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.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Reading the Bible Systematically

QUESTION: I have been reading my Bible in a haphazard. way without getting as much good as I ought. Tell me how I can read it in a better way.

ANSWER: Get the American Standard Revised Bible, with maps and index to them. Locate every place you find in your reading. This will give you a sense of reality. When you begin a book get a synopsis of its contents by reading the headlines at the top of the pages. Then rapidly read the book through, and afterwards review such portions as most interest you, studying the various marginal readings and turning to the references. There is no easy way to a thorough knowledge of God's Word. If you do not find sufficient nutriment to your spiritual life in Ecclesiastes, alternate that book with John's Gospel, which is to be read in the same way. Read in both the Old Testament and the New daily. Have a Bible dictionary at hand to answer many questions respecting persons, places and doctrines which will arise in your mind. Don't be discouraged because of your slow advancement.

Steele's Answers pp. 164, 165.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Is Perfect Love Real?

QUESTION: When I quoted to my pastor I John 2:5 and 4:18 he said "There is no such a thing as perfect love." What shall I say to him?

ANSWER: Tell him for me that he assumes that he is wiser than John and that a light so much brighter than the beloved apostle ought not to be kept under a bushel but on the world's candlestick. For John did not know any better, after leaning on the bosom of Jesus, than to teach that there is such a glorious reality as perfect, i.e., pure, love shed abroad by the Holy Spirit in the heart of him who exercises an all-surrendering faith in Jesus Christ as both Savior and Lord. If this is a chimera, those Christians who are chasing it ought to know it, but as it is a blessed verity, let it be proclaimed from the house-top in trumpet tones by every herald of the Gospel.

Steele's Answers p. 164.

Friday, June 27, 2014

How to Treat False Teachers (2 John 10)

QUESTION: How can we apply in practice II John 10, "If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him Godspeed"?

ANSWER: Have no fellowship with those teachers, who deny the very fundamentals of Christianity, such as the reality of Christ's body, making it a phantom, a sham, as in verse 7; for such a religious leader "is a deceiver and an antichrist." Both the first and second epistles of John are aimed directly at this gnostic error called docetism. Its teachers were not only false in faith, but corrupt in morals, not fit to be entertained by any Christian family. To sympathize with such leprous leaders is to become "a partaker in their evil works." The idea of leadership is in verse 9 correctly translated, "whosoever goeth onward" (R. V.) as a teacher, or leads others, etc.

Steele's Answers p. 163, 164.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

In What Sense Did John Remain Until Jesus' Coming?

QUESTION: Explain John 21:22, "Jesus saith unto him (Peter), 'If I will that he (John) tarry till I come, what is that to thee?'"

ANSWER: The passage is designedly obscure. It may mean it is none of Peter's business if Christ should let John live on the earth till Christ should come to judge the world and wind up its history. This erroneous interpretation, "went forth among the brethren." I prefer to understand the words, "till I come," to mean the coming of Christ in the destruction of Jerusalem in A. D. 70, at least twenty years before John's death (Matt. 24:80-34; 16:28; 10:28). But some writers think this "coming of Christ" was his special manifestation of himself to John in Rev. 1:12-20.

Steele's Answers p. 163.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Punctuation in Matthew 19:28

QUESTION: How can we follow Christ "in the regeneration," as stated in Matt. 19:28, since he was never regenerated?


"And Jesus said unto them, 'Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.'" (KJV)

ANSWER: The querist has failed to note the punctuation marks. When the commas are properly noted, it will be found that our Lord Jesus assures his disciples that "In the regeneration (the evangelized world) when he shall sit, etc., then they who had followed him should also sit," etc. This predicts the great honor and authority of the twelve apostles when the gospel shall have reconstructed the human society. The earlier edition of the American Bible Society had no comma after "me," but all the later editions are correct.

Steele's Answers p. 162.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Holiness Sects

QUESTION: Some one enumerates thirty-two sects or sorts of holiness people. How is this to be accounted for?

ANSWER: Sects are liable to be formed wherever there is perfect religious liberty, and even where such liberty is very much restricted, or is non-existent, as in the Papal Church, where the various orders antagonize one another, the Jesuits exterminating the Jansenists. When professors of holiness come out from the various denominations, they find it easy to come out of the new organization for some trifling cause, much to the detriment of the glorious doctrine of Christian perfection.

Steele's Answers p. 162.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Will We Know People in Heaven?

QUESTION: Have we any Bible proof that we shall know father and mother as such in heaven?

ANSWER: No. It has not pleased the Holy Spirit in the Revelation of spiritual truth to give us any light on this subject. But we have good ground for the inference that we shall recognize our earthly friends. Our heavenly Father, we are quite sure, will not deny us any lawful felicity. We cannot think that death will destroy our natural sensibilities, our capacity to enjoy sweet Christian fellowship. In Col. 1:28, Paul's ambition to present every hearer "perfect in Christ" implies his expectation that he will know them in the world to come. We do not believe in the heathen idea borrowed by Milton from Greek mythology:

"Lethe, the river of oblivion rolls
Her wat'ry labyrinth, which whoso drinks
Forgets both joy and grief."

Steele's Answers pp. 161, 162.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Does God Permit Sin?

QUESTION: Can it be truthfully said that God permits sin?

ANSWER: No. Sin he abhors as being only evil. The most that can be said is that he does not prevent it. This he could have done by the non-creation of free moral agents. If he had been satisfied with things and non-moral animals and had been content to be the only personality in the universe, there would have been no sin. Having created free agents, who may commune with him and love and obey him. he cannot prevent their evil use of their freedom without uncreating them and turning them into machines. This would be an unwise use of his omnipotence, and defeat his purpose. It is no more a limitation of almightiness than it is to say that an earthquake cannot shake a demonstration of Euclid. The sphere of omnipotence is the kingdom of Nature; but in God's moral government it has no place. Even with an almighty trip hammer God could not turn a sinner into a saint against his will. If you wish to know what he can do for a self-surrendering will read Eph. 1:19. The possibility of sin is necessarily involved in the existence of free agents, each of whom is the cause uncaused, the first cause, of his own acts and the creator of his own moral character and eternal destiny.

Steele's Answers pp. 160, 161.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Entire Sanctification at Conversion?

QUESTION: The same preacher [see yesterdays' post] says that he was entirely sanctified when he was converted. Is this a Wesleyan experience?

ANSWER: No. This doctrine of Count Zinzendorf that "the moment the believer is justified, he is sanctified wholly, and from that time he is neither more or less holy even unto death," was stoutly and constantly opposed by Wesley, because it denies imparted holiness and insists on the imputed holiness of Christ. Let this Methodist preacher canvass his church and ascertain how many of his members were wholly sanctified when they were converted. The result of his inquiry will be that he has no converted members, if entire sanctification is identical in time with regeneration, and not the consummation of a work begun at conversion.

Steele's Answers p. 160.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Did John Wesley Teach a Second Definite Work of Grace?

QUESTION: Our Methodist preacher is saying that Wesley did not teach entire sanctification as a second definite work. What do you say?

ANSWER: I suspect this preacher must have been the author of "Historic Doubts Respecting Napoleon Bonaparte," an elaborate and apparently conclusive argument proving that no such man ever lived, that he is a myth, the outgrowth of the military spirit of the French. This preacher's next assertion we may naturally expect to be that John Wesley is a historic myth, the product of Methodism. This proposition is just as capable of proof as that he did not persistently proclaim with tongue and pen Christian perfection or entire sanctifieation as "the second blessing." This he did from near the beginning of his long ministry to the end. There is just as much propriety, in the light of his Journals, in asserting that he did not preach justification as that ho did not preach entire sanctification as a distinct, subsequent work.

Steele's Answers p. 159, 160.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Irreproachable, Unblamable, Unmovable

In his first epistle to Timothy, Paul three times employs another adjective expressive of purity, found nowhere else in sacred Greek. It is ἀνεπίλημπτος (anepilaptos), "irreproachable," or "irreprehensible," applied first to candidates for sacred orders (3:2), then to Timothy himself (6:14), and finally to the believing widows (5:7) and, by implication, to all Christians. It is a strong ethical term, implying that one is not worthy of reprehension, even if he should be reprehended by his fellow-men.

We come now to ἀμώμητος (amomatos), "without rebuke," found only twice in the New Testament (Phil. 2:15), "that ye may be children of God without rebuke," and (2 Pet. 3:14) a text already quoted, "that ye may be found in him without spot and blameless," or without rebuke.

There is another word for unblamable, ἄμωμος (amomios), used by Paul three times in portraying perfect Christians. Eph. 1:4, "According as he hath chosen us [believers] in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy, and without blame before him in love." Love is always the sphere in which holiness and blamelessness are found. Eph. 5:27, "That it [the church] should be holy and without blemish." Col. 1: 22, "Unblamable and unreprovable in his sight": not merely in man's sight. who is incapable of penetrating the invisible springs of action wherein real character lies. Jude 24, R. V., "And to set you before the presence of his glory, without blemish in exceeding joy." We are not to be found faultless in some dark corner of the universe, where flaws and flecks would be unnoticed, but faultless amid the splendors of his ineffable glory. This is what divine grace as mediated by the Holy Spirit, the Sanctifier, is able to do for the weakest saint who perseveringly trusts in Jesus Christ, the adorable Son of God and Savior of men.

Another once-used word, ἀμετακίνητος (ametakinatos), "unmovable," occurs in 1 Cor. 15:58, " that ye may be unmovable," like the granite cliff unshaken by the tornado and the tidal wave. Such vertebrate Christian men and women dwelling in houses of clay may become when "strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man."

Half-Hours With St. Paul, Chapter 18.

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.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Kept From Stumbling

"Now unto him that is able to guard you from stumbling, and to set you before the presence of his glory without blemish in exceeding joy...." — Jude 24 R.V.

The wonderful change wrought in believers by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit is very noticeable, especially to the student of the Greek Testament. Strong words not found in the Old Testament, nor in the four Gospels, are either invented by the apostles or borrowed from classical Greek, to convey an adequate conception of the heavenly glory which has come into earthen vessels.

One such word, ἄπταιστος (aptaistos), "from falling," St. Jude uses in that remarkable ascription with which this brief epistle concludes (Jude 24). The R. V. reads. "Now unto him who is able to guard you from stumbling." This is more difficult than the K. J. V. inasmuch as the unsteady walker is more prone to stumble than to fall. The indwelling Spirit in his fullness can save even from stumbling.

Of course this does not signify intellectual mistakes. It is salvation from moral failures, however slight. Hence the Vulgate, the supreme standard in the Roman Catholic Church, has sine peccato, "without sin." This is the real significance of this adjective. Christ has sent down from heaven a personal guide, who is able to keep every Christian from the commission of sin. Let every doubter try it for himself. Satan is very busy in keeping in circulation the falsehood that freedom from sin is impracticable and impossible in this world. He who believes this lie will continue to commit sin. He will stupefy his own conscience with the idea that sin is inevitable. Soon he will begin to fight against the scriptural doctrine, "Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin." There is no doctrine that the devil more cordially hates than the possibility of holiness perfected this side of the grave. When he gets a Christian minister to take his view, and to advocate the necessity of sinning, he is specially well-pleased. His personal attention to that parish is no longer required.

—edited and adapted from Half-Hours With St. Paul, Chapter 18.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Grace Abounding Exceedingly

"The grace of our Lord abounded exceedingly." — 1 Tim. 1:14.

Here St. Paul prefixes the super to another verb, which itself signifies to superabound, giving it the force of "exceedingly to superabound." This verb, ὑπερπλεονάζω (huperpleonazo), appears nowhere else in the entire volume of Greek literature. Before the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, "faith" and "love" in human souls were streams so small that they needed no wider terms for their description. Thanks to God for bringing me into being in the glorious dispensation of the Comforter! It is preferable to the days of Christ's flesh.

No New Testament writer except St. Paul uses the compound verb ὑπερβάλλω (huperballo), to exceed, excel, surpass. He has written it five times as descriptive of the graces of the Holy Ghost, who has been aptly styled the communication of God, as the Son is the revelation of him. The texts are 2 Cor. 3:10, "The glory that excelleth"; 9:14, "Exceeding grace"; Eph. 1:19, "Exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe"; 2:7; "The exceeding riches of his grace"; 3:19, "The love of Christ which surpasseth knowledge." We have not time to unfold their wealth of meaning. Let each reader do this for himself.

No other writer in the New Testament has used the noun "huperbole" (ὑπερβολή), transferred into English as hyperbole. The texts in which this is applied to spiritual blessings are 1 Cor. 12:31, "And a still more excellent way show I unto you"; 2 Cor. 4:7, 17, "More and more exceedingly an eternal weight of glory." They are well worth studying by those who are aspiring for a large view of God's promises, as a preparation for their realized fulfillment through increased faith.

Half Hours With St. Paul, Chapter 17.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Superabounding Grace

"But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound." — Rom. 5:20.

 Here St. Paul invents a term which he repeats in 2 Cor. 7, making the strong compound verb "superabound," the original of which is unique in both sacred and secular Greek (ὑπερπερισσεύω). Why these daring inventions by a man of fine literary taste, educated in the University of Tarsus, the greatest center of scholastic culture east of Athens? Classical authors usually abstain from the use of words coined by themselves, regarding them as barbarisms. Why did St. Paul deviate from a fundamental canon of rhetoric? The river of divine grace flowing through his soul was too full for its ordinary bed; it must overflow its banks, and cut for itself a broader channel, and become an Amazon for all the thirsty nations and generations. The constraint of the Holy Spirit caused these deviations from the standard of reputable use, and prompted this outburst of invented words. There is no other explanation. I want no other. This magnifies God's mercy and love. It shows how the richness of grace transcends the poverty of nature. In our second text (2 Cor. 7:4), "I superabound in joy," we have a phrase that matches St. Peter's "joy unspeakable and full of glory."

Why should so many persons in Christian lands, and some even in the Christian church, be eagerly running to earthly springs to slake their thirst, while the heavens are pouring down Niagaras of living water?

"Love divine, all love excelling,
Joy of heaven to earth come down."

Half-Hours With St. Paul, Chapter 17.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Triumph in Christ

"Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ." — 2 Cor. 2:14.

The R. V. reads, "always leadeth us in triumph," not as the conquered, but as the ministers of the victory, the soldiers of Christ, who are in the triumphal procession to share the honor. The difference between the same unique verb, to triumph, used here, and the ordinary νικάω (nikao), is that it implies not only victory, but the most public display of it. In Roman triumphal processions incense and perfumes were burnt near the conqueror with different effects, pleasing some but sickening others; to which custom the apostle beautifully alludes in the next verse, "For we are a sweet savor unto God, in them that are saved, and in them that perish." This passage is an encouragement to every consecrated laborer in the Lord's vineyard. No faithful labor will lose its reward. The number of them that are saved may not require large figures in the statistical report; the number that perish may be much larger. Nevertheless, he who scans motives and notes faithful work in obscure places, unappreciated by man, is preparing a triumph for him at the grand Review. Of this he has day by day a foretaste furnished by the indwelling Comforter. Hence he is a victor in every place and every hour.

Says Chrysostom, "Thanks be to God who triumphs us, that is, makes us illustrious in the eyes of all. Our persecutors are the trophies which we erect in every land." The eighth and last beatitude of Jesus, the last because it is the sweetest and richest, is pronounced upon them that are persecuted for his sake. St. Paul had tasted persecution again and again. "Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one; thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned." Yet so gloriously did God sustain him that he could express his superiority to all his sufferings for Christ, only by borrowing the pageantry of the Roman general making a solemn and magnificent entrance into Rome after an important victory. This God's abounding grace enabled him to do "always" and "in every place." Let the Fainthearts and Littlefaiths in the church study these words of the great apostle and take courage, and put unwavering trust in the Captain of their salvation.

Half-Hours With St. Paul, Chapter 17.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

A Triumphant Testimony

"And they overcame him [Satan] by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony." — Rev. 12:11.

The blood of atonement, so appropriated as to prompt to unceasing testimony, is the infallible weapon of victory. So long as Satan could point to the broken law, he could say, "Your case is hopeless, there is no pardon, no mercy in law; it is a straightedge to lay on your character and show its crookedness. It cannot make you straight. It must condemn you. So all your attempts to be righteous are vain. You would do wisely to throw off all allegiance to that hard Master who reaps where he has not sown, whose law is impracticable, and whose commandments are grievous." But the death of Christ puts a new hope into the despairing soul. It brings to an end the reign of law. so far as it is the ground of pardon. The blood of Christ lays a practicable basis for the forgiveness of sins. Thus the devil and his hostile powers are deprived of their strength, which rested on the law as the sole ground of justification.

Half-Hours With St. Paul, Chapter 17.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Christian's Triumph

"Having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it" (the cross).Col. 2:15.

Here and in one other passage Paul uses the verb θριαμβεύω (thriambuo), to triumph. It is found but twice in the Bible, and only as descriptive of pentecostal grace, or, as in this text, of Christ's complete victory over all evil angels and spirits, even the highest in dignity and power. The cross was the Waterloo defeat of all malignant personalities. In what way? Let me explain. Love is power. The highest expression of love is the highest power. The cross is the highest manifestation of love possible in the universe. When Christ, the Son of God, voluntarily bowed his head in death, as a self-sacrifice for men, even for his enemies, he shook the empire of sin to its very foundations. His last cry on the cross, with a loud voice, was the shout of eternal triumph and victory. In a celebrated cathedral in Europe there is behind the altar a cross, with a ladder leaning against it, as if it had been just used in taking down the body of Christ. Beyond a hill in the background of the picture are seen the heads of four men who are bearing it reverently to the tomb. At the foot of the cross a stream of blood is running down the hill towards the spectator. In rapid flight from that crimson rill is seen a serpent instinctively hastening from his conqueror — the painter was a good theologian. But how does this victory of Christ help the Christian when hard pressed by the tempter? It gives great courage to continue the fight, when we are assured that we are battling with a vanquished foe, and that the victor is still in the field and within call, shouting to all his soldiers, "Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." Faith makes his victory ours.

Half-Hours With St. Paul, Chapter 17.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Saved to the Uttermost

"Wherefore also he is able to save to the uttermost them that draw near unto God through him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them." (Hebrews 7:25 ASV.)

The Greek for "uttermost" is παντελὲς (panteles). This is the only place in the New Testament where it is used, except negatively, "in no wise," in Luke 13:11.

It is a strong compound word, meaning "all to the end." The R.V., margin, is "completely." This is its true meaning "perfectly, completely, to the very end" says Delitzsch, "but without necessarily any reference to time." Again he says, "Christ is able to save in every way, in all respects, unto the uttermost; so that every want and need, in all its breadth and depth. is utterly done away." This annotation is a perfect answer to his argument in his Biblical psychology in proof of "the unabolished antinomy' in Rom. 7. "The law in the members" warring until death against the law of the mind, and bringing the Christian at his best earthly estate into captivity to the law or uniform sway of sin. Let us believe the exegete rather than the theologian. It is always safer to trust an honest and scholarly expounder than a warped and traditional dogmatist. Modern interpreters unanimously reject the idea of some of the ancient annotators that "uttermost" has here reference to illimitable future time. Besides being unscholarly, this view involves the heresy of Canon Farrar's "eternal hope" for wicked souls after death.

Why was Paul constrained to invent these new and strong terms? Because he was divinely called to describe what never existed before Pentecost, and for that reason had no name — human souls entirely sanctified through the mission of the Comforter. Why did he not do the same wonderful works before Pentecost, seeing that as God he was omnipresent and omnipotent? He had not the same tools to work with, the completed facts of the gospel ending with the ascension of Christ from the footstool to the throne. "Sanctify them through the truth."

— edited from Half-Hours With St. Paul, Chapter 16.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Sanctified Wholly

"And the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved entire, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you, who will also do it." (1 Thessalonians 5:23, 24 ASV.)

1 Thess. 5:23 is a text which implies that the regenerate are not entirely purified, and that they may be in answer to prayer. This implies that it is in this life. The expanded "amen" after this prayer "Faithful is he that calleth you, who will also do it," is a declaration that it is God, and not death, who is the author of this work.

There is an important word, ὁλοτελής (holoteles), which is found nowhere else in the New Testament nor in the Septuagint. It is an adjective in form with an adverbial meaning (Kuhner, 264.3). If Paul intended to pray that the Thessalonians might all be sanctified, there were three everyday adjectives which he might have used to express "all." He employed this unique term, meaning "wholly to the end," or "quite completely," because he had realized in his own experience the uttermost sanctification, and he saw that it was the privilege of every believer. This rare and peculiar word is rendered in the Vulgate per omnia, "in your collective powers and parts." "Marking," says Ellicott, "more emphatically that thoroughness and pervasive holiness which the following words specify with further exactness." He thus translates it: "But may the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly, and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved whole without blame in the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." A Greek version of the Old Testament was made by Aquila in which this word occurs in Deut. 13:16, to express the idea of "every whit." We have been explicit in defining this word as indicating the completeness of individual sanctification which is presently presented in detail, and not the cleansing of the totality of the Thessalonian church — may God sanctify you all. Of course the apostle's prayer for the entire purification of the individual includes every individual in the church.

But there is another word in this verse that occurs nowhere else in the New Testament except in James 1:4. It is ὁλόκληρον (holoklaron), "whole," an emphatic predicate referring to all three following substantives — spirit, soul, and body. The SPIRIT is the highest and distinctive part of man, his real personality, responsible and naturally immortal, whereby we are receptive of the Holy Spirit through saving faith in Jesus Christ. In the unregenerate it is crushed down and subordinated to the animal soul, the seat of the passions and desires which we have in common with the brutes. The next component of man, for the entire sanctification of which Paul prays, is the body, the material envelope of the immaterial personality and its animal propensities. He says much in his epistles about the sanctification of the body, "Know ye not that your bodies are members of Christ? Know ye not that your body is a temple of the Holy Ghost? glorify God therefore in your body." — 1 Cor. 6:15-20, R.V. The body is sanctified wholly when its members are used by the rectified will only "as instruments of righteousness unto God." Paul in this detailed sanctification leaves no more place for sin continuing till death than he does in 2 Cor. 7:1, where "all filthiness of the flesh and of the spirit" is to be cleansed in the act of "perfecting holiness." This word for "whole" which Paul has used only in this place signifies intact, possessing all that belongs to it, and having nothing superfluous. Sin is an excrescence, a deformity which this particular word excludes.

In conclusion, on this point we would say that the spirit is preserved blameless in its wholeness when the voice of truth always rules it; the soul when it resists all the charms of the senses; and, lastly, the body when it is not abused as the instrument of shameful actions.

— edited from Half-Hours With St. Paul, Chapter 16.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Putting Off the Body of the Flesh

"...in whom ye were also circumcised with a circumcision not made with hands, in the putting off of the body of the flesh, in the circumcision of Christ..." (Colossians 2:11 ASV)

Col. 2:11 contains a notable instance of the apostle Paul strengthening his assertion of the completeness of the cleansing of the believer, by the invention of a noun found nowhere else in the whole range of Greek literature. The word is ἀπέκδυσις (apekdusis), "putting off the body of the flesh" (R.V.), not "of the sins" of the flesh, as in the K.J.V., which is a gloss teaching deliverance from sinning. The R.V. teaches the greater deliverance from the sin-principle or tendency called original sin. Let us scrutinize Paul's invented compound noun, made up of two prepositions, ἀπό (apo) and ἐκ (ek), and the verb δύο (duo), all signifying the putting off and laying aside, as a garment, an allusion to actual circumcision. Meyer's comment shows the strength of this word:

Whereas the spiritual circumcision divinely performed consisted in a complete parting and doing away with this body [of sin], in so far as God, by means of this ethical circumcision, has taken off and removed the sinful body from man [the two acts are expressed by the double compound], like a garment drawn off and laid aside.

The italics are Meyer's. If this does not mean the complete and eternal separation of depravity, like the perpetual effect of cutting off and casting away the foreskin then it is impossible to express the idea of entire cleansing in any human language. This radical change of nature from sinful to holy is effected "by or by means of, the circumcision of Christ," i.e., which is produced through Christ by the agency of the Holy Spirit, procured by him. We do not accept the suggestion of Meyer that this Christian transformation is represented in its ideal aspect. God does not tantalize his children with unattainable ideals. He does not command perfection where it cannot be realized through his grace. He is not a hard master, reaping perfection where he has sown only imperfection. "His commandments are not grievous."

— edited and adapted from Half-Hours With St. Paul, Chapter 16.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Abounding Love

"Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way unto you: and the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we also do toward you; to the end he may establish your hearts unblameable in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints." (1Thessalonians 3:11-13 ASV)

Turning now to another prayer of St. Paul in 1 Thess. 3:12, 13, we find that there is to be an ever "increasing and abounding love one toward another, and toward all men," in order to establishment in holiness.

It is taught elsewhere in St. Paul's epistles that love is the element in which holiness exists (Eph. 1:4; 1 Tim. 1:5); but here we are assured that this love must have a man-ward, as well as a God-ward direction. Hence, a tart holiness, a bitter holiness, a sour holiness, an envious holiness, is a contradiction and an impossibility. Nor will the careful student of Paul's magnificent lyric on love, in 1 Cor. 13, find any such combination possible as perfect love and arrogance, or censoriousness, or self-conceit, or head-strongness. "Love," when purged of all dross, "suffereth long and is kind; love envieth not; love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, and doth not behave itself unseemly." Professors of heart purity especially those who associate themselves together almost exclusively, are in danger of taking on some of these unamiable qualities, and of cherishing uncharitable feelings toward those Christians whose weaker wings of faith have not borne them up to the Pisgah tops of grace. As a safeguard against this peril we recommend a frequent and searching self-examination, with this chapter as a touchstone. The result would be an increase in the number of "hearts unblamable in holiness before God," whose "eyes run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in behalf of them whose hearts are perfect towards him." — 2 Chron. 16:9.

The interpretation is erroneous, that the establishment in holiness, "at the coming of our Lord Jesus," signifies the completion of our sanctification at that time. Rather, it will be in that day that the result of the Spirit's perfect purifying work in this life will be exhibited to the universe. The same remark applies to that strong proof-text (1 Thess. 5:23, R. V.), "And the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved entire without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." The aorist tense of the verb "sanctify," denoting singleness of action, as distinguished from continuance or repetition, strengthens our position that there is no post mortem cleansing taught in these passages. This remark is for the special benefit of some good, and otherwise orthodox, theologians, who reject the modern philosophical inference that a change of relation to God's law from condemnation to justification, in certain cases, may take place after death, but look with favor on the doctrine of the completion after death of the sanctification which began in the new birth. The latter is as destitute of scriptural foundation as the former. The only purgatory for sin is in the blood of Christ. To assert that this purgatory stretches out from death to the Day of Judgment is to pass over the gulf between Protestantism based on the Bible, and Romanism built on traditions. Prayer for the unsanctified dead would logically follow. Let me rather pray —

"O thou great Power! in whom I move,
For whom I live, to whom I die,
Behold me through thy beams of love,
Whilst in this vale of tears I sigh;
And cleanse my sordid soul within
By thy Christ's blood, the Bath of sin!
No hallowed oils, no grains, I need;
No rags of saints, no purging fire;
One crimson drop of David's seed
Is all the cleansing I desire."

—edited from Half Hours With St. Paul, Chapter 15.


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Pastoral Ministry and Spirit-Inspired Love

"And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and all discernment..." (Philippians 1:9 ASV)

There was a very strong tie which bound the apostle Paul to the brethren in Philippi: he had suffered for them in the stocks, under the lash, and in the nether prison. Sacrifice and suffering for others invest them with a peculiar preciousness.

In a course of lectures at Yale University on pastoral duties, the speaker insisted that love is the only adequate motive to a successful ministry — love of the souls of the people. He was asked, "How can I get this love?" The answer was defective, because it did not recognize the Holy Ghost as the Inspirer of love. The speaker, H. W. Beecher replied "Go to work in earnest for the salvation of souls, and make sacrifices for them, and you will begin to love them." This is true in the case of a pastor already filled with the Spirit of God. In the absence of the Spirit-baptism, self-sacrifice for others, especially the vile and thankless, is a difficult if not impossible achievement. It requires great love to prompt to self-abnegation and voluntary suffering: and this love is of God.

But where such love has been enkindled by the breath of God, it becomes amazingly intensified by our self-denial and patient toil for those who are dead in sin. When they are raised to newness of life by the resurrection power of the Spirit, and are wearing the image of Christ, a bond of love is knit between the pastor and the converts stronger than can be found elsewhere on earth. Hence St. Paul's love for the churches which he had planted amid tribulations, and also his overflowing joy. In the beautiful procession of the fruit of the Spirit, in Gal. 5:22, joy follows love.

Wishing the Philippians to mount up to the highest and purest joy, he prays that their "love may abound yet more and more in knowledge." — chapter 1:9.

There is no such thing in earth or heaven as love in a finite being becoming perfect in volume or degree of strength. The more that men and angels know of God the more they will love him. As knowledge of God is capable of eternal increase, so there will be scope for endless advancement in love and joy.

Mathematicians prove that there is a curve of such a nature (the hyperbola), that it will forever approach a straight line in the same plane, but never touch it. Such a curve is the human soul in its capacity for ever-increasing knowledge and love of God. Among finite aptitudes this talent of eternal growth is a faculty having semi-divine dimensions. In it God's image gleams out most clearly.

The knowledge, in this text, in which love mounts up to higher and higher degrees, is epignosis (ἐπίγνωσις), experimental, certain, and clear. It is the heart of the believer touching the heart of God. The head of pride is always agnostic, the heart of love is always epignostic (not in the dictionary, but signifies knowing certainly).

 — adapted from Half-Hours With St. Paul, Chapter 15.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The Biblical Chronology of Creation

QUESTION: Harmonize the Biblical chronology of the Creation of Adam 4004 years B. C. with the Babylonian, 6158 years.

ANSWER: The Bible is an infallible directory to eternal life, but not to the age of the world or to an accurate scientific chronology. McClintock & Strong name forty-four authors, all of whom arrive at different results. The Septuagint, the Greek version often quoted in the New Testament, makes the period from Adam to Abraham 1486 years more than the Hebrew text does. Most modern writers adopt the Septuagint numbers in preference to the Hebrew.

Steele's Answers p. 159.

Monday, June 2, 2014

The Historicity of the Bible Characters

QUESTION: I have recently read a book which denies the historicity of all the Bible characters before Josiah. Several eminent Christian scholars are quoted as endorsing this theory. Must I accept this as truth?

ANSWER: Wait awhile and see what perplexity these wiseacres are in writing history without Genesis, especially the 10th chapter, the great seedbed of ethnology, the science of nations. Not Josiah, but Adam, is the first real human personality in the Bible. The manner of his creation and that of the material universe may be pictorially stated in Genesis in order to impress the fact that God is the Creator upon every mind, the simple as well as the wise, "The writer of this record is obviously aiming at the religious, not the scientific, training of the people for whom he writes." Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Moses, and Joshua, are as real men as Herodotus, Lycurgus, Socrates, and Plato. Job is not a myth, but a genuine, historical person dramatized. David, the poet king, is as real as Milton, the author of Paradise Lost.

Steele's Answers p. 158.