Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
January 17, 1952

Why They Do Not Understand

Cecil B. Douthitt, Brownwood, Texas

In Eph. 5:17, the Lord gives this injunction: "Wherefore be ye not foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is."

God never commands impossibilities; therefore we know that his will unto us can be understood.

After Jesus was risen from the dead he said unto his apostles: "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to the whole creation. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that disbelieveth shall be condemned." (Mark 16:15, 16) He also told them that "repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name unto all the nations." (Luke 24:47)

On the first Pentecost after the resurrection of Christ the apostles began in Jerusalem that great work of preaching the gospel and telling sinners what to do to be saved in words so plain that all could understand them. But some today do not understand what the will of the Lord is, though it is stated plainly, because they fail to observe three indispensable rules of Bible study. Here I shall name and discuss briefly these three rules:

1. We Must Observe The Difference Between An Alien And A Citizen With Reference To God's Government Or Kingdom.

An alien is one who is not in God's kingdom; a citizen is one who is in the kingdom. The Bible makes a clear-cut distinction between them in God's requirements of them.

During the Mosaic dispensation, only the Gentiles were said to be "alienated from the commonwealth of Israel." (Eph. 2:12) While the law of Moses was in force, all the Israelites were citizens in what was then God's kingdom. It is said of them, "For thou art a holy people unto Jehovah thy God: Jehovah thy God hath chosen thee to be a people for his own possession, above all peoples that are upon the face of the earth." (Deut. 7:6) And in Amos 3:2 God said of all the children of Israel, "You only have I known of all the families of the earth."

Though many of the Jews were lost, they were never referred to as aliens before the death of Christ. They were called "lost sheep" (Matt. 10:6), "his own" (John 1:11), and "the children" in contradistinction to the Gentiles who were called "dogs." (Matt. 15:24-26)

The penitent thief on the cross (Luke 23:39-48) and Zaccheus (Luke 19:1-10) were not aliens; they were citizens of the commonwealth of Israel. The forgiveness of their sins would correspond today to the forgiveness of an erring child of God, and not to the conversion of aliens.

When the law of Moses was removed by the death of Jesus (Eph. 2:14-16), the Israelites ceased to be God's chosen people. John the Immerser alluded to that truth when he said to certain Jews: "And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father"; he told them that the axe was already laid to the root of the old Israelite tree and it was about ready to be cut down (Matt. 3:9-10) Jesus taught Nicodemus that the Jewish blood in his veins would avail nothing in the new kingdom; that in order to enter the kingdom that Jesus was about to build, one must be born anew, born of water and the Spirit. (John 3:1-6)

Beginning on that memorable Pentecost day, according to Acts 2, the apostles of Christ preached a new birth of water and the Spirit for all who would become citizens of that kingdom, the church of the Lord.

An alien sinner by the name of Simon (Acts 8) heard Philip preach on the kingdom, and he believed and was baptized. That is, he was born of water and the Spirit, thereby becoming a citizen in that kingdom. Later, Simon sinned and was in need of forgiveness again. But he was not told to be baptized again, because he was then a citizen and not an alien. Peter who had told alien sinners to repent and be baptized for the remission of sins told this erring child of God to repent and pray God for forgiveness, thereby making a clear distinction between an alien and a citizen in God's requirements for forgiveness.

2. We Must Distinguish Between The Law Of Moses And The Gospel Of Christ.

The law of Moses has been "abolished" (Eph. 2:15), "blotted out" and taken out of the way by the death of Christ (Col. 2:14) "For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law." Heb. 7:12)

We must look to the covenant this side of the cross to know what to do to be saved and how to please God. "For where a testament is, there must of necessity be the death of him that made it. For a testament is of force where there hath been death: for it doth never avail while he that made it liveth." (Heb. 16-17)

Looking to the law of Moses as authority for religious activities today is a dangerous procedure indeed. Such is a rejection of the authority of Christ; and Paul the apostle has said: "Ye are severed from Christ, ye who would be justified by the law; ye are fallen away from grace." (Gal. 5:4)

But why are all who seek to justify their religious practices by the law of Moses threatened with such severe penalty? Because a return to the law of Moses and to the things that God tolerated under the law, would result in a restoration of animal sacrifices, David's dances and instruments of music, the keeping of the Sabbath day, burning of incense, polygamy, divorce and remarriage for every cause, and the practice of many other things which Christ died to abolish and which he forbids in the New Testament.

A failure to make a distinction between the law and the gospel will surely lead to a misunderstanding of God's will.

3. We Must Read Each Passage Of Scripture In The Light Of Other Passages Bearing On The Same Subject.

By taking verses of scripture out of their context, isolating them from other passages, many erroneous conclusions have been reached. Satan tried to lead Jesus into this faulty method of interpretation. When Jesus was on the pinnacle of the temple Satan said to him; "If thou art the Son of God, cast thyself down"; then he quoted a passage of scripture trying to prove that the angels would protect Jesus, even if he deliberately cast himself down. But Jesus understood that passage quoted by Satan, in the light of another verse on the subject, and he said, "Thou shalt not make trial of the Lord thy God." (Matt. 4:5-7)

Some people today read Paul's statement to the Philippian jailor, "Believe on the Lord Jesus and thou shalt be saved" (Acts 16:31), and they stop right there. They do not read the next two verses to see what else the jailor was told to do, but jump immediately to the conclusion that man is saved by faith only. Of course if they would read the next two verses they might see that that jailor's faith led him that very hour to do just what Peter commanded the Jews to do in Acts 2:38—repent and be baptized for the remission of sins. Or if they would read Paul's answer to the jailor in the light of James 2:24, they might be able to see that faith only never did save anybody. For James says, "Ye see that by works a man is justified, and not only by faith."

When we read in Heb. 11:7 that Noah built an ark by faith, we should not conclude that he did it by faith only, for other passages teach that he had to "pitch it within and without with pitch."

When we read in the Bible that we are saved by faith, we should not conclude that it is by faith only, for there are other verses that teach we must repent and be baptized. (Acts 2:38)

Then if we would understand what the will of the Lord is, let us recognize the difference between an alien and a citizen in the requirements of God; let us distinguish between the law of Moses and the gospel of Christ; let us read each passage of scripture in the light of other passages bearing on the same subject.