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WALKING IN THE TERRAIN OF TRUTH
OR SAILING IN TROUBLED WATERS
IMMINENT EXECUTION of that SPIRITUAL EXECUTIVE
of the LORD: the apostle PAUL
In II Timothy 4, we again find the spectacle of Paul facing execution, now imminent. Alexander the coppersmith has performed that sort of evil denunciation to exacerbate Paul's position as someone in trouble, which is often the prelude in totalitarian regimes, to death. Alas no one suffered to attend, stood in the official court for Paul's defence, but all forsook the apostle, reminding one of the disciples' feeling when Christ was arrested, although in that case one must always remember this, that Peter so far from MERELY fleeing, drew his sword, and in an amazingly close call, cut off an ear of one of the adversaries.
Perhaps it was intentional, perhaps not, but one half inch to one side might have meant death for that particular member of the group coming to arrest Christ! Peter was not inactive, but when Christ FORBADE armed conflict on His behalf (something more should remember, and should have remembered in the last 2000 years or so), Peter was apparently confused, and evidently did the only other thing he could think of, and ran off with the others.
Nevertheless, in the fact of being alone at the trial, it was similar in measure, to the case with Paul when he was seized as part of his particular political/personal program. Forsaken by possible alliesl in the court issue in Rome, when his life was on trial before the crudely insane or insanely crude Emperor Nero, Paul seemed to stand alone. Of this abandonment, we read in II Timothy 4:16, although mercifully, Luke, writer under the Lord, of Acts and Lukeís Gospel, stayed with Paul at this last time in his internment (II Timothy 4:11).
What however of those listened to at the trial itself ? While the incensed evil of Alexander against the message and presentation of Paul, possibly in some garbled or adverse form, asks for requital, yet the mere failure to stand by him is in line for pardon, as the apostle declares, "May it not be charged against them!"
To the crucial point, Paul notes that one stood by him and did not forsake him, and that,
it was the LORD! Strengthened from His glorious might, the apostle made a good presentation,
met whatever calumny came with dynamic and dignity, so that no harm would befall the Gospel.
That was clearly prominent in his mind, in this confrontation.
indeed, he declares, "the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that the message might be preached fully through me, and that all the Gentiles might hear."
It appears therefore that the apostle remained alive after this first hearing, and was able to continue to testify, neither abased into some sort of ostensible evil doing, as libel and slander might have suggested (and certainly did suggest often of the early Christians in ways too ludicrous to conceive except as the product of a malice so intense, as to be satanic in origin and force). The apostle apparently bore himself with address and skill, so that the testimony, so far from suffering, was maintained as before any honest hearer. His position was not compromised, and his stature did not diminish as an apostle to the Gentiles, fortifying in this trial by these means, the seed already sown.
Of course evil men have evil imaginations and in a figure, readily slant the very light of the sun, into weird colours as they describe it. As Christ declared, With what measure you meet, it will be measured to you! In Matthew 7:2, then, we find these words: "For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you."
Nevertheless, many are self-condemned, their consciences a ruined morass (cf. Titus 3:10-11), and despite all their pretensions and words, are afflicted by the word of truth, such as Paul gave. From this, some slider near the bottom of the shute, on the way to the pit, may thus be convicted and in time, converted. Paulís own conversion suggests that the Lord may well have used a preliminary input, as from Stephen. It is not in vain to testify to and of the Lord, though hell seems to roar and the devil to demonise in some new spiritual atomic bomb. It ends comes, and rescue is the need in the operation. With God NOTHING is impossible. Never should one preclude by oneís own wisdom!
Now we come to that ringing testimony that gathers itself in the heart, bestows itself in words from the spirit and indeed, with Paul, is granted by the Spirit of God, a testimony to all and for all who believe.
"And the Lord will deliver me," the apostle declares,
"from every evil work, and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom.
To Him be glory forever and ever. Amen!"
Put this together with II Corinthians 1:10, and like ingredients for a bomb of blessing, not like the Islamic ones so often, of cursing, you find this:
"who delivered us from so great a death,
and does deliver us;
in whom we trust that he will still deliver us..."
DELIVERANCE FROM EVERY EVIL WORK,
PAST, PRESENT, FUTURE
The Christian pilgrimage, so well attested in Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, is not only in, but into the midst of an evil program so intense, so unremitting, so strategically squalid and sinuous (cf. Tender Times for Timely Truth Ch. 8, Dastardly Dynamics Ch. 6, Joyful Jottings Ch. 9, The Kingdom of Heaven Ch. 8, Barbs, Arrows and Balms 18, Divine Agenda Ch. 7) that together with the courage to enter the domain of the prince of this world, with the hauteur of the devil behind it, with the Gospel, there is need of that deliverance which will enable the Gospel to be fully preached.
While some, like Stephen, early in the midst of flaming passion for the truth, are dealt death blows, like seed sown early in the season for a good crop (for his testimony lives and has lived, as in Acts 7, for countless millions inspired by what he did, its purity and its goodness, its faith and its conscientious conviction), yet others like Paul are used like a car which gets a new engine, and proceed to remarkable lengths, heights and breadths.
When Romanism seemed set to rule with its evil powers intense and its squandering of the spiritual heritage of Christ inveterate (cf. SMR pp. 1032ff.), who could have thought that the Protestant Reformation would ever be able to come to the point that two of the most powerful nations in history would and did go far along its path, in the case of England even making it the official position, in the days of England's imperial greatness. When Hitler seemed ready to bring his own pagan squalor and religious distortions, not blocked at all by the papacy, into Europe, who could have thought that in a very little while, the case would be turned; or that the iniquitous USSR, in its atheistical confusions (cf. SMR pp. 740, 750B, Repent or Perish Ch. 7), would be gone in a mere 70 plus years, departing without being desired.
Hollowness was its depth, and smog its height. Bankrupt, it departed; and if China has used free enterprise in order to make the money to allow its anti-religious stance*1 and posture to oppress those from Falun Gong to Christians, and to intimidate Tibet with military strength, allowing roaring and little limited riches to accumulate for some, while rulers devastate regions with a furore of emptiness with little worse in all history, its convenient confusion is no better. Making their foolish reductionisms an excuse for militant oppression of thought, of speech and of hope, their use of foreign money to build what Communism lacks power to do, is mere guile, foolishly swallowed by those who give it the money to enable that industrial strength which could then threaten the world with its base totalitarian dictates.
This unprincipled combination with pragmatic cunning of contrary systems is merely one more preliminary to the confused rhetoric to come from the world dominion, one which terrorism has so greatly advanced; this with Rome and the Muslim menace are just three counters - North Korea a more obvious case - to the space: for what replaces all these unhealthy aspirations to play god to man will be more adroit and subtle than any of those ... at first*2.
From every evil work, political, commercial, social, academic, then, Paul is delivered; and if in death he must seal his testimony, an apostolic prelude to the coming international world rule and its hungry maw at work, then this is a forward to that chapter (Revelation 12:11), which will come soon enough. Likewise, those trusting in the Lord, with saving knowledge of Him, His sheep, these too will find that in the most perplexing or even impossible seeming situations, the writhing contortions of evil will fail. Body may be lost (Matthew 24:9, Luke 21:12,18); wicked torture may presume; but the testimony of Christ remains, butchery as irrelevant as the drunken leer of a lout to the love of a woman.
It matters not what new passion and folly grips the world, from EVERY evil work is the man of God, the woman of God delivered, to His heavenly kingdom: He HAS delivered, DOES deliver and WILL deliver, just as the apostle, an expert in being shipwrecked, naked, despised, beaten and yet unconquered in his work for the Lord, has attested (I Corinthians 4, II Corinthians 4).
What however has the apostle declared a little earlier, in II Timothy 4:7-8, if not the gleam of faith penetrated from the visible to the invisible, which after all is the home to purpose, plan and device of every kind, where love and vision is to be found, which activates the life and draws the feet to the path ? It is this: "Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing."
This perfect tense, "have loved" implies a continuity of the love from its inception, so that it is still present. In this way, it incorporates
FIRST the love of the ADVENT of Christ in incarnation,
then that of the DEATH of Christ in atonement through devotion to His people,
then that of the RESURRECTION of Christ, a major part of His appearing to man, thus banishing disappearance by making His own body again touchable, as it first was (John 20, Matthew 28),
but then the love of His RETURN (Acts 1:7ff.) in which His very being once more is made manifest, without sin, this having been dealt its death blow in the atonement, this bringing salvation even of the body (Romans 8:23), for then is the resurrection (Matthew 24, I Thessalonians 4).
That in turn is twin to Hebrews 9:28 which declares this conjunction: "So Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him, He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation."
Meanwhile, "within the veil" - that is, in symbolical terms derived from the pattern of the structure of the Temple, where this was the Holy of Holies area, where the blood sprinkled on the mercy seat showed atonement, as the golden wings of the cherubim stretched high and broad, significant of the heavenly origin of the mercy thus shown: there is found the refuge and its anchor. God's anchors do not rise, nor is there any force to dismantle or detach them! (Hebrews 6:18-20).
Thus surrounded with safety, careless of cost, fearless of frights, enduring all things for the love of that Christ who not only bore suffering but gave it the height and depth on the cross where, perpetually and intensively innocent, He experienced the shame of sin, the pilgrim continues with joy, at peace with his Maker, in consort with His will. He does not leave the meaning of Christís cross (Galatians 6:14) where, divinity in human form, He felt the piercing penetrations which sin brings, yet did not succumb to its ferocities or mockery, returning spiritually unmolested though physically tormented: there with such an example, and such a Redeemer Paul proceeds, kept to the heavenly kingdom in the power which Christ portrayed and all need from the generosity of His grace (Ephesians 1:19).
THE SWEEP OF FAITH OVER TIME
AND BEYOND THIS TIME
In these passages then, in II Corinthians 1 and II Timothy 4, you see the sweep of faith over time as a vast ocean breaker, covers the rocks with geysers and spray, anointing all.
Here you see the thrust of a God-given confidence which removes every obstacle, real or imagined, prospective or merely threatened, like an armoured division casting its wares over Iraq; and the triumphant trust in Providence is cast like angel's wings over the coming scene as over the things past and those present in all of which alike, the apostle finds in the midst of danger, rest, amid quest, certainty, and over the bluster of all the evils, the benignity of God his Saviour.
This is the inward counterpart of that thrust of active zeal, as shown in the admonitions of II TImothy 2:3-10 and 4:14, toward athletic zest in the work of the Lord, disciplined attention and concentration with priority in princely place, and proper development and use of the gifts which God so freely gives. This was proclaimed near the end of the earthly life of that apostle, who could say (II Tim 2:11-13):
"For if we died with Him, we shall also live with Him.
If we endure, we shall also reign with Him.
If we deny Him, He also will deny us.
If we are faithless, He remains faithful:
He cannot deny Himself."
If God could deny Himself, then 'He' would be a system under the control of 'Himself', so that there would be a made and an eternal God, the latter dealing with the former, which would be irrelevant to the fact that God IS eternal, with nothing made at all, for who would make it! Rather, always what He would be, He in turn has all things that He would be, and needing nothing, in nature love, He gives. One of the things most precious that He gives is eternal life (I John 1:1-4, Romans 6:23), its irrevocability the mere parallel of its eternity (John 10:27-28). Even in weakness of little faith, the disciples were blessed with His constant love; even when obtuse; even when fearful.
Even when Peter for a small moment denied Him, forgiveness flowed like a flood and made character like a sculptor, the fluid and the rock-like elements together borne of the God who had first caused Peter to be reborn, so that the liaison was inseparable, the love undetachable, with the discipline of restoration likewise free.
That is not ironic. To be disciplined IN LOVE for GOOD is a great and most gracious thing. To be simply left is the appalling thing; but this God does not do, saying, "I will never leave you nor forsake you" (Hebrews 13:5, 12:9ff.). It is PLAYING with the faith which is fatal, and the peril is to those who taste and then spit out, those whose hearts never being truly repentant, but merely a repository for endless GAIN FOR ME, have a seed which dies in their superficially touched bosoms! (Matthew 13:20-21). Once saved, the soul is appointed not to wrath but to glory (I Thess. 5:9-10, Romans 8:17,28ff.), and from EVERY evil work is it delivered.
In the meantime, the Christian is to be patient, the servant a good teacher, as Paul tells Timothy (II Tim 2:24ff.), not quarrelsome, but seeking by a combination of personal meekness (2:25) for recovery of those seized by evil doctrine, and when the faith is confronted, decisive valour, the endurance of health and character in good and evil times. Just as was the case with Christ (Matthew 12, 23), under direct assault and confrontation, it is necessary to be countervailing with the very power of God. Without personal arousal, in this dynamic, yet with unfailing vigour and unlagging heart, the minister is to rebuke, exhort, tireless in fire (II Tim 4:2-5). This is the more necessary, for as Paul divulged, the times would become even graver, as they now therefore are, so that "they will not endure sound doctrine, and according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers, and they will turn their ears away from the truth."
There indeed is the troubled terrain, the rocky coastline, the place of many shipwrecks (as with Hymenaeus and Alexander - I Tim 1:19). There unwise is he to sail, and those who visit these shores in search of 'survivors' of the fatal follies, must be indeed ready for drastic action, such as you see so often in the work of Christ Himself (Luke 11:46-54). Indeed, not least of the apostle's challenges was what appears a treacherous betrayal even at the political level, one likely to lead to death as in the case of Judas Iscariot's betrayal of Christ to the authorities. With Paul, it was by Alexander. Alas for the unrepentant, for in shipwreck there is an exposure of the false course, and only in salvation then, as ever, is there any hope at all!
How unlike the opposite case, such as outlined by Paul to Timothy is such spiritual lassitude and self-deception! Paul contrasts the vessels for honour and the broken fragments of the unholy: both appear in the 'house' and many in the churches that decline in such numbers this day (II Timothy 2:14-23). Merely 'being' in the body visible does nothing to conduct to the invisible realities in which man lives, his body the instrument of his thought, his invisible purposes and his visionary path, or if so be, his psychedelic substitutes, self-generated, self-pleasing.
How vast is the gulf from righteousness and truth, from the goodness and salvation of God, to the unpurged, subordinated to their own lusts, taken captive by the devil at his will (II Tim 2:26 cf. ... Immovable Faith Ch. 6), inhabitants of spiritual abuses, inventive with charred tongues to thrust their own evil words, as it were, into the very mouth of God, splendidly ignorant of truth, like empty-headed kings, dazed and dazzled by the pomp of their office, and entirely forgetful of their duties, people who run off at contest, collapse at encounter, or make their own encounters with fried minds, reeking with gritty fat, as perhaps were Hymenaeus and Alexander, the latter perhaps the Judas for Paul as in II Timothy 4:14, with II Tim 1:15.
These are the forerunners of those enemies of the faith who molested the Church, and do molest, as in the last century, the Liberals, Neo-Orthodox and altered alas more and more in their declension, Neo-Evangelicals, who seize men's ears*3 - where the heady mixtures delude them into such captivities - and throw them like wrestlers. Recall how Paul in I Tim 4:6 tells Timothy that he will be a good and faithful minister if he reminds the brethren of such things, including those to come.
So does the Christian pilgrimage pass through tempestuous coasts, yet of the rocks we are warned, to avoid them, and of certain coastlines to keep away, far from them; and what helper of mariners would fail to point out such things faithfully! Not to do so could be construed as almost aligned to murder! Always kept from every evil work, ever ready, always restored when astray (II Corinthians 1), even when troubles arise like a rocket that soars, only to descend under the watchful eye of the Lord, always enabled when in crisis (II Cor 12:7-10), the Christian has his/her sublime superintendent, the total sufficiency (II Cor 4:1-6, I Cor 4:1-5). In Him, is the trust, and from Him the undertaking, and in the walk and work with Him, there is a joy less spectacular that that of aerially assisted bungee jumping, but more enduring, more rational, spiritual and being founded on truth, inimitably authentic.
China's spiritual situation is not pleasant for those who are oppressed. See News 68, The Impregnable Tower Ch. 6, Regal Rays of Revelation Ch 10, News 37, 69, Dastardly Dynamics ... Ch. 6, esp. *2, Beauty of Holiness Ch. 4.
See on this, Biblical Blessings Ch. 2 and News 121.
*3 Warning against such dangers, concerning what is specific to the heresy of Romanism in the prediction of I Timothy 4, and what is far broader in II Tim 3 and 4, is a work of faithfulness that helps the saint to avoid needless controversy, endless meaningless wrangling with what has long been condemned, as likewise futile adventures into sects and suspended animation approaches to the Bible, which are mere disadornments of the end of our Age, predicted and predicated of those to whom the Christian must pay no court!
If you remind the brothers of these things says Paul, NOT this, that you are censorious, divisive, unirenic and ready for forcible retirement from the ministry, but that you are FAITHFUL, nourished in sound teaching. Such evils, like AIDS and SARS physically, must be understood, most clearly diagnosed and avoided. As further signal, in our end of the Age time (SMR Ch. 8), few churches now issue such warnings. THAT is part of the terminal situation predicted.
Concerning the neo-evangelicalism developments, see for example The Biblical Workman Appendix 3 , Ch. 8, End-note 2; Joyful Jottings 1; News, Facts and Forecasts 10; Light of Dawn Ch. 2.
Concerning the generic trend, see News 121, 122, 156, Little Things Ch. 10.