In Jude, verse 3, Diaglott, the Apostle admonishes, “I had a necessity to write you, exhorting you to earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered to the saints.” In this time, when Combinationism is rampant on all hands, here is some Scripture that receives little or no attention - even from some who claim to understand its real import. At the outset it is well that we remember that faith has three meanings in the Bible - first, it is what we believe (the Truth), second, it is the quality by which we believe (mental appreciation and heart’s reliance upon God and Christ), and, third, it is faithfulness. When St. Jude tells us to “contend for the faith,” he is referring to the first meaning of the word; namely, contend for the Truth. This is in keeping with the Manna comment for September 23: “Our good fight of faith consists in a considerable measure in our defense of the Word of God… This will mean our willingness to stand for the Truth at any cost and against any number of assailants… As the Apostle again says, ‘I am set for the defense of the Gospel.’ We can do no less than defend the Truth. The Truth is God’s representative, Christ’s representative, and hence our standard, and as true soldiers we must defend our standard, even unto death.”
There is a slogan common among men, He who fights and runs away lives to fight another day; but this certainly can have no embrace from those who “earnestly contend for the faith.” This is confirmed by the Apostle Paul in Phil. 1:17, Dia., “I am placed for the defense of the glad tidings” - in much the same manner as “God has placed the members each one of them in the Body.” (1 Cor. 12:18) Both of these texts draw good comparison to a sentinel on guard in an army - he is set there to admit all the eligibles, just as he is also set to intercept all the ineligibles. Once this matter is clearly discerned, it will then become readily apparent how wrong are those who have decided they will have no controversy. Certainly, their stand has no support whatever in the Scripture; in fact, it is a direct contradiction of Scripture.
Sometime back, one who would be a teacher in the Lord’s House made the foolish observation that only error needs defense; the Truth can defend itself. From the foregoing, it is clear enough that the two Apostles and That Servant held just the reverse position. Those of us who are acquainted with the facts know that Brother Russell was inherently a gentle man - a man of peace; yet a large part of his ministry was spent in controversy - just as the Prince of Peace spent most of His earthly sojourn in warring for the Truth and the principles it embraced. Eventually, when His Kingdom is established, He will in all truth be the Prince of Peace. He will then establish a peace among men the likes of which they do not now comprehend. Thus, if we become involved in controversy, we, too, may contemplate a better day when there “will be no night there” - no error to cause controversy. But that time is not yet. David in his wars typed Brother Russell in his wars; and the Scriptures tell us definitely that David was a man of war - so much so that the Lord would not allow him to build the temple (the Lord’s house), but that honor was reserved for Solomon, whose name is the Hebrew for peace. So also, the Greater Solomon will eventually speak “peace” to the people, but that day is still future.
In 2 Tim. 4:6-8, Dia., St. Paul is in effect giving his own burial eulogy: “The time for my dissolution has come near. I have maintained the good contest. I have finished the race, I have guarded the faith” - the Truth, that which had motivated him during the years of his Apostleship. He had been well imbued with the understanding that God had placed him in the Body for that very purpose; and he had practiced what he preached, “steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.” (1 Cor. 15:58)
STUDY TO SHOW THYSELF APPROVED
Before one can teach others - defend the Truth - he must himself first be taught. It is well given that the big difference between the professors and the students is that the professors have read the books first. Thus, St. Paul counsels, “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed.” (2 Tim. 2:15) Brother Russell also recognized the force of this counsel, as shown by the December 20 Manna comments: “Only the studious find the narrow way to the Divine approval and acceptance… study the doctrine [the Truth]; study your course of conduct to keep it in harmony with the doctrine…Study to perform the duties of a faithful soldier of the cross.”
It is a sage observation that the average man is as lazy as he can afford to be; and this is more pointedly true of the mind than of the body. Like trees, human beings die in the top first; we often see people whose bodies still have some semblance of life, but whose minds have flitted off into space. And we see Christians on every hand whose faith (mental appreciation) has been considerably blurred by the ravages of time. Thus, we have St. Peter’s statement, “I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though ye know them, and be established in the present truth.” (2 Peter 1:12)
According to the information that comes to us, Bible studies are conducted among some Truth groups where a half dozen different answers are given to the same question, at least five of which may be wrong. Yet there is no correction by the leader; each is permitted to believe any answer that suits him. Viewed from any standpoint, this is certainly Babylon, and comes well within the scope of St. Paul’s statement, “Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (2 Tim. 3:7) At the other extreme, we find some leaders who are ever striving to produce some new and different answers to those furnished by Brother Russell - just to be different. And of such Brother Russell makes some pointed comment:
“The church has been responsible in considerable measure for the stumbling of those whom it has recognized as elder-brothers and teachers. While they should not think evil, or surmise arrogance, they should be so wakeful to their own duties toward these brethren that they would not unduly flatter them, nor unduly encourage them, nor stimulate them to manufacture new light [such as justification in the Camp].
“On the contrary, all who are spiritual should be helpful to those elder-brothers; should compliment them on their loyalty to the Lord, and to the old, old story, rather than commend them for fanciful fictions, or encourage them further along such lines. The Gospel of Grace has not changed [nor have the fundamentals of Harvest Present Truth]; it is still the old, old story; it still includes the thought of our calling and election by faithfulness to the terms laid down in the Scriptures. The Brethren should be encouraged along these lines rather than along the lines of manufacturing types by guesswork without any authority of the Word of God.”
ERROR AND TRUTH AS TESTS
The question logically arises, Why should the Lord allow such vagaries among His people? Many are perplexed by this question, yet the answer is conveniently simple, when seen in the proper light. It is well stated in Micah 5:5,6: “When the Assyrian [the errorists] shall come into our land [the sphere of the Truth and its spirit]: and when he shall tread in our palaces [by attempting to overthrow fundamental doctrines, such as justification outside the Court in this faith Age], then shall we raise against him seven shepherds [competent teachers who shall watch over your souls as they that must give an account].” And such faithful teachers “shall waste the land of Assyria with the sword [bring against the errorists sharp cutting truths - “the word of God, quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword” (Heb. 4:12)]… thus shall He deliver us from the Assyrian [the errorists], when he cometh into our land, and when he treadeth within our borders.” Here is one more pointed Scripture that approves of controversy on various occasions. Jesus Himself established the law for us for this Gospel Age: “Think not that I am come to send forth Peace on this land; I am come not to send Peace, but War. For my coming will set a Man against his Father, and a Daughter against her Mother, and a Daughter-in law against her Mother-in-law; so that a man’s enemies will be found in his own family.” (Matt. 10:34-36, Dia.) It is an inescapable duty of those who would be “faithful to the Lord, the Truth and the Brethren.” And to such the Lord’s promise is sure: “And it will turn out to you for a Testimony… for I will give you Eloquence and Wisdom, which all your opponents will not be able to gainsay, or resist… And you will be hated by all on account of my name.” (Luke 21:13-17, Dia.)
Especially has this promise been evident in both Harvests. Certainly, the Apostles and other teachers in the Jewish Harvest put to flight all opponents. And in the Gospel-Age Harvest the same was also definitely true. This has been in keeping with the prophecy: “I will make thee a new sharp threshing instrument having teeth.” (Isa. 41:15,16) A threshing instrument is only for harvest purposes; and those familiar with the facts know that the Harvest Truth did have “teeth” in it. “Thou shalt thresh the mountains [kingdoms by exposing the error of the Divine right of kings, etc.] and beat them small [the Harvest message revealed how ridiculous were such claims, made them truly look “small”]… thou shalt rejoice in the Lord, and shalt glory in the Holy One of Israel.” The teaching is clear that the elect, especially their teachers, will be victorious in the Harvest conflicts with error. “No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper.” (Isa. 54:17) Therefore, when leaders do not “prosper” in “contending for the faith” we may know that they are contending for error.
Upon receiving the Truth, which is in “the mouth sweet as honey” (Rev. 10:9,10), many reach the mistaken conclusion that they have come to the end of all controversy, and have entered the Beulah land of rest and peace, never again to be disturbed. But not so! “Good soldiers” must ever be ready to do battle whenever and wherever occasion arises; and it is an experience common to all who have borne any part of the burden and heat of the day that “when the sons of God present themselves before the Lord, Satan comes also.” (Job. 1:6) And he is not one to promote the peace and prosperity of Zion in any measure - although he often appears to be so with “words smoother than butter.” Rather, against the Kingdom and its establishment, and against any and all of the Elect, he is the avowed enemy ready to cast a stone among them at every opportunity. Thus, they are his special targets always pitting the “wheat” class against the “buckwheat” class; “the peace of God which passeth understanding” is anathema to him. Therefore, as soon as any of the Elect escape from the kingdom of darkness - from “the veil that is spread over all nations [the veil of ignorance and superstition]” (Isa. 25:7) they should logically expect to be the special target of the Prince of Darkness; and experience has taught us all that this is certainly true. We need only consider the experience of Jesus Himself in Matthew 4:1-11, after His forty-day fast in the wilderness for confirmation of this conclusion.
It is well, however, to keep in mind that Satan is a master of deception, which is clearly illustrated in his trickery with Eve in the Garden. “The woman was deceived.” (1 Tim. 2:14) Hence, he does not blow a trumpet before him when he leads God’s people astray, even though war is in his heart. “The words of his mouth were smoother than butter, but war was in his heart: his words were softer than oil, yet were they drawn swords.” (Psa. 55:21) He is indeed the “wolf in sheep’s clothing” - the “angel of light” - the proclaimer of “advancing truth,” which always does away with the Truth already established. This is the clear record for the entire Gospel Age to those of us who are “established in the Present Truth.” And he readily downgrades those who oppose his errors. Jesus was grossly slandered by the “preachers” of His time, as “a glutton and a winebibber”; Martin Luther was the “heretic,” the renegade who got drunk (also a winebibber), the “sifter” who caused divisions, etc., by the words of the Man of Sin; the loving and lovable John Wesley was the “dissenter,” the nomadic preacher without a pulpit (to which he replied, “The world is my pulpit”); and Brother Russell was the “illiterate haberdasher,” the braying Balaam’s ass, etc.
But sad to say, many who would rest at ease upon their creed beds fell into the snare of the fowler, which is one of the evidences now, one of the “signs of the times,” that we are in “the evil day.” The Harvest siftings abundantly confirm this; and the sixth slaughter weapon of Revolutionism is everywhere rampant. One of the chief weapons of this sifting work is the cry, No more controversy; let us have peace! Instead of “spoiling” the Assyrian (the sifting errorists), they allow the Assyrian to spoil them.
THE PATH OF THE JUST
Those who continue to “fight the good fight” along the lines prescribed in the Bible continue to progress; whereas, “those who sleep” retrogress. Without activity in the study, practice and spread of “the good Word of God” there will not only be no progress, but there will be just the reverse. Thus, St. Peter (2 Peter 3:18) exhorts us, “Grow in Grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ”; and Brother Russell states that it is impossible to do one without the other. And it follows, too, that when we see others introducing “strong delusions” in the Truth movement, it is our bounden duty to “raise up a standard against such.”
Often we hear the text quoted, “The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.” (Prov. 4:18) Today many contend that this is an individual matter, with sufficient knowledge in the Six Volumes of Scripture Studies and other Parousia writings to accomplish this. This is only a half truth, and half truths are more misleading than whole errors. Accepting such a position makes it easy to go to sleep. But note the direct contradiction to such a position in Parousia Volume 1, p. 20: “Those who will turn away from the mere speculations of men, and devote time to searching the Scriptures, not excluding reason, which God invites us to use (Isa. 1:18), will find that a blessed bow of promise spans the heavens… For the child of God a lamp is provided whose light dispels from his pathway much of the darkness… But it is only ‘the path of the just’ that ‘is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day’… The class referred to is ‘justified by faith’… While it is true that the path of each individual believer is a shining one, yet the special application of this statement is to the just (justified) as a class… The light will continue to increase beyond the present - ‘unto the perfect day’… illuminating as it becomes due.”
And to emphasize this statement we offer another comment from the 1912 Watch Tower Reprint 5055, under the caption, Light Shining More and More Unto The Perfect Day:
“It would not be becoming on our part to speak with positiveness of how much our Lord knew during His earthly ministry. For how could we know except as it was declared. He said that the times and seasons were not at that time known by any but ‘the Father only.’ We cannot doubt that He knows all on that subject now. And if our surmises are correct, we know more on that subject now than our Lord did then.”
And by the same process of “reason” we can now say, we know more on some things today than did Brother Russell during his lifetime. Surely, none would dispute this self-evident truth, although this offers no occasion at all for “boasting” over present possessions of Truth - nor was Brother Russell boasting when he stated, as quoted above, “we know more on that subject now than our Lord did then.”
Nevertheless, it is a fair and reasonable question, Why does the Lord permit the strong delusions and trials of this evil day, when they actually do overthrow the faith of many and severely test all? The Apostle Paul answers this question in 2 Thessalonians 2:11,12: “For this cause God shall send them [those who received not the love of the Truth that they might be saved] strong delusion, that they should believe a lie [such as no more controversy, the world on trial now before Armageddon - the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ teaching]: that they might be condemned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” Note the added force to this text as it is given in the Diaglott: “God will send to them an energy of delusion, to their believing the falsehood; in order that all those may be judged who believed not the Truth, but approved the iniquity.” Plainly, then, we are told that God not only permits, but also desires, that the faith of His professed people should be severely tried. And if the thousands fall by these fiery darts of the enemy, it is because they are unworthy of the Truth - not having received it in the love of it, much the same as “The spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord troubled him.” (1 Sam. 16:14)
Many indeed receive the Truth very much as a child receives a new toy. It is a curiosity, something new (like Grimm’s Fairy Tales when read for the first time), to be enjoyed for a season and then laid aside to be superseded by something else that temporarily pleases the fancy - some “sleight-of-hand” that may be produced by an aspiring leader. Then there are some who grasp the Truth as a cudgel wherewith to gain the honors of victory in arguments with opponents - they are overcome by the “knowledge that puffeth up.” It is a sound teaching that the Truth brings to its recipients “the peace of God which passeth understanding” (Phil. 4:7); and such peace comes to one and all so long as they “receive the Truth in the love of it”; but such peace is not the peace of indifference, not the peace at any price, not the peace of cowardice when controversy appears.
The Truth does indeed make strange bedfellows - widely separated by race, nationality, education and other providential circumstances. Thus, we find some who are too aggressive; just as we find some that are not aggressive enough; but a proper application of the Truth and its spirit will eventually give to all “the spirit of a sound mind.” It will calm down the warmongers and energize to battle those that would calmly permit the Truth stream to be polluted. St. James has properly stated the matter: “The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable.” (James 3:17) To those who would ignore this plain Scripture the Prophet Amos has some critical words: “Woe to them that are at ease [at peace with all men] in Zion… that lie upon beds of ivory, and stretch themselves upon their couches [in languid indifference when errorists - the Assyrian - would muddy the clear pure Harvest Truth-stream].” (Amos 6:1-4) Our Lord Himself says, “Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets.” (Luke 6:26)
In this connection, That Servant has some more to say in the September 1, 1916 Watch Tower, Reprint 5949:
“Let us remember, too, that God has promised to keep and guide the minds of those whose hearts are loyal and true to Him. We should therefore conclude that if the Lord is thrusting any one out of the light as unworthy of it, into the outer darkness of the world, if He is permitting unfaithful ones to be seduced by the great enemy, it is not our mission to follow them into the outer darkness by reading, conversation, etc. We are to remain with the Lord and those who are walking in the light, and to seek others to take the places of those who now deny or ignore the precious blood of the covenant wherewith they were once sanctified. Neither are we to waste sympathy upon those who depart.”
Although we are not heart-examiners, God is; and, when He manifests one by permitting him to go into outer darkness - as is true of the “unprofitable servant” of Matthew 25:30 (see Berean Comment), then we can know of a surety that there was something wrong with the heart, with the character, of which we may have been unaware. But, when this does become apparent, then we have the indisputable evidence of the loss of God’s favor - gauged by the depth of his departure into “outer darkness.”
Such conclusion would also be strengthened by the depth of the Holy Spirit in those observing the deflection. St. Peter clearly revealed that he had read the heart of Ananias - “Why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart?” (Acts. 5:4) - and St. Paul corroborates this opinion: “The Word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (Heb. 4:12) The word “discerner” in this text is from the Greek kritikis, meaning critic or judge. It is found only once in the New Testament, and is derived from the Greek krino: it is closely related to the Greek krisis, which is translated damnation in John 5:29, the real meaning of which is judgment. Jesus Himself substantiates this meaning in Matthew 7:15-16, Dia.: “Beware of false teachers… By their fruits you will discover them.” These words would be empty indeed were we unable to penetrate any deeper than the skin, although it is common fallacy among men to “look on the outward appearance,” which offers the warning that we should ever proceed very cautiously when attempting to “discern the thoughts and intents of the heart.” We are not to judge according to the faults and blemishes of the fallen man, but we are to judge (recognize) them according to their faithfulness to the Truth - or by their revolutionisms against the Truth and departure from the Truth they once received. It is the “Word of God” that manifests such people to us.
However, it is here timely to stress that all of the Lord’s followers have more or less faults and blemishes, but these failings are not to determine our opinion of them - their heart condition. There can be only one touchstone, and that is the Truth itself. Jesus said, “Now ye are clean through the word [the Truth] which I have spoken unto you” (John 15:3); and this offers the ready conclusion that those who cast away the Word that once sanctified them are now become self-evidently unclean - not on the surface merely, but in the heart. Usually blemishes are apparent on the surface, and some are quick to conclude that such appearance is a gauge of the hearts, but this is a mistake, and should certainly be avoided. “Not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called.” (1 Cor. 1:26) So it has always been easy to see the faults of the called ones; but it is definitely not the privilege of the called ones to parade the faults of other called ones - and this should hold true even if we see them losing the Truth - even though we may realize that there was something unworthy in their characters that caused them to lose the Truth that once sanctified them, something that caused the Lord to manifest them as such. All of us know that Brother Russell declined to attack the morals of the Roman priesthood; he allowed the Truth to manifest them and their errors.
Knowledge is not the primary gauge of Christian character, because all of the saints after Apostolic times had more or less of error; yet they made their calling and election sure. However, That Servant taught that we should esteem most highly those whose zeal for the Truth actuated them to systematic and energetic study of the Word; especially so, those elders “who toil in word and teaching.” (1 Tim. 5:17, Dia.) St Paul says such should be “esteemed worthy of double honor,” because they are those who come within the scope of Psalms 42:1: “As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God.” Conversely, those who esteem the Truth lightly, merely to minister to their selfishness, or their ego, or for present advantage (“through covetousness shall they with feigned words making merchandise of you” - 2 Peter 2:3), are unworthy of it; and it is God’s will that they should lose it. Therefore, “strong delusions” are sent, which “if it were possible, would deceive the very elect” (Matt. 24:24) - to separate the true from the false. In this Age of faith the Truth was not designed for the “slothful in business” (Rom 12:11), or for the wicked or avaricious.
St Peter describes this latter evil very well in Acts 8:20-23: “Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God… Thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.” Indeed, “Light [Truth] is sown for the righteous [those who receive it in a good and honest heart], and joy [the joys of the Truth and its spirit] for the upright in heart.” (Psa. 97:11) Some of us have wondered why our relatives or close fiends did not receive the Truth gladly; but, when they did not receive it thus, we should conclude that they are not “of the Truth,” and should direct our efforts toward more responsive minds. The veil that is spread over all nations” (Isa. 25:7) has fostered many superstitions of wide variety; and over the centuries these vagaries have gripped the minds of many with compelling force. We are very well acquainted with a multi-millionaire who would not think of undertaking any kind of voyage on Friday; but no one would suspect him of such weakness unless they had become intimately acquainted with him. It is very unlikely that such a mind would be responsive to sound sober truth, nor would he be in favor of engaging in any controversy that would challenge his ludicrous flummery. Such a man would not be inclined to “earnestly contend for the faith.” (Jude 3)
The faithful children of God embrace the Truth because they have a warm affinity for it; and they are most happy when they can minister it to other receptive hearts and minds. “His word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones” (Jer. 20:9), which instantly prompts such to “earnestly contend for the faith” - to “preach the word in season and out of season” - in winsome presentation, or in sharp controversy whenever occasion demands. All such realize the unspeakable value of the Truth; they always give “thanks unto God for His unspeakable gift” - His “inexpressible gift.” (2 Cor. 9:15, Dia.) Such “buy the Truth, and sell it not” - they sell it not for money or for “the praise of men.” This is what is meant by receiving the Truth into a good and honest heart. And to all such the promise is sure, “He shall give His angels [Messengers - competent teachers well established in “the present truth”] charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.” (Psa. 91:11)
During this faith Age, the “angels” are usually well-instructed brethren who have studied to show themselves workmen approved of God, who rightly divide the Truth (2 Tim. 2:15), ever joyfully willing to feed the flock of God - or even some sister well established in present truth, who takes a motherly interest in the lambs of the flock. We may be certain that the Lord always provides for His own; and “great peace have they which love thy law, and nothing shall offend [stumble] them.” (Psa. 119:165) Thus, the one thing to which all the elect should first look is what they have received - and still hold - the Truth in the love of it. All who do this have, for Gospel-Age purposes, inherited goodly Canaan land, which means that they have acquired the Truth and the spirit of the Truth. This is what is meant by “continuing in My Word” - and “you shall know the Truth, and the Truth shall make you free.” Such belief of the Truth comes only through a real sanctification of the spirit, a complete setting apart to the Divine will and service. This will sometimes put us on the mountain top, as it also will often place us “in the valley of the shadow,” sometimes “sons of peace,” sometimes “good soldiers” able and willing “earnestly to contend for the faith.” The sufferings of our Lord were directly or indirectly caused from advocating unpopular truth and exposing popular errors - and if we would be faithful we “ought also so to walk, even as he walked.” (1 John 2:6)
We should not expect to see all in any ecclesia thus fortified, and we must make due allowance for “growth in Grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus”; but God has provided His angels (messengers) to accomplish this in all whose “mind is stayed on thee.” The faithful student of the Word should be able always to give a reason for his hope. The Word of God alone is able to make wise, and is profitable for doctrine, instruction, etc., “that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished.” (1 Peter 3:15; 2 Tim. 3:15-17) Only this one storehouse contains an exhaustless supply of things both new and old - meat in due season for the household. God’s Word is a great storehouse of food for hungry pilgrims. There is milk for babes and strong meat for those more developed (1 Peter 2:2; Heb. 5:14); and not only so, but it contains food adapted to the different seasons and conditions. “Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.” (Jer. 6:16) Only a comparatively few are seeking the “old paths” and “the faith once delivered unto the saints.” (Jude 3)
(John J. Hoefle, Reprint No. 196, October 1971)