Do You Believe All Of God's Word?

by A.E. Knoch

"DO you believe all of God's Word? When I first came to know God I went to the meetings of the "Plymouth Brethren" and learned many a precious truth from them which, at that time, was almost unknown in the nominal churches. The Lord's coming, the need of "rightly dividing," a little as to the body of Christ, the difference between the church and the kingdom - these all found a place in my heart and mind at the very beginning of my life of faith. But I also received warnings against "non-eternity," and "soul-sleep," and "universalism," etc., to which I gave due heed.

At that early date my life course was determined by the acquisition of Wigram's Concordances. Next to the Scriptures, they have been of the greatest value in my spiritual development.

These give a list of each word in Greek or Hebrew and all of its occurrences in English. This has been my lexicon, for the usage of a word is the only safe index of its meaning. These also showed how discordant our English translation is and led me to go back to the original.

The Brethren claimed to be unsectarian, but when I persisted in having fellowship with all of good conduct in the body of Christ they put me out, though this was the original basis on which their movement was founded. This proved a great blessing, for I was now free to believe what is in God's Word apart from all religious restraint.

I had two objects before me: to believe all of God's Word, and to suffer the persecution which must necessarily follow. I was conscious that there were quite a few texts in the Word which made me uncomfortable. I knew the so-called "explanations," but they appeared to be only a form of unbelief.

My first real problem was whether the Bride was the church, as the Brethren taught. A long consideration of the scriptural evidence convinced me that believing Israel is the Bride. This led to many other discoveries, until I finally saw that Paul is the apostle of the Uncircumcision, and that the special truth for today comes through him alone.

I had heard much about the "Mystery" of the church, or the body, but the teaching was confused. Here, too, were passages which I only half believed, because they were not clear. Systematic investigation resulted in the discovery that "the mystery" is not the "body," but that it lies in the relation of the members of the body to each other.

I had been so thoroughly prejudiced in favor of the teaching that the dead are not dead, that I read the intermediate state into almost every passage speaking of death. So, for instance, when Paul spoke of dying as gain, I changed it to the state after dying. But there were passages which made me uneasy, which I knew I did not really believe. It seemed almost as if the Scriptures were divided against themselves, and taught both. It was only when I learned the true nature of the soul and the Scriptural definition of death, and considered its figurative usage, that I was able to understand and believe all the passages that deal with the theme.

The salvation of all troubled me from the very first. The Brethren changed God wills all men to be saved, to God wishes, but my concordance showed me that it was the Brethren who wished it so, not God. He works all things according to the counsel of His will. They also altered "the Saviour of all" to "the Preserver of all." Since it was necessary for them to corrupt God's Word on this theme it was clear that they did not have the truth. Romans five and First Corinthians fifteen and Colossians one contained statements which I could not believe because they contradict many other passages dealing with the fate of unbelievers. It was only after I unraveled the truth as to the eonian times that I was able to exult in their glorious unfoldings.

I now found myself able to accept and approve of those statements in the Bible which stumble so many saints, and cause so much unbelief, which may be concentrated in the one case of Pharaoh. God hardened his heart, and will judge him for doing that which he was forced to do. Perhaps it is even clearer in the case of the rebellion after the millennium. Satan is bound. The earth has had a thousand years of peace. Now God deliberately looses Satan in order to deceive the nations and lead them against Him. Then He sends down fire and devours them. Is this right? One of my opponents, in New Zealand, claims that God is the greatest hypocrite in the world, if He does any such thing.

Not only that, but God was greatly glorified by Pharaoh's opposition. How then can He judge him? A believer in eternal torment finds it impossible to charge God with such an atrocity, and refuses to believe it, or "explains" it away. But once we see God's ultimate and that judgment, in God's Word, sets matters right, all is clear and acceptable. God's glory demands expression. Pharaoh, earth's highest, is the best means. He is too soft, so he must be hardened. Eventually, at the consummation, he will be reconciled. But that is not possible until he has realized the enormity of his sins, and suffered their just penalty. Neither he, nor anyone else, will suffer unjustly what is not right. God is just, but not vindictive.

Those who hold to eternal torment or annihilation as the destiny of the ungodly will shudder at the thought of God's making men stubborn and then "punishing" them so fearfully for it. The awfulness of this teaching does not lie in the fact that God does these things - for the Scriptures distinctly say that He does - but in the false ideas of judgment and ultimate destiny which they hold. A God Who forces a man to sin and dooms him to endless torment or annihilation is a fiend. But a God Who calls us into the world as sinners, so that we cannot evade the taint of sin, and redeems those who believe, by His grace, and judges the rest in righteousness, yet ultimately saves and reconciles all through the sacrifice of the cross is a God worthy of the name. He has the right to do it because He is the Potter, His creatures the clay. He is justified in doing it because it is the only way He can reveal His glory, and that is the object of creation. It is good of Him to grant us temporary, light afflictions or we could never enjoy the eonian weight of glory that lies before us. In that day we will laud Him for providing the great Sin Offering, for all was of Him, and has brought untold blessing to us and boundless glory to God.

But even then I was not satisfied. There were still passages in God's Word which did not receive my hearty acquiescence. I had a horror of implicating God in sin, so how could I echo the apostle's words "all is out of Him" (Rom.11:36)? All out of Him - the evil, the misery, the opposition to His will? Yet the passage itself insists that He locks up all in stubbornness. Other passages, such as the sixth of Isaiah, boldly tell us that He blinds men's eyes so that they cannot see. Pharaoh's is no isolated case. It is very evident that God uses these things in order that He may glorify Himself. Is it then God's will that men should sin? That cannot be. What is sin?

Once I found out that sin is failure, I saw that I had been making God the greatest of all sinners, so long as I believed that He could not save all, or that He had not been able to keep sin out of the universe, or, that it was contrary to His purpose. Failure is sin, and if we imagine that God has failed in any particular we make Him the Sinner of sinners. God will not fail, and has not failed. The universe today is exactly where He planned it to be. He made Pharaoh sin against Him. But He Himself did not sin in doing so, for Pharaoh's hardness was needed in order for Him to succeed (i.e., not fail or sin) in glorifying Himself.

The first thought which came to me then was, "shall we, then, do evil that good may come?" Never! But immediately I was reminded that this is the very charge that was hurled at Paul! Could there be any better proof that I was on the right track? God does evil that good may come, for He is wise and powerful and loving. But men are foolish and weak and hateful, so cannot use evil, except in the most limited degree. A father may be trusted to put his child's finger on the hot stove so as to teach it to fear the fire, for he loves it. Otherwise it is a most dangerous and erroneous doctrine. But God is not a man. That is the trouble with theology. It is always deifying man and humanizing God.

So it was that I arrived at my goal: to believe all of God's Word and to suffer persecution like Paul. He was falsely charged with teaching men to do evil (Rom.3:5-8) and he was reproached for saying that God is the Saviour of all mankind (1 Tim.4:10). This testimony of my enemies is welcome, and confirms my faith.

But, above all, I now have a real God, Whom I can worship and adore without the least reservation. He harms, but He heals, and both together, the harming as well as the healing, is a blessing to His creatures as well as a glory to Himself.

It is our object to lead our readers to this same goal, where they can accept all of God's words and give Him all the adoration of their hearts.

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