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
Scriptures are cited from the King James (Authorized) Version, unless stated otherwise.
“As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.”
Galatians 6: 10
DEVELOPMENT OF character-likeness to our Lord Jesus Christ is the first duty and privilege of every consecrated child of God. The Apostle Peter said, “Hereunto were ye called” (1 Peter 2: 21), not especially to do something for somebody else, but to develop our own individual character – to fight the good fight of faith, to lay hold on eternal life, to gain the blessing which God has invited us to have. Nothing that we can do for others should take the place of the work which God has given us to do for ourselves individually. What God’s people do for others is merely secondary, whatever opportunity may offer. Their chief work is to be for themselves. This principle is extremely important, otherwise it might happen to us as the Apostle Paul warns – that having preached to others, we ourselves might become castaways regarding our calling (1 Corinthians 9: 27).
The Household of Faith
But while we are developing ourselves, and while assured by the Scriptures that in due time we shall reap, if we faint not, there is, nevertheless, something we can do beyond ourselves. We may do good to anybody, to everybody, as we have opportunity. These opportunities vary, but in choosing what to do, let us remember the Apostolic injunction of our text, to “do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.” The Household of Faith consists primarily of those who have “the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3). It means that one who has the faith as set forth in God’s Word would take the steps which the Master indicated as necessary for membership in the Household. Our Lord said, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16: 24).
In the strictest sense of the word, the Household of Faith is the family of God, those who have offered their all to God in consecration (Romans 12: 1). Some of them are making good progress, growing strong, tall, broad; others are merely “babes in Christ.” But in the broader sense, the Household of Faith also includes all those who are tentatively justified, but not consecrated. In seeking for opportunities of service, the Lord’s people are to discriminate in favor of the Household of Faith rather than the world of mankind. Whatever time we do not need for ourselves or our dependents, should generally be used in connection with the Household of Faith.
Someone may ask, “Why should we not dedicate our time for some cause that will uplift the human race?” We sympathize with every work aimed at human uplift, and are happy to see the unconsecrated engage in such work; but for the consecrated to do so would indicate the lack of a proper understanding of the Divine Plan. Our first priority is our personal uplift, and next should be our work for the Household of Faith. The reason for this order of procedure is because God Himself is dealing only with the Household of Faith at this time. He is not now dealing with the world, and this statement is in harmony with Jesus’ words, who prayed not for the world, but for those whom the Father had given Him (John 17: 9). Jesus received those who came to Him from the sinner class, those who had an ear to hear His Message, and whoever accepted His invitation was treated as a member of the Household of Faith. Our Lord ministered especially to such, even neglecting His own temporal interests to do so. But we may be sure that He never neglected His own spiritual needs, for the development of Himself as a New Creature was His first obligation.
The Time of the High Calling
During the time of the High Calling, from 33 A.D. to 1914, St. Paul, in addressing the Household of Faith, declared “Ye are called in ONE HOPE of your calling” (Ephesians 4: 4). The invitation given to the Church of the Gospel Age was but one invitation; and those who accepted it, and continued to follow in Jesus’ footsteps were called a Chosen Generation, a Royal Priesthood, a Holy Nation, a Peculiar People (1 Peter 2: 9). But we learn from other Scriptures that of those who accepted the invitation and consecrated themselves to God consisted of two classes – the Little Flock and the Great Company. The former class faithfully performed their consecration vow. The latter class lost their first love in a measure, though they did not become enemies of God. Although they served in many ways and on the whole were good people, they did not come up to the standard set for the Little Flock. Therefore, they did not receive an abundant entrance into the God’s Kingdom, but needed to wash their robes, and make them white in the blood of the Lamb (Revelation 7: 14). They constitute the antitypical Levite class, who will serve as assistants to the Royal Priests in the heavenly phase of God’s Kingdom.
But the Little Flock grew strong in faith, zeal and love. Their first priority was to make their own calling and election sure by cultivating all the fruits and graces of the holy spirit; then they kept on the alert to note and to gladly avail themselves of all the opportunities in God’s service which His providence opened up to them. These they used primarily toward the necessities of their fellow Priests and others of the Household of Faith, and then on behalf of anybody and everybody who needed assistance.
Priorities and Privileges of the Consecrated Today
We are not, as consecrated individuals today, running for the High Calling, nevertheless, may we seek to emulate the example of our Lord and His Little Flock. Let us first seek to make our own calling and election sure; next may we seek to serve the necessities of the consecrated and the rest of the Household of Faith; and finally, to help others in their need. Helping those in need does not mean giving them luxurious things or enough to last them a lifetime, but giving them enough to assist them through their stress – a coat, a hat, a dress, or whatever we can spare. If we see anyone who seems amenable to the Truth of God’s Word, let us consider it a good opportunity to assist him, recognizing that the spiritual needs of others are on an even higher plane than their temporal needs.
To grow in the fruits and graces of the holy spirit requires us to study God’s Word, and since we are all leaky vessels by nature, our study needs to be continuous. No true Christian would seek for a moment to discontinue studying the Word, whether by reading the Bible or by reading THE STUDIES IN THE SCRIPTURES, or the Epiphany Truth, which puts the Word of God in a form arranged for topical study. A certain amount of spiritual refreshment comes also in connection with the morning hymn, My Morning Resolve, My Special Vow, the Manna text and comments, and the poem of the day. This refreshment is particularly helpful every morning before breakfast – if possible as a family; if not, then individually. A few minutes spent in thinking of spiritual things, in returning thanks to God and in singing a song of praise should result very profitably spiritually. In some way, the Lord’s people should keep in touch with His Word continually; else the spiritual life will wither.
There is also another kind of study which may be easily overlooked. We should continually study to apply what we already know respecting God, His Word, His will, our duty toward others and toward ourselves, the Golden Rule, etc. In other words, every Christian should daily, hourly, continually, be studying more and more how to put off anger, malice, hatred, envy, strife, evil-speaking, and all other works of the fallen flesh and of the Adversary. And with equal perseverance he should be studying diligently how to put on the fruits and graces of the holy spirit – meekness, gentleness, patience, long-suffering, brotherly-kindness, love. The Bible, the lessons taught us by Divine providence and our fellowship with the brethren, are merely preparations for the great study of life – how best to perform God’s will in thought, motive, word and deed. Our spirituality does not depend merely upon how many hours we spend in Bible study. The great blessings come from our efforts to apply the principles which we have learned from the Bible, so as to make practical application of them in the affairs of life, in our thoughts, motives, words, and doings toward God, our brethren, our fellowmen and ourselves.
(to be continued)