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Answers to Bible Questions

"Baptised for the Dead"

Question.--"There is some difference of opinion on 1 Cor. xv. 19. Will you tell us what you understand it to convey? Yours, &c., J. M. L."

Answer.--The verse referred to reads as follows "Else what shall they do who are baptised for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? Why then are they baptised for the dead?" If our reasoning, argues the Apostle, concerning the resurrection of the just in Christ being made alive by him be not correct, what shall become of those who are baptised into the hope of the resurrection of the dead? If the dead rise not at all their hope is perished, and themselves the hopeless non-existent atoms of the dust. And if this be so, why are they, who are now dead, at their baptism into Christ, baptised for the hope of the resurrection of the dead, if, indeed, as some of you say, the dead are not raised? But if the dead rise not, then let us eat and drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die and live no more! Be there no animal, then there is no spiritual birth; no death, no resurrection; no resurrection or transformation, no eternal life. This is the order, as necessary as links to a chain."--J.T. Investigator.

Delivery Unto Satan

Question.--"To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of tide Lord Jesus."--(1 Cor. v. 5.)

"During last month's portion of the daily reading, according to the Bible Companion, I came across this passage and with it a ray of new light as to its meaning. There are certain passages (Eph. iv. 11, 12; Heb. xiii. 7; 1 Tim. v. 17; 1 Thess. v. 12, 13), which teach that the government of the ecclesias was vested in certain office bearers, in connection with whom the apostles had the care of all the churches, to settle matters of faith and to punish all offenders miraculously with disease and sometimes with death, for their sins. We have an instance of death by the apostle Peter, in Acts v. 10, and we also have an account of Elymas the sorcerer, receiving blindness from the hand of the apostle Paul.--(Acts xiii. 9, 11; see also 2 Cor. x. 6, and xiii. 2, 10.)

"The brother at Corinth had committed fornication, for which the punishment under the law of Moses was death (Lev. xx. ii.), but as that law had been repealed, the sentence of the apostle was: "In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, to deliver such a one unto Satan," i.e., to some bodily disease which the Holy Spirit might inflict. This view is confirmed by the words of Christ respecting a certain woman, "a daughter of Abraham," whom he cured of an infirmity, which he described as being bound by Satan.--(Luke xiii. 11-17). Again we have the apostle Paul speaking of his infirmity as a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet him.--(2 Cor. xii. 7-8.) The object in punishing with disease the brother who had sinned was, that the flesh which lusteth against the spirit, and which is enmity against God, "might be destroyed."--(Gal. 5. 17; Rom. viii. 7.) And that the spirit, or the life, or the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and holiness of the truth, (Eph. iv. 23, 24) might be saved in the day of our Lord Jesus." We learn that the punishment had a salutary effect, for in 2 Cor. ii. 7, 8, the apostle tells the brethren to forgive him that had sinned and comfort him, and confirm their love towards him, lest he should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow. This view also gives light to I Tim. i. 20, where the apostle says he had delivered Hymeneus and Alexander unto Satan (some bodily affliction) that they might learn not to blaspheme.--W. BLOUNT, Dudley.

Remarks.--There can be no doubt that Satan in scriptural use is often put for the evils resulting from the great adversary, sin in the flesh," and therefore for disease which is one of the direct fruits of sin, notwithstanding the theories of physiologists," who only dabble on the surface of vital phenomena, and take note only of facts, without enquiring their cause. But it is nevertheless a matter of doubt whether this was Paul's meaning in i Cor. v. The doubt arises from his direction to expel the offender. His concluding words on the subject are (verse 13), "Put away from among yourselves that wicked person." His reason for this command is expressed thus: "Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? ' Again, he found fault with some among them for not having of their own accord arranged "that he that had done the deed might be taken away from among them" (verse 2). All this goes to show that Paul's remedy was the removal of the offender, and that his desire for this was due to his anxiety lest the rest should be corrupted by the sinner remaining in their midst. He desired the extirpation of "the flesh" in the moral sense from the midst of the ecclesia, that "the spirit" might prevail unto their salvation in the day of the Lord Jesus. The expulsion of a brother from the midst of the assembly, and his casting into the outer darkness was certainly delivering him over to Satan, for all outside is Satan. This was the Satan who hindered Paul (1 Thess. ii. 18), and who practised "devices" against him (2 Cor ii. 11). We must recognize the different applications of the same word, though the meaning is the same at the root. The person concerned in the Corinthian case was treated in accordance with the apostolic direction, to his great sorrow at the last. In his second letter, Paul tells them to forgive him, "lest he should be swallowed up of overmuch sorrow" (2 Cor. ii. 7). If disease had been the punishment, cure would have been the remedy, but the remedy was receiving him back again. Of course it is not impossible that bodily affliction may have accompanied casting out.

Are Brethren At Liberty to Eat Blood and Things Strangled?

W.U.--There can be no question that the Gentile believers, while exempt from all obligation to keep the law of Moses, were commanded (Acts xv. 20, 29), to abstain from the eating of blood and things strangled, and the latter because of the former; that is things strangled were things with blood retained in them and therefore unfit for those forbidden to eat blood. There can also be no question that the black pudding of modern use, and many fowls and rabbits that are sold in the market would be excluded by the apostolic prohibition if it is binding on believers of our age. Any doubt that may exist on the question of whether it is binding now or not, arises from the fact that the prohibition seems to have been a concession to the Jewish section of the brotherhood in the first century, based upon the principle of not using liberty to the hurt of others.

Thus James, on whose recommendation the prohibition seems to have been enjoined by the council of the apostles and elders, who "came together to consider this matter," gave as his reason for recommending it: For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath day." If this was the object of the commandment to avoid needless offence to the Jews who were all zealous of Moses and to whom it seemed that Moses was set at nought by Gentile believers, if besides neglecting circumcision of the flesh, they ate things offered in sacrifice to idols, and blood, and things strangled, then the force of it would be gone in a day like ours, when there is no Jewish element in the brotherhood to consider. Paul's argument on the subject would seem to show that this was the position of the case. On the subject of eating things that had been offered in sacrifice to idols, for instance, Paul argues that an idol is nothing (l Cor. viii. 4), and that the flesh consecrated to an idol, and afterwards exposed for sale in the shambles, was none the worse for the performance, and could be eaten with thanksgiving by an intelligent believer (1 Cor. x. 27-30), except where the eating was likely to be construed into a participation in idolatry. His words on the last point place the matter in a clear light: "Whatsoever is set before you (that is, at a feast) eat, asking no questions for conscience sake. But if any man say unto you, This is offered in sacrifice to idols, EAT NOT."-(1 Cor. x. 27.) This shows that in Paul's estimation it was a matter of indifference as to the eating of animals that had been offered in the idol worship so long as the fact of that offering was not the reason of the eating. So long as the matter was out of sight, believers were at liberty to eat even things offered in sacrifice to idols; but when the fact was brought forward, they were to desist, "for his sake that showed it, and for conscience sake . . conscience I say, not thine own, but of the other"--(verse 29). Nevertheless, he recommends great caution in the use of this liberty.

"Howbeit," says he (chap. viii. 7) "there is not in every man that knowledge; for some with conscience of the idol unto this hour, eat it as a thing offered unto an idol, and their conscience being weak, is defiled. But meat commendeth us not to God, for neither if we eat are we better, neither if we eat not are we the worse. But take heed, lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumbling-block to them that are weak. For if any man see thee, which hast knowledge, sit at meat in the idol's temple, shall not the conscience of him that is weak be emboldened to eat those things that are offered unto idols. And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish for whom Christ died." From this it is evident that Paul considered a brother at liberty to eat that which the letter of the Council at Jerusalem had forbidden, provided it could be done without hurting others who were weak; that is, those who could not see their way to such a liberty. At first sight it may seem strange how the doing of a thing not wrong in itself could hurt anyone however weak. Paul has given the answer: the liberty of the strong-minded brother, misunderstood by the weakminded brother, encourages the weakminded brother to do that which in that weak-minded brother's opinion is wrong. Therefore, that which is not wrong-doing in the other, becomes wrong-doing in him, because he does it thinking it wrong. Thus his conscience is defiled: for so far as his relation to the matter is concerned, he has been as distinctly guilty of wrong-doing as if they had been actually wrong: that is, to him, the eating of the flesh has been an act of fellowship with idolatry, and, therefore, as distinctly sin as if he had worshipped the idol. Paul lays down the principle "Whatsoever is not of faith is sin," therefore, "he that doubteth is damned if he eat."--(Rom. xiv. 23.) The rule is of easy application to every matter, involving the question of right and wrong. If there is a doubt, be on the safe side. If liberty is clear, use it, only not to the detriment of another. "One believeth that he may eat all things . . I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean in itself, but to him that esteemeth anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean. But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat for whom Christ died. For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure, but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence. It is good neither to eat flesh nor to drink wine, nor anything whereby thy brother stumbleth or is offended, or is made weak."--(Rom. xiv. 2, 14, 15, 20, 21.) It is evident from the whole of the evidence that the commandment not to eat blood and things strangled was of the character suggested in the beginning of these remarks; and that, therefore, if things in themselves be good, and the use of them is unattended with spiritual harm to others, they are to be eaten with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. "Every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused if it be received with thanksgiving, for it is sanctified by the Word of God and prayer."--(1 Tim. iv. 5.) When doubts exist, let the parties concerned act on the advice of Paul: "Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not, and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth."--(Rom. xiv. 3.)

The Baptism of Fire

B.B.--We know that the "baptism of fire" (Matt. iii. 11) is past, because John the Baptist told those who listened to him that the axe was then lying at the roots of the trees, ready to cut them down, if good fruit was not brought forth, and that being cut down, they would be cast into the fire. The meaning of this is throughout Christ's discourses applied to the generation then contemporary with himself. He likened them to a man cured of demoniacal possession, but who lapsed into a worse state. "Even so," says he, "shall it be unto this generation."-- (Matt. xii. 45.) All Jerusalem and Judea went out to the preaching of John.--(Matt. iii. 5.) There was reformation for a while: the trees gave healthy tokens; but afterwards they departed from the preaching of both John and Jesus, and sank into a worse condition than ever. In Matt. xxiii. Jesus inveighs with terrible force against the prevailing wickedness, and says that "all the righteous blood shed upon earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zecharias," would come upon that generation.--(verses 35, 36.) And come it did in a tornado of destruction which overwhelmed the whole Jewish state forty years afterwards. It was indeed a baptism of fire" in which all things were destroyed. It was a fire sent by the living Jesus of Nazareth who controlled the situation. The fan was in his hand: he thoroughly purged his floor. The sequel is in the near future.

The Laying on of Hands

M.H.--"Lay hands suddenly on no man" ,(1 Tim. v. 22) is explained by the next sentence: '"neither be partaker in other men's sins: keep thyself pure." The idea is that Timothy was to be careful how he committed himself to the fellowship, cooperation and partnership of others in the work of the truth. He was to wait till they had proved their fitness, lest he made himself a partaker with unworthy men. The evidences of fitness are enumerated in i Tim. ii. 2-7, and they are of a character requiring time for manifestation. Let them "first be proved" is the principle (verse 10)--a highly necessary precaution in those not possessing the gift of discerning spirits. But it may be asked how came Paul to put his exhortation into such a shape: "Lay hands suddenly on no man." The answer is that the laying on of hands was a ceremony observed and practised by the apostles in the bestowal of the Spirit (Acts viii. 18; xix 6), or in the imparting of sanction to any mission or work to be confided to others.--(Acts vi. 6; xiii. 3.) The practice did not originate in apostolic times. We find Moses laying hands on Joshua with a similar meaning (Num. xxvii. 23; Dent. xxxiv. 9); and under the law, it was the constant practice both of priests and offerers to lay hands on the animals offered in sacrifice.--(Lev. viii. 14; xvi. 21; Num. viii. 12.) It was a legal token of sanction, dedication, appointment, &c., and in the days of the apostles, it was the mode in which the Spirit was bestowed. Timothy had been the subject of this important ceremony at the hands of Paul and the elders (1 Tim. iv. 14; 2 Tim. i. 6), and was consequently both delegated to exercise authority and endowed with spiritual gift.-(2 Tim. i. 6; Tit. ii. 15.) It would therefore be Timothy's part, in his turn, to lay hands on suitable men for the work of the gospel. In the exercise of this trust, he was to exercise prudence. He was not to do it "suddenly" or without a due opportunity of being satisfied of the man's eligibility for the work. The laying on of hands is effete in our day, for the simple reason that the extinction of apostolic authority in the earth has left nothing to impart in the process. It would in our case be a meaningless performance. We have the truth: but this is not to be imparted by the laying on of hands. "Authority" we have none, and power is equally absent. Would to God it were otherwise; but it is wisdom to recognise our position, and not play at apostolic forms without the power thereof. The gospel we have, and the gospel saves. Power and authority will come with the coming of the Master. Meanwhile Paul's exhortation is serviceable as regards trying men before we commit ourselves to them.

Hell and the Grave

Question.--"In Psalm ix. it is written 'The wicked shall be turned into HELL and all the nations that forget God.' If this means the grave, how comes it that the righteous go into it as well as the wicked?"

Answer.--To be "turned into hell" in the scriptural sense, is to be put there for the purpose of being left there. This is the difference between the righteous and the wicked, "Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell" may be taken as the language of all the righteous, though the individual utterance of the Messiah. Again, "God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave."--(Ps. xlix. 15.) But of the other class, it is written: "Drought and heat consume the snow waters, so doth the grave those that have sinned. The womb shall forget him. The worm shall feed sweetly on him. He shall be no more remembered."--(Job xxiv. 19-20.) The righteous say at last, "O grave, where is thy victory?" at the very time the wicked are turned into the grave, from which the righteous are everlastingly delivered.

Christ a Substitute? In What Sense?

L.B.--You cannot more heartily "abhor disagreement among brethren" than we; but many a time, and in many a matter, we are called upon to submit to things contrary to our liking. The truth must be upheld even at the cost of disagreement. It is nothing new for the word of Christ to cause division. Christ foretold it would be so. We have seen his word fulfilled through a long course of dark centuries, and doubtless the same thing will be manifest till the very hour of the Lord's appearing. But we admit it will be "woe" then to those causing the offence. As to the question, "Was not God's Son His substitute in some sense?" it is answered in the next question you put, viz. "Were not the apostles substitutes of Christ?" Or rather, it would be more proper to say this question suggests the answer. The apostles were substitutes of Christ, but not in the sense of dispensing with Christ. They represented him in his absence. They were "instead of him" while he was away. Those who heard them heard him, but this did not cover him up or do away with him in any way, but rather made him the more apparently necessary. So Christ represented God, nay more, brought God near, for he was God with us; yet not in the sense of dispensing with God, but on the contrary, more strongly bringing the Father into view. So when Christ died for us, it was not in the sense of substituting us, but representing us, bringing our position distinctly into view, in one who, having no sin, could rise again, after suffering under the law to which he was made subject for and in common with us, in being born of our nature. The orthodox notion of substitution, which is revived in Renunciationism, implies the exemption of those substituted from the operation to which the substitute is subjected; as when a conscript providing a substitute goes free from service. This view is contrary to fact, for we know that our bodies, in which death remains, are yet "unredeemed."--(Rom. viii. 23.) Not only so, but it proposes a scheme of redemption perfectly incompatible with all the revealed principles of righteousness, as all the higher kinds of intellect have felt in their attempts to receive the popular doctrine of substitutionary atonement. The difficulties placed in the way of the wisdom of God by the corruptions of men have been removed by the truth; and it is no light matter that men professing the truth (which, however, they confess in this matter they did not understand) should attempt to put them in the way again.

Who Are the Righteous of Matthew 25?

Question.--Who are the "righteous" spoken of in Matt. xxv; are they nations or the saints? --(D.E.U.)

Answer.--The question is easily settled by considering what is said to those in the question: "Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." Who are the heirs of the kingdom? "Hearken, my beloved brethren, hath not God chosen the poor of this world, rich in faith, heirs of the kingdom which He hath promised to them that love Him."--(Jas. ii. 5.) "Fear not, little flock," said Jesus to his disciples, "it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom."--(Luke xii. 32.) Again, "Blessed be ye poor, for yours is the kingdom of God."--(Luke vi. 20.) Again, "If ye do these things . . . an entrance shall be ministered to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ."-(2 Pet. i. 10-11.)

Therefore, those invited in Matt. xxv. 34, to "inherit the kingdom," are the saints. But it may be said, how come they to be described as "all nations?" Because, whereas up to the time when Christ was speaking, only one nation had been made liable to judgment with reference to the kingdom, afterwards, this liability was extended to all nations by the apostolic mission, in execution of the command," Go ye into all nations;" and when the time for deciding the question of entrance into the kingdom of God shall come, multitudes from all nations will be present at the great assize. Therefore, in the limited sense of the Scripture use of that phrase (see Zech. xiv. 2), "all nations" will be gathered before Him.

But again it will be said, If it be the saints, why are they addressed as if the saints were yet another class?--" my brethren:" "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." The answer is, that the good deeds done to Christ by those accepted of him, could not be well expressed without speaking as if they themselves were another class. For instance, one of the qualifications of the widow to be supported is, that she has "washed the saint's feet.-(1 Tim. v. 10.) Was she, therefore, not a saint? John says to Gaius, his well-beloved "in the truth," "Beloved, thou doest faithfully whatsoever thou doest to the brethren."--(3 Jno. v.) Was Gaius, therefore, not one of "the brethren ?" Instances might be multiplied: these will suffice to show that the righteous, though commended for what they did to "one of the least" of Christ's brethren, were themselves of those brethren. The special excellence which Jesus wished to encourage among his brethren in all subsequent times, could not be more strikingly brought out than by dramatically representing a conversation between him and them on the day of account, in which the ground of their acceptance or otherwise should rest on their treatment of one of the least of their company.

Christ Saved From Death

"A comparison of Heb. v. 7 with Heb. ii. 14, 15 is sufficient to prove that Jesus, in common with his brethren, was born under the Adamic curse. and that consequently, he himself had to be saved in the first place (1 Cor. xv. 23) before others could be saved through him.--(1 Cor. xv. 17, 18.) The first portion of Scripture referred to reads thus: "Who (Jesus) in the days of the flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications, with strong crying and tears, unto Him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared." Now what Paul says Jesus prayed to be delivered from was certainly not, according to most commentators, the death on the cross (Matt. xxvi. 39), else it could not be said, "He was heard in that he feared." He prayed to be saved out of the death-state--that his soul might not be left in the grave, and was heard (and delivered) from that which he feared. "And was heard that he feared" is not a correct rendering of the sense conveyed by the original, the literal translation of which is, "and was heard from the fear." De Wette renders the clause thus: ist aus der Furcht erhoret (un befreiet) worden; and the French version reads: fur exauce et delivre de ce qu'il craignoit, which renderings are similar to that above in italics. Diodati's Italian version is literal: ed essendo stato esaudito dal timore. Now that Jesus was, in this respect, made like unto those for whom he died and rose again, is evident from what Paul tells the Hebrews (ii. 14, 15): "Forasmuch as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same, that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death, were all their lifetime subject to bondage." The devil (serpent) is here said to have the power of death, that is, over all who have Adam's nature, and since the Book does not tell us that he had this power over man before he sinned, but quite the contrary, as is taught by Paul (Rom. v. 12), it follows that Jesus. having that nature, feared lying under the power of death (Heb. v. 7), after death had passed upon it, being as a son of man, in the same condition as those who are declared to have been all their lifetime subject to bondage. The Father hearkened to His dear Son's supplication, and delivered him from death. The Son asked life and the Father gave it unto him, even length of days for ever and ever.--(Ps. xxi. 4.) Let us give thanks for this, for IF CHRIST BE NOT RAISED our faith is vain, we are yet in our sins, and they who have fallen asleep in Christ ARE PERISHED."--Communicated.

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