THE WORDS OF MAN'S WISDOM
GOD HAS GIVEN His revelation in words. He has refined them,
having cupelled them seven times to insure their purity (Psa.12: 6). The first exhortation
in Paul's second epistle to Timothy is: "Have a pattern of sound words,
which you hear from me..." (2 Tim.1:13). To the Corinthians he wrote at length,
warning them against the words "which man's wisdom teacheth"
(1 Cor.2:13). It has taken me a long time to realize that God is not warning us against
the loose, unscholarly terms of the ignorant. It is against the words of the wise--the
scholars, the savants, the spiritual guides of the church. All that is wrong with them is
that they are men. This disqualifies their words as a basis of belief.
God knew that men would invent their own
theological terms and that these would be the most subtle of all means for deceiving His
saints, hence He has repeatedly warned us against them. I know from long experience, that
their tyranny is such that no one can hope to get God's truth while allowing them a place
in his thinking.
One of the most deceptive of all the enemies of
God's truth is that which masks as His truth and actually suffers for its
faithfulness. Many have never learned to discriminate between what God has inspired, and
the wise and plausible deductions of learned, and good and godly men such as often appear
in the creeds of Fundamentalism. Let us examine some of these doctrinal statements to see
if such words of man's wisdom will meet the test of the inspired Scriptures.
THE UNITY OF THE GODHEAD
The awful departure from God's
Word in these days of apostasy can find no more solemn illustration than this expression.
Scores of passages deny it. Not one even expresses a similar thought!
It is not my purpose to discuss the trinity,
but to awaken consciences. When thoughts cannot be expressed in the language of
inspiration, it should open our eyes to the fact that we are out of line with God.
God has nowhere spoken of a "trinity"
or used any expression, such as "triune," or "three-in-one," which
might authorize it. The numeral three is never used of the Deity in the Word of
God. The numeral one is not merely used, but stressed when the question of the
number of deities is discussed. We are definitely informed that, "there is no other
God except one." Though "there are many gods and many lords," for "us
there is one God, the Father...and one Lord, Jesus Christ" (1 Cor.8:4-6). The unity
of the spirit demands that there be "one Lord" and "one
God and Father" (Eph.4:5-6).
Webster's dictionary says that
"Godhead" is the theological term for the threefold divinity of God. But it is
never so used in the Scriptures. I object to it because it seems to give the idea of the
trinity a scriptural basis. "Godhead" occurs three times in our Authorized
Version, but in each case it is the translation of a slightly different Greek word. Theios
is the adjective of God, which the translators themselves have elsewhere
translated divine (2 Peter 1:3-4). It should be divine rather than godhead
in Acts 17:29 also. Theots (Col.2:9) corresponds to our Deity. Theiots
is best represented by our divinity, for it is an attribute, like power
(Rom.1:20). In Colossians 2:9 only one is intended by the word
"Godhead," for Christ is expressly excluded. Not one of these passages has the
theological thought of nomeric constituency.
THE DEITY OF CHRIST
I cannot justly object to the
word "Deity," even if it is not used in the Authorized Version. It is the exact
equivalent of theots in Colossians 2:9. I believe that "in Him
dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily," or, as concordantly rendered,
"in Him the entire complement of the Deity is dwelling bodily." This, however,
is in direct conflict with most creeds. Colossians is not so inane as to tell us that the
fullness or complement of the Deity dwells in the Deity. It makes a clear, sharp
distinction between the Deity and Christ. It uses the term "Deity" of God
to distinguish Him from Christ.
THE PERSONALITY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
The true intent of this
expression is the distinct or separate personality of the holy Spirit,
to accord with the teaching of the "Trinity." The phrase does not occur in any
translation of the Scriptures that I have ever seen, so that, if we believe it, we must
believe men, and not God. In the Scriptures God's holy Spirit is never dissociated from
Himself. Can anyone explain to me how Christ can have two different
"personalities" for His Father? Because the holy Spirit came on the mother of
our Lord, the Holy One Who was generated was called the Son of God (Luke 1:35). Is Christ
the Son of the Spirit of God, and not of the Father?
The usual arguments to "prove the personality
of the Spirit" would apply with far more force to wisdom. "Wisdom" in both
Hebrew and Greek is itself feminine, and must always be referred to as she.
But spirit is always neuter and must be spoken of as it. Wisdom is
personified (Prov.8:1) "Doth not Wisdom cry?" The fact that the Spirit of God is
represented as a dove (Matt.3:16) does not make it an animal. Because the word
"dove" is feminine does not prove that the holy Spirit should always be
referred to as she. Even doves are not all females. The fact that the holy Spirit
is called a paraclete does not prove that it is a person. The fact that this word is
masculine does not prove that the Spirit is of that gender (John 14:16,17). The literal
explanation which immediately follows speaks of the spirit of truth as it. The
creed's phrase is the echo of false reasoning. But the solution is not to reason better,
but to discard the result of all reasoning, good or bad, and cleave to God's Word written.
THE BRIDE OF CHRIST
This expression is an
instructive example of the necessity and great value of the course which I am pressing,
that is, to use only scriptural phrases in any statement of faith. There was a time when I
would have heartily endorsed this expression, because, belonging to the Brethren, it was a
part of "the truth," which, we supposed, was our monopoly. I was startled when I
first found that the phrase was not in the Scriptures, but I did not allow that to disturb
me. It was only after I learned that Christ was an official title, not a name,
that it began to dawn upon me that it was not only absent from the Scriptures, but quite
contrary to them. I do not ask the reader to agree with me that the saints in Israel are
the bride of the Lambkin, for I desire to keep entirely clear of all interpretation in
this appeal. I ask that we not use the phrase (bride of Christ) because it is not
God's word, not because I know that it is contrary to the Scriptures.
Again, let us avoid this
phrase, not because it is false doctrine, but because it is not inspired by God. The word
"substitute" or its derivatives is not found a single time in the Authorized
Version of the Bible or in any translation of which I have any knowledge. I know that, in
connection with salvation, it has no equivalent in the Hebrew, Chaldee or Greek
Scriptures, for I have carefully canvassed the whole vocabulary to find one.
"Atonement," also, is strangely
discordant. All who look into the matter are agreed that its single occurrence in the
"New Testament" is a mistake. Scofield boldly says that it should be
"reconciliation." The references he gives are not correct, for Colossians 1:21
is a strengthened form which really does mean reconciliation. Romans 5:11 should read conciliation,
a one- sided amity. The only references to the "atonement" or propitiation
of the Hebrew Scriptures are in Luke 18:13 (merciful), Hebrews 2:17 (reconciliation), 1
John 2:2, 4:10, Romans 3:25 (propitiation), and Hebrews 9:5 (mercy-seat). In no case is
this word applicable to the present grace. God speaks to us of justification and reconciliation.
Why not use these terms rather than one which no longer is recognized as fit to have a
place in God's later revelation?
THE NEW BIRTH
The Bible says "ye
must be born again." (John 3:7). I believe that those to whom our Lord spoke
must be begotten anew. What right have I or anyone else to say that all must be born
again? John was a minister of the Circumcision. He was never sent to the Uncircumcision.
If I were asked to name the principal causes of incorrect doctrine in Fundamentalists'
creeds I should surely include their almost complete apostasy from Paul, to whom alone the
present secret administration was entrusted (Eph.3:8, 9). They, like "all they which
are in Asia," have turned away from him (2 Tim.1:15). They do not believe that Paul
was entrusted with the evangel of the Uncircumcision, as Peter and John of the
The "new birth" is displaced by a
much deeper truth in Paul's epistles. He introduces a new creation (2 Cor.5:17),
the spiritual counterpart of the period which comes after the regeneration of Israel in
the day of the Lord. I do not ask that a creed be changed to "the necessity of a new
creation." I only ask that believers not shut the door in the face of those who
desire to enter into the truth.
THE IMMORTALITY OF THE SOUL
This is pure pagan philosophy.
If Fundamentalist creed- makers follow my plea and use nothing but scriptural phraseology,
they will not only be unable to express it, but, if they insist on dealing with
immortality, they will be obliged to state the opposite. Immortality, in scripture, is
never limited to the soul, or the spirit, or the body. The point of the above phrase is
repudiated in two passages. It intimates that the soul is now immortal. But, at the
last trump, that which now is not immortal will put on immortality (1
Cor.15:53-54). If I were writing this item of a creed I would word it thus, using the only
remaining occurrence of the word: "Our Lord Jesus Christ...the King of kings and Lord
of lords...alone has immortality..." (1 Tim.6:15,16).
I also believe in the
"life everlasting" of the believer. But I do not believe God as to
this, because the expression does not occur in His Word. It is only an inference from what
He has said. When our Lord comes we shall be changed to immortality and incorruption
(1 Cor.15:52-55). I reason that, if we become incorruptible and deathless, we can never
die, hence we have "everlasting" life. Again, God has said that the
last enemy, death, shall be abolished (1 Cor.15:26), in order that all shall be made
alive. Believers receive eonian life, which lasts until the consummation, when this
occurs. Hence, since we live until there is no death, we have it everlasting" life.
But everlasting life can be reasoned out for
unbelievers as well as believers. Believers have eonian life, the life of the ages.
Unbelievers do not have this. Yet, when death, the last enemy, is abolished, and all who
died in Adam are vivified in Christ, then all will receive "everlasting" life.
THE ENDLESS PUNISHMENT OF THE
The phrase "endless
punishment" is unknown to the Word of God. The word "impenitent," the
negative of the word repentant, and concordantly rendered
"unrepentant," occurs but once, in Romans 2:5. There the judgment of the
unrepentant is set forth in inspired phraseology. Not a word is said of "endless
punishment!" Those of faction and stubborn as to the truth, yet persuaded to
injustice, will be judged. "Indignation and fury, affliction and distress" will
come on "every human soul which is effecting evil..." (Rom.2:5-9). But all of
this is merely God's justice, without reference to His salvation in Christ, which is not
set forth until the third chapter.
TO ALL BELIEVERS
I adjure you who are believers
of God's Word to refuse to subscribe to or sign any human document which purports to be
His word, but which dishonors Him by slighting His inspired vocabulary. Be not wise above
what is written. You may think that these creeds improve on God's diction, and that they
are perfectly correct. Nevertheless, you should obey His Word, and cease from man's
I adjure you, choose now whom you will
believe--man or God. You cannot believe God and such creeds at the, same time.
May God's rich grace and the transcendent love of Christ constrain you to hear Him and Him
alone! Believe God, and not men!