I suppose some will, by this caption, think of Satan, the Beast and the False prophet, but these are not intended by the writer of this. What I have in mind is three others, the combination of which has done more to stagnate and wreck the Reconciliation movement than the "trinity" in the Apocalypse will ever do. They are these doctrines:
This is not intended as a complete analysis, only as preliminary hints. There are others who are better qualified to deal thoroughly with these problems and they will do so. The second point is well covered by an article by Alexander Thomson, which appears in this issue of the Diff., entitled "Does God Will Everything?" Then we have yet on hand the pamphlet: "Does All Sin and Evil Issue Directly Out of God?" Order some of these and distribute.
It may be that this extreme swing to "no repentance" has been caused, at least partly, by the unscriptural harping on repentance in revival meetings, making it to mean remorse and grief for sin. But let us not commit the proverbial sin of throwing out the baby with the dirty bathing water. Grief and remorse are results of repentance, and is always present where sin is related to it. This becomes clear when we have the meaning of the word clear.
Repentance (Gr. Metanoia) means after-minding, or reconsideration. Young and others define it as mind-change. It is plain then, that where this mind-change has taken place in regard to sin it will, naturally, produce grief and sorrow for it. But a mind-change may involve many things that does not include sin and therefore does not always bring remorse, and is not identical with remorse, as has too often been supposed. If you have, for instance decided that instead of buying your wife that useless diamond ring you will give her for a birthday or Christmas present that much needed sewing machine, you have repented, but it did not cause you any remorse, rather you were very glad for having "repented." Thus also God repents. He modifies His course, because humans have used the opportunity that He gave them to modify theirs. (And by the way, this shows also, that He has not predetermined everything.)
Now what is the sinners natural attitude regarding God, sin, present and future consequences of an evil life? He does not want to think of it. He ignores the whole question. He tries to drown it in fun, laughter, business, love affairs and mockery.
And we are told that such persons do not need any mind change!—do not need any repentance!
What kind of "salvation" does such a person obtain when he goes on with an unchanged attitude towards God, sin, retribution, accountability to God and responsibility to man?
He gets a head-salvation with heart and conscience untouched. He adopts a doctrine that appeals to him. It settles in his head, but his heart is unaffected. Without conversion he believes that he is a child of God, because that is what he has been told. The message, typical for that school of religion we had a good sample of in the reconciliation meeting in Oslo, Norway. There was not a prayer offered through the whole meeting and the preaching was centered on showing that all—every vice and sin—is out of God. The crystalized climax, we may say, came in the following declaration: "The fellow that lies in the gutter is just as much a child of God as any of us here. The only difference between us and him is that we know that we are God's, but he does not know it. He is saved, but he is ignorant about it." That is their "gospel" in a nutshell. I do not say that it is always put as bluntly as that, but it is always implied. Yes, a few years ago, after an article in the Diff. in which I used the words saved and unsaved, I was corrected by two outstanding Concordant teachers for using these words. Did I not know that all are saved? It is our business to tell them about it and persuade them that this is so, and when they believe it (imagine?), then they are counted as saints. Believe it, or not, many a reconciliation meeting has any number of that kind of "saints." But they ordinarily reveal their identity by living in the world, of the world, by the world and for the world and as the world in more or less degree. The real saints show their identity and destination by "having their affections set upon things on high, and not on things on the earth." Col. 3:2. "They that are after the flesh mind the things of the flesh; but they that are of the spirit the things of the spirit." Ro. 8:5.
What then does the Word say about repentance for the present time?
The big argument is that Paul does not exhort sinners to repent, but to believe, and that repentance was only for Israel. True, that Paul did not exhort sinners to repent. But that is only part of the truth. Is it safe and sound exegesis to take this negative silence as positive proof? I believe not. If so, then we must eliminate the virgin birth also from our doctrinal system. Neither does he admonish sinners to quit sinning in order to be saved, but shall we take that as proof that they can go on sinning? or that it is not necessary that they quit living in sin? If this is so, then we may just as well affirm that they can go on as before and be saved just the same. Now this is just what this "no-repentance" doctrine amounts to, and the undeniable proof of it is displayed in grotesque results in many a person who glory in the name of Christ. They do not hesitate to argue in support of their ungodliness, that "where sin increases, grace super-exceeds." Ro. 5:20. This is what a man in New York who presented himself as "a Concordant minister going around the country establishing ecclesias," said. I found that he had been travelling around the country with a woman, not his wife, but living with her as such and were often seen in bad company and condition. He took me and and reprimanded me for "slighting the grace of God by talking about sin." Did I not know that the sin question had been settled on Calvary long ago? Yes, I knew that, but I did not know that it was for the purpose of providing liberty for the flesh.
Not to repent, but believe.
The idea of believing has been harped upon until it has been removed from the spiritual into the purely intellectual realm. Paul's word to the jailer in Acts 16:31 has been applied to all sinners, disregarding if, or not, they were in the same spiritual condition as the jailer. His action showed beyond the shadow of a doubt that he had repented. When one comes and casts himself down before the preacher, voluntarily, asking what he shall do to be saved, then there has been the most radical mind-change.
We are so apt to deplore and decry the crudeness and the ignorance
of certain movements and men such as Moody, Spurgeon, Finney, Torrey
and others whom the Lord has used greatly in turning sinners to
himself, and we consider ourselves so far above them in knowledge, but where are the results of our work?
Is it seen in hundreds turning to Christ for salvation, and in devoted
lives of holiness? Or is the major result a cold, rigid, stiff and
stale formalism? Now let us be honest to ourselves, to our fellow men
and to God and answer this as we shall have to acknowledge it when we
shall appear before the judgment seat of Christ. I say again: Where are the results of our work?
Does it recommend itself and prove to us and all that our doctrines and
our methods are the best? A few scattered groups here and there with
little or no inter-group fellowship and few (if any) conversions to
Christ. If conversions. they are to "our doctrine," and most of the
activity is a feeble recruiting work from the other "bodies" of
Am I right, or am I not?
What makes the difference?
The fact, that these great men preached repentance both for saint and sinner—there is the heart of the difference in a nutshell. And they did not have the abominable doctrine of every—sin and evil being directly out of God, and they did not have the doctrine that God exercises no punitive and disciplinary judgments in this present age. They did believe and preach that God's indignation is being revealed from heaven on all irreverence and injustice of men who are retaining the truth in injustice." Ro. 1:18.
Indeed, we need to repent—and repent deeply!
We will not take up the pre-resurrection preaching of repentance, because that was limited to Israel.
Beginning with the post-resurrection order in Lu. 24:46-47, we see that repentance should be preached among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.
In line with this we read in Acts 17:30 that God "commands all men everywhere to repent."
In Acts 10 we see that the apostles and elders in Jerusalem recognized that also to the nations had God granted repentance unto life.
Acts 20:21 is a vital scripture in this connection, showing that it was a general practice of Paul to preach repentance to both Jews and Gentiles. We read here that all the time since coming into the province of Asia he used it as a constant theme.
Ch. 26:17-20 is also vital for our subject. Here we find that it was his specific commission to preach repentance. It was by the means of that preaching that he was to "turn them from darkness unto light, from the power of Satan unto God."
The time element here is also worthy of notice. This is about year 62 and about two years after the writing of the epistle to the Romans.
But neither in this epistle, nor in any other, does he teach repentance, we are told. So we go to Ro. 2 :4. Here we read that the kindness and forbearance of God is leading sinners to repentance. This seems rather peculiar if God does not require repentance in this age. He does not require it, yet He leads them to it! Of course, I know that certain hold that also the Roman epistle was for the Jew and not for the Body of Christ. This, however, is not held by many, fortunately.
Let us notice the contextual setting here. From the beginning of the 18th verse he is dealing with the same subject, namely, God's indignation upon all kinds of irreverence and the consequential judgments that "is being revealed from heaven." "Is being revealed." Not in the indefinite distant future. It is a natural and ever-active law of His, operating all the time. This was the scripture that stalled me when the doctrine of no punitive judgments was pressed upon me. Other scriptures confirm that God's attitude towards sin and ungodliness is always the same.
In the first chapter it is His indignation upon what we term downright immorality and vice. In the second chapter, it is the same judgment upon the so-called "moral man" who sets himself on a pedestal, as it were, looking down upon the "immoral" and judging him, but does the same thing himself (although, perhaps, only secretly and inwardly), and thus goes for a nice, clean and upright fellow.
Divine judgment and indignation on both alike—now and here!
What then is God's attitude towards these sinners:
He dispenses all kinds of goodness and long-suffering towards them. And the purpose is that they shall be led to repentance. So, after all, God is interested in seeing these sinners repenting!
And, notice: It is Paul who is telling us this.
And yet they tell us that he has ruled out repentance for sinners in this administration!
In 2 Cor. 7:10 he tells us again what is the purpose of repentance: "Sorrow according to God is producing repentance for (or into) unregretted salvation."
There you have it. Repentance is not salvation, but it leads into salvation. Godly sorrow produces it. It causes a mind-change towards oneself, sin, God, responsibility, present and future.
But here he is speaking about saints, some might aver. Where does he indicate that? It is a general statement about repentance, its cause, development, purpose and result. It is not salvation, but the unavoidable preparation for salvation.
The Master said: "No need have those who are sound of a physician, but those who have an illness." Lu. 5:31. "I have not come to call the just, but sinners, unto repentance."
If there is not stinging sarcasm in His words I do not know what is. It is plain that the "just" that He intimated were the self-righteous Pharisees, and the "sick" were the sinners that were aware of it that they needed His help as. the Great Physician.
Will ever a person seek salvation if he is not conscious of his sin-sickness? Not at all. He may accept a doctrine that appeals to him, and he may be ever so sincere in it. He may seek the noblest and best by accepting it. He may have a high regard for truth and justice. He may admire true godliness, and aim to have it, but if he is not really conscious of his sinful condition and his guiltiness before God he cannot, and will not approach Christ as Saviour. He may approach Him as The Pattern Man and ideal. He will not seek salvation, although he may seek a high morality which he perceives of as being salvation. His godliness will consist in certain forms and observances, which, when undertaken by the energy of the flesh is nothing but "works of the flesh." It is not a new Life, having its fountain in a living Christ, conveyed by the Holy Spirit. He has "got religion" but not life. He may sincerely believe that he is now a child of God, because he has been deceived to imagine it by the non-repentance, formalistic preaching that he has been under, but he has never met God personally, and have no experience of real salvation. He believes about Christ, but not into Christ.
The no-evangelistic-effort attitude is only a logical counter part of the no-repentance doctrine. Why trouble with the salvation evangel when all the sinner needs is to accept a doctrine intellectually? Therefore, the "evangelistic" work consists in teaching "Concordant doctrines," teaching saints and sinners that they are off the track, doctrinally, (which, of course, is only too true), and then get them back to "Concordant doctrine." That done and all is well!—supposed to be.
What is Paul's purpose with the first chapters of Romans? Is it not to prepare for salvation? Of course, it is. It is indispensable. It is the vital groundwork for the salvation doctrine unfolded from ch. 3:19 and on. Just as the foundation is not the house, neither does it cause the house to be erected, so repentance is not salvation, but an integral part of the preparatory work of salvation, without which no one can be saved. Every preacher that claims to be a follower of Paul should use the Pauline methods of preparation.
I doubt not that it is possible to stress the preaching of Christ to the extent that His work becomes disconnected from the practical need of and the condition of the sinner, and becomes only a beautiful theory for the intellect. Paul did not do it that way. Sure, he starts the epistle to the Romans with the declaration that his message is "concerning His (God's) Son, Jesus Christ our Lord." But he, nevertheless, uses more than two and one,half chapters elaborating on the sinner and his condition, before he brings out the truth as to how he is saved from his condition. He diagnoses the case before prescribing the remedy. He does not try to pour his medicine down the throat of a patient who is not conscious of anything wrong with him. And neither is that all that he has to say about the sinner and his condition. He interweaves it in his epistles all through. Should we segregate all that he says about the sinner, and remove it from his writings, his epistles would be badly perforated. It sounds so plausible when we hear it asserted that the gospel is not about the sinner, but about the Saviour, that we swallow the whole thing without thinking any more about it. We also notice that when Paul talks about the sinners he quite often brings in his own experience. He makes it more than a theoretical matter. It is to him intensely personal and practical.
To link repentance rigidly with the kingdom, and separate it from the present time evangelization effort of the Church requires so much artistic manipulation and specious argumentation that for anyone who is inclined to think it through it becomes suspicious, if not immediately apparent, that it is too artificial to be scriptural.
There is no need of falling into the trap that repentance is produced my man's "free will" and volition. Man neither can nor will take the initiative for any step towards salvation without God working on him. Repentance is a gift of God. (Acts 11:18 and 2 Tim. 2:25). But a gift can be resisted, and in certain cases refused. Man can take a submissive attitude towards the pleading of the Holy Spirit, or he can be rebellious. This does not say that he can remain so, indefinitely, if God has set His heart to turn him. I know of several cases where the sinner had to be broken and crushed into a physical wreck before he submitted, and then he acknowledged that he was conscious of God having been working on him a long time prior to his submission.
We are told that Paul did not repent. Where is it written that he did not? The facts of the case is transparently clear, that that was just what he did. In his case the visible appearance and speech of the glorified Lord was the means that God used in this case to produce repentance. It was one of the most radical mind-changes recorded in scripture. It was sudden, abrupt and irresistible. This was one time when this gift was handed over in such a way that it could not be refused. And if the breakdown on the Damascus road should not be construed as an overwhelming sentimental shock, then what about the three days of blindness till Annanias came to him? Was not there plenty of space for repentance? To state that in his case there was no repentance is simply vain speculation to buttress a desired theory. Would to God that there were such a radical mind-change in all who confess to be followers of Paul!
God can, and does use many different means to produce repentance. Here is a true story from Sweden where superstition and a mountain owl was used of God to make the necessary mind-change in a whole family, living in rebellious ungodliness. The superstition was that if a mountain owl sat on the roof of a home and shrieked, one or more of that family would come to a sudden and unnatural death. One dark night the owl came and began its preaching on the roof. Anyone who has heard that kind of mountain owl in the dark will know that it is about the most spine-chilling shrieks that one may hear. The man and his wife woke up and wondered who of the family it could be that as destined to die. The owl continued its "preaching." It became too "hot" for them and they decided to make a turn to God. They woke up the whole family and all the family was saved that night.
A mountain owl for preacher and superstition as an auxiliary to produce repentance! God is not quite as hidebound as certain theologians and teachers. He has His own means and methods, and—we had better let Him use them as He likes best!
Preaching repentance is not wrong, but preaching it as a means of salvation is wrong. Preaching it as self-made preparation for salvation is wrong, but why swing so sharply away from one wrong that we turn into the other.
THE OTHER MEMBER OF THE WICKED TRINITY:
NO retributive and corrective judgments during this age, because of God being "conciliated to the world."
To me the idea that God is hoarding wrath during this age of grace for "the day of wrath" while He is conciliated to the world, has always appeared to me as something very suspicious. He is now "holding His wrath in abeyance" we are told, but by and by His conciliation to the world will suddenly cease, and then He will let loose the most terrific thunderbolts of wrath upon those whom He is supposed to be conciliated to!
How could one who is conciliated hoard wrath towards those with whom He is on the friendliest of terms?
Does God change and sway? Today lavishing His grace upon His enemies and tomorrow He is the most merciless executor of vengence!
Is there not something very suspicious, contradictory and paradoxical about this?
In the first place, I cannot see that the attitude of God was changed by the suffering of His Son. That His actions were changed I would not deny. Also that the judicial status of the world was changed I doubt not. But it was His love for the world that provided the Great Sacrifice that was needed, and I see no indications in the scriptures that He loved the world more after the death of His Son than He did before. Neither can I see that His attitude towards sin and ungodliness has changed one whit, and neither that it will be changed. That he has "a time for everything" as the Book says, I am sure, and that His wrath is hoarded towards the day of wrath I doubt not, but it is unrelated to the conciliation. It is related to His government of the world, and not with His relationship to those who have accepted the conciliation.
I think it is just here that some confusion has come in. The lines between two different lines of divine activity have been mixed.
His relationship to those who are conciliated is one thing.
His government of the world is another. And, of course, in this governing activity all are included—saint and sinner both.
"God was in Christ, conciliating the world unto Himself." But is there anything to prove, conclusively, that He finished it then and there? Is there not something in the Greek indicating that it was only part of an indefinite process? I shall leave this to those who are better qualified to settle it.
Furthermore, if there was a sense in which the conciliation was considered a completed undertaking, is there not a possibility that it is only in a potential and judicial sense it is thus?
What do I mean by this?
This, that in every phase of the work of Christ there is one potential or judicial side and one factual and practical. The first one is as God "counts" it—Ro. 4:17, etc. The other is the side as humans actually experience it. For inst. we were crucified with Christ, we died with Him, we arose with Him, we were "set in the heavenlies" in Him. These declarations are not factual, experimental verities. They are potential and judicial—as God counts it. And (thank God) we are allowed to count it the same way, because of His power to work out what He has determined shall be accomplished.
Is it not possible that the conciliation is "counted" the same way?? Why not?
Man is conciliated (potentially, judicially), to God. The experimental actuality of it is limited to those who have received the conciliation.
What about the rest?
They are under His governmental control and under restraints of His judgments and His wrath is "MANIFESTED UPON ALL IRREVERENCE AND INJUSTICE" that they practice—as it always has been. That a special time of wrath is coming after the world has had its chance of venting its utmost spite and hatred towards Him—yes, of that we may be sure; but it is not because of a change of attitude on His part—from conciliation to UN-conciliation.
Now, this is my understanding of it. If I am wrong I shall appreciate to be corrected.
How is His wrath manifested?
In many different ways. In the first place it comes upon every act that constitutes a violaion of His natural laws. "As a man soweth, so shall he also reap" is an inflexible law of His universe. The reaping may start immediately after the sowing, or it may be deferred, but it comes, sure as death and taxes.
Next it comes in catastrophies of varied types. If such unnatural tragedies that have overtaken mankind were only the expression of His natural laws then there would not be the hap-hazardness with which they occur. His laws always operate after a set pattern. All that goes according to these laws can be foretold with exactitude. But not so with earthquakes, tidal waves, cyclones and the like. None knows when and where they may strike, and that for the simple reason that they are results of God's personal manipulation of His governmental affairs of the world. By such He reminds man that He is yet on the throne and capable of doing whatever He pleases. So also in the limited realms of the individual life. Death comes to the strong and healthy, health and vigor to the weak and dying. Things take the most unpredictable turns now and then.—Why?
Because God is governing the world yet.
And quite naturally, the worlding and the saint are both subject to His power and designs. He has a different attitude towards those who have accepted the conciliation, but they are not outside His rule and reign. If it sometimes seems that the saint does not even get the fair chance that the sinner gets let us remember that until the "times of restitution of all things" the innocent must suffer with the guilty—and sometimes more. It is all part of His government.
I trust that you have "got the point."—That we must distinguish between His special relationship towards those who are His and what is involved in His rule of the world.
The parent who has a wayward child may be fully conciliated to the refractionary youngster, but he does not therefore cease to administer restraining and disciplinary measures. He does not cease to govern his household. As long as God rules the world He is going to "reveal His wrath upon all kinds of ungodliness and unrighteousness."—Let no one fool you into believing anything else.
About the third member of "The Wicked Trinity," namely, that ALL IS OUT OF GOD, DIRECTLY AND POSITIVELY, AND THAT ALL SIN AND VICE AND EVERY DETAIL OF LIFE HAS BEEN PRE-DETERMINED BY HIM,
I shall not say very much at this time.
When the discussion of this subject went on in the Diff. a few years ago I made the statement that I believe positively what the Scripture says about all being out of God, but I do not believe that everything is directly and positively out of Him. Many things are only relatively and indirectly out of Him. This called forth some pretty hot arguments, by certain teachers, and because I could not believe as they do I was branded as a "denier of God's deity, a reviler and an apostate." All this is in print and may be seen. This proved beyond any doubt that these teachers do believe that all sin, every vice and all the infernal, infamy and deviltry, sadistic cruelty, vileness and filth that is engulfing humanity is directly out of God! You say, this cannot be so. They certainly do not believe anything like that! Well, tell me, beloved, what is the alternative? What is the third possibility?
If I say that not all is directly and positively out of God, that some things are only indirectly and relatively out of Him and this is stated by the opponents to be false, what other choice is there but to believe that everything is out of Him directly and positively?
If anyone can point to a "middle lane" between these two, I should like to see it.
There are a few questions that cannot be answered properly by yes or no, because either answer would contain only part of the truth. Let us see:
I see one drawing water from the kitchen faucet. I ask, where did the water come from? The answer is: From the faucet. But another one replies, No, it came from the water main. Another says, No, it came from the river or lake, No, another says, it did not come from any of these, it came from God.
Now which of these answers contained all the truth? None. Yet they are true all of them. For one to harp upon one of them insisting that it contains all truth, and nothing but the truth, would be ridiculous. To say that the water came directly out of God would also be absurd. To deny that it came from Him would be equally absurd.
And this can properly be applied to the expression "All out of God." Is all out of God? Yes, emphatically so. No, it is not, just as emphatically.
So, please, do not call me an apostate because I cannot perceive that all is directly and positively out of God. I believe with all my heart all that the Scriptures say, but I do not understand it as some insist that it should be understood.
If all is out of God, directly then it follows, necessarily, that he must also generate the motive for every act. There is no act without a motive. The motive is the mother of the act. It is impossible to think of God desiring a certain act, but failing to instill the needed motive for it. If He is the generator of every evil act He must also be of every motive. Then again we are back to the same place: Man is a machine. He does, and does only, what the maker of the machine wants him to do. Thus the field of accountability is entirely removed.
Now, my dear reader, if it is an essential life problem for you to be in line with God's will, revealed in the Scriptures, then don't treat this lightly. If I am wrong in what I have said on these subjects then I am not only willing, but anxious to be set right, and if I am right then it is God's will for you that you believe, defend and live this truth.
May God grant us to be established in His truth and not in petrified dogmas concocted and propagated by man. The Judgement Seat of Christ is a solemn affair.
E. A. LARSEN.Last updated 4.10.2008