E. W. Bullinger
Part IIThe Words
The Place Where the Passage Occurs
Some passages of Scripture derive their chief importance from the revelation of a great truth which is made in them. Some derive their chief importance from certain words employed in that revelation. But others derive their chief importance from the place where we find them written. It is well, therefore, for us always to notice and see whether this last is the case with any passage which we may be considering.
We must ask: why is this passage or verse here? Why is it in this Book, or in this Epistle? Why is it not in some other Book or Epistle?
This, it will be seen, is closely connected with our Canon IV as to the Context being always essential to correct interpretation: for, the examination of the place where a Scripture is written involves giving this attention to the Context.
Yet it is distinct; for it has a special object in view, instead of a general object.
Let us give a few illustrations.
1. 2 Timothy 3:16, 17: "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works."
This passage is remarkable for all three of the reasons given above. It is remarkable for its wondrous revelation of the claim that the Scriptures are the gift of God; and that they are "God-breathed." It is remarkable also for certain words employed in this revelation of truth: Especially for the word qeopneustoV (theopneustos), God-breathed, which is rendered by the five English words, "given-by-inspiration-of-God."
It is remarkable also for the expression "the man of God," which is the Hebrew idiom for the prophet, as being God's "spokesman" (compare Exo 7:1 with 4:16--see pp. 304, 305), and needing, therefore, the God-breathed Scriptures so that he may know what to say for Him for whom he speaks as His spokesman. It is remarkable also for the word artioV (artios), rendered perfect, but meaning fitted as perfectly as a joint is fitted in its socket. Also for the word exartizw (exartizo), to fit out, used of fitting out a vessel for sea, which must take everything, on every voyage, which experience has shown may by any possibility be needed.
All this teaches us that only the man of God who thus has the profitable God-breathed Word is thus fitted out, prepared and equipped for every emergency as God's prophet or spokesman. But our particular question now is not confined to the revelation of truth, however important, or even to the words employed, however interesting, but to the place where we find both. Why is this passage given to us here in this third chapter of Paul's second Epistle to Timothy? Why not in one of the other four chapters? Why not in the first Epistle to Timothy? or in some other Epistle? The answer to these questions leads us to "search" this Epistle, and track out that reason.
In doing this we note, in 1:15, the falling away of some who turned away from the Apostle Paul and his teaching; and we note also the Divine provision for such a trial in his unfeigned faith in God (v 12), who would never turn away from him.
In 2:18 we read of those "who concerning THE TRUTH have erred," and note the Divine provision of comfort in the fact that "The foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are His" (v 19). Those secured on that foundation will not so "err."
In 3:8 we read of those who "resist THE TRUTH." What is the Divine provision for an emergency like this? We have it introduced in the fourteenth verse: "But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of"; going on and leading up to the verses we are considering as to the profitableness of the God-breathed Word for God's spokesman, fitting him out for this special conflict with those who oppose and withstand the truth. The fact of this passage occurring here, as the Divine provision for this conflict, speaks to us, if we have ears to hear; and it says:
The reason why so many fail in silencing those who "resist the truth" is because they depend on the logic of their argument, or the neatness of their retorts, or the smartness of their replies, or the cleverness of their answers, instead of on the power of the Word of God.
The fact of this passage occurring here speaks to us and says: "Open the book." Close your own mouth, and quote and use the words of God, the Sword of the Spirit, in meeting resistance to his truth.
In 4:4 we read of those who would "turn away their ears from THE TRUTH, and be turned unto fables," and we note that the Divine provision in such a condition of things is our one and only duty to "Preach the word." Nothing more, nothing less, nothing different. And this, all the more diligently and earnestly, for the reason given, because "the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine," but "will turn away their ears from the truth." At such a time we are not to seek for something which men will endure, but to "Preach the Word."
And thus we have:
How often are these words used, and interpreted, as being addressed to sinners, to come and be saved. But what is the interpretation of them, when looked at in the light of the question as to where we find them? If we go back in the chapter to verses 2, 3, we find John the Baptist wondering whether Christ were indeed He that should come. In verses 16-18 the Lord upbraids the people respecting both John and Himself, and for saying that John was possessed by a demon, and that Himself was a glutton and a drunkard. In verses 20-24 he upbraided the cities of Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum, and said "Woe unto thee," "Woe unto thee." Then, in verse 25, we read, "AT THAT TIME Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight."*
In other words, at the moment when (humanly speaking, of course) His mission was ending in failure; when He and the kingdom were being alike rejected, and His testimony not believed, "at that time," and at such a time, the Lord Jesus found His REST in the Father's will. Here was rest indeed, in not seeking or desiring to accomplish anything that was not in the Father's will.
Then, turning to His "weary and heavy-laden" servants and disciples, He speaks, in order that they may find their rest where He found His, and says:
He alludes not to their sins, but to their service: not to their guilt, but to their labour; not to their conscience, but to their heart; not to their repentance, but to their learning of Him; not to their finding forgiveness of their sin, but to their finding rest in His yoke.
This fact, again, speaks to us if we have ears to hear, and it says: If you would find rest in your service, and be without care; be free from the heavy burden of responsibility as to the results of your testimony, and enjoy peace, the peace of God, in the midst of what man might call, and we might regard, as failure, then you will find your rest where Christ found His, in submission to the Father's will, and say: "Even so, Father, for so it seemeth good in Thy sight."
"Anathema" means accursed. "Maran-atha" means the Lord cometh. This verse, though it speaks of love, is not written in John's Epistles. Though it speaks of a curse, it is not written in the Epistle to the Galatians. Though it speaks of the Lord's Coming, we do not find it in the Epistle to the Thessalonians. No! it occurs in this first Epistle to the Corinthians.
And, not at the beginning, or in the middle, but at the end. And right at the end, immediately before "The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ." In fact, the very last verse of the Epistle proper. What lesson does its position here have for us? Surely the place where we find it gives the verse a fulness of meaning, both by interpretation and application, which it would not possess if it occurred in any other part of Scripture.
It owes its chief importance, and all the solemnity of its lesson, entirely to the fact that we find it here, and nowhere else. It bids us, therefore, look at the Epistle as a whole; there we see, on the very surface, that the Epistle is full of reproof for practical errors in life and walk:
But when it comes to the end of the Epistle, and all is viewed in the light of Maran-athathe Lord cometh, not one of these things is mentioned. It does not say, "If any man be not moral in his life," "If any man be not correct in his ritual," or "orthodox in his creed"; but, "if any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ."
This fact speaks to us and tells us that a man may be perfectly moral and yet have no love for Christ. He may be correct in ritual, and orthodox in creed, but he may have a heart as hard as a stone, and as cold as ice toward the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is not that these errors are made light of. God forbid! but, that if a man have no error, and yet have no love, he will be accursed when the Lord cometh.
In the light of that day, love will be the true test; loyalty will be the true token of acceptable service. It was even so with the "Last words of David," when at the end of his reign he summed up and numbered his "mighty men" and set forth their service. In 2 Samuel 23 all is enumerated, wonderful deeds are recorded, marks of devotion are cited.
The boldness of one through whom "the LORD wrought a great victory" (v 10), though "the men of Israel had fled" (v 9). And of another who defended David's rights when "the people fled from the Philistines" (vv 11,12). But among the mighty men and servants of David there were those who were noted for military prowess, political wisdom, and diligent service, whose names are not enumerated in this list. Yes, their names are mentioned, but they themselves are not numbered.
What does all this say to us but exactly what we have in 1 Corinthians 16:22: "if any man love not." It is not might, nor courage, nor wisdom that constitutes true service; but it is loyalty and love. Ahithophel failed in his loyalty when Joab stood firm: for Joab and Abiathar remained loyal during Absalom's rebellion, but failed in the rising of Adonijah.
Thus was their service truly appraised, and their hearts tested. The test was not the skilfulness of the hand, or the wisdom of the head, but the loyalty of the heart (Jer 9:23,24).
This is the great lesson which is impressed upon us by the place where we find the words: "If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ let him be anathema, Maran-atha." These are "the last words" of that first Epistle to the Corinthians.