Our dear friends,
When you professed, you began your walk with God. How do you please Him? What are His standards, His law? "God . . . hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son." (Heb. 1:2) The Bible is the only reliable source of His words, and contains all the essential criteria for salvation. You, and you alone, will stand before your Creator to "give account of himself to God." (Rom. 14:12) No one in your meeting will be there. Your favorite worker won't be there. Your parents won't be there. Your spouse won't be there. You are the captain of your soul, master of your fate, the only one accountable for your life, so you must have an accurate understanding of what God expects you to believe and do. You have the right, indeed the responsibility, to question, search, and prove. Scripture encourages you to do just that: Ps. 77:6, "make diligent search," John 5:39, "Search the scriptures...," Acts. 17:11,"...they... searched the scriptures daily, whether these things be so," II Cor. 13:5, "Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith, prove your own selves." I Tim. 4:13-15, "Give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine...give thyself wholly to them..." II Tim 2:15,"Study to show thyself approved unto God..." Finally, Jesus's own words in Matt. 24:4 were "Take heed that no man deceive you."
We believed all our lives, and two generations before us, that this precious fellowship we call "The Truth" dates back to the Bible, enduring through the centuries, always meeting in homes, having a ministry going out two by two, as Jesus sent out His original apostles. Our faith in this was complete. We also believed that this fellowship was the Only Right Way, primarily because we believed it had been founded by Jesus, but also because we knew of no other church with such a ministry and which met in homes rather than church buildings. We believed this "way" was perfect. The people weren't always perfect, but the "way" was. We knew of no scandal that ever touched it. We believed that this fellowship we loved so much, called "The Truth" was the only way anyone could get to Heaven. A truly seeking soul would find "The Truth." God would lead them to it. If they were truly seeking, they would be brought in contact with either the friends or workers, would come to gospel meetings, receive a revelation of God's true way, and profess.
We are a group of friends from different states who have a burden. A heavy one. For a long time, we have been perplexed and distressed over what to do about it. We have prayed about it earnestly, desperately beseeching God for an answer. What to do? Or do we do nothing? How we wish God would thunder down to us: "This is what I want you to do!" All of us feel strongly that something should be done. Because He's the God of Truth and He cannot lie. And because we love you, our brothers and sisters in this fellowship. Since we read time and time again in the Bible of God using human vessels to bring truth to people, we humbly and sincerely pray that what we are doing is His will.
You are a wonderful people, a dear people, an exemplary people. And you deserve to know the truth. What we are bringing to you, our dear friends, is truth. Fact. You may not want to believe it, as we ourselves did not. Indeed, you may decide you will not believe it. But that won't change it. It will still be truth. You may be afraid to believe it. We were, at first. Friends, beware of fear. See Rev. 21:8. Remember: "For God hath not given us a spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." (II Tim. 1:7) You may reluctantly believe it but decide not to do anything about it, decide that it's not going to change anything in your life. That's up to you. As for us, it has meant life to us. Now, we thank the Lord constantly for revealing to us the truth as in Jesus. We have learned to trust Him in a fresh, deeper, way.
What are we talking about? Do you have the courage to read further, or will you allow the "spirit of fear" to control you? What are you fearful of? Truth? Friends, facts speak for themselves. We have been confronted with irrefutable, undeniable, documented proof that, far from enduring down through all the centuries since Christ, this fellowship that we love so much is marking its centenniel this year! Until 1897, there were no "truther" workers, no friends meeting in homes, no gospel meetings, no fellowship without a name which its believers call "TheTruth." It did not exist. We learned that instead of Jesus being its founder, it was founded in 1897 by a man named William Irvine, a Scotsman, who became a "Pilgrim" worker with the Faith Mission in Scotland in 1895 and was sent to Ireland in 1896. He claimed to have a special revelation from God regarding Matthew 10, which he later called his Alpha Message. While continuing to receive the hospitality and financial support of the Faith Mission, Irvine began propagating a belief that all believers must follow the example of Jesus and go forth as homeless, unpaid ministers. A few of his contemporaries agreed with him. Irvine then challenged them to join him in going forth without salary or a home, and they began preaching in Ireland. (Years later, he referred to this as "a great experiment.") In 1901, he severed his Faith Mission connection. (See information regarding the Faith Mission, page 4.)
A man by the name of Edward Cooney, an itinerant salesman who "made a habit of speaking about Eternal things to his customers," met William Irvine some time later. In 1901, he, too, decided to join Irvine's followers. Eddie exhibited great charisma as a preacher and was very influential in the spread of what we now call "The Truth." Some of us have heard the name Eddie Cooney all our lives; our parents knew Eddie before he was ousted from "The Truth." Some older friends today still remember him. The names of the first workers are familiar to some of us- William Carroll, Jack Carroll, William Gill, George Walker, Irvine Weir. The group took no name, but referred to themselves as "Tramp Preachers," "Go-Preachers," and to their method as "the Jesus Way." They were also known as "Dippers," "Cooneyites," "Irvinites," the "Damnation Army," (because they constantly damned all churches to hell) and later,"the Black Stocking Gang." Irvine and his followers revolted bitterly against everything associated with the traditional denominations and declared that they were doing things "the Jesus way." In their zeal, they seemingly were unaware that they were actually drawing attention to themselves, rather than to Christ.
Around 1904, the "Living Witness Doctrine," stating that salvation is only possible through the ministry ("living witness") established by Irvine, was formulated. Some workers regarded this as heresy and left the work in disagreement over this new teaching. As we all know, this is still a principal tenet of "The Truth," but it is a grave error, and we will explain why later. This Living Witness doctrine was significant, because it laid the groundwork for the claim of apostolic succession begun in later years. For the first several years, all converts did the same thing as those who had converted them - left all and followed Irvine. He was a dynamic speaker and easily captivated his audiences. Many took his challenge, taking vows of celibacy, submission and self-denial. As more and more became workers, selling all and giving Irvine the proceeds, the movement grew quickly. A number of these new workers had been prosperous farmers or merchants in Ireland, so the purse of this "penniless" leader soon became quite full. Workers were sent to other countries, including the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. A very plain appearance code was rigidly required. Around 1906, Irvine changed the rule that all followers must become workers, and he officially sanctioned home meetings. The body of believers was divided into "saints" and "workers." Today, the "church in the home" is a foundation stone of the fellowship, but it was not always so.
Next, Irvine appointed his trusted associates, such as George Walker, James Jardine, Jack and William Carroll, as "overseers" of vast regions. So began our highly organized "Truth" as we know it today.
Conventions began, with the very first held on William Gill's farm in Rathmolyon, near Dublin, in 1903, attended by about 70 workers. Another convention was established in 1904, which grew to be very large, lasting a number of years. It was held on the estate of John and Sara West, called Crocknacrieve, in County Fermanagh, near the town of Enniskillen. Those early conventions lasted 3 - 4 weeks, and were patterned after theFaith Mission conventions and after the Keswick Conventions (in northernEngland, also still in existence today). For information, contact Keswick Convention Centre, Skiddaw Street, Keswick, Cumbria, England CA124BY; phone: 011-441-7687-72589.
Irvine was their leader. He was dynamic and forceful, but as time went on, friction increased among the overseers and in particular, with Irvine. Once, as a younger worker (John Long) was preaching about Noah and the ark from the platform at Crocknacrieve, Irvine called out to him,"John, tell them there were no clergy in the ark." John was thrown off by this interruption and concluded his sermon hastily. Irvine then denounced him in front of the crowd, saying that John was never "convinced that the clergy were wrong and there has always been a holding back in him. For years he has been dragging his feet on the ground to hinder our going on. Let him prove whether God will be with him as He has been with us. All those stand up who believe that John Wesley is in Hell!" Nearly all stood up. Those who remained seated provoked Irvine to wrath, and he made uncomplimentary remarks about them. He also denounced almost all the workers except one or two because they had "given away too much to fleshly influences" and were "merely acting the hypocrite."
Differences of opinion over doctrine also arose among the workers, and disturbing contradictions of Irvineís character were noticed: his dedication of early years gave way to exercise of privileges and power. A former worker has written, "... It seems to be him, and he seems to be it, and the people seem satisfied to have it so. It seems to be a power in him. He has a strong personality, and they like it. They are afraid of him and still they like him. It is a pity there is no check on him, or that they cannot control their love, and keep it from becoming worship. They speak of him as a man raised up. They trace their spiritual genealogy to him. They refer to him as the beginning of a new order, as Adam was the beginning of human descent. There are a thousand people in the tent and not one of them dare resist his will. The men on the platform nod to everything he says, whether they like it or not, and when he turns to them for approval, they draw their faces into the appearance of a smile, knowing that their lives as preachers depend on his favour. He is a strong man by nature, and used to be a mine boss, and never allowed his will to be resisted. He brought the same spirit into this work, and uses the same methods in dealing with these people. He is master of the situation in every way. The others are only poor echoes of his voice, and in his presence are not able to throw off the incubus of fear that almost paralyses them. He founded the Testimony by himself."
Irvine possessed a strong attraction for women. "He definitely had a weakness in that direction, and women didnít make it any easier for him. He would always have the best of food, with sometimes several cooking for him alone. Later, Irvineís "fall" was compared to that of David, who, "when he didnít go forth to battle himself, but sent his armies out, fell into temptation of adultery...There is no question that William had a weakness along that line and...that he had fallen. I know positively that there were women who have confessed to me of trouble with him along those particular lines."
In 1886, well before he founded "The Truth," Irvine became the father of an illegitimate son, Archie Irvine, born to a woman in Kilsyth, Scotland, his home town. Archie was apparently raised by his grandparents, and moved to New Zealand in 1900. He eventually became a Presbyterian minister, retiring two years before his death in 1952, at age 66.
Irvineís thinking took a new turn, and he formulated another doctrine comprised of his end-of-the-world prophesies, which he called his Omega Gospel: that he had been divinely anointed to bring the last message of Jesus Christ to the world before the judgment, which would begin in August 1914. He saw himself, along with John, as the two witnesses of Rev. 11. People were perplexed by the oddness of his preaching when he "spoke about stars as other worlds, and held before us the strange possibility of going to them and doing for them the work of Saviours as Jesus had done for this one." Irvine also said that God had ceased to bear witness to his Alpha Gospel and that, with so much talk of war, it was possible that the judgement was imminent. Workers who had eagerly devoted themselves to preaching his Alpha Gospel (his interpretation of Matthew 10 as a revelation from God) were not willing to accept his new Omega Gospel. They didnít want him coming to their fields to interfere with their operations. His new "gospel" would have undermined their authority as the "true way" preachers and created widespread confusion and schism. Many leading workers resented his position as ultimate authority and his control of the purse strings. Likely feeling threatened, they conspired to remove him, deciding he was no longer worthy of their loyalty and had lost the Lordís anointing.
In April of 1914, the other workers excommunicated their founder. William Carroll, by then overseer in Victoria, Australia, informed Irvine of their decision to take control. Irvine was not permitted to speak at any meetings or conventions. No public announcement of his rejection was made at conventions, nor to the friends, and his position was left open to surmise. Some were told he was ill. Members were forbidden any further contact with him. Listen to his poignant recollection: "Six years ago, in April, I was rejected and despised and cast out to die, according to prophecy, my birthright divided amongst my children and enemies...but the anointing that God gave me remained with me, and nobody seems to get my mantle, though many have tried my shoes, sat in my seat, slept in my bed, ate my meals, and have enjoyed the rise to power and pre-eminence...íThe Jesus Wayí was stolen, confiscated, misappropriated. I remember seeing and hearing you take it over in my presence...The man to be forgotten in public and gloated over in private; the subject for the nightcap talk in bed; the excuse for robbing and dishonouring others; blind, bound, bruised, alone, a heretic, a blasphemer, smitten of God for his sins in his mind, and afflicted by all the afflicters; treated unjustly without and within, despised and rejected and persecuted, while the hireling hypocrites revelled in sharing the spoils of my labours in God..."
As was to be expected, a schism took place. Some friends remained loyal to Irvine, but the majority submitted to the overseersí international exclusion of him. Incidentally, there are followers in California and other areas still loyal to him! They also believe they are "Godís only right way" and donít take a name, although theyíre nicknamed "Irvinites." They possess volumes of letters written by him.
Irvine eventually traveled to Jerusalem to await the fulfillment of his Omega prophesies, which, of course, never occurred. His devoted followers willingly supported him for the rest of his life. Still portraying himself as a homeless preacher, he lived "under very good circumstances," at one time lodging with an ordained Presbyterian minister. He died at the Almazi Hotel in Jerusalem on March 3, 1947, after suffering from throat cancer, leaving a sizeable estate to several relatives and a hospital.
Thus began the coverup of "The Truthís" founder. The other workers were embarrassed by him, and rightly so, but rather than admit the truth of their founderís false prophesies and delusions, they chose to ignore him and instead asserted that they had no founder on earth.
Following his rejection, overseers banned from the home meetings anyone who corresponded with and supported William Irvine. Workers who refused to suppress their knowledge of him as founder were excommunicated. Listen to a former worker, an Irishman: "I spent 12 years in this work in the American states of Alabama, Indiana, Ohio and Illinois. I was later excommunicated but the excommunicators would hardly call themselves that. If they were asked, they would likely say they did not excommunicate anybody and we went out from them because we were not of them. On the 27th September, 1919, I appeared before a special court and on the 28th took a train for the wilderness. I need hardly tell you what manner of men the judges were. The one who knew least about the case summed up the evidence in four words: You wrote a letter. That was all and it was enough; and the sentence was banishment for life, and I suppose eternal damnation thereafter. My separation from them cut into me deeply at the time, and I went down to St. Louis to get my bearings. For 6 months I was there working as an auditor in a railroad office. Trying to freeze me to death by the cold treatment of exclusion from Ďthe one true wayí or trying to starve me to death by closing all supply doors against me, has been like trying to drown a fish. We have not known persecution in its time-glorified forms; and what we have suffered would hardly be worth mentioning in the light of the greater sufferings of others; but for myself, I must confess that there were times when I could have borne very little more. What with slurs and insults, hints and insinuations, misunderstandings and prejudices, dark looks and averted faces, where formerly there had been smiles and friendly greetings...But I was only one and have heard the testimony of many. I watched the Ďjudge advocateí as he pronounced the death sentence, for that is what it was to Gus Halb. I saw the sweat break out on him as the full meaning of the thing came home to him. He never spoke a word and when he felt himself dismissed, he turned and walked out of the room like a man in a dream....If I was to bring one charge against the good companions of our youth, who later became religious rulers and exactors, it would be a very dreadful one: they erred against compassion."
It was decided that Irvineís role as founder should never be mentioned; young workers were told not to discuss the subject. A subtle emphasis on the teaching that their church was "from the beginning" helped workers overcome the difficulty of explaining about its founder to incoming members. Thus, the facts of the origin of "The Truth" began to fall into obscurity, and the apostolic succession myth gained credence.
Most workers weighed the consequences, accepted the overseersí decision, and avoided mention of Irvine. However, Joe Kerr, one of the "Living Witness" doctrineís formulators, who preached in South Africa, re-examined the doctrine. He said he had seen "the true marks of Jesus" in people outside "The Truth" and so felt compelled to renounce it. South African workers then warned the friends there to treat him as apostate (a defector, or dissenter) and to refuse to support him. He wrote: "We had the loan of beds and furnishing in a room and the preachers sent the saints who owned these things and took them from us. They left us the floor to sleep on, and forbade any of the saints to come near us. I had no trade, and all the unskilled work out here is done by the coloured and native people."
In 1928, Eddie Cooney was excommunicated in much the same way. For a time, he had submitted to the overseersí demand that William Irvine be hidden, but he said it went against his conscience to do so, that it was "not honest." He still believed that Irvineís original Alpha message (Matt. 10) was a revelation, but he concluded that a mistake was made in 1904, when they accepted the "Living Witness" doctrine. He made it known that both he and Irvine had been born again before starting "The Truth." He also believed that every individual should depend upon God for direction; he wanted workers to be free to go where they felt led, rather than being restricted to a certain "field" of labor. Additionally, he was disturbed by the "hierarchy" that had materialized - the distinction between saints and workers under the direction of overseers. He opposed this, saying it was a temptation to ambition and power. He felt this should be a universal movement, with no boundaries or classifications. The increasing wealth of the movement and the growing power of overseers in their territories all distressed Cooney. During WWI, he preached throughout Britain and was a well-known open-air speaker at Tower Hill in London. He enjoyed being notorious, martyr-like, suffering opposition. By 1921, he had the reputation for "teaching things on his own, without consulting any of the older brothers." Finally, Eddie became too great an irritation to the overseers, and a complete ban was placed upon him - a very successful attempt to deny him support. Those loyal to him separated from the main group and continued to have meetings of their own - and so, what is known as the Cooneyite sect began. Cooneyites still exist today, primarily in Ireland, Australia and New Zealand, and they, also, claim to take no name. They meet for fellowship in homes, using the 1951 edition of Hymns Old and New, in which Cooney is author of five hymns. They also dispensed with the "offices" of worker and overseer, which Cooney felt had led to corruption in the main group.
So today there are three separate, but similar, sects in existence because of William Irvine, each of which believes it is Godís only right way! Friends, this is only the tip of the iceberg. "The Truth" has a fascinating history, and much more material is available. Have you ever wondered why so many of the old workers were Irish? Now you know. "The Truth" began in Ireland, not Palestine!
We mentioned earlier that William Irvine was a worker in the Faith Mission. Perhaps we should now learn about the Faith Mission. It was founded by Mr. John George Govan in Scotland in 1886 for the evangelization of the rural areas of Great Britain and Ireland. This Protestant nondenominational evangelical ministry sends both men and women workers from village to village in pairs, with no guaranteed salary, taking no collections, leaving all their possessions, and holding gospel meetings in churches or local halls, as well as annual conventions. Sound familiar? Faith Mission workers, however, urge any who are converted at their missions to become active in their local churches. The Faith Mission uses some terms very familiar to all of us: profess, testimony, taking part, workers, companions, harvest field, missions, friends, the work, saints and meetings. Mr. Govanís daughter, I.R. Govan, furnishes this information in her book, The Spirit of Revival, which can be obtained through the Faith Mission Headquarters, Govan House, Gilmerton Road, Gilmerton, Edinburgh, Scotland EH17 8QG; phone 011-141-31-664-5814. Copies are available of the letter cited in Footnote 1 on page 1, if you doubt William Irvineís involvement in this group.
The Faith Mission is still in existence today and prospering spiritually. Both brother and sister workers labor throughout the British Isles, with associate missions in Canada, France and South Africa. One of our friends visited a Faith Mission convention in Bangor, County Down, Northern Ireland, a couple years ago. The following is a direct quote from an account he wrote:
"I was greeted by a Faith Mission worker who handed me a small hymnbook entitled Selected Hymns From Songs of Victory. The hymnbook contained 185 hymns, without music, many of which I recognized from Hymns Old & New. The meetings were opened with a couple of hymns followed by prayers and testimonies of the workers or other invited speakers. I would estimate the attendance at the meetings to be between 300 to 500 people.
Overall, there were many more similarities than differences between the Faith Mission Convention and the Two-by-Two version. During meals between meetings, one could overhear people discussing how wonderful a particular workerís message was or how they were anxiously awaiting to hear what the next worker was going to share. In listening to both the workers and those attending, I found the terminology to be identical in every respect to that of the Two-by-Twos.
The highlight of the convention for me was the Sunday afternoon meeting. It was a very moving experience as we heard a beautiful sermon about God calling two common men, Moses and John the Baptist, to deliver His message. After this, the meeting was "tested" to see if any were willing to give up their earthly possessions and pursuits "to offer for the work" and give the rest of their lives to Christ. Any who felt moved to do so were asked to rise to their feet and walk up to and stand in front of the platform while the last hymn was sung. After such a powerful sermon, I fully expected one or two to come forward. To my astonishment, nine offered! There was hardly a dry eye in the place!"
It was the writerís impression that the Faith Mission neither flaunts nor conceals its unwitting part in the formation of "The Truth." A sister worker with whom our friend spoke was very open and straightforward in answering his questions about the early days of the Faith Mission and William Irvine.
The following quotes are from a FM 1996 newsletter, and could very well be lifted from any of our workersí letters: "Noel and Brian had some good attendances in Hillsborough mission, with up to sixty people present and felt a good spirit of prayer and a sense of Godís presence in the midst...mission at Ballinamallard which was very well attended with many unsaved under the sound of the Gospel. Unsaved have been in nightly in Ballytober, and we are praying that those whom God is dealing with will come through for the Lord...Garry and Alison had an encouraging start...a lady...who regularly attends the meetings, brokenly sought the Lord in her own home earlier this month. Many of Godís people have testified of blessing and encouragement during the mission...although numbers remained quite small, unsaved attended most meetings. We trust there will still be fruit as a result. Other special meetings in England include..."
The Faith Mission currently has about 100 workers, a Bible College in Edinburgh, a network of homes which are district headquarters, and several camp centers. If you are now thinking that "The Truth" is surely a clone of the Faith Mission, you are nearly right. The exceptions are that FM people do not believe they are the only right way, they openly acknowledge their origin, and they believe in Christian fundamentals.
Coming to grips with the truth about "The Truth" is a very painful process. Most of us have been raised in "The Truth," and our parents and grandparents before us. We battled this on our knees, praying desperately that God would show us what is right. True to His Word, He did, and the Bible and its Author have come alive to us, bringing true joy and freedom. This "valley" experience caused us to appreciate Ezekiel 37ís prophesy of the valley of dry bones; out of the "death" of once-cherished beliefs and misplaced faith, God can bring new life. The gain is well worth the pain, friends. This was, in fact, the deciding factor in the writing of this letter.
For some of us, it was different. We had begun to realize there were serious discrepancies between certain Scripture and what we had been raised to believe. Learning the history of our fellowship only served to confirm what we had begun to suspect - that "The Truth" was but another man-made religion, not unlike the "false" churches that we have heard belittled and mocked all our lives. We, too, fought a battle on our knees and in our hearts. Now we, too, are reveling in the truth (Jesus) that has set us free!
Each experience is unique, but we now share in common the freedom to love the Lord deeply, as He deserves to be loved, with all our hearts. We long that our many dear friends in "The Truth" could also know the relief and accompanying joy that a more complete understanding of Christís role as oneís Saviour can bring.
In meetings, we are constantly encouraged to love the Lord and to set our affections on things above. This is absolutely right, and Scriptural. But, we are deprived of the very knowledge that would enable us - would free us - to do just that, wholeheartedly and unreservedly.
"Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." (Heb. 4:16) Friends, what is this grace that permeates the New Testament? Paul prefaced most of his epistles with "...grace and peace unto you from God..." What is this "throne of grace" that we are to "come boldly unto"? Friends, in "The Truth," grace seems to be equated only with strength or power from God. This is not the primary meaning of grace. Biblical saving grace is the free mercy of God, His absolute forgiveness, the enjoyment of His favor. (See Crudenís Complete Concordance.) This is Godís sovereign saving grace. Friends, as you read the following verses, substitute "free mercy" or "forgiveness" or "unmerited favor" for the word "grace":
John 1:17, "For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ." Acts 15:11, "But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved..." Romans 3:24-25, "Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation (to take the punishment for, to be an appeasement, a substitute) through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness..." Romans 6:14, "...for ye are not under the law, but under grace." Eph. 1:7, "In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace..." Eph. 2:8, "For by grace are ye saved through faith..." (How are we saved? Justified? By what we do? By what we donít do? By anything of ourselves? No! We are saved "by His grace.") This, dear friends, is the crux of Christianity. This is what God planned from the foundation of the world. This is why He "sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world." This is the most wondrous miracle that ever captured the heart of mankind! This is what makes our very soul shiver in awe - The wonder of it all! "For God so loved..." Can we comprehend the magnitude of such love? Titus 2:11, "For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men." Titus 3:5-7, "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us...That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs..."
The Bible says eternal life is a gift. John 6:27, "...for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you..." John 10:28, "...And I give unto them eternal life..." John 17:2, "...that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him." Romans 5:15-21, "...so also is the free gift. For if through the offense of one [Adam] many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many...the gift of righteousness...the free gift came upon all men..." I Cor. 1:4 and Romans 6:23. "I thank my God always on your behalf for the grace of God which is given you by Christ Jesus, that in everything you are enriched by him..." II Tim. 1:9, "Who hath saved us...not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given to us in Christ Jesus before the world began." Ephesians 2:8-9, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God. Not of works, lest any man should boast." How are we saved? By our works? No; we are saved by the free mercy / total forgiveness / unmerited favor of God - through faith in what Jesus did. This is known as saving faith. Not faith in what we do, or donít do, or by faith in a method, good as that method may be.
In II Cor. 9:15, Paul wrote of Godís "unspeakable gift." Another version says, "too wonderful for words." Brilliant, eloquent Paul had no words to convey the wonder of Godís "unspeakable gift"! Godís sovereign, saving grace. His free mercy and forgiveness. His "free gift," as Paul wrote. Was Paul being redundant? Perhaps deliberately so. Perhaps he wanted no mistake about it - the "free gift" cannot be earned, cannot be merited. "The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life."
So Godís "free mercy" (grace) gives us eternal life. Do we earn/work for - or even merit - a gift? If we did, it wouldnít be free - wouldnít be a gift. Which is precisely what Paul says in Romans 11:6, "And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace..."
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." Because God loves mankind so much, He does not want His creation to perish. He also knows that since Adam, man has been, and will be, sinful. Thatís why He sent Christ to redeem us. II Peter 3:9, "...not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." II Tim. 2:4, "Who will have all men to be saved, and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus." Repent because "all have sinned and come short," but believe that "through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, we shall be saved." Through a belief that trusts our salvation to Jesus alone, we are saved, when Jesus becomes our personal Saviour.
Dear friends, when people in the Bible received salvation, it didnít take weeks of gospel meetings. Salvation was instantaneous. "I am the door; by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved." "Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace." "Receive thy sight. Thy faith hath saved thee. And immediately he received his sight and followed him." "This day is salvation come to this house." (Luke 19:9) "Today shalt thou be with me in paradise." Acts 2:40-42, "...and the same day were added unto them about three thousand souls." Acts 4:4, "Howbeit many of them which heard the word believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand." Read Acts 8:36, (Philip and the eunuch), Acts 10:24-48, (Cornelius), 16:14-15 (Lydia), 16:31-34, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved, and thy house." Also, II Cor. 6:2, "...behold...now is the day of salvation." Our salvation is not determined when we die, when perhaps we may have made ourselves worthy enough. (What a time to find out!) Salvation is here and now!
Our salvation is not contingent upon how much sacrifice and self-denial we do, but on what Christ has already done. By His life, death and resurrection, He saved us! The moment that truly dawns in our hearts is the moment salvation comes, and we are "born again." When the wonder of Godís "unspeakable gift" enters our hearts, there are no words to describe the intense relief, the awe, the "rejoicing with joy unspeakable and full of glory" (I Peter 1:8). We are free! What exquisite comfort! This precious knowledge enables us to love the Lord as He deserves to be loved - with all our heart, mind, soul and strength, and to set our affection on things above. We can, and should, emulate Christ, but He knows we can never attain His perfection. Thatís why He died for us! Our very dear friends, we are not saved by our doing, but by Christís dying. We need not fret that we donít measure up to the standard of Christ, that we come so far short and arenít all we should be. We can "come boldly to the throne of grace" where we know we will "obtain mercy." We can rest in the peace of knowing that his precious blood covers all our shortcomings. Trust totally in what He did; not in what we try to do. Death also loses its "sting" because we have accepted his free gift of salvation. We can claim His perfect pardon. This is indeed "Good News"! This is the Gospel.
How can we be so sure of salvation? Because we know the righteousness of Christ is more than sufficient for us. As long as we trust totally in His righteousness, Scripture gives us confidence:
Isa. 32:17, "...and the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance forever." Isa. 55:3, Acts 13:34, "...the sure mercies of David." Rom. 8:38, "For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." II Tim. 1:12, "...for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day." Philip. 4:7, "And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." II Thess. 3:3, "But the Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you, and keep you from evil. And we have confidence in the Lord touching you..." Heb. 6:19, "Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast..." Heb. 10:22, "Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith..." We also have the whole armour of God to protect us! I John 3:19, 21, "And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him...Beloved... have we confidence toward God." I John 2:25, "And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life." I John 5:13, "These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God." Jude 24, "Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy."
Did you know that in the 1600s, the meaning of the word hope was more like eager anticipation, expectation? So when the King James translators used the word hope, they didnít mean todayís current concept of wishful desire, but something far more certain. The word follow also has changed from what it meant in the 1600s. Rather than to imitate, it meant to accompany. The word repent now means to regret, or sorrow. In the days of King James, it meant to rethink/reconsider, reaching a new conclusion. As you read your Bible, contemplate these more accurate meanings.
What we desperately want to do is focus your attention on Christ. Only Christ. We have become aware of a chilling phenomenon in our fellowship:
Jesus and "The Truth" have merged in the minds of many. The distinction between the Son of God and this fellowship is blurred. "The Truth" has been elevated so much that it has become synonomous with Christ! Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth and the life. No man cometh unto the father but by me." (John 14:6) Now, He certainly did not mean a group of people, a body of believers, or a fellowship or ministry. He was referring to Himself - alone. This fellowship that we (brazenly?) call "The Truth" and "The Way" is comprised of people - people in the ministry, people meeting in homes. People - no matter how good they are - should never be placed on a level even remotely near Christ.
Friends, what do we believe about Jesus? Who was He? Do we know? Most of the friends believe He is the Son of God, a man with the attributes and powers of God but under God in authority, and separate from God. A few believe that Jesus is also God, "made flesh" (John 1:14) - or God "made in the likeness of men" (Philippians 2:7) - that He is God, the Son, as well as the Son of God. Have you ever heard about this in meetings? From the platform? Weíve been told that the word "Trinity" isnít in the Bible. True enough, but the word "Godhead" is, which is the same thing. (Acts 17:29, Romans 1:20, Col. 2:9) I John 5:7, "For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one." The Triune God. We hear about the Father, we hear about the Holy Ghost/Spirit/Comforter, but do we ever hear about the miraculous truth of Jesus also being God (in human form)? If we believe this, doesnít it merit being frequently spoken of, with awe, wonder, amazement, joy, praise, triumph?!
[ Matt. 1:23 tells us the name Emmanuel means "God with us." Isa. 9:6, "For unto us a child is born...and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace." John 1:1, 3, 14, 15, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God...All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made...And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us...John...cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me." (Jesus was six months younger than John the Baptist.) Notice that Word is capitalized, referring to Jesus, who made Godís thought audible. See also Rev. 19:13, "And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God." John 8:58, "...before Abraham was, I am." (Refers to Ex. 3:14; Godís name: I AM.) John 10:30, "I and my father are one." When He said that, the Jews began throwing stones at Him. When He asked them why they were stoning Him, they said, "for blasphemy" - because You, a man, are making yourself God. Jesus didnít deny it. In fact, He affirmed it by stating that God set Him apart from other men and that the miracles He was doing confirm Who He is - vs. 34-38. Jesus described the Trinity/Godhead in John 14:1-26. Note especially vs. 9 & 11: "...he that hath seen me hath seen the Father...Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me..." John 20:28, "And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God." Col. 1:13-18, "...hath translated us into the Kingdom of his dear Son: in whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: for by him were all things created, that are in heaven and in earth...all things were created by him and for him: and he is before all things and by him all things consist. And he is the head of the body, the church..." Philip. 2:6, "Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God." I Tim. 3:16, "And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh..." Titus 1:3, "...according to the commandment of God our Saviour." Heb.1:8, "But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever:..." Rev. 1:8, 17, 18, "I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty...Fear not, I am the first and the last: I am he that liveth, and was dead; and behold, I am alive for evermore." Look for more references. Check out Mark 12:35-37, Luke 20:42-44, Acts 2:34-36. Scripture often uses Jesus and God interchangeably. ]
Hints: Only God can forgive sins. (Ex. 34:6-7; Is. 43:25) Yet Jesus did. Only God is the Lord, yet Jesus was addressed as "Lord" more than any other title. Only God is to be worshipped. (1st commandment, Matt. 4:10, Luke 4:8) Yet Jesus accepted worship. (Matt. 2:11, 8:2, 9:18, 14:33, 15:25, 20:20, John 9:38) Even the angels were told to worship Him. (Heb. 1:6) Revelations is full of worship of the Lamb.
Having trouble comprehending this "mystery of godliness" - God "manifest in the flesh"? (We have good company: Paul!) Because Jesus, of necessity, was a man, He was subject as a man to the laws of time and space. While He was on this earth, His heavenly Father remained in the dimension of heaven, omniscient, omnipotent, controlling and directing His universe. "I am in the Father and the Father in me." We see the Father in Jesus, the heart and mind of God toward man perfectly and completely revealed, the personal relationship which God wants to exist between Himself and man. "God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself..." (II Cor. 5:19) Jesus is God "made flesh" - God incarnate. No human mind can comprehend infinity or eternity. Nor do we need to. God gave Himself in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus personified God on earth - the love of God for mankind. That is all our finite minds need to understand.