what they had before they become New Creatures.
The world has no such rules and regulations as those which are applicable to the New Creatures in Christ.
Everything done by those who are in the School of Christ must be squared by the Rule of Justice. They dare not do anything that would be unjust to a neighbor, to a brother or to anybody. To the full extent of their ability the New Creatures must render justice. Many of the Lord’s people apparently have not fully realized this fact—that obedience to the rules governing the new nature means absolutely the Golden Rule on their part toward all others.
They must not do to others what they would not have others do to them.—
Because of failure on the part of some to recognize this principle, the way of the Lord is spoken evil of sometimes.
If a Christian fails to pay his debts, or if he is careless as to how he involves himself in debt, it is because this principle of justice does not stand out prominently enough before his mind. As an old creature he has perhaps been in the habit of ignoring the lines of justice and of sliding along as he may be able and of leaving others in
the lurch. This will not do for the New Creature; for he has come under a set of new rules, and no matter how much the old creature may seek to shirk, the New Creature’s duty is to bring the body into subjection and to see that justice rules in every act and word, and so far as possible in every thought.
"THEY SHALL ALL BE TAUGHT OF GOD"
To whatever extent the principles of justice control our minds, to that extent we have character-likeness to God. The cultivation of these principles in all our actions and dealings, in all our words and thoughts, must be our daily concern. It may be comparatively easy to be just so far as money is concerned, to say, I would pay to the very last penny, and would live on the plainest of food rather than be in debt; but it is not so easy to be thoroughly just in our words and thoughts. The New Creature is to sit in judgment on every word which his mouth may utter. It is no wonder that St. James says that if any man sin not with his tongue the same is a perfect man. The New Creature is to be on guard that he may be developed along this line, and must thoroughly show the Lord that he has no sympathy with injustice.
One must be just in his thoughts before he can be properly just in his dealings. The man who thinks unjustly will act unjustly, in spite of himself; therefore the New Creature must be disciplined even to the control of his thoughts. He must never think of any one except with an unprejudiced mind, a calm judgment, seeking to give others the benefit of the doubt, if there is any doubt whatever. Additionally, he must heed the Lord’s counsel that we should exercise great mercy, and that He would rather have us err in the sense of being too lenient than have us be merely just.—
But beyond justice comes love, the very highest of God’s attributes. God is just; but He is Love, also, which is higher, in the sense that it implies something more than mere justice. Not only will God do full justice to everybody,
but He will do a little more—He will do something of love. This He shows us in His dealings with mankind.
God was only just when He condemned the race of Adam as unfit for everlasting life; and He would still have been just if He had never provided redemption or any other opportunity for the world whatever.
God is more than just, however, and so in due time He provided the Redeemer. This was Grace, this was Mercy, this was Love. And Love has been working all through His great Plan of the Ages, providing first the Savior, then making provision for the Church, that through His mercy we might come from the ranks of sinners up to the ranks of glory. To accomplish this, He has forgiven the sins of the Church, has encouraged them by assurances of His love and has overruled all things for good.
"BE YE PERFECT"
This, then, is the Love of God; and the New Creatures in Christ must have this character-likeness to God. We must have love, sympathy, and not merely justice. There is nothing of grace in the giving of justice; anything less than justice is wrong. But the Lord’s people must be more than just; they are to be kindly affectioned one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven them. Our Heavenly Father wishes His children to see that quality in His character and to copy it. This is what Jesus meant when He said, "Be ye perfect, even as your Father in Heaven is perfect."
We cannot bring our mortal body to that degree of perfection where every act would be perfect, every word perfect; but the mind must be in full sympathy and accord with God and His arrangements, and each must strive to the best of his ability to bring the body into harmony with God.—
As the Bible teaches, the Church class are in the School of Christ, being taught of God—His workmanship. By His providence and His Word He has been working in us, by our experiences, which He has shaped for us, and by
the opportunities which He gives us. All these things are designed by the Lord to bless us and to develop us in His own character-likeness, so that, as Jesus said, we may be like unto our Father in Heaven, so that we may be holy, even as He is holy—that our intentions, aims, desires, may be of exactly the same kind as His own.
If, therefore, any one who professes to be a New Creature in Christ has in his heart a feeling of bitterness, envy or strife, let him beware! Such a condition of heart is dangerous; it is not of the Holy Spirit at all. Those who have such elements of character are not holy as the Heavenly Father is holy. On the contrary, as the Apostle explains, these qualities of character are works of the flesh and of the Devil; and to whatever extent one possesses these, they are the result of the spirit of the flesh and of the Devil at work in the heart.
THE GRAND CLIMAX OF CHARACTER
Of our Lord Jesus it was written: "Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest iniquity; therefore God, Thy God, hath anointed Thee with the oil of joy above Thy fellows" (
)—above the angels, above the Church, making Him to be Head over all things to the Church and decreeing that all the angels shall worship Him. (
.) In order to copy Him we must see to what extent He loved righteousness and hated iniquity.
This, then, is the great test of character going on with the Lord’s people, and according to these lines God is dealing with them. It is not merely that they are fighting the good fight and trying to accomplish something in their flesh; for the New Creature will never succeed in getting as good control of the flesh as he could wish. But what God wishes to see in His people is that their whole hearts are set for righteousness, that they love the right and hate the wrong, and that they are striving to the best of their ability to put down the wrong and to uphold the right, especially in themselves—in their own characters and in their own acts, words and thoughts.