BY: A. P. ADAMS
I will briefly mention a few more of this same class of errors.
The very foundation principle upon which the Bible is interpreted by the church is the reverse of the truth, and this error leads the church in the way of death, and away from the way of life. We are told that the bible is written in plain, simple, easy language, and that the correct meaning of a passage is that which lies upon the surface, the most obvious and apparent sense. For instance, a celebrated preacher, formerly of Boston, thus enunciates this error, “the sense which naturally suggests itself in the exposition of the Scriptures is the sense to be preferred.” Now so far from this being true, the truth I think is just the opposite. The Bible is written, as the Word incarnate spoke, in “parables and dark sayings,” in types, allegories, shadows and figures, that the truth might not be seen, except by those to “whom it was given;” (see Matt. 13.10-16). I know that this statement will sound strange and erroneous to some, but it is nevertheless the plain, simple truth, capable of abundant verification from the Bible; in previous issues I have given many proofs of this point (see e.g. 1-1-2, 4 & 14), and will not give more now, but will simply add that a knowledge of the “plan of the ages,” makes it plain why God should thus hide the truth, in a book that is yet a revelation of the truth (see Col. I. 26, 27). Wonderful “treasures of wisdom and knowledge” are hid in the written Word, as in the Word incarnate, and he alone will find them, who “searches for them as for hid treasure,” (Prov.2. 1-9) The systematic rules by which God works “first the natural and afterward that which is spiritual,” “every man in his own order,” the “first fruit” and afterward the great ingathering (Rom. XI. 16), etc., etc. These rules, connected with the gradual development of his plan, age after age, explain why God should give light to some and withhold it from others. The “first fruit” of course are first to be attended to and afterwards others of the great human harvest; and so on until all are gathered together in Christ. (Eph. 1. 10; see also 1-2-26 and 30)
Now the great majority of Christians know nothing of this great principle of Scripture revelation, and hence they are building upon, and resting in, the letter of the Word which brings, not life, but death. (Editor’s note: not that the letter of the law or word brings a physical death or causes a spiritual death, it simply leaves that Christian in the death state they were already in). Hence also the almost innumerable opinions, sects, and contradictions that divides and disgraces the Christian world, causing the people to stumble and God’s name to be blasphemed. Words are facile vehicles of thought, easily twisted into almost any shape, and made to answer almost any end. This is shown in the framing of laws, when, notwithstanding the utmost care, the legal formula is found to be capable of several different meanings, giving rise to oceans of talk, and endless complications, to puzzle judges and to defeat the ends of justice. Thus is it also with the letter of the Word; it is oft times capable of various meanings, and in the absence of any authoritative standard of interpretation, one man’s opinion is as good as another’s, and hence discord and strife rend the church into many factions instead of there being “one fold and one shepherd.” For example, a certain skeptical writer refers to this changeable character of the Bible thus, “Nothing is plainer in the Bible than that there is nothing plain in the book. There is not a heresy, theory, dogma, creed, proposition or tenet, however monstrous, however cruel, however pernicious, however childish, silly and absurd, that may not be substantiated or refuted, driven home or kicked out of doors, by reference to that marvelous compilation.” Every honest, thoughtful Christian will admit that there is reason for this sweeping criticism. There is truth in it too. By handling the Bible as it is usually handled by the various sectarian leaders, it may be made to prove or disprove, almost any proportion that man may, possibly imagine or conceive. The great mistake in all this is that men are disputing about the letter that kills. The key to the unraveling of all this tangle, the one talismanic word to bring order out of all this confusion, is the SPIRIT of the Word, “the spirit that giveth Life.” But the spirit of the Word is hid away under the letter, purposely hid, so that some shall not understand, hence the ignorance of the great majority. “He that hath ears to hear let him hear.” In studying the Bible we should seek the full truth, not on the surface, but down deep under the letter, like precious stones and metal hidden in a mine. I would add right here, since I have been misunderstood on this point by one correspondent, that I do not mean to say that the spiritual meaning of Scripture is always something entirely different from the letter; oftentimes it is so, but not always by any means. The Spirit of the Word is its real, true, full meaning, whatever that may be; sometimes that true meaning is properly expressed by the letter, but in order to get the full meaning you must take other scripture in connection with it, you must perhaps refer to Old Testament types or allegories, or prophecies. Bible truths run into one another, and all are harmonious with one general plan; we need to study these truths not only to learn what they signify in themselves, but what are their connections with other truths, and what their relation to the plan; in this way, we get somewhere near the full truth. Partial truths, with a great deal of error mixed in to fill up, are the curse and bane of modern orthodoxy; the Spirit of the Word saves us from this curse. I would not have anyone understand that I teach that under every word, phrase and sentence of Scripture there is hidden away some mystic sense entirely different from the letter, that we must endeavor to dig out. I do not say that this is so; neither do I say that it is not so; for, knowing how wonderfully the letter sometimes hides (as well as reveals) the true meaning, that meaning being something entirely different from the letter, I would not dare to put my finger upon any sentence, phrase or word of Scripture and positively declare, “this has not a mystic sense.” However, what I do say is this, that he who expects to saunter carelessly through the fields of Bible lore, picking up the rarest and most valuable gems of truth upon the surface, as one might pick up pebbles upon the beach, will find a great deal of his building material wood, hay and stubble, in that day when “Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.” (1 Cor. 3. 13)
As this point is important, and as it lies in the direct line of the purpose of this paper, i.e. to bring out the Spirit of the Word, and moreover since the prevalent view is so utterly wrong in this respect, just the opposite of the truth, I will add a few more thoughts.
We read that “Jesus spake unto the multitudes in parables, and without a parable spake he not unto them,” (Matt. 13. 34), not to make the subject plain, and easy, to be understood, as I have heard orthodox authorities positively declare, but in order that the subject should not be plain, and easy to be understood, (see Matt. 13. 10-13; Mark 4. 11, 12) “And with many such parables spake he the word unto them, as they were able to hear It; and when they were alone he expounded all things to his disciples.” (Mark 4. 33, 34) Does it not seem strange that Jesus should give these explanations when alone with his disciples, and not in public so that all might have the benefit of them? He spoke to them in parables that they might not understand, and then gave the explanation in private. Does it not look as though Jesus did not want them to understand? The simple explanation of all this is that to the disciples it was “given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but unto them that were without it was not given.” Christ worked according to the great plan first the promised “Seed” must be perfected, Christ and they that are Christ’s, (Gal. 3. 16-29; 1 Cor. 15. 22, 23), then, through that Seed, “all the families of the earth shall be blessed” “in the ages to come,” but “every man in his own order.”
Take Christ’s conversation with the Jews as recorded in John 6. as a further illustration of the same truth; in that conversation Jesus seems to bewilder and confuse his hearers by the strange statement he makes. He says, “I am the bread of life that came down from heaven;” and “the Jews murmured at him and said is not this Jesus the Son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How is it then that he saith, I came down from heaven?” Now we should expect that Jesus would explain to them what he meant, but no, he gives them a still harder nut to crack by telling them, “I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever; and the bread that give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” Is it any wonder that they did not understand him? Was not his language calculated to completely baffle the wisest among them? Did not his statements seem like dark enigmas and riddles? But does he now explain? No, he still further staggers them by making the bald assertion, without a particle of explanation,– “Verily, verily, I say unto you, except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. As the living Father hath sent me and I live by the Father, so he that eateth, me, even he shall live by me.” It would seem that this statement was too much even for the disciples, and they began to murmur, and to say, “This is an hard saying; who can hear it?” Now notice how Jesus helps them, but not a word of help for the multitude. “When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it; he said unto them, Doth this offend you? It is the spirit that quikeneth, the flesh profiteth nothing, the words that I speak unto you they are spirit and they are LIFE.” (His word is life to us just in proportion as we discern the spirit of it). Here was a hint to intimate to them that they were not to take his words in the letter but in the spirit, and yet in this helpful hint there was a flat contradiction to the statement he had previously made; he had said before “the bread that I will give is my flesh which I will give for the Life of the world.” Now he says, “the flesh profiteth nothing;” if his flesh was to be given for the life of the world, it would seen as though it would profit a great deal; why then say it profiteth nothing? A flat contradiction in the letter! Calculated still further to hide the truth. No wonder, as we read, “From that time many of his disciples went back and walked no more with him.” Does it not seem strange that Christ should apparently drive his followers away from him thus, and make no effort to justify his language or to remove their misapprehension? According to the common belief such conduct is wholly unaccountable and seems cruelly unjust; if it were true that people were at that time having their only chance to obtain eternal life, and that, failing in that chance, they would drop into an endless hell, if this were true, how can you explain the Savior’s conduct? It will not help the matter any to say that Jesus knew that it would do no good to explain, unless we take the ground that none of Christ’s hearers could ever be benefited by an explanation, for this was Christ’s invariable method of public preaching, “without a parable spake he not unto them.” How can we account for his adopting such a method of discourse? It would seem as though it was a method surely calculated to defeat the object of his preaching, the enlightenment of his hearers. Christ speaks in parables, obscure and strange figures, that his hearers might not understand, lest they should under stand; and then when he knew that they had entirely misapprehended his meaning he leaves them in their mistake without the slightest effort to undeceive them. “He that hath ears to hear let him hear,” was the apparently indifferent conclusion to his teaching as though (one might think) he had little care whether he was understood or not. There is absolutely no way of accounting for this invariable practice of Christ on the basis of the orthodox view. What I want the reader to see is that since this was Christ’s uniform method of preaching to the people it indicates a set purpose: it was something more than a temporary expedient justified and explained by the requirements of a special occasion, it was a constant practice, hence it indicates a preciously arranged plan, and the question, what is that plan? It becomes a very important and interesting one. (See 1-8-177). We search the creeds and standards and prevailing religious opinions in vain for any explanation of this practice of our Lord, or any intimation of the plan upon which it was based; in fact this practice is utterly opposed to the common theology and is one of the strongest arguments against it. Christ preached in such a way that only a few were “able to receive it.”
(Matt. 19.12) His method exclude the multitude, and culled out a few choice spirits suited to his purpose; thus it appears that selection or election was certainly a part of the plan upon which he acted, and hence he says, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,” “to you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them that are without it is not given,” “No man can come except the Father draw him,” and finally that most remarkable, and most unaccountable upon any orthodox basis, of all his utterances in his wonderful prayer recorded in John 17. “I pray not for the world, but for those that thou has given me.” Pray not for the world! Why not? Christ died for the world; “He tasted death for every man;” “He is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world;” why should he not therefore pray for the world? In this again we see the unmistakable evidence of a plan, a prearranged order and system, according to which all Christ’s actions were regulated. Christ knew that the mystic body must be made one, the promised “Seed” must come before the world, “all the families of the earth,” could be blessed (see 1-4-78); and this is just what he intimates in his prayer. He prays for the unity and perfection in one of a certain class, “those whom the Father had given him,” in order that the world might ultimately be blessed through them, “that the world may believe,” “that the world may know.”
Thus spake the Word incarnate, “in parables and dark sayings,” in strange figure, puzzling symbol, and apparently impossible metaphor; and thus, if I err not, speaks the written word, in type, pattern, allegory, prophecy, parable, symbol, figure, image and shadow, hiding away the most important and the full truth underneath the letter, so that only he who has a veritable passion for the truth, and really eats God’s words (Jer. 15. 16) only such ones will “understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God” (Prov. 2. 5); and that one who accepts the church’s teaching upon this point, and expects to find the great truths of life lying in plain sight upon the surface of God’s revelations, will surely be led astray. In this connection look up, and carefully read and ponder the following scripture; noticing how God is represented as “a God that hideth himself” amidst “clouds and darkness,” and whose thoughts and ways are as different from, and as much higher than ours, as the heavens are different from, and higher than the earth. Psa 36:5-7, Psa. 77:19; Psa. XCVII; Isa. 8. 13-17; Isa. 28. 8-18; Isa. XLV. 15; Isa. LV. 8-13; Hos. 14. 9.
It remains for me to add a word in answer to the question, (which very naturally will arise) why is the truth thus hidden under type and shadow and figure in God’s revelation? I have already partially answered this question; because God has a plan, because there is order, system, and a “due season” to that plan, and to every stage in it; because there are “first fruits” and later fruits, “first born” and later born, a “first resurrection” and a second “resurrection,” a “special salvation” (1 Tim. IV. 10) and a “common salvation” (Jude 3), and every man is to be dealt with “in his own order,” i.e. when his turn comes; hence God hides the truth from some whose turn has not yet come, and reveals it to others whom He is finishing off (1-1-4 & 1-2-30) for the perfect state. But furthermore God’s ways and methods are a part of our training and education, and not simply means to reach a certain end; God makes the means a blessing to us as well as the end; the form in which the truth comes to us is beneficial and educational as well as the truth itself; and all tends, not only to the acquirement of so much truth, but what is more valuable, to the development and perfection of the spiritual man. (1 Cor. 2. 14, 15) So it is with mental training, the education of the schools. The young man that goes through the various steps of education until he graduates from a university should seek, not so much to store his mind with just so many items of knowledge, just so many facts of science, philosophy and literature, memorized from books, if this is all he gets he has fallen short of nine-tenths of the real value of an education, but he should seek to train, and develop, and perfect his mental faculties, so that when he leaves the schools and goes out into the world to fight for himself, he may be able to continue his research into truth in every department, through all his future life, without the help of text book, school or tutor. So in the realm of spiritual truth, God gives us the truth in such a form so that the studying of it out is of more value to us in the way of training and spiritual development, than is the truth itself after we have arrived at it. The object of our training is not that we may know so many things, but that we may “come in the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the son of God unto the perfect MAN.” God might have given us truths so that we could store them away in our minds, just as you would put so many parcels into a chest; but the mind would not be developed and trained by such a process any more than the chest would. Spiritual education is a growth and gradual development into the “perfect man.” We are to go on from the condition of “babes in Christ” (1 Cor. 3. 1) unto “full age” (Heb. 5. 11-14), “unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” Hence the form of the word is such as to promote this growth; if everything in the Bible was plain and simple like a child’s primer, it would require no effort to receive it, and hence though we might obtain a certain number of truths yet these would be but very little spiritual training. An “Order” of men is now being fitted and trained to be the kings and priests of the “ages to come,” the promised Seed in whom all the families of the earth are to be blessed, (1-4-77, 78, etc.) the “Sons of God;” for whom the whole creation wait (Rom. 8. 19), and this “Order” must reach the “perfect man” condition by a gradual growth and development, and the form of the word is one of the principal means to effect this growth and development; to them it is given to know the “mysteries of the kingdom of heaven;” but to those who do not belong to this “Order” it is not given, because they do not need to see these “deep things of God” yet, but “they shall see” in the judgment age (1-6-121), when “the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness.” (see explanation of Isa. 26. 8-11, in 1-7-163). Thus taking God’s plan into consideration, the apparently dark, puzzling and mysterious character of the word is fully accounted for, and clearly shown to be but another manifestation of that “wisdom and knowledge of God,” the depths of which are unsearchable, and past finding out. (Rom. 11. 33).
In conclusion I will mention two or three more Theological Reversals. I refer to these but briefly since each one of them has already been considered in past issues of the paper. For the sake of having them altogether I will repeat the one just considered.
1. The common view is that the great truths of the Bible lie upon the surface and are set forth in plain, simple language, but the truth is they are hidden away under the letter, in “parables and dark sayings,” in “mysteries” and “hard sayings, in order that they may not be seen and understood; except by certain ones, at certain times,” “according to the plan of the ages.” (Eph. III. 11, N.V., margin; also see Emph. Di.).
2. The Church teaches that Christ is God and that when he was here on earth he performed his mighty acts of power in his own strength, when in fact he could do nothing in his own strength. (John 5:30; I-4-82 & 83)
3. We are also taught in the popular theology that there is no probation after death for any, when in fact there is no probation at all for the great majority until after death. (1-4-73).
4. According to the prevailing view, the Day of Judgment is to be a time of awful and almost universal doom, when in fact it is the period of the world’s probation and salvation. (1-6-12).
5. The nominal church tells us that when Christ comes it will be to “wind up affairs,” and bring the work of redemption to an end, thereby fixing irrevocably man’s eternal destiny; but the truth is that the great work of man’s salvation and regeneration (Matt. 19. 28) is to be after the second coming of Christ, in “the ages to come;” hence Christ comes not to end that work but to begin it. [Editor’s note: the “second coming” is also defined as “appearing.” Coming or appearing within the life of the believer. We reference additional writings on this subject by Walter C. Lanyon, Without the Smell of Fire, “The Second Coming.” and Ray and Doris Prinzing, Whispers of the Mysteries, “The Mystery of Our Change.” End of note).
There is not space in the present number to notice more of these Theological Reversals now; but these are sufficient to indicate the present condition of so-called Orthodoxy, and to demonstrate scripturally that those who make the exclusive claim of orthodoxy are very far from holding straight doctrine, but on the contrary are exceedingly crooked in their faith, which is in fact the very opposite of the truth.
These errors are part and parcel of the life and soul of the nominal church; they are the warp and woof of the entire fabric; they are woven into its creeds and standards, its preaching, Sunday school instruction, and social meeting talk, its hymns and songs, into the entire body of its literature, its rituals and litanies, and they are ingrained into the thought and feeling, the mind and heart of every one of its members, so that to remove them would be like drawing out the nerves and tendons of the human body, an operation that would inevitably result in the body’s total destruction.
The church is all wrong in these things; “there is no soundness in it,” hence the only thing that can be done is to tear down and build over new; and this is just what will be done, and that very soon; Christ’s kingdom; the true church, “the church of the first born,” will be established on the earth, and He that sits upon the throne shall say, “Behold I make all things new; it is done.” (Rev. 21. 5, 6) (Editor’s note: the question arises for the reader; if “ALL THINGS ARE OF GOD,” then isn’t the “carnal church” just as much as God’s purpose, whether right or wrong? If so, then criticism or judgment ought to be replaced by love for the “babes” in Christ. The Lord is still calling those individuals, “the out called, each man in his own order”).
THEOLOGICAL REVERSALS [A. P. Adams] 1