In every age the church has had some things in common with the church of preceding ages. There always have been things to discourage the strongest, and test the most steadfast. There have been false brethren within, along with bickerings and strife; false teachers without, historical epochs which have threatened the very life of Christianity, and waves of indifference to spiritual things. Some of these things Paul mentions as he writes to Timothy, encouraging him to steadfast continuance in his work in the Lord; making special mention of "profane babblings," "striving about words to no profit," and false teaching on the resurrection.
But along with these things, each age has had that which encourages, that to which men could lay hold with no fear of it giving way, or being shaken. In the very midst of these things discouraging in their nature, the apostle says, "How be it the firm foundation of God standeth, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his: and, Let every one that nameth the name of the Lord depart from unrighteousness." (2 Tim. 2:19)
This age is little different from others that have come and gone. To be sure the specific details are different, but so far as problems are concerned, and changes taking places with regard to the preceding generation or age, it is no different. Today nations are passing, old ideals are changing, the security of those things in which men have been wont to trust is being questioned, and a new wave of infidelity is dashing itself out against the "Rock of Ages," "foaming out" its "own shame." But these things have happened before. They were happening in Paul's day, when he wrote as he did to Timothy. Howbeit, in the midst of all these, "The firm foundation of God" stood, and stands, a sure foundation upon which one can build, and feel secure.
In the midst of the vast uncertainty of today, and the near panicky attitude that some take, begetting a pessimism that is even being felt in the church at various places, there are three things set forth by Paul in 2 Tim 2 that need to be emphasized by Christians, especially preachers and teachers, everywhere: 1) The definite principle of the character of God as set forth by Paul in verses 11-13; 2) The fact that the "firm foundation of God stands," though all else may be perishing; 3) The Lord knoweth them that are His," and that His demand of them that are His, is that they "depart from unrighteousness."
When the apostle said, "If we shall deny him, he also will deny us: if we are faithless, he abideth faithful; for he cannot deny himself," he simply stated a definite principle in the Character of God. God cannot act contrary to His nature, and His nature is definitely set forth in the revelation of Himself in the Bible. It matters not how dark the hour, how hopeless the immediate prospects, how strong the pressure brought to bear; man is still without excuse for his sin, and should he deny God even under these circumstances, God cannot but be faithful to Himself, "he also will deny us."
The emphatic stressing of this principle in the Character of God will tend to build determination in the hearts of those honestly seeking heaven. It will likewise eliminate the necessity of so much "re-consecrating," "rededication," "restoration" of members in the meetings sometimes held. There are those who are "overtaken in a trespass," these are to be restored, certainly. There are those who "err from the truth," these must be converted, James urges it. But much of the half-hearted attitude that serves God "a little bit," and the devil "a right smart," oftentimes results from a lack of understanding of the character of God, and the principle that He "cannot deny himself." Once the principle is fully appreciated, greater care in conduct will be exercised.
But in the midst of ungodliness, troubles, turning away from God, and the denying of Him by those who should be faithful, the "firm foundation of God standeth." Here we have something solid upon which to build, and to which to hold, in the midst of any storm, internal or external.
God promised that in Zion He should lay for a foundation, a "tried stone" (Isa. 28:16), which Peter affirms to have been the Christ, (1 Peter 2:6). Christ built His church upon this very foundation, (Matt. 16:18; 1 Cor 3:11); and every individual built into that structure, is builded upon it (Eph. 2:19-22). While old institutions were crumbling, and passing away, the apostle said of the Hebrews in his day, that they were "receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken." (Heb.12:28). Here we have something stable and certain in any time of uncertainty, doubt, or fear.
What is the point in all this? Simply this: that when those in the church fully appreciate the fact that the only things today which cannot be shaken are the things that pertain to the church, to the kingdom of God, then the church will become more precious to them. When it is appreciated that "the firm foundation of God standeth," regardless of all things else, the laying up of treasures in heaven will have greater prominence in the lives of its members, and the cares of riches and temporal things here, less.
But the "seal" of this assurance should not be overlooked. "The Lord knoweth them that are his." Sometimes we become impatient, we feel that the Lord has forgotten us, and like Elijah of old, "I alone am left." But the Lord knows them that are His. It is He who calls them, through the gospel; and it is He who justifies. He adds to the church, cares for His own, and "knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptation." One need not worry about the Lord forgetting him, for He will keep His part of the covenant. He will "in no wise fail thee, neither in any wise forsake thee." "He knoweth them that take refuge in him."
There is another side of the seal also, "Let every one that nameth the name of the Lord depart from unrighteousness." Although they never won a discussion on the subject, the Baptists used to debate that an individual once saved could not be lost. However, the doctrine seemed so attractive to the worldly minded, that some, while not actually believing it, yet live in the church as thought it were so. They claim to trust God, while at the same time they depart not from unrighteousness. But the apostle said, "If we are faithless, he abideth faithful; for he cannot deny himself." Does Paul mean God will be faithful to save even though the individual does not continue faithful? Certainly not! But that God is faithful, "if we deny him, he also will deny us." The demand that those who know God depart from unrighteousness must be stressed today.
JUDAS ISCARIOT—C. E. DOUTHITT
The name of Judas Iscariot has become a hiss and a by-word throughout the whole world. It is a synonym for treason, treachery and traitor. The name Judas was once an honorable name. Judas Maccabeus was one of the outstanding patriots of Hebrew history. Mary, the mother of Jesus, named one of her sons Judas. But Judas Iscariot degraded the name and made it repulsive for all time to come; and now no mother who knows of the life of the son of Simon Iscariot would name her baby Judas.
Judas Iscariot had a chance to be numbered with the immortal heroes of faith. His advantages were equal perhaps to those of any other Bible character. He was one of the original twelve chosen to be apostles of the Lord, and was sent forth as a messenger of God to preach, saying, "The Kingdom of heaven is at hand." Jesus gave him power to heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, and cast out demons. "Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves," said Jesus to Judas and all the other apostles. The apostolic office was the highest that Jesus had to bestow upon any man, and Judas was given that office.
The greatest trust and confidence was placed in him. He was made "treasurer;" he "had the bag" in his custody; he did the buying for the little group and gave "to the poor" as the need arose. After he had begun to steal from the common fund, they were not at all suspicious, so far as the record shows. When Jesus made the startling announcement that one of the twelve would betray him, the disciples did not point the finger of scorn at Judas and say, "Is it Judas?" Each one apparently was more doubtful of himself than of Judas, and they said, "Is it I?"
In addition to all this he had the privilege of more than three years association with the Lord. When Jesus spoke the parables and other eternal truths, Judas was present and heard them; also he was in that little group that Jesus called aside to explain privately the meaning of all he had said in parables. He had witnessed the miracles of Jesus and had about as much proof of the divine sonship of Christ as any man on earth. He was acquainted with the personal life of the Christ, and knew of his compassion, mercy, charity, and frequent prayers.
But how did Judas respond to his opportunities? How did he use those special privileges? What effect did all this have on him?
Two notorious deeds in the life of Judas show that he had muffed his opportunities and had fallen far short of what he might have been. The first of these events happened in Bethany at a supper given in honor of the Lord. Martha served, but Lazarus sat at the table with Jesus and the disciples. "Mary therefore took a pound of ointment of pure nard, very precious, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odor of the ointment." Judas Iscariot protested, saying, "Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred shillings, and given to the poor?" Then the other disciples joined Judas and indignantly asked, "To what purpose is this waste?"
Since the other disciples made about the same objection that Judas had raised, why was he any worse in this matter than they? It was a difference in motives. Judas cared not for the poor. He had possession of the bag containing the money and he took away what was put therein. He was a thief. Not much of that three hundred shillings would have reached the poor after Judas got his hands on it. His pretended interest in the poor was downright hypocrisy. That job of holding the moneybag was right up his mercenary alley, and he doubtless would have refused to relinquish it even if the poor had asked him to do so.
Since the motives of Judas have been so clearly revealed, one does not wonder why he was so anxious to carry the moneybag; but one does wonder why some today are so determined to carry the moneybag for the "foreign missionaries," even after the "foreign missionary" has asked them to quit it. I remember reading somewhere (I think I can find it in my files for "future reference") that one of the "foreign missionaries," Brother J. M. McCaleb, asked one of those foreign missionary-bag-toters, Brother Don Carlos Janes, to stop collecting funds for the missionaries. Brother McCaleb believed the missionaries would receive more funds, if Janes would quit. Did he quit when asked to? No, he is still collecting funds for the missionaries, and it would be interesting to know just what proportion of the money goes to the Janes Printing Co. to pay for printing the literature he mails out, where he gets the money to pay his private secretary, how much of the money collected goes for postage and travel expenses, and just what per cent reaches which missionary.
Anyone who will pay Brother Janes a visit, meet his private secretary, go through his printing plant, observe the amount of "missionary" literature being manufactured and mailed out for "home" consumption, and then ask, how the funds are obtained to operate this set-up, might be able to see that a one-man missionary society is about as expensive as a missionary society run by a "board." Of course Brother Janes might tell us that all this is paid for out of his own pocket; but it would be more interesting to know how the funds got into his own pocket. I am not accusing him of anything. I understand he is an elder of one of the local churches of Louisville, and it would be unscriptural for me to bring a charge against Elder Janes, except on the word of two or three witnesses, that I am not doing. But I do believe it is legal and scriptural for me to ask him why he is so anxious to tote the missionary moneybag after some of the missionaries have asked him to quit it. Paul was determined to avoid the very thing Janes seems determined to do. (See II Cor. 8:20-22).
Judas did not stop at misappropriation of funds. He went to the chief priests who were determined to kill Jesus, and asked them how much they would give him to deliver the Christ into their hands. They agreed upon thirty pieces of silver as the amount, and from that time Judas "sought opportunity to deliver him unto them." On the night before the crucifixion that opportunity came. Leading a group of officers to the garden where Jesus had gone to pray, Judas came and identified Jesus with the traitor's kiss.
Judas got sick of his deal with the chief priests and brought the money back to them, saying, "I have sinned in that I betrayed innocent blood." When they refused to take the money back he threw it down in the sanctuary and went away and hanged himself. Falling headlong from the scaffold he had chosen, he "burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out."
This is one of the plainest cases of apostasy in Biblical history. A man chosen by the Lord and sent forth as a sheep among wolves let the love of money make a goat out of him. It would have been better for him, if he had never been born.
By transgression Judas fell, and went to his own place. His miserable decline is a living demonstration of the truth that the "love of money is a root of all kinds of evil: which some reaching after have been led astray from the faith, and have pierced themselves through with many sorrows."