BiblicalStudies.org.uk


The Minister and the Word of God

Dr. Wilbur M. Smith

 



The Campbell Morgan Memorial Bible Lectureship, No. 4
Wedneday, July 2nd, 1952

Westminster Chapel, Buckingham Gate, London, S.W.1.
[Reproduced by permission]

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When the pronouncement was made in the garden of Eden, "And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed: He shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise His heel," heaven declared war against the arch-enemy of God and of man, a war that would be waged down through the ages, until the enemy and all his hosts should be overwhelmingly and forever crushed. A corollary declaration is that of the Prologue of St. John's gospel, "The light shineth in darkness and the darkness overcometh it not," (1. 5) on which Lenski, one of the great New Testament commentators of this century (not too well-known I believe, outside of the Lutheran Church of America), penetratingly remarks: "The darkness of the world is a hostile power full of resistance to the true light of the Logos. The shining of the light in the darkness is therefore always an invasion of the territory held by the darkness, a challenge of the power of darkness, a battle to destroy this power, a victory robbing the darkness of its prey. The light or luminary is never in the least affected by the darkness - this luminary is the eternal, unconquerable light of the eternal Word, and as such it shines and shines in triumphant power."[1]

If we begin with the Cross, a careful study of the New Testament would seem to indicate that, from Calvary to the end of Christ's millennial reign, there are seven major battles in this "conflict of the ages." Five are localized in time; two of them are continuously being waged, one against Christian believers, the other against Christian truth and the Word of God. It is concerning one of these battles, that for the Word of God and Christian truth, that I want to speak this evening, but I trust a preliminary, brief reference to the others will give us something of a background for the understanding of the conflict which forms the theme of our message.

The first in this series of seven was at Golgotha. Concerning the work of Christ, in those awful hours, when for all eternity He offered Himself as a sacrifice to God for sin, once for all, the Apostle tells us that He then "despoiled the principalities and the powers (and) He made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it," (Colossians 2. 15) in which the three verbs, "despoil," "make a show of", and "triumph," form a climax indicating "that there has been complete and irretrievable subjugation." "In the cross God achieved His victory over the infernal powers. Through the agency of fallen spirits sin was introduced and it was the sphere of their domain; they could rule in a condemned world, but not in a redeemed one. Christ's

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death was a battle and in it God achieved a monumental victory. The conflict was a furious one, mighty and mysterious in its struggle. The combatant died; but in dying He conquered."[2]

From that hour until the end of this age two mighty conflicts continue to be waged, by the enemies of God and of His Christ, a war against the citadel of the souls of the redeemed, and a war against the citadel of the Word of God, the pillar and ground of the truth. The first of these is referred to in unforgettable terms as Paul brings his heavenly Epistle to the Ephesians to a close: "Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Wherefore take up the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and, having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; withal taking up the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God." (Ephesians 6. 10-17). Note particularly the phrase, "the evil day," which Salmond says must refer to "the time immediately preceding the parousia, the approaching day of the future in which the powers of evil will make their last and greatest effort and that day of violent temptation and assault whenever that may come to us during the present time." We postpone for the major part of our message the attack upon the Word of God.

Probably the next war, chronologically, is the one referred to in the twelfth chapter of the Apocalypse, just before there begins the awful tyrannies of Anti-Christ, depicted in Revelation 13: "And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels going forth to war with the dragon; and the dragon warred and his angels; and they prevailed not, neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast down, and the old serpent, he that is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world; he was cast down to the earth, and his angels were cast down with him." (Revelation 12. 7-9). On this I would like to make a number of remarks, but time forbids. Let me simply remark that this war in heaven is the prelude to the darkest hour human history will ever know, the world rule of the Beast.

The next two battles are literal, and with geographical delimitations:

the invasion of a rich and populous restored Israel, by Gog and Magog and her satellites, as recorded in Ezekiel 38 and 39, and, sometime after that, the great battle on the plain of Megiddo, when the federated kings of the world, with one mind giving their power and authority

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unto the Beast, will make war against the Lamb (Revelation 17. 13, 14). "Spirits of demons go forth unto the kings of the whole world, to gather them together unto the war of the great day of God the Almighty." (Revelation 16. 13-15). The great messianic Psalm, the one hundred and tenth, so inexhaustible, so frequently used in the New Testament, prophetically announces that final triumph which it seems must be placed at the end of Christ's millennial reign: "Jehovah saith unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand until I make thine enemies thy footstool", a passage that is found quoted in all the Synoptics (Matthew 22. 44; Mark 12. 36; Luke 20. 43), once by Paul, and twice by the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews. St. Paul in that important passage regarding the kingdom of Christ and the kingdom of God, using this verse, declares that Christ "must reign till He hath put all enemies under His feet... and when all things have been subjected unto Him then shall the Son also Himself be subjected to Him that did subject all things unto Him" (1 Corinthians 15. 25 and 28). I take it that this particular reign to which St. Paul refers can be nothing else than a millennial reign on this earth, and that the passage implies that there will continue to be, even during that time of infinite blessing, great multitudes who retain undiminished enmity toward the Son of God. So the writer to the Hebrews declares that after Christ "had offered one sacrifice for sins forever (He) sat down on the right hand of God; henceforth expecting till His enemies be made the footstool of His feet" (10. 13; cf. 1. 13). From the creation of man to the final redemption of the elect, Satan, the liar (John 8. 48) has powerfully waged war against the Truth; this murderer from the beginning (John 8. 44), wages war against the One who would bring life; and this whole world, which lieth in the evil one (1 John 15. 19) joins forces with him in hating Christ and all who are Christ's (John 15. 18, 19; 17. 14).

We are now ready to consider that one battle in which every true servant of Christ must be engaged, in every generation, but especially as this age draws to a close, the world-wide, powerful, demon-energized attacks, from every stronghold of the wicked one, against Christian truth, the Word of God, the Gospel. This conflict is particularly emphasized in our Bible, by the Apostle Paul, at the end of his life, in his Pastoral Epistles, and in this message, I shall confine myself exclusively to these three precious documents, particularly the two written to Timothy. It has often been said, and possibly with some truth, that the style of Paul's Pastoral letters lacks the vigour and forcefulness, the drive, that we find in his earlier letters, and that here we have as it were the final words of one, prematurely old, forced to reduce the terrific pace of his earlier years.[3] Yet, an examination of the text will disclose that more than half of the occurrences of the verb, to make war, and the nouns and participles that derive from this verb, occurring in the New Testament scriptures, are to be found in these two letters to Timothy, while of the eleven

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occurrences of the word, to fight, occurring in the entire New Testament, five appear in these ten chapters. Not only does Paul here, and only here, say that he has "fought a good fight" (2 Timothy 4. 7), but it is likewise only here that he also exhorts Timothy and all faithful believers to "fight the good fight of faith," to "war a good warfare" (1 Timothy 6. 12; 1. 18). Indeed, in none of his other letters does the Apostle refer to Christians, as here, as "good soldiers of Jesus Christ." (2 Timothy 2. 3, 4). From this we must conclude that in these final communications the great Apostle had in mind the inevitability of a great conflict to come, of powerful adversaries, of unceasing attacks upon the sacred possessions Divinely deposited with the church, the Word of Truth, and the consequent necessity for a life of discipline and the appropriation of adequate power for needed victory.

Let us now ask ourselves three questions regarding this great conflict: first, what is the OBJECT of this attack; secondly, what are the SCHEMES AND STRATEGIES used in assailing this citadel; and, thirdly, what are the WEAPONS made available for us, wherein strength may be found for the victory that we must have?

The first question, what is the object of attack, can easily be ascertained by a careful study of Paul's vocabulary in these Epistles. In fact as far as I have been able to discover after reading practically everything important (and some things that are not important) on these precious letters, I do not believe that this particular point has been given its deserved emphasis. In these ten chapters Paul uses eighteen words sixty-four different times, that relate, in one way or another to this object of attack. Translated these are "doctrine", "testimony", "the scriptures", "the writings", "the word", "the word of God", "sound words", "the word of truth", "the words of faith", "the words of our Lord Jesus Christ".[4] If the sixteen occurrences of these words in the letter to Titus are added, we have eighty occurrences, in thirteen chapters, of words that relate to divinely revealed Truth, to the Faith once delivered unto the saints, the word of God, the teaching of the church, a phenomena of vocabulary that is not to be found anywhere else in all of the New Testament scriptures. It is the Word of God that is here being assailed.

This brings us, then, to the second question, what are the various methods of attacking the Truth, by which faith in the Word of God is weakened, by which apostasy is accelerated, by which many, deceived, depart from the faith and become enrolled as soldiers in the armies of the supreme enemy of God? It is amazing how many different verbs Paul uses to describe these various movements in this conflict. They may be arranged in three groups: (1) verbs that speak of direct opposition to the Word of God, (2) verbs that refer to a

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departure from the Word of God, whatever the cause, and (3) verbs that relate to the activity of persons satanically empowered to deceive others concerning the Word of God.

The Greek text reveals that the Apostle uses five different verbs, in thirteen places, to set forth the single idea of turning from, or, departing from the truth. We consider them briefly, in the order of their appearance. At the very beginning of the First Epistle attention is called to those who have "swerved from the truth and turned aside unto vain jangling", that is, "teachers who had once been in the right direction but had not kept it." The verb used here is the same as the one found at the end of this Epistle, where in the famous passage on false knowledge men are spoken of who have "erred concernng the faith." In this same passage we have a second verb, "turned aside," used in 5. 15 of women who have turned aside unto Satan and at the close of the Second Epistle, of those who at the end of this age will turn from the truth and turn aside unto fables. Hardly a greater tragedy can be conceived of in the church of Paul's day, or in the church of to-day, than ministers and professors who, once holding the truth, teaching it, and preaching it, abandon the fundamental tenets of the Christian faith, and turn aside to everything else but the truth in Christ. I recall some years ago, and this is only a single illustration out of thousands that could be given, of a professor in a famous theological seminary in the Middle West of our country, who, in a reply to a letter of mine, said that once he did teach the resurrection of Christ, but he no longer dared to teach it in his classes, for, said he, his students of science "would not accept it," and so he had abandoned it. An outstanding Christian leader of our generation, who had been educated some years ago at the Moody Bible Institute, recently met a friend of his on the street, a classmate of his at the Institute, and was greeted, after many years of interrupted contact, with "I hope you are not preaching the stuff we were taught at Moody - I gave up all that years ago." Some turn to temperance talks, some to welfare work, some to selling insurance, some to making a world better for democracy, some to world government, more tragically, some to other religions, or to agnosticism, and some just turn aside, never finding anything again worth proclaiming.

We must not forget that when St. Paul foretold the time when men would be turning from the truth, he added that they would be "turned unto fables". The word for fables is muthos, from which, of course, derives our word myth. It is not without significance that in these Pastoral Epistles, so crowded with phrases revealing the repudiation of the Word of God, that Paul uses the word muthos more frequently than the word is used in all the rest of the New Testament combined.[5] May it not be, though commentators have not yet acknowledged it, that Paul foresaw here, or, at least, the Spirit of God fore-announced here, this whole tendency of mythologizing

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both the Old and the New Testaments, at the close of the nineteenth century and, now, throughout the first half of ours; the Pan-Babylonian school of Jeremias, Stuchen, and others, and the now dominating idea of a Pan-Canaanite mythology, in which, for example, Hooke finds the beginning of Hebrew religion in the futility cultus of the Ras Shamra tablets.[6] This is exactly the terminology used by Barth and Bruner in the interpretation of the first passages of the Bible, especially the fall of man, and, now, we have a whole school arising in the field of New Testament interpretation, of which probably the outstanding authority is Bultmann, which insists on calling large sections of the Gospels the product of the mythologizing in the first century. I cannot help but feel that the Church of England takes the position, as she has, that the creation stories must to-day be considered as a myth.[7]

At the beginning of the fourth chapter of the First Epistle occurs the most terrible of all verbs for departure from doctrine: "The Spirit speaketh expressly that in later times some shall fall away from the faith," where the verb used, the root of our word "apostasy," indicates not being carried away by great trends which cannot be resisted, but a deliberate, intentional act. All of these movements may be summed up in the word Paul uses of that fearful condition to appear at the end of the age, the Apostasy (2 Thessalonians 2. 3). Such a departure is, e.g., an exact description of the history of Unitarianism, which, born in a Calvinistic atmosphere in New England, at the close of the eighteenth century, by first denying the deity and vicarious atoning work of Christ in its initial decades, though holding to the sinlessness, the greatness, and even the resurrection of Christ, moved further and further from the truth, until to-day the Unitarian Church, with all of its wealth and learning, has officially pronounced that she no longer wants to be identified with the name of Christ.

I cannot proceed to another area of conflict disclosed by Paul in these Epistles without asking this question: what are the magnetic forces that draw men away from the clear truth of divine revelation? The last days seem, in the New Testament, actually to be dominated, more than any other period of human history, with what the Apostle Paul calls "the spirit of the world" (1 Corinthians 2. 12), which the Apostle John calls, "The spirit of error," and, "the spirit of AntiChrist" (1 John 4. 6 and 3). Thus to-day we have this almost irresistible allurement of a life spent in the name of science, in the laboratory, in the astronomical observatory, and in the experimental stations, exploring the marvellous mysteries of the structure of matter, the

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chemical bond, the infinite depths of astronomical space, the laws of biology, chemistry, and physiology, but none of which seem to be leading men to confession of sin, and a turning to Christ for redemption. Moreover, we have so many subjects now coming up for international discussion that absorb the energies of men, depriving them of time and strength and even desire for the careful searching of the Holy Scriptures: preoccupation with the ramifications of the United Nations, the dream of a world-government, humanistic philosophies, the coming world-church, the menace of Romanism, et cetera, et cetera.[8] And then there is that ever present danger of being drawn away from the truth that cometh from God by the appeal of the things written by fallen, unredeemed men, of which I will speak in a moment.

There are profound causes for this general turning from the truth, from the Word of God, and the fact of God, in the Western world, which, as far as I know, have not yet been analysed by a believer equipped for this great task. Every major history of modern thought has been done not only by unbelievers, but by actual enemies of the Christian faith, beginning with the earlier work of Lecky; the monumental volumes of J. M. Robertson, who even denied the historicity of Jesus; and, for continental thought, the work by George Brandes, who also denied the fact that Jesus ever lived; and Merz; the latest volumes, all by Americans, strange to say, Woodbridge Riley, Harry Elmer Barnes, Merle Curti and Vernon L. Barrington. A few months ago, the New York Times issued a fifty-page brochure, four columns to a page, entitled A Century of Books, in which the editors gathered together reviews, appearing in this distinguished paper from 1851 to 1951, of one hundred and thirteen notable books, some of which continue to have world-wide influence, and a few, an influence over millions. In carefully studying these pages, I was again impressed with the antichristian or non-christian position of the majority of these authors. In fact, apart from Hawthorne, I could not recognize one writer, man or woman, who could be called a believing Christian; and not one book among all those referred to here was written to extol Christian virtues, to honour the Lord Jesus, or to expound the Word of God. The only work that refers to Jesus is Renan's Life of Jesus, which was a caricature, though brilliant. Here are the works of Darwin, Huxley, Freud, Lenin, H. G. Wells, Bertrand Russell, George Eliot, Joyce, Anatole France, et cetera, et cetera - but not one to commend the Christian faith.

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What can be the result of allowing these volumes to determine one's values but a hardening of the hearts of men against the Christian faith, a gradual dissolving of the moral foundations of modern western civilization, a preparation for Anti-Christ indeed? Upon the death of George Bernard Shaw, the Saturday Review of Literature carried an obituary notice significantly entitled, "Schoolmaster to the World." There have been many schoolmasters to the modern world as pagan as he. The world is learning from those who have rejected the truth as it is in Christ, from those who, being deceived themselves, can only deceive others by their writings. One cannot be the pupil of an enemy of God and at the same time hearken with reverence to the Word of God.[9] It is not without meaning that nearly all the winners of the Nobel Prizes in Literature should be unbelievers. And deep down under all of this, is just plain sin. When Paul writes of the things "contrary to the sound doctrine", he names them: lawlessness, ungodliness, profaneness, murder, fornication, homosexuality and falsehood.

In fact, it is in this passage that Paul introduces a word which brings us to the second group, opposing with even greater violence, the faith once given unto the saints, the word, contrary, implying not simply turning from the truth, but a direct antagonism toward the truth. This is the word used in reference to Satan (5. 14), where he is called the Adversary, and in 2 Thessalonians (2. 4) in reference to the opposing work of Anti-Christ, and, above all, by our Lord, in the Olivet Discourse (Luke 21. 15). This is only an amplification of what the Apostle referred to in the first chapter of his letter to the Romans in speaking of "holding down the truth in unrighteousness."

Let us turn for a moment to a passage in which this direct antagonism is set forth by an illustration from earlier history. In the terrible dark paragraph opening the third chapter of Second Timothy we read: "As Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also withstand the truth." This is at the end of that list of seventeen characteristics which will mark mankind in general at the end of this age. The verb here is also used by St. Luke in describing the first conflict of the Gospel with the entrenched paganism of the Roman world: when Paul was preaching, by request, to the proconsul Sergius Paulus on the island of Cyprus, we read, "But Elymas the sorcerer withstood them, seeking to turn aside the proconsul from the faith" (Acts 13. 8). As Sir William Ramsay says: "Bar-Jesus represented the strongest influence on the human will that existed in the Roman world, an influence which must destroy or be destroyed by Christianity if the latter tried to conquer the Empire.[10] Plummer has a profound comment here, which I would like to resurrect for this message.

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"The magicians withstood Moses by professing to do the same wonders that he did; and the heretics withstood Timothy by professing to preach the same gospel as he did. This was frequently the line taken by heretical teachers; to disclaim all intentions of teaching anything new, and to profess substantial, if not complete, agreement with those whom they oppose. They affirmed that their teaching was only the old truth looked at from another point of view."[11]

We read finally in a passage that no doubt has many different applications, of "oppositions of the knowledge which is falsely so-called" (1 Timothy 6. 20). It is not the opposition of true knowledge that Paul urges on Timothy, for he is continually emphasizing the truth, and no discovery of truth, even in nature, can contradict revealed truth. He is talking about knowledge falsely so-called. There is a deep antagonism of the human mind toward God, and this manifests itself often in philosophy, in science, in literature, in psychology. At the very beginning of his epochal History of Philosophy Dr. Windelband confesses that, "The infallible consequence of this relation was, that the freer individual thinking became in its relation to the Church, the more independently philosophy began the solution of the problem which she had in common with religion: from presentation and defence of doctrine she passed to its criticisms, and finally, in complete independence of religious interests, sought to derive her teaching from the sources which she thought she possessed in the 'natural light' of human reason and experience. The opposition to theology, as regards methods, grew in this way to an opposition in the subject matter, and modern philosophy as 'world-wisdom' set itself over against Church dogma."[12] Every day when driving past one of the greatest technological institutions in the world, I often remind myself that, according to careful enquiry, there is not one full professor in that entire institution of learning and research who is a member of an evangelical church to-day.

We now come to that deep, Satan-originating phenomena of which the Apostle speaks in his first epistle, demon activity: "But the Spirit speaketh expressly that in later times some shall depart from the faith giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons through the hypocrisy of men that speak lies branded in their own consciences as with a hot iron." Here almost every other word is important for our study: fall away from, seducing spirits, hypocrisy, men that speak lies. One word used here, pseudologos, meaning "false words", is found nowhere else in the New Testament, though similar words are to be discovered in other passages relating to the end of our age: pseudomartyr, false witnesses; pseudoprophetes, false prophets; pseudochristos, false Christs. These men pretend one thing while they believe another and speak the very reverse of their own convictions - they are hypocrites. All this, notice, leads to the work of deceiving, one of the most important words in all the New Testament in its

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depicting of the characteristics of the last days. Our Lord begins the Olivet Discourse by saying, "Take heed that no one deceive you," warning that there will be men at the end of the age who not only 'shall deceive many," but "shall deceive the very elect if possible." In his Second Epistle to the Thessalonians, Paul predicts the time when God will send men "a working of error," and the Apostle John twice speaks of this fearful phenomenon to terminate our age, when the very "spirit of error will be abroad in the world," a spirit which men will breathe almost unconsciously. "For many deceivers are gone forth into the world, even they that confess not that Jesus Christ cometh in the flesh, This is the deceiver and the antichrist." (2 John 7). Of course, this word appears most frequently in the Book of Revelation, where Satan is called "the deceiver of the whole world"; the beast out of the earth "deceiveth them that dwell on the earth," so that we find "the nations deceived." (Revelation 12. 9; 13. 14). It is those who are thus deceived who receive the mark of the beast and worship his image. Many, says the Apostle Paul in his second letter to Timothy are to be identified as "deceiving and being deceived" (3. 13).

But the most terrible aspect of this prophecy we must yet consider, that all these hypocrites, all who are departing from the faith, give heed, whether they know it or not to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons. This awful condition has been, comparatively, ignored in all writings that I am acquainted with, either on the pastoral epistles or Pauline eschatology, but at last has been given its deserved study in a book which has just appeared in our own country, Biblical Demonology and Heresy, by my friend, Dr. F. Merrill Unger, Professor of Old Testament Literature in Dallas Theological Seminary, from whose pages I would like to make the following quotation: "The Pauline phrase does not mean 'doctrines about demons' or demonology. Still less does it denote heresiarchs, or the human promulgators of strange isms and cults. It emphatically links demonism with false doctrine, and has direct reference to wicked supernatural spirits, and specifically to the 'doctrines taught by demons', which the Apostle James vigorously describes as representing not a wisdom that cometh down from above' but which is 'earthly, sensual, devilish' (daimoniodes, 'demoniacal') (Jas. 3. 15). In other words, James views what Paul calls 'teachings of demons' as a perverted wisdom, which 'belongs to earth, to the unspiritual nature, and to evil spirits' (Jas. 3. 15, Weymouth). (p. 166).

"Since truth unites and error divides, Satanic strategy launches its most ferocious and fearful assaults on the Word of truth, the Holy Scriptures. In proportion as the truth of God is concealed, perverted or distorted, in that proportion are the people of God divided and despoiled. Surely, in view of these facts, the great prominence given in Scripture to warnings against false teachers, heresies, and divisions, and the appalling spectacle of such a multiplicity of sects and cults in Christendom, lose all aspect of singularity and unusualness.

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"There being but one divine standard of truth, and that being the norm of all Christian faith and practice and the basis of all Christian harmony, and there being but one Spirit of truth opening the divine revelation of truth to man, any deviation from that norm, either in doctrine or practice, must inevitably lead to disunity and disharmony, and must be accounted the direct and destructive work of Satan and demons."[13]

May I close this reference to demons by quoting a remarkable statement by a former minister of this great church, Dr. John H. Hutton, who years ago wrote "The dark flood sweeping at the souls of men would seem to be under a malignant control. It is so unified, so contributory in all its parts to one planned result and one issue that it must be the work of one Mind. Since that one Mind cannot be the mind of God, we are left with no alternative except to say, 'It is the Devil'."[14]

After such an examination of Paul's warnings concerning departure from and denial of the faith, we might lift our eyes from the text of Scripture and hearken for a moment to what some of the outstanding leaders of the Christian faith are saying regarding the extreme criticalness of this hour in relation to belief in Christ and the Word of God in the world as a whole and of opposition to Christianity. At the Madras Conference in 1938 the verdict reached was as follows: "There is more organized opposition to the Christian church than at any time within the past hundred years... The Church must either make its impact upon the secular world of to-day and win it for Christ, or the secular world will increasingly encroach upon the spiritual life of the church blunting its witness and dimming its vision."[15] A more terrible verdict, however, is the one by Emil Brunner, uttered in his Gifford Lectures at the University of St. Andrews in 1947: "The crisis of western civilisation, a life and death issue, is at bottom a religious crisis. The progressive extrangement from Christianity which characterizes the history of the last centuries and our time must necessarily mean a fundamental crisis for this whole civilisation. This crisis at bottom is nothing but a consequence of the fact that the deepest foundation of this civilisation, the Christian faith, has been shaken in the consciousness of European and American nations and in some parts of this world has been more than shaken, in fact, shattered and even annihilated." In fact, Brunner goes so far as to say that for the first time in the history of the world we have a universal, powerful movement of atheism.[16]

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Your own Archbishop of York in his very significant book, In An Age of Revolution, published this very year, remarks that "An age of passive faith has given way to an age of critical questioning and of active atheism," and towards the end of the same chapter, says, "There is more open and aggressive atheism than at any other period of human history... The influence which the church once had on the nation has diminished; religion is now the concern of a small section of its people; its claim for the whole of life is no longer made with any confidence, and only very rarely treated as serious."[17]

Now what are we going to do as believers in an hour such as this? A century ago Carlyle saw this coming unbelief. In fact in Sartor Resartus he called his age, "The Era of Unbelief," and added: "The whole world is sold to unbelief; their old temples of the Godhead which for long have not been rainproof, crumbled down." But Carlyle felt that automatically this age would pass and one of new faith would appear "As in long drawn systole and long drawn diastole must the period of Faith alternate with the period of Denial; must the vernal growth, the summer luxuriance of all Opinions, Spiritual Representations and Creation, be followed by and again follow, the autumnal decay, the winter dissolution."[18] But that is not the course which the world has taken, and unbelief is far deeper and universal to-day than Carlyle ever dreamed of in that pre-Victorian age.

St. Paul had a different remedy to propose, namely an unswerving adherence to and immersion in, a rich knowledge of, and a constant proclamation of the Word of God, a defence of the citadel attacked, by all the weapons made available to us in the armoury of God. Let me call attention if I may, and I only wish more time remained, to seven of the principal exhortations of Paul to Timothy and through him to the church and especially the church in the last days, pertaining to what we should do with the Word of God. First of all, we must know it. Paul commended Timothy in that even from a child he had known the Holy Scriptures. We can do nothing with the Word and nothing for the Word, nothing in defence of the Word, unless we know the Word of God. It is not without significance that Paul says that the first thing for which the inspired Scriptures are profitable is for teaching us. Beloved, every heresy and false cult that appears that has anything to do with passages from the Word of God in perverted interpretation should only drive us back to a restudy of that Word. Listen to this blasphemously false interpretation of one of the most precious sentences that ever came from the lips of the Lord Jesus, in a recent deliverance of a Christian Science lecturer in America, referring to Mary Baker Eddy: "She recognised that the promised Comforter was Divine Science, the Science of Christ, the divine idea of God, and that the Christ, when understood and demonstrated, would lead all mankind into a knowledge of the truth. She recalled, too, how

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Jesus had said that the Christ or Comforter, appearing impersonally as the spiritual idea of God, would instruct, teach, and also spiritually explain - 'bring to remembrance' - what he had said when on earth. It is interesting to note that Jesus also said, 'It is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you.' In this statement, the Master was clearly explaining that the human corporeal concept of the saving Christ must appear before the Comforter could appear or be revealed. This discovery and understanding of the ever-present Christ, or Comforter, Mrs. Eddy named Christian Science."[19] I happened to be present in an audience when these very words were spoken (though I have given them from a printed source), and I felt as never before in my life how Satanically subtle a cult like this can be in using New Testament passages which, referring to the Holy Spirit, are made to refer to Mary Baker Eddy. We must know the answer to this. May I illustrate this point even if it takes a moment of precious time: A member of the Bahai movement canvassing a neighbourhood in which some of the students of our seminary were living, began one afternoon to argue with the wife of one of our seniors. Finally she said, "Well, I can't give you just the answer to this, but when my husband comes home to-night he will be able to do it. Come back again." That night the man brought a brilliantly educated woman, leader of the movement in Southern California. They had not been debating a question very long before the woman said, "You are wrong. The Hebrew here says so and so." The young man replied, "No, the Hebrew says this. I will bring in my Hebrew Bible," which he proceeded to do. Within five minutes the visitors left. He answered error with the truth. If faith in the Word of God is crumbling with many because that Word is said to be in error, or uninspired or rivalled by other Scriptures, et cetera, there is only one thing for believers to do and we must have great numbers of them - they must know this Word, the truth by which alone they can meet error.[20] We must know this Word in its fulness; we must know its history as well as its prophecy, its prayers as well as its ethics. Some will have to master its original languages; others must know of its archaeological confirmations. We must all have a fair grasp of its great doctrinal teachings, and above all, we must know the Christ of Whom this book continually speaks. When we realize that the great Soviet Encyclopedia says that "Both Moses and Jesus are mythological characters," and that Jesus Christ was "a product of religious ideology conceived in the first century of the Christian era, a religiously fantastically superhuman divine being, having no reality," then we must be able to tell the world why we know Christ to be an historical figure. I wonder if it may not be correct to say that if

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modern man is discovering new, wonderful, alarming, world-transforming secrets in the realms of the physical world, it will be necessary for us, who are defenders of the faith, to explore, with greater thoroughness than ever, the inexhaustible truths of the Holy Scriptures, bringing forth to-day, as never before, things both new and old.

In the second place, we must abide in the Word of God (1 Timothy 4. 16; 2 Timothy 3. 14), the word meaning, to take up one's residence in. I am visiting Great Britain; my home however, is in San Marino, California. I may visit the Greek classics, the church fathers Dante, Milton, Shakespeare, Browning, Carlyle, but I am to live in the Word of God. I well remember some years ago, and it is not necessary to mention names, when one of your most distinguished preachers came to our country as minister of one of our most famous churches, but with more of Dante and Browning at his fingertips than Isaiah and the Apostle Paul, only to see his congregation dwindle and dwindle, until, resigning, he came home with a broken heart to die.

In the third place, the Christian, and especially the minister must hold fast, guard, and beep the deposit which has been committed unto us, as Paul often urges, using words which have been used elsewhere in the New Testament of watching sheep, or of guarding a treasure, or of Christ watching over us, all the verbs meaning that this deposit of divine truth which we have is constantly under attack by the part of the enemy who will use every power at his disposal to rob us of this treasure, and, oh, how many there are to-day who once had it, but failing to guard it, either from the influence of agnostic literature, the faith-destroying verdicts of higher critics, the withering results of comparative religion, or from just plain sin have lost the message they once had and Sunday becomes a day of torment and their words without fruit.

Then in a great passage, Paul says that we are to rightly divide the Word of truth (2 Timothy 2. 15). One could speak on this for an hour, but I have but a moment. One group may be guilty of disobeying this command in this way, another in another way. I recall once a wealthy member of a church I had the honour to serve who at the same time was a deep student of the Scriptures who was asked by a distinguished and conservative Old Testament professor, now in glory, if he would be inclined to help finance a book on Old Testament Introduction he had just finished writing. My friend said he would be inclined, but first he wanted to ask him a question: What had he done with Old Testament predictive prophecy? And this servant of God and deep student of His Word wrote back and said that though he had been teaching for nearly forty years he regretted that he had never investigated the subject of predictive prophecy, and hence my friend declined to give assistance. It is strange how in almost all of our theologies we develop the attributes of God, with long Latin words and arguments for God, but when you go to look for a treatment on the fatherhood of God, in a systematic theology, you can hardly even

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find the idea in an index, yet our blessed Lord Jesus referred to God as our Father over forty times. It is important to spend hours on the last five verses of Daniel nine, the seventy years, but we are not rightly dividing the Word of God when we wholly ignore the preceding twenty-two verses which record the wonderful prayer of this mighty statesman. Some ministers can preach for thirty years without ever referring to it once, but the Apostle Paul in nineteen passages commends to all Christians the necessity of good works. The longest single eschatological passage in Paul's Epistles is 2 Timothy 3. 1-14, but where in the whole literature of Pauline Theology in modern times does anybody consider it? There are fine things, for example, in the two massive volumes, Expositor's Dictionary of Texts, by Sir William Robertson Nichol, and Dr. James Moffat, but it was done in the sunshine-filled days of the early part of our century, and you will look in vain for any treatment of the dark warnings of Scripture, or the many solemn passages on the wrath of God, or the Anti-Christ. We need the whole counsel of God.

And then the Apostle emphasizes over and over the necessity for teaching the Word. Dr. G. Campbell Morgan rightly said years ago, "This letter emphasizes the fact that the teaching of the Word is the corrective of all the perils that threaten the church; just as the preaching of the Word and the Word Incarnate in the life of the saints who constitute the Church is the corrective of all perils that threaten the city and nation. In proportion as we rightly know this Word of God, all the things which sap the life of the church and make her devoid of power are corrected." Then there is one passage which particularly, I must bring to your attention, as we close. "And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also" (2 Timothy 2. 2). Here, as Plummer has said, is the divine authority for all theological colleges, seminaries and Bible institutes. "Before leaving his flock in order to visit his spiritual father and friend, he is to secure the establishment of apostolic tradition. And in order to do this he is to establish a school - a school of picked scholars, intelligent enough to appreciate, and trustworthy enough to preserve, all that has been handed down from Christ and His Apostles respecting the essentials of the Christian faith. There is only one Gospel - that which the Apostles have preached ever since the Ascension. It is so well known, so well authenticated both by intrinsic sublimity and external testimony, that no one would be justified in accepting a different Gospel, even upon the authority of an angel from heaven. A second Gospel is an impossibility, That which is not identical with the Gospel which St. Paul and the other Apostles have preached would be no Gospel at all (Gal. 1. 6-9). And this Divine and Apostolic Gospel is the Gospel which has been committed to Timothy's charge. Let him take all reasonable care for its preservation." "This, then, may be considered as the earliest trace of the formation of a theological school - a school which has for its object not merely

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the instruction of the ignorant, but the protection and maintenance of a definite body of doctrine. That which the Apostle, when he was in Ephesus, publicly taught, under the sanction of a multitude of witnesses, is to be preserved and handed on without compromise or corruption as a pattern of wholesome doctrine. There are unhealthy and even deadly distortions of the truth in the air, and unless care is taken to preserve the truth, it may easily become possible to confuse weak and ignorant minds as to what are the essentials of the Christian faith."[21]

This message is already far too lengthy but, of course, it would be a truncated treatment of this subject were I not to end with Paul's final exhortation as to what we are to do with this wonderful Word of God in that day when it is most fiercely attacked, PREACH THE WORD. The Christian religion is a verbal religion. The very-Divinely-given titles for God's servants centre around this matter of the expressed Word; teacher, preaciher, prophet, apostle, evangelist. How many forces to-day are subtly persuading so many men, some of them - many of them - true believers, to substitute something else for this teaching of the Word. Not only is the whole tendency to ritualism, and the substitution of the Mass, being used as a substitute for the preaching of the Word (I know of one Episcopal church, identified with the life of close friends of mine, which advertises thirteen solemn services a week; the Eucharist, Confession, Morning Prayers, et cetera, without one announced hour for a sermon), but I fear, my friends, that the whole drift to dramatic presentations to-day is going to work havoc with this preaching of the Word. In one of the greatest - of my own faith - Presbyterian churches in the world, recently a play, a dramatic presentation of Christ's trial before Pilate, written by the pastor, was presented four times on the Lord's day; 9.30 a.m., 11 a.m., 7p.m. and 8.30 p.m., with perhaps, twelve thousand people attending this spectacle, the pastor being the attorney for the defence, and participated in by famous Hollywood actors and actresses. But this is not preaching the Word. Many of my closest friends in America to-day, strong preachers of the Word, are increasingly alarmed as to the effects on this matter of preaching that will be brought about by the increasingly universal enslavement, the television. Many churches are now admitting that they cannot pull their people away from those alluring Sunday night programmes to the House of God, and are, therefore, closing their evening service. Formerly, when speaking on this phrase, "Preach the Word," I would invariably emphasize the word, but, it seems, to-day we must place the same emphasis on the matter of preaching. As Dr. Farmer in his stimulating volume, The Servant of the Word, has said - "The necessity of preaching resides in the fact that when God saves a man through Christ He insists on a living personal encounter with him here and now in the sphere of present personal relationships. Preaching is that divine saving activity in history, which began two thousand years ago

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in the advent of Christ and in His personal relationships with men and women, and has continued throughout the ages in the sphere of redeemed personal relationships."[22]

The first thing recorded of our Lord in His public ministry, is that He "came into Galilee, preaching the Gospel of God" (Mark 1. 14). The last command of the risen Lord was that His followers should "go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation" (Mark 16. 15). The Church was born through the sermon preached at Pentecost. St. Paul affirms that men are to be saved by the foolishness of preaching, by "the Word of faith, which we preach" (i Cor. I. 21; Rom. 10. 8). The end will come, our Lord said in His Olivet Discourse, "when the Gospel has been preached unto all the nations" (Mark 13. 10).

Both Daniel and the Apostle John repeatedly warn us that at the end of this age there will appear one with universal influence, Satanically energized, who will have a mouth speaking great things, great swelling words, "words against the Most High" (Dan. 7. 8, 20, 25; 11. 36; Rev. 13. 6). This is all the greater reason why believers must be speaking words for the "Most High."

Christ came into the world as the Word incarnate (John 1. 14). He will come again, as the Word to subdue all nations unto Himself (Rev. 19. 13). What the Church of Christ needs to-day, desperately needs, is to know and proclaim the Truth in an age of "the Big Lie", to let the Light of the Word be ever shining in the deepening darkness of these days, to gird itself anew with this Sword of the Spirit, and to recover that experience which was witnessed in the idolatrous, rich, wicked, pagan, famous centre of gross superstition and human wisdom, Ephesus - by the faithfulness of the One who, dying, gave us the exhortations we have been considering - "So mightily grew the Word of the Lord, and prevailed" (Acts 19. 20).


References

[1] R. C. H. Lenski: Interpretation of St. John's Gospel. Columbus, 1942, pp. 45, 46.

[2] John Eadie: Commentary on the Greek Text of the Epistle of Paul to the Colossians,New York, 1856, pp. 173-175. Salmond.

[3] R. D. Shaw: The Pauline Epistles. Edinburgh, 1903, p. 440.

[4] Among the principal phrases (in the A.S.V.) are the Scriptures, the Word, the Word of Truth, the Word of God, the Sacred Writings, the Law, the Commandments, the Word, Sound Words, the Prophecies, the Testimony, the Message, the Truth, the Faith, Doctrine, Good Doctrine, Sound Doctrine, Words of Faith, Sound Words, the Faithful Word.

[5] The Word muthos occurs in the N.T. only in 2 Peter 1. 16; 1 Timothy 1. 4; 4. 7; 2 Timothy 4. 4; Titus 1. 14.

[6] See, e.g., Myth and Ritual, ed. by S. H. Cooke, 1932; and particularly the writing of T. H. Robinson and Oesterley.

[7] "No objection to a theory of evolution can be drawn from the two Creation narratives in Genesis 1 and 2, since it is generally agreed among educated Christians that these are mythological in origin, and that their value for us is symbolic rather than historical." Doctrine in the Church of England. Report of the Commission on Christian Doctrine Appointed by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, 1922. New York, 1938, p. 45.

[8] As Clement C. J. Webb has said, "The true enemy of religion in the modern world is not philosophy or science; it is the purely secular habit of mind." A Study of Religious Thought in England, Oxford, 1933, pp. 185-186. Professor Flint foresaw such a time, half a century ago, when he warned - "The too exclusive cultivation of the physical sciences may be just as anti-religious in tendency, and as favourable to the spread of anti-theological agnosticism as the too exclusive pursuit of bodily pleasure or material wealth." Robert Flint: Agnosticism. New York, 1903, p. 438. See also some pertinent remarks in Wm. E. Gladstone: The Impregnable Rock of Holy Scripture, pp. 336-344.

[9] On the deeper meaning of "the wisdom of this world," see F. Godet: Commentary on St. Paul's Epistle to the Corinthians, Vol. I, on 1 Cor. 1. 21. There is no doubt a close connection here with that awful phrase, referring to Satan, "the deceiver of the whole world," Rev. 12. 9.

[10] W. M. Ramsay: St. Paul the Traveller and Roman Citizen. London, 1896, p. 79.

[11] Alfred Plummer: The Pastoral Epistles (in the Expositor's Bible), pp. 383, 384.

[12]W. Windlebard: A History of Philosophy. Second ed. New York, 1901, pp. 3, 4.

[13] Merrill T. Unger: Biblical Demonology and Heresy. Wheaton, Ill., 1952, pp. 176, 177. On the demonization of modern Europe, see Leslie Paul: The Age of Terror. London, 1950, pp. 181, 221.

[14] While I was never able to recover the place where these words of Dr. Hutton are to be found, some years ago in a personal letter he did reassure me he had written them.

[15] The Authority of the Faith. Vol. I of the Madras Series. New York, 1939., p. 172.

[16] Emil Brumrner: Christianity and Civilization. Gifford Lectures for 1947. New York, 1948, espec. pp. 104, 105, 144, 153.

[17] In an Age of Revolution, London, 1952, pp. 42, 55.

[18] Sartor Resartus, Book II, Chap. III, "Pedagogy."

[19] On the more recent utterances regarding the identification of Christian Science and Mary Baker Eddy, may I refer to an article of mine, "The Bible in Christian Science Literature," in the Sunday School Times, Feb. 9, 1952.

[20] On the weakness of much m¬dem preachers as being the results of ignorance of the Scriptures, see G. Campbell Morgan: The Ministry of the Word, pp, 70, 71, 128.

[21] Alfred Plummer [1841-1926], ut supra, pp. 382, 387.

[22] Herbert H. Farmer: The Servant of the Word, London, 1941, p. 27. An article on this subject that every clergyman should read, is "Words are Deeds," by Donald G. Miller, in Interpretation, April, 1952, Vol. VI, pp. 131-146.

Prepared for the web by Robert I. Bradshaw in July 2005. Reproduced by kind permission of Westminster Chapel, London.