Intro

This blog gains its name from the book Steele's Answers published in 1912. It began as an effort to blog through that book, posting each of the Questions and Answers in the book in the order in which they appeared. I began the project on Dec. 10, 2011. I completed it on July 11, 2015. Along the way, I began to also post snippets from Dr. Steele's other writings — and from some other holiness writers of his times. I still do that every once in a while.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Without Spot

The word ἄσπιλος (aspilos) "without spot," is used four times in the New Testament; once as descriptive of Christ as a lamb without blemish, 1 Pet. 1:19, and thrice in the portrayal of Christian character. Let us look at these latter in detail.

2 Pet. 3:14, "Be diligent, that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless." This is the end towards which we are exhorted to make an effort. Some may object that this spotlessness is not to exist in us during our earthly probation; it is only to be found in us in the day of judgment, to which the context points. If it is found in us, then it must have been in us before death, unless we assume that it is the work of death or of some sanctifying agency after death. Neither of these last alternatives is supported by the Holy Scriptures. But the other two texts determine the time beyond all controversy. 1 Tim. 6:14, "That thou keep this commandment without spot, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ." This is the divinely inspired charge of Paul to Timothy relating the manner of his life while in this world. God makes the same requirement of the laity as he does of the ministry. Both are to be equally pure. This is certainly indicated in our next text.

James 1:27 includes keeping ourselves "unspotted from the world" as one of the essential elements of pure religion. This seems as impossible to the man of weak faith as it would for a white-robed lady to dance among dye-tubs or tar-buckets without being smirched. But "all things are possible to him that believeth." This world needs a gospel which gives victory over sin. There are two stages of this victory. The first is deliverance from sinning. The new birth introduces the sin-sick soul into a state of triumph over actual sins, giving him the ability not to sin. "There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus"; that is, no consciousness of acts of willful sin. Justification saves from sinning, but not from the tendency to sin, improperly called sin, because it lacks the voluntary element essential to guilt. Controlled tendencies to sin are consistent with non-condemnation, or justification.

But in these proclivities to sin, though repressed, there is peril and cause of inward strife, the flesh warring against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh. When this war ends by the extinction and annihilation of the flesh as the lurking-place of the sin-principle, there is deliverance from sin also, as well as from sinning. Justification, implying regeneration, saves from sinning; entire sanctification saves from sin.

Much like this word is another used by Paul three times, and found in no other New Testament writer. This word is ἀπρόσκοπος (aproskopos), "without offence" "toward God and men," as in Acts 24:16. This was the kind of conscience the Apostle to the Gentiles "exercised himself to have alway." He has left on record no confession of his failure to hit the high target at which he aimed. There is no doleful lamentation over crooked paths; no self-reproach for falling below his own splendid ideals. His own unoffending life gave him the vantage-ground in exhorting others to the same style of character. In Phil. 1:10 he prays "that love may abound yet more and more in perfect knowledge and all discernment, . . . that ye may be sincere and void of offence." Note that this is "against the day of Christ" (Ellicott), as a probationary preparation for the judgment, and hence it is a proof-text for entire holiness, inward and outward, this side of the grave. In 1 Cor. 10:32, Paul exhorts to unoffending conduct far beyond the realm of ethics in the domain of things morally indifferent, such as eating flesh when it might occasion a weak brother to stumble. Here he appeals to his own perfectly unselfish example as a model for the Corinthian church. "As I also in all things please all, seeking not my own advantage, but that of the many, that they may be saved."

Half-Hours With St. Paul, Chapter 18.