The Dais or “Judgment Seat”
of God and His Christ
IN THIS ADMINISTRATION of grace the adversary has a tremendous leverage whenever we aim to get rather than to give. I have been led to doubt the possibility of recovering or even holding fresh truth if it is used merely as a means of livelihood o r sordid gain. I am unutterably thankful that the Lord impressed me with this at the very beginning of my career, so that I determined to work my way and never solicit for my personal needs. I feared that the slightest attempt to make merchandise of the evangel would be used by the adversary to shut the door to further light. Sometimes I am tempted to solicit aid for the work, but I am afraid to ask for personal use or enrichment. What He does not send voluntarily might become a curse.
I have been strengthened in this position by my long experience. Very early the pastor of a church became interested, so much so, that he realized that, if he should make the truth known, he could not hold his pastorate very long. So he frankly told us that there were thirteen reasons why he was unable to accept and preach what we held. We expected a long statement of as many doctrines. Instead, he said that he had a wife and a dozen children. We were very fond of the man, so it made us very sorrowful. We realized that he would not stand still, but go backwards. And so it came about. Many years thereafter we were told that he was opposed to us. It had come to the ears of his church that he held our heresies, so he was compelled to take a stand against us to hold on to his salary.
By this spirit we are able to recognize those who are for or against God’s grace. Do they also wish to be imitators of God (Eph.5:1), Who gives us freely and gratuitously, without regard to a return? Paul knew very well that the Lord had hitherto prescribed that those who are announcing the evangel are to be living of the evangel. He explains this at great length to the Corinthians, how he had a right to lead about a wife, and to refrain from working, or to gather the fruit of his labors, or to reap fleshly things from his spiritual sowing. Yet, in accord with his gracious message, he adds, “Nevertheless we do not use this right.” And again, “Yet I do not use any of these things.” He did not use up his authority in the evangel (1 Cor.9:3-18). Let us remember that the servants of Satan are dispensers of righteousness (2 Cor.11:15).
Even in the kingdom heralding there is no question of wages or a salary. Under the circumstances obtaining at that time in the land, the disciples were not to get gold or silver or even copper coins, and not even to carry the usual bag of the religious mendicant, “for worthy is the worker of his nourishment” (Matt. 10:10). They had to rely on provision provided by the Lord through those who were worthy and on whom their peace came. Those who did not receive them were doomed to suffer in the judging. The spirit of this commission was quite the opposite of the conciliation which we herald to the nations today. God has changed His purpose and attitude since then. We may not apply to the nations now what was meant only for Israel then, in view of the judgments which will usher in the kingdom.
To begin with, when we first started our “paper” ministry through the magazine and booklets and tracts, we hoped to do it all without cost. But the laws of the land were such that quite a considerable sum would be lost in postage charges for the magazine unless it had a subscription price. Besides, there were some who wanted our works for unworthy purposes. In Africa some do not care for a version without gold edges! So we determined to fulfill the spirit of grace, by giving freely to all who should have it, but could not pay, and to charge others only for the cost of manufacture and distribution. So there would be no gain for us and no loss to the saints. By taking advantage of the laws for non-profit enterprises we may save much more, which will enable us to enlarge our stock.
FRUIT THAT INCREASES FOR YOUR ACCOUNT
But, of course, this does not hinder the saints from being at least just toward those who serve them in the truth. When Paul came out from Macedonia, the Philippians alone participated with him in the matter of giving and getting. Even in Thessalonica they sent to his need. He did not seek a gift, but fruit that would increase their account. Such a gift would not only sustain Paul’s physical frame, but would be transformed into a fragrant odor, a sacrifice acceptable, well pleasing to God. Such a gracious spirit is the seasoning that transforms the decaying fruits of earth into ambrosia fit for the delectation of God Himself (Phil.4:10).
The disposition of the Philippians blossomed. It was a living, enlarging, developing thing. From the seed of grace sprang the plant of thankfulness which bears fruit in generous gifts. It was not the dreary duty of the law which extracted its dead tithe. It was not a payment for false information, such as they made to the mad maiden for her oracles. It was not a bribe for further favors in the future such as the Christian is exhorted to deposit in the church of his choice. It was glorious grace, growing and producing precious fruit for the delectation of the Deity. It was a pleasure to them and a joy to Paul and a delight to the heart of God.
It is our earnest desire to make this work a means of increasing your account in the only bank which cannot go bankrupt. We seek to turn your gifts of material worth into spiritual currency of untold value. Again and again have we seen saints enriched by a few pages of paper inscribed with God’s truth. No earthly millions could have brought them such satisfaction and delight. Indeed, these would probably have added to their cares and distresses. I consider my work the best job on earth, though it has no salary and my income is so small that I seldom need to pay a tax, which puts me in the lowest bracket. And those who join me in printing the currency o f heaven may look forward to an increase in their celestial account far beyond anything known on earth.
“EXPECTATION OF INCOME”
This is the chief incentive in the world’s religions and a test of the spirituality of the slaves of Christ. Religion may supply a well-paying job. When I was taken around to see the sights of London, the announcer showed us the palace of the Bishop of that city, and sarcastically remarked that his salary was only eighty thousand pounds a year (if I remember correctly), but, seeing that he is a bachelor, with no wife to support, he has to get along with this amount as best he can. Even ungodly men can see something of the vast chasm between the nominal church’s profession and such fearful departures from its spirit.
Among the nations it may be lawful, or even gracious, to take away the income of rich men, as Paul did, when he cast out the Python spirit, but it will call down their wrath. And this is just as true in the religious as in other spheres. These men had what is called a “religious racket” in American slang. They provided the help of the gods for a price. That is where every true herald of the evangel and all faithful teachers of the Word are liable to get into trouble. Seldom are they accused of the gracious act that is the real occasion, but some of the consequences, or even matters entirely foreign, are used to prejudice others against them and ruin their work.
A PREVIEW OF THE PRESENT
This minute miniature of the present grace seems to be predictive of Paul’s whole career among the nations, his sufferings, and his imprisonment. Even the transcendent grace of today seems to be implied in the songs sung at midnight. And the slacking of all bonds, does that not presage the same procedure, in spirit, when all who are with Paul fare forth free! The prisoners, and even Paul, do not get from under the grasp of the government. That would have cost the jailor his living and his life. It is a spiritual bondage, such as that of the maiden, which is represented by the physical bonds and the stocks. The inmates of the prison would rather picture our bondage to sin and wickedness. We are free so long as we are with Paul. Once he goes, or his grace leaves us, we return to the fetters of the flesh.
When Peter was jailed, the saints did not sing, but prayed earnestly concerning him (Acts 12:6). They were not joyous, but sad. The Pentecostal movement had been heralded to the limits of the land, but it had failed to reach the rulers, and the people were opposed to it. It should have been a blessing to all the other nations as well. Instead, a great famine comes to all the earth, undoubtedly a sign of the spiritual famine resulting from the rejection of God’s spirit and His Christ in Judea (Acts 11:27). Indeed, it was most severe in the land of Israel, where physical food was directly dependent on the spiritual state. Under the law, when they hearken to Jehovah, they cannot lack any good thing (Deut.8:9).
The Circumcision ecclesia was quite right to be concerned when Peter was jailed. James had already been assassinated, and Peter seemed next in line. Although there was much to show that God was withdrawing from Israel, yet there was a remnant who were true to Him. These were deeply concerned at the turn of events, for they did not know God’s intention in regard to the nations. Had they known this, they would have acted differently. Indeed the real “pentecostalists” never were like their imitators today. They did not specialize in excessive emotional exuberance, but great fear was in the souls of all (Acts 2:43). True, they took nourishment with exultation, but the joy left them when the famine came, and they had little food over which to exult.
Paul and Silas had no such concern. Their message had not yet been heralded to the nations. Their spirits were not weighed down by the prospect of failure. Indeed, they buoyed up by the utter graciousness of their message. No such failure could come of it as befell the nation of Israel. It is for the nations, indeed, but it is an individual, not a national message. Those who accepted it need not depend on the salvation of the whole world for its realization, even if it did lead to the final salvation of all. The pentecostalists had no desire to save their enemies. But Paul and Silas had no hesitance in giving the gospel even to their jailor. What a contrast! Peter’s guards were led away to death (Acts 12:19)! Paul’s jailor was graciously saved! No pentecostalism for me!
The salvation of Peter and that of Paul were notably different. A messenger of Jehovah rouses the reposing Peter, by smiting him and miraculously leading him outside the jail, extricating him, not only out of the hand of Herod, but from all the hope of the Jewish people. Peter knew that his kinsmen were against him, and he must have realized that his testimony was rejected by them. How different is Paul’s case!
An earthquake is just as much an act of God as a miracle, but there are vital differences, which are in accord with the change from pentecost to the present. A miracle is God’s intervention in man’s affairs outside the course of nature. He does not send messengers who can enter the inner vaults of a strong prison and bring out a divine favorite without waking the guards in these days. But He often does greater things than that. Earthquakes are so common in the land where this is written that we do not pay much attention to them, unless they are severe.
We have no miracles in this era, but we have far greater manifestations of God’s power, especially in the sphere of spirit. It certainly was a wonder that the earthquake in Philippi occurred just when Paul and Silas were in jail and in the stocks and singing. It was a greater wonder that it set them all free. It might easily have buried them all beneath the rains of the jail. So it is that God works today, through the forces of nature, even by means of destruction and devastation, and especially by means of the spiritual tremors that shake society and break down the confines of custom and stocks of tradition.
THE SALVATIONS OF PETER AND PAUL
Peter’s salvation pales before Paul’s, notwithstanding the miraculous messenger. Even though he was released from jail and saved from impending death, he was in a most deplorable position. He knew that the promise of Pentecost had departed. H is evangel had been heralded to the limits of the land. He had been among those who had asked, “Lord, art Thou at this time restoring the kingdom to Israel” (Acts 1:6)? After the first flurry that followed Pentecost, it became increasingly evident that the kingdom was receding, for, not only the political powers and the priests were against it, but the people refused his message. Then James was assassinated, and Peter was seized.
Peter did not come out of jail a free man, at liberty to go where he wished, able to carry on his ministry in defiance of the superior authorities. At Pentecost and thereafter he opposed the chief priests and other religious usurpers of political power, because they had no right to dictate to him. But, as this is the era of the nations, by divine decree, Peter was obliged to be subject to the civil authorities because they were God’s ministers. When a messenger of God had released him from their custody he was told to go right back to the sanctuary and speak to the people publicly (Acts 5:17-21). Later, however, he goes to the saints by night, and disappears. The nations still rule. The kingdom will not be restored at this time.
When Peter was loosed from his chains and led from the prison, he came out under cover of darkness and furtively found his way to the disciples and then disappeared from the scene, going to “another place.” The chief of the apostles, who will one day sit upon a throne, ruling a tribe of Israel, had to slink away in the night and hide like a criminal (Acts 12:1-17)! This accords perfectly with his ministry to Israel. It was a failure. It must stop. It had accomplished its purpose. It had shown that Israel, even after the great Sacrifice had been offered, refused the Lamb as well as the Lion. The rejection of grace left the Jews under the iron hand of the nations, not only as to the throne, but as to the temple also.
But Paul? He made no effort to escape from the jail or the jailor. God was working, not only to save him from physical bonds, but to release his enemies, in particular the warden, from far stronger spiritual fetters. Having set the jailor free, Paul transformed his foe into a friend, who bathed his blows and satisfied his soul with food. Yet he did not use the opportunity to escape. God had to send the constables to get him out! And still he would not go! The jailor tried to persuade him, but Paul did not want a pardon for being gracious. He wanted justification and glory. The magistrates had done wrong, not he. They had lashed him in public without a trial, a thing which could not be done to one who had Roman citizenship. Then they jailed him without cause, and now they want to rid themselves of him without acknowledging their faults! So Paul insists on a public, a personal, a perfect justification. “Let them come themselves and lead us out” (Acts 16:38)! No pardon, no forgiveness would suit at all. These would imply guilt. At any time they might be arrested again if it suited the whim of the magistrates. It would have left a stain on their characters which would hamper the work. They must have a complete acquittal and public recognition. Is not that what we obtain through the death of Christ and our death in Him? Let us join Paul as he is escorted out of jail by the magistrates of Philippi!
PAUL’s CONTACTS WITH GOD’s MINISTERS
AMONG THE NATIONS
It is most interesting and helpful to note Paul’s attitude toward the superior political authorities with which he came into contact among the nations and see its accord with his teaching (Rom.13:1-5), and to contrast it with his defiance of the religious head of Israel, and with Peter’s experience. It might be called a moving picture of the introduction of conciliation, the chief characteristic of this era of the nations. God is at peace with the world today, so the saints are subject. Paul exemplifies this in a series of scenes during his later journeys and his imprisonment.
Many saints are inclined to use Peter’s words concerning the religious authorities, the chief priest and the Sanhedrin of the Jews, and misapply them to political powers of today, to which we are to be subject. The apostles of our Lord, who are destined to sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes, might well say, “One must yield to God rather than to men” (Acts 5:29). They were the real rulers in Israel. The priests were usurpers. They had just had their orders from God, “Go, and, standing in the sanctuary, speak to the people all the declarations of this life.” No saint today is in any position at all corresponding to this. Paul, our apostle, when he met the magistrates among the nations, yielded implicit obedience, because he knew that God had made them His ministers for good. He knew that, since the deportation of Israel, civil power is in the hands of the nations. He is our example.
In Philippi, Paul and Silas offered no resistance to the masters of the maid. We are not told that they even offered any verbal defense before the magistrates who did not even inquire their status, for they would not have touched Paul, had they known that he had the Roman citizenship. Paul goes to great extremes of submission, allowing them to flog him and Silas, give them blows and stick them in the stocks. But he did appeal to God. Such spiritual forces are always available to the suffering saint. Why did the officers order their release in the morning? No reason is given. Did their consciences trouble them? Did the earthquake frighten them? There may have been many reasons, but we need not bother our heads about them, when we k now that God is for us. He Who opened the doors of the prison with an earthquake could easily manipulate the minds of the magistrates. Let us leave our rulers in His hand. He is able to handle them. All we need to do is to submit to the rule of the authorities, and confide our cause to Him.
Paul knew very well that he and Silas had been wronged, and that the magistrates had acted illegally. They had no right to lash them before trial, before they had been found guilty in a court, especially in public, where all could see them and infer that they were criminals. But the greatest mistake was to do this to a Roman citizen. Probably Paul could have made it hot for them for this offense, as this citizenship made him a highly privileged person. It may be that they were actually liable to the punishment which they had meted out to him.
Had Paul been a modern reformer, he might have made an effort to put such men out of office and clean up the city government. They were evidently quite unfit for the position they held. But he made no effort in this direction, because he not only knew his place in reference to them, but God’s purpose in such misgovernment. Political power has not been turned over to the nations because they are capable of ruling, or because they will uphold justice, but because God wishes to demonstrate their incapacity and moral unfitness, and so prepare them for subjection to Him, at the consummation. This example of Paul’s contact with government among the nations is a good sample of man’s misrule in the era of the nations, and shows why God’s indignation finally brings it to a close.
After Paul was pushed out of Philippi, he went to Thessalonica, and to Berea, and to Athens, and to Corinth, and to Ephesus, and to Jerusalem, and to Rome. It may be of immense profit if we consider each in the light of the truth he revealed, for his actions corresponded to his words. But let us pay particular attention to his contacts with the political powers and contrast these with his conflicts with the Jews. By the side we may note that his evangel was largely rejected by the Jews, but received by the proselytes and the nations.
GRACE AND GLORY
Let us not fail to note the final effect of Paul’s action and its contrast with another significant miracle he performed. Soon after the central crisis in the book of Acts, which showed that the heralding of the kingdom in the land had failed, Barnabas and Saul met a false prophet, a Jew, named Bar-Jesus, who withstood them, seeking to keep Sergius Paul from the faith (Acts 13:6). Then Saul, who is also Paul, denounced him to his face, and blinded him temporarily. To anyone who is saturated with the grace which is ours in Christ Jesus today, this action of his seems very harsh, if we do not note the crisis in which it occurred, and the place that Bar-Jesus plays as the representative of apostate Judaism.
God had blinded the chosen people, who had turned into a false prophet by refusing His grace, and into a hindrance to its heralding to the nations, and Paul, as his name now becomes, was merely imitating God’s action by blinding an individual in place of the nation (Isa.6:9-10). At that time Paul blinded Israel, as it were, yet later he enlightens the nations when he drives out the dark spirit from the maid of Philippi. These two actions are so characteristic of the entire era of the book of Acts that they may well be used as keys to unlock the whole account. Here Paul, by his acts, works in full accord with his words in his epistles, where he solves the enigmas and puts us face to face with the underlying facts.
VANISHING AND TRANSCENDING GLORY
The whole action in Acts is a moving picture presentation of Israel’s fade-away and the rising of the nations to a stellar role. The twelve gradually vanish in defeat, while Paul appears and goes from glory to glory, finally pushing Israel off the stage. It seems passing strange that anyone should wish to be identified with Pentecost, for not only do the opponents of the apostles stop the movement, but many of the Pentecostalists themselves apostatized. Though once enlightened, besides tasting of the celestial gratuity and becoming partakers of holy spirit, and tasting the ideal declaration of God, besides the powerful deeds of the impending eon, they fell aside. They brought forth thorns and thistles, not useful herbage (Heb.6:4,5). Alas! May their modern imitators be kept from the same fate!
PAUL FALSELY ACCUSED
Paul was accused of confounding the city and announcing illegal customs, contrary to Roman law. We are not told just what he said, for the Acts account is not the place to present any evangel, except as it affects the Israelitish kingdom. But it is not hard to guess what “confounded” the masters of the maid of Philippi. His message of grace for the nations not only confounds, but condemns, any money-making religion. The alleged basis of their accusation, that Paul and his companions belonged to the Jews, therefore they were teaching Jewish customs, was quite contrary to the facts and the evidence, for the Jews also opposed Paul on the ground that he was not clinging to the Jewish law. Indeed, he was especially appointed to promulgate an evangel which is adapted to the Romans as well as all other nations, in which religious supremacy was taken away from the Jews and given to the nations.
How often since then has opposition to the evangel come, not from the powers political, but from the “medicine men,” from the voodoos, the priests, the clergy, the bishops, the canons, the ecclesiarchs, the metropolitans, the popes; yes, from the preachers and even the evangelists, modernists or fundamentalists! All whose income is dependent on their religious work are in danger of falsely accusing Paul, or his pupils, and of hindering the gracious message which is for the nations today. When a man’s prestige, power, and provision are dependent on his pleasing the people, he is hardly in a position to please God. The men of Philippi were forced to oppose Paul with false charges in order to protect themselves and their means of subsistence.
THE ACTION OF THE MAGISTRATES
As this experience of Paul was undoubtedly intended to give us a preview of the course of the evangel among the nations, especially in its contacts with the civil authorities, it will be well to consider the actions of the magistrates more closely. It is an interesting fact that most so-called “Christian” nations are still, to a large extent, under Roman law, as this has been made the basis of their jurisprudence. But, even when we are gracious, we must not expect a true charge or a fair trial. We must remember that God does not expect the nations to rule justly, and especially not where His affairs are concerned. Paul had no opportunity to refute the charges or to defend himself. The throng was allowed to mob them, and the officers, instead of protecting them and giving them a fair trial, tore off their clothes and ordered t hem to be flogged.
The silence of Paul and Silas in the midst of this injustice is even more eloquent than his singing in the stocks. He was not dumb in dealing with the false demon, but indignant. Yet in front of the magistrates, the “ministers” of God in this era of the nations, his attitude was almost the reverse of that he later showed to the chief priest who had usurped political power in Israel (Acts 23:3). Then he went too far and called the chief priest a “whitewashed wall.” But in Philippi he took the stand that he later enjoined upon us who are of the nations, and was subject to the superior authorities (Rom.13:1-5). They were most unjust, as they themselves afterwards realized. But he entered no protest, and made no defense. In order to bring out the highlights of the picture the circumstances made him helpless at the time. Such should be our attitude toward “the powers that be.”
As Paul’s evangel is for individuals out of all nations, not excluding Israel, his custom was, when entering a new city, to go to the synagogue first. There, on the sabbaths, he opened up the Scriptures to the Jews and showed that their suffering Messiah had offered up Himself as a Sacrifice for their sins and had been raised from the dead. Some usually believed, but the mass of them rejected their Saviour, and became jealous of the outsiders, the guim, the proselytes and others of the nations, and stirred up the populace and the political powers.
Leaving Philippi he went to Thessalonica. It seems to present a pattern of the usual procedure. These two places are especially interesting, because Paul later wrote epistles to each of them, and, strange as it may seem, the former receives the latest and highest, and the latter the first and lowest of his epistles. Their main difference lay in the religious sphere. In Philippi Paul clashed with demon spirits, worshiped by the nations. In Thessalonica he was opposed by the religious Jews.
In closing our meditation on this most suggestive incident, let us emphasize the fact that the opposition Paul encountered was, at bottom, from the Python spirit in the maiden, rather than from the maid herself or her owners, or the magistrates, or the throng, or the jailor. All of these seemed to be his adversaries, but they were undoubtedly all impelled by spiritual influences of which they were ignorant, and over which they had no control. We see in action, what Paul fully explains at the close of his epistle to the Ephesians. He did not wrestle with blood and flesh, but with the invisible, intangible sovereignties, with the authorities, with the world-mights of this darkness, with the spiritual forces of wickedness among t he celestials (Eph.6:10- 12).
We must not imagine that all these men were very bad or held sinister motives. They were the unconscious victims of the adversary’s stratagems. They had no personal grudge against Paul or his ministry. They had the usual motives of men of the world. The owners of the mad maid wanted to make money and considered Paul’s act a criminal interference with their rights, the magistrates doubtless considered Paul a menace to the peace of the city. They had to please the people. The jailor had to do his duty and please his employers. It was the spirit of their motives that was used by the adversary in order to hinder Paul’s ministry. This was directed against him personally only because he was associated with the evangel of God.
The same methods are being used today. Not only unbelieving men, but even the saints are arrayed against Paul, or rather his message, by spiritual forces which may be traced back to the adversary, as a rule. Not merely a maid, but the whole of religious Christendom, which is apparently backing Paul, and advocates a way of salvation, is so saturated with the spirit of darkness, of tradition and superstition, that anyone who seeks to cast it out is in danger, first of all from those who profit by it, and then from others only remotely connected with it.
It is a great help when we can trace the opposition to us personally back through our ministry, and the unsuspecting dupes of the adversary, to our real enemies, the spiritual powers of wickedness among the celestials. Instead of blaming the intermediaries too severely, we will be inclined toward pity and compassion in dealing with them, knowing that they are the unconscious tools of spiritual forces of which they are not aware. Few, it seems, are able to do this, and resent the thought of associating saints with the adversary, but sober reflection will convince us that the opposition which Paul encountered, and the defection of all Asia, was all due, at bottom, to the stratagems of the spirit world. And so it is today.
Only such a knowledge can keep us from sore depression, especially in these last days when the apostasy of the saints is much more prevalent than in Paul’s lifetime. Only by looking beyond the opposition of our fellows to our real enemies can we sing while our feet are confined in spiritual stocks. Only thus can we rejoice when friends join with foes to hinder the work of restoring God’s glorious evangel of grace to the world that lies in darkness and distress, and seek to stop the heralding of the hidden glories of Christ to His saints whose light is so dim that they also live in fear and trembling. Only thus can our hearts sing as we pray with our feet in the stocks! Let those who can join in our rejoicing!
A. E. Knoch
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