' Love in the Truth' - by Robert Roberts

              'The Christadelphian' 1873 pages 549-552

                      later published as 'Love and Doctrine' in

                                       'Seasons of Comfort'

       introductory note: this exhortation may be  the   most beautiful

       of the many delivered by Robert Roberts:    it was given after

       a period of upheaval,   when  a re-affirmation of the truth con-

               cerning the Sacrifice of Christ had become necessary

          -the need to reject heresy is still with us and so let us also heed this exhortation-

 

2 John.-This epistle brings out a few things about "love",     which it is important to recognise.

"Love", in the world, is one thing; "love", according to the sects, another; and the "love" of

apostolic discourse, yet another.    The two former we may dismiss.    The world's "love" is an

ephemeral affair,  having its foundation in the instincts, dying with use and age,    and passing

away in death. Orthodox "love" is a sickly distortion, lacking the elements that give strength

and comeliness to the "love" of the Scriptures.        It works spiritual mischief now, and is des-

tined hereafter to vanish like smoke. The "love"of John's epistles has foundations, without

which it cannot exist.     This partly comes out in the very first sentence of this second epistle:

          "The elder unto the elect lady and her children, whom I love IN THE TRUTH".   

 

Outside the truth,a brother's love is not operative.    He loves not the world, neither the things

that are in the world, remembering that      "if any man love the world, the love of the Father is

not in him"-(1 John ii.15).His friendships are bounded by the truth,        as regards both men and

things.       In Christ, he is a "new creature"-(2 Cor. v.17).         After the flesh, he knows no man-

                        "the friendship of the world is enmity with God"-(James iv.4).

Does he, therefore, shut up his bowels of compassion against those who are without God? By

no means.    He recognizes the obligation put upon him by the same law,   to salute not his bre-

thren only, but to do good unto all men, as he has opportunity, even to his enemies.  But there

is a difference between  doing good to unbelievers  and cultivating friendship with them;         and

the saint is careful to observe this difference,  lest he come under the rebuke that greeted the

ears of Jehoshaphat, on his return from friendly co-operation with Ahab:

                    "Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them who hate the Lord?  

                    Therefore is wrath upon thee from before the Lord"-(2 Chron. xix.2).

We can have our conversation  towards the world  in all  courtesy and benevolence,  without

going on to their ground,  and    joining  affinity in  schemes of pleasure,  profit,  or friendship.

 

The "love" that belongs to the household of faith is     "for the truth's sake that dwelleth in us,

and shall be with us for ever".    This is John's definition of its source and scope.   Everyone

that is truly of the household  responds instinctively to it.                  To the carnal mind    it appears

very "narrow",  but this is  an illusion of ignorance.         It is the true breadth, for it   relates to

that which shall be for ever, while the world,  which would have us   unequally  yoked,         passeth

away. The truth connects us with     "the shoreless ocean of eternity",   while the friendship of

the world is confined to    "a narrow neck of land" -      the brief existence of this animal proba-

tion.             The (presently) "narrow" operation of  apostolic   "love" is also founded in wisdom;

for unrestricted friendship with the world is full of danger;          it draws away from the fear of

God, the hope of the calling,  and the holiness of the Master's house,      "whose house are we,

if we hold fast the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end".           It is, therefore, a

snare; pleasant and advantageous meantime,        but having the suction of the maelstrom with

it, drawing us to death;   for when the Lord of Light stands on earth,   to set in order destiny,

according to  the Father's purpose,   the world will have,   from  his  presence,     "fled away".

 

John rejoiced concerning those to whom he wrote that he had found them         "walking in the

truth". Saints walk not otherwise.   Their actions, plans of life, friendships, aims, enterprises,

hopes -everything connected with them, in some way or other comes from, originates in, and

is conformed to the truth.         The truth is their inspiration -       their controlling life-stream.

             "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature" - not that all answer to this.

There are professors who serve not our Lord Jesus, but themselves;   but such are abortions

and illegitimates.    None but sons will be mustered in the day of the 144,000.    They are few

now, as they have always been, and the world "knoweth" them not in many senses;    but they

know what they are about. They are not dreaming; they are not fanatics. They are the child-

ren of wisdom;     and wisdom is justified of them all,    though they may be hard to read some-

times.     They understand the world too well to be entrapped into its fellowship.           They are

known of God,   and will be publicly revealed in due time,  in glory,      honour   and immortality.

Meanwhile, they "walk in the truth".         On this ground they are to be met and understood.

Approached on any other ground,   they will not seem what they are.      They are not be com-

prehended "after the flesh". 

 

"This is love", says John, "that we walk after his commandments".    No man loves after the

Spirit's fashion who disobeys.   Apostolic "love" is that state of enlightenment and apprecia-

tion in relation to the things of God  that impels a man to be     "a  doer  of  the  word".    John

gives this an application that was special to his day;  and yet not special,  as it is appropriate

wherever the same need and the same danger manifest themselves.     "This is the command-

ment", he says, "that AS ye have heard in the beginning, ye should walk in it".  We are won-

dering what he means when presently the light dawns;         "for, many deceivers are entered

into the world who confess not that Jesus is come in the flesh".       He means that they should

hold fast to the doctrine of Christ as originally delivered;     because many were drawing the

disciples away therefrom.         The obedience of this commandment is the evidence of New Tes-

tament "love",    and it is also necessary for  our  acceptable  standing before the presence of

the Lord's glory at his coming. This is John's view, as evident from the words following:

"Look to yourselves,that we lose not those things which we have wrought; but that we receive

a full reward".      There would have been no need for these words if the things that had been

"wrought" were not imperilled by the doctrine of the deceivers of which he is speaking.

 

He indicates, in strong language,     the consequences to the individual ensnared by the deceiv-

ers:           "Whosoever transgresseth and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ hath not God".

This may seem a strange saying in view of the fact that the "deceivers" referred to believed

in one God,        the Creator of heaven and earth;      and also in Christ,  after their own fashion.

But the apparent strangeness disappears when   we look closely at      the matter John is writing

about.   To "have" God in the sense of John's words,  is to stand in His favour,   both now and

hereafter.   All things are in His goodness.     As David says,    "his tender mercies are over all

his works":  but the goodness of God   in common benefits that come upon all alike,  is a diff-

erent thing from  that  personal  "favour" which   guides,  attends,  and prospers  (even if by

chastisement), with a view to a perpetual sonship in the Spirit-nature.    The enjoyment of this

favour is a thing of conditions.          One of those conditions is a recognition of the channel in

which He offers it. Out of Christ, sinners cannot come near.    They have the goodness of God

as creatures, like the sparrows,  not one of which can  fall to the earth  without  the Father's

knowledge; but they are not in the privilege of children.    They have not the Father's favour

and purpose concerning the ages to come. This is only to be enjoyed in Christ;but even here,

it must be the Christ of God's appointing.      Any other than this is presumption,  and a mock-

ery of His wisdom;  and they who  teach  otherwise than  the truth concerning Christ,  preach

another Christ, though it be intended to refer to the Christ of Nazareth.

 

This is evident from the case of those to whom John is referring.   They believed that the per-

son known as Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ; but in their reasonings upon him, they reas-

oned away the truth about him,        and consequently believed and preached another Jesus than

the Son of the Father.         There were different sorts of the class, but all their heresies had a

common origin, viz.,      an attempt to bring the mystery of Godliness within the rules of human

reason, instead of accepting the testimony    with humble and childlike simplicity.     One set ar-

gued that such a character as Jesus was  a  moral impossibility in flesh and blood,  and that,

therefore, his whole life was  a  moral  accommodation on the part of a spiritual being to the

senses of mortals.     Another believing him to be flesh and blood philosophized in a contrary

direction,  concluding that as such,  he must,  from the nature of things,          have been a "mere

man", and that the idea of his being God in flesh-manifestation, was preposterous. The "Pa-

pal" breed      blended the two,  and taught that though flesh,     his flesh was not the corrupt and

mortal flesh of men, but a superior, clean, "immaculate" sort.         In our own day, as recent

painful experience has made us aware,   a class of believers are treading the same dangerous

ground, in teaching that the flesh of Jesus was destitute of that which,      in the flesh of his bre-

thren, constitutes the cause or source of mortality.

 

Another variation of this virulent error is popular today.         It denies "that Jesus is come in the

flesh", i.e. "sinful flesh", Romans 8v3, by proposing the following heretical teaching:

'The Sacrifice of Christ was of benefit for Himself,     but only because it involved His final act

of obedience.         It did not involve a personal need for purification from "sinful flesh"

by sacrifice and resurrection'. Contrast Robert Roberts in 'The Law of Moses':

 

"Heb. 9:23..is therefore a declaration that it was necessary that Christ should first of all

be purified with better sacrifices than the Mosaic..There must, therefore, be a sense

in which Christ...must not only have been sanctified by the action of the antitypical oil of

the Holy Spirit - but purged by the antitypical blood of his own sacrifice..

HE WAS "PURIFIED WITH" A  BETTER  SACRIFICE THAN BULLS AND GOATS-

VIZ., HIS  OWN SACRIFICE..FROM...HIS  HEREDITARY DEATH TAINT". 

 

The above is in complete harmony with John Thomas, who wrote in  'Elpis Israel':

"Sinful flesh being the hereditary nature of the Lord Jesus, he was a fit and proper

sacrifice for sin...The great principle to be compassed was

                       THE   CONDEMNATION   OF   SIN   IN   SINFUL   FLESH,

                       INNOCENT   OF   ACTUAL   TRANSGRESSION".       

                   - link to 'sacrifice' - (the above note has been added for information).

 

In relation to all of them, John's declaration reveals the mind of the Spirit:      

                   "Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ,

                                                               hath not God.

                                          He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ,

                                             he hath both the Father and the Son".

The doctrine of Christ is that he is God made and  manifested  in  the  mortal       flesh of Abra-

ham's race for the deliverance thereof, on His own principles,     from "that having the power

of death". Those who hold fast to this have both the Father and the Son;        for in Jesus they

have the Son, and the Father manifest in him.

 

As to those who "bring not this doctrine", John's commandment is:         "Receive him not into

your house, neither bid him God speed!" This  command  we  can  no  more  evade  than any

other commandment delivered unto us. The obedience of it may cost us something.   It is cru-

cifying to the flesh to refuse friends -      some of them excellent people as far as human nature

goes - who in one way or other have been seduced   from their  allegiance   to    the    doctrine of

Christ; but there is no alternative.Friends are but for a moment; the truth is for ever;& if we

sacrifice our duty to the latter from regard to the former,  the latter will sacrifice us in the

day of its glory,   & hand us over to the destiny of the flesh,which as the grass, will pass away.

 

"He that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds".         This applies to all without

distinction, and erects a barrier to fellowship with even some who hold the truth; for though

they may hold the doctrine of Christ themselves,    yet if they keep up a "God-speed" conn-

ection with those who don't, by John's rule, they make themselves partakers with them, and

therefore cut themselves off from those who stand for the doctrine of Christ.

 

The epistle, as a whole,  is  singularly  applicable   to the situation in which we find ourselves

this morning.     We have been obliged to stand aside for the doctrine of Christ from some we

love. The epistle of John justifies us in our course, both as regards those who have departed

from the doctrine of Christ,  and those who,  while holding on to it themselves, see not their

way to break connection with those who have departed.         It is a painful situation,       but we

must not falter, nor need we fear or be discouraged.         God is with us in the course of obed-

ience,  and we shall see His blessing in the increase in our midst,  of zeal and holiness,     and

love and preparedness for the great day of Christ, which is at hand. 

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