That We May Do Them

FUNDAMENTAL principles of God’s law never change. Details of his will may vary as his plan progresses from age to age, but they are always in harmony with the basic principles of his just and righteous laws. These great principles of the Law given to natural Israel were summed up by Jesus to be supreme love for God and a love for our neighbors equal to that which we have for ourselves. These principles are as binding upon the followers of Jesus as they were upon those to whom the Ten Commandments were given through Moses.

There are two important facts governing God’s dealings with his people. One is that he does not hold accountable those who are ignorant of his will, unless that ignorance be willful. The other is that when he reveals his law, his will, he expects those who are thus enlightened to be obedient thereto. This also has been true throughout all the ages during which the divine plan has been developing.

The Apostle James, writing to spiritual Israelites of this age, said, “Be ye doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the Word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: for he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the Word, this man shall be blessed in his deed.”—James 1:22-25

There is no other legitimate object in the study of God’s Word than that of learning the divine will in order that we may do it. The Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy, saying, “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth.” (II Tim. 2:15) Rightly dividing the Word of truth is not the ultimate objective of Christian Bible study. That we may be workmen for the Lord should be the motive. We endeavor to rightly divide the Word of truth so that we may be workmen who need not be ashamed. It is doubtful if those who study the Scriptures and who do not cooperate in the divine plan as they find it therein revealed, will be permitted by God to continue in the light of truth. It is as true today as it was in Moses’ day that the things which God reveals are disclosed to his people so that they may be governed accordingly, and his will be done in and through them.

Rewards of Obedience

To natural Israel God offered a very high position in his plan, but the promise was conditional upon obedience to his Law. He told them that they would be to him “a peculiar treasure above all people,” also that he would make of them “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” This great prize of glory in the divine arrangement, however, was to be theirs only, God said, “if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant.”—Exod. 19:5,6

The sad story of natural Israel is that although they covenanted to do God’s will, they did not keep the covenant. God was patient with them, chastising them for their backslidings, and forgiving them when they repented. But intermittent and halfhearted loyalty did not produce in the nation the growth of righteousness and the degree of loyalty which were necessary so that they might pass the test to which they were subjected when Jesus presented himself to them as their Messiah. The Law which was given to them as a schoolmaster to bring them to Christ did not accomplish this intended purpose because they were not obedient to it. (Gal. 3:24,25) Hence, when Jesus came to his own, his own received him not. (John 1:11) God revealed his will to the nation, but they did not heed it. Therefore they were not prepared to enter in to the promised inheritance of joint-heirship in the messianic kingdom when the due time came. Instead, Jesus said to them, “The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.”—Matt. 21:43

What a tragic loss! And all because they did not do the divine will which had been revealed to them. Jesus had come to them as “the chief cornerstone” in God’s spiritual temple which was to be the channel of blessing for the world, but they had stumbled over him. (Eph. 2:20) Yes, as the prophet foretold, they had rejected the stone that God designed to be the “Head of the corner.” (Ps. 118:22) Jesus told the Jews about this prophecy, and how it was being fulfilled by their failure to recognize and accept him as their Messiah, then added, “And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever ‘it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.”—Matt. 21:42,44

Even after Jesus came to Israel and was rejected, God’s mercy and forbearance continued through the Master’s efforts to enlighten and convert them. “How often,” he said, “would I have gathered thy children together, … and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.” (Matt. 23:37,38) Here, then, as the Master had warned, the “stone” fell upon the unbelievers of Israel, and their hope of sharing the glory of the Messiah in the promised “kingdom of priests” was blasted forever—“ground to powder.”

Branches Broken Off

Jeremiah 11:16 describes Israel as a green olive tree. The root from which this tree is nourished is God’s oathbound covenant with Abraham. That covenant provided for the development of a spiritual seed. (Gen. 22:17) It was to the spiritual seed of Abraham that the royal promises of the kingdom belonged. The Apostle Paul explains that a greater portion of these Israelites, as the natural branches in this olive tree of promise, were broken off because of unbelief.

But this did not change God’s plan. His promise to Abraham and his seed remained, and the individuals in Israel who accepted Jesus were transferred from the typical house to the spiritual: “As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God.” (John 1:12) Paul speaks of those who received Jesus as “a remnant according to the election of grace.” (Rom. 11:5) These were not arbitrarily made a part of the elect class, but occupied this high position by virtue of God’s grace because of their obedience. The Apostle Peter explains the condition upon which anyone may thus be of the elect, saying that it is “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.”—I Pet. 1:2

This remnant of Israel was far too few to make up the total number of those whom God had foreordained to be joint-heirs with Jesus Christ. It is this that gave Gentiles the opportunity of becoming the fellow heirs with the Jews. Paul refers to these as “wild” branches which, contrary to nature, are grafted into the Israelitish olive tree. This ingrafting of Gentiles is contrary to nature because nature’s laws have decreed that any branch grafted into a tree retains its original characteristics. It is not changed by partaking of the sap of a strange tree. But how different with the Gentile branches grafted into the Israelitish tree! They no longer are Gentiles, but become Israelites, and make up the foreordained number of the little flock of spiritual Israelites who are to live and reign with Christ a thousand years.

The Holy Nation

What a wonderful lesson this is to emphasize the unchangeableness of God’s plan and the necessity of obedience on our part if we are to have the privilege and honor of cooperating with God! Jesus said that the kingdom was taken from natural Israel and given to a nation bringing forth its fruits. Peter identifies this nation when in writing to Christians he says, “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”—I Pet. 2:9

Peter further explains that those who now comprise God’s holy and royal nation of spiritual Israelites were not previously the people of God. (I Pet. 2:10) These are the ones whom Paul speaks of as “wild” olive branches who are grafted into the Israelitish tree. Every footstep follower of the Master who is a Gentile by birth should remember that his privileges as a Christian and his hope of glory as a joint-heir with Christ are his because those to whom these honors originally belonged proved unfaithful. But it is even more important for us to be conscious of the sobering truth expressed by the apostle when he said, “If God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee.”—Rom. 11:21

The natural branches were broken off because of unbelief. We too will lose our position in the symbolic olive tree if we become unbelievers. But let us not assume that being an unbeliever implies an outright denial of the Lord or the rejection of his truth. The unbelieving Israelites who constituted a majority of the nation deceived themselves into supposing that they were faithfully following the commandments of God. The unbelieving Jews of today are still blind to the fact that they are unbelievers. Many who say “Lord, Lord,” are in the category of unbelievers as God views them, and for the very obvious reason that they fail to do the will of their Father who is in heaven.

God’s Will

As with typical Israel, so with us of the spiritual house, it is in the “things revealed” by God that we discern his will—the things that he expects us to do and what he wants us to be. And how marvelously grand are the truths which God has given to his people at this end of the age—“meat in due season,” indeed, comprising the great fundamentals of his entire divine plan of the ages. God has revealed his whole plan to us because there is something that he wants us to do about all of it.

He has revealed the mystery hidden from ages and from generations, the mystery of the body of Christ, because he is offering us the opportunity of becoming a part of that body. He has revealed the prize of the high calling because he wants us to run for that prize. He has revealed the privilege of being planted together in the likeness of Christ’s death because he wants us to die with Christ. He has revealed to us the high exaltation of Jesus following his resurrection from the dead—that he is now seated at the right hand of God—because he wants us to set our affections on things above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God.—Col. 1:26,27; Phil. 3:14; Rom. 6:3-5; Col. 3:1-4

There are various other features of the plan of God, such as the hope of restitution for the world, which he has now disclosed, not because we are to have a part in them, but because his will for us is that we be ambassadors for the truth; so God has given us this knowledge that we may do his will, and his will is that we hold forth the Word of truth and life.—Phil. 2:15,16

The will of God concerning our ambassadorship is briefly outlined by the prophet in Isaiah 61:1-3. It is presented as a commission of the Holy Spirit. Jesus applied this lesson to himself, and the Scriptures make it plain that it also applies to his body members—the entire Christ company. It is a commission to preach glad tidings to the meek, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, to bind up the broken-hearted, to declare liberty to the captives, to announce the day of vengeance of our God, and to comfort all who mourn. To carry out this commission it is essential that we know the plan of God, embracing the spiritual hopes of this Gospel Age and the great kingdom hope of restitution. It also requires that we understand why there is a great time of trouble now upon the nations, and what the outcome of that trouble will be.

This commission of the Holy Spirit is mandatory upon every Gentile branch which has been grafted into God’s olive tree. It is regrettable that any Christian should allow himself to view this phase of the Christian life as being merely incidental and that it may be ignored if one is not inclined to participate in it. No part of God’s will may be considered incidental, and the doing of that will implies faithfulness in obeying the Holy Spirit’s commission to preach the Gospel.

In II Corinthians, chapter 6, the apostle calls our attention to other fundamentals of the Christian life. The chapter opens with the reminder that we are workers together with God, and with the admonition that this inestimable privilege or favor from God be not received in vain. But as the apostle explains, if we are to be approved before God as his ministers we must exercise patience “in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in watchings, in fastings.”

Furthermore, as Paul explains, our ministry is to be pure—the pure message of the divine plan. Also, as ambassadors, we are to be long-suffering and kind, and to have unfeigned love for the brethren and for all mankind. Our ministry is to be powerful because the Holy Spirit has commissioned and quickened us. It is to be a ministry of the Word of truth, not of our own fanciful theories and speculations. Being a ministry of the Word of truth, it will have back of it the power of God, and we, in the service of the Lord, will be protected by “the armor of righteousness, on the right hand and on the left.”

If our ministry is in harmony with the will of God, if our engaging in it is truly a doing of that which he has revealed to us, we will be faithful, come honor or dishonor, evil report or good report; and we will be true to God and to the commission of his Holy Spirit, even though others may accuse us of being deceivers. Faithfulness in such an approved ministry of the truth will mean that we are dying with Christ and have the hope of immortal life and the divine nature as joint-heirs with him. Any chastenings of the Lord which he may deem needful for our correction and training will not discourage us nor embitter us; but enduring them, and seeking to be rightly exercised thereby, we will rejoice in the peaceable fruits of righteousness which they yield.

As the apostle further explains, while we endeavor faithfully to carry out the commission of the Holy Spirit in proclaiming the glad tidings, we may at times be sorrowful, yet we will always rejoice because of our inward consciousness that we are doing the will of God. We will rejoice in the privileges of making ourselves poor in order that others may be rich. The crown of our rejoicing in this will be in our knowledge that while having nothing because of sacrificing all to the glory of God, yet we possess all things, being heirs of God and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ.

Paul’s Heart Enlarged

In this comprehensive outline of our responsibilities as co-workers with God, the Apostle Paul explains that his own heart was enlarged toward the brethren at Corinth. The vision of truth will indeed enlarge the hearts of all who truly believe it and obey the divine commission which it imposes upon them. Believing Christians are “big-hearted” Christians because they have grasped and continue to appreciate the big issues involved in knowing the truth and in serving God. The sacrifice of Jesus, the divine plan for the church and the world, the hope of restitution of all things, will loom so important in their minds and hearts that there will be no room for vain speculations and the strife of words.

In these glorious fundamentals of the truth, believing Christians will see reflected the image of God and of Jesus, and they will strive to have that image developed in their own lives. They will do this because they want to be like God and like Jesus, and also because they know it is a part of what God wants them to do—very special and important reasons why he has given them the truth. They will reflect upon the promises of God on behalf of both the church and the world: the Abrahamic promise, the promise of restitution spoken by the mouth of all God’s holy prophets, the promise of the high calling, the promise of Christ’s second coming and the fact that he is now present. Realizing that these are the things in which God has been interested and which he has caused to be recorded in his Word, the interest of believing Christians will also be centered therein.

Because their interest is centered in these fundamentals of the divine plan, their conversation will be concerning them. They will bear witness to them before the brethren and before all men as they have opportunity. They will not permit themselves to be drawn aside from these main issues by any carnal disposition toward strife over unrevealed details, a certain knowledge of which has not been given to the saints. Nor will believing Christians allow the imperfections of others to stumble them, or cause them to become critics and judges of their brethren.

Let us not deceive ourselves with the belief that finding fault with the brethren, condemning them because they do not agree with our speculations (oftentimes opinions merely), boasting of our own superior knowledge of the truth, etc., are evidences of a true belief that will assure us continuance as branches in God’s olive tree. Paul says, “Boast not against the branches,” and again, “Because of unbelief they were broken off,” and still again, “If God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee.”—Rom. 11:18,20,21

Israel’s Unbelief

As we have already observed, the unbelief of the natural branches of the Israelitish olive tree was not a denial of God and his law, but rather a misuse of their privileges which came to them under the law. This unbelief of Israel was represented in the attitude of their leaders, the scribes and Pharisees, against whom Jesus pronounced the woe of rejection. As the professed representatives of God and the prophets, their hearts should have been enlarged by the promises of the kingdom; but instead of that they opposed the King and endeavored to “shut up the kingdom of heaven against men.” They refused to enter in themselves, and did all they could to prevent others from entering.—Matt. 23:13

We may feel that there is no danger of our being in an attitude like this, but it is true, nevertheless, that even in our day of enlightenment and blessing there are some who are overanxious to close the door to the kingdom of heaven. The difference is that in modern times those who would like to close the door to the kingdom of heaven seem to feel certain that they themselves are inside that door. Announcing the closing of the door to the high calling is no part of the Holy Spirit’s commission to the Christian. To busy oneself, therefore, in attempting a ministry to prove this point is a departure from the main issues of the truth and the real work which God wants us to do. It is therefore, as God appraised the activities of the Pharisees, a form of unbelief, a denial in practice of those things which should mean most to us in our relationship to God. It is only if we allow our hearts to shrink and because of this permit selfishness to influence us, that we will desire to limit the opportunities of the truth in the lives of others.

Again, Jesus pronounced woe upon the Pharisees because of their quibbling over nonessentials. They argued among themselves whether it was more important to swear by the temple or by the gold of the temple, or whether it was more efficacious to swear by the altar or by the gift upon the altar. Jesus said to the Pharisees that they were fools and blind because of this quibbling. In endless controversies over words and forms of expression, they had omitted, as Jesus explained, “the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith.” He emphasized that these were the things to which they should have given attention and at the same time leave the other matters in their proper respective places.

From this we get the unmistakable thought that as God views our attitude toward the truth, to lose sight of the main issues, laying them aside and devoting our time to controversy over unproved nonessentials, is another form of unbelief—an evidence that our hearts are not properly enlarged by the truth. Usually, also, this form of unbelief manifests itself in boasting against other branches; that is, claiming that we are more faithful to the Lord than are those who do not agree with the fancies which are merely the product of our imaginative minds.

What, indeed, is it, but a form of unbelief when the ransom, the high calling, becoming Christlike, laying down our lives in the service of the truth, the hope of restitution for the world, and other great fundamentals of the plan of God are relegated to a secondary place in our thoughts and affections, while we spend most of our time riding a hobby! Such a shrunken-hearted attitude may not be an outright denial of the truth, but certainly it is denying the truth its proper place in our affections and lives.

Another reason for the rejection of the scribes and Pharisees was their giving attention to the outside of the cup and the platter, while within they were full of extortion and excess. One of the Beatitudes is, “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.” (Matt. 5:8) Meticulous care concerning outward appearances may not necessarily reflect purity of heart, which is a prime essential to true belief. On the other hand, those who are pure in heart are the ones who truly see God. That is what the vision of truth means to them. They see in it a reflection of God’s character of love, justice, wisdom, and power. This vision of truth inspires the pure in heart to an untiring effort to be like him.

They see his love in giving “his only begotten Son” to be the Redeemer of the church and the world; so they gladly give their lives for the brethren and rejoice in the privilege of being baptized for the dead world. They see God’s love for the world revealed in his many promises of restitution through the kingdom. They observe his great interest in the hope for the world, as manifested by his causing all the holy prophets, Jesus, and his apostles to discuss it in their message; so they, too, thrill over this great project which has enlisted God’s interest through the centuries. Their hearts are enlarged by the depth and majesty of the truth.

Purity of heart, revealed in true belief of all that God has said and asked his people to do, not only leads to an ever clearer faith vision of him now but ultimately will carry the true believer to the plane of glory, honor, and immortality, there to behold the actual and personal glory of our Father in heaven. Only true believers who, being blessed by a knowledge of the truth and the will of God thereby revealed, lay down their lives in doing his will, shall be blessed with this reward of the faithful.

A Living Sacrifice, Holy and Acceptable

The great mercy and abounding love of God should impel us to lay down our lives faithfully in his service. This was the practical lesson the Apostle Paul drew from the revealed plan of God toward both natural and spiritual Israel. After telling of the casting off of natural Israel, the privileges of the Gentile branches, and the final salvation of the branches that were broken off, he continues, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”—Rom. 12:1,2

Much is involved in proving what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God. A very important consideration is not to think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think. (Rom. 12:3) We are to remember that God has placed each member in the body as it has pleased him, and then try to find our place and be faithful in the opportunities it affords for laying down our lives in sacrifice. If our study of God’s Word is for the purpose of knowing and doing his will, our vision of truth will increase in brightness and we will ever have a song of praise on our lips and in our hearts, even the loving-kindness of our God.—Ps. 63:3

Dawn Bible Students Association
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