(adapted from volume 56, number 4 of Unsearchable Riches magazine)
CONFESSION, PRAYER AND PRAISE well up from our hearts as we once more close a volume of our little magazine. [So wrote A.E.K. in the November, 1941 issue of U.R.] For nearly a third of a century we have been seeking to sound out the word of His grace and we are forced to confess that we are full of failure, to pray for promised grace and to praise God for the fullness of His love as displayed in His dealings with us. Despite our shortcomings we have been graced with ever increasing light and fresh unfoldings of His love. Notwithstanding our weakness, we have been granted strength sufficient to carry on and accomplish tasks which we once deemed far beyond our capacity. How can we help praying for a continuance of His favor, and praising Him for the grace which has sustained us and which encourages us to continue in His service?
What confessions we are forced to make? How far short we have come of the high hopes that held us more than thirty years ago? Not that we expected great things, or vast crowds or spectacular success. These, we knew, were not to be encountered at the end of this eon, if we are faithful to God and His Word. But we did look forward to some things which would be pleasing to God. We hoped that, among our friends, dissensions would cease, now that we no longer based fellowship on doctrine. And, indeed, we have had sweet fellowship with many who were not one with us in all of our interpretations, although, in some cases fellowship was necessarily limited because of a great divergence in teaching. Yet the essential unity was maintained in mutual forbearance and love. We are thankful that, in many instances, this continues to be the case. In fact, we do not demand of a single one of our friends that they believe as we do in order to keep fellowship with us.
UTTER SUBJECTION TO GOD
But we did not realize the effect of doctrine on conduct. We cannot expect those who deny grace to act graciously, when even those who revel in it fail to measure up to its high demands. Practical unity is dependent on the tie of peace, and this, in turn, depends on loving tolerance, on patience, meekness and humility (Eph.4:1-3). These are the rare virtues of which there is such a lack. Indeed, I feel sure that, if we exhibited them in any marked measure we would be misunderstood and despised as lacking in self-respect. It is pride which creates discord and disunity. Most of us have so much of it that, if we were not restrained by a deep conviction that our crucifixion in Christ shows what we are in ourselves, and our exaltation by God what His grace has made us, we would assert ourselves and make unity an impossibility. Without grace no vital unity is possible. Where this is lacking it soon disappears.
The whole spirit of the times is against unity. Every where freedom, independence, self-determination, are held up as the greatest of goals for humanity. There is a revolt against authority. Children no longer need to be subject to parents, nor wives to their husbands, nor slaves to their masters, nor the younger to the elder, nor the citizen to the authorities, nor the saints to one another, nor the ecclesia to Christ. One would suppose that, at the consummation, all are to become all in themselves, self-centered self-sufficient, independent, free instead of being utterly subject to God (1 Cor.15:27-28). That such a spirit leads to discord and strife is evident all about us. But it should not lead us astray. We should not strive to be independent of one another. Rather, we should seek to stem this tide by practicing the opposite. Let us not insist on our rights but rather forego them when this will serve the saints. It may be humiliating, but that is just what we should covet. Let us remember that our Lord was vested with all authority, yet He chose the path of bitterest humiliation and shame.
KNOWLEDGE PUFFS UP
Where there has been division and discord, let us freely confess it, even if we imagine that we have had no hand in it. Let us remember Daniel. We would say that he, of all Israel, was innocent of the national transgressions. But he thought otherwise, hence he was personally humbled by them. He knew himself as vitally one with his people. We are far more closely joined to one another, so it ill becomes us to point at others. No matter who is to blame, we must share the shame. Notwithstanding all the divisions into which the church has been rent, the believers in them are vitally and essentially one. The acts of each member of the body affect all and involve all. No one could claim to be as free of the offenses of the church as Daniel was of the sins of Israel. Nowhere have I seen such flagrant sectarianism as among a sect that was violently opposed to it. Let us not, then, be proud of our own unsectarianism, lest it should prove to be the opposite, but ashamed of the divisions in the body to which we belong, that we may be in the path of peace and unity.
Another danger we feared has led to much humiliating heartache. We had been among those who claimed to know more about the Scriptures than any others. Their claim was not without foundation, for they had many a precious truth unknown to the mass of Christendom. But, alas, as I once heard it expressed, they had a little light, but less love. Knowledge puffs up, yet love edifies (1 Cor.8:1). We knew that our work would consist largely in the search for, and dissemination of knowledge. Hence we have tried to connect it with love as much as possible, as an antidote to the tendency of knowledge to inflate us with self-esteem. But I fear that we have by no means fully escaped the insidious effects of knowledge. I, at least, am inclined to deal heartlessly with those who seem to come short, especially if they claim a superior knowledge, instead of bearing with them, and accepting their insults, and enjoying their jibes.
GIVE GOD HIS PROPER PLACE
Another doctrine which has a powerful influence on fellowship is the recognition of God. Indeed, it marks one of the greatest rifts between the sects of Christendom. So long as the creature clings to the prerogatives of the Creator there cannot be that genuine humility which is a prerequisite for peace and unity. So long as He is not given His true place as the One Who is operating all we are sure to take some of this glory to ourselves. So long as He is not envisioned as the great Object of all we will fail to take our place and give Him His due. Practically, Unity depends on the humility which can come only from a heartfelt acknowledgment that all is out of and through and for Him, in short, that He is the Deity, the Source, the Course, and the Consummation of all, and we are nothing apart from what He makes us.
One thing we greatly feared when we first began to make known the great truth of universal reconciliation was that it might degenerate into “universalism,” or salvation by character. We are thankful that, for many years, no tendency of this kind materialized. But now this is plainly evident among a very few, and we are praying that God will intervene, in His own way, to guard this marvelous truth, which he has committed to us. No attacks from without, and they have been many and bitter, can so surely subvert the truth as an effort from within to relieve God of a vital part of the work of salvation and lay it on the shoulders of men.
Many other evils could be included in our confession, but we desire to speak only of a few which we hope will be of benefit to our friends, and lead to prayer and praise. It will be seen that our plaint is that we have failed, in measure, in the line with God’s intention. The nominal church and the world are rapidly approaching the time when a man will set himself up as God, and demand the worship of mankind. The burden of our testimony is the very reverse of this. And once more we wish to graciously warn the saints against everything that exalts or dignifies man or gives him the glory that is reserved for God alone. Do not allow yourself to be carried away by the current of the times. Give God His proper place in your heart, and humble yourself in His presence. That is the path to peace and unity.
PRAYER AND PRAISE
Confession alone would not only humble us in the dust, but would lead to discouragement and depression. In view of God’s grace there is no cause for this, for abasement is only a precursor of exaltation. Moreover it leads to real, genuine prayer and praise. Our petition wells up spontaneously out of a humbled heart, aware not only of its own shortcomings and insufficiency, but of the sufficiency and love of God. We are driven away from our impotence into the arms of His omnipotence. We appeal to God for deliverance from the world, the flesh, and the adversary, and all that is connected with them, and implore for power to fulfill His will. Each breath of the man of God should be accompanied by a subconscious repetition of those words of our Lord: Not My will but Thine. And each pulse beat should be a note of praise. For our failure is the best foil for His perfections. It makes us thankful for all that we receive from His hands, and for all that He is to us. We praise Him in anticipation of the future and for the preparation of the present. May ever increasing praise ascend from the hearts of all who read our little magazine!
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