ANSWERS TO CORRESPONDENCE
BY: A. P. ADAMS
I have received many letters containing objections, suggestions and questions, which I shall endeavor to answer in due time. I am always glad to receive such letters, when written in the right spirit, as I do not expect that readers will accept everything that appears in the paper unquestioned, nor would I have them do so, but rather “let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind;” not infrequently great light is brought out by questions or objections; the truth never can be harmed in this way; thorough investigation will expose error, but it will make the truth shine brighter and brighter. In the present number I shall only have space to reply to a portion of these communications; other answers will appear shortly.
I wish first to consider some objections contained in two long letters written by a Christian brother, a preacher of the gospel, against the idea of the plan of creation, purpose of evil, probation after death, etc., as set forth in past issues of this paper. These letters contain the fullest and best criticism of these views that I have ever met, and are written in a spirit of candor and Christian fairness that commands my respect and esteem, though I cannot accept the writer’s conclusions. I will notice some few points in these letters because they illustrate how the best of writers are led to contradict themselves, and take inconsistent and totally untenable positions, when they undertake to oppose the truths of God’s word and to sustain the orthodox view. I will quote from the letters and then answer.
“If your theory concerning the fall of man is correct, namely that it was in accordance with God’s will that evil should exist, and that likewise sin and evil were according to his purpose and plan, then it necessarily follows,
1. That it will prove in the end to be far better that our first parents entered upon an experience of sin, guilt and shame, sorrow, pain and death; than it would have been had they continued in a state of innocence, unrighteousness, purity and peace.
2. That, if man had always obeyed God, he (God) would have been unable, with all his store of infinite wisdom and power, to devise and carry out a plan which should secure the perfect welfare and happiness of the race.
3. That God, that cannot lie, did not really mean what he said, when he forbade Adam and Eve partaking of the tree of knowledge of good and evil; while Satan who is a liar and the Father of it, told them the truth.”
Now in reply to the foregoing I would say, first, that the proper way, as it seems to me, for our brother to have done in his criticism, was, not to consider if the theory were true, what the results would be, but whether the theory were true or not; let the results be what they may, is this system of theology true? Is the question he should have considered first at least, and if he was able to show the main system false on Bible evidence, then he could have gone on to have strengthened that conclusion by endeavoring to show that the consequent doctrines flowing from such a system were also false. But, this, the brother does not do; he leaves the main position unassailable, thus virtually acknowledging its impregnability; but, still clinging to the creed in which he has been educated; he will not accept these views because the conclusions flowing there from do not harmonize with the teachings of the creed. The great mass of evidence that so firmly establishes this grand system of “Bible Theology” is left untouched, but the system is nevertheless rejected because its issues cannot be harmonized with the nominal church theology. Suppose the church theology is all wrong (which it most certainly is; see the article on “Orthodoxy” in the preceding number), then of course the true theology, whatever it is and whoever may have it, would be entirely out of joint with the false church theology. The only standard is the Bible; “to the law and to the testimony, if they speak not according to this Word it is because there is no light in them.” We need not fear conclusions so long as we have the solid bed rock of truth under our feet at each step of our reasoning (1-2-28).
But now let us look at the consequences that seen to be so objectionable to our brother. To number 1, I would reply at once, and without reserve, yes. I have not a shadow of doubt but that it will be “far better” for man that he fell into evil than it would have been had he remained innocent in Eden; and I have given my reasons for this belief several times in the paper, (see 1-1-7,1-2-25, 1-8-169, &c.). My belief in God that he is supreme and all-wise compels me to this view: I cannot think that God would have allowed sin to enter the world (and of course he might have prevented it) had he not foreseen that it would have been for man’s good in the end.
To number 2, I would simply say that we have nothing to do with what God could have done, or could not have done, if circumstances had been different; it is enough for us that we know what he has done under existing circumstances; and since “all things are of God,” and “he worketh all things after the council of his own will,” it must be that he has done the right thing, and the best thing, and that the outcome will be for his glory, and the good of all his children; this we should know if we had no more scripture than that quoted above; but when we have abundance of Scripture to show how God uses all things, evil and sin included, to further on and carry out his own purposes and plans, how he causes the very wrath of man to praise him (Psa. 76: 10), and that in the end “God shall be all in all,” then we can accept things just as they are, with the assurance that God will bring it all out right in the end.
In answer to number 3, I would say that God’s purpose lies not on the surface; we must dig deeper than the letter if we would understand God’s true meaning. He speaks, as we have abundantly shown, in type and figure, prophecy and symbol, parable, dark saying and allegory, and he who would understand even “parts of his ways” (Job 26:14), must “search as for hid treasures.” (Prov. II. 4). In regard to Satan, I would add that he also is God’s servant (Psa. 119”91), and must do God’s will, in a sense, like other servants, as I have shown in the article on “The Purpose of Evil” in No. 7. [Editor’s note: please reference The Spirit of The Word, Contents #21].
The great trouble with this brother is the same as with all of those who are in sympathy with the popular theology,– they start out wrong; they do not understand God’s Plan of Creation; they do not know that “All things are of God,”— “The Purpose of Evil,” etc., etc., hence all their reasoning is wrong, and all their conclusions are wrong; and nothing looks so much like falsehood as truth, and nothing looks so much like truth as falsehood; and thus unwittingly they “call evil good, and good evil, and put darkness for light, and light for darkness.”
Now I will notice another extract from this brother’s letter; he says; “God’s plan concerning man will not fail; God’s plan was to create a beautiful world and people it with a race of holy, happy beings, who should rejoice forever in the goodness and glory of God their Father. If all men from the beginning had obeyed God perfectly the great plan would have progressed uninterruptedly and harmoniously to grand and glorious success, without a stain of sin or a shade of evil. Sin and evil are not a part of God’s plan, or by any means in harmony with it, but the direct results of nonconformity to it. Man, to be an intelligent subject of God’s government, must have an independent will; when God gave man the power to choose for himself, he no longer retained the power to choose for him. So the creature alone is responsible for evil and not the Creator. Man must be tried in some way, for God will have a tried people, therefore as long as sin and evil are in the world, he makes use of them to try and test his children. God’s work is temporarily marred and its progress delayed by evil, but when the earth is renewed, and the saints are all immortal, and the tabernacle of God is with men, and the whole earth filled with his glory, then will his beneficent designs be fully accomplished.”
It is a marvel to me that the brother could not see that in this passage, 1, he contradicts himself; 2, he makes God out to be less than supreme; 3, he involves the outcome of God’s plan in uncertainty and doubt, so that we know not whether good or evil will ultimately triumph.
He tells us that “God’s plan will not fail;” then he goes on to say that “God’s plan was to create a beautiful world and people it with a race of holy and happy beings who should rejoice forever in the goodness and glory of God their Father;” and he further tells us that if there had been no sin this plan would have been carried out “uninterruptedly to grand and glorious success.” Thus the brother contradicts himself; he tells us first that God’s plan will not fail;” then he goes right on to tell us how it has failed; He might say perhaps that it has only partially failed, and that It will ultimately be carried on to a partial success; and this indeed is what he does say, viz.: that “God’s work was temporarily marred and its progress delayed by evil,” which he still further tells us is “no part of God’s plan.” Here surely is a partial failure of God’s plan; instead of the world being “peopled with a race of holy, happy beings, rejoicing forever in the goodness and glory of God,” it has been peopled with a race of sinful, wretched creatures who know not God, nor care for his glory; this was “no part of God’s plan;” God’s work is thereby “marred” and “delayed,” but this damage will ultimately be partially repaired and the original plan carried out. How contradictory and inconsistent is all this! And how it belittles God’s power and wisdom. Evil which is “no part of God’s plan” comes in, in spite of God and contrary to his plan, to disarrange and delay his work and at least to partially destroy it, though after a long struggle and much loss, God will triumph, and a remnant of the race share in the benefits of the original plan. According to this view God cannot be supreme or infinite, for if he was, no power would be able to mar his work in the Ieast degree, or delay his plan for one single moment, and his success would not be partial but complete and absolute. Furthermore if this view of our brother were correct the future would be shrouded in uncertainty and gloom; if events have taken place to mar and delay God’s work in the past, contrary to his will and plan, then such events may occur in the future. “Evil and sin is no part of God’s plan,” and yet evil and sin got into God’s world, and disarranged his plan and postponed his triumph, putting God to great trouble, so to speak, to repair damages, and causing the destruction of a portion of God’s works in spite of all he can do; if this has happened once may it not occur again? If God could not have prevented it then, how can we tell that he will be able to prevent a similar disastrous occurrence at some future time, and so his work be still more marred and the final success still further delayed. If you say that God could have prevented it, but that he chose to allow evil and sin to enter the world, then you yield the whole point and come at once upon the ground advocated in this paper, and (as I believe) in the Bible. For if God allowed sin to enter the world when he might have prevented it then he is certainly responsible for it, and since he is good and wise it must be that it was allowed for some good and wise purpose. And since he can see the end from the beginning it must be that evil and sin is a part of his plan, foreseen, provided for, and working together, like all other things, for good. We cannot escape these conclusions by bringing in the orthodox doctrine of man’s free moral agency; on this point I need only refer the reader to previous issues; see 1-1-10 and 1-8-10.
In order to show the reader that I have not exaggerated this brother’s position I will quote one more extract that clearly shows how far out of the way one may get and yet apparently be unconscious of it, when they undertake to oppose the truth, and to support error; the extract is as follows:
“Although God is supreme, he cannot control the will of an intelligent creature and at the same time leave him free to make his own choice. Because God permitted the fall and made provisions accordingly, is no proof that it was the best way; but it was best under the circumstances that is after the introduction of sin. God always does the best he can for everybody under the circumstances. It was much better that the world be peopled with a race of holy, happy immortals, even at the expense of much sorrow and suffering, than to give up the plan and let all go back to nothing, infinitely better. But it were still better by far had God’s plan been followed from the beginning.”
O dear! What an imperfect weak God this brother has! “He always does the best he can under the circumstances!” Why, you might say that of any well meaning, conscientious Christian; they do the best they can under the circumstances. But a being of that kind will not satisfy me for a God; nor does it measure up to the Bible presentation of the Most High. “Thus saith the Lord the King of Israel, and his Redeemer the Lord of Hosts, I am the first and I am the last; and beside me there is no God: and who, as I, shall call and shall declare and set it in order for me, since I appointed the ancient people, and the things that are coming and shall come, let them shew unto them.” (Isa. 44:6, 7) “Remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is none else, I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stank, and I will do all my pleasure; yea I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it.” (Isa. 46:9-11). “This God is our God forever and ever.” (Psa. 48:14) A god that “always did the best he could under the circumstances” might command our respect and some degree of love, but we could not put much confidence in him not much more than in a well meaning man, for we should never know what circumstance might arise to hamper his operations, disarrange and delay his plans, and cripple his strength. No, no, such a God as that would not do for the head of this universe; and I am thankful that “our God” is not such being as that. But He is a God that makes and controls circumstances; He is never “under” any circumstances, but always above them all, and He “worketh all things after the council of his own will,” saying “My council shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.” I cannot admit for a moment that God was compelled by circumstances to choose a second rate method to carry out his plan. All things are part and parcel of his plan; and that plan is being carried out without the least disarrangement or a moment of delay by the originally appointed and very best of means; and “none can stay his hand, or say unto Him, What doest thou.” (Dan. IV. 35) Let it be noticed also how this brother contradicts himself again by implying that God’s original plan was not carried out. He says, “It was much better that the world be peopled with a race of holy, happy immortals, even at the expense of much sorrow and suffering, than to give up the plan and let all go back to nothing, infinitely better. But it were better by far had God’s plan been followed from the beginning.” Note here, first, that it is implied that after sin entered the world, the best way to carry out God’s plans was lost, and now God had two alternatives presented to him; he must either “give up his plan and let all go back again to nothing,” or he must carry out that plan (partially) “at the expense of much sorrow and suffering.” The latter was the lesser of the two evils and so God chose that. “But it were better by far,” our brother says, “had God’s plan been followed from the beginning.” Then God’s plan was not followed from the beginning, some other plan was followed which took into account evil and sin, which was no part of God’s plan” our brother says again; and yet he also declares, that “God’s plan cannot fail.” Either evil and sin was as a part of the plan of God, or else God must have changed his original plan far another plan entirely different, for surely evil and sin have a very intimate relation to the plan of God as now revealed in the Bible; the whole plan of redemption is the means whereby man is delivered from the bondage of corruption, and Christ’s special mission is to “save his people from their sin,” and to “destroy the works of the devil.”
But we will not pursue this line of thought any further. I have introduced these extracts and remarks in order to show how crooked and inconsistent are the ways of error. The writer I have been reviewing is, I have no doubt, an earnest, intelligent Christian preacher; and yet in his reasoning he contradicts himself, as we have seen. He takes positions that are inconsistent and unreasonable, and (all unconsciously) belittles and degrades the wisdom and power of God to the level of mere expediency,–“he does the best he can under the circumstances,”– about the same as a good natured, well disposed mortal might do. How strikingly in contrast with all this snarl and tangle are the simple grand truths of God’s word as set forth in his “Purpose of the Ages”! (Eph. III. 11, N.V., margin). These truths are harmonious one with another, and with the entire word; they are reasonable and consistent throughout, and they magnify the wisdom and love of God, so as to fill our hearts with joy and praise, putting us under no necessity to defend his character or to apologize for his dealings with the children of men. I would adopt in this connection the beautiful and (what is better) truthful words of Holland in his “Bitter Sweet,” and say that these wonderful truths of God:
“Do save some very awkward words
That limp to make apology for God,
And, while they justify Him, half confess
The adverse verdict of appearances.
I am ashamed that in this Christian age
The pious throng still hug the fallacy
That this dear world of ours was not ordained
The theater of evil; for no law
Declared of God from all eternity
Can live a moment save by lease of pain.
Law cannot live, e’en in God’s inmost thought,
Save by the side of evil. What were law
But a weak jest without its penalty?
We may suspect the fair smooth face of good;
But evil that assails us undisguised,
Bears evermore God’s warrant in its hands.
I sorrow if I shock you, for I seek
To comfort and inspire. I see around
A silent company of doubtful souls;
But I may challenge any one of them
To quote the meanest blessing of his life,
And prove that evil did not make the gift,
Or bear it from the Giver to his hands.
The great salvation wrought by Jesus Christ–
That sank an Adam to reveal a God–
Had never come but at the call of sin.
No risen Lord could eat the feast of love
Here on the earth or yonder in the sky,
Had he not lain within the sepulcher.
‘Tis not the lightly laden heart of man
That loves the best the hand that blesses all;
But that which, groaning with its weight of sin,
Meets with the mercy that forgiveth much.
God never fails in an experiment,
Nor tries experiment upon a race
But to educe its highest style of life,
And sublimate its issues. Thus to me
Evil is not a mystery, but a means
Selected from the infinite resource
To make the most of me.
Thank God for light!
These truths are slowly dawning on my soul,
And take position in the firmament
That spans my thought, like stars that know their place
Like the hand
Of a strong angel on my shoulder laid,
Touching the secret of the spirit’s wings,
My heart grows brave. I’m ready now to work
To work with God, and suffer with his Christ;
Adopt his measures, and abide his means.
If, in the Iaw that spans the universe
(The Iaw its Maker may not disobey),
Virtue may only grow from innocence
Through a great struggle with opposing ill;
If I must win my way to perfectness
In the sad path of suffering, like Him
The overflowing river of whose life
Touches the flood-mark of humanity
On the white pillars of the heavenly throne,
Then welcome evil! Welcome sickness, toil,
Sorrow and pain, the fear and fact of death.
God loves not sin, nor I; but in the throng
Of evils that assail us, there are none
That yield their strength to Virtue’s struggling arm
With such munificent reward of power
As great temptations. We may win by toil
Endurance; saintly fortitude by pain;
By sickness, patience; faith and trust by fear;
But the great stimulus that spurs to life,
And crowds to generous development
Each chastened power and passion of the soul,
Is the temptation of the soul to sin,
Resisted, and re-conquered, evermore.”
A brother takes exceptions to the statements in I-3-52, concerning the death of Christ. He says “You say that Christ Iaid down his pre-existent life and entered into death, this fallen state; and that he was in this condition of death for thirty-three and a half years. You then say that according to the word death is alienation from God, ignorance of God and to be carnally minded is death. All this would imply if I understand you right, that Jesus was alienated, ignorant of God; also that he was not spiritually minded. When you speak of Christ’s thirty-three and a half years’ existence on earth being a living death, I am puzzled to know what you mean. Can we cease to exist and yet exist? I know we may be in a dying condition, we may be dying and yet be living, but we cannot be dead and at the same time alive. We are counted dead, reckoned dead, but as long as one spark or measure of life remains we are not dead. ‘Dying thou shalt die’ was the sentence. Adam was in a condition, after being cast out of the garden that would lead to death, and we (condemned in Adam) are in that same condition.”
In answer to this I would say, first, that it is certainly a Scriptural position that this fallen state, this condition of “enmity” and alienation from God, is called death, (1-3-54) “If one died for all then were all dead,” says the apostle; and even Christians are spoken of as destitute of life; “Ye are dead,” says Paul to the Colossian Christians, “and your life is hid with Christ in God.” (CoI. 3) Says Paul again, “I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me, and the life that I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God.” “They that are Christ’s,” will not be made alive until “at his coming.” [Editor’s note: “at His coming,” or also translated “appearing;” it should also be said “they, that are Christ’s, will be made alive through “UNION.” Through UNION, Christ has come TO HIS OWN, come in the only way He will come, and that is IN THE SPIRIT]. “Now the just shall live by faith;” but “faith is the substance of things hoped for; the evidence of things not seen:” “We are saved by hope; but hope that is seen [possessed]), is not hope; for which a man seeth [has in his possession] why doth he yet hope for? but if we hope for that we see [possess] not, then do we with patience wait for it.” All must see from these Scriptures, and many more to the same effect that might be quoted, that this fallen state is in the Bible called death, and that even the Christian has as yet, life only by faith, and not in actual possession. Death then, in this Bible sense, is this fallen condition of “enmity” (Rom. 8:6, 7), alienation and ignorance, (for if knowledge is life; John 17:3– ignorance is death) in to which man has been plunged by sin. Now then it is also certainly Scriptural that Christ entered fully into this fallen state. “He was made in all things like unto his brethren,” “tempted in all points like as we,” partook of flesh and blood just the same as “the children” partake (Heb. II. 14) and was “made sin for us.” Hence it necessarily follows that Christ was in a condition of death during his sojourn here in the tabernacle of corruptible flesh. He had nothing, only the hidden life, just as the believer has now. (John 6:57; compare Col. 3:3). But now comes the question, if Christ was in a condition of death while here in the flesh, was he then alienated and ignorant of God? And was he “carnally minded?” To this I would reply in the same way as I would to one who should ask me if Christ was a sinner? Christ entered voluntarily into all the experiences of the sinner, although he was sinless. He took the sinner’s place, assumed all his debts, all his disabilities, and shared in alI his experiences, so that “we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feelings of our infirmities, but was in alI points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” If you ask me to explain just exactly how Christ was “made sin” I should have to say I did not know, any more than I know how “the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.” But I am nevertheless very sure that he was “made sin,” as I am sure that he was “made flesh,” and I am also sure that he was “made in all things like unto his brethren,”– he entered into this fallen state, and this fallen state is a condition of death, hence Christ was in a condition of death for three and thirty years even all the time he tabernacle in the flesh. In 1-5-101, I have spoken of several particulars wherein Christ differed from the rest of the human race, but these differences were in addition to his humanity, which humanity was like that of all “the children,” a poor, weak, fallen humanity as I have shown in the articles on the humanity and divinity of Christ in numbers four and five. All this Christ did as companion, Forerunner, and “Captain of our salvation.”
I suppose that every Bible student knows that the word death is used in several different senses in Scripture; and one may be alive in one sense and dead in another; hence I spoke of Christ suffering a “lifelong death,” supposing that the context would prevent any one from being led astray by the apparently contradictory expression. When Paul says, “if one died for all then were all dead,” he certainly does not mean that all had ceased to exist when Christ died, but they were dead in the Bible sense of alienation and ignorance of God. When Christ said, “let the dead bury their own dead,” he used the term “dead” in two different senses in the same sentence. So when Paul says, “I live, yet not I but Christ liveth in me,” and again to the Colossians, “Ye are dead,” We cannot rigidly bind the term death down to the one meaning of non-existence, extinction of physical life. This Bible subject of life and death is a great deal larger than such a narrow condition would make it. If our brother will thoroughly examine the subject throughout the Bible he will find, I think, that he must give to the term death several significations in order to compass the whole subject.
The penalty for disobedience, literally, rendered, was “a death, thou shalt die,” and in harmony with this rendering, taking the Bible idea of death, in the very day that Adam sinned, that same literal day he did die “a death;” what death? not physical death we know, for he lived 930 years; but spiritual death, the death we have been considering, and it plainly appears from the account that this was the death that Adam died when he sinned. Paul says to be “carnally minded is death, because the carnal mind is enmity against God.” Now we see from the account that before sin entered into the world Adam and his Maker were on very intimate and familiar terms, they walked and talked together in the garden like Father and son; but as soon as Adam had sinned, he ran away from God, he hid himself when he heard his voice. Here we see clearly the alienation, estrangement and enmity, the product of the “carnal mind,” springing up at once between God and man as soon as sin entered into the world, and this is what the Scriptures call death; as it is written; “By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin.” (Rom. 5:12) This is a Bible explanation of the sentence, “In the day thou eatest thereof a death thou shalt die.” Adam did die “a death,” in the Scriptural sense, the very day he disobeyed God, as is clearly shown by the account. The common explanation (based on the marginal reading, “dying thou shalt die,” which is not strictly literal) that Adam began to die the day he sinned, or passed into a dying condition, will do tolerably well and yet it is somewhat forced and strained; with this explanation, physical death is meant, and it is rather straining the truth to say that Adam was in a dying condition physically after he had sinned. We know that in our day a person’s physical vitality increases up to a certain point, “the prime of life,” as we say, then it seems to remain stationary for a number of years, and then gradually declines until physical death ensues: it can scarcely be said that a person in the prime of physical life as Adam doubtless was when he was expelled from the garden, was in a dying condition. He is in a condition where it is certain that he will die sooner or later, if you please, but that is not the way the margin reads: “In the day thou eatest thereof dying thou shalt die;” the only way this can be explained, if we make the dying physical, is to say that Adam began to die at very day though his complete death did not occur until he was 930 years old; but this, as I have already noticed is not strictly true. There is still another possible explanation of the passage, by understanding the “day” referred to as a thousand-year day, according to 2 Pet. 3:8; this view is fairly tenable and I think is preferable to the one that makes Adam in a dying condition physically for 930 years; but for myself I prefer the one I have given above; “In the day thou eatest thereof a death thou shalt die;” this is the literal rendering of the original and implies that there are several kinds of death, as we know there are according to scripture, and that Adam was to die a death in the day he disobeyed, but it does not say what death, but other scripture explains the death, and the account fully harmonizes with that explanation, as I have noticed above; it seems to me also that this view is confirmed by the fact that physical death is the result of the sentence pronounced upon guilty man after the fall, “Dust thou art and unto dust thou shalt return;” this dread decree fully accounts for the universal prevalence of physical death, and is referred to by the apostle when he says, “it is appointed unto men once to die.” Whereas spiritual death, the death “in sin,” alienation and ignorance of God, is meant by the penalty affixed to disobedience before the fall; “In the day thou eatest thereof a death thou shalt die;” and this death is referred to when the sacred writer says, “Adam begat a son in his own likeness, after his image, and called his name Seth.” (Gen. 5:3) So in the Psalms the same truth is indicated when David says, “Behold I was shapen in iniquity and in sin did my mother conceive me.” It is sometimes said that “man is born to die;” in this Scriptural sense it may truthfully be said that man is born dead; and this saying, as strange as it may sound, is fully confirmed by the apostle when he says, “If one died for all, then were all dead.”
That Christ was in a condition of death while he was here on earth is fully confirmed by scripture; (see 1-3-54, 64 & 65). Now I wish to notice another point that still further confirms this view.
CHRISTIAN BAPTISM, i. e. water baptism, is a symbol of death, burial and resurrection; Rom. 6:3-5: Col. 2: 21; I Pet. 3:21. Christ is our Forerunner; when was he baptized? He was baptized of John in the Jordan at the commencement of his ministry, would be the ordinary answer. But John’s baptism was not Christian baptism at all, as I have shown in 1-3-55 & 56. Was not Christ then baptized at all, as a pattern to His followers? Yes. Jesus experience the real baptism of death, burial and resurrection, of which water baptism is the symbol; He passed through the real, hence He needed not the symbol. But when did Jesus experience His real baptism? Not merely when He died upon the cross and was buried in Joseph’s tomb, etc., but He was under going this baptism at the time He was here in the flesh; it began when He laid down his pre-existent life and entered into this fallen state of death, thus making his grave with the wicked” (see explanation of Isa. LIII. 9, in 1-3-64), and it was not finished unit “God raised him up for the dead now no more to return to corruption;” Christ’s incarnation, deliverance “out of death” (Heb. 5. 7, N. 5, margin), and resurrection, was his baptism, the real thing, of which water baptism is only the faint symbol and figure. The fact that Christ was in a condition of death while here in the flesh, and that he did thus “make his grave with the wicked,” ( as he “made his grave with the rich” when he was put into Joseph’s tomb) was saved out of this death, this fact, together with the symbolical meaning of baptism,– death, burial and resurrection,– these facts would indicate what was the true baptism that Christ experienced; but we might hesitate about accepting this view perhaps if we did not have Christ’s direct statement to the same effect. These statements we will now notice. He speaks twice of this terrible baptism that he was undergoing. The first time in Mark 10:38. The sons of Zebedee made a request, and “Jesus said unto them, Ye know not what ye ask; can ye drink of the cup that I am drinking (present tense) or undergo the baptism with which I am being overwhelmed.” (See Emphatic Diaglott). Both verbs are in the present tense, and denote present action, and indicate that Christ was at that time undergoing his baptism, he was being baptized even then, and the baptism was not finished until Christ was “declared to be the son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead;” now this latter fact is clearly indicated in the other reference that Christ makes to his baptism. See Luke 12:50. “I have a baptism to be baptized with and how am I straitened till it be finished.” The last word means to complete, finish, end, etc. In the Emphatic Diaglott, interlinear translation, the word is rendered “finished;” in Rotherham’s translation it is rendered “ended;” in Young’s we find “completed;” the same word is rendered “finished” in several instances in the common version; e. g. Matt. 13:53; 19:30;2 Tim. 4:7, etc. All of these renderings indicate the great truth that Christ was then undergoing his baptism; but he was rapidly approaching its consummation and he would be “straitened,” “distressed” (E. D.) until its completion in his resurrection. Thus was Christ baptized. The waves and billows of human suffering went over him (Psa. 42:7), out of the depths he cried (Psa. 130:1), “unto him that could save out of death and was heard in that he feared;” and all who follow in his footsteps must drink the same cup and be baptized with the same baptism, even as Christ declared; this does not of course mean that all the followers of Christ are to be crucified. We know that “we shall not all sleep,” and this in fact is another proof that the real baptism is something more than mere physical death; but all must pass through the same experience of suffering, reproach and shame–as the apostle says, they must “die daily” (1 Cor. CV. 31) “crucify the flesh” (Gal. 5:24) “mortify (i.e. put to death) the deeds of the body” (Rom. 8:13, N. V., margin), and thus we “always bear about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body” (2 Cor. 4:10); thus in a measure we “know the fellowship of his sufferings, and are made conformable unto his death,” (Phil. 3:10) and we shall know the consummation in its fullness when “this corruptible shall put on incorruption.” The symbol of all this is water baptism. “For if we have been [by symbol and by faith] planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection. Thus we drink the same cup, and are baptized with the same baptism; thus we fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ;” thus we “are made partakers of Christ’s sufferings that when His glory shall be revealed we may be glad with exceeding joy.” Sharing in this experience with our exalted Head, we may say with Paul, “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified, unto me, and I unto the world. Henceforth let no man trouble me for I bear branded on my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” (Gal. I. 14, 17, N. V.)
This same brother thinks that the sacrifice that Christ made was of his flesh life on the cross, and this was the ransom price he paid for man’s redemption. He says, “What did Jesus give for the life of the world? Answer: His precious blood, his flesh life, his humanity. If he purchased us with his pre-existent life, and then after being in death thirty three and a half years, God gave him back the price paid, the transaction would look to me like a pretense or farce.”
I do not know as I can add much to the evidence already given in No. 3 that perfectly satisfies me that the sacrifice Christ made was of his pre-existent life, and that was the ransom. That evidence is full, abundant and conclusive, and I can only refer the brother to a review of that evidence. Can he break it down? Can he explain those scriptures and facts brought out in harmony with his own view? Certain it is that, (unless the pre-existence of Christ is denied altogether) Christ did make a sacrifice when he gave up that previous life, that “glory” and those “riches,” “and was made in the likeness of man,” sinful, corrupt, fallen man. Here was a sacrifice, without any doubt, and a sacrifice infinitely greater than that of his flesh life on the cross. Now whether this was the great sacrifice and the great ransom price of man’s redemption, or not, the brother must determine for himself from such light as he may possess; in my own mind there is no doubt at all upon this point. If the brother says that this was not the sacrifice and the ransom for man’s redemption, then what will he do with it? He cannot deny (unless he deny the pre-existence) that there was a great sacrifice here, far greater that any other that Jesus made, (in fact I have no doubt but that Jesus was glad to give up his flesh life; that was to him a release and a deliverance) has he any place for this great sacrifice in his theology?
If further proof were needed as to what the ransom price was, Christ’s own words in John 6 ought to suffice. Verse 51; “The bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” Did Jesus mean his lateral flesh? No indeed, unless we choose to say that he immediately contradicted himself; for he makes the statement a few verses further on, “It is the spirit that quickeneth (giveth life); the flesh profiteth nothing; the words that I speak unto you they are spirit and they are life;” they are life just in so far as we “discern” (1 Cor. II. 14) the spirit of them; “the letter kills.” If Christ gave his flesh life as the ransom price for the life of the world then surely it could not be said, “the flesh profiteth nothing;” neither could Paul say, “We are the circumcision, [compare Rom. 2:28, 29] which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.” Surely the flesh would profit a great deal if it was the ransom price “for the life of the world;” and our whole “confidence” would be placed in the flesh if that was the means of our redemption. Man is indeed “redeemed by that precious blood [life] of Christ,” but let us beware how we make that “precious blood” stand for his flesh live, lest we thereby are found guilty of “counting the blood of the covenant [the new covenant] an unholy [i.e. common, see N. V., margin] thing.” (Heb. 10:29). The life that Christ sacrificed, and thereby ransomed fallen man, was not the flesh life, common to all humanity, and to bulls and goats as well, but it was a much more precious life, as we have shown; and this Paul still further makes clear in Heb. 9. He tells us, first (verses 1-10) that the Jewish tabernacle with its rites and ceremonies, its “meats, drinks, divers washings and carnal ordinances,” was simply “a figure for the time then present in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect.” “But (verse 11) Christ being come an High priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building, neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy places, having obtained eternal redemption.” Now from the above passage it is plain that the life (blood) wherewith Christ entered into the holy places was the life that was sacrificed, as it is the sacrifice that Paul is talking about. With what life did Christ enter into the “true tabernacle”? Not with his flesh life surely, that according to our brother and others who take the same view was sacrificed never to be taken up again, and yet he entered in with the same life that he sacrificed.; is it not plain then that it was his pre-existent life that he sacrificed; is it not plain then that it was his pre-existent life which he laid down when he made the sacrifice, and took up again when he entered into the true, holy places. The remaining part of this ninth chapter still further confirms this view, especially verses 22-24. “Almost all things are by the law purged with blood, and without shedding of blood is no remission; it was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these; for Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us.” The sacrifices of the pattern tabernacle was the common flesh life of goats and calves; but the “better sacrifices” are the “spiritual sacrifices,” (1 Pet. II. 5), (not fleshly sacrifices) beginning with the great sacrifice of Christ’s pre-existent life, which was not taken from him, like his flesh life (see Acts VIII. 33), but was voluntarily laid down and was taken up again (1-3-53) when, after having passed through his terrible baptism, he was “saved out of death,” and entered into the true “heavenly places.” In this connection I would say a word in reply to another remark that the brother makes. He says, “If Christ purchased us with his pre-existent Life and then God gave him back the price paid, the transaction would look to me like a pretense or farce.” If the brother had clearly in his mind the true idea of the atonement he would not make the above remark. I have given in the present number what I believe to be the true meaning of the various terms used in connection with the doctrine of the atonement, and among the rest, “Purchased” and Bought.” I do not understand by these terms that Christ actually paid over to God some thing as the price of man’s redemption, which thing Christ has eternally forfeited, and God will eternally possess; such an idea is exceedingly gross and unscriptural; and yet the brother must have some such idea or he would not make the above statement. Let it be noticed also that whatever the life was that Christ laid down, it was taken up again; this Christ expressly tells us, but the transaction was not therefore a pretense nor a farce; this fact however is another proof against the idea that the ransom was Christ’s flesh life which he laid down and never took up again. This whole subject, however, illustrates again how important it is to start right in our theology. If we have erroneous ideas concerning fundamental truths, such as the atonement, the sacrifice of Christ, the resurrection, etc., then all our theology will be wrong and every doctrine will be tainted with error. Often do men reason with tolerable correctness, starting from certain premises and arriving at certain conclusions, and then insisting upon those conclusions with great positiveness because they seem so clearly to follow from the premises and hence to bear the certain impress of truth; they seem never to imagine that the premises themselves may be wrong; if the starting point is erroneous, no matter how correct the reasoning, the conclusion must be false also. I think that this is really the great trouble with the popular theology of the day. “The foundations are out of course” (Psa. 82:5), hence the structure no matter how well built, must be shaky. “If the foundations be destroyed what shall the righteous do”? Nothing, but to tear down to the solid bed rock of truth and build all over again, foundation and superstructure. “Let every man take heed how he buildeth.” (1 Cor. 3:10)
Several have asked questions concerning the Second Death. For the present I will refer them (as in 1-5-113) to the pamphlet “Endless Torments not Scriptural,” page 276, [Editor’s note: in this book Spirit of the Word the chapter “Endless Torments not Scriptural” is not available. We do reference the reader to read the following chapters: Contents #12 “Probation,” page 74; Contents #21 “Purpose of Evil,” page 120; Contents #24 “Atonement,” page 136.End of note.] etc., where I have given very briefly what seems to me to be the real “spirit of the word” upon this subject. This theme may not be “present truth,” and hence perhaps it is not perfectly understood, for we read of no second death until, way on in the future ages; it is, however, intimately connected with the present, inasmuch as a thorough investigation of the subjects of life and death, the resurrection, “restitution of all things,” etc. which are “present truth,” would ultimately lead us to a consideration of the second death. I have given in outline my own view in the pamphlet above referred to and will not at present go any further into the subject, because it seems to me there are Bible subjects more important to consider now. As I have said in the pamphlet, (page 34) I do not care to press my view upon this subject on anyone, for, though I am fully persuaded in my own mind that this is the true “spirit of the word,” yet I am also sure that “A man can receive nothing except it be given him from heaven.” (John 3: 27). The most we can do is to “bear witness of the truth,” and then– “He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.” There is not the slightest good in trying to force what you think is truth upon another; if it is truth, and the other is “of the truth” (John XVIII. 37) he will see it in God’s “due time.” In any case “ye can do nothing against the truth but for the truth.” (2 Cor. 13: 8)
ANSWERS TO CORRESPONDENCE [A. P. Adams] 1