SISTER S. A. Culey, of Warren, Ohio, requests our views on John xiv. 1, 2, desiring to know what is meant by the “mansions” and by the expression of Jesus: “If it were not so, I would have told you.” These verses read thus: “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.” This fourteenth chapter of John is closely connected with the thirteenth, and unless one notices carefully the closing verses of the thirteenth chapter he cannot but miss much of the beauty and fitness of the opening words of the fourteenth. The division of the Bible into chapters was devised by man for his own convenience, and very often these divisions break into the theme of a discourse and interrupt its continuity. If one will read the latter part of the thirteenth chapter and the first of the fourteenth as though there were no chapter division, he may at once see much that never occurred to him before. Peter said he was willing to lay down his life for Jesus, which proved his zeal, but proved also that Peter was then ignorant of his own insufficiency and shortcomings. Jesus replied to him, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, The cock shall not crow, till thou hast denied me thrice.” However much this may be calculated to alarm the disciples, Jesus follows up his prophecy of Peter’s failure with, “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.” Luke records this somewhat differently, but the same in substance: “I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not.” Peter himself was to fail in order to realize the weakness of his flesh, but through the intercession of this “priest after the order of Melchisedec,” the faith of Peter should not fail. No matter how weak in the flesh God’s people are, nor how much failure they realize in themselves, there is no failure of their faith, hence their security. It is by the power of God through faith that they are kept unto salvation. This faith is not theirs to take up or lay down at will, but is the gift of God to them, and or this gift to his people God never repents; that is, he never takes it away from one within whom he ever implants it. Jesus tells Peter and the others with him that they believe in God and now commands them to also believe in him; that believing not only in God, but also in the God made flesh, Jesus, their troubled heart will find peace. To confirm this, read the twenty-seventh verse of this same chapter. The peace that passeth all understanding is the gift of Jesus to his afflicted people, and when given it delivers their troubled heart from the fear of man, the flesh, and from the fear of death, the banishment and separation from God. There is a period in the experience of every subject of grace when he believes in God, but has no view of Jesus. This is when under the law, convicted of sin before a just and holy God, but, as yet, with no relief from his burden, with no hope of salvation in Christ. Such an one believes in God. He believes God to be almighty, great, good, just and infinitely holy. As for God being love and full of mercy, able to justify the ungodly, the stricken sinner sees not how such could be. He realizes the austerity of God, and that he is perfect in knowledge, power and justice, but the kindlier side of Deity, his compassionate attributes, he does not see or realize. Consequently his heart is sore troubled, with no relief’ in sight, with no possible way of escape open for one who feels deserving of the vengeance of an outraged law, even though its penalty involves his being sent to hell. The position of Peter and the other disciples at the time the words of our text were spoken, was much the same as that of one experimentally under the law. Being under the law, the victory of Christ was not actually accomplished, and was not understood by them. They loved him without knowing why they did so, without comprehending his true character, not understanding the necessity for his humiliation, sufferings and death. They had a kind of hope in him, but it did not become a “lively hope” until after his resurrection from the dead and the descent of the Spirit at Pentecost. When the command of Jesus is trumpeted in the soul, saying, “Believe also in me,” then darkness and sorrow flee away, hope springs up and the tongue breaks forth in singing. To be brought to believe in Jesus, is to believe with all the heart that he is the Way through which the mercy, loving-kindness, compassion and salvation of the just, holy and almighty God come personally to the poor, wretched, miserable sinner at the end of the earth. To be told when he felt so sure of himself that within so short a time he would deny Jesus three times, was enough to make Peter feel that should he do so he would deserve to be forever excluded from the presence of God without mercy; but the assurance of Jesus is that even though the fall of Peter he realized, it should not be permanent, nor prevent his salvation for, “Believe also in me,” he says, which assures the disciples that though weak in themselves, he is their salvation and will eternally be their security, the assurance of their preservation unto final glory.
“In my Father’s house,” that is, in the church, are many “mansions,” or dwellings, places of residence for those who are saved in the Lord. We know from the Scriptures that the church is the residence of God, the place where he in Spirit dwells, the habitation of his honor and glory. However, from the reading of our text and from the context in which it is found, we do not think that Jesus is meaning to present in this instance that the church is the residence of God, though that is absolutely true, but he is saying that in the church are many mansions, or dwellings, places where the inhabitants of the city themselves live, and that he is going away through suffering and death to prepare one of these places for Peter, even though Peter is to deny him. The denial of Peter will not at all change the attitude of Jesus toward him, nor the love of Jesus for him, nor his purpose concerning him. “If it were not so, I would have told you.” That is, If I had changed my mind about you, Peter, I would have told you. If Peter’s failure in himself had operated to defeat the purpose of God in regard to him, Jesus would have apprised him of that fact. If by his denial of Jesus he had forfeited his mansion, or place in the church, the Head of the church would have told him so. These are not mansions in the skies, of which the Bible says nothing, but mansions in the Father’s house, the church, of which the Scriptures say much. The works of God as Creator are seen in the material creation of the whole universe, and of the worlds upon worlds it contains. The material world may he said to be the house of the Creator, but it is not the house of the Fatherhood. God as Father is revealed in the church. The church is the house of the Fatherhood of God, the place of those born of the Spirit, made partakers of the divine nature. The mansions in the church are the places in which the members of the body live. Each has his own place prepared for him, and no other one can fill each place than the one for whom it is fitted. The members are placed in the body as it pleases the Head of the church. The members themselves are not consulted in this matter, are not asked to choose the place they would like assigned to them. Jesus designates the mansions of Peter and the eleven in Matthew xix. 28, where he declares that in the regeneration, by which he does not here mean the new birth, but that in the new order of things following after the resurrection of Christ from the dead and from the establishment in the earth of the spiritual kingdom of God, or gospel church, these twelve that followed him in the days of his humiliation, were, in the Father’s house, to occupy thrones of judgment. The apostolic gift and office was to be the mansion of each of the twelve in the gospel church. None ever filled these places or lived in these mansions but those twelve who were promised them and prepared for them. These same apostles are apostles now. There never will be any more apostles. Though they as men. are gone, their judgment and authority still preside in the gospel church in all matters touching its doctrine, faith and practice. After being promised a throne of judgment, then to be told that he would deny Christ three times, was liable to cause Peter to question, not only the purpose of God concerning him, but also his own fitness for the place. But any question as to the immutability of God is quieted when Jesus declares the mansion to still be there, despite Peter’s weakness, and that if his frailty had deterred God from his purpose Jesus would have told him. That. which prepared these mansions or dwelling-places for the people of God, was the going away of Jesus into death and his ascension to glory. The Comforter would not come except he go away. Except by the death and resurrection of Jesus, the work of the Comforter in taking the things of Jesus and showing them unto us, and in leading us in the way of all truth, could not be accomplished. The death and resurrection of Jesus, his going away, are the groundwork supporting the whole fabric of the church, the rock upon which every mansion in it is solidly built. Every gift, office, place or position occupied by each and every member of the church of Christ receives its power and efficiency from the fact that Jesus died, arose and ascended at the right hand of the majesty on high. They are evidences that the resurrection is an assured reality. The gifts and offices in the church are many. Some named in the Scriptures are apostles, evangelists, pastors, teachers, deacons, miracles, healings, helps, governments and diversities of tongues. No two have the same gift; no one can (ill the other’s place; each has his own mansion fitted for him, and be for it, by the going away of Jesus; that is, by his departure from earth for glory, because had not the corn of wheat fallen into the ground and died it should have dwelt alone. When any member of the church of Christ is enabled to enjoy his or her mansion, or place in it, he can truly say it is the only life worth living, that all else is dung and dross. L.
Elder H. H. Lefferts
Signs of the Times
Volume 82, No. 17.
September 1, 1914