Part 1: The Judgment Seat of Christ

In the glory days of American sports, when athletes competed for the love of the game or event, Jim Thorpe stands out as perhaps the greatest all-around athlete our country has ever produced. Born near Prague, Oklahoma in 1888, Thorpe began his athletic career at a small school in Carlisle, Pennsylvania where he established himself as an outstanding football player, both at the college and professional level. But he was probably best known for his remarkable achievements at the 1912 Olympics held in Stockholm, Sweden.

At the Stockholm games, Jim Thorpe, a Native American Indian, became the first athlete to win both the Pentathlon and the Decathlon. The Pentathlon is a one-day event which includes the long jump, javelin throw, 200-meter race, discus throw, and 1,500-meter race. The two-day Decathlon is a rigorous 10-event competition. On the first day, the participants compete in the 100-meter race, long jump, shot-put, high jump, and 400-meter race. On the second day, they compete in the high hurdles, discus, pole vault, javelin, and 1,500-meter race. Having participated in some of these track and field events years ago, I can say that this was an amazing accomplishment.

Sadly, Jim Thorpe, was disqualified when it was learned that he had played baseball for a small salary some years earlier. The Amateur Athletic Union ruled that he was, therefore, “a professional athlete and ineligible to compete in the Olympic Games.” He was subsequently stripped of his Gold Medals for failing to observe the rules. (Source: World Book Electronic Reference Library—Millennium 2000.)

The Apostle Paul says that those who participate in these games “do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.” What we do for Christ now, which is likened to a race, will echo throughout eternity. The apostle’s great fear was that when he preached to others he would fail to bring himself into subjection to the things of the Lord, and consequently be disqualified at that day. In a nutshell, he didn’t want to be a hypocrite.


“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad” (II Cor. 5:10).

The themes of redemption and judgment are woven throughout the Scriptures. So it is important to rightly divide the Word of truth to ascertain which judgment pertains to us. Since Paul uses the personal pronoun “we” in the above passage and foregoing context, we can safely conclude that he is addressing the members of the Body of Christ. The Judgment Seat of Christ is a dispensational phrase solely found in Paul’s epistles. It is referred to in his revelation as “the day,” “that day,” and “the day of Christ.” This particular judgment will be a review of the believer’s conduct and service which takes place at the Rapture of the Church. According to I Thessalonians this is a planned meeting that was kept secret since the world began (Rom. 16:25 cf. I Thes. 4:17).

“For we must all appear.” Every believer in Christ has an appointment with the Lord—pastors and members of their congregation, Bible teachers and students, evangelists and converts, faithful and unfaithful, etc. Little wonder the Scriptures warn both leaders and those who sit under their ministries accordingly:

“According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth there-on. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon” (I Cor. 3:10).

“Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you” (Heb. 13:17).

While Paul makes frequent references to the Judgment Seat of Christ in both his early and latter epistles, he deals extensively with the subject in the Corinthian letters. This isn’t without rhyme or reason; the apostle wanted the Corinthians to understand the gravity of their ungodly conduct. They seemed to be oblivious to the fact that someday they were going to stand before the Lord and give an account of their actions. Some may have even denied this based on the assumption that we are seated with Christ in the heavenlies. Although this is true positionally, the practical outworking of the matter is determined by our present conduct. The Corinthians would one day have to answer for the turmoil they caused in the local assembly, due to their envy, strife, divisions, carnality and immoral lifestyles.

This raises the question as to why God doesn’t simply judge believers when they die. Why wait until the Rapture of the Church? Here we must keep in mind that our lives touch the lives of others even in death. For example, Pastor J. C. O’Hair died in 1958, yet his writings and tape messages continue to bring others into a knowledge of the Mystery. Even though he is dead, he yet speaketh! Conversely, the Christian father who carelessly lives a worldly life influences his children to follow in his footsteps. The long-term effects of such a lifestyle will not be overlooked at that day.

But God has another reason to withhold judgment until the Judgment Seat—a solemn one indeed! Paul says, “Every one of us shall give account of himself to God” (Rom. 14:12). The terms “every one” and “himself” clearly indicate that each of us will stand individually before the Lord to give an answer for our behavior. But this doesn’t imply that others will not be present at times during the course of this examination. In fact, this will be a necessity to set the record straight. More will be said about this later.


“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ.” As the phrase implies, Christ will be our Judge. According to John 5:27 the Father has placed all judgment into the hands of His dear Son. He is the perfect Judge. Even though the Mystery was still a secret when the events of John chapter five occurred, the principle of Christ’s judgeship certainly applies during the administration of Grace.

The apostle says in Colossians 2, “In Him [i.e. Christ] dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.” As God, He knows our innermost thoughts and motives and the intent of the heart. On the other hand, He took upon Himself the form of a human servant and dwelt among us. No one will be able to stand before Him at that day and say, “Lord you just don’t understand!” Oh, but He does, my dear friend. Christ suffered in all points as we, yet without sin. As the prophet said, “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isa. 53:3).

The Greek word for Judgment Seat here is Bema. In biblical times it was a raised platform, with ascending steps, where rulers handed down decisions (Acts 18:12-16). It was also the place where the judges presided over the Greek games. From this vantage point they could see the entire field of events. To be summoned to the Bema meant one of two things; either the participant was disqualified for disobeying the rules or rewarded with a garland for winning a particular event.

When we appear with Him in glory, Christ will hold a position of exaltation. As the righteous Judge, He will be clothed in glory, honor and majesty as we stand before Him. Unlike the Great White Throne, condemnation is not the issue at this judgment. “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). Since the sin question was answered for the believer at Calvary, this examination has to do with whether or not we have devoted our life to Christ and faithfully served Him. But will our sins be taken into consideration at the Bema? We will have more to say on this later.

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.”

There has been an ongoing debate if the phrase “the things done in his body” is speaking of the believer’s body or the Body of Christ. It seems clear that Paul has the individual believer in mind. The original dia tou somatos has the idea of the things done “through our body.” In other words, there is a moral accountability insofar as our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit. We are, therefore, accountable for its deeds, whether they are good or of no value. For example, we believe Paul’s instructions to the Colossians capture the moral responsibilities of slaves and masters or employees and employers.

“Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eye service, as men pleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God: And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ. But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons” (Col. 3:22-25).

In the final assessment, the Lord is going to compensate both labor and management for the good they have done and whatever wrongs they may have committed. Every believer in Christ can expect to receive a reward for good conduct and loss for misconduct. Little wonder Paul adds:

“Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences” (II Cor. 5:11).

While the Corinthians lived as if there was no tomorrow, Paul cautions them regarding the “terror of the Lord.” Some have concluded that the apostle is now turning his attention to the unsaved, but this interpretation does a great injustice to the context in which the passage is set. The terror or fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. But in what sense should the believer fear the Lord? Consider for a moment standing before the Lord with perfect recall of every idle word, thought and deed. We should fear the possible devastating consequences of a misspent life, not to mention the inspection itself.

With this in mind, Paul sought to persuade men as to the gravity of the occasion. Of what did the apostle seek to convince believers? Since the behavior of the Corinthians left much to be desired, Paul is passionately trying to persuade them to walk worthy of their calling. This beckons the question, are we living up to God’s expectations? Paul could confidently say, “But we are made manifest unto God.” You see Paul had a clear conscience concerning his actions among them. Thus, he desired that his manner of life before the Lord would be manifested in his hearers’ consciences that they, too, would be to the praise of His glory at that day. (See II Tim. 3:10,14).


“Ye are God’s building. According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (I Cor. 3:10,11).

As we turn to I Corinthians Paul addresses our service in relation to the Judgment Seat of Christ. Interestingly, as he develops this theme he uses the metaphor of the “temple” in verse 16. While we lay great emphasis upon rightly dividing the Word of truth, we must also recognize that there are connections between the two programs of God. As members of the Body of Christ we are numbered with the household of God and therefore joined to the living temple, which God foreordained before the foundation of the world. This explains why Paul uses the metaphor of a temple when he speaks of us collectively. Hence, Ephesians Chapter 2:

“In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit” (Eph. 2:21,22).

God has raised up a new masterbuilder to add an addition to the household of God that was not included in the original plans of the Prophetic Program. It was hidden in the mind of God until the raising up of the Apostle Paul. He is the divinely ordained architect who laid a new section of foundation, which is Jesus Christ according to the revelation of the Mystery (Rom. 16:25; Eph. 3:1-10). The apostle was very, very careful not to build upon another man’s foundation, nor should we (Rom. 15:20). Of course, he was referring to building upon Peter’s foundation who preached Jesus Christ according to the Kingdom promised by the prophets of old.

Like a father, Paul warns us, “I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon” (I Cor. 3:10). The foundation upon which the Judgment Seat of Christ is based will be Jesus Christ according to His heavenly ministry, as revealed by Paul. So then, as we serve the Lord we must take care to use Pauline materials when building upon our foundation, otherwise we will suffer the consequences at that day.

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How Would You Have Handled the Situation?

An experienced visiting Grace Pastor and teacher, who was conducting a week of meetings, asked for questions from the floor after one of his nightly meetings. A lady then asked him, “How do you reconcile Romans 4:5 with James 2:24?”

The question could have been answered in either of two ways:

(1) James 2:24 is preceded by a “timeline” in a preceding verse, James 2:21, “was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?” Romans 4:5 on the other hand occurred before Isaac was even born, many years before Abraham “had offered Isaac…upon the altar.” (Cf. Genesis 15:2-6). So then, Romans 4:5 stands!

(2) Ask the person who posed the question to open her Bible to James 1:1 and read it aloud. After reading the verse, ask her the question, “Are you a Jew?” “Are you a member of one of the twelve tribes of Israel?” The lady’s answer will be an indignant “No!” Then say to her, “The Book of James is not your mail; James 2:24 was written to Jews, the twelve tribes scattered abroad.” Romans 4:5 still stands!

The above was related to the writer and his wife by that lady who since has become a Grace Believer.

The visiting pastor used answer (2) above. He knew that the lady, being of a prominent denomination, was not acquainted with the Bible; her only help being “Quarterlies.” If the word “timeline” of the first approach had been used, the visiting pastor would have “lost” the attention of the lady. The more direct approach was the most appropriate way to respond to her question. The visiting pastor was C. R. Stam. The church that he visited was the Forest Park Bible Church, Mobile, Alabama, whose pastor is Roy Lange.

The writer gives the above happening as an illustration of directness since lately he has been deluged with mail with argumentation that runs “all over the woods” to make a point rather than using the direct approach. In the writer’s experience in working in government and private industry he has found that a letter will receive more attention if it is short and to the point (i.e., direct) rather than one that rambles “all over the woods,” as it were.

Many Infallible Proofs

One method of showing the truth of Scripture is by prophecy fulfilled. Another is to show that tangible, historical, secular evidence that non-believers accept is also established by the Bible. The branch of theology that deals with the defense and proof of Christian doctrine is known as “apologetics.” For us as believers, our faith in the Scriptures is all that is required, and our belief is all that is necessary. The reason, however, for resorting to defending the Bible by means other than mere belief is to have a testimony of reasonableness, common sense, and credibility which may win others to our faith. Let me give some examples of Biblical truth which make it difficult for non-believers to discredit the Bible as the literal Word of God.

Abraham came from Ur in Chaldea. Chaldea was the old name for Mesopotamia, or Babylon, which we now call Iraq. Excavations in the 20th century by the eminent scientist C. Leonard Wooley attest to the existence of Ur, long thought by many scholars as being completely mythical. Found in Ur were middle class houses having 10 to 20 rooms on upper and lower floors. A school was found that existed during Abraham’s era, and the pupils were taught the three R’s as today. They used multiplication and division tables and worked with square and cube root. Think for a moment about someone you know today who may be unable to do these kinds of calculations. A bill of lading dating from 2040 B.C. showed a highly developed commerce at the time of Abraham. Even the name “Abraham” was found on excavated tablets.

Modern scholars have said that there were no camels in Egypt at the time of Abraham, although the 12th chapter of Genesis says Abraham had camels. Archeologists have since found not only statuettes, plaques, and rock carvings of camels, but also camel bones, skulls, and camel hair rope dating from 700 B.C. back to 3000 B.C.

Chapter 15 of Genesis tells about God’s Word to Abraham, that his descendants would be slaves in Egypt for four centuries, but would return to Canaan in the 4th generation. Exodus 12:40 says that Moses led the Israelites from Egypt after 430 years in bondage; and Moses was the 4th generation from Jacob: Levi, Kohath, Amram, and then Moses. It has to be more than wild happenstance that Luke in the New Testament Book of Acts, written more than a thousand years later, mentions this same historical event.

What could be greater evidence of the Bible’s uncanny, long-term accuracy than the account of Ishmael, the child of Abraham and Hagar. You will remember that Hagar was the Egyptian servant of Sarah, Abraham’s wife. The Lord told Hagar that her child would have descendants without number, and that they would be wanderers and always in conflict. These of course are the Arabs of today, and the Arabs have been nomads for 4,000 years.

Chapter 17 of Genesis tells God’s promise that kings would be among Abraham’s descendants. This has been fulfilled countless times: all of the kings of Israel and Judah came from Abraham. Genesis contains many, many more evidences which confirm Bible truth; but our space limitations require that other Scripture passages be considered.

In Exodus, as one traces the route of the 40 year wanderings of Israel through the wilderness, it is discovered that the geographical features of that part of the world as described in the book correspond entirely to what a modern map would provide. Moses, the writer of Exodus, as well as the other of the first five books of the Bible, could not have come up with such a documentary by sheer chance.

Bible critics, upon reading about a seven-candle lampstand in the tabernacle in Exodus 25, declared that such a candelabra was unknown until 600 B.C. in Babylonia. However, excavations just south of Jerusalem by the renowned archeologist W. F. Albright revealed seven-sprouted lampstands dating from 1200 to 1400 B.C.

The Book of Leviticus states that, in spite of all the attempts of enemies to hate and destroy the Jews, the Lord will never allow them to be completely wiped out. Scattered for 25 centuries, and with never-ending attempts to eradicate them from the face of the earth, they not only continue to exist, but are a force that cannot be denied. Even if only a very few Jews were left in the world, after the diabolical effort to exterminate them, it would be more than sufficient evidence to trust the Word of God. By comparison, just ask what happened to the numerous other peoples whose future was not assured by God. Where are the Amalekites, the Amorites, Jebusites, Hittites, Philistines, Assyrians, and all the other nations that existed in history? There is not a trace of them today.

Although the Bible mentions the Hittites 48 times, critics have long contended that any such people, if they did exist, were of little consequence. The archeologist G. A. Barton mentions in his book, Archeology and the Bible, that an archive of clay tablets records a military treaty between the Hittites and Egypt thirteen centuries before the birth of Christ. This would certainly make the Hittites a significant culture with whom the Egyptians were politically involved.

Going on to another section of the Bible: The book of Joshua details how Israelite soldiers marched around the city of Jericho seven times in a day. Sir Charles Marston’s book, New Biblical Evidence, reports that the excavations of old Jericho show walls to be only 650 yards—which is a third of a mile—in circumference, enclosing an area of only seven acres. Thus a seven-lap march in one day is entirely feasible. Excavations of other ancient cities such as Troy, and even Jerusalem, show that the walled sections were places of refuge to which people could flee in time of trouble, and did not enclose the entire city where people regularly resided.

The Bible quotes Joshua as cursing anyone who would rebuild Jericho (Josh. 6:20), declaring that any such person would suffer the loss of his oldest as well as his youngest son. When the book of I Kings was written centuries later, it recounts how the evil King Ahab endeavored to rebuild the city (I Kings 16:34). Listen to this detailed description of the rebuilding: “The builder was from Bethel, and was named Hiel. As the foundation of the city was laid, Hiel’s first-born son, Abiram, died; and as the gates were set up in the walls, his youngest son, Segub, died.” It seems unreasonable to assume that a duplicitous plot between Bible writers who did not know each other, and who lived centuries apart, could have manufactured such a tale whose pieces fit together so perfectly. Anyone, or any group of conspirators attempting to plan a story like this by deceit would certainly be doomed to failure. But because the Scriptures are all divine in their authorship, one needs never to worry that close scrutiny will reveal anything but absolute truth.

Probably the most boring part of the entire Bible is, at the same time, a most revealing evidence of its being God’s truth. I am referring to the book of I Chronicles. I have read it through, and if you do not want to read it through, at least leaf through it to see the genealogies. No one—absolutely no one—would contrive such a book as a self-serving act with the pretext of promoting some religious dogma. One thing such a book does show is God’s personal concern for everybody—each individual who was ever born.

Today’s thinkers, philosophers, and so-called intellectuals place great importance on secular intellects of the past such as those of ancient Greece. Concerning the earth, those presumed masterminds came up with the most bizarre, hare-brained ideas as to be laughable by any civilized intelligent standard; and still the Greek scholars are revered today by those who refuse to recognize the wisdom of God and His Holy Book. If the Bible were to assert that the earth was carried on the shoulders of the god Atlas, who stood on the backs of giant tortoises, which stood on the backs of elephants, this would be more than sufficient reason to discredit the Holy Scriptures as being of God. What does the Bible say about the earth? What keeps it up? Job 26:7 states that God spreads the skies over empty space and suspends the earth on nothing. The Bible is not a book of science; yet in not even one point does it contradict any principle of modern science that has been established as fact rather than mere theory.

There are in this country, and in several European countries, chapters of the Flat Earth Society, whose members are convinced that the earth is not round. Up until the 15th century, centuries after Isaiah lived, no one knew, nor would many people believe, that the earth was not flat. Without benefit of a telescope or a knowledge of the physics of astronomy, Isaiah wrote in chapter 40, verse 22, that the Lord sits enthroned above the circle of the earth. Noted Bible teacher, J. Vernon McGee has stated that the word, “circle,” is synonymous with “globe,” a round geometric figure.

Moses was not an oceanographer, but in Genesis 7:11 he wrote that fountains, or springs, of the great deep burst forth, at the same time the rains fell from heaven, flooding the earth. Only relatively recently have our scientists discovered that there are, indeed, great water fountains erupting from the ocean floor.

There was a time when Babylon was where mighty kings exalted themselves above the God of heaven; and that Babylon might ultimately become only a memory would have been unthinkable. However, Isaiah prophesies in chapter 13, verses 20-22 that Babylon, the jewel of kingdoms, the glory of their pride, will be overthrown like Sodom and Gomorrah; she will never be inhabited throughout all generations; no Arab will pitch his tent there; no shepherd will rest his flocks there; jackals, owls, wild goats, and hyenas—only desert creatures—will lie there.

In contrast, the city of Tyre according to Isaiah 23:14-18, was to be devastated and desolate for 70 years, and then restored. What actually happened was that Tyre was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar and was left in ruins for 70 years, but rebuilt by Alexander the Great. The 18th verse goes on to say that Tyre would return to a life of commerce, and the profits would not be hoarded, but instead be consecrated to God. Eventually, true religion did return to Tyre. Jesus visited Tyre as did Paul, as we can read in Matthew 15:21 and Acts 21:3-6. The historian Eusebius wrote that when the church was founded in Tyre, much of the city’s wealth was dedicated to God; and Jerome, another noted historian of the 4th century A.D., wrote that the wealth of Tyre’s churches was not stored away, but given to those of the church who were in need.

Mathematics is regarded as the purest of the sciences, and the value of the Greek letter “pi” as approximately 3.1416 is recognized as a basic numerical constant throughout the universe as well as a function of geometry. How easy it would have been for an author of one of the Bible’s books to err in recording some data involving mathematical computations. Only God’s inspired authorship, however, prevented any such thing from happening. In I Kings 7:23 is given a description of the huge water reservoir in the temple used for ceremonial washings. We are told that the basin was 10 cubits, or about 15 feet, in diameter and 30 cubits in circumference. Technically, using the value of “pi,” this should be 31.416 cubits rather than 30. But in verse 26 we learn that the basin was a “hand breadth” thick, or about three inches thick, which would make the inside circumference 30 cubits as the Bible says. Even the most nit-picky critic should be impressed with this evidence of Biblical accuracy.

Luke, in Acts 17:6, refers to a city official by using the Greek term, “Politarch.” This term has never before been found in Greek literature, so Bible critics have pointed out what seemed to be an invention by Luke. In the year 1835, an arch in Thessalonica was discovered with the term “Politarch” inscribed on it, and the Apostle Paul was in Thessalonica at the time of which Luke was writing. In 1867 the arch was destroyed, but the block containing the word “Politarch” was rescued and is now in the British museum. My wife, son, and I saw the display of Greek memorabilia when we visited the museum, but unfortunately we did not take note of this particular piece of stone. Incidentally, since the discovery in 1835, this same description has been found on 16 other monuments in various other localities in Greece.

In summary, all of the foregoing examples—which hardly scratch the surface—demonstrate the uncanny, inexplicable accuracy and complete reliability of God’s Word. The Lord Jesus Christ Himself in John 17:17 said that God’s Word is Truth. In John 10:35 the Savior says the Scriptures cannot be broken; and Matthew 5:18 quotes the Lord as saying that the smallest letter (which is iota in Greek) or the least stroke of a pen (referring to the minuscule embellishments added to the Hebrew alphabet) would not disappear as long as there was a heaven and an earth. The Bible teaches that there will be a heaven and an earth forever.

Let me conclude by suggesting that whenever we are confronted with presumably authoritative opinions that seem to be at variance with what one reads in our Bible, we take to heart the Apostle Paul’s words found in his first letter to the Corinthians. He triumphantly declares, “I know very well how foolish it sounds to those who are lost, when they hear that Jesus died to save them. But we who are saved recognize this message as the very power of God. For God says, `I will destroy all human plans of salvation no matter how wise they seem to be, and ignore the best ideas of men, even the most brilliant of them.’ So what about these wise men, these scholars, these brilliant debaters of this world’s great affairs? God has made them all look foolish, and shown their wisdom to be useless nonsense. For God in His wisdom saw to it that the world would never find God through human brilliance, and then He stepped in and saved all those who believed His message, which the world calls foolish and silly….This so-called `foolish’ plan of God is far wiser than the wisest plan of the wisest man, and God in His `weakness’—Christ dying on the Cross—is far stronger than any man.” Amen and amen!

Berean Searchlight – December 2002

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A Birthday Celebration?

“And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross.
“Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name:
“That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;
“And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:8-11).

“And what is the exceeding greatness of His power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of His mighty power,
“Which He wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places,
“Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come” (Eph. 1:19-21).

“Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we Him no more” (II Cor. 5:16).

Are we a bit negative about Christmas? Perhaps. However, let’s see what God has to say about this subject in His Word.

Leaving aside technicalities, there is surely something wrong, basically wrong, about the world’s—yes, and the Christian world’s—celebration of the birth of Christ.

There is no indication anywhere in Scripture that a celebration should be held in remembrance of our Lord’s birth—as there is with regard to our Lord’s death (I Cor. 11:23-26). There is no evidence that any of the apostles observed such a celebration or taught their followers to observe it. This, we concede, does not mean that we may not celebrate this glorious event, but certainly the Word, rightly divided, leads us to a higher plane.

When our Lord’s “birthday” arrives, we see on every hand likenesses of the babe in the manger, or the babe in His mother’s arms. This is sweet and touching indeed, for who does not love a little babe, especially in the arms of a young mother? Ah, but even apart from the Scriptures, it should occur to every thoughtful person that this is not the way to celebrate one’s birthday.

Let us stop and think. If I were to be given a book in celebration of George Washington’s birthday, I would not expect it to be filled with pictures of the great general as a babe in various poses. I would expect to find pictures and narratives regarding the general’s courage and perseverance, his ascendancy to the Presidency of the United States of America. I should expect to find him as “first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.”

If I should be given a book in celebration of the birthday of Abraham Lincoln, I would not expect to find the book filled with pictures of a babe, or to read anecdotes about the joy that attended his birth. I should expect to read of his kindness and courage; of the great obstacles he overcame in trying to hold the Union together. I should expect to read about how, in this great endeavor, he paid the greatest of all prices—his life, as he was slain by an assassin. In the photographs shown I should want to see those sad eyes, those stooped shoulders, and that wrinkled face. And I believe that this would be so with every one of my readers.

Then why, in the celebration of our Lord’s birthday, is He constantly depicted as a babe? Is it any wonder that, anticipating the errors of the religious world, God should tell us through Paul that henceforth we are no longer to know Him “after the flesh”? Indeed, the Apostle wrote in a day when many still living had known Christ after the flesh, yet he wrote:

“Yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we Him no more” (II Cor. 5:16).

What trick of Satan is this, so to de-emphasize, so to minimize, the present glory of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! Why is it that in so many churches throughout Christendom our Lord, on that day, is depicted as a baby, with manger scenes set up on platforms, and some aspect of the “Christmas story” told? Should we not rather be proclaiming how He went to Calvary for us and blotted out “the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to His Cross” (Col. 2:14)? Should we not be proclaiming to all how He defeated Satan and his hosts, and “made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it [i.e., in the Cross]” (Col. 2:15)? And should we not make it a special point to show that He has now “passed into the heavens” (Heb. 4:14), and “entered… into the Holy Place,” the very presence of God, “having obtained eternal redemption for us” (Heb. 9:12). And should we not be revelling in the fact that the simplest believer may now be “justified freely by [God’s] grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:24), that our blessed Lord is now at God’s right hand as the Great Dispenser of grace to a lost and doomed world? But as it is, what event in our Lord’s life and ministry genders the most excitement and prompts the greatest celebration of the whole year? Not His accomplishments, but His birth—and this is a pity.


It is blessedly true that our Lord’s birth was different from that of the greatest of men. His birth was an incarnation: God coming into this world “in the flesh,” and doubtless this should be, as it too seldom is, emphasized, but certainly not apart from what, in the very nature of the case, that God-man came to accomplish:

“This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners…” (I Tim. 1:15).

And in this very connection one of the great exploits of our Lord is again emphasized. He came into the world to save sinners—even the chief of sinners, Saul of Tarsus (I Tim. 1:15), who had made havoc of the Church, and had breathed “threatenings and slaughter” against all who believed in Christ and loved Him. Indeed, it is the very uniqueness of our Lord’s birth, the very fact that here was “Immanuel,” i.e., “God with us,” that should hinder us from worshipping Him as a mere babe in a manger. The truth of the incarnation involves far more than the birth of Christ.

All this brings us back again to II Corinthians 5:16.

It was not long after the Incarnation, the Crucifixion, the Resurrection, and the Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ that the world was given a glowing example of what was accomplished at Calvary.

At Pentecost, Peter had rightly pointed out that the “last days” of prophecy had begun:

“This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel….in the last days saith God” (Acts 2:16,17).

What then had been predicted by the prophet Joel? Two things, basically: that God’s Spirit would be poured out upon His own (Acts 2:17,18), and that God’s wrath would be poured out upon His enemies (Vers. 19,20).

As we know, the Holy Spirit was poured out, but not the judgment. When all was ready for the pouring out of the bowls of God’s wrath, God, who is “slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy,” interrupted the prophetic program to save His chief enemy on earth, the leader of the rebellion against God and His Christ: Saul of Tarsus.

As the Gentiles were given up and scattered over the face of the earth at Babel, so now He gave up the favored nation, and soon they were scattered abroad over the face of the earth. What does this leave us but a world of individuals lost and condemned before God? But:

“God hath concluded them all in unbelief, THAT HE MIGHT HAVE MERCY UPON ALL” (Rom. 11:32).

No longer does the great wall between Jew and Gentile stand:

“For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon Him.

“For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Rom. 10:12,13).

“For He [Christ] is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us.

“…that He might reconcile both unto God in one Body by the Cross, having slain the enmity thereby” (Eph. 2:14-16).

According to the prophetic program it was the Cross that made the enmity1 between God and man, for in Psalm 110:1 we have the Father saying to the Son:

“Sit Thou at My right hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool.”

In Psalm 2, again referring to man’s rebellion against Christ, we read that:

“He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision.

“Then shall He speak unto them in His wrath, and vex them in His sore displeasure” (Vers. 4,5).

Ah, but the prophetic program has now been interrupted by God’s overabounding grace:

“Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound:

“That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign” (Rom. 5:20,21).

Now the Law has given way to grace, and prophecy to the mystery which was “kept secret since the world began, but now is made manifest…” (Rom. 16:25,26).

As we have pointed out, not only are we now no longer to know men after the flesh, we are not to know Christ after the flesh (II Cor. 5:16). God is not now establishing His kingdom upon earth; He is forming the Body of Christ, with a position and prospect in the heavenlies.

Thus the Apostle goes on to say:

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is [or “there is”] a new creation; old things are passed away, behold, all things are become new” (Ver. 17).

It does not mean here that for the believer in Christ suddenly all the old temptations and habits have passed away and all has become new, for this is not so. Rather, when the Apostle says that old things are passed away and all things are become new, he speaks of the program of God, and he goes on to explain that in this new program,

“All things are of God, who hath reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation” (Ver. 18).

In the program of the Body of Christ there is no Mosaic Law to threaten, no blood sacrifices required for forgiveness, no washings or oblations: “all things are of God.” It is He who reconciled us to Himself in Christ:

“To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation” (Ver. 19).

Through the death of Christ, God has now assumed the role of a Savior (I Tim. 1:1; Titus 1:2,3), and the door of grace has been flung open wide for all to enter by faith.

How wonderful!

“For…when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son” (Rom. 5:10).

He does not ask anything from man. Rather, in infinite grace, He considers the death of His Son as the payment for man’s sins, so that as far as He is concerned, the world has been reconciled to Him.

And now God has given to us “the ministry of reconciliation.” This is our “great commission” (II Cor. 5:18,19) and it explains why the book of Acts closes with Paul, God’s ambassador, in prison. Should one of America’s ambassadors be thrown into prison by another government, America would doubtless declare war tomorrow, but God did not do so. He left Paul in prison, and this is where the record of Acts closes. And he leaves us here too, on enemy territory.2

Thus he explains:

“God was in Christ [i.e., at Calvary], reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation” (Ver. 19).

How amazing that we can go to the vilest sinner, in the name of our glorified Lord, and tell him that the amnesty has been proclaimed, that God is not, for the time being, imputing man’s trespasses against him, but that he may be reconciled to God and to Christ by grace through faith.

And thus it is that the Apostle closes this passage as one who stands here instead of Christ, now highly exalted in heaven, saying,

“Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.

“For He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (Vers. 20,21).

Thus, while we do indeed rejoice that our Lord was born, a tiny babe, into the human race to become one of us, we know Him as the God-man exalted “far above all,” as the great Dispenser of grace.


  1. The enmity now slain by the Cross.
  2. Psalm 2:1-3 aptly describes man’s declaration of war against God. But God did not make a counter-declaration. Instead, He left Paul, and leaves us, surrounded by His enemies, so that we may bring to them the message of grace and reconciliation. What a commission! How much greater than the commission given to the eleven!

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Four Keys to Commitment

“Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also” (II Tim. 2:1,2).

If we were to ask the average Christian to write down the requirements to be a spiritual leader, the list would probably read something like this: A man of God who must have completed four years of college and three additional years of seminary. He should be eloquent and able to articulate his thoughts well, enthusiastic, insightful, creative, and have a good sense of humor. In addition, he should not have too many shortcomings and be well dressed.

Interestingly, just the opposite was true of the spiritual leaders in the Scriptures. Most of the giants of the faith in biblical times were unlearned and ignorant men by the world’s standard. The Bible is a who’s who of shortcomings: Noah’s drunkenness, Moses’ speech impediment, David’s adulterous ways, Peter’s denials, Paul’s repulsive appearance, etc. Nevertheless, God used these souls mightily to the pulling down of strongholds, despite their failures. As it has been said, “God took a handful of nobodies and made them somebodies in His sight.”

While we are an advocate of higher education, intellectualism is not a prerequisite to be used of the Lord. God has accomplished great things through those who merely had a willing heart. Timothy, for example, wasn’t educated at the ivy league schools of Jerusalem; nonetheless, God chose him to carry the torch of grace after Paul’s martyrdom.


“Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.”

As Paul prepared to leave this life, he longed to leave Timothy with a few parting instructions to encourage him in the faith. The apostle knew that his young friend was easily discouraged. Of course, some of the circumstances Timothy faced as he defended the faith would be enough to dishearten the most seasoned veteran of the Cross today (Acts 19:23-41 cf. I Tim. 1:2,3).

Paul affectionately refers to Timothy as “my son.” Although Timothy was not Paul’s son in the flesh, the aged apostle had led him to the Lord; therefore, he was his son in the faith. As a result, there was a very special relationship between them. Timothy might have had ten thousand instructors in Christ, but he only had one spiritual father who loved him like a son. Thus, Paul challenges him to be strong in grace. Grace is God’s unmerited favor toward those who are undeserving.

Before the turn of the last century, Great Britain ruled the world. The throne was synonymous with superiority, royalty, power, and glory. So when the beloved Queen Victoria instructed her driver to stop the royal carriage, and she stepped down to embrace a commoner by the side of the road, that’s grace! The commoner did not deserve the Queen’s kindness, nor do we deserve the grace of God so freely bestowed upon us. Thankfully, God has stooped down to undeserving sinners in the person of Jesus Christ. As a result, the grace of God does three things for us: it has brought us salvation, it teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and it gives us hope (Titus 2:11-13).

Timothy, “be strong,” don’t let others rob you of the grace that you’ve freely received. And legalism will do just this if we allow it. It’s the enemy of grace. Like the Pharisees, the legalist wants to set the standard, which he decrees to be the measure of spirituality. Legalists love to develop an unspoken list of do’s and don’ts for others to follow. You must conform to what they have established as acceptable behavior in regard to how you should dress or act, or what reference Bible you must carry, or how many church services you should attend throughout the week. Failure to conform is a sure indication that you are not very spirituality minded.

Beloved, God has given us the standard we are to follow in His Word; it’s called GRACE! Today, we are not under the Law, nor are we to submit ourselves to those who believe they are the final authority as to how the Christian life should be lived. Grace teaches us how to live; it is patient, understanding, and tolerant. Grace always leaves room for differences. It’s never judgmental (I Cor. 4:5). So then, Timothy was not to allow anyone to rob him of the liberty he enjoyed in Christ, nor should we. “Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.”

“And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.”

What “things” had Timothy heard Paul proclaim? Surely it was the teachings of grace that the apostle had received from the Lord of glory—the truth of the one Body, the one baptism, and the one hope of our calling, etc. Since this special revelation was kept hidden from ages and generations past, Paul was unable to appeal to the Law and the prophets to validate his message. Again and again, he calls upon God and other witnesses to verify his gospel to be true.

“The same commit thou to faithful men.” Notice, the responsibility to proclaim this wonderful message wasn’t to be passed along to just anyone. Paul’s instruction to Timothy is clear; it was to be handed down to faithful men who had the God-given ability to teach others. This precious deposit was only to be entrusted with those who were trustworthy so as to insure its continuance. Mark these words and mark them well, Paul is not teaching apostolic succession here, as Catholicism teaches. Rather, the apostle is making a case that it is the responsibility of one generation to pass the truth of Paul’s gospel on to the next generation. If we fail to do so, it will not be long before the message is lost to the ages, humanly speaking. This is why Paul places such emphasis upon “faithful men.”


“Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier” (II Tim 2:3,4).

Young men who desire to enter the Lord’s work initially look at the calling of pastor as being glamorous, honorable, glory—a position of respect! First of all, respect must be earned, it is not something that’s handed to you on a silver platter. It takes years to acquire and only one foolish act to destroy it. While the ministry is indeed a high and holy calling it involves a great deal of responsibility, long hours and hard work. Little wonder the apostle chose to use the metaphors of the soldier, the athlete, and the farmer to describe the rigors of the ministry.

A metaphor is a figure of speech containing an implied comparison. It’s a short phrase or word that’s used to throw light on the truth. Usually the nature of the metaphor allows for a rapid transition from one topic to another, such as we have before us. Of course, the purpose is to drive home a point. Ten thousand sermons could be preached on each of Paul’s metaphors. Each one contains spiritual riches untold. In the Old Testament, which includes the four Gospels, illustrations are drawn primarily from the natural world. Paul’s, however, are taken from human life and experience, which is another subtle distinction between the two programs of God.

Paul begins with the metaphor of the good soldier. The soldier must leave his family and turn his life over to someone else. As Paul says, “No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.” The soldier must be obedient simply because his life and the lives of those around him depend upon it. He is trained in battle to fight. Courage is his badge of honor!

My father had the honor during World War II to return with General MacArthur to liberate the Philippines after the Bataan Death March. Although he was reluctant to talk about his war experiences, he did share with me about the time his Commanding Officer sent him to camp to secure the company’s orders. Dad related how he was just about back to the unit when it was ambushed by two Japanese machine gun nests. As he approached cautiously, he could see a number had already been killed and the others were pinned down and dared not move. He knew if he didn’t do something quickly the whole platoon would be massacred.

Dad made a snap decision that fateful day. The only way out was to provide a diversion. He could see the snipers would only be able to swing their machine guns so far before hitting the trees in which they were hunkered down. Furthermore he knew how hard it is to hit a moving target, having hunted small game as a young boy. He took a deep breath, jumped up, and ran as fast as he could to their flank which drew a hail of bullets. As he dove headlong into a shallow ravine, he said he could feel the air being displaced as the bullets whizzed by him. It worked! The maneuver gave the soldiers in the unit the opportunity they needed to take out the enemy.

Boy, that’s enough to make you break out into a sweat just telling the story! I can’t imagine actually being there and going through such a thing. But this is the lot of a soldier. It’s a life and death struggle to defend freedom’s light. In the spiritual sense we, too, are soldiers who are to obey the commands of Christ found in the Pauline epistles. These are our marching orders, handed down by the Commander in Chief Himself! Consequently, we’re called upon to fight the good fight of the faith—this means we must stand in the defense and confirmation of Paul’s gospel (Phil. 1:7). While we’re not to be hard, we are called upon to endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.

Here Paul serves as our example. In the face of death, he stood before Felix, the Governor of Caesarea, and courageously preached Christ. With the eternal destiny of this corrupt ruler hanging in the balance, the apostle reasoned with him of righteousness, temperance, and the judgment to come. Is it possible to reason with the unregenerate concerning spiritual things? Paul did, he knew the Spirit of God could pierce straight through Felix’s stony heart of flesh to allow the light of the glorious gospel to shine into his heart that he might be saved (Acts 24:24-26 cf. II Cor. 4:3-6).

“And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully” (II Tim. 2:5).

The next metaphor the apostle uses is the athlete. Seeing that Tarsus was one of the cities where the Greek games were held, Paul was familiar with all the events. To participate in these games the partaker had to be a Greek citizen. The key to being a good athlete is discipline. It is said that the Greeks trained for ten hours a day for a period of ten months. They also spent a great deal of time acquainting themselves with the rules to avoid being disqualified in their particular event.

The high school I attended had a fantastic athletic program. Of course, with a class of over one thousand this is understandable. In addition to the high jump, I ran the four-forty relay. This specific event required precision timing. If you jumped the gun or failed to hand the baton off to the other runner before he crossed the hash mark, the entire team was disqualified. In other words, you had to play by the rules.

Paul draws a parallel between the runner and the Christian life. He says, “if a man also strive for masteries,” that is, if he competes in a competition, he is not crowned unless he abides by the rules. This is also true of the believer. A man must first trust Christ as his Savior and be a citizen of heaven before he can participate in the things of the Lord. The Christian runner must then discipline himself to bring his body and mind into conformity with the image of Christ. But to receive the crown he has to obey the rules set forth in Paul’s epistles. The pastor who has rejected Paul’s gospel because of the fear of men, and teaches his people to follow the great commission will surely suffer great loss at the Judgment Seat of Christ. I’m sure the look on the Savior’s face alone will leave him in tears.

In regard to his own life in Christ, Paul says:

“Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:12-14).

The apostle’s heart’s desire was to lay hold of what Christ had called him to achieve. Although he had not apprehended, like the runner who can see the finish line, he was striving for the goal that was set before him. Paul’s greatest fear was that he would be disqualified. However, if he finished the course set before him, he was confident the Lord would richly reward him. Beloved, are you running to please men or the Lord?

Finally, Paul uses the farmer, who plows the field, to illustrate another aspect of the Christian experience. “The husbandman that laboureth must be first partaker of the fruits” (II Tim. 2:6). If there is one thing the farmer is known for, it’s hard work and long hours. The day begins before dawn and doesn’t end until dusk. The farmer must till the soil, sow the seed, fertilize, and water. But farming requires something else—patience, a lot of patience. The crops cannot be harvested until the fruit is mature.

Like farming, the ministry is hard work and long hours. It is not uncommon for a pastor to put in ten or twelve hour days. Then there are those times he’s called out on an emergency hospital visit at two o’clock in the morning. As we know, there’s a law of nature in farming—whatever you sow is what you reap. The same is true of the Lord’s work. If a pastor sows the kingdom gospel, he’s going to reap sorrow at the Bema seat. On the other hand if a man of God sows Paul’s gospel, he will reap the praise of God.

Those who “preach the gospel should live of the gospel,” as the Lord has ordained (I Cor. 9:14). In short, the workman is worthy of his hire. If God has blessed us with a knowledge of the Mystery, then do we not have a responsibility to support those who faithfully proclaim this truth? Sadly, many of our dedicated grace pastors and missionaries struggle to make ends meet, while some in our congregations support well-known denominational preachers and missionaries who openly reject Paul’s gospel. Shall God be well pleased with us at that day if we aid and abet confusion in the Church?

While I do not fully agree with Baptist doctrine, I know firsthand they are very dedicated and generous believers in Christ. Baptists only support Baptist causes. This is why there’s a Baptist church on every corner. I am a firm believer that grace people should only support grace works! I can assure you that the Southern Baptist Convention is not going to come to our aid in a time of financial crisis, nor should we expect them to.

“Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase” (I Cor. 3:5,6).

Patience is the watchword when we are doing the Lord’s work. People want to see results, so the world measures success in numbers. Sadly, the Church has fallen victim to the same philosophy. God, however, is more interested in faithfulness. Historically, He has passed by the multitudes and has accomplished His greatest work through what some would call insignificant ministries. As we see from the above, Paul left the end result with the Lord. He’s the one who gives the increase. It’s far better to gather with a small group of saints standing for the truth, than a large assembly that’s all too willing to sacrifice the truth on the altar of compromise.

Farmers need plenty of help on the farm. It’s simply too big of a job for one man. Once again the same is true in the Lord’s service. Christian leaders must learn to follow Paul’s example here as well and delegate authority to others. Paul planted, Apollos watered, some weeded, God gave the increase, and others harvested the fruits of their labor. We are all co-laborers together with God.

These are the things that should characterize faithful men who minister the gospel. So then, we are to be committed to the cause, committed to the battle, committed to the rules, and, last but not least, committed to the task at hand! May we, too, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus to the praise of His glory.

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“Condescend to Men of Low Estate”

What does this phrase in Romans 12:16 mean to us? It may mean that we are interested in giving to support the Lord’s work in countries where many are living in poverty and ignorance. Or, it may mean that we are concerned with helping missions in our own country which help those who have been destroying their lives with alcohol, drugs, or immoral living. But how about reaching the men and women who are serving time in jails and prisons? We have in America over two million that can be reached in jails by correspondence Bible lessons and literature. Those in city or county jails are usually easily reached in person.

Many years ago, I met with the sheriff at our local county jail and told him I would like to speak to the men there. He was very agreeable, and this began a regular weekly ministry that another brother and I are still involved in. We hold a Bible study, then provide inmates with Bible lessons, New Testaments, tracts, and other things to read. We find that many of these of low estate now have an interest in spiritual things, and they realize that it is their sin that has put them in jail. We tell them that they need the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior, that they need to know that Christ died for their sins and that He will give them victory over sin and a new life.

Others can be reached by mail. We have been grading Bible lessons for prisoners and others all over the U. S. and foreign countries, sending out Grace literature to help them grow in understanding God’s Word.

It may be that you are looking for some way to be directly active in the work of the Lord (I Cor. 15:58). If you would like to get started in a ministry, we can provide you with the Bible lessons you need. I assure you that there are blessings and rewards in reaching those of low estate and obeying our commission as ambassadors for Christ, beseeching sinners to be reconciled to God (II Cor. 5:18-20).

For more information, please contact John Willson at: Grace Bible Courses, 407 W. Hickory Street, Neosho, MO 64850.

Berean Searchlight – November 2002

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The Gospel Of Salvation

With the souls of men hanging in the eternal balance, it is extremely important to give a clear presentation of the gospel. We have always marveled at how the Holy Spirit sorts through the maze of confusion regarding the various plans of salvation that have been developed over the years. Although all these plans contain an element of truth, they leave the door open to mislead the sinner.

Plan One:

  1. Admit you are a sinner (Rom. 3:23).
  2. Be willing to turn from your sins (repent) (Matt. 3:2).
  3. Believe Jesus Christ died for you on the Cross (I Cor. 15:3).
  4. Through prayer invite Jesus Christ to come in and control your life.

Plan Two:

  1. Confess your sins (Mark 1:5).
  2. Open the door of your heart so Christ can come in (Rev. 3:20).
  3. Believe on Jesus Christ (Acts 16:31).
  4. Come forward publicly to receive Jesus as your personal Savior.

Plan Three:

  1. Acknowledge you are a sinner (Rom. 3:23).
  2. You must make Jesus Christ Lord of your life (Rom. 12:1).
  3. Believe Christ died for you (I Cor. 15:3).
  4. Accept Christ as your personal Savior by praying to God.

There are two serious flaws with the above plans. First, they confuse the terms of salvation under the kingdom gospel with the gospel of the grace of God. Second, the sinner could easily place his trust in what he has done, instead of the Savior. Therefore we suggest the following:

The Scriptural Terms of Salvation:

  1. Acknowledge you are sinner, “for all have sinned and come
    short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).
  2. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, that He died for your sins,
    was buried and rose again (Rom. 4:5; I Cor. 15:3,4).

If you have trusted Christ as your personal Savior, why not pray and thank God for your salvation.

Beloved, the unsaved are dangling over the lake of fire by one thin thread of human existence. The only thing that is standing between them and eternal judgment is the good news of Christ and Him crucified. May the Lord give us a burden for lost souls, for “now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”

To the Reader:

Some of our Two Minutes articles were written many years ago by Pastor C. R. Stam for publication in newspapers. When many of these articles were later compiled in book form, Pastor Stam wrote this word of explanation in the Preface:

"It should be borne in mind that the newspaper column, Two Minutes With the Bible, has now been published for many years, so that local, national and international events are discussed as if they occurred only recently. Rather than rewrite or date such articles, we have left them just as they were when first published. This, we felt, would add to the interest, especially since our readers understand that they first appeared as newspaper articles."

To this we would add that the same is true for the articles written by others that we continue to add, on a regular basis, to the Two Minutes library. We hope that you'll agree that while some of the references in these articles are dated, the spiritual truths taught therein are timeless.

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Three Men in the Book of Psalms

The Book of Psalms concerns just three men: The Good Man, The Bad Man and The Forgiven Man. Or, we might call them The Perfect Man, The Ungodly Man and The Forgiven Man. The very first Psalm strikes a contrast between the good man and the bad man, and Paul, in Romans 4:6-8, cites Psalm 32 as a classic description of the forgiven man.


Many Bible commentators believe that Solomon wrote Psalm 1 as an introduction to the Psalms of his father, David. We tend toward this view for the following reasons: (1) Psalm 1, especially in Verses 1 and 2, employs the kind of language so often used by Solomon in his Proverbs. (2) The word “scornful,” or “scorner,” occurs only here in the Book of Psalms, but often in the Proverbs. (3) It would be very natural that Solomon should write an introduction to the Psalms, most of which were composed by his illustrious father. (4) In Acts 13:33 some old MSS quote Psalm 2 as Psalm 1, because they considered Psalm 1 to be only an introduction to what was really the first Psalm. We believe they were mistaken, for not all the Psalms were written by David and, indeed, the introduction to the Psalms, though written by Solomon, is itself also a Psalm. Thus we believe the Authorized Version is correct in rendering Acts 13:33, “as it is also written in the second Psalm.” The above fact, however, indicates that the belief that Psalm 1 was written by Solomon is by no means new.


The writer of Psalm 1 first shows us the negative side of the good man; he tells us what the good man will not do:

“Blessed is the man that

“walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly,

“nor standeth in the way of sinners,

“nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful” (Ver. 1).

Note how sin has a tendency to deter one from making moral and spiritual progress. The Psalmist shows how the blessed man is not influenced by this deterrent. He does not walk in the counsel of the ungodly and then, as a result, stand in the way of sinners, so that soon he is found sitting in the seat of the scornful. He seeks his counsel from God and continues to make progress, morally and spiritually. This, the positive side, is found in Verse 2.

“But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law doth he meditate day and night” (Ver. 2).

Mark well, he does not merely submit to the law of God; he delights in it, meditating in it day and night so as to understand it more perfectly—with a view to carrying out its instructions more acceptably. David and Solomon, of course, were under the Mosaic Law, but the principle applies equally to the man who, under any dispensation, sincerely seeks to do the will of God. Such a man, says the Psalmist,

“Shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither, and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper” (Ver. 3).

The man who desires and seeks to do God’s will is indeed like a tree planted by the riverside, where its roots can run deep and be assured of abundant nourishment, so that its leaves may remain green and its fruit may be depended upon. Jeremiah 17:7,8 confirms this principle:

“Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is.

“For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.”

Yet, in the final analysis we must ask ourselves how many of us have consistently avoided even listening to the advice of the ungodly, and have rather delighted in the revealed will of God, meditating in His Word day and night? How many of us have consistently borne fruit to God’s glory? The answer is: Only one, the Lord Jesus Christ, the perfect Man. In Psalm 40, a Messianic Psalm, we have the words of our Lord:

“I delight to do Thy will, O My God: yea Thy law is within My heart” (Ver. 8).

And while He was on earth, He said:

“…I do always those things that please Him” (John 8:29).

Thus the “blessed man” of Psalm 1 is the perfect Man, the God Man, our Lord Jesus Christ.


Now, by contrast, the Psalmist writes of the ungodly man, but just what is an ungodly man? An ungodly man is simply a man who is not godly. Many people equate ungodliness with immorality, blasphemy and evil deeds, but these are merely the fruits of ungodliness.

If I should introduce an unsaved but self-righteous friend to another and say, “He is an ungodly man,” he might well be offended. Yet, if I should introduce him as “a godly man,” would he not be embarrassed? Well, if he is not godly, is he not ungodly?

Psalm 14 speaks of the ungodly man. He is “the fool,” who “says in his heart…no God.” He keeps God out of his business (“Business is business.”). He keeps God out of his politics (“One should not mix politics and religion.”). He keeps God out of his social relationships (“One has to have some fun.”). He keeps God out of his educational systems (“The mind is the highest court of appeal.”).

Psalm 14 does not refer to the atheist, as some have supposed. The words “there is,” in Verse 1, appear in italics in our King James Version, indicating that they are not contained in the original. Also, it does not say that “the fool” does not believe there is a God. He says in his heart, “No God.” Finally, Verses 2,3 make it clear that all men are included in this category.

“The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God.

“They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.”

Thus the Psalmist proceeds in Psalm 1:

“The ungodly,” he says, “are not so” (Ver. 4). They are not like trees planted by the waterside, bearing luscious fruit consistently and in abundance. They are rather like the Roman believers once had been. Of these Paul later asked:

“What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed?” (Rom. 6:21).

“The ungodly,” the Psalmist continues, “are like the chaff which the wind driveth away” (Ibid).

If immature believers tend to be “tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine” (Eph. 4:14), how much more is this so of the ungodly! They are indeed as “the chaff which the wind driveth away.” As the wheat is flailed on the thrashing floor, the grain remains, but the slightest breeze blows the chaff away.

This contrast is further drawn for us in the words of John the Baptist in Matthew 3:12 where, speaking of Christ, John says:

“Whose fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly purge His floor, and gather His wheat into the garner [barn]; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

From all this it is clear that ungodliness is itself sin, the root from which other evils grow. Indeed, this is also evident from the words with which the Psalmist closes this meditation:

“Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.

“For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous, but the way of the ungodly shall perish” (Vers. 5,6).

Thus the ungodly are not only useless, carried away like the chaff with the faintest breeze; they are also guilty and will, like chaff, be burned with the unquenchable fire of God’s judgment.


Ah, but the forgiven man! He, like the Perfect Man, is also called blessed. David well knew the forgiven man. He himself was one, and his vivid and exquisite description of the forgiven man is cited by Paul in Romans 4:6-8.

In addition to being the inspired Word of God, Psalm 32 is a classic in literature. It is a poem (in the Hebrew) containing an introduction (Vers. 1,2), four stanzas on the conviction, the confession, the forgiveness of sins, and the new relationship to God (Vers. 3-9), and finally a conclusion, or summation (Vers. 10,11).

It is the introduction to Psalm 32 that Paul cites in Romans 4:6-8, as David’s description of those to whom God imputes righteousness without, or apart from, works.

It must not be concluded from this that David understood, as Paul later did—and as we should—the finished work of Christ as the basis for such imputation. Nor should it be supposed that he believed that works, in his day, were not required for salvation. He rather saw that works did not, in themselves, save from sin, but only the mercy of God. David lived under the dispensation of the Law, and had he said, “We are not under the Law,” as Paul did in Romans 6:14, or had he, like Paul, forbade the offering of blood sacrifices for sins, he would have been stoned to death (Deut. 27:26; Lev. 24:16).

David did, however, see that the works of the Law, as such, could not save, but only the mercy of God, and he, as a sinner, had experienced this mercy. Thus he wrote, with a glad and grateful heart:

“Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.1

“Blessed is the man unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile” (Psa. 32:1,2).

Note, he says, “in whose spirit there is no guile.” The Psalm concerns an honest dealing with sin.


In Stanza 1 of this Psalm, we find David under intense conviction of sin. Though physically strong and well, he feels and acts like an old man. This is because he is hiding his sin, or seeking to hide it, from God:

“When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring2 all the day long” (Ver. 3).

But, king or no king, he is no match for God! He goes on to testify:

“For day and night Thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer. Selah” (Ver. 4).

As long as the king continued in rebellion and pride he felt the heavy hand of God upon him by day and night. That hand, he knew, could crush him. This is doubtless why Peter wrote by inspiration, centuries later:

“God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.

“Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God” (I Pet. 5:5,6).

David’s sin was finding him out. Acting like a man old long before his time, complaining and grumbling as he felt the pressure of the hand of God upon him, his “silence” began taking a heavier toll. His body began to be dehydrated, his “moisture was turned into the drought of summer.” He found it hard to converse. His throat and lips were parched and dry.

How typical of the experiences of those who have been brought, sometimes quite suddenly, under the conviction of sin!

The word “Selah,” in the Psalms, indicates simply a pause in the music—a time to meditate. Dr. Wm. L. Pettingill, when coming upon the word “Selah” in the Psalms, would read simply, “Think of that!” As we read Psalm 32:3,4 we indeed do well to “think of that,” to meditate on the grave consequences of “keeping silent” about our sins when they ought to be confessed to God.


This dreadful sense of guilt, this conviction of sin and its consequences, however, finally had its effect—a salutory effect—upon David. Hear his testimony:

“I acknowledged my sin unto Thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and Thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah” (Ver. 5).

How blessed! Sin no sooner confessed than forgiven! Thus God waits only for the sinner to come to the end of himself, to stop defending himself. He does not ask us to be anything or do anything to be saved. He asks us only to acknowledge our lost and sinful condition, and to “call upon the name of the Lord” (Rom. 10:13).


When this writer was a young man the console of a pipe organ included among its “stops” a “relief stop.”

As we come to Verses 6 and 7 of Psalm 32, it seems that a forgiven David has indeed pulled out the “relief stop.” Hear him sing!

“For this shall every one that is godly pray unto Thee in a time when Thou mayest be found: surely in the floods of great waters they shall not come nigh unto him.

“Thou art my hiding place; Thou shalt preserve me from trouble; Thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance. Selah” (Vers. 6,7).

For what shall the godly man pray? Obviously for a contrite heart and the forgiveness that follows. David had learned by experience that the moment He sought the Lord, confessing his sin, in that moment he was forgiven. For this shall godly men pray, and doing so they will find that the floods of sin and guilt will not overwhelm them.

Now, rather than David hiding sin, we find God hiding David from the consequences of sin, so that he is preserved from trouble and compassed about with songs of deliverance. What relief confession brings! How it turns groaning into a song!


Stanza 4 of this Psalm has God speaking in the first person:

“I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with Mine eye” (Ver. 8).

He does not say, “I will command thee and compel thee.” He says, “I will instruct thee and teach thee.” This is how God deals with the forgiven sinner. He assumes that the sinner, so graciously forgiven, will now look to Him for guidance. As he does this just a glance will suffice: “I will guide Thee with Mine eye”; a sign which only those in close communication with God can interpret.

Sad to say, all redeemed sinners do not have their eyes fixed on God for guidance. Hence the closing words of this stanza:

“Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee” (Ver. 9).

Those who are not in close communication with God must be led by the painful “bit and bridle.”


Finally, the great climax:

“Many sorrows shall be to the wicked: but he that trusteth in the Lord, mercy shall compass him about” (Ver. 10).

Let us not conclude from the above that the redeemed do not experience many sorrows. The point is that those who trust in the Lord are “compassed about,” or protected, by God’s mercy. They are not—surely need not be—overwhelmed by outward circumstances, or by the guilt of sin. God has forgiven them and will not impute iniquity to them.

Little wonder the Psalmist closes with the glad refrain:

“Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, ye righteous: and shout for joy, all ye that are upright in heart” (Ver. 11).

To David, of course, the “righteous” were those who sought to do right, and the “upright in heart,” those who sincerely strove for such righteousness.

The believer today, however, can rejoice in the greater blessings of Romans 3:

“But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets” (Rom. 3:21).

“Being justified freely by His grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:

“Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood, to declare His righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;

“To declare, I say, at this time His righteousness: that He might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.

“Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay, but by the law of faith” (Rom. 3:24-27).


  1. David did not yet know the blessed truth of II Corinthians 5:21 and Ephesians 1:7.
  2. Beautiful rendering! It describes not merely the groaning of one oppressed, but the ill temper of a rebellious king, hiding a serious secret sin.

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