Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing (epiphany) of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Titus 2:13
THE DEVELOPMENT OF CHRISTLIKENESS – PART 17
Scriptures are cited from the King James (Authorized) Version, unless stated otherwise.
“But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.”
2 Corinthians 3: 18
E. Christlikeness in Wisdom, Justice, Love and Power Toward Enemies
We may develop Christlikeness toward our enemies by imitation, through beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord. God looks at His enemies as being such largely through ignorance, as being the blind dupes of Satan, as unknowingly helping in carrying out Satan’s plans; as giving Him an opportunity to develop His people; as giving Him the opportunity of manifesting His marvelous character for the blessing of His people and of His enemies, when they come on trial for life; as injuring themselves many times more in their enmity to Him, through depraving their own characters, than they injure God; as preparing for themselves, therefore greater difficulties in recovering themselves from their depravity when they come on trial for life; and, as ultimately in many cases, becoming His children.
These viewpoints enable God to exercise Wisdom, Justice, Love and Power in a way highly honorable to Himself and helpful to His children. It influences Him, therefore, to make plans for His dealing with these enemies whereby ultimately He may do them good. He exercises His Justice due, not to them, but to Christ, on account of His sacrifice in their interests, by preparing good things for them. His Love shows itself in showering goodness and mercy upon them. His Power manifests itself by exhibiting the Wisdom, Justice and Love in self-control necessary to carry out His thoughts with reference to them; and amid the obstacles that their misconduct presents, He, in the Patience of Power, perseveres cheerfully in His course of dealing with His enemies for their future blessing.
Looking upon the Heavenly Father as He views His enemies, we will obtain more and more the same view of them and will thereby be enabled to imitate Him. We will also see that they are our enemies through ignorance, the blind dupes of Satan; that they are giving us a better opportunity of appreciating God’s character through giving Him the occasion to manifest His Wisdom, Justice, Love and Power toward them; that they are really helping us to develop proper characters; that they are injuring themselves many times more by depraving their characters through their misdeeds toward us than they are hurting us; that thereby they will experience greater difficulties in their efforts to arise out of their depravity, when they come on trial for life; and that they will some day in many cases become friends through reformation under the Kingdom arrangements.
As we look on them from God’s view of them, we learn to take the same view and thereby are enabled to imitate His example toward them. We will in wisdom devise plans adapted to their varying needs to do them some good, either for the present or future Age. Our justice will act, inasmuch as we owe it to God, Christ and them to treat them kindly. Our love will delight to bestow good upon them for the sake of exhibiting to them a character that will help them to reformation, when they come on trial for life, as well as bless them otherwise. We will in power exercise the necessary self-control to keep such wisdom, justice and love in operation toward them. When obstacles arise, power will exercise its patience in persevering cheerfully in well-doing toward them, until finally we have by imitation developed toward our enemies the same character that we see displayed in the mirror: Wisdom, Justice, Love and Power in Christlikeness.
GOD’S ATTITUDE TOWARD THE INCORRIGIBLE
Another class of enemies that God has is the incorrigible, but even toward these God exercises Wisdom, Justice, Love and Power, but differently from His other class of enemies. In His Wisdom He devises ways by which they may be saved from the evil of an eternal life in sin and sorrow and by which, therefore, He brings them to the Second Death. His Justice co-operates because He would not suffer them to have everlasting life, since that would inflict evil on them forever and the love of justice works no evil to anyone. His disinterested love, desiring to have a clean universe in which righteousness alone will exist (2 Peter 3: 13) (Revelation 5: 13), will prompt His blotting them out of existence. The necessary self-control and patience of power will act in exercising Wisdom, Justice and Love to bring about their death in order to undo the necessity of their living forever in suffering; but in the meantime He allows them many a blessing, until the time of their death.
By beholding the Lord in His activities toward the incorrigible, we are enabled to act toward such persons by imitating the spirit of God. We sometimes come in contact with those who were once in harmony with God, but who later become His enemies. In such a case we must, in a measure, display toward them conduct that in principle is the same as that of God. Wisdom would therefore move us to plan a separation of ourselves from their association, for to continue fellowshipping with them would be an injury to them and to us. Justice would prompt carrying out this plan because they and we are injured by association; for justice seeks, not to inflict, but to undo injury. Love, seeing that their conduct is greatly out of harmony with allegiance to God, will act accordingly, separating us from their fellowship. The necessary self-control and patience of power to carry this out, whether amid obstacles or apart from obstacles, will show themselves, in order that we keep ourselves from those whose conduct has made them amenable to a loss of their standing. By so doing, we would be copying God’s conduct toward them, taking His view of them and imitating His spirit. We do not, however, have the right to exercise punishment toward them, which God alone has the right to exercise. Thus, as we continue beholding as in a mirror how God looks upon His incorrigible enemies, we will take and act out in spirit the same view of them; but like God, as we have opportunity we will do them such good in harmony with wisdom, justice, love and power.
We have not shown how Jesus while in the flesh manifested wisdom, justice, love and power toward the Father, the brethren, the world and His enemies. However, with the above explanations, the reader can, by beholding, learn to imitate Him in His conduct while in the flesh, and thus become like Him in wisdom, justice, love and power toward God, the world and our enemies. There is one respect in which we are not to imitate God, and that is executing vengeance for sin (Romans 12: 19-21). Jesus’ course while in the flesh serves as a model in this respect. God does not permit His people to execute vengeance (which the glorified Church will do in the next Age), because He wants His people to learn to endure evil without executing justice on the evil-doer. When it becomes the Church’s portion to execute the justice of the law, they will have such characters as will do it wholly from devotion to principle and without any personal animosity to which the fallen flesh is so prone. Therefore, in this one particular, Jesus’ course while in the flesh, and not God’s, is for our imitation.
What a remarkable method is thus displayed in our text! The thoughts of the Divine character, continually held on our mind by devout contemplation, prove by imitation the means of developing Christlikeness. This method is of utmost importance and its daily practice will prove of the greatest help in developing Christlikeness. He who amid all the varying scenes and circumstances of life, by beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord continues to imitate Him, will continue thereby to be changed into the same image, from glory to glory, as by the spirit of the Lord. Brethren, let us continue by beholding to imitate God’s glory, until this blessing is attained. Let us make this the chief object and work of our lives. Then we will attain His likeness in heart and mind here, and by and by, perfect bodies – for the Little Flock, perfect Divine bodies, for the Great Company, perfect spirit bodies, for the Ancient and Youthful Worthies, perfect human bodies in the “better resurrection,” and perfect spirit bodies at the end of the Little Season, and for the Consecrated Epiphany Campers, the rest of the quasi-elect, and the non-elect, perfect human bodies. May this prospect redound to the glory of God, in the Son, by the spirit of our God. Amen.
(to be continued)