“As ye therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him, rooted and built up in Him, and established in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.” (Colossians 2:6,7)
The context from which our text is taken seems to show that the Apostle is contrasting with the Gospel hope the various hopes which might go to establish one in some kind of faith, some kind of belief, some kind of course in life. But he is addressing those especially who have already accepted Jesus Christ as God's Representative ─ those who believe that God has sent His Son into the world to be the Redeemer of the race of Adam, and by and by to be the Deliverer of mankind from the power of sin and death. All those who are in Christ Jesus have received Him with this under-standing. This is the only Message which God has sent; this is “the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” (Jude 3)
DIVINE VS. HUMAN MESSAGE
The Apostle Paul urged those to whom he wrote to continue in this faith, and not to try to combine earthly philosophy with this Heavenly Message. As they had received Christ as God's Anointed and their Sufficiency in all things ─ One “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col.2:3), in whom “dwelleth all the fullness of the Deity bodily” (Col.2:9, Dia.) ─ so they were to walk. As they had recognized Him as the Heavenly Teacher, so they were to continue to make progress in the same way. They were not to think for one moment that any human teaching could be mixed with the Divine Message; for any other doctrine would serve only to confuse the Heavenly Message in the minds of the hearers.
This would not mean, however, that the teachings of the Apostles were to be ignored, for the Master especially informed the Church that His Twelve Apostles would be His mouthpieces. It would, however, guard us against any supposition that there would be any other teaching or any other Church to take the place of Jesus and His Apostles. To these He declared that whatsoever things they would bind on earth would be bound in Heaven, and whatsoever things they would loose on earth would be loosed in Heaven (Matt. 16:19).
DEVELOPMENT OF THE SPIRITUAL PLANT
Having stated the matter in this way, the Apostle then uses a forceful illustration to show how we are to progress in Christ. St. Paul gives us the picture of a tree, the root of which goes downward and the trunk of which reaches upward, to obtain that nourishment which will give it strength and stability. As the roots of a tree push themselves downward and imbibe the nutriment of the soil, while at the same time the trunk and the branches reach up into the atmosphere to obtain through the leaves the necessary elements of growth, so the mentality of the Christian takes hold of the great and precious promises of the Word of God, while at the same time he is building character through his heart appreciation of these promises, in connection with the experiences of life. The roots of faith push down deep into the knowledge of the Divine Plan, while the tree of character grows higher and higher, developing and maturing the rich fruits of the Holy Spirit of God; for instruction is a form of construction.
While the Christian is thus growing up in character-likeness to our Redeemer, and his roots of faith are reaching deep down into the deep things of the Word of God, he is becoming established, settled. A tree that is well rooted in the earth is hard to uproot. It has a wonderful strength, a wonderful hold upon the earth, and requires years to die out. So it is with the Christian whose faith has been properly established; he should be so fixed, so established in the promises of God's Word, that no wind of doctrine could overturn his faith.
Whoever is continually looking around for something new is thus demonstrating the fact that he is not established in the Faith. Having once made sure that the Divine Plan is the Plan of God, we should not permit ourselves to be moved away from that position. On all Christians who are thus rooted and grounded in the Scriptures the theories of our day ─ Evolution, Christian Science, New Thought, etc. ─ have no effect whatever. No Christian growth will be developed nor spiritual life retained unless the soul becomes fixed and settled in the Truth as it is in Christ Jesus.
ONE CAUSE OF SPIRITUAL DECAY
When once we have seen the Plan of God as revealed in Jesus, and have given ourselves to God and the study of His Word, the only way to retain our spiritual life is to continue in this doctrine, to root ourselves in this soil and remain there. We are not to seek other fields with the thought that we can receive additional nourishment there, and that an admixture of other elements with what we have will be advantageous. No theories will mix with the Lord's Plan. It is complete; it needs no assistance from other systems of belief. Any attempt to incorporate with it theories and ideas of men will only destroy its value. We can never become rooted and built up in Christ by such a course; our spiritual decay, and finally our spiritual death would be the result.
No child of God can be carried about by every wind of doctrine; nor can he indulge in a morbid curiosity as to what this or that new theory may teach. To do so is very dangerous to the spirituality of a Christian. For one who has never known the Truth there might be some reason for such a course, but for one who has once thoroughly proven what is the Truth in Christ to go hunting around for new pastures in which to feed, there is no excuse. Either he has never been established in Christ, or else he has fallen into a spiritual decline. There is an exhaustless field for thought and for mental and spiritual activity in the Plan of God in all its varied features.
As a tree does not breathe the same element at all times, and as it is not always flooded with sunshine, but needs also the rains and storms for its development, so the child of God needs varied experiences and sometimes change of environment to best develop all the fruits of the Holy Spirit. The great Husbandman knows just what experiences and surroundings each one of his "trees" needs ─ how much sunshine, how much rain, how much cold and how much heat, how much pruning ─ and He will supply just what is best adapted to each case. He knows how to vary these conditions, environments, etc., without disturbing the process of rooting and upbuilding, but developing it. This we do not know how to accomplish, but would bring upon ourselves spiritual disaster. So we need to keep ourselves continually under the care of the skilful Husbandman and earnestly cooperate with Him, that we may grow and become strong and immovable ─ firmly established.
DEPTH OF ROOT SHOWN IN VIGOR AND FRUITAGE
The depth and the spread of the roots of a tree are shown by the vigor and the fruitage of the tree. A tree that is not deeply and firmly grounded can neither bring forth rich, luscious fruit nor furnish cool, refreshing shade to man. Depth of root is absolutely essential. So the Christian's faith must be deeply grounded in Christ; and thus shall we also grow up into Him, learning more and more what is the Divine will as expressed in Him. The rooting process is unseen, and can be judged only by its outward manifestations. When there is luxuriant foliage there is good rooting. But the growth must not stop there; fruit must be borne. And so the spiritual life of the child of God will manifest itself more and more in its likeness to Christ. He will bear rich clusters of fruit, which should become more choice in quality and size year by year (Jer. 17:7,8).
We sometimes see Christians who have little knowledge of worldly things and yet have deep spirituality, very deep rooting and grounding in Christ, a clear insight into the deep things of God, and a rich Christian experience. Perhaps their knowledge of the usages of polite society is less than that of many others of their brethren; they may have had fewer opportunities to learn all these details; and yet their ripe attainments in Christ may shame some who are more outwardly correct according to the social standards of the world. How careful we should be that our standards of judgment and our estimates of character are fashioned after the pattern of the Master; that we look beneath the surface; that we note rather the real essential traits, than any outward peculiarities of the flesh which in the sight of the Lord would have no weight in deciding the quality of the character or the place in the Kingdom.
The Apostle urges that we become established in the faith. This term refers to “the faith which was once delivered to the saints” ─ the one Faith. This is to hold at all costs. Satan will attempt to divert our minds into other channels, to draw our attention to some new thing. But the Plan of God, the Truth of God, as revealed in Jesus Christ our Lord, is but one. It is given us for our instruction in righteousness, “that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto every good work.” (2 Tim. 3:17) It is not the truth of Geometry or Trigonometry or Geology or Astronomy or any other science that we are to be diligent to study and be grounded and built up in, but God's Word (John 17:17). These other truths are very well in their way, but we have little time to study these now. We shall have all eternity in which to learn all the wonders of creation, but now we are to apply ourselves especially to the mastery of spiritual Truth, the deep things of the Mystery of God, revealed to His saints for a specific purpose.
AN ESTABLISHED CHRISTIAN IS NOT A BIGOT
The Truth embraces all the Scriptural teachings relative to Christ and His work and our relationship to Him. We are to abide therein with thanksgiving. We should familiarize ourselves with the different features of this Truth more and more. We should be clear in regard to what our Lord taught and why He taught it, and should know how to connect the different parts of the Truth into a harmonious whole. We are to be thoroughly furnished. We are heartily to appreciate the loving kindness of our God in revealing to us these glorious things, and to realize that we did not originate them ourselves, nor was any man the originator of them but the Lord Himself. They are the Gift of God to us, and we are to be most thankful for this great Gift, to guard it jealously as a priceless treasure, and to let our light shine to the glory of God's Name.
The general sentiment among the teachers of false doctrine, and even among the world in general, who do not believe in the necessity or the advisability of being established in faith, is that to be established is to be bigoted. Those who are so unfair in mind as to receive and tenaciously hold what they have never proven, either by sound logic or by the authority of the Word of God, are rightly called bigots. But one who in simple, child-like faith accepts and firmly holds to what God has inspired, what He has caused to be written in His Word for our instruction is not a bigot, but a strong, established character, and will stand when all the structures built upon the numerous theories and imaginings of men shall have fallen. The great Day now upon us is trying every man's character-structure, of what sort it is, and but very few even among professed Christians, will stand the test.
The few who will pass safely through this crucial trial without loss are those only who have become established in the Truth of God, “rooted and grounded and built up into Christ.” The difference between a strong and steadfast Christian and a bigot is that one is established in Truth, and the other is established in error. The “fire” of this Day will continue to burn and to manifest the great difference between the two classes, until all have been tested and tried and found worthy or unworthy.
IMPORTANCE OF SELF-SCRUTINY
The Apostles words in our text lead each child of God back to the time when he first made his own consecration. Under what conditions did we come into Christ? We recall that it required much humility on our part to acknowledge that we were sinners, utterly unable to save ourselves. Some seem to forget the way in which they started. They started with faith and humility and meekness, and with the desire to be truly built up into the Master's likeness. But they seem by degrees to lose sight of this, and begin to grow in another direction than straight upward into the fullness of Christ.
Truth is to become brighter and fuller and more luminous as we go onward. To this end, we must keep close to the Word and in line with His Program. The Lord will not accept little, undeveloped sprouts for the Kingdom, but He wants those that have grown and matured ─ strong, sturdy “trees of righteousness.” (Isa. 61:3)
Delve into the promises of God more and more. As you do this, the roots of faith will draw up the nutriment and send it out into your life, and you will grow, just as a tree grows, because nourished, fed. Thus alone will you become established in THE FAITH, and not in your imaginings nor the imaginings of others. Our faith is to grow stronger and more vigorous day by day. It is not to be a faith in ourselves or in anything apart from the Lord. Faith is what we started with in the beginning, and we shall need it in increasing measure as we go on in our upward way ─ faith in God and His sure Word. All that we know as children of the Lord has come to us through the channel of Jesus, His holy Apostles, and the Prophets of old, and we are to continue feeding at this same table with thanksgiving.
We are not to feel a spirit of bondage, and say to ourselves, “I would like to ramble outside; I do not like to confine myself merely to what the Bible teaches. I would like more liberty.” This disposition is not the spirit of a true follower of Christ. Such sentiments encouraged would lead to utter spiritual disaster. All such temptations, if they come, must be promptly and positively resisted. Our spirit should be one of deepest gratitude and thankfulness that we have been granted this glorious Divine Revelation. Following thus in the Lord's way we find the only true joy, and can make the only true progress. “1f ye do these things, ye shall never fall, for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly in the everlasting Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Pet. 1:10,11)
“But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever. Amen.” (2 Pet. 3:17,18)
But what is it to grow in grace? It is to grow in favor with the Lord through an intimate personal acquaintance and fellowship of spirit with him. It implies, first, a knowledge and recognition on our part of our redemption through the precious blood and a personal faith in and dependence upon all the promises of the Father made to us through Him, and then an intimate communion with Him in our daily life of prayer, and of observation of His will and obedience to it. If such be our constant attitude of mind and heart, there must be a constant ripening of the fruits of the spirit, rendering us more and more pleasing and acceptable to our Lord. A sense of the Divine acceptance and favor is given to us from day to day in increasing measure, in fulfillment of that blessed promise of our Lord, “If a man love me he will keep my words; and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him and make our abode with him.” (John 14:23)
This as nearly as words can express it, is what it is to grow in grace; but the full and blessed understanding of it is best appreciated by those who from day to day walk with God in faith and obedience and love.
To grow thus in grace and not grow in knowledge is impossible; for the very object of such communion is to build us up in a more perfect knowledge and acquaintance with the Lord ─ to bring us into closer fellowship with the Divine Plan. 1f, therefore, we love and obey the Lord and desire to grow in His favor, His written Word is our daily meditation and study; and thus we grow in knowledge; not, however, by finding out each year that what we learned last year was false, but adding to what we learned until we realize its glorious completeness in the full discernment of the Divine Plan of the Ages. We are then ready to do valiant service for the cause of Truth in withstanding the encroachment of error (Eph. 6:10-13), being established, strengthened and settled in the faith (1 Pet. 5:10). But even to those thus established in the faith there is abundant opportunity to grow in knowledge; for while they will see nothing new or different in outline or design, they will be continually charmed and cheered with newly discovered lines of harmony and beauty in the Divine drawings of the wonderful Plan of the Ages. As pupils we may ever study the master workmanship of the Divine Architect.
"KEEP YOURSELVES IN THE LOVE OF GOD"
Knowledge is valuable, but only incidentally; of itself the Apostle assures us knowledge would be inclined to puff us up, make us vain and boastful, and this quite out of harmony with the spirit of God, the spirit of love, meekness, gentleness. Knowledge might make us merely tinkling cymbals giving out a sound, but possessing no real merit in the Lord’s sight. But knowledge, when it serves its proper purpose, brings us to the appreciation of the love that is of God, and to a realization of the wisdom of copying His character, that we should seek so far as possible to be like our Father which is in heaven, copies of His dear Son, our Lord.
Undoubtedly love is the principal thing to be studied, to be appreciated, to be copied and practiced in our lives. We trust that a large proportion of our readers have already become partakers of this “love of God,” and that all such are seeking to have it perfected in them, and to be rooted and grounded in it. We have the Apostle's assurance that only those who take this standpoint can make permanent and thorough progress in grace and knowledge. Those who have entered the school of Christ, and who refuse to progress in it toward perfection, may assuredly expect that sooner or later their knowledge of the Divine Plan will slip from them; while those who do make progress in this proper direction may expect that the lengths and breadths of the Divine Plan will continue opening before them, and that their growth in knowledge will keep pace with their growth in love.
Let us see then that we have the faith of Christ ─ the faith well founded in the Word of God, a faith examined and proved, deeply rooted in the heart as well as in the head, and therefore established as the motive power of life. Such a faith is not nervously looking about for something new, and always probing the vain philosophies of men to see how skillfully they can withstand the Word of the Lord; for those who do so show plainly that their faith is not of sufficient influence to be the moving power in them, impelling them onward to full and complete victory over the world, the flesh and the Adversary.
The above has all been gleaned from That Servant's writings, and, of course, was directed more especially to the Saints, who were being gathered at the time these words were written. But we earnestly believe that this counsel is very much applicable to the unbegotten class here in the end of the Age. These, whom we call Youthful Worthies, can apply all of this advice to themselves, the only difference being that they do not have spirit begettal. Each individual, no matter of what class he considers himself to be of, should strive to reach as near to the standard given as he is capable of doing.
GOD IN THE HOME
“As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15)
Do not understand us to teach that the world's opportunity for life everlasting or death everlasting is now. “God hath appointed a day in which he will judge the world,” grant the world a judgment or trial or test. That great day is future. It is the day of Christ, a thousand years long. It will be a glorious opportunity! Present right doing and right thinking, or wrong doing and wrong thinking will have much to do with the condition of every man and woman at that time. He or she will enter upon that Day of blessing and opportunity either from a higher or a lower standpoint, proportionately as he or she has acted wisely and conscientiously at the present time.
But nothing that the world can do can interfere with God's great proposition, that a full opportunity for life or death eternal shall then come to every member of the race, because Christ died for the ungodly. The only class to whom present life means life or death eternal is the Church. And by the Church, we mean, not church attendants, nor outward professors, but those who have entered into a covenant with God through Christ and who have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, tasting of the good word of God and the powers of the Age to come. If these should fall away, the Apostle forewarns us, it would be impossible to renew them again unto repentance. And there will be no home for them with the world in the world's trial day because they already have enjoyed their share of the merit of Christ's death.
A GREAT PRIVILEGE
When, therefore, we speak of God and the home, we have in mind a family composed exclusively of Saints who daily and hourly are following their great Redeemer's footsteps in self-denial, in sacrifice, in the narrow way which leads to glory, honor and immortality and association with the Redeemer in His glorious Kingdom which is to bless the world for a thousand years.
We believe the Bible teaches that there are many of the world who are reverential, kind and just to a large degree, who are not saints, who have not presented their bodies living sacrifices to God, who have not been begotten of His Holy Spirit, and not, therefore, members of that "little flock to whom it is the Father's good pleasure to give the Kingdom" ─ in joint-heirship with their Redeemer and Head. To this latter class our Master evidently referred when He said to His followers, “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”
To live righteously, soberly and godly in this present world to the extent of one's ability is what everyone should do ─ no less. To live a life of sacrifice ─ to lay down our lives for the brethren, for the truth, in the service of the Lord, is another matter, which justice does not require, and which the Bible nowhere enjoins upon mankind. It is pointed out as a privilege to those who desire it, and glory, honor and immortality on the spirit plane is the reward attached to this invitation or High Calling. It is the selection of this special class of consecrated ones that is the particular order in the Divine program at the present time, because the faithful, the elect, the “overcomers” of this class are to be the associates of the Redeemer in His great work of uplifting the world and restoring all the willing and obedient to human perfection, to an earthly Eden home everlasting in which God's will shall “be done on earth as it is done in heaven.”
AN INUNDATION OF UNBELIEF
In our day the shackles of ignorance and superstition are breaking. Men, women and children are beginning to think for themselves. They no longer believe the fairy tales of childhood. The dreadful hobgoblins and nightmares of the Dark Ages respecting purgatory and eternal torture are doubted by all, and by the great mass totally disbelieved. What have they now to attach them to the Almighty since they have never been taught the love of God, the lengths and breadths and height and depths passing all human understanding? This is the world's great need ─ to know God as He really is, a father, a friend, a God of love! And to thus know Him the people need to be taught how seriously they were mistaught in the past along the lines of hell and purgatory.
How could they ever truly love and worship a God of injustice and of hate ─ one inferior to themselves ─ one who knew, foreordained and prepared for their torture before they were born. They must see that these things taught by the creeds of the Dark Ages are wholly at variance with the Bible, else they will never come back to the Bible nor be able to see its teachings in their true light. They must be taught that the sin and death, sorrow and trouble all around us are the wage or penalty of Father Adam's disobedience. They must learn that God purposes a blessing and uplifting which will be as world-wide as the curse.
Many religious leaders today deny that there is a personal God, and ascribe everything to a great Nothing, which they designate Nature-god. Is it surprising, in view of the fact that these teachings are being promulgated in the universities, colleges and theological seminaries, in the high schools and even to some extent in the common schools ─ is it any wonder that the rising generation is losing its God?
AWAKENED PARENTAL RESPONSIBILITY
It is high time that parents realize the true situation ─ it is almost too late now. The seeds of unbelief already sown in the minds of the rising generation are being watered continually and are growing. All who love their families, all who love mankind in general, should awaken to the fact that a world that has lost its God must of necessity be an unhappy world. Platonic philosophy may serve the purposes of the few, but surely cannot serve the masses of our race. A godless world will, ere long, mean a discontented world, an unhappy world, and, bye and bye, a world of anarchy and strife. This is what our worldwide education is leading to. Few of our race can stand an education which recognizes no God, no revelation of Him, no responsibility to Him, and no hope of a future life which will be effected by the conduct of the present.
(Pastor Russell, What Pastor Russell Wrote for the Overland Monthly, pages 292, 293)
HOW STRONG AND SWEET MY FATHER’S CARE!
1 Peter 5:7
How strong and sweet my Father’s care!
The words, like music in the air,
Come answering to my whispered prayer─
He cares for thee.
The thought great wonder with it brings─
My cares are all such little things;
But to this truth my glad faith clings,
He cares for me.
Yea, keep me ever in Thy love,
Dear Father, watching from above,
And let me still Thy mercy prove,
And care for me.
Cast me not off because of sin,
But make me pure and true within,
And teach me how Thy smile to win,
Who cares for me.
O still, in summer’s golden glow,
Or wintry storms of wind and snow,
Love me, my Father: let me know
Thy care for me.
And I will learn to cast the care
Which like a heavy load I bear
Down at Thy feet in lowly prayer,
And trust in Thee.
For naught can hurt me, shade or shine,
Nor evil thing touch me, nor mine,
Since Thou with tenderness Divine
Dost care for me.