Check Your Panoply
GRACE is a word which is often abused when it is used. A minister may preach a very good sermon on “Grace” one Sunday and the following one return to some pet subject in the “gospels” and thereby negate all he once said. When God began to gush forth grace, He introduced a new administration which called for an adjustment of what had been taught before. So when a minister employs the word “grace” in a context which is scripturally foreign to it, he robs it of its precise meaning and denies, in effect, that it is a divine gift which imparts joy and happiness to those who deserve the very opposite.
Humility is another word which has been made meaningless by misuse. It has nothing to do with doctrine and does not depend at all on the measure of wisdom and revelation one has. We find true humility among all of God’s children, among believers all over the world, even those who have never heard anything about “correctly cutting the word of truth.” Then again, there are many who do not show this Christ-like disposition, even though they claim to be very “mature.”
BELOW THE NORMAL LEVEL
We find the occurrences of humble, to humble, humble disposition, humiliation, and humility on page 151 of the “Keyword Concordance of the Concordant Version”. The literal meaning is basically LOW. Humble is not exactly the same as “modest,” “unpretentious,” or “unassuming.” Humble is “low” in the sense of being “below the normal level.” How much below was demonstrated by our Saviour, Who, being inherently in the form of God, took the form of a slave, and humbles Himself, and becomes obedient even unto the death of the cross. Let us praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ for giving us His Word which contains many examples which will help us gain a better understanding of the words “grace” and “humility.” This will help us overcome the current trend in modern theology, which tends to devaluate these important terms.
THE MODEL AND THE ENEMIES
As the “Skeleton Index of Philippians” (on page 341 of the “Keyword Concordance”) shows, there are two “Exhortations to Imitate” in this book; the first one has to do with Christ’s humiliation and the second with Paul’s walk. The first appeal begins: “Let this disposition be in you which is in Christ Jesus also!” And the two keywords are humility and humbles Himself.
The second appeal admonishes: “Become imitators together of me, brethren, and be noting those . . . who are enemies of the cross of Christ!” The following phrase contains the keyword to this passage: ” . . . whose consummation is destruction.” As the Skeleton Index shows, Philippians 2:1-5 is balanced by 3:17-4:9. There is a positive approach to our theme in chapter two where the humility of Christ is presented, and a negative approach following 3:17 after Paul presents himself as a model for the believers. The main subject of the epistle is an exhortation to behave “as luminaries in the world, having on the word of life.” (Phil.2: 15).
THE WORD OF THE CROSS
In order to explain the term “enemies of the cross of Christ,” let us take a look at 1 Corinthians 1:17,18: “For Christ does not commission me to be baptizing, but to be bringing the evangel, not in wisdom of word, lest the cross of Christ may be made void. For the word of the cross is stupidity, indeed, to those who are perishing, yet to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” Paul draws a sharp line between baptizing and evangelizing. The flesh should no longer be given a place before God. If the sinner could do anything to placate God, even in this little way, this would “empty” the cross of Christ, or make it void.
The word of the cross certainly refers to the death of Christ for our sins. But there is even a deeper significance. The word of the cross emphasizes the manner of Christ’s death and is contrary to the word of human religion and human wisdom. Prompted by the most religious people in Jerusalem, Pilate tried to be “wise” and condemned Jesus to die on the cross.
Paul did not want to bring the evangel in the wisdom of word (1 Cor.2:1-5), since the word of the cross speaks a different language. What the human eye saw on Calvary, the humiliation, the weakness and the shame, and the abandonment of Jesus by His Father, all this was preparatory to Christ’s exaltation to the right hand of the Supreme. It pleased God to bruise Christ that He might bless all others, that He may be just and the Justifier of those who believe, and that He may eventually reconcile all His creatures to Himself. The abandonment of Christ by God is the source of all salvation. This is the folly that is wiser than man, the weakness that is stronger than might, and the display of love that will ultimately overwhelm every heart. The word of the cross is still despised, but its proclamation is salvation to all who believe. “For even if He was crucified out of weakness, nevertheless He is living by the power of God. For we also are weak together with Him, but we shall be living together with Him by the power of God for you” (2 Cor.13:4).
It would be wrong to infer from Philippians 3:18 that the enemies of the cross are unbelievers. The enemies of the cross of Christ are mostly the friends of Christ at the cross; they believe that He died for their sins, and they worship and proclaim Him as their Saviour; but they fail to understand the deeper significance of the word of the cross.
They do not apprehend the manner of His death; they do not see the significance of this shameful crucifixion which bore God’s curse. They might believe that, in God’s eyes, our old humanity was crucified together with Him (Rom.6:6). But they do not realize that the manner of Christ’s humiliating death puts an end to all that man is in himself. Even though they may avail themselves of the efficacy of His blood, yet they are enemies of His cross, because they do not wish to part with the comforts of life and personal advantages, their self-esteem, and self-righteousness. They do not desire to be found in Him alone; they wish to remain “somebody” in themselves and get a rightful acknowledgment of services rendered. But this makes them antagonistic to the cross and the humiliation connected with it.
IN THE LIKENESS OF HIS DEATH AND HIS RESURRECTION
We might not be enemies of the cross in every respect; but almost all of us are still showing some traces of this hostile attitude and are thus facing this sentence: ” . . . whose consummation is destruction.” We will try to discover what destruction means here and elsewhere. What kind of destruction is the fate of believers who are enemies of the cross? Does it affect their final destiny? Or is there also salvation out of it?
We find a comforting answer to our question at the end of 2 Timothy 2:13, “He cannot disown Himself!” This is what Paul says after he has contended the ideal contest and finished his career, and is facing death and suffering, evil unto bonds as a malefactor. But he is “enduring all because of those who are chosen that they also may be happening upon the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with glory eonian” (2 Tim.2:10).
Paul knew that this salvation was his part and that the chosen ones may attain it, though not all of them, since there are those whose consummation is destruction. But how to avoid it? We will find the answer in the following verses of second Timothy: “For if we died together, we shall be living together also” (2:11).
This sounds much like Romans 6:8. “Now if we died together with Christ, we believe that we shall be living together with Him also.” Although we are justified gratuitously in His grace, through the deliverance which is in Christ Jesus, this justification may not keep us from sinning. So we are given the further truth that we are also involved in Christ’s death. This means that in God’s eyes, we died with reference to sin. Such death is certainly a figure of speech. But if “dying with Christ” is not literal, then “living together with Him also” in Romans 6:8 cannot be literal either. Here we have a very powerful figure of speech for what is called “walking in newness of life” in Romans 6:4. For we are planted together in the likeness of His death and of His resurrection.
Between Christ’s death and resurrection, there was the tomb. In the case of our Lord, the tomb was as literal as was His death and His resurrection. When Romans 6:4 says that we were entombed together with Him, we all know that this must be figurative in our case. But our figurative “entombment” with Him cannot lead to our literal “resurrection,” but rather to that which is like the literal resurrection, namely, to be walking in newness of life.
Future eonian life will be allotted to every believer, quite apart from his walk. In order to emphasize the fact that this allotment of ours is secure, God has sealed us with the holy spirit of promise since we hear the word of truth and believe it (Eph.1:13-14). This means that we cannot forfeit our future eonian life, even if we are enemies of the cross. For Christ Who died for our sakes cannot disown Himself. Therefore 2 Timothy 2:11 can only refer to the present enjoyment of eonian life. “For if we died together, we shall be living together also,” walking in newness of life even though we are still in this body of our humiliation.
SUPERABUNDANCE OF GRACE-ENDURANCE
Dying together with Christ will lead to salvation from the destruction in Philippians 3:19. Even when Paul was enduring his afflictions he was sure of attaining to a salvation in Christ Jesus with glory eonian. This glory is indicated by the divine declaration in 2 Timothy 2:12: “It we are enduring we shall be reigning together also.” Here again, we are reminded of a verse in Romans (5:17): ” . . . those obtaining the superabundance of grace and the gratuity of righteousness shall be reigning in life through the One, Jesus Christ.”
In 1 Corinthians 6:7-10 Paul mentions, among others, those unjust brothers and sisters who shall not reign together with Christ, or, as he puts it, they shall not be enjoying an allotment of God’s “basileia.” In order to get a thorough understanding of the full meaning of this Greek noun, let us look up the corresponding verb basileuo in our “Keyword Concordance”, page 243. We will find it there at the bottom of the left column under the keyword reign which is explained as to “exercise a king’s sovereignty.”
In the same way, basileia is used for the sovereign power in the realm of a king (“Keyword Concordance”, page 168). In the future, many members of Christ’s body will exercise such sovereign power under Christ as their Head. No member, of course, will enjoy absolute sovereignty, but rather only that which will be allotted to him. This is the special allotment of God’s basileia. It is an allotment of His kingdom or His sovereign power.
In 1 Corinthians 5:11 Paul warned his readers “not to be commingling with anyone named a brother if he should be a paramour, or greedy, or an idolator, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner.” Again, in 1 Corinthians 6:7, the apostle appends others to this list, first of all, those who have lawsuits among themselves, then those who are injuring and cheating others; and he asks the question: “Wherefore are you not rather being injured? Wherefore are you not rather being cheated?” And he continues: “But you are injuring and cheating, and this among brethren!”
This serves to show that Paul does not deal here with those brethren who are willing to endure all these humiliations. He rather confines himself to such ones as either injuring others or retorting since they are not able to keep quiet when they are injured. In God’s eyes, both groups are unjust, and therefore they will not reign. Only “if we are enduring, we shall be reigning together also.” But it is apparent from both 2 Timothy 2:12 and Romans 5:17 that such endurance is part of “those obtaining the superabundance of grace” in addition to “the gratuity of righteousness.”
As far as God’s gifts for today are concerned, we have to be the recipients not only of the gratuity of righteousness but also of the superabundance of grace, in order to become eligible for reigning in life through the One, Jesus Christ. Among other things, such superabundance of grace is demonstrated by enduring. And enduring is one good way to imitate the disposition which was manifested by Christ Jesus (Phil.2:5). Most of us are willing to serve; but few can stand humiliation. But this is exactly what the superabundance of grace will grant us.
“If we are disowning [Christ’s disposition], He also will be disowning us” (2 Tim 2:12). Whenever we try to dodge humiliation and endurance, we are disowning Christ. If we do not want to go along with Him into the depths of humiliation we will have no chance to reign together with Him in the celestial realms. As far as an allotment in sovereign power is concerned, He will be disowning us. This proves that we may someday suffer loss because of our present walk. Nobody will lose his allotment of eonian life, nobody will lose his membership in the body of Christ when he or she is a believer. But at the dais, some of us will be appointed to reign together with Christ, and some will not, though all of us will be seated among the celestials, in Christ Jesus, and each of us will have ample opportunity to tell his own story of grace to a celestial audience.
Paul goes on to say in 2 Timothy 2:13, “It we are disbelieving, He is remaining faithful, He cannot disown Himself.” A saint may disbelieve one or two divine declarations or even quite a few, and he may not even be aware of this fact. He may disbelieve that enduring is included in the superabundance of grace and that the apostle had this in view when he said: “Therefore I am enduring all because of those who are chosen, that they also may be happening upon the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with glory eonian” (2 Tim.2:10). This is a most apt description of the grace shown to us. Since it is superabundant, Christ cannot disown Himself, He cannot put off His disposition of kindness and mercy, and He remains faithful, even if we are disbelieving on some point or other so that we are causing sorrow to the spirit of God.
Even those whose god is their bowels, and whose glory is in their shame, who to the terrestrial are disposed (Phil.3:19), who are enemies of the cross of Christ, even though they may be drowsing (1 Thess.5:10) and not awaiting His advent all the time, nevertheless He will call them, too, with a shout of command, with the voice of the Chief Messenger, and with the trumpet of God (1 Thess.4:16), and He will transfigure the bodies of their humiliation, to conform them to the body of His glory, for “He is remaining faithful, He cannot disown Himself.”
The superabundance of grace brought to Paul not only endurance in affliction but also salvation from the destruction mentioned in Philippians 3:19. With this in mind, he could write in 1 Timothy 4:6,16, that his child in the faith should foster or nurture himself with the words of faith and of the ideal teaching and also that he should persist in them. The apostle added, “For in doing this you will save yourself as well as those hearing you.”
THE MEANING OF DESTRUCTION
There is an eighteen-page article discussing the ” Meaning of Destruction” in UNSEARCHABLE RICHES, volume XXI, starting on page 451. This exposition is highly recommended to the reader who wishes to study this subject more intensively. The Greek noun apoleia destruction occurs less frequently than the verb apollumi, and we have to use three English verbs lose, destroy, and perish to render the latter appropriately, as is shown by the following quotation from the article just referred to.
ONLY THE LOST ARE ELIGIBLE FOR SALVATION
“As we have often pointed out, the statement that the Son of Mankind came to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10) is the key to the meaning of the Greek verb apollumi, which we render either lose, destroy, or perish. This refers specifically to Zaccheus in Luke 19; he was lost, and destroyed. Because he was lost he was ready to be found and saved. The real object of most false definitions of apollumi is to prove that it means death from which there is no resurrection, practical annihilation, a state from which salvation is impossible. This passage directly destroys this idea. Instead of the lost being beyond salvation, they alone are eligible for salvation. You cannot rescue a man who is safe and sound. It is only when he is in the state denoted by lose, destroy, perish that salvation can operate on his behalf.
DESTRUCTION IS THE PRELUDE TO SALVATION
“Destruction is a relative term. In the fivefold parable of Luke 15 and 16, the straying sheep was lost in relation to the shepherd; the coin was destroyed as regards the woman; the prodigal son had perished in relation to his father. The same applies to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matt.10:6;15: 24). They were not necessarily suffering or dead, but they were away from the Shepherd; the prodigal was far off from the Father. Does this prove that they were outside the sphere of salvation? It proves the very opposite. The ninety-and-nine were not then found. The elder brother was not then saved. Destruction is the prelude to salvation. It never means annihilation, however closely it may seem to approach that idea in some cases.
NEVER BEYOND THE REACH OF GOD
“It is decidedly unlike either man or God to put out of existence those who are lost. There is not a line of encouragement for this idea in God’s Word. God commends His love to us in that He gave His Christ while we were still sinners. Our Lord spoke the parable of the lost sheep in order to assure His disciples that God was more concerned about one sheep which had strayed than ninety-nine that were in the fold. There is no line which the sinner crosses, that brings him beyond the reach of God. Neither life nor death, neither a career of sin nor a mouldering corpse is any obstacle to divine love. Nay, they are challenges, which Omnipotence must meet or suffer defeat. No death, neither first nor second, can cope with our God, or frustrate His purpose.
GOD IS THE GREAT LOSER AND SAVIOUR OF MANKIND
“God is love, and all of His creatures are dear to Him. Is it not striking that He does not seem to even try to express His affection until they are lost? Whom does God love? He undoubtedly loves all. Whom does He say that He loves? God loves the world, sinners, His enemies, and those who are lost. It takes destruction to open the sluice gates of divine feelings. This is what makes contact between God’s love and His creatures’ hearts. In His wisdom, He has decreed that many shall be lost to Him until the end of the eonian times (“forever and ever”!). Men, who are often compelled to abandon an enterprise which has proven too much for their powers, imagine that He also is balked and unable to save the vast majority, or being able, He does not care.
“It is Godlike to deal with those who have no desire for God, in such a way that they will respond to His love. The sheep was lost by the shepherd; the coin was lost by the woman; the prodigal was lost by the father; Israel was lost by Ieue (Jehovah). Men are lost by God. Who was it that created them? Are they, not His work? Will He not be the Loser if they are not saved?
DESTRUCTION A PASSING PROCESS
“Destruction, like salvation, is eonian. It is not the end or aim of God. That would be sheer insanity. Imagine a God, Whose very essence is love, desiring to lose a single creature with an endless capacity for loving and glorifying Him! Imagine a man so berserk as to smash a machine which could bring him an unlimited income! We would put such a creature under restraint, where he could not harm others, as well as himself. We have not such a God! He destroys nothing that He cannot restore. He loses nothing that will not return to Him laden with praise and glory for Himself. Destruction is a passing process, not a finished state. Through it, God will work out the welfare of His creatures, and the glory of our Saviour and His Father.”
The word “life” does not occur at all in Luke 9:24; the Greek manuscripts have psuche which is the word for soul. Our Lord never talked about “losing one’s life,” but rather of destroying one’s soul. The fact that many of our Bible translations render soul by “life” so often, has led to a deplorable confusion on this subject. Very few realize that the soul is the sensation which results from combining spirit with an organic body. Our readers may obtain ample scriptural proof of this in our pamphlet, “What is the Soul?” Isaiah must have known that it is the soul of the man which has the sensation of hunger and thirst (Isa.29:8). You can gather that much even from your AUTHORIZED “KING JAMES” VERSION. (THE AMERICAN REVISED STANDARD VERSION, however, skips the word “soul” entirely here).
Our Lord did not talk about any annihilation of the soul when He said: “Whosoever should be wanting to save his soul, shall be destroying it; yet whoever should be destroying his soul on My account, he shall be saving it.” This means, he who wants to save for himself the sensation (or enjoyment) of worldly comforts, will lose or destroy for himself the enjoyment of eonian life. Yet he who is now losing the sensation of this life’s pleasures on the account of Jesus, will save for himself the enjoyment of eonian life. Or, as the Concordant Commentary puts it in Luke 9:23:
“It will cost the disciples much to follow Christ in His path of rejection. It will mean the daily renunciation of self. It will mean the carrying of a load which will bring them shame and suffering. Yet the highest honors of the kingdom are for such. Those who suffer with Him, reign with Him. If any of His disciples prefer to avoid this suffering and thus save his “soul” (not life), he will lose the joys and honors of the kingdom. If any choose to lose or destroy his soul by association with Him in His rejection, he will save it, for his place will be high in the kingdom.”
The passage in Luke 9:23-25 ends with the divine declaration: “For what does a man benefit, gaining the whole world, yet destroying or forfeiting himself?” For the Jewish believer at the time of the end, the answer is, he will even forfeit eonian life; he will not enjoy a single blessing of the millennium, for he is an outcast, a withered branch of the Grapevine (John 15:1-6).
No harm is done to the vine when the farmer takes away the barren branches. But a human body would be mutilated if some of its members were cut off. This is why we, under grace, will never forfeit Eonian life. The Father will not remove one single member of Christ’s Body even if it utterly fails to show the fruit of the spirit, such as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control (Gal.5:22). Christ’s ties to us are so strong that He explains them by the intimate relationship of a body to its members: they will never be severed from Him.
We are reminded of Jesus’ words “gaining the whole world” when we read of those whose god is their bowels, and whose glory is in their shame, who to the terrestrial are disposed. For such enemies of the cross, the consummation is destruction, or forfeit, or loss. But while a Jewish believer (who at the time of Jacob’s trouble yields to the pressure of the Adversary in order to avoid suffering) will forfeit the bliss of the millennium completely, this will not happen to an enemy of the cross today. Even if the latter yields to the reasonings of the wisdom of the world and to his own soulish desires, thus avoiding humiliation in contact with others, he will never forfeit his celestial blessings. He will, however, forfeit the honor of reigning in that future realm. This is one aspect of the destruction in Philippians 3:19.
Trying to please God is a patient process, which is never completed while we are in this body of our humiliation. In the resurrection, before the dais, this whole process is perfected at once. Immortality sets a definite end to the presence of sin in us and brings about the consummation of any hostile attitude toward the cross of Christ. There will be no such enemies at the dais. What is in view here, is not so much the cessation of their enmity, but rather what is accomplished by the destruction of each and everything which was not appropriate to our holy calling. Here we have another aspect of the destruction in Philippians 3:19Ä-the breaking down of those barriers which had prevented a closer contact between God and the enemies of the cross.
Paul gave himself as a model and requested his readers to imitate his attitude—knowing Christ, the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings (Phil.3:10, 17). Thus the apostle displayed the disposition which is in Christ Jesus, and humbled himself in many ways, forfeiting everything which he had gained in the way of earthly honors. He was the Lord’s obedient slave unto death. Paul’s humility is also apparent from his confession (1 Cor.15:10):
“Yet in the grace of God I am what I am;
and His grace, which is in me,
did not come to be for naught;
but more exceedingly than all of them toil I—
yet not I, but the grace of God
which is together with me.”
We should not be startled by those who are opposing in anything, which is to them a proof of destruction, yet of our salvation. There is much comfort in Paul’s words (Phil.1:27-30) that all this is from God, that to us, too, it is graciously granted, for Christ’s sake, not only to be believing on Him, but to be suffering for His sake also. Hence, let us praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, the Father of pities, and God of all consolation, that, even as the sufferings of Christ are superabounding in us, thus, through Christ, our consolation also is superabounding, because of the superabundance of His grace!
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