by Charles H. Welch
taken from “An Alphabetical Analysis” Part 10, pages 305-308
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What Manner of Persons!
However uncouth, ungrammatical, or offensive a witness may be, if upon oath he declares that what he affirms is true, his witness cannot be set aside because of his lack of good manners. This is true even in the realm of Scriptural witness. Matthias was not chosen because he was a better man than Joseph called Barsabas, neither were these two selected above the heads of the hundred and eighteen gathered in the upper room. The one thing that counted, was that Matthias and Joseph held the first essential qualification as a witness, that each could say “I was there”.
“Wherefore of these men which have companied with us ALL THE TIME that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, BEGINNING from the baptism of John, unto that same day that He was taken up from us, MUST one be ordained to be a witness of His resurrection” (Acts 1:21-23, John 15:27).
No man living today can be such a witness. Our ministry is of a different grade, based upon the testimony of those endued by the Holy Spirit, which serves as a basis for our preaching, teaching, and living in view of “that blessed hope”. Let us consider a few outstanding pre-requisites for Scriptural service and testimony.
His Service is Perfect Freedom (Chrysostom)
We trust that no reader expects us to launch out into a system of legalism, setting out what he is to do, and where he is to go, as though the epistles of the Mystery were addressed to servants instead of sons. The closing verses of Colossians two should preserve us for all time from this reprehensible misunderstanding of our position in Christ. There will be, we trust, no approximation to “touch not, taste not, handle not”, in this study.
The Apostle Peter has asked “what manner of persons ought ye to be”? and the introduction of that word “ought”, so often on the lips of believers when dealing with “another man’s servant”, is rare in the Word of God. Paul used the word “ought” ( opheiIo ) but once in the epistles of the Mystery when he said: “So ought men to love their wives” (Eph. 5:28), and even this passage is no exception to the rule that practice flows from doctrine, for the exhortation beginning with the word “so”, cannot be isolated from the preceding glorious doctrine concerning Christ’s love for His church.
The first item that we feel constrained to bring forward is the fact that all service rendered to God, if it is to be acceptable, must be “reasonable service”. This is stated by the Apostle in Romans 12:1:
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service”.
We are immediately faced with the necessity of making sure that every term used in this important passage shall be understood and appreciated – but that will be to leave the practical issues for the doctrinal, the very thing we here seek to avoid. We trust, however, that this very persistence on the part of doctrine, meeting us again and again, will help all to realize how impossible it is to contemplate practice apart from a knowledge of truth. Avoiding the purely doctrinal issues which belong to the doctrinal sections, we might notice that the Apostle “beseeches”, but does not “command”. He would have our practice to be the grateful response to “the mercies of God”, for service rendered in any other spirit may not prove “acceptable unto God”.
Not only must true service be rendered “in love” and not “in law”, but it must also be “logical” or “reasonable”. This implies a fair acquaintance with the teaching of the Scriptures, and a perception on the part of the believer of the direction and goal towards which all doctrine points. This logical or reasonable service goes so far as to include the presentation of our bodies as living sacrifices, an aspect of truth not by any means “reasonable” in the eyes of the unsaved. This warns us that “logic” moves on certain planes. What is logically true of man, as such, is not necessarily true of God; for example, man cannot be in two places at once, whereas the Lord cannot be so limited.
Again, Paul not only “beseeches”, but he says “present” or “yield”. Reasonable service of the redeemed cannot be forced, it must be free, and finds its typical expression in those “freewill offerings” which the law allowed, and about which the Psalmist prayed: ” Accept, I beseech Thee, the freewill-offerings of my mouth, O Lord” (Ps. 119:108).
Pre-requisites for Service
Pursuing the theme that the service of the believer must be reasonable and free, we turn to the words of Christ, uttered in the day of His rejection: “Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me” (Matt. 11 :29). We hope, in this study, to indicate some of the necessary conditions for learning the truth. Mere reading, even of the Scriptures, is by no means sufficient. “Learning” does not necessarily lead to “a knowledge of the truth”, as the solemn passage in 2 Timothy 3:7 makes plain. If we were asked to prepare a list of the paraphernalia associated with “learning”, how many of us would include a “yoke”? A yoke suggests service and fellowship. To work yoked with another necessitates keeping step, walking in the same path, pursuing the same goal, serving the same Master. Here we have another of those interrelations of doctrine and practice that it is so necessary to remember.
There is, moreover, a very pointed mention of the state of heart of those who would engage in this yoked service. The Lord said: “I am meek and lowly in heart”. This special attribute of Christ and its intimate connection with “learning” is found in the prophecy of Isaiah:
“The Lord God hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary: He wakeneth morning by morning, He wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned. The Lord God hath opened mine ear, and I was not rebellious, neither turned away back” (lsa. 50:4,5).
Another very essential preparation of heart that must precede all true learning is repentance. Just as we should not naturally include a yoke among the necessary equipment of the learner, so we should most likely enumerate a number of spiritual qualifications before we thought of repentance. The passage that teaches its necessity is 2 Timothy 2:25:
“In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging ofthe truth”.
Without this repentance, one may be “ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim. 3:7). While we desire to keep in mind that we are not here dealing with the doctrinal issues of Scriptural passages, yet, owing to a very prevalent misconception of the meaning of repentance, we feel it necessary to say that it indicates “a change of mind”. Until this change of mind is granted, all argument and exhortation are in vain. One further item in the learner’s equipment is that of affliction and suffering. The Psalmist said:
“It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn Thy statutes” (Ps. 119:71).
The Apostle Paul learned in this same school, for he said: “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: everywhere and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Phil. 4: 11-13).
And, lastly, of the Lord Himself it is written: “Though He was a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered” (Heb. 5:8).
If true service is “reasonable service”, and if we must learn the will of the Lord before we can hope to do it, it will be seen that while grace is all-sufficient, yet we should not enter upon this path without some preparation of heart, for the path is not always smooth, neither is it without its trials. We may, however, in it all find rest to our souls in fellowship with the Lord Himself.