Reliance on the Living God
DO YOU BELIEVE ALL of Gods Word? When I first came to know God I
went to the meetings of the Plymouth Brethren and learned many a precious
truth from them which, at that time, was almost unknown in the nominal churches. The
Lords coming, the need of rightly dividing, a little as to the body of
Christ, the difference between the church and the kingdomthese all found a place in
my heart and mind at the very beginning of my life of faith. But I also received warnings
against non-eternity, and soul-sleep, and
universalism, to which I gave due heed.
that early date my life course was determined by the acquisition of Wigrams
Concordances. Next to the Scriptures, they have been of the greatest value in my spiritual
give a list of each word in Greek or Hebrew and all of its occurrences in English. This
has been my lexicon, for the usage of a word is the only safe index of its meaning. These
also showed how discordant our English translation is and led me to go back to the
Brethren claimed to be unsectarian, but when I persisted in having fellowship with all of
good conduct in the body of Christ they put me out, though this was the original basis on
which their movement was founded. This proved a great blessing, for I was now free to
believe what is in Gods Word apart from all religious restraint.
had two objects before me: to believe all of Gods Word, and to suffer the
persecution which must necessarily follow. I was conscious that there were quite a few
texts in the Word which made me uncomfortable. I knew the so-called
explanations, but they appeared to be only a form of unbelief.
salvation of all troubled me from the very first. The Brethren changed God wills
all men to be saved, to God wishes, but my concordance showed me that it was the
Brethren who wished it so, not God. He works all things according to the counsel of His
will. They also altered the Saviour of all to the Preserver of
all. Since it was necessary for them to corrupt Gods Word on this theme it was
clear that they did not have the truth. Romans five and First Corinthians fifteen and
Colossians one contained statements which I could not believe because they contradicted
many other passages dealing with the fate of unbelievers. It was only after the truth as
to the eonian times was opened up to me that I was able to exult in their glorious
now found myself able to accept and approve of those statements in the Bible which stumble
so many saints, and cause so much unbelief, which may be concentrated in the one case of
Pharaoh. God hardened his heart, and will judge him for doing that which he was forced to
do. Is this right?
only that, but God was greatly glorified by Pharaohs opposition. How then can He
judge him? A believer in eternal torment finds it impossible to charge God with such an
atrocity, and refuses to believe it, or explains it away. But once we see
Gods ultimate and that judgment, in Gods Word, sets matters right, all is
clear and acceptable. Gods glory demands expression. Pharaoh, earths highest,
is the best means. He is too soft, so he must be hardened. Eventually, at the
consummation, he will be reconciled. But that is not possible until he has realized the
enormity of his sins, and suffered their just penalty, set by God Who is just, not
even then I was not satisfied. There were still passages in Gods Word which did not
receive my hearty acquiescence. I had a horror of implicating God in sin, so how could I
echo the apostles words all is out of Him (Rom.11:36)? All out of
Himthe evil, the misery, the opposition to His will? Yet the passage itself insists
that He locks up all in stubbornness (Rom.11:32). Other passages, such as the sixth of
Isaiah, boldly tell us that He blinds mens eyes so that they cannot see.
Pharaohs is no isolated case. It is very evident that God uses these things in order
that His glory may be manifested. Is it then Gods will that men should sin? That
cannot be. What is sin?
I found out that sin is failure, I saw that I had been making God the greatest of all
sinners, so long as I believed that He could not save all, or that He had not been able to
keep sin out of the universe, or that it was contrary to His purpose. Failure is sin, and
if we imagine that God has failed in any particular we make Him the Sinner of sinners. God
will not fail, and has not failed.
first thought which came to me then was, shall we, then, do evil that good may
come? Never! But immediately I was reminded that this is the very charge that was
hurled at Paul! Could there be any better proof that I was on the right track? God
does evil that good may come, for He is wise and powerful and loving. But men are foolish
and weak and hateful, so cannot use evil, except in the most limited degree. A father may
be trusted to put his childs finger near enough to the hot stove so as to teach it
to fear the fire, for he loves the child. Otherwise it is a most dangerous and erroneous
doctrine. But God is not a man. That is the trouble with theology. It is always deifying
man and humanizing God.
it was that I arrived at my goal: to believe all of Gods Word and to suffer
persecution like Paul. He was falsely charged with teaching men to do evil (Rom.3:5-8),
and he was reproached for saying that God is the Saviour of all mankind (1 Tim.4:10).
above all, I now have a real God, Whom I can worship and adore without the least
reservation. He harms, but He heals, and both together, the harming as well as the
healing, is a blessing to His creatures as well as a glory to Himself.
is our object to lead our readers to this same goal, where they can accept all of
Gods words and give Him all the adoration of their hearts.
THE PROCESS AND THE GOAL
GOD HAS A GOAL. He intends to become All in all His creatures
(1 Cor.15:28). He will accomplish this by way of reconciling all His enemies by the
blood of Christs cross, by justifying, vivifying, and saving all mankind at the
consummation (Col.1:20; Rom.5:18; 1 Cor.15:22; 1 Tim.2:4; 4:10). But before this
there is a long and painful preparatory process, a weary way which leads His creatures to
this consummation, much of which seems as dark and distressing as the goal is bright and
filled with blessing.
all of us are short-sighted. We see a part of the way but we do not see the end. We
confuse the going with the goal. Our Bible translations are partly to blame, for they fail
to clearly mark the fleeting nature of the process, as it is in the original languages.
And if an honest attempt is made to carry this across in a concordant version, it clashes
with our conventions and our hard hearts. God grant that we may faithfully witness, in our
renderings, when God reveals an absolute fact concerning God and His purpose, and
when it is only a temporary process, for this He has clearly indicated in the
is Gods strange work. He uses it on the way. Men make it the end. No matter how an
unbeliever is dealt with, whether he dies as a result of sin, or by the direct
intervention of God, whether he be cast into outer darkness or into Gehenna, this is
not his end. All who do not belong to Christ will be roused from the dead and judged
before the great white throne. There they are not forgiven, or saved, but judged. But
this is not their end. All these will be cast into the lake of fire, to suffer the
second death. Even this is not their end. God does not reach His goal in any of His
disciplinary measures. These only prepare His creatures for it. Let us not confuse the
going with the goal.
little is said to us about Gods goal until Paul completes the orbit of Gods
Word with his later revelations. Hints there have always been by which hearts in tune with
God have been filled with high hopes. But it is not until the meridian sun of Gods
grace has come from behind the clouds of sin and law, to reveal the deepest recesses of
Gods immanent love to the most undeserving of the race, it is not until the truth
for the present was made known that God tore aside the veil of the future completely, and
gave us an unclouded view of His ultimate. Once we revel in this we will never go back to
previous revelation on this theme, for like the curtain of the tabernacle, it seems to
hide, rather than reveal the full blaze of the Shekinah glory.
usual way is to view the goal in the darkness of the way. We go back to passages which
deal with judgments and allow them to throw their dark shadows across the consummation. We
should believe that God will justify all mankind (Rom.5:18), and view
the previous judgments in the light of this final achievement. We bring up passages which
tell of death, to darken Gods declaration that it will be abolished. We should believe
that God will make death inoperative at the last, and view the previous
passages in this glorious light. We turn to tests which prove that unbelievers will be
lost or destroyed, and, with these passages, dim the great declaration that God wills the
salvation of all. We should illumine them with the later and higher revelation. We find
Gods enemies in the fiery lake at what seems to be the close of revelation, and
misuse this fact to deny Gods declaration that all will be reconciled (Col.1:20). We
should not take one to destroy the other, but believe both, for reconciliation follows
estrangement, and it alone accords with Gods final goal.
perverse and blind have we often been! When God says all, we have said some.
When God speaks of a very small fraction of mankind, such as the living nations who stand
before Christ to be judged according to their treatment of Israel (cf
Matt.25:31-46)a mere handful as compared with all mankindthen we make their
sentence hopeless and extend it to all! Faith has almost fled from the earth. What
calls itself faith is mostly a masquerade, for it refuses Gods Word for the
traditions of men, yet insists that it is genuine.
us allow the light of the latest revelation to illumine the earlier, partial unfolding,
and let us not use the earlier to eclipse the latest, the highest, and the only complete
unveiling of Gods mind and heart.
should we be Jonahs, sitting under our withered gourd, furious because God does not
fulfill the word which we have proclaimed. What about the truthfulness of Gods Word?
Must it not be upheld? Would it not make God a liar if He repented and did not overturn
Nineveh in forty days? The idea that God has a heart as well as a mouth, and had
compassion on the creatures He has made was heresy in Jonahs eyes. Are we not far
worse than Jonah? He actually had to take back Gods express declaration. We need
only retract our own false inferences from it, dictated by the heart altogether out of
harmony with His loving goal, which our dim eyes have failed to discern, even though it is
written in letters of gold across the horizon of the far off future, and is clearly
visible to every heart which has been humbled by His grace, and which beats in unison with
His love. God grant that we are no Jonahs!
GOD ALL IN US
MOST DELIGHTFUL is it to contemplate that distant day when God will be All in all.
Because of the unbelief of Christendom we are prone to emphasize the second all,
and rightly insist that it admits of no exceptions. Every creature of His hand will
then be close to His heart. Yet we should not confine our contemplations to the number
alone, but also maintain the full meaning of the first All. God will not occupy a
small fraction of our lives, nor even half or three-fourths. He will be everything
to us. There will be nothing in our experience that will not be divine. Every occurrence,
each incident, large or small, important or trivial, will come to us consciously as a
gratuity given by God, and it will bring a constant response of adoring worship.
GOD SOMETHING IN ALL
Perhaps it would not be too much to say that God is something in
everyone in this life. Even the unbeliever and the atheist, especially in their earlier
years, have at least a tinge of God-consciousness, especially when overwhelmed with sudden
terror or dismay. But it is not until He reveals Himself to His chosen, that they begin to
realize the part He plays in their lives, and that He becomes the focus of their
consciousness. At first this may be very weak, but, as they become mature, He takes a
larger and larger place in their experience. The heathen have idols made by human hands.
Let us beware lest we also worship a deity who is not and will not be our all, made by
GOD ALL IN SALVATION
In these days the standard question which is pressed upon the
unbeliever is, What must I do to be saved? This leaves the impression
that the sinner must have a hand in his salvation. He must repent, or reform, or join the
church. Even Pauls reply to the Philippian warden, Believe on the Lord
Jesus, and you shall be saved . . . (Acts 16:31) is distorted, as
though it were a meritorious deed, when, in fact, it is of faith that it may accord
with grace, not with works (Rom.4:16). And the faith is that of Gods chosen
(Titus 1:1). Salvation is all of God. It begins with His choice before the disruption
(Eph.1:4), which eventuates in His call and justification and glorification (Rom.8:30).
Nothing is left to us. He alone gave His Son, the sacrifice that saves. May we add nothing
GOD ALL IN LIFE
But the believer need not wait until that day. As he matures he
will gradually realize that God is All to him now. At first he seeks to inject himself and
his will, and the unknown god of chance into the affairs of life. Then he begins to see
that God is in all the great crises, the important decisions. But finally he wakes to the
fact that everything, no matter what its size or duration, is under Gods control.
All space and that which fills it is subject to the Great Disposer. All time and every
event that occurs in it is planned and put in its appearance when God wills. God is our
all, in things great and small! So we anticipate the glorious goal to which He is guiding
His universe. May this be the precious portion of all who have partaken of His peace!
A. E. Knoch
The preceding studies are adapted from three editorials appearing
in Unsearchable Riches, vol.24, pp.65-69; vol.26, pp.131-134; and vol.42,
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