Fourth Foursome to the Mystery
God's purpose and the way of salvation are not set out in a systematic way in God's Word. We do have indications everywhere, but in order to have an overview of them, one has to collect and organize these scattered tasks. This is what we will call a « sketch » here. That sketch then shows the broad lines and the unity of Scripture and can be useful in many ways, if one only thinks that it never faithfully reflects the truth. It must always be tested against Scripture and then be corrected and supplemented.
In the beginning one can content themselves with the head traits, if these only show the general character. If one wants to check things in particular, the sketch must also be completed further. One can approach the truth, but never fully achieve it. So it is with the best artists. Whether they make a rough sketch or a more finished image, one can always prove that perfection has not been achieved. Their work can, however, be very useful if the drawing has not completely distorted things.
That's how it is with the Scriptures. Our general overview, our « sketch » must be based on correct data and can be more or less finished. During finishing, people often notice the defects and then one has to revisit some things.
In practice, however, this is not happening. Someone has made a sketch. What is being done now? One begins to view this representation as the pure truth and thus creates a doctrine. In name one still has Scripture, but in fact everything is tested against the doctrine, which can take or have the form of a confession. It was perhaps not intended by the designer of the sketch to see them as final, but others have done so. That sketch was perhaps the best that one could expect in the given circumstances and one can honor and praise those whom put them together. But that is no reason not to revise the sketch if new research has made this possible. That review does not detract from the qualities of the former designers.
Although many now stick to an earlier sketch, it is usually not difficult for some spiritual and inquiring believers to see some flaws in the sketch. It then happens that he makes a new sketch, which others accept as the full truth, thus forming a new « Church » or sect. The whole « history of the church » shows how one always made new sketches and how they almost all remained.
In science one has something similar, but there one usually lets go of the old defective ideas in order to replace the newer ones, who approach the truth more. The former scholars are still considered very high, but it goes without saying that they can not stay with their thoughts when, due to diligent research, new light falls on a matter.
In the religious world, however, it is completely different. Why? One of the reasons is to be sought in Satan's work. He is the god of this aion and wants to scatter everything and blind and darken the people. He works mainly on religious grounds and pretends to be an angel of light. He especially wants to keep people away from the Word, the written and the living. One of his methods is to take a sketch to the center instead of the Scripture. The poorer the sketch is, the better. Others will see, however, that there is something wrong with that sketch and since this is presented as « the » truth, then there is a good chance that they reject everything, including the Scriptures. Thus Satan achieves a dual goal: to distract the believers from Christ and to promote disbelief, apostasy and criticism.
He then makes people believe that they have very good reasons to stick to one or other sketch, so that they do not even think about revisiting them or refusing to do so if this is presented to them. We just want to investigate one of those reasons. Many want to stay with what they have learned from their parents or for which the « fathers » have left their lives. What will we answer to that? Is not it indeed probable that the representation of the first Christians was the most correct? They were in contact with the Apostles anyway. And if there have been deviations later, do not we have to go back to those early Christians and to the Reformers? Can we claim to know better? Will we place ourselves above those holy men? One sees how it is then presented as if it is dangerous to depart from those earlier views and how those who do it are accused of pride. Those earlier sketches, which were useful to a certain point, then become an obstacle. And if there are any who are released from that snare, they are already caught lightly in another.
What is the weak spot of all these apparent reasons? One loses sight of the fact that the great majority in the first centuries did not have the full truth. One does not take into account the fact that almost all of them left Paul (2 Timothy 1:15, Php. 2:20, 21, Col. 4:11). All the writings of the first centuries clearly show that apostasy. The « Church » replaced Israel, the 12 Apostles of Israel were followed, the prophecy spiritualized and the greater part of Scripture deprived of its power. Paul's letters were almost completely lost sight of. The « sketch » of those people was not only incomplete, but completely deformed. We have shown this in more detail in our brochure « The Conflict ». One therefore sees that one has not assumed a perfect sketch, because Paul has not been taken into account.
It is therefore not only possible, but necessary to revise that sketch. It is not enough to finish them, they also must be changed in the baselines. And it is not pride that pushes to that, if one bows down very deeply for the whole Scripture, rightly divided. One does not reject or spiritualise a part for the sake of another part, but one makes seriousness with the complete inspiration. In doing so, one takes into account very well what the « fathers » learned and in the new sketch concludes what according to Scripture was right in the old.
Many earlier sketches are useful insofar as they explain some truth. However, they did not yet let the whole Word come to its full right. They also give rise to difficulties and contradictions. The most primitive sketch suggests that we only have a « heaven » and a « hell » in the future. There is only one sphere of blessing: heaven. All believers belong to that. Later they came to two spheres of blessing: the earth for Israel and heaven for the « congregation ». That was an important step forward, but it did not solve the difficulties. Our sketch contains three spheres: the earth for Israel and the nations, the heavens for the spiritual seed of Abraham and the over-heavenly, at God's right hand, for the church that is His body. This is a temporary condition, once God is all in all.
We have already said something above about the consequences of the first sketch. In addition, all the abuses, such as the religious wars, heretic persecution, etc. that resulted from an unscriptural conception and now so often give rise to the rejection of Scripture and all that belongs to God.
The sketch of the two spheres was already an improvement and allowed more things to come into their own. Yet there were also many insurmountable difficulties: following the law during Acts, even by Paul; the miracles, powers, languages, intervention of angels, communion of goods, direct judgment, statutes, visible church, etc. throughout the period of the Acts, while those things can not be seen in our time. There are also all kinds of illogical elements in it. It is not claimed, as in the first sketch, that the « congregation » comes in the place of Israel, but still one wants to hold to the New Covenant, which is closed with Israel (Jeremiah 31:31). They also want to follow the 12 Apostles of Israel. Since in Scripture there are not enough indications to faithfully observe their ceremonies and organization, this leads to all kinds of strife and division. What Paul indicates as a mystery in God, one would already find in the O.T.. This sketch also does not allow Paul's stewardship to come into its own. The higher is lowered. Furthermore, many false hopes are derived from it, by misapplication of the truth: e.g. the taking up before the great tribulation, the being with Christ of all believers, just after dying.
In our earlier editions we have already said a few things about our sketch of the three spheres. We now want to summarize here only a few things, after first giving some reasons, which made us distinguish between the earthly and the heavenly and between the heavenly and over-heavenly spheres. It will also be a short answer to those who, among other things, reproach us: dividing the church, cutting God's Word into pieces and partially rejecting it for Christians, forming a separate congregation on the basis of things that are only higher revelations for an already existing congregation.
The differences between the earthly
and heavenly spheres. ↑
All who believe in Christ can be regarded as one group. All are born again and therefore at least children of God. They are all from God. That group can be called the « congregation », but then include the O.T. and Kingdom believers. In that sense there is certainly a unity. The point now is to find out whether that general group in Scripture is not divided into more specific groups. Already the sketch of the two spheres indicates this, because both, the earthly and the heavenly, believe in Christ. One also distinguishes here a « congregation » that is taken up, while other believers are not taken up.
It is clear that a « child » has to grow up and that this goes more or less gradually. One is also inclined to conclude that the church is developing and that more and more is being revealed about it without being allowed to divide it. If we examine man, then there is gradual growth of body and mental faculties here and yet one can very well make a sharp distinction between e.g. a student, a college student and a doctor. There are also confined classes in a school. It can be seen that both, growth and sharply bound positions can go hand in hand. We give another example of this. Someone is looking for a job and is accepted. One moment he is not yet part of the company, the other moment he is. Although he is only a second older, there is a sudden transition: he is placed in a position. It is in such a sense that we also distinguish in Scripture those principal positions, three spheres of blessing for the believers. Let us consider something about this.
Rom. 6:8 says, « Now if we be dead with Christ ». Here we have a sharp distinction. Rom. 7 describes the condition of a believer who is imprisoned from the law of sin (v. 23), while Rom. 8 speaks of the believer, who is freed from that law (v. 2, see also Gal 4:1 — 5). The latter are called « sons » (8:14 Greek Text, also in Galatians 3:26; 4:6, 7) All are born again and thus « children of God », but the latter have grown up and now receive a spirit of sonship (8:15 Greek text, also in Galatians 4:5) Here was an intervention from God, because there is also a « new creation » (Galatians 6:15, 2 Cor. 5:17) They are « In Christ » (Galatians 3:28), believing « in » Christ (Gal 3:26). The spirit dwells in them (Romans 8:9, 11; 1 Cor. 3:16) and they are led by Him (Romans 8:14). They are no longer in the flesh (Romans 7:14, 2 Cor. 5:16). Although they have died to the position of sin, they still have to come to the walk. That is why they are admonished in Rom. 6:11; 8:12 etc.
If we consider the future aion, this difference is also clearly revealed. Both on earth and in the heavens there are those who believe in Christ. And yet their sphere is completely different. Israel is then in the « regeneration » and inherits the earth (Dan. 7:27 etc.) They are compared to the « dust of the earth » in Gen. 17:7, 8 and are blessed « in » Abraham. Looking back on the time when they are still among the nations (the « sea »), they are in Heb. 11:12 compared to the sand of the sea. On the other hand, there are others who correspond to the « stars of heaven » of Gen. 15:4 — 6, who are blessed with Abraham, Gal. 3:9, 14 Here are the heirs, not of the Land but of the world, which thus includes earth and heaven (Rom. 4:13, Gal. 3:29, 4:7). Here is also the « spiritual seed » of Rom. 4:6, 7, 11 — 22, and the heavenly Jerusalem of Heb. 12:22; Gal. 4:21 — 31. If one reads Scripture with this vision one finds many other differences between those two spheres, although they are sometimes covered by translation, that does not faithfully represent the words of the Holy Spirit.
The mission of the 12 Apostles of Israel is especially to bring this people to be born again, In the age to come, in the « regeneration » they will judge, lead, the 12 tribes of Israel (Matthew 19:28). One reads their writings. During Acts, on the other hand, Paul speaks little about the earthly sphere and much about the heavenly. During that period both spheres exist, therefore both during the preaching of the Kingdom. All people are born as sinners and have to go through regeneration before they come to sonship. Although for a certain time attention has been drawn to the heavenly sphere, and one can speak of a dispensation of righteousness and reconciliation, nevertheless the lower sphere exists nonetheless. If we say « lower sphere », then one doesn't understand us wrong. The Christians of the heavenly sphere are not « better » Christians than the others, nor are the believers in general no « better » people than the unbelievers. If there is a distinction, then it is not by them that they have more or less value in themselves, for they were all sinners, but because they have come further by God's grace. They took advantage of what was offered to them and what they could accept through God's proficiency.
One can see that we can very well distinguish an earthly congregation and a heavenly congregation. It is also immediately apparent that Pentecost had nothing to do with the heavenly sphere. In a certain sense many O.T. believers belonged to it, like Abraham already belonged to it, and in that sense they began before Pentecost, but they first come to the fore, when Paul begins to talk about it in the course of Acts. The outpouring of the Spirit was something that was promised to Israel (Isaiah 44:3, Ezekiel 36:25 — 27, Joel 2:28 — 32) and that promise then began to be fulfilled in the 9 first chapters of Acts, so until about ten years after Pentecost, there is no question of a believer from the nations. The fact that the believers of the heavenly sphere are also under the influence of the Holy Spirit does not mean that Pentecost, in particular, concerned them. Some Pentecostal believers could later also change to the heavenly sphere, but that still does not take away, that Pentecost itself was a Jewish feast and only Israel and the earthly sphere concerned. The expectation was not the taking up, but the return of Christ to sit on David's throne, see Acts 3:19 — 21 and 2:30, thus establishing the Kingdom of Israel, Acts 1:7. However, we do not go further into this distinction between these two spheres. Many are already starting to see it. We do mean we need to add something about the rightly dividing of the Word.
If there are at least two groups of believers, then it goes without saying that everything that is aimed at one group does not necessarily also concern that other group. If Paul specifically addresses the heavenly group, does that mean that the rest of Scripture has no value anymore? If we divide Scripture right, does that mean we cut out pieces? If we say of some parts, that they do not act on the heavenly group, then those parts still remain necessary to lead to the heavenly group, to teach us the whole way of salvation, to understand God's purpose, etc. « All Scripture ... profitable for doctrine » that is what we adhere to very strictly. But that is why everything is not addressed to all. Those who see Israel's future do not think the O.T. is entirely focused on them? That much can be applied, no one denies, but that application must serve to advance spiritually.
There is something else. We must always distinguish Israel from the nations. What is addressed to Israel can not always be applied to others, and if we have Letters such as Hebrews, James, Peter, John, Jude, Revelation, which concern Israel, one must always be careful with the application to other believers. Jews who believe in Christ are also Christians and we must therefore in some cases distinguish between Christian Jews and Christians from the nations. That is e.g. the case with the law and all external ceremonies given only to Israel and e.g. during Acts and still had to be followed in the Kingdom by the Christian Jews. Also with all things related to their assignments, which they have to fulfill as a priestly nation. Since in our dispensation, from the end of Acts, the Jews have been set aside as such, all those Jewish things fall away from themselves, even for those who are Israelites according to the flesh. Yet the letters dealing with circumcision are also useful to us.
The difference between the heavenly
and the over-heavenly spheres. ↑
Perhaps one accepts the division between the earthly and heavenly sphere, but one thinks that the Scriptures do not speak of further classification. The « congregation » would already begin in Acts and continue after Acts. All that would then be new are some further revelations. The Church of Acts would simply be taught and guided further. There would be no question of a new, separate group. Sometimes it is also said that Acts does not speak of the higher revelations, but that the Letters Paul wrote during that period are also already concerned with the position of which the captivity letters speak. Let us see if we can hold that position.
The fact is, that the heavenly sphere was already one in Christ. From this it is believed that the unity of Ephesian already existed. For us it is precisely an argument that shows that the position of Ephesus was still unknown at the time. According to Gal. 3:27, 28 there was neither Jew nor Greek during Acts in Christ. From a spiritual point of view, there was no difference. The believer from the nations was at the same rank with the believing Israelite and had the same spiritual privileges. They had been baptized by one spirit into one body (1 Cor. 12:13), a unit that belonged to the Lord. The higher Abrahamic promises and all that the O.T. said of the things that went beyond the earthly sphere, began then to be fulfilled already. What took place then was no surprise, no mystery, hidden from all aions in God, for it could be found in Scripture, at least in germ or in image. We can argue here that Paul spoke of mysteries at that time. Indeed, but it is about Israel's hardening (Romans 11:25), Christ and the atonement (Romans 16:25), the spiritual things that can not be understood by the natural man (1 Corinthians 2:7 — 16), the fact that not everyone will be asleep during the taking up (1 Corinthians 15:51). Here is certainly a broader description, a deeper introduction, but no new position revealed. Galatians 3:29 thus clearly states that they are Christ's, Abraham's seed and heirs. Rom. 4 speaks of walking in the footsteps of Abraham's faith that he had in the foreskin. Here, Paul thus runs back on a pre-Israelite period and on a position that is not hidden. They were grouped around Abraham as a spiritual father. The further revelation was now that they first came through Christ. In this respect there is a progress. In germ this is contained in Gen. 15:6 « Abraham believed in the Lord » and this is the later Christ.
Now when we come to the captivity letters (Eph., Php., Col., 2 Tim.), written after Acts, we are immediately struck by all kinds of new things and words. For example:
Eph. 1:3 Blessed with all spiritual blessings in Christ
Eph. 2:16 Perfect reconciliation (apokatallassoo)
Eph. 1:7 Perfect salvation (apolutroosis)
Col. 2:10 Perfect in Him
Eph. 1:3; 2:6; 6:11—17; Php. 3:17—20 In the over-heavenly
Col. 3:3 Christ our life, hidden in God.
Eph. 3:6 Fellow-body (sussooma)
Php. 3:11 Out-resurrection (exananstatis)
And so more.
It is here about the great mystery (Eph 5:32), who was hidden from all aions and generations in god (Eph. 3:9), but has been made known now (Col. 1:26) 1. It deals with unsearchable riches (Eph. 3:8), which is therefore not to be found in the O.T..
During Acts there were already from Israel and from the nations that formed a unity in Christ, though in some respects they were separated according to the flesh. They still remained Jew or Gentile. Now there is a higher unit. The communion with Christ leads to an identification with Him. From the new creation a new man is now created, fully reconciled to God (Ephesians 2:15, 16, apokatallassoo, that is not the acceptance of
the former reconciliation, katallassoo, but the offering of a reconciliation, which reaches further and is complete).
This position is above the former, as God is all in all is above the last aion. The former unity participated in the promises in Abraham, now the nations (including Israel, which no longer qualifies as separate people) are fellow-body, fellow-heirs and fellow-partakers in His promise in christ (Eph. 3:6). The former community went to the dying with Him, the latter reaches to the fellow-made alive, fellow-risen and fellow-sit in the over-heavenly (Eph 2:5, 6).
The new man who is now created is a body of which Christ is the Head (Ephesians 1:22, 23, 2:15, 16). Not a body that belongs to Him only in the new creation, as in 1 Cor. 12:27 (where « the » is not in the source text) and that, including the head, consists of believers (1 Corinthians 12:21). Here one does not simply have a « church of God », but a church « Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all » (Eph 1:23). Here is a completion in Him (Col. 2:10), a prelude to the final state: God all in all. It is no longer being a child or sonship, but an adult man, « unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ » (Eph 4:13). Just as there is a difference of position and atmosphere between child and son, there is that between son and adult man. All had now to come to a grown man in the walk. It is thus seen that it is not a matter of incorporating the nations into Israel, for this people no longer exists as such. It is not the grafting on the Jewish olive tree. It is not about equating both in spiritual matters, because that existed before and was the effect of the promises to Abraham.
It is not surprising that Paul says that with this revelation he « fulfilled » God's Word (or: finished, completed) (Col. 1:25). Only he was entrusted with this stewardship, only that secret had been revealed to him (Eph. 3:33); in none of the other Letters we read anything about this great mystery. This is not that the church is the Bride, but it is being a body with Christ.
In « The Way of Salvation » we spoke about various salvations, which are closely related to the different resurrections. Here, too, the distinction between the heavenly and over-heavenly groups can be seen. The first participates in the taking up of 1 Thes. 4 and 1 Cor. 15, after the great tribulation, while those of the second may rise before and appear with Christ (Col. 3:4) as He descends to the clouds and the heavenly group meets Him. The Body has an earlier resurrection, the « out-resurrection out of the dead » of Php. 3:11 (Greek text). Thus the members may soon be with Christ, which is by far the best (Php. 1:23) They become conformed to the glorious body of Christ (Php. 3:21), while the others only conform to the image of the Son (Rom. 8:29), i.e. to have a body as He had between His resurrection and ascension. The present goes way above this, and is the body of his glory, source text of Php. 3:21.
We have already mentioned the texts that speak of being in the over-heavenly. Where are those over-heavenly? Eph. 1:20, 21 plainly says that it is at God's right hand, « far above (or over-above) all government, etc. » That is not in the heavens, but on top of it or over it, that is in the sphere, which stretches over the heavens: the over-heavenly, as the Greek says in Eph. 1:3, 20; 2:6; 3:10; 6:12. In all these texts it is explicitly about something that is there, while in others, where « epouranios » is used, it can indicate the origin or nature. Already in the Hebrew Scriptures we see that God's glory is above the heavens, Psa. 113:4. Even the heaven of heavens can not « contain » God, that is, God can not dwell there (1 Kings 8:27). The Greek scriptures also say that Christ ascended above all the heavens, Eph. 4:10. He is higher than the heavens, Heb. 7:26, for He has passed through the heavens, Heb. 4:14. The members of the congregation of the mystery is set there in Christ, Eph. 2:6. From all this it appears that the over-heavenly is a special place, above all things, on the right hand of God. Here, therefore, we do not have a revelation of ancillary things, but a different position from that of which the Scriptures spoke before Acts namely the heavenly. The former sphere is not explained further, but a new sphere is opened. Nowhere does it teach in the O.T. that Abraham has that place. This could first be granted (by grace) after Christ had taken His place there.
To confuse the position made known in Ephesian with that of Rom. Cor. Thes., corresponds to confusing the situation when God is all in all with that of the last aion: the new creation. If some say that we have no clear and convincing evidence, that we speak of a separate sphere, then we reply that it is a matter of faith. To the infidel one can never absolutely prove that God exists, to a « child » of God that there is something higher. Although Israel's restoration seems to stand so clearly in Scripture, it is still no proof for many. God does not force us to accept something like a mathematical formula. He only gives what is needed to believe those things. Thus He makes it possible to go through the whole way of salvation in freedom.
One also do not assume that we consider them who belong to that higher sphere as « better Christians ». Here too, everything is grace, nothing out of our own value. There is, however, a variety of grace. One is different from the other. So who speaks of grace must distinguish it.
The question has been asked whether all believers of our time do not belong to that congregation of the mystery. If one takes into account the previous, the answer is easy. The adult-man is at the end of the way of salvation. Even though the final position has now been revealed, every believer does not belong to it immediately and the beginning and middle of that path does not lapse. All people are born as sinners and if they want them to come to full communion with God, then they have to go through rebirth and sonship. Many remain unbelieving or remain behind in the first two spheres. In our time all spheres are thus represented, even if it is strictly speaking, not God's desire to be left behind in the lower spheres, thus remaining in a position of a former dispensation. Paul had received after Acts a new stewardship and it is now the dispensation of the mystery, because the over-heavenly sphere has now been put in the foreground. Those who do not come to that are therefore not left by God and it is through His long-suffering that the other spheres continue in a sense now, even if it is not His desire that one remain behind. Had the creature made full use of His grace, there would not be a whole series of aions been necessary to come to the perfect state. The way of salvation is not proceeded mechanically as if we were only dolls. In every position God desires that we will walk according to His will. If we do not, God will not put us in a higher position, for He does not force us and can not encourage the denial of His grace and our willful walk. We also emphasize, however, that we therefore do not deserve the higher position on the basis of self-imposed works. See « The Way of Salvation ». Man must therefore always assume what is offered to him in grace by God and do what God has made possible to him. Then God can also intervene and place in a higher position.
Even though there is a new dispensation, that still all people do not belong to what that dispensation offers. Likewise, in the age to come, that of regeneration, all people will not be born again of themselves. Faith and repentance is always needed, and that depends in part on man, for he is always free to accept God's grace. The external conditions do not change the inner man. Something must happen in that person himself, to the possibility given to him by God. To come to sonship, one must be « dead to sin », Rom. 6:2. In order to reach maturity, one must be « dead in sins », Eph. 2:1, 5 and Col 2:13. See « The Way of Salvation »
Here is not only the old man crucified, as in Rom. 6:6, but he must be put away (Eph. 4:22). Again their walk must agree with their position. They are therefore also admonished in chapter 5 to walk as children of the light. Those to whom Paul addresses the word are called « faithful ones » (Eph 1:1, Col. 1:2). They do not leave Paul, but hear him, as the « children » heard John (1 John 4:6). Though everything has now been revealed, all do not yet understand it, for « enlightened eyes your understanding » are needed to know which is the hope of His calling and what the riches are of the glory of His inheritance in the saints. See further Eph. 1:17 — 23. They must become aware of their position.
One can also see from all of this how absurd the reproach is that we only keep a few letters from Scripture and that we steal the rest from the believers. What we are trying to do is disentangle the satanic chaos and distinguish what is acting on the different groups. Even if we say that the captivity letters are only addressed to the congregation of the mystery, then we do not reject the rest. Other parts are aimed at other groups and everything remains useful for all. It also serves to repeat what God did for them to see more sharply their position and to check how far they have progressed. Wherever one is on the way of salvation, God always has a message adapted to it. We particularly needed the rest in the past or will speak clearly to us later on to help us further. Only the rightly dividing saves for apostasy, disbelief and criticism.
Finally, it is also clear that the congregation of the mystery does not begin at Pentecost or in any other part of Acts. It existed in God's purpose before the aions, but the actual beginning, in time, can only be counted from the moment Paul had made known the mystery to others. At Pentecost, there were those who believed in Christ and thus showed to be born again. Later, perhaps they went into the heavenly sphere under Paul's preaching, then to come to the over-heavenly after Acts. Thus, like Paul, they have gone from glory to glory. In the table below we have summarized some things that can clearly show the contrast between the spheres. We refer to our other expenses for more detailed explanations.
From the scriptures one can deduce everything that one wants, if one chooses the texts freely, pulls them out of context and places them next to each other. Pushed to the limit, one comes to something like this:
Mat. 27:5 « And departed, and went and hanged himself »
Luke 10:37 « Go, and do thou likewise »
One can also find the greatest contradictions if one does not rightly divide the Word. For example:
Mat. 10:5 « Go not into the way of the Gentiles »
Mat. 28:19 « Go ye therefore, and teach all nations »
We think that our « sketch » is on solid grounds and our conclusions are usually correct, because we have rightly divided the Word of Truth as best we can. And that in many ways. We have, for example, observed the literary divisions of Scripture, distinguished about who acts a certain part, distinguishes the aions and dispensations, tried to understand the correct meaning of the inspired words, taken into account the speech figures, but moreover literally taken what God says, distinguish between explanations and application. Also on the basis of research by others we have thus had a whole series of fixed data, which we could combine into a harmonious whole. In this case almost all Scripture comes to its full right and it appears that the glory of God's grace is even greater than is often thought. Parts of God's Word, which are open to multiple interpretations, then acquire a more specific meaning. This stems from the other parts of Scripture, with which the insecure appearances are connected. It is then no arbitrary interpretation.
We do not therefore, think that our idea is now the pure truth in all points. We do not want to do like most: make a « sketch » into solid doctrine. We invite everyone to improve our « sketch ». But to do this, serious research is needed and thorough knowledge of what we wrote about it. It is a waste of effort if you take a different sketch as the basis, to show that ours does not match with it. Every sketch must be taken in its entirety and then directly tested against the Scriptures, not part of a sketch with a part of another sketch.
If this is all too difficult, we ask which other solution or method one has. There is, however, that of Rome: the Church and tradition, which must be followed slavishly. If the basis of this sketch did not rely on the apostasy away from Paul and the setting of the « church » instead of Israel. And if one wants the Scripture alone, then one should be consistent and not support entirely on a doctrine. We recognize that the situation is a difficult one. But this also fits in our « sketch »: for we are now in an evil age, of which Satan is the god. We are not in the Kingdom, as many believe. The whole world is still in wickedness (1 John 5:19) and we are therefore on enemy ground. In this, God is silent in the sense that there is no public, visible intervention from Him now. Yet there is a way out: to examine the Scriptures in God's power. One must start with the simple and practice. One can be helped in many ways by others, without seeing them as infallible. He who loves the truth will be enlightened by God and will come to that measure of truth that corresponds with his sincere desire. We now have the opportunity to glorify God in pure faith, as that will no longer be possible in times when there is a visible church on earth, pointing the way and where a public intervention by God is the rule.
Perhaps one opposes to the fact that we deprive people of all certainty and give them a « sketch » instead, something insecure, of which we confess ourselves that it is not the full truth. However, here too things must not be mixed, but they must distinguish between the fixed points on which the sketch rests and the sketch itself. Even though the sketch is changed, those points remain. The more one investigates independently, in God's power, the more fixed points one gets and the more accurately the sketch can be drawn. An unbeliever has nothing to hold on to. A born-again is absolutely certain that God « is » even if he can make so many wrong representations around it. A « son » does not doubt that Christ died for him and has many other fixed support points that are not influenced by anything. There may be moments of doubt, but in the end his faith in those things is unperturbed. With adults there are still more fixed points, although the sketch that unites them can still change. One therefore sees the importance of constantly testing and purifying our thoughts out of the Scriptures. Some things, which may seem to us to be a great blessing, may fall away, but they are the least scriptural, while the true support points increase in number. Even if one gives a « sketch » as truth, later it turns out to be flawed and can then give a pretence for disbelief and criticism.
Those who do not see that they have to give themselves so much trouble to « clean out » things and who are satisfied with a « simple » gospel, we first refer to Scripture, which always invites us to examine ourselves and gives so many things which are not « simple ». Are they perhaps superfluous? Then to history, which shows that all unbelief, criticism, anti-Christian currents and many social evils result from sketches that are not according to the Scriptures or do not rightly divide the Word and yet were forced upon people. Then we point out that without one's own conviction one never knows how to act and to do God's will. Finally, we also do not lose sight of how big our responsibility is if we want to help others with a good message. We know that we must preach the word and keep it timely and untimely (2 Tim. 4:2). We must admonish and teach every man in wisdom (Col. 1:28). But how can we do that if we ourselves do not know what the Word says and what that wisdom is? It is not enough just to go into it, because then there is a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. Everyone must act according to his own gifts and circumstances. We recognize that there can be great value in the spontaneous testimony of a « simple » man, but he who feels compelled to not only testify, but to teach others, must first have himself been taught and have his own opinion, to which Scripture agrees. Depending on the circumstances, he will have to give « milk » or « solid food », but that spiritual food must always be pure, that is to say Scriptural. Only that which proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live (Deu. 8:3). The consequences of bad food can be very serious, although they are sometimes only seen after a long time. One also reckons that one can make a mistake in the things that are considered the simplest and for which therefore not much research seems necessary. We give a single example of this.
Many want to save « souls » and to this end proclaim « Christ and Him crucified ». They then necessarily speak of the « things which are of the Spirit of God » and forget that a natural man can not understand these things (1 Cor. 2:14). To believe that Jesus is the Christ, one must already be regenerated (see 1 John 5:1 that according to the Greek says, Whosoever is believing, that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God. The last verb is in the perfect tense). If there is fruit on their preaching, then it is in particular those who have already been regenerated, who now become aware of their position and openly profess the Lord. So they did not actually save anyone, but brought the already saved to the awareness of what God already did in them, helped them on the way of salvation and so glorified God. The result is very good, but it does not agree with their intention and the result might have been better if they had clearly seen what they were doing. If they see the « saving of souls » as the most important work, they have not done such work. For the actual saving is to bring them to regeneration. And that they did not. Then they would have had to point out in-God disbelievers the miracles of creation so as to bring them to faith, repentance and glorification of God. Because this must be present before they come to the regeneration.
Doesn't one not too often see apparent results as an approval from God? The present dispensation, however, is precisely characterized by the absence of a public service of God. Our only guideline must be: God's Word, rightly divided. If we proclaim that, He will take care of the rest, however little visible results one may see. After all, it is not about us and our blessing, but in the first place about Him and His glorification. It is a fact that virtually no one can count on physical and spiritual support if there is no visible « blessing » on his work. Not even if he wants to implement the principles of Protestantism logically and wants to have his own convictions. « Results » must be obtained and people must go with the masses. It seems as if he, who wants to think and speak independently, has to provide for his own material needs. That is how also Paul did, who was abandoned by all, because he had no success and spoke of new things.
We finally remember that we do not want to break down other sketches. After all, everything has its usefulness, even if it is not according to God's desire. But even though they may be a means, they can not become a goal and nobody can stay in it. We therefore do not want to break them down, but point to a more complete and accurate sketch. Let us hold the truth in love to praise the glory of His grace, each according to his ability and according to the manner in which God wants to lead him.
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