As previously announced, the proper time for observing the Memorial in 2007 is after six p.m. the evening of March 31. This conclusion is reached by knowing that the Vernal Equinox arrives at the 30th Meridian East (the one nearest Jerusalem) at 3:28 a.m. March 21; and the new moon nearest that time occurs at 5:21 a.m. March 19. Thus the first of Nisan is established at six p.m. of March 18. Counting then to the fourteenth, we arrive at six a.m. March 31; and any time that night after six p.m. is correct for observing the Memorial of our Lord's death. We here at Mount Dora plan to observe the festival at 7:00 p.m., March 31; and we extend a cordial invitation to any of like mind as ourselves to join us on that occasion if they be in this neighborhood.
It will be noted aforegoing that we say "the first of Nisan" (which is the name of the Babylonian God of Spring), but that name was not known to the Jews when the Passover was instituted. The first month of their religious year (and the seventh of the business year) was Abib, which means “sprouting” or “budding” ─ very similar indeed to the meaning of Nisan. But Nisan is first mentioned in the Bible in Nehemiah 2:1 ─ just before release of the Jews from the 70-year Babylonian captivity.
Wherever it may be our privilege to be on that special night, let us keep in mind that it was exactly 3622 years since the Passover was kept that awesome night in Egypt in 1615 B.C.; and the ostentatious observance of the Passover by the Jews to this year is a very strong testimony that the Bible is the Word of Truth. According to human reckoning, 3622 years is a very long time; but it is only a little less than four days if we consider it from God's standpoint. “A thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night.” (Psa. 90:4)
THE NEW MOON AND THE JEWS
It should be apparent from what we have written above that the moon does play a very important part in determining the date of “our Passover.” But this contention is true only as relates to the beginning of the month Abib. Once Nisan (or Abib) is determined, then the Bible tersely states that the Passover is to be held on the 14th day of Abib, regardless of the condition of the moon on that date (Ex. 12:6). The moon is always substantially full at Nisan 14, although it sometimes requires a day or two for it to reach complete fullness. Therefore, the Jewish observance of Passover is often a day or two late, because they wait for the moon to become full for their "remembrance" of that great event.
It is in order here to keep in mind that the moon on this occasion represents the Jewish nation. In its coming to the full from the first of the month it well represents the rise of the Jewish nation from obscurity in the days of Abraham to the pinnacle of glory when Jesus came into their midst. “The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up.” (Matt. 4:16) “A new command-ment I write unto you, which thing is true in Him and in you: because the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth.” (1 John. 2:8) But, as soon as they had crucified “the Lord of Glory” the moon began to wane, and with it also went God's favor from the Jews ─ until in the year 70 A.D. Roman Emperor Titus captured Jerusalem and dispersed the Jews to the remote parts of the earth
A HOUSE DESOLATE: Just before Jesus was crucified, He had made that fatal pronouncement upon the Jews; “Your house is left unto you desolate.” (Matt. 23:38) The “house” in this instance includes both the political and religious establishments, but especially so the religious arrangement. When Moses organized the religious ritual at Sinai, he, at the commandment of God, anointed and installed his Brother Aaron as High Priest. At Aaron's death, his eldest son Eleazar succeeded him into that office; and this order was followed in part to the time that Jerusalem was destroyed ─ although it seems the Jews had departed in part at least from that set-up when Jesus came. However, we are told in Hebrew 5:4 that “No man taketh this honor unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron.” Strictly speaking, then, the Jews actually had only one High Priest, Aaron ─ and subsequent heads of that office were merely a succession of Aaron.
Inasmuch as Aaron was from the tribe of Levi, it follows that all his successors must also come from that tribe. But in the dispersion at the year 70 A.D. the “desolation” was so devastating that the Tribe of Levi was completely lost at that time. Therefore, the Jews no longer can have a High Priest in the strict and all-embracing term of that word ─ because they know not which among them are from that tribe. Consequently, their Atonement Day and Passover are merely an exercise in futility, because they need a High Priest for a proper standing before God. However, it is commendable that they do the best they can to celebrate the Atonement Day and Passover each year.
A few days after the “desolate” sentence the Jews were shouting, “Crucify Him,” over Pilate's objection. “When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it. Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children.” (Matt. 27:24,25) And God took them at their word! In the siege of Jerusalem, according to Josephus, 1,337,490 Jews were destroyed; and the prophecy of Jesus in Matt. 24:2 had a very literal fulfillment: “Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.”
It should be noted here that Titus was apparently a brilliant and God-fearing man. The Romans referred to him as “The darling of the human race.” Also, it is recorded of him that he was a close personal friend of Josephus. Titus did not want to sack Jerusalem or destroy the magnificent temple, but the Jews would have no compromise with him, so he spoke to Josephus somewhat after this manner: You go over and plead with them; you are one of their countrymen, and they may listen to you where they will not listen to me. However, when Josephus made the effort it only aroused the ire of those inside the City ─ one of them threw a rock that hit him on the head; and he was carried away as dead ─ although he later revived, and tried to carry on as Titus had suggested.
However, the Jews would not be persuaded, and this left no alternative but to make a tremendous and violent assault, at which the Romans were expert at that time. Following is some of the quotation from Josephus: “The carriage of the materials was a difficult task, since all the trees, as I have already told you, that were about the city, within the distance of a hundred furlongs, had their branches cut off already, in order to make the former banks... Caesar gave orders that they should demolish the entire city and temple, but should leave as many of the towers standing as were of the greatest eminency... and so much of the wall enclosed the city on the west side. This wall was spared, in order to afford a camp for such as were to lie in garrison; as were the towers also spared in order to demonstrate to posterity what kind of city it was, and how well fortified, which the Roman valor had subdued; but for all the rest of the wall, it was so thoroughly laid even with the ground by those that dug it up to the foundation, that there was nothing to make those that came thither believe it had ever been inhabited. This was the end which Jerusalem came to by the madness of those that were for innovations; a city otherwise of great magnificence, and of mighty fame among all mankind.”
Now follows some more from the same historian ─ some time after the foregoing had taken place: “While Titus was at Caesarea, he solemnized the birthday of his brother Domitian after a splendid manner, and inflicted a great deal of the punishment intended for the Jews in honor of him: for the number of those that were now slain in fighting with the beasts, and were burnt, and fought with one another, exceeded two thousand five hundred.”
Thus, their statement, “His blood be on us, and on our children,” was exacted in magnified fulfillment; and gives us a much deeper understanding of the prophecy, “Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her iniquity is pardoned; for she hath received of the Lord's hand double [kephel, as of a thing folded in the middle ─ “I will recompense their iniquity and their sin double unto them”] for all her sins.” Inasmuch as the Jews had had God's special favor for 1845 years, they would receive an equal period of time in reverse ─ “for all her sins.” Reading the record with an unbiased mind, we must come into agreement with the statement of 2 Peter 1:21: “Prophecy came not in old time by the will of man; but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.”
THE PASSOVER ─ TYPE AND ANTITYPE
It should be stressed that there was only one Passover; thus, only one type of “Christ our Passover.” The subsequent observations to this present year have simply been a “memorial” of that original one. “This day shall be unto you for a memorial; and ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance forever.” (Ex. 12:14) “And it shall come to pass, when your children shall say unto you, What mean ye by this service? That ye shall say, It is the sacrifice of the Lord's passover, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt, when he smote the Egyptians, and delivered our houses.” (Ex. 12:26,27) “Thou shalt therefore keep this ordinance in his season from year to year.” (Ex. 13:10)
And just as there was only one typical Passover, so there is only one antitypical Passover ─ “Christ our passover is sacrificed for us.” (1 Cor. 5:7) Jesus is the antitype of the lamb slain in Egypt that night ─ “the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.” When He blessed the bread and the wine at that last supper, He said, “This do in remembrance [as a Memorial] of me.” The outstanding contrast between the Jewish Memorial and the one we keep is that the Jews still eat the lamb at their service; whereas, we use simply the bread and the wine. Nothing is said about wine that night in Egypt, but the Jews now use four cups of wine in their Memorial, the last one being taken “after supper”; and it was that cup that Jesus used to impress upon us the “remembrance” (memorial) of Him.
Be it noted that, while millions of Jews and Christians will in some formal ceremonies and in a perfunctory manner celebrate this great event of history, but few of either religion discern the real significance of the celebration. Could their minds be awakened thoroughly to its true significance, it would start a religious revival such as the world has never yet known. But, as the Apostle declares, "the god of this world" has blinded the minds of many, and even some whose eyes are partially opened he describes as being blind and cannot see afar off, or holden and unable to see the deep things of God in respect to these ceremonies, which have been celebrated in the world now for almost thirty-six hundred years. However, it must be admitted even by the higher critics and agnostics in general that an event so prominently marked, so widely observed for so long a time, must have a foundation in fact. There must have been just such an occurrence in Egypt 3622 years ago: the first-born of Egypt must have perished in that tenth plague, and the first-born of Israel must have been preserved free from it ─ all that observed the rule to remain "under the blood" ─ else this widespread celebration of the event would have been inexplicable.
Perhaps all of our readers know of most of the particulars connected with the institution: The Israelites held in a measure of serfdom by the Egyptians until, in the Lord's providence, the time came for their deliverance, how their masters sought selfishly to maintain their bondage, refusing to let them go forth to the land of Canaan. During the year the Lord sent nine different plagues ─ one after another ─ upon the Egyptians, relieving them one after another when their king craved mercy and made promises which he afterwards broke. Finally Moses, the servant of the Lord, announced a great crowning disaster: The firstborn of every family in Egypt would die in that one night ─ in the home of the humblest peasant, as well as in the king's palace, there should be mourning, as a result of which they would be glad finally to yield and let the Israelites go ─ yea, urge them to go, and in haste, lest the Lord should ultimately bring death upon the entire people, if their king continued to harden his heart and resist the Divine mandate.
The first three plagues were common to all in Egypt, including the district in which the Israelites resided; the next six plagues did not affect the district occupied by the Israelites; and the last, the tenth plague, was declared to be common to the entire land of Egypt, including the land of the Israelites, except as the latter should show faith and obedience by providing a sacrificial lamb, whose blood was to be sprinkled upon the sides and lintels of their doorways, and whose flesh was to be eaten in the same night, with bitter herbs and unleavened bread, the eaters standing staff in hand and girded ready for the journey ─ with full expectancy that the Lord would smite the first-born of the Egyptians with death, and make them readily willing to let the Israelites go, and with the faith that they would share in this calamity, were it not for the blood on their door-posts and lintels.
The Israelites were commanded to celebrate this as the first feature of the Jewish Law, and one of their greatest memorials as a nation. As a matter of fact, we find that in some degree the Passover is celebrated by Jews in all parts of the world ─ even by those who claim to be agnostics and infidels. We might add here that the same tendency grips most of them for the Atonement-Day service also. We personally have known Jews who make no pretense of observing Jewish rituals, yet they would go to the orthodox synagogue on Atonement day ─ in sackcloth and ashes ─ with the explanation to us that, if that one day would make their father happy, they might as well do it, although we were forced to believe that the superstitution was with them that “bad luck” might be their portion if they did not go along with the crowd. Inherently, they still have a measure of respect for it as an ancient custom.
But is it not strange that, with the bright minds which many of them possess, the Jews have never thought it worthwhile to inquire about the meaning of this celebration? Why was the lamb slain and eaten? Why was its blood sprinkled upon the door-posts and lintels? Because it was the commandment of the Lord, of course; but what reason, motive, object or lesson was there behind it all? A reasonable God has reasonable commands; and in due time His faithful people should understand the significance of every requirement. Why are the Hebrews indifferent to this subject? Why does deep prejudice hold their minds? We know, of course, that “blindness has happened in part to Israel” until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in ─ that they are now shortly to receive the light and joy from a full understanding of this drama of the Ages. None like it has ever been imagined by the fiction writers; it is beyond the skill of any of them ─ which is another reason why we must conclude that it is a Divine operation and performance.
Although Christianity itself has the answer to the foregoing questions, yet few Christians have a clear understanding of them. This even applies to many of the Protestant ministers, who know about Paul's mention of “Christ our Passover,” but do not seem capable of fitting type and antitype together. If the Jew can realize that his Sabbath of rest from the various vexations of life is a shadow of better things to come (Heb. 10:1), why does he not also conclude that the other features of the Law given through Moses are typical? Jesus Himself emphasized this point in very clear and understandable words: “Till heaven and earth shall pass away, one iota or one tip of a letter shall by no means pass from the law, till all be accomplished.” (Matt. 5:18, Dia.)
But “blindness in part” has befallen to Jew and Gentile alike (Rom. 11:25), as they fail fully to comprehend that the Passover lamb typified ─ represented ─ the “Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.” It needs no argument that the blood on the door-posts and lintel that fateful night in Egypt did protect the Jews that night from the fatal ravages of sin, and in the following day when they left Egypt (type of the world in sin) with a “high hand.” And just as the Jews were protected that night by their lamb, so have Christians throughout this Age been shielded from the fatal effects of sin by our Lamb “which taketh away the sin of the world.”
It requires no great imagination or profound learning to fit together the foregoing with St. Paul's words in Heb. 12:23, where he speaks of Christians as the “Church of the firstborn” and the words of the Apostle James (1:18): “We should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.” Self-evidently, this would imply after-borns and after-fruits. While the sprinkled blood obligated only the firstborn, yet all the other Jews were likewise delivered from Egypt in that performance; and that nation typified the entire human race that will eventually come into harmony with God during the Kingdom. “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.” This is vividly shown in the miraculous protection received by every Jew in the passage over the Red Sea ─ not one Jew was lost that day, although the entire Egyptian army was destroyed.
As stated above, St. Paul clearly and positively identifies the Passover lamb with our Lord Jesus: “Christ our Passover is slain for us; therefore, let us keep the feast.” (1 Cor. 5:7,8) And as the Jews were to keep their Passover once a year, so it is with the antitype ─ it is also to be celebrated once a year. It goes without saying that all who come into the Lord's “house” need the blood of sprinkling, not upon our residences, but upon the tables of our hearts. “The blood of Jesus Christ his son cleanseth us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7) And, as the Jews ate literal unleavened bread with their lamb that night, so we also partake of our Lamb with the unleavened bread of “sincerity and truth.” (l Cor. 5:8) Thus, we “put on Christ” as we grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus. As the Jews ate the lamb that night with “bitter herbs” (which whetted their appetites for more lamb), so the Christian partakes of his Lamb with symbolic bitter herbs ─ the punishing trials of life through the sins of ourselves and those of others.
Our Lord Jesus also personally identified Himself with the Jewish Passover lamb at the last Supper before He died. He gathered His disciples together in the upper room, saying “With desire have I desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” (Luke 22:15) As Jews, it was necessary that they should celebrate the Passover supper on that night ─ the saving of the typical first-born from the typical prince of this world. However, as soon as they had finished eating the lamb with all the pertinences, Jesus instituted a new Memorial upon the old foundation, saying, “As often as you do this do it in remembrance of Me.” (1 Cor. 11:24,25) And, while their Jewish neighbors, who did not accept “our Lamb,” would go on keeping the typical arrangement each year, as the faithful covenant-keeping Jews still do today. But that was the last typical Passover for the disciples; henceforth they would partake of the bread and wine “in newness of life” each year ─ with the eating of the actual lamb, etc., only a memory of the past with them.
Jesus was emphatic that the disciples should no longer keep the typical celebration, as He took the bread and the wine and told them to use these “in remembrance of Me.” His blood would be shed the next morning; and the cup ─ the wine ─ would be a fitting reminder of what they had done that night. Of course, the apostles knew very well what their future Passovers would be: the bread and the wine once each year on the typical Passover date.
This practice was followed once every year as long as the Apostles remained alive, after which a great falling away occurred ─ as foretold by St. Paul in 2 Thes. 2:3: “That day shall not come, except there come a falling away first.” This “falling away” occurred during the Dark Ages ─ a time of such confusion that there is no reliable history for much of it. However, the truth that Christ was the antitypical Passover Lamb persisted even then, though the celebration itself as given by Jesus that last night fell into disuse, the Mass taking its place. Although Protestants in general have repudiated the Mass, as being wholly contrary to what Jesus commanded, yet they are still somewhat influenced by it, as their practice shows.
Many Protestants will innocently ask (not grasping the connection between the Jewish Passover and “Christ our Passover”), Is not the Mass merely the Eucharist, the Lord's Supper, under another name? We would answer that it is wholly different: The Lord's Supper celebrates the death of Christ accomplished at Calvary, but the Mass represents a new sacrifice for sins made every time it is performed. Our Roman Catholic friends believe that when the priest blesses the wafer it becomes the actual body of Christ in his hands, thus sacrificing Him afresh. High Mass is a particular sacrifice of Christ for a particular sin of a particular individual; whereas Low Mass is a sacrifice of Christ for the general sins of a congregation.
Roman Catholics claim to believe in the merit of Christ's sacrifice at Calvary, that it covered original sin and general sins that are past up to baptism; but they claim also that the subsequent daily sins, shortcomings, blemishes of every individual, require to be cleansed by fresh sacrifices of Christ from time to time. Thus, from their standpoint, as represented in the Mass, and as practiced by Roman Catholics and Greek Catholics and high Church Episcopalians, Christ is being sacrificed afresh all the world over every day. However, this is in direct contradiction to St. Paul's words, “Christ dieth no more” (Rom. 6:9); He accomplished full sacrifice for sin in His death on the cross.
Once this matter is clearly understood, it requires no great imagination to recognize that the repeated sacrifices represented in the Mass would have the general effect of minimizing the value of the great sacrifice at Calvary as represented in the Passover and its Memorial Supper. Certainly those who come to regard the Mass as the cancellation of their sins could hardly be expected to look with deep concern and high appreciation as otherwise to the antitypical Passover ─ He that perished on the cross. Of course, the celebration of Good Friday continues to this day throughout Christendom, but the true celebration of the Lord's Supper preceding it fell into disuse long ago, with its meaning almost completely lost.
Protestants generally have repudiated the Mass centuries ago, but they have substituted the Lord's Supper in its place. But, accustomed to the frequency of the Mass, they consider it but a matter of expediency how often the Lord's Supper should be kept; hence, we find some celebrating it every four months, some every three months, some every month, and some every Sunday ─ usually in the morning; whereas the proper time is after six p.m. in the evening. Did they realize that Jesus is “Christ our Passover” ─ “the Lamb of God” ─ they would then give heed to Ex. 12:6: “The whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening.” And it was in the evening of Nisan 14 ─ after Jesus and the Apostles had kept the Passover ─ that the Memorial (“remembrance of Me”) was established by Jesus blessing the bread and the wine ─ “My body, My blood.”
Also, Christians generally have misconstrued the Lord's words, “As oft as ye do this,” to mean, Do this as often as you please; whereas the words really signify, You, My disciples (all Jews are accustomed to keeping the Passover once each year), keep this antitypical Memorial ─ once each year on the same day and hour as you have done for the typical Memorial of the Passover in Egypt.
“By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.” (Heb. 13:15)
(Brother John J. Hoefle, Reprint 261, March 1977)
DO NOTHING WHEREBY THY BROTHER STUMBLETH
“It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor anything whereby thy brother stumbled, or is offended, or is made weak.” (Romans 14:21)
Very evidently the Apostle was not in these words endeavoring to put any bounds upon the liberties of God's people. Elsewhere he declares that the liberty of Christ makes us free. But he points out that while we have liberty to do things not sinful and not injurious to ourselves, yet it is part of our privilege and of our contract with the Lord to abstain from anything which would be injurious to others; and that we should seek to regulate our lives so as to be a help to others and not use our liberty merely for the flesh, for self-gratification. We are representatives of righteousness and should so deal with others, “Doing good unto all men, especially unto those who are of the household of faith.” (Gal. 6: 10)
In this text the Apostle is not referring to a matter where there might be merely a difference of opinion as between meat and vegetable diet. Such a question each should decide for himself. If one finds a flesh diet injurious to him, he should abstain. If, on the contrary, he finds that flesh diet is beneficial to him, he should use it. The Apostle's thought in connection with the eating of meat was in reference to religious convictions. In his time it was the custom for people to eat meat which had been offered to idols. No Jew would care to eat such meat. With a Christian it would be different. He would understand that it did not affect the meat to wave it before wooden idols, etc. Yet the Apostle goes on to show that to some it would seem a crime to eat meat that had been offered to an idol.
The Apostle's thought is that our conscience is the most important thing we have to deal with and should always be obeyed. The brother who would violate some one's conscience by eating the meat would be stumbling and harming that person. Thus a stronger brother would injure a weaker brother. And this was what the Apostle meant. In the case of a brother who could not see as clearly as we, not only should we not seek to break down his conscience, but we should not permit even our influence to break it down.
It would be very proper for us in the case of a weak brother to explain the matter from our standpoint. This would not be seeking to break down his conscience, but to educate it. Then, if he should eat such meat with impunity ─ without the disapprobation of his conscience ─ we have thus made him a strong brother rather than a weak one; and this should be to his advantage. The Apostle urges that we should be on the lookout for the interests of the brethren.
SELF-DENIAL IN THE INTEREST OF OTHERS
St. Paul here is evidently laying down a broad principle of self-denial in the interest of others ─ a principle which applies primarily to the church, but also to the world. He applies this principle, not merely to religion and to eating meat offered to idols, but he extends the matter, saying, “It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor anything whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.”
There might be some weak brother to whom wine might be a great temptation, a snare. The Apostle urges that, while there is nothing in the Scripture to forbid the use of wine, and while he really recommended it to Timothy, whose stomach was weak, nevertheless, our liberties should be limited by the surroundings. We know that wine was used much more then than now, and is much more used in Europe than in this country; nevertheless, we know that the effect of alcohol is much more hurtful to the nerves of people now, because the race is so much weaker than in our Lord's day.
When there was no particular danger along this line our Lord and the Apostles seem to have used these things with moderation. They also counseled moderation ─ “Whether, therefore, ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31); and we should not use our liberty in any way that would stumble a brother in any sense of the word. God's people are to have love, to be willing to sacrifice self-gratification in the interest of others.
So far as we are able to discern, intoxication is one of the most terrible evils scourging our race at the present time. Many are so weak through the fall, by heredity, that they are totally unable to resist the influence of intoxicants. Is it too much to ask of those who have consecrated their lives to the Lord, to righteousness and to the blessing of others, that they should deny themselves in this matter, and thus lay down some liberties and privileges in the interest of the brethren, and of the world in general?
Similar arguments might be used respect-ing the use of tobacco, cards and the various implements which the adversary uses in luring mankind into sin. The whole, be it noted, is the argument of love. In proportion as we grow in the graces of our Lord, in his spirit of love, we shall be glad, not only to put away all filthiness of the flesh for our own sakes, thus to be more like the Lord, but also, at the instance of love, we shall desire to put away from us everything that might have an evil influence upon others, whatever we might consider our personal liberties to be in respect to them.
Another illustration of this principle would be in the observance of Sunday. The Jews thought it wrong even to build a fire on the Sabbath; and anyone who was found picking up sticks on that day was stoned to death. We do not consider it wrong to do on Sunday whatever might be done on other days. But would it be wise to use this liberty? Our conduct might have an injurious effect upon others and so discount all that we could say to them along religious lines. They would say: “These people are not good. They do not keep God's holy day.” They would not understand.
It would be well for us to keep Sunday more particularly than any other people in the world. In fact, we very likely keep it better than others; and this is right. This error of Christendom has worked good for us. We can have a day full of spiritual enjoyment. If the world understood it as we do there would be no Sunday to keep. On our part we would be very glad if there could be three or four Sundays in a week. In fact, with us, every day should be Sunday. We are seeking to serve God, the main object of life being to preach the Gospel, and to enjoy the “good tidings” ─ the message of God's Word.
Our relationship to God is that of the new creation, a heart relationship; and the blessing which the Lord gives us is as newly begotten children ─ not along lines of the flesh, but along the lines of the spiritual and of heart development, which shall ultimately be perfected in the resurrection.
True, whom the Son makes free “shall be free indeed” (John 8:36), and we should all seek to “Stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free” (Gal. 5:1); but it is also true that we should be on guard lest we use our liberty in such a manner as to stumble others weaker than ourselves, not able to use the liberty of Christ discriminatingly, some-times through lack of knowledge.
The liberty wherewith Christ makes free may be viewed from two standpoints; if it gives us liberty to eat without restraint, in a manner that the Jews were not at liberty to eat, it gives us liberty also to abstain; and whoever has the Spirit of Christ and is seeking to follow in his steps has already covenanted with the Lord to use his liberty, not in the promotion of his fleshly desires, ambitions and appetites, but in self-sacrifice, following in the footsteps of the Master, seeking to lay down his life, even, on behalf of the brethren ─ for their assistance. How different are these two uses of liberty! Its selfish use ─ as well as the selfish use of knowledge ─ would mean self-gratification, regardless of the interests of others; the loving use would prompt to self-sacrifice in the interests of others.
OUR RESPONSIBILITY TO OUR BROTHER
Knowledge does not necessarily mean a great growth in spirituality. A mite of soap will make a very large air bubble; and so a comparatively little knowledge might puff one up greatly, without any solidity of character. There is, therefore, great advantage in measuring one's self by growth in love rather than by growth merely in knowledge – though, of course, to be great in both knowledge and love would be the ideal condition. The Apostle inculcates this same lesson, asserting, “Though I have all knowledge and have not love I am nothing.”
Knowledge without love would be an injury; and to consider it otherwise would imply that real knowledge has not yet been secured; but to the contrary of this the same Apostle says, “If any man love God, the same is known of him.” (1 Cor. 13:2; 8:3) We might have a great deal of knowledge and yet not know God and not be known or recognized by him; but no one can have a large development of true love in his character without personally knowing the Lord and having obtained the spirit of love through fellowship with him. Hence the getting of love is sure to build us up substantially (thus avoiding the inflation of pride) in all the various graces of the Spirit, including meekness, gentleness, patience, longsuffering, brotherly-kindness, knowledge, wisdom from above and the spirit of a sound mind.
Love, after securing knowledge and liberty, will look about to see what effect the use of liberty might have upon others; and will perceive that by reason of differing mental conditions ─ perceptions, reasoning faculties, etc. ─ all could not have exactly the same standpoint of knowledge and appreciation of principles. Love, therefore, would forbid the use of knowledge and liberty if it perceived that their exercise might work injury to another.
EVERY VIOLATION OF CONSCIENCE WRONG
But why? What principle is involved that would make it incumbent upon one whose conscience is clear to consider the conscience of another? Why not let the person of a weak conscience take care of his own conscience, and eat or abstain from eating as he felt disposed? The Apostle explains that this would be right ─ if it were possible; but that the person of weaker mind, feebler reasoning powers, is likely to be weaker in every respect and, hence, more susceptible to the leadings of others, into paths which his conscience could not approve, because of his weaker reasoning powers or inferior knowledge.
One might, without violation of con-science, eat meat that had been offered to idols, or even sit at a feast in an idol temple, without injury to his conscience; but the other feeling that such a course was wrong, might endeavor to follow the example of his stronger brother, and thus might violate his conscience, which would make the act a sin to him.
Every violation of conscience, whether the thing itself be right or wrong, is a step in the direction of willful sin. It is a downward course, leading further and further away from the communion and fellowship of the Lord, and into grosser transgressions of conscience and, hence, possibly leading to the second death. Thus the Apostle presents the matter: “And through thy knowledge shall the weak one perish ─ the brother for whom Christ died?” The question is not, Would it be a sin to eat the meat offered to idols? but, Would it be a sin against the spirit of love, the law of the new creation, to do anything which could reasonably prove a cause of stumbling to our brother, not only to the brethren in Christ, the church, but even to a fellow-creature according to the flesh? ─ for Christ died for the sins of the whole world.
Let us take our stand with the Lord and determine that, in regard to using our liberties in any manner that might do injury to others, we will refuse so to use them; and will rather sacrifice them for the benefit of others, even as our Master, our Redeemer, gave all that he had. Let us adopt the words of the Apostle and determine once for all that anything that would injure a brother we will not do ─ any liberty of ours, however reasonable in itself, that would work our brother's injury, that liberty we will not exercise; we will surrender it in his interest; we will sacrifice it; we will to that extent lay down our life for him.
”Thus sinning against the brethren, and wounding their conscience when it is weak, ye sin against Christ. Wherefore, if meat maketh my brother to stumble, I will eat no flesh forevermore, that I make not my brother to stumble.” (1 Cor. 8:13,RV.)
(Pastor Russell, Reprint 4919, 4923, November 15, 1911)