Vol. 27 New Series December, 1966 No. 6

'The following is extracted from a letter by the late Alexander Thomson, very slightly edited to avoid mention of any person's name or certain personal digressions.'
In your letter you quote Hebrew 2:8. I observe that you twit me for not "believing" those expressions which tell us that "All is of God," or appear to do so. But, somehow, I hardly think you would go to the length of averring that the all things which are to be subjected under the feet of mankind include even God Himself. How, then, would you explain the word panta? You would explain, and rightly, by saying that it is limited in scope. We must study the context in every case. You say you "believe 'All is of God' because God's word says so." Now I do not deny that the passages appear to say so superficially, especially to one who wants them to say so. But wishful thinking is one of the biggest dangers that confront believers. We really must not "believe" a statement just because we want it to be true.

No doubt you are acquainted with the explanation given in U.R., year 1925, pages 119-123, in reply to Charles H. Welch, bearing upon those statements which tell us that certain things are not out of God. These are John 8:47: Because of this you are not hearing, seeing that out of God you are not. 1 John 3:10: Everyone who (is) not (mE) doing righteousness not (ou) is out of God. 1 John 4:3: Every spirit which is not avowing Jesus (as) Lord in flesh having come out of God is not. 1 John 4:6: He who is not out of God is not listening to us. In these verses the writer points out there is the verb are or is, and reasons that this gives the verse the meaning that such things are not out of God in a sense, in one sense. He contrasts those verses in which there is no verb are, viz., 1 Cor. 11:12, 2 Cor. 5:18, and Rom. 11:36, and reasons that the absence of this verb are makes the statement absolute.

But it appears to me that if anything is in one sense not out of God, then here we have something which is not of Him in that sense. The one who is not listening to the truth is out of God by creation, let us say, but he is not out of God spiritually. That is to say, there is something about him which is not out of God. Let us call it his unbelief. Everyone not doing right or righteousness is not out of God to that extent. If this is not a very plain way of stating that his wrong works are not out of God, I do not know what the statement means.

Perhaps the writer of the article should have gone a little farther and demonstrated from the N.T. that his apparent rule is true everywhere.

But now I shall endeavour to deal with the three verses which he shews as not containing the verb are. 1 Cor. 11 deals with the relative positions and actions of men and women during prayer and exposition (i.e., "prophecy"); also procedure at the Lordly Dinner. Verses 4-12 deal with the headship of the man over the woman. Paul sums up with the statement that "Even as the woman is out of the man (andros), thus the man (anEr) also is through the woman, yet the all (plural) out of the God."

I do not think any logical reader would argue that the all things which Paul is here discussing consist of more than the subject matter of the preceding verses. The writers of the N.T. were not illogical in what they wrote. In no case do we find any of them writing after the very illogical manner which we find now-a-days among certain very loose writers and talkers. You must well know the very illogical manner in which the "man in the street" is inclined to argue. It is really seldom one encounters a person who can think and reason straightforwardly.

You will observe the argument, "For even as . . . . Thus the man also." One is out of the other, one is through the other. Yet (de) the all (plural) (are) out of God. Woman is out of the Man. Man is through the Woman. Yet both of these, all of them, are out of God. Paul does not here in verse 12 suddenly quit his subject and all at once take in the whole Universe. No good writer would do that. He has not been saying one word about the Universe. He cannot cover anything more than the creation of human beings. They, undoubtedly, are out of God.

The word yet here has something of the force of "nevertheless." Yet is in Greek de, which the common versions usually render by but. But in the C.V. stands for alla, but even the C.V. sometimes renders alla by "nevertheless," as at 2 Cor. 5:16.

It would lower the Scriptures immensely if any of the writers finished their discussion of any subject by suddenly plunging right into the deep end of another and very much weightier subject without any warning. But we find that they are one and all most methodical, and if we want a lesson in logical exposition we should turn first to these writers of the N.T. Anyone can see how the Hebrews Epistle is all of one piece, as though it were a knitted garment.

I believe it would greatly weaken Paul's argument in 1 Cor. 11:12 if he meant to say that everything in the universe without exception, and throughout all time, was out of God. What bearing would that have upon the relationship of Man to Woman?

Take 2 Cor. 5:18: In this passage we find the Flesh Creation in contrast with the New Creation. The primitive things are contrasted with the new things. We have first in verse 16 "So that," then "Yet even if," then "Nevertheless now." "So that, if. . .", Then Paul sums up, with reference to his subject matter, "yet the all (plural) (is) out of God." No Greek-speaking person would conclude anything other than that Paul was referring to the "all" which goes before. Just as the primitive things were out from God, so were the new things. As you know, the Greek definite article has the force of" the aforesaid. . . . ." and alludes to something recently mentioned or brought into mind. "The all" is like "These all things."

Now, I firmly believe both these passages in 1 Cor. 11 and 2 Cor. 5, and I think I am believing them grammatically and logically.

Let us then look at the third of these verses which states that all is out of God (Rom. 11:36). What is the subject of the chapter? The subject is: Has God thrust away His people? Here once more there are two sets of people contrasted. Israel has had his innings. He fails. The Gentiles get their innings, until their fulness enters in. Israel gets life from the dead, and this time will not fail. Of both these parties, throughout the ages, it is true that at one time or another God locks them all up into unyieldingness. (Apeitheia is a negative term, and it is as well to preserve the negative; stubbornness or obstinacy is not true of every human being; unyieldingness is). To both the parties in this age-long drama He will be merciful. Only a God could have thus operated events to bring about such a result. A God whose mind was entirely independent of human beings. The one grand matter in Paul's mind is the great blessing that God brings to both the parties named, especially His own people. He is not alluding to the reconciliation of the universe. Nor does he even mention dead people.

Out of God and unto God and through God are all these aforesaid wonders. The fact that the definite article stands before panta necessitates that we bear in mind all the time the subject matter which has preceded. We may not find the subject matter in something which as yet has not been broached.

I think I can affirm that with my heart I believe Rom. 11:36.

We find the same grammatical principle in Col. 1 The subject of verse 20 is found in the preceding verses, as all Creation, in heavens and on earth.

You say the all, in these three passages and in Eph. 1:11, remains very comprehensive. That leaves me with Eph. 1:11 to deal with. What is the subject of this passage? It appears to be the administration of the fulness of the seasons, the heading up again of the all things in the Christ—i.e., the things in the heavens and on the earth. You will note in the Greek it says the all (plural neuter). In verse 11 we are told of a purpose of Him who is operating the all—in accord with the plan (boulEn; see U.R., 1932, page 443, where the writer states "intend" and "intention" come from the verb to plan) of His thelEma (what He wants done) for us to be laud of His glory. . . .

Now there is not here necessarily any indication that the scope is absolutely universal. Nothing is directly said about the dead. Nothing is said about the time period and the actual inhabitants of the realms mentioned at that time referred to. The scope is probably not nearly so comprehensive as in 1 Cor. 15:22-28. We have no right to assume anything that is not clearly stated. If we do we shall become as reprehensible as those whom we condemn.

But to take a leap out of the subject matter into a much vaster area, and claim that here we meet with a statement with absolutely no possible boundaries as to space or time or scope, is something that we ought to guard against. For us to seek to make the divine statements mean more than God says or means must be an impertinence, and is far from being laudworthy. I think you will realise that to make God directly concerned in millions of utterly petty happenings is not adding to the dignity of His Deity; it is to detract from His majesty. God is Sovereign; He is the All-Wielder, and is in perfect control of His own universe. But surely to make Him the direct instigator of every act of vice is surely not within the scope of such a verse as Eph. 1:11. Did Paul include such an idea when he wrote that verse?

The deeds performed by the Lord while He was on earth would have taken an enormous number of scrolls to contain a record of them (John 21:25). And doubtless the words He spoke must have been very numerous. But one naturally asks, if such a thesis as many derive from Eph. 1:11, or the other "all" verses you have referred to, is the truth, is it not somewhat staggering that never once does the Lord even remotely allude to such a tremendously important topic?

Another verse which is made to bear a load which the context does not give it is Rom. 14:23: "Now everything which is not out of faith is sin." For many years have I seen this verse quoted here, there and everywhere, as though it were of universal application. Nor can I recall that anyone has questioned this false application. Is it not ridiculous to reason that a mother's love for her child must be sin where she has not the faith? I should say that such love was the fulfilment of natural law, and was therefore in harmony with nature. And how can anything in harmony with nature be sinful? To sin is to come short. To fulfill natural law is not to come short.

What is the subject of the whole chapter? It is the scruples of brethren; stumblingblocks, and running through the whole chapter is the matter of foods and eating. Eating of foods is mentioned in verses 2, 3, 6, 17, 20, 21 and 23. That is, from the beginning of the chapter to the end. We can therefore safely say that this subject was prominently in Paul's mind the whole time in these 23 verses. But can we say that at verse 23 he suddenly quits his subject and embarks upon a statement which jumps right outside the matter being discussed, so as to govern every act in the lives of the saints?

And there are other verses in Scripture which are similarly abused, but I cannot for the moment recall them. Nor does it necessarily follow that because Matt. 10:30 tells us that the Lord told the disciples "Now of your head even the hairs are all numbered." He was speaking about the heads of everybody in the universe, past and present and future, and no doubt about the hairs on every animal that has ever been. The word your He made specially emphatic for some reason.

It is quite likely, as you think, that there is some clue or link that is evading us in our efforts to clear up the matter of how far God directs human affairs. You suggest that the link may be without revelation. I should not like to think that. I believe within the Scriptures we have all we need to know for the meantime, and that the clue is lying there all the time.

This reminds me that you do not appear to have written anything about James 1:13-15. I should like you to consider this passage as of primary importance in this discussion. Because if you cannot accept it you will be setting Scripture against Scripture. Surely the matter could not be stated more clearly. God is trying no one. The verb is peirazO, and as it occurs about 30 or more times there is no difficulty in discovering just what it signifies. The A.V. generally uses "tempt," and there is no doubt there is an element of tempting at least in most occurrences. Try or trial does not give the full sense. It is the kind of trial in which the sufferer gets the choice of two things, either to refuse the bait or yield. Now as it is stated in the very clearest of language that God does not try anyone, even Rev. 3:10, which might at first sight look like a trial which comes over the whole inhabitated earth from God is seen to be not from him at all because, as He says, it is impossible for Him to do this.

There, I think, you have one of the little clues you are seeking for. But in no other occurrence out of the 30 is there any possible reference to God sending such trial.

If, then, the peirazO trial or temptation is not from God, whence is it? Does not James tell us in the most heart-searching terms just whence it comes? He says it is not "from God" (apo theou). Please note this. Here is something that is not from God.

"Now each one is being tried (or undergoing trial) by the own lust (epithumias, being drawn away and lured. Thereafter the lust, conceiving (lit. together getting) is bringing forth sin, yet the sin, being fully consummated, is teeming forth death."

That is God's explanation and His derivation of sin. Are we, then, entitled to give any other explanation of the origin of sin in the Garden of Eden?

I firmly believe that it is Scripture that elucidates Scripture. (One thing we ought to get done is to compare the Hebrew terms used of Willing, Desiring, etc., such as abah, C.V. will; yaal, be disposed; nadab, be willing, generous; tzeba (Chaldee), will; chaphetz, incline, desire).

Trench (N.T. Synonyms) has some very useful remarks on the difference between PeirazO (C.V. probize, try; related to "make an experience of"; and dokimazO (C.V. test). We meet with both terms in James 1:2-3.

You declare that the Sovereignty of God requires that all must be of God without any exception whatever. From this you reason that those who maintain that there are some things not of God are not fitting recognition to the fact of Deity.

But here let me state candidly that if I and others put a different construction on Rom. 11:26, and certain other related statements, this is not necessarily because we are lacking in love, though possessing knowledge. In fact, knowledge does not come into the matter; faith and logic do. Might it not be a case of exegesis rather than love? There are still far too many verses in the Scriptures of which our exegesis is not correct. You are bound to have stumbled across many statements which do not "read right," which do not yield logical sense. I am finding such statements almost every day in my examination of the 1944 C.V. Here is only one example, from Luke 8:21, C.V. "My mother and my brethren are those who are hearing the word of God and doing it." Now, as there are no definite articles before mother and brethren (as there are usually), the real sense is slightly different: "Mother of Me and brethren of Me are those who. . .." Some few versions state the facts thus, to their praise.

There is one passage in the O.T. especially which I committed to memory from the Hebrew long years ago, when I was learning Hebrew and Greek, namely, the Song of Moses, Deut. 32. One obtains a much loftier conception of Yahweh from the actual Hebrew than from a discordant version. Verse 4 in a special manner gave me a picture of a Deity who was as far removed from being the fountain of every vice and crime as He could be. Could you aver, regarding His living Image, the Impress of His assumptions, when He came to earth, that "He corrupts"? This is how a strenuous defender of the "Deity of God" renders the next verse, verse 5 (A.V.: they have corrupted themselves; Heb. one word, shikheth). Has it never struck you that before a man has to go to such lengths to corrupt Scripture thus (where the Hebrew text is manifestly defective, as all admit) he must be very hard up for an argument? Now if the Son while on earth exactly mirrored the Father, what single case can you bring forward where He did corrupt anyone or any thing? So far as I can make out, His life was in exactly the opposite direction. This man's teaching compels him to maintain that God is a corrupter, one who has corrupted the whole human race. And he it is who is strongly standing for what he calls the "Deity of God." Why, the whole matter is becoming more than a joke. This is ludicrous. Satan must surely delight in such teaching. It suits his book perfectly.

But maybe love for God will wish to shield His name from unholy infamy and blasphemy. Satan will have achieved his aims if he succeeds in getting those who think they are most "advanced" in the Scriptures to be the foremost ones in totally misrepresenting God's character.

If God had been a corrupter, or if His Son had been that, would that not, more than anything else, drag them down to the human level? Only the lowest beings make a trade of corrupting the morals and lives of others. For His heavenly Kingdom the Lord wanted human beings to come as uncorrupt as little children.

Acts 2:23, to which you refer, does not in any way upset or interfere with my views on the whole matter of God's will. I have always maintained that God has forefixed certain events in the history of the world. He must have arranged the time for Christ's birth and death, and His coming again, and His coming Reign. I do not dispute that God is in control of His own universe. Did not even Plato, some centuries before Christ appeared, reason from the materials before him that the supreme God, if good, could only exhibit His love for His own world in one way, by becoming like an ordinary man, coming to His own world, and living like an ordinary man, and then becoming at the hands of His own creatures a martyr?

Would it be necessary for God to choose directly those lawless ones who hanged up and gibbeted the Christ? Did God make it impossible for these men to do anything else? Such a murder might have happened in any age during Israel's history.

God's pre-determination and foreknowledge of the murder of Messiah did not in the least exonerate the murderers. God did not make them commit that crime of crimes. The murderers were led away by their own lusts, as James is at the trouble of informing us. If a human being could reason and foresee what must be the fate of a Divine Man did He appear on earth, surely God could foresee the same, and He did. God foresaw the lust and the spite and the cruelty of human beings, who would insist on murdering His Messiah.

It is not difficult for a wicked man to lure himself to commit great evil. Even a believer, if he does not keep asking Holy Spirit to make and keep his mind clean and undefiled, can soon become defiled.

I agree with you that it might be wrong to associate the thought of God's intention (boulEma) only with the ultimate realisation of His Purpose. Could we say that God's Will (thelEma) for men today was different from His intention (boulEma) for them? Very few people are doing His will now; are all doing what He intends for them? In other words, does He intend something He does not want? You say that human beings can have an intention and can be frustrated. Very true. So can God be frustrated, and if you look up Luke 7:30 you will see that the Pharisees and lawmen repudiated or frustrated the counsel (boulE: plan, intention) of God for themselves by not being baptized by John. We must insert by here and in verse 29, where the people and tribute-collectors justified God by being baptized with John's baptism. As the C.V. reads the sense is not clear. The Greek participles sometimes need to be helped out that way.

Apparently God's counselor plan was that they should submit to the Forerunner and be baptized of him, confessing their sins. But they frustrated that plan.

I have now attempted to make some kind of reply to the salient points in your letter. I am most ready for any information that may make things clearer for us.

"Evil men understand not judgment; but they that seek Jehovah understand all things" (Prov. 28:5). That is the whole matter, including the judgment. "Even so thou knowest not the works of God who maketh all" (Eccl. 11:5). That is, He makes the whole design or purpose. In each case the all is limited by and to the context.

Returning to Rom. 11, we have the same in verse 32, "for (gar) God locks up together the all" (taus pantas, plural) unto unyieldingness. No Greek speaking person could understand this except as the aforesaid all. The powers of the definite article are very well known. And God is going to be merciful to the same all. This does not necessarily mean the universe. It refers to the parties already spoken of, whoever they may be. Then, verse 33, "As (it were; Greek hOs) inscrutable His judgments (krimata),and untraceable His ways "—still strictly in line with the subject matter of the whole passage. Both parties in this drama come under judgments, and these reveal God's ways. "For (gar again, always explanative of what precedes) who knows Jehovah's mind, or who His adviser becomes?" God moves in a mysterious way of His own, and does not need to get our advice. Thus He has been acting with regard to Jew and Gentile. It is not men who can give anything to God and can be repaid by Him. "Seeing that this all (we are speaking of) (is) out of Him," and what is more, through Him and even for Him.

Paul is overcome by the glorious thought that not only are the Gentiles being mercied, but in the inscrutable ways of God even Paul's own nation will yet be restored to blessing. This overcomes the great grief Paul felt at the beginning of chapter 9 concerning his own race. That is the immediate cause of his doxology.

To import into Rom. 11:36 the notion of absolute universality seems to me now more than ever ridiculous. It is neither logical nor grammatical. But wishful thinking comes in to mar the sense and structure.

Paul's mind had been charged with the fate of Gentiles and Israelites throughout three chapters, or ninety verses. Does it not seem absolutely absurd that in the very last verse he should suddenly begin to contemplate not only human beings (Gentiles and Israelites) but all the animals and angels, all the starfish and all the stars, the entire material creation, everything that is good and everything that is evil, even "sin as well as success."

Let us for a moment contrast this doxology with another passage, Phil. 4:13: "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me," or in the C.V., "I have strength (for) everything (panta, neutral plural) in Him who is invigorating me." Just how absolute is this statement? Did we find Paul accomplishing everything? Even everything he wished to do? No more than we do. Did he have great strength? It does not look like it from what we read of him. He gloried in weakness as many of us do now. But suppose we were to affix to this verse the last verse of Rom. 11, what a difference a doxology might make to the sense! Why, surely that would make the everything absolute? At least, it would make that everything to be "out from God" and therefore God's will for the saint.

But let us use any common sense we may have. Does Paul not simply mean that in everything he does for the Lord, His invigorator is the Christ? There is not one of us who can do all things, either through Christ or otherwise. The sorrow of everyone of us is that there is so much that we can never get done.

You will see just how even the annotator is obliged to water down Phil. 4:13 by his Note thereon in the C.V.

For a long time I have been studying the false piety with which we are all apt to be afflicted, and which to a great extent has afflicted many holy men and women in past ages. If the Scriptures or communion with God do not make us naturally pious, then in some other way we must make ourselves seem to be pious. We get a lot of that in meetings. Pious artificial prayers, pious singing of hymns which we do not feel ring true. The horrid doctrine of Total Depravity arose from the sophisticated piety of those who read that the heart of man was wicked; so they made man totally depraved, thinking they were helping God's truth.

And some when they reach the doxology in Rom. 11:36 feel they must do justice to the sublime statement by extending the scope of the doxology. Often it is this false piety that drives them to do so.

One finds this sophisticated piety at its worst in many of those who partake of what they call the Lord's Supper or Lord's Dinner. And most of those who celebrate this event do not know what it really means, and take it far too near to breakfast, instead of after the main meal of the day, and set an artificial time for it instead of letting it be natural and spontaneous, of course little wonder they try to make up for their puzzlement or ignorance of its meaning by being specially pious. But I am assured God wants none of that kind of piety.

A.T. Last updated 29.9.2005