THE point of difficulty in a correspondent's mind is this -- if the "defective faith" of the apostles did not necessitate their re-immersion, why should the defective faith of our contemporaries? In other words, if the ignorance of the apostles in regard to the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, and the things founded upon these facts, did not invalidate their baptism by John, why should men's ignorance of the kingdom of God and His righteousness, make invalid the immersion to which they have been subjected? Is not their immersion the "one baptism" although their "faith" is defective of many things embraced in the "one faith" and the "one hope of the calling"? (Eph. 4:4-6)
This appears to be the difficulty for us to consider. Let us see, then, if it be real and insuperable or not.
In the first place we remark that the case of the apostles is exceptional. They were Israelites under the law, which was then in full force, the Abrahamic covenant not having been confirmed by the blood of its Mediator, the Christ. They were not required to believe in the mystery of its confirmation any more than the prophets were until the confirmation was established. They were under a dispensation of "justification by faith", not of "justification through, the faith"; because when they were justified "the faith" (See Rom. 3:30) had not come (Rom. 3:30; Gal. 3:24). Until the resurrection of Jesus they were "under the law" as Jesus was himself under the law, which was the schoolmaster of Israel who were "shut up to the faith which should afterwards be revealed". This was a position which could only be occupied by Israelites previous to the revelation of the faith. After that faith came, they were no longer "shut up". (Gal. 3:23-25) The apostles were shut up as Daniel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel were "shut up to the faith". Their faith was the faith of these prophets, with the addition that they believed that Jesus was the Son of David and Son of the Deity whom He had anointed with the Holy Spirit; in other words, "the Christ the King of Israel" (Mark 15:32) whom He had covenanted to Abraham and David to inherit the land and to occupy the throne.
This was their faith. They believed the things covenanted to Abraham and David, and that Jesus was the Christ; but they did not understand nor believe, though it was told them, that Jesus should be put to death and rise again; they did not know, in any sense of the word know , that there should be remission of sins to the prophets and themselves through the death and resurrection of Jesus; that is, through the crucificial outpouring of his soul as the blood of the Abrahamic and Davidian covenants, in the promises of which they believed. This is evident from Luke 18:31-34, where it is written that Jesus said to the twelve: "Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished. For he shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated, and spitted on; and they shall scourge him, and put him to death; and the third day he shall rise again. And they understood none of these things; and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things that were spoken". John tells us that their ignorance of this class of truths continued until Jesus was glorified (John12:16). Then they received the Holy Spirit, the spirit of truth, which guided them into all the truth: and showed them many things which in the beginning of the week of confirmation, Daniel's seventieth week, they were not able to bear (John 16:4,12,13,25).
The apostles, then, were justified by faith in the gospel of the kingdom, and in Jesus as its anointed king. This is positive. They were not justified by faith in a Christ who they believed would suffer death and rise again. This is negative. That they were justified before the death of Jesus is evident from John 15:3, where it is written, "Ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you". This word which Jesus spoke to them was "the word of the kingdom", also styled "the Gospel of the Kingdom", and "the kingdom of God" (Luke 18:17; 9:60, 2,6; 8: 1; 4:43,18; Matt. 9:35; 4:23). Faith in it and Jesus was justifying. It cleansed, or purified them all from sins, except Judas. He was excepted, and pronounced "unclean"; for he had not received "the word" into an honest and good heart.
The apostles believed all they were required to believe. They were not required to believe what was purposely hidden from them. They had honoured God in accepting His counsel preached to them through John the baptizer. They had been baptized with "the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins", (Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3) predicated on faith in the promises covenanted to Israel's fathers, and the approaching manifestation of the Christ. When he appeared they recognized him. He preached the same gospel as John, but amplified in detail. They believed it, and Jesus completed what John had begun in washing their feet, and without which they could have no part with him in the joy that was set before him (John 13:8). They had washed in John's baptism, therefore they needed not save to have their feet washed by Jesus, who thus "shod them with the preparation of the gospel" and made them clean every whit (verse 10; Eph. 6:15). Things being thus ordered, it only remained to redeem them from the curse of the law to redeem them by the same act that should purchase Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, and all the saints under the law, from its curse.
This redemption was effected by Jesus submitting to be made a curse for them. This was accomplished, not by his wilful violation of the law, but by his enemies nailing him to a tree, or cross; and so forcibly bringing the curse of the Mosaic law upon him, which says, "Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree". (Gal. 3:13) Thus the nature crucified was cursed, eternally cursed; and therefore can never occupy the kingdom of God and the earth for ever. The life of the nature that transgressed in the person of the first Adam, became a covering for sin in the sinless person of the second Adam. When glorified the crucified nature was transformed into holy spirit-nature, styled by Paul, "spiritual body", (1 Cor. 15:44) or the body consubstantial with the Father. This is the nature Jesus now possesses, and to which he attained at the price of "the crucifixion of the flesh" in every sense of the phrase.
When the redemption price was thus paid the law of Moses had no more dominion over the apostles. Its curses had become ineffectual in their case. Every whit clean by the arrangement indicated, they could stand up on Pentecost, and under inspiration of Holy Spirit, could reveal to the astonished Israelites the new doctrine of God's system of justification in the name of Jesus, attested by the law that cursed him, and by the prophets. Being redeemed from the curse of the law they had received the adoption of sons; and because they were sons He had sent forth the spirit of His Son into their hearts; and they could stand up and proclaim without sin "justification through the faith", (Rom.3:30) independently of the sacrifices prescribed by the ritual of Moses. "The faith" had come, and they were no longer under the Mosaic schoolmaster.
The reader, then, will bear in mind the distinction subsisting between, "justification by faith", and "justification through the faith". (Rom. 3:30) The apostles and prophets were justified, or cleansed from all their sins "by faith"; but since the day of Pentecost no Jew or Gentile can obtain pardon or purification by the same formula as they. To believe the word of the kingdom, and that Jesus is Son of God, will, since that notable day, save no man apart from the revealed mystery; nor would the belief that the Christ should die and be raised again, apart from the recognition of Jesus as the Christ, and the word of the kingdom, save a believer. The area of "faith" was enlarged by the apostolic proclamation into "the faith", so that after the day of Pentecost the doctrine of the apostles presented people with more things to be believed for justification than were believed by Abraham, Moses, David, Daniel, or themselves. Till the glorification of Jesus they were "fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets had spoken"; (Luke 24:25) for they did not understand that the Christ ought to have suffered the things Jesus suffered, and afterwards to enter upon his glory (Luke 24:25,26). But when Jesus was about to betaken up and received into glory, he opened their understanding that they might understand the scriptures of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms, concerning him; and said unto them, "Thus it is written, and thus it behoved the Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead on the third day; and that repentance, and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all the nations, beginning at Jerusalem" (verse 44-47).
Such was the case of the apostles in regard to their personal justification, which resolved itself into :
1. -- Their baptism of John's immersion of repentance for remission of sins through the word Jesus should preach to them.
2. -- Their belief of that word of the kingdom in an honest and good heart.
3. -- Their confession that he was the anointed Son of the Deity and King of Israel; and,
4. -- Their feet being washed by the personal ministry of the King himself.
Here was a work of the Spirit which occupied a much longer time to accomplish than a modern clerical religion-getting. This is the excitement of an instant which leaves the proselyte as ignorant of the truth as it found him: whereas the cleansing of the apostles every whit was, like that of Abraham's justification, an affair of years.
The apostles were a practical illustration of the word in Dan. 9:27 concerning the transactions of the seventieth week, "He shall confirm a covenant for many one week, and in half of the week he shall cause to cease from sacrificing and offering". They belonged to the Week of Confirmation, in which the Spirit was causing to cease from sin-offerings; preparing a covering for iniquity; introducing a righteousness for the hidden periods; sealing the vision of the eighth chapter, and ,the prophecy; and anointing the holiest of the holy ones, or saints. Their baptism of John did not cause them to cease from sacrificing and offering according to the Mosaic law; nor did their feet-washing by Jesus. Till he put away sin-offerings by the sacrifice of himself, the immersed apostles were under the dominion of the law, and bound to attend to its requirement; but when Jesus died "to redeem the transgressions under the law", their iniquity and that of all the prophets was, covered; and in his resurrection their justification was complete. The righteousness they had acquired was such as the law could not give. This could only represent the taking away of sins, not actually and permanently abolish them; while the state perfected by the death and resurrection of Jesus invested them with a purification which needed not to be renewed in all subsequent time, and would be found sufficient for the Millennial Period and beyond, in other words, "for ever".
After Deity was "justified in spirit", (1 Tim. 3:16) by the perfecting of Jesus, the apostles no longer offered sacrifices and offerings. They "ceased sacrificing and offering", though sacrifices and offerings continued to be offered according to the law for nearly forty years after by all Israelites who did not submit to the Deity's system of righteousness exhibited in the gospel the apostles preached.
From these premises the reader will perceive that John's baptism was altogether wrong and out of place after the resurrection of Jesus. It was quite right in its right place; but altogether wrong out of its place. A pre-pentecostal immersion is therefore impossible; and the case of the apostles who are subjects of it, altogether irrelevant to any supposable among us. Their faith was according to the formula of the week of confirmation, which terminated with the cutting off of Messiah the prince at the crucifixion. It was not defective for "justification by faith", though it was defective for "justification through the faith", which, however, when they were cleansed was to them impossible, seeing that "the faith" had not then as yet come. (See Rom. 3:30) Continued
The Apostles Justified By Faith Before "The Faith" Came (con't)
The Apostles Justified By Faith Before "The Faith" Came (con't)
But "justification by faith" according to the import of the phrase under the law, is as impossible to us as "justification through the faith" before the resurrection of Jesus was to them. Jesus preached the coming faith, but his hearers none of them understood it, because it was hidden from them. For this cause, it was styled "the wisdom of the Deity in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom". (1 Cor.2:7) Their justification was not predicated upon what was purposely hidden from them; for God is not an austere master reaping where he hath not sown, and gathering where he hath not scattered. Men's justification, whether Jews or Gentiles, is predicated on their belief of what He hath revealed. When the hidden wisdom was revealed, then "the faith came", (Gal. 3:23. See also verses 24 and 25) and men were required to believe it in addition to what the apostles believed when they were "justified by faith", before the cutting off of the Prince of the Host. Our justification does not depend on our believing what will be revealed to the nations in the millennial dawn, when the law shall go forth from Zion, and the word of Jehovah [Yahweh] from Jerusalem, as testified in Isaiah 2:3. This is to us "hidden wisdom". Secret things belong to God, the things that are revealed to us, and to our children (Deut. 29:29). This was the rule for Israel, and the rule for us who would find the "righteousness of God". (Rom. 1:17; 3:21)
The revelation of the hidden wisdom or mystery of the Deity, styled in Acts 2:11 "the wonderful works of God", was the grand distinctive peculiarity of the apostolic preaching on Pentecost and forward. Nothing less than the belief of the teaching of the apostles can now justify a single son or daughter of the first Adam. He that hears them so as to believe and do what they taught, hears the Deity; and he that hears them not is not "taught of God", (John 6:45; 1 Thess. 4:9) and cannot therefore be saved, however pious he may be in his own estimation, and that of his contemporaries. This is evident from the words of Jesus, who said to the apostles, "It shall be given you what ye shall speak; for it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh by you: and he that heareth you heareth me; and he that despiseth you, despiseth me" (Matt 10:19,20; Luke 10:16). And speaking of those who come to him as the result of the attracting influence of the Father, Jesus said, "It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me" (John 6:45). To hear the apostles, then, is to hear Jesus and the Father; and consequently to be taught of God; and all that are so taught have heard and learned of the Father, and are drawn or attracted by what they have heard and learned to Jesus.
None else "come to Jesus" in the scriptural sense of the word. All who come to him are intelligent in "the faith". There are no ignoramuses among the genuine disciples, for these are "all taught of the Deity"; and when the Deity ''teaches, His teaching "opens the eyes", turns the taught "from darkness" "into the marvellous light" of the gospel of His glory (Acts 26:18; 1 Pet. 2:9). How different this from the result of clerical teaching, preaching, ministration, or by whatever name they may designate the wordy outpourings of their cracked and truly earthen vessels! Those who "come to Jesus" in the clerical sense, are those who come to the clergy, and become members of their synagogues. They are brought to this, not by the teaching of the apostles, but by the "enticing words of man's wisdom ", (1 Cor. 2:4) which leave them in darkness as profound as the craftiest soul-dealer could possibly wish. Any intelligent believer conversing with such can easily discern that they are not taught of God, but only of the clergy; for he will find them entirely ignorant of the first principles of the oracles of God. With the prophets they have nothing to do; for the apostles they have as little use; of the gospel of the kingdom they have never heard; and the revelation of the mystery might as well have never been revealed, for any use they have for it in their system of "getting religion", and saving immortal souls from the death that never dies!
In such a system "marvellous light" is out of the question; for in every corner of it can be discovered only the murkiest gloom, and darkness that may be felt. The Father and Jesus are despised by the adherents of the clergy, because the apostles are not heard. The whole establishment is Laodicean, and the voice of the Deity finds no utterance within its pale. These are incontrovertible facts. The teaching and mandates of the apostles are not regarded in the kingdom of the clergy, and therefore, we know that the spirit of their establishments is not the Spirit of the Deity; but "the Spirit of Error" and of "strong delusion", which is the spirit of their revivals, and the spirit of which their "religion" comes (1 John 4:5,6; 2 Thess. 2:11,12).
The Pentecostian "truth as it is in Jesus" (Eph. 4:21) is "righly divided" (2 Tim. 2:15) by that skilful workman, the apostle of the Gentiles, in Rom. 16:25. In ascribing glory to the only wise Deity, he refers to the word of truth in a three- fold relation of things which may be thus stated:
1. -- "My Gospel",
2. -- "The preaching of Jesus Christ", and
3. -- " The revelation of the mystery concealed from the times of the ages" - the times of the law and of the periods that preceded it.
1. -- These are the triple elements of the whole system of faith Jesus called "the gospel" and which he commanded the apostles to go forth and preach, and declared that whosoever believed it and was baptized should be saved, but whosoever believed it not should be condemned. (Mark 16:16) The "one hope" of this system Paul styled "my gospel", (Rom. 2:16;16:25; 2 Tim. 2:8) or "the gospel of me" -- the gospel preached of me, Paul. In another place he terms it "the hope of Israel", on account of which he was a prisoner in chains (Acts. 28:20). Elsewhere he alludes to it as "the gospel preached to Abraham", and which announced the justification of all the nations through faith, and the blessing of them in company with faithful Abraham. It was therefore his gospel in an especial sense, because he was separated by the Deity to declare and teach it authoritatively to the Gentiles; and whoever taught any thing perversive or subversive of it, he pronounced "accursed" (Gal. 1:6-9; 3:8,9). The clergy do not preach this gospel. Indeed, how can they! For they are as ignorant of it as though it had never been apocalypsed or revealed. Paul, then, whose image they set in niches for the ornamentation of their bazaars, not we, though we approve his sentence, pronounces them "accursed". Let the reader, then, renounce these men- pleasers whom the world hears and glorifies, and study diligently Paul's gospel of the approaching government of the habitable by the resurrected and anointed King of Israel (Acts 17:31).
2. -- When Paul's contemporaries had come to comprehend the purpose of the Deity with respect to the nations existing in the age to come -- that he intended to rule them by the Christ -- he next proclaimed to them that Jesus was that Christ. This he styles "the preaching of Jesus Christ". (Rom. 16:25) Their belief of the gospel of the kingdom and name of Christ abstractly from Jesus, would not have justified, or saved them from their sins, and given them a right to the life of the age, after Pentecost. They were required to recognize him as the Son of David, Son of the Deity, and King of the Jews; for if they rejected, or did not accept him as Lord, and received not his words, their fate was to be destroyed from among the people" (John 12:48; Acts 3:23). This arrangement has not been altered by the authority of heaven since Paul's day. The clergy have abolished or superseded it by their traditions; but God has no respect for them or their institutions. They are elements of a power "that thinks to change times and laws" (Dan. 7:25), and which speaks great things, and blasphemies, and opens its mouth in blasphemy against the Deity, to blaspheme His name and His tabernacle, and them that dwell in the heaven (Rev. 13:5,6). The influence of this clerical power in all its Laodicean developments is self- deceptive, and destructive of the people who obey its behests. In relation to them "the times and laws" are changed, and a way of salvation which, in verity, is no salvation at all, established, that makes the truth of God of no effect. But all this with God is nothing. His plan of salvation is unchanged; and if any man of this generation be saved, he can be saved only as men were saved in the days of the apostles. They must believe Paul's gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ.
3. -- But a man may believe the hope Paul proclaims, and that Jesus is the Christ, and yet not believe enough to save him. He must believe, in addition, the revealed mystery in its facts and doctrine. Suppose he believe that all nations shall be blessed in Abraham and his seed; that Abraham shall inherit with his seed, Jesus and the saints, the promised land for the millennial period and beyond; that David's throne shall be established and exist in all that period; that the twelve tribes, then an obedient and faithful nation, shall occupy the land; that Jesus and his holy brethren shall possess the government of the world, as Jehovah's (Yahweh's) anointed kings and priests, incorruptible and deathless - suppose he believe all this, what benefit would it be to the man if he denied, or did not believe that Jesus died, was buried, and rose again -- that he was delivered for the sins of his people, and raised again for their justification? These facts, and the teaching predicated upon them, are indispensable elements of "the faith" through which men are justified. It was in the preaching of Jesus Christ and the revealed mystery, that Paul's Israelitish fellow countrymen needed to be especially indoctrinated. The gospel preached to Abraham was well known to them, for it was "the hope of Israel", (Acts 28:20) and had been preached to them in the reading of the prophets for many centuries. Not so, however, with the Gentiles. These were ignorant of the whole subject, and had to be taught everything from the beginning.
The apostles, then were "justified by faith", and preached "justification through the faith"(Rom. 3:30) to all who should "obey the truth". (Rom. 2:8; Gal. 3:1; 5:7) "Ye have purified your souls", says Peter, "in obeying the truth." (1 Pet. 1:22) The truth cannot be obeyed unless it be believed. In other words, if a man have not the faith in his understanding and affection, he cannot yield "the obedience of faith" (Rom. 16:26) "or obey "the law of faith". (Rom. 3:27) The burial of a true believer with Christ in immersion is the act of faith which constitutes obedience. None but a true believer can enact it. The immersion of an ignorant sinner is altogether out of the premises of the gospel. He that does it knowingly is a wilful, blasphemer of the name of the Deity; and the person dipped only adds to his sins by his presumption. The one faith and the one hope of the calling must precede the immersion to constitute the "one baptism", (Eph. 4:4-6) if either, or both, be wanting, the immersion is invalid. Fifty immersions will not supply the want of the faith; but, on the other hand, if the subject's faith be apostolic, one immersion is sufficient, and ought, on no account, to be repeated.