IN the April SIGNS we endeavored to set forth the superiority of the life of faith over every other way of living, using the first part of the twelfth chapter of Hebrews as a basis. Since then a brother has written, requesting us to present some thoughts on the above portion of the tenth chapter of Hebrews.
Verse twenty-three reads: “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised).” “Our faith” means the doctrine, The word “faith” in Scripture sometimes signifies the doctrine or body of truth held by believers, again it signifies the operation of the Spirit in the soul to bring about belief. “Doctrine” means not the arbitrary dogmas taught by men, but the principles of truth set forth in the Scriptures of inspiration and certified by the Holy Spirit in the experience of believers. The profession of the doctrine must be based on one’s being in experimental possession of the life of the doctrine. Any profession of faith without one’s being a possessor of that faith means being religious in form only. Being a possessor of faith is the fruit of’ being a subject of grace. Many professors are not in reality possessors, and therefore render only lip service to the truth. If one is through grace a possessor of the life of the doctrine his service is of the heart, his religion is a vital matter with him. Wavering means being unstable. One who wavers bends first this way, then that. He is like a reed bending in obedience to every shifting’ wind that blows. If one is not experimentally convinced of the truth he professes, he will drift uncertainly, being much like a ship without a pilot, lacking steadiness. Even the best of saints are at times assailed within themselves by doubts concerning the validity of their hope and concerning the truth of the doctrine they profess. But such temptations within the soul do not constitute the wavering meant in the text unless the outward life becomes affected by the inward temptations to uncertainty. There is not one of us but who sins in our thoughts and imaginations, but usually grace restrains these inward errors from affecting the outward life. If grace did not save us in this way, there would never be one of us able to maintain a godly walk and conversation. So if the doubts and questionings which assail us so terribly at times within us, should be allowed to affect our outward life, the result would be wavering and instability. Grace saves the believer in this as in all other exigencies of the life of faith. Therefore “holding fast” proves whether one is really a possessor or merely a professor. If one is in vital, experimental possession of the truth, his internal soul doubts and fears will not lead to wavering in the outward life and walk. If one is merely a professor rendering lip service to the truth, he will soon or late waver and fall away, because he lacks experimental gracious conviction to hold him. Thus it must follow that any successful holding fast of faith on the part of believers is because grace holds them fast. Just as we love God because he first loved us, so we hold fast the faith because faith holds on to us. Otherwise the saints of God never could, of themselves, hold to the doctrine. That man whose soul is gripped by the power of the truth will of necessity hold fast to the truth. We must not lose sight of this fundamental truth: every spiritual act on the part of believers is the effect of the Spirit. The act does not produce the Spirit, but the Spirit the act. If we choose God, it is because he first chose us. Had God not done great things for his people there would never have been any response from them to him. He says within them, “Seek ye my face.” Their hearts reply, “Thy face, Lord, we will seek.” If he draws us, we will run after him. Without that divine drawing there can i)e no running toward him. Saints by the power of God are kept. This keeping of them by the power of God through faith is the ability by which they hold fast the profession of their faith. The “let us” is equal to a prayer on our part that God may see fit to graciously keep us to the faith so that we may hold fast to it. Such prayer he will not ignore, because God, who has promised his people all sustaining and keeping grace, is faithful and will never go back on his word. He has pledged his sovereignty to the keeping of his elect in the way, therefore true soul-breathings to him for his power to keep us will not & in vain. Hence, let us look within ourselves and see if we have a real desire to keep the faith. If we have such desires they are prayers to which the Spirit is not deaf, petitions which he will heed, and he will bless us with grace to keep us so that we may thereby keep the faith.
Verse twenty-four reads: “Let us consider one another, to provoke unto love and to good works.” Again, it takes love to provoke or incite love. God’s people are a household who love one another because the love of God is shed abroad in their hearts, thus showing they have passed from death unto life. Where this love is, they will not stir up one another’s jealousy, malice or anger; they will not provoke one another to wrath: they will incite each other to love and to the good works of the Spirit. Works, to be really good, must be the fruit of the Spirit. Otherwise, however fair works may seem, if they lack the Spirit for a foundation, they are not good. Gentleness, peace, temperance, brotherly love, patience, longsuffering, faith and all such are the fruit of the Spirit, hence are good works. If these things be in us and abound, they will make us fruitful in the work of the Lord. Without them, we are barren and desolate. Love begets love. God loving us causes us to love him. When one loves the brethren, it incites them to love him. When one is a man of peace and gentleness toward the household of faith, it provokes them to show peace and gentleness toward him. On the other hand, if we criticize and find fault with our brethren, they will likely do the same to us. Whatever yardstick we use to measure others, we must not complain if they in turn use our own measure, whereby to judge us. We must conclude, therefore, that for one to be possessed of a carping, bitter, jealous tendency toward the brethren argues an absence of love in the soul of that one toward the brotherhood. With what judgment we judge, it shall be meted to us again. Hence, the proper conduct on the part of the saints of God is by love to provoke love, by peace to incite peace, by gentleness to stimulate others to be gentle. Also, it is right that brethren should be reminded to minister to the needy among them in a substantial way; so that if God has blessed some of us with a goodly share of the benefits of this world temporally, we should be encouraged to show our love and fellowship by contributing to the relief of those less fortunate among us. This, and such like, is provoking one another to good works.
Verse twenty-five reads: “Not forsaking the assembling of yourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more as ye see· the day approaching.” Even in that day, as now in ours, there was a tendency on the part of some to remain away from the meetings of the church. We every one of us need all the others, no one of us can live a healthy or full spiritual life away from the brethren. If God’s people could get along just as well alone to themselves as in the company of their fellows in Christ, He would not have brought into being the visible church and maintained its continuity through the centuries. The meetings of the church occupy a very important and God-designed place in our lives. We suffer loss apart from them. One of the worst tendencies of our people at the present time is to stay away from the meetings of the church when the pastor is not present. We contend that the church should always maintain its regular meetings, pastor or no pastor. The blessing comes in our being in the way, not out of the way. Too much stress to-day is put on the importance of the preaching gifts to the exclusion of all other gifts. The pastor is not the head of the church and the order of the house should not be thought of as depending solely upon him. He is the servant of the church, not the hub about which the church revolves. There are other and valuable gifts in the church aside from the preaching gifts. It used to be that our churches held at stated times what were called conference or prayer meetings, in which all the brethren, including the sisters, were encouraged to take part according to their several abilities. These of late years have been much neglected and some churches now meet only when the pastor is present. From my own personal experience, I can say that in the days of my youth in the church these conference meetings were blessed to my comfort and peace of mind. Might it not be also in the case of others? Might it not be that some of Zion’s little ones are starving to-day for lack of the openings which these conference meetings bring to them? Some of our present gifts that have been ordained to the ministry were first discovered in these conference meetings. Why should the pastor consume the whole time at all the meetings of the church? Should not the other gifts have the privilege to exercise as well as he? We do not mean that some brother should time after time monopolize all the time, thus making himself obnoxious, but each and all of the membership who feel to speak in these meetings should have the privilege of doing so. ·We are commanded in the above text to “exhort one another” to this effect. If members of the church repeatedly stay away from the meetings they should be visited, not in order to berate or to scold them, but to lovingly exhort them to their privileges in the church. “And so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” As the church in that day recognized from the signs of those times that the end of that former dispensation of the Jewish nationality was fast approaching, so do we to-day from the signs of our times recognize that the times of the Gentiles are drawing to a close, be it in our lifetimes or not, and that it behooves us to cherish the things really worth while and not to 1mg too closely to ourselves the things that must inevitably perish and be taken from us. The day is coming that will prove every man’s work whether it be of wood, hay or stubble, or whether it be gold, silver and precious stones. Only that will stand the judgment of God which is founded on Christ and rooted within him. The assemblings of the saints are on that sure foundation. Let us, then, not forsake them. This life which we live with our brethren in Christ is the only really worth while and abiding life, after all. All other relationships end with time and are dissolved in death.
Verses twenty-six and twenty-seven read: “For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment, and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.” There is, then, such a thing as a believer’s transgressing even after he has received the knowledge of the truth. Yes, there is. Now, one cannot transgress a law unless the law is over him. Believers are not, spiritually speaking, under the law of sin and death. Their mortal bodies may still be under the law of sin and death, but the believer is in soul and spirit passed from under that law by regeneration. Neither are believers under the Mosaic law. Are not they, therefore, under any law at all? Indeed they are. They are under the law of God’s grace, under the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus. And they do at times sin against grace. There is such a thing as grieving the Holy Spirit of God by which we are sealed unto the day of redemption. ·We do, at times, grieve the Holy Spirit in the hearts of our brethren. This we do when we offend one another. This we do when we transgress the law of our mother, the church, going against her counsel and setting at defiance her order and ride. The willful sin is the sin of the believer after receiving knowledge of the truth. It is sin full of one’s own selfish will. Have you not sometimes seen willful children in families? They are generally children not liking to be controlled, wanting to have their own way. It has occurred at times in the experience of the church that brethren are left to themselves to have their own way, thus furnishing a warning example to others. Such brethren are “willful.” They want to be independent, to be a law unto themselves. They are impatient of restraint, even though it be a loving restraint. Now, what is the remedy for this willful sin? Did Jesus die for such sin as that? Indeed, he did. He died for all the sins of all his people, whatsoever those sins have been or may be. He is the complete and perfect atonement for them all. Thus, if one sins willfully, what shall one do? Well, he cannot offer a sacrifice for that sin, because he is no more under the legal covenant under which bloody offerings were made for sin. That age has passed away. Neither will Christ descend to earth to suffer afresh for that sin. That is not necessary, Christ having already once for all made a finished and complete payment to divine justice for all sins of all his people. No, there remaineth no more sacrifice for this willful sin. What then? There remains a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation. It is not the judgment and fiery indignation which remains, but the certain looking for it. This is a “certain” and sure experience following upon the willful sin. There is no uncertainty or maybe so about it. Just so surely as one sins willfully after having been taught the truth, just so certainly will that one look for judgment and for fiery indignation. He will know in his own conscience that he has done wrong. Knowing that, he will be certain to look for some manifestation of the judgment of God and for some appearance of his fiery indignation, knowing full well that his sin merits punishment. Now, what will this certain looking for of judgment accomplish? It will destroy the enemy, that is, the adversary. Oh, what a mercy is this! It is not the believer who is destroyed by the willful sin. No, never. But. thanks be to God, the adversary which caused one to sin, he it is who is destroyed by this sure expectancy of judgment. In other words, all these things work together for good to them who love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. A burnt child dreads the fire, is an old saying. Nothing so well drives its lessons home to the soul as does one’s own experience. So by experiencing what it means to be full of one’s own will and to be led astray thereby one really finds out deliverance from that accursed enemy, one’s own fleshly nature. The experience of surely looking for some evil to come because one has done wrong, leads to one s being more and more fearful about doing wrong. Thus, does this sure expectation of judgment deliver the believer from the power of the adversary, the flesh, and makes one more and more aware of the treachery of one’s own fallen nature, so causing us to beware of it and correcting us from giving ear to evil counsel. These things we can speak of from our own personal experience, having handled ourselves the testimony of that which we here set forth. If it will help or comfort some other poor stumbling soul by the way, let God be praised. - H.H.L.
Elder H.H. Lefferts
Signs of the Times
Vol. 98, No. 6 – June, 1930