Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Sunday, November 20, 2011
Thursday, August 11, 2011
(Thought to be written by: Paul Sadler, President, Berean Bible Society)
Thankfully, we do not have to rely upon our own human reasoning for an answer to this perplexing question. The Scriptures are explicitly clear that the "Bride" is Israel .
One will search in vain to find any of this terminology in St. Paul 's epistles. In fact, Paul frequently makes reference to Christ as Savior, Lord and Head, but he never speaks of Him as the Lamb of God and for good reason. In prophecy, God had graciously imparted the sacrificial system which foreshadowed the once-for-all sacrifice
It is essential that the reader keep in mind that the Church, the Body of Christ was hid in God from ages and generations past. Thus with the advent of the administration of Grace a number of new metaphors are applied to the Church, such as: Body, stewards, ambassadors, etc. Some seem to think that Paul does, indeed, speak of us as the Bride of Christ in Ephesians 5. But they have failed to distinguish between Paul's usage of a metaphor and a simile.
The following is reprinted from the “Berean Searchlight”, the official organ of the Berean Bible Society, Volume LVI Number. (It is thought to be written by: Paul Sadler)
As we plow through mountains of correspondence here at the Berean Bible Society, there is often a recurring theme. Of late, many have been inquiring as to whether or not the Body of Christ is the Bride of Christ. We have always taken this to be the leading of the Holy Spirit since these letters come from different parts of the country, indeed, the world. If the ministry has taught us one thing, it is this: Birds of a feather flock together! In other words, if one has a question of this sort others are normally standing in the shadows pondering the same thing.
Although the Bride of Christ falls under the classification of a “secondary issue” the very nature of the subject has a profound effect on how certain passages are interpreted. Through the years, Pastor Cornelius Stam and I have been in about 85 percent agreement when it comes to rightly dividing the Word of truth. However, one area that we have never seen eye to eye on is the issue under consideration. Brother Stam believes that the Body of Christ is numbered with the company of believers commonly known as the Bride of Christ. We have had a number of spirited discussions on the matter, all of which ended in the old “Mexican standoff.” There were times as we left the room together, he would chuckle and exclaim, “Paul, some day you will see the light!”
Mindful of whom I was discussing these eternal issues with, I have weighed the evidence very carefully under the microscope of Paul’s gospel. After bringing everything into focus, I am more convinced than ever that the Body of Christ is not the Bride, the Lamb’s wife. To me it seems terribly inconsistent to make distinction after distinction between Israel and the Church and then turn around and say that they are one in the same, that is, the Bride of Christ. Of course, some teach that the “Body” is the Bride, not Israel , but this is simply not supported by the facts. One thing is clear in this discussion: The opinions of men are inconsequential in view of the eternal question, “What saith the Scriptures?”
WORDS AND PHRASES
In our quest to rightly divide the Word of truth certain “words” and “phrases” are identified with the Prophetic program while others are associated with the Mystery. Interestingly, the “Bride of Christ” is an unscriptural phrase that is foreign to both programs of God. It is merely a theological expression that originated in the futile mind of man to describe those who will be present at the marriage of the Lamb preceding the kingdom (Rev. 19:7-9). The exact phrase used in prophecy is only found in the Apocalypse where one of the seven angels said to John: “Come hither, I will show thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife” (Rev. 21:9).
The terms “bride,” “Lamb,” and “wife” (in relation to the marriage of the Lamb) are woven throughout the pages of prophecy. For example: “He that hath the bride is the bridegroom” (John 3:29 cf. Jer. 2:32). “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29 cf. Isa. 53:7). “. . . for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife hath made herself ready” (Rev. 19:7 cf. Isa. 54:4-7).
One will search in vain to find any of this terminology in St. Paul ’s epistles. In fact, Paul frequently makes reference to Christ as Savior, Lord and Head, but he never speaks of Him as the Lamb of God and for good reason. In prophecy, God had graciously imparted the sacrificial system which foreshadowed the once-for-all sacrifice. Thus, Christ was the sinless, spotless Lamb of God who satisfied the righteous demands of the law. He was consistently portrayed as the innocent victim--a lamb being led to the slaughter (Lev. 4:3235; Isa. 53:3-8).
With the introduction of a new dispensation, Christ is portrayed in a completely different light by the Apostle Paul. Today, He is the Lord of glory, the mighty victor who has conquered sin through His death and resurrection (I Cor. 2:8; 15:20-23).
THE BRIDE IN PROPHECY
Who is the Bride of the Lamb?
Thankfully, we do not have to rely upon our own human reasoning for an answer to this perplexing question. The Scriptures are explicitly clear that the “Bride” is Israel . When John the Baptist was asked why all men sought the Master and his ministry was fading in glory, he responded: “He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:29,30).
Working in reverse order, clearly the “friend of the bridegroom” is John the Baptist. John says that it was cause for rejoicing upon hearing the voice of the bridegroom. “. . . this my [John the Baptist’s] joy therefore is fulfilled.” The “bridegroom” is none other than Christ Himself. In the previous verse John stated that he was “. . . not the Christ, but that I am sent before Him” (vs. 28). He then confirms this by applying the illustration of the bridegroom. John was merely the forerunner to prepare the way for the Messiah. Hence, “He [Christ] must increase, but I [John] must decrease” (vs. 30).
Bearing in mind that the gospel according to John is a record of the earthly ministry of Christ, the “bride” is obviously Israel . John the Baptist plainly declares in this record: “And I knew Him not: but that He should be made manifest to ISRAEL , therefore am I come baptizing with water” (John 1:31). Did not our Lord instruct His disciples to “Go not into the way of the Gentiles.... But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of ISRAEL ”? (Matt. 10:5, 6). Did not our Lord say concerning Himself at that time: “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of ISRAEL ”? (Matt. 15:24).
Moving farther along in the gospel according to Matthew, we have the parable of the ten virgins (Matt. 25:1-13). Here we learn that only believing Israel will participate in the actual marriage of the Lamb. You will recall that there were five wise virgins and five foolish. When the bridegroom delayed his coming the lamps of the unwise virgins ran out of oil as they slumbered. Therefore, the five foolish virgins, representative of the unsaved, were unprepared when the midnight cry came “Behold, the bridegroom cometh!” While they went to purchase oil, the Bridegroom came “. . . and they [five saved virgins]that were ready went in with him to the marriage” (vs. 10). In addition, this portion teaches us that the marriage will take place when our Lord returns in His glory at the close of the Great Tribulation (vs. 13). (Note the church, the body of Christ will have been raptured to heaven before that time. AJL).
The above is confirmed by the Apostle John in the Book of Revelation.
“Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to Him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints” (Rev. 19:7,8).
Here in the context of the Second Coming of Christ, believing Israel is said to make herself ready. This is in keeping with the Prophetic program insofar as the kingdom saints (not “the body of Christ”) did not have the assurance of their salvation. Consequently, they were instructed to overcome, seek and ye shall find, endure to the end, etc. (Matt. 6:33; 24:13; I John 4, 5). Surely, this cannot be said of the Church, the Body of Christ. We are not only eternally secure, we have the assurance of it. As members of His Body we are accepted in the Beloved and therefore complete in Him (see Eph. 1:6; Col. 2:10).
It should also be noted that John refers to Israel as the “wife” of the Lamb. Of course, this excludes “the Body of Christ” as participants in this ceremony inasmuch as Paul always addresses us in the masculine gender. Christ is our “Head” (The Head of “the body of Christ”), not our groom.
But in what sense is Israel the “wife” of the Lamb if she is to be united to the Messiah in the holy bonds of matrimony? The answer lies in the law of the betrothal (Deut. 22:23-25).
Deuteronomy 22:23-25 If a damsel that is a virgin be betrothed unto an husband, and a man find her in the city, and lie with her; 24 Then ye shall bring them both out unto the gate of that city, and ye shall stone them with stones that they die; the damsel, because she cried not, being in the city; and the man, because he hath humbled his neighbour's wife: so thou shalt put away evil from among you. 25 But if a man find a betrothed damsel in the field, and the man force her, and lie with her: then the man only that lay with her shall die:
In days of old, when a man and woman came together before a rabbi, they were betrothed to one another. Similar to our present day engagement, the betrothal was a binding agreement wherein the parties were actually classified husband and wife. Upon completion of the ceremony, the couple returned to their respective homes for one year. This period was to give the husband an opportunity to prepare a home for his bride-to-be. It was also to ensure that the woman had been faithful, and was not with child. Of course, it was during this time that Mary was found with child before she and Joseph had come together in the intimacy of the marriage relationship (Matt. 1: 18-25).
In this regard, Christ has returned to heaven to prepare a place for His bride in the kingdom. Since this aspect of the kingdom of heaven is brought to the earth, it will be like heaven on earth. As the tribulation period runs its course, Israel will be observed to determine who among them have been faithful to the commands of Christ (law) contained in the kingdom gospel (John 14:1-3 cf. Luke 19:11-27).
It is imperative that we glean from all of these principal passages that the marriage of the Lamb will occur on the earth when Christ returns to set up His kingdom. Following the wedding, the Apostle John was instructed to write:
“Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb” (Rev. 19:9).
These guests are undoubtedly the kingdom Gentiles (These were saved to “the kingdom” (they were not saved under “the dispensation of the Grace of God”) during the Tribulation and Millennium) who will be invited to enjoy the blessings of the coming Golden Age (Matt. 25:31-46; Luke 14:15-24).
THE BRIDE AND PAUL’S EPISTLES
It is essential that the reader keep in mind that “the Church, which is the Body of Christ” (Eph 1:22b, 23a) “was hid in God from ages and generations past” ( Col 1:26). Thus with the advent of the administration of Grace a number of new metaphors are applied to the Church, such as: Body, stewards, ambassadors, etc.
Some seem to think that Paul does, indeed, speak of us as the Bride of Christ in Ephesians 5. But they have failed to distinguish between Paul’s usage of a metaphor (A “figure of speech” in which an implicit comparison is made between two unlike things that actually have something in common) and a simile (only “a resemblance”). A well-respected theologian from the turn of the century writes:
“The confounding of the Church as the Bride in Ephesians 5, has resulted from not seeing the Figure of Speech used throughout the passage is that of Simile, and not Metaphor: ‘Metaphor’ places one thing for another. It is representation. ‘Simile’ is but resemblance. We must therefore not say when comparing one thing with another that that one thing is another. Observe the continued comparison between Christ and the Church of His Body , and the conduct of wives and husbands. Note the presence of simile in every instance, and the absence of metaphor.”
“Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, AS UNTO THE LORD” (vs. 22).
“For the husband is the head of the wife, even AS CHRIST IS THE HEAD OF THE CHURCH”(vs. 23).
“Husbands, love your wives even AS CHRIST ALSO LOVED THE CHURCH, and gave Himself for it” (vs. 25).
“For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even AS THE LORD THE CHURCH” (vs. 29).
(These above are all “similes”, not “metaphors”.)
So then, the apostle by using a simile instead of a metaphor is desiring to show the resemblance between the marriage relationship and Christ and His Church. Paul points to the love relationship to demonstrate that “as Christ loved the Church,” husbands should love their wives. In like manner, wives are to emulate the Church by submitting to their own husbands. Nowhere in the portion under consideration does the apostle use the metaphor of a bride. In fact, just the opposite is true: “. . . and He is the Savior of the BODY” (vs. 23). “For we are members of His BODY, of His flesh, and of His bones” (vs. 30).
( I might ask, “What is closer to you, is it your wife or your own body?)
“For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you AS A CHASTE VIRGIN TO CHRIST” (II Cor. 11:2).
Insofar as the Corinthians had a propensity to live carelessly, the apostle again uses the marriage relationship to show the importance of living a godly life in Christ Jesus. Marriages are built on trust, fidelity, purity of heart and life. Paul was challenging the Corinthians to be faithful to the one who called them into His grace. We should add that since the apostle uses the pronoun “you” in this context it would seem to indicate that he was merely addressing this local assembly of believers, and not the whole Body of Christ. Paul had founded this assembly and naturally had a godly jealously over them as their spiritual father. Of course, we would do well to heed the apostle’s admonition lest we too follow in the footsteps of the Corinthians. It is our firm conviction that the Body of Christ is not the Bride, the Lamb’s wife. We believe to teach otherwise is to bring a kingdom truth into the Body of Christ where it is not only unnatural, but a forced interpretation. May God in His grace give us a Berean spirit to study to see if this be true.
Sunday, August 07, 2011
By nature some persons fret easily. They have difficulty separating their personal antipathies from the burden of the Spirit. When they are grieved they can hardly say whether it is a pure and charitable thing or merely irritation set up by other Christians having opinions different from their own.
Of one thing we may be sure, we can never escape the external stimuli that cause vexation. The world is full of them and though we were to retreat to a cave and live the remainder of our days alone we still could not lose them. The rough floor of our cave would chafe us, the weather would irritate us and the very silence would cause us to fret.
Deliverance from a fretting spirit may be by blood and fire, by humility, self-abnegation and a patient carrying of the cross. There will always be "evildoers" and "workers of iniquity," and for the most part they will appear to succeed while the forces of righteousness will seem to fail. The wicked will always have the money and the talent and the publicity and the numbers, while the righteous will be few and poor and unknown. The prayerless Christian will surely misread the signs and fret against the circumstances. That is what the Spirit warns us against.
Let us look out calmly upon the world; or better yet, let us look down upon it from above where Christ is seated and we are seated in Him. Though the wicked spread himself like "a green bay tree" it is only for a moment. Soon he passes away and is not. "But the salvation of the righteous is of the Lord: he is their strength in the time of trouble." This knowledge should cure the fretting spirit.
Sunday, March 27, 2011
If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. (Galatians 5:25)
That which is called Christianity is essentially a spiritual thing, and not an earthly order or system, and every fragment of it has to be entered into in a spiritual way, by way of Life and Revelation. There is all the difference between imitation and Life. Oh, what a difference there is between seeing a thing in an objective way and coming into it in Life! It is just there that the wonder, the glory, the vitality, the energy, the power of things is found. You have perhaps talked for years about things in the Word of God, as in the Word of God, and you believed them and gave them out as truth, and after doing that for years suddenly you saw what they meant, and the whole thing came in another way. All your talking, and preaching, and believing before was quite true, quite right, correct as to doctrine, but what effect had it on you? Now that it has broken like this it is transfiguring, and has brought real joy and delight, life and ecstasy. That is what we mean by entering into things by Life and by Revelation. In other words, it is coming into things by the Spirit and seeing...
If we become spiritual in this sense, if the Holy Spirit is the commanding reality in our life, and we are walking by the Spirit, we are bound inevitably to come into all God's thought. The Lord wants a people to come into His full thought. That is only possible as they cease to be governed by some outward order of things, and learn what it is to move with God in the Holy Spirit.
Sunday, March 20, 2011
There is no doubt about Saul of Tarsus and his blindness; but his was the blindness of his very religious zeal, his zeal for God, his zeal for tradition, his zeal for historic religion, his zeal for the established and accepted thing in the religious world. It was a blind zeal about which afterward he had to say, "I verily thought that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth" (Acts 26:9). "I thought I ought." What a tremendous turn round it was when he discovered that the things which he thought, and passionately thought he ought to do, in order to please God and to satisfy his own conscience, were utterly and diametrically opposed to God and the way of right and truth. What blindness! Surely he stands as an abiding warning to us all that zeal for anything is not necessarily a proof that the thing is right, and that we are on the right road. Our very zeal as a thing in itself may be a blinding thing, our devotion to tradition may be our blindness.
I think eyes have a very large place in Paul’s life. When his eyes spiritually were opened, his eyes naturally were blinded, and you can use that as a metaphor. The using of natural eyes religiously too strongly may be just the indication of how blind we are, and it may be that, when those natural eyes religiously are blinded, we will see something, and not until they are do we see something. For a lot of people, the thing that is in the way of their real seeing is that they see too much and see in the wrong way. They are seeing with natural senses, natural faculties of reason and intellect and learning, and all that is in the way.
Paul stands to tell us that sometimes, in order really to see, it is necessary to be blinded. Evidently that left its mark upon him, just as the finger of the Lord left its mark upon Jacob, for the rest of his days. He went into Galatia and later wrote the Letter to the Galatians; and you remember he said, "I bear you witness, that, if possible, ye would have plucked out your eyes and given them to me" (4:15); meaning that they noted his affliction, they were aware of that mark which had lasted from the Damascus road, and so felt for him, that if they could have done so, they would have plucked out their very eyes for him. But it is wonderful that the commission which came when he was naturally blinded on the Damascus road was all about eyes. He was blind, and they led him by the hand into Damascus; but the Lord had said in that hour, "to whom I send thee to open their eyes, that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan unto God".
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
A Lost Impact
We are going to be occupied with the meaning of Christ. Before we come immediately into touch with that matter, there are a few preliminary words that I want to say, and they have to do with something of which we are all conscious, a matter which is troubling, I think I can say, the majority of real Christians. It is the matter of the lost impact of Christ, of the Gospel, of Christianity. We are suffering from a handicap, and that handicap is tradition.
Christianity has become that - a tradition so largely, something handed down from generation to generation. It has become a theology, a set of doctrines, of statements about God, about Christ, about the Holy Spirit, and many other things, and as such it has passed very largely into the mental realm - a thing to be worked out in thought, a matter of reason. It has also become a great mystical cult. It has passed into the realm of art, and music, so that you can accept Christianity on that basis and be a Christian along that line, and yet that it shall stand completely out of relation to your inner life. Think of all that goes to make up Christianity as it is known today, of the external, the soulish appreciation; and it has no impact. There is the great need, surely, - and this is what we are seeking to come to at this time.
The great need is to get back to the real meaning of Christ, so that a new impact may come upon ourselves, and there shall come a new impact upon the world through us.
Monday, January 10, 2011
Now, if I were talking to people who were responsible in the matter of Church building, that would be a very profitable matter with which to stay for a little while; but it just amounts to this for us. We take the Acts and the Epistles as setting forth the technique of the Church and churches and adopt it as a crystallized system of practice, order, form, teaching, and the weakness in the whole position is just this, that that is something as in itself, and the Lord Jesus has been missed and lost. I wonder if you detect what I mean by that? You see, the Holy Spirit's way is to take Christ and open up Christ to the heart, and show that Christ is a heavenly order; not that the Epistles set forth as a manual a heavenly order, but that Christ is that order, and everything in the matter of order has to be kept immediately in relation to the living Person. If it becomes some thing, then it becomes an earthly system; and you can make out of the Epistles a hundred different earthly systems all built upon the Epistles. They will be made to support any number of different systems, different interpretations, represented by Christian orders here, and the reason is that they have been divorced from the Person.
If only we keep close to Him who is the sum of all truth, and move with Him and learn Him, we shall know the course of things. We shall know what is imminent. We shall have in our heart whisperings of preparation. The best Advent preparation is to know the Lord. I am not saying that there is nothing in prophecy: don't misunderstand me. But I do know that there are multitudes of people who are simply engrossed in prophecy as a thing whose spiritual life counts for nothing, who really have no deep inward walk with the Lord. We have seen it so often.
Sunday, January 09, 2011
THE PURPOSE OF GOD
What is the purpose of God? What is God's end? And I think it can be put in one way amongst others. We can say that God's purpose is that there shall come a time when He has a vessel in which and through which His glory shines forth to this universe. We see that intimated in the case of new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, having the glory of God, her light like unto a stone most precious, as it were a jasper stone, clear as crystal. "Having the glory of God!" That is the end which God has in view for a people; to be, in a spiritual sense, to His universe of spiritual intelligences what the sun is to this universe; that the very nations shall walk in the light thereof, no need of sun, no need of moon, for there is no night; and that is only saying that God wills to have a people full of light, "the light of the knowledge of the glory of God." That is the end, and God begins to move toward that end immediately a child of His is born from above; for that very birth, a new birth from above, is the scattering of the darkness and the breaking in of the light.
All along our way in the School of Christ, the Holy Spirit is engaged upon this one thing, to lead us more and more into the light, "of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ", that it shall be true in our case that "the path of the just is as the shining light which shineth more and more unto the perfect day" (mid-day) (Prov 4:18) Many people have thought—and, thinking so, have been disappointed—that that means it is going to get easier and easier, brighter and brighter, the more cheerful as we go on. But it does not work out that way. I do not see it to be true in the circumstances and outward condition of saints anywhere at any time. For them the path does not become brighter and brighter outwardly. But if we are really moving under the Spirit's government, we can say with the strongest affirmation, that in an inward way the light is growing. The path is growing brighter and brighter; we are seeing and seeing and seeing. That is God's purpose; until the time comes when there is no darkness at all, and no shadow at all, and no mist at all, but all is light, perfect light: we see not through a glass darkly, but face to face, we know even as we are known. That is God's purpose put in a certain way. Does that interest you? Are you concerned with that?
And that has a crisis and is also a process in spiritual life with a glorious climax in rapture. What I am especially concerned with now is the process.