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100 Years Ago – Reprint from Word and Work May, 1918 — The Outlook of the Last Days

by R. H. Boll

  Words In Season— Second Timothy is Paul’s last epistle. His race was all but run, his course finished, and he was ready *to be offered up. The Lord Jesus had not come, though Paul had not failed to look and wait for Him, and had “loved His appearing.” Now he was about to go, he did not know what day. The chances were that Timothy would be left to fight the battle alone— and yet “not a lo n e b u t without Paul’s helpful presence and encouragement. If the Lord did not come during Paul’s day, He might well come during Timothy’s. But if not in Timothy’s then in somebody’s—some faithful Timothy would be living and would need inspired instruction to meet the peculiarly trying crisis of the end-days. So Paul looks solemnly ahead into the future and confirms and encourages Timothy, his beloved child, that he might watch and pray and meet the situation that was sure to come with boldness and power.

DEFEAT AND VICTORY. And what would the situation be? The prospect was not just hopeful and inspiring from the earthly side. The decline of the church had already begun; it would continue and end in apostasy. Nevertheless, God would be victorious in the issue of His plans, and they would be victorious who, despite increasing pressure, would cleave to Him. What though false teachers were sure to come and overthrow the faith of some? The firm foundation of God standeth, and the Lord knoweth them that are His. It was but a challenge to Timothy to increase his diligence to show himself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, handling aright the word of truth (2:15- 19; compare Acts 20:29-32). What if in the church would be many vessels unto dishonor? If a man would cleanse his hands from all complicity and fellowship with evil, “he shall be a vessel unto honor, sanctified, meet for the Master’s use, prepared unto every good work.” Side by side with outward failure, will go on increasing splendor of spiritual victory* the more glorious as the circumstances are more difficult and the testing more severe.

HEATHEN VICE IN CHRISTIAN GARB. Under the garb and religious form of Christianity all the sins of heathenism, (Rom. 1:28-31) some of the grossest of the outward sort alone excepted, shall flourish in the last days. “For men shall be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, haughty, railers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, implacable, Slanderers, without self-control, fierce, no lovers of good, traitors, headstrong, puffed up, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God; holding a form of godliness but having denied the power thereof.” From such as these the faithful man of God must turn away. On the other hand, he must follow after righteousness, faith, love, peace, with such as call on the Lord out of a pure heart. Let him seek the companionship and sweet fellowship of the true and pure in Christ Jesus, and, “mark them that so walk.” (Phil. 3:19).

THE SAFEGUARD AGAINST DECEPTION. In the last days the power of deception will run high. Evil men and impostors, of whom there was already a sufficiency, should “wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. But— ” What is this precious “But” which promises to us a safeguard against the great tidal-waves of error and deception?: “But abide thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of.” Those were the things Timothy had heard from apostolic lips, chiefly from Paul—the apostles’ teaching. (Acts 2 :42). Of these things Timothy had been fully assured. Paul’s apostolic authority had been fully vindicated. (2 Cor. 12:12). God had accredited His ambassadors (Heb. 2:4) openly and in a manner which could not be disputed or denied. Their writing preserved in the New Testament, are the accredited and the authoritative doctrine/of Christ. The attitude which a man takes toward the apostles’ teaching determines whether he is swayed by the spirit of truth or of error (1 John 4:6) and the acknowledgment of the Divine authority of their writings is the test of true spirituality. (1 Cor. 14:37). Those who had these writings in the beginning knew whence they came, just as Timothy knew of whom he had learned. Those who made up what is called “the canon” of the New Testament were powerless to give authority to the books therein but could only gather together into one volume the writings which were known by the churches to have come from Divinely inspired sources. These constitute “the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.” This is that which we “have heard from the beginning,” which we must abide in, and let abide in us that we may be saved. (Jude 3:1; John 2 :24; 2 John 9). Thus Paul’s admonition, “But abide thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them”— applies to us also.

THE SCRIPTURES. There was yet another rock on which Timothy’s faith was grounded, as is ours also. From a babe he had known the holy scriptures. In Timothy’s case this meant only the Old Testament, for the New was not yet given in the form of “scripture;” but to us today it means both the Old and the New Testaments, as we have them. These “sacred writings” were able to make Timothy “wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.’’ And that not through the hands of learned interpreters, still less through some priesthood which arrogates to itself the exclusive right of interpretation—but just the plain, simple scriptures, as a child can read them or hear them read by its parents. All this scripture “is inspired of God,” and profitable also “for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteous­ness,” amply sufficient to equip the man of God fully unto every good work.

CHRISTIANS AND WAR-INVESTM ENTS. The conviction that the· man in Christ Jesus, must not raise carnal weapon to shed the blood of his brother or of any man; that however great and desirable an end may be so obtained, to the Christian no end can ever justify the means— this conviction is strong and clear and true in the hearts of many of God’s people. Nevertheless, in the dust of the world’s conflict the eye is not always able to discern the plain path of duty toward our Lord and to apply the principles of our faith to all situations. Our good government, to which we owe honor and obedience, because it is God’s instrumentality for the protection of our liberty and safety— is in its hour of need. Thousands of appeals are going forth daily— not demands for our goods, but appeals that we should lend our means to the government, and that at a good rate of interest and an unquestionable security. No government has ever dealt more kindly and fairly with its people under such stress. Now come questions from conscientious brethren in the Lord— what shall we do?  Is it unfaithfulness to Jesus Christ our Lord to buy Liberty Bonds and War Stamps? I may say right here that the very fact that the questions are asked and the way in which they are asked, betokens the attitude of willingness and loyalty of these brethren toward our country. Far from holding an unfaithful, hostile attitude, these letters show, what we all feel: that except for our higher obligation to the Lord who bought us, we would do everything that could be done in every way to £id our country’s cause. The question is not, what can we get out of, but how far can we possibly go, without contravening our loyalty to Jesus Christ? For if we were not true to Him first, we would not be true and trustworthy in any other relationship of life. The answer must be as definite and clear-cut as the principle on which we stand: if we believe is to be contrary to the will of the Lord for us to take up the sword, then neither can we voluntarily finance it. If it is wrong for us to fight, then neither can we engage to let our money fight for us. If it is true that “every stamp buys a bullet”—then we must not buy, for our Lord forbids his people the use of the bullet. Whatever I voluntarily invest in, that I-become a partner to. It would be inconsistency for a Christian to refuse to shed blood in person, while voluntarily furnishing means for others to do so. “But what,” we are asked, “if the government should compel us to buy war-bonds?” We very much wish the government would do so— it would deliver us out of a very unwelcome conflict and difficulty. If the government would demand our money of us we could and would let it go willingly and cheerfully; for in that case it would come under the head of taxes, tributes, and customs which the Lord commanded us to pay. (Rom. 13:7). This would both release us from all responsibility as to the use to which our money is put, and at the same time clear us from all aspersion and shadow of undeserved doubt concerning our faithfulness and loyalty to the government which may be cast upon a conscientious Christian in these times of trouble.

TH E CHAMPION SLACKER. We are apt in unbelief to undervalue the Christian’s greatest power and privilege. If the world places no value on it, it is not to be wondered a t; for the world professes no faith in the teachings and declarations of God’s word. But the vision of the Christian should enable him to realize the power of the unseen, and to estimate things according to their relative force. The work of the priest in Israel might not have seemed very practical and profitable to an uninformed onlooker; but as a matter of fact the life of the nation depended on it. The Christians’ highest function in the world is twofold; as God’s children and servants they are His representatives to men; as God’s “royal priesthood” they represent the world’s case and cause before God. “First of all,” the apostle writes, “I exhort . . . that supplications, prayers, intercessions, thanksgivings be made for all men; for kings and all that are in high places. . . (1 Tim. 2:1, 2). In order to do this effectively before God we must “pray. . . . lifting up holy hands, without wrath and disputing.” (1 Tim. 2 :8). Now God is He who holds the world in the hollow of His hand. He is the One who determines the fall and rise of the nations and marks out the boundaries of their habitations. (Acts 17:26). He brings the plottings of the nations to naught and makes the counsels of the peoples to be of none effect. If then He has Himself arranged that certain ones should have access to His throne for the especial purpose of interceding with Him, that He might lend His ear to their plea, and be entreated of them—-how exceeding great is this function and privilege—how important beyond all power of man to estimate! The world does not recognize that: it cannot be expected to do so; but what if we, who are Christ’s to whom God has committed this high and holy office on which so much hangs for the miserable world— what if we also spurn it? How much it amounts to we know from scripture example. (Gen. 18; Exod. 32-34).

Shall we not enter into our high responsibility? We love our country. The liberty and protection it has afforded to its people has been a precious boon to us. Shall our nation come to harm and loss for the failure of those who have blood-bought access to God? Shall we not pray that she may, in God’s mercy, be preserved safely through this storm; that her people may recognize God and be turned to repentance, that so God may preserve her; that her sons may be permitted speedily and safely to return from the battle-field? Ye are the salt of the earth. For this very cause we keep our hands unstained from blood, undefiled from evil, that we may lift them up holy unto God. He is the champion-slacker in this day of n6ed who, being in the position of a Christian, fails through unbelief to exercise his privilege of intercession, or forfeits that right by unholy living.

 

  1. H. Boll was a well-known preacher among the Churches of Christ and served from 1904 until his death in 1956 as minister of the Portland Avenue Church of Christ in Louisville, KY. He was Editor of the Word and Work Magazine from 1916 to 1956.

 




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Romans 14:8