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"For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory."2 Cor. 4:17.

Few, even amongst Bible students, discern that the true Church of Christ is wholly distinct and separate from the remainder of mankind; and that the Scriptures speak literally when they declare that the Church is a New Creation and its members New Creatures. As with the natural man there is a human begetting and a human birth, so with these New Creatures in Christ there is a spirit begetting, which will culminate in the First Resurrection – their spiritual birth, when they shall "be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye," thereafter to be glorious spirit beings, joint-heirs with their Redeemer in His Millennial Kingdom and the great work of blessing all the families of the earth.

On reading St. Paul's words, "Though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day" (2 Cor. 4:16), the majority, even of Christians, are inclined to apply it to all mankind and to look for an outward and an inward man in all with whom they come in contact. Such a misunderstanding on the part of a Christian is apt to result in one of two things: (1) Scrutinizing himself and recognizing to some extent his own twofold nature, he mistakenly supposes that all mankind are the same as himself; or (2) Looking at the world in general and perceiving no such dual personality as the Apostle mentions, he doubts his own dual nature, and thus fails to receive any profitable lessons from St. Paul's statement recorded in our text.

This confusion is increased by the fact that nominal Christianity includes three classes: (1) A class which claims to be Christian merely because the name is popular; [SM628] (2) A class of justified believers in the Cross of Christ, the scope of whose consecration is merely to avoid sin in its crudest form and to live decent, creditable lives; (3) A class that has gone beyond that just described, has recognized with appreciation the Divine mercy already received, and in response has made a full consecration of life to the Lord – a consecration even unto death, a consecration to serve the Lord and to walk in His steps whatever the cost, a consecration to sacrifice earthly interests, advantages, privileges, etc., as well as to avoid sin – in the interest of truth, and all those principles of righteousness which represent the Heavenly Father and His Son our Lord Jesus Christ.

This last class is of course that which the Master denominated a "little flock," and which continues to include "not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble." But it is this class alone that receives spirit-begetting, the "earnest of our inheritance" of those great blessings which "God has in reservation for those that love Him" more than they love houses or lands, parents or children, husband or wife, or even life itself. These spirit-begotten ones, the smallest section of those who profess Christ, are the only class addressed throughout the New Testament; for these are prospectively "the saints," the "Elect," so frequently mentioned by the Apostles and uniformly addressed in the opening of each Epistle. – 1 Cor. 1:2; 2 Cor. 1:1; Phil. 1:2.


Some may have thought that the Apostles were exceptions to every rule, and that their sacrifice of earthly interests, their sufferings of persecution in the flesh, and their self-denials in the interests of the Gospel service were not designed of the Lord as illustrations or examples for the remainder of the Church. This is a mistaken view which will, if entertained, hinder us from obedience to St. Paul's injunction, "Be ye followers of me, even as [SM629] I also am of Christ"; and his declaration, "Ye became followers of us and of the Lord." – 1 Cor. 11:1; 1 Thess. 1:6; Eph. 5:1,2.

True, our Lord Jesus was not only the Redeemer, but also the great Shepherd and Guide of His followers. True, He sent forth the Twelve Apostles as His special representatives and mouthpieces in the establishment of the Church, a mission which entailed upon them special obligations and duties, as well as special privileges and opportunities. Respecting all of His followers, His "sheep," He says, "They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world." To them He says, "If the world hate you, ye know that it hated Me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love its own; but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you." Again, "If any man will serve Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there shall My servant be." – John 17:16; 15:18,19; 12:26.

That all of our Lord's followers – not only the Apostles, but the very humblest of the sheep – are included in these conditions and in the rewards promised to the faithful, is distinctly shown in our Lord's references to His Second Coming and to the blessings then to be administered to all of His faithful disciples, amongst whom He includes, not only His Twelve Apostles (who are indeed to have the most honorable position in glory), but also every member of "the Church which is His Body." In the parables of the Pounds and the Talents our Lord evidently addresses those who will be alive at His Second Advent, and speaks as if they were the representatives of all of His faithful followers throughout the Gospel Age, to each one of them He has entrusted certain gifts and responsibilities as His servants, as New Creatures in Christ. – Matt. 25:14-30; Luke 19:11-27.

Changing times and circumstances vary conditions; but the principles enunciated in the Scriptures continue [SM630] in force and meaning. In civilized lands it is no longer customary to crucify, to stone to death, to beat with rods or to burn at the stake. The Gospel of Christ has made a deep impression upon the world and its general sentiments, even though the message has influenced only a "little flock" to accept full discipleship and willingness to "follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth." It is still true, however, that even in this present Age, "all who would live godly in Christ Jesus, shall suffer persecution" (2 Tim. 3:12) – more refined, more civilized, but in some respects no less bitter and malicious than that of times past – sometimes causing excruciating pain, sorrow and heartache.


It is still true that as the persecution of our Lord's time came from the nominally religious and orthodox of His day and nation, and as all the persecutions of the Dark Ages were instituted by the professedly religious and professedly orthodox, so likewise today. More of the pain and sorrow, more of the mortification of our flesh, come from the professedly religious, professedly orthodox, professedly brethren, than from any other class. In every instance the difficulty arises from the fact that these nominally religious people who would persecute the members of the Body of Christ do so because of mistaken conceptions of the Divine will and because they lack the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Love.

The Scriptures explain that Satan exercises a great influence upon the world, blinding many with prejudice and using them unwittingly as his tools; and that God permits him to do so for the better ultimate accomplishment of the great and glorious Divine purpose. Of those who crucified our Lord St. Peter declares, "I wot, brethren, that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers." (Acts 3:17.) Of the same class St. Paul says, "Had they known they would not have crucified the Lord [SM631] of Glory." (1 Cor 2:8.) Similarly, those of the Dark Ages who burned one another at the stake, doubtless thought, as did Saul of Tarsus, that they verily did God service. Blinded as to the real purpose of God, and not appreciating His Spirit of love, they served Satan and sin, while supposing that they were serving God.

Undoubtedly the same is true today of those who after a more refined manner oppose, speak evil of and misrepresent their brethren. Nevertheless, from first to last, God has been so overruling in the affairs of His people that blessing has resulted to those who are New Creatures in Christ. While their outward man has suffered, has been mortified and has perished, their inward man – their new nature – has been renewed, strengthened, upbuilt in the image of God. Their trials have made them more nearly, as New Creatures, exact copies of God's dear Son. – Rom. 8:29.


Thus far we have considered only those attacks upon our mortal bodies which come from without, and have seen how, as our text declares, "our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory." From this viewpoint we realize that all the persecutions, trials, sorrows, pain, which come to our flesh are really blessings in disguise; for our human nature must be utterly destroyed before we as New Creatures can be perfected in the First Resurrection. It may surprise some of the Lord's dear people to note not only the Apostle's exhortation that we endure and appreciate the Lord's providences respecting persecutions from without, but also the fact that our zeal as New Creatures leads us to make an attack upon our flesh from within. St. Paul assures us that there is a continual warfare to be waged between the old nature and the new, and that so antagonistic are their interests that the development and final victory of the one means the overthrow and destruction of the other. Hence we [SM632] are exhorted to "fight the good fight of faith and to lay hold on eternal life." – 1 Tim. 6:12.

The Scriptures inform us that our courage, our persistency and zeal in the fight against the old self and its natural tendencies, this fight in the interests of the Heavenly Kingdom and its Divine Law means to us either victory or defeat as respects our attainment of the glorious prize set before us in God's Word – joint-heirship with Christ in glory, honor and immortality, the Divine nature. It is to the "more than conquerors" that the blessed promises of the Scriptures apply. Our Redeemer is the Captain of our salvation, the Leader of all these conquerors, without whom they would be unable to gain the victory. But by His grace and assistance, they shall triumph, in harmony with the promise. – Rom. 8:37.

This battle between the New Creature and his old nature is referred to by the Apostle when he exhorts the New Creature, saying, "Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth" – deaden them. (Col. 3:5-10.) First of all, surrender your human will to death, that you may have no will of your own, but may adopt in the fullest measure the mind of Christ, the will of the Heavenly Father, that as the will of the New Creature it may henceforth dominate your life more and more until it shall control every thought, word and deed. This mortifying, or killing, is to grapple with every organ of our mortal bodies and not only to render them dead to sin, but to quicken and encourage them with the holy spirit of the New Creature.

From the time of our spirit-begetting henceforth, our hands and all of their doings, our feet and all of their goings, our tongues and all of their words, our eyes and all of their visions, are to be dead indeed to sin, dead to selfishness, dead to everything except the new mind, the spirit of holiness which, controlling these members of our mortal body, is to use them incessantly in the service of God, the service of Christ, the service of the brethren, [SM633] the service of the Truth and, so far as opportunity may afford, in the service of humanity. But let us not forget, however, that the real service of humanity will come during the Millennial Age, and will be granted only to those New Creatures who in the present time fight a good fight against the old man and his natural inclinations and in favor of the New Creature, controlled by the Divine will.

As the natural man perishes, the New Creature is developed. At first the natural man is comparatively strong. But if progress is made, eventually he will be quite in subjection to the New Creature. While the outward man is perishing, the new man is growing day by day. Eventually this will mean a thorough preparation for the complete "change" for the birth of the spirit in the First Resurrection. Since there is no development or schooling in the grave, and since no one can enter the Heavenly condition except those who in the School of Christ in the present life have been "made meet for the inheritance of the saints in light," it follows that, as St. Peter suggests, all who are spirit-begotten need to give all diligence to make their calling and election sure; for if they do those things which the Apostle enumerates, they shall never fall, but an abundant entrance shall be ministered unto them into the everlasting Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. – 2 Peter 1:5-11.


Here a word of warning seems necessary. Some of the Lord's people have the erroneous impression that actual perfection in every thought, word and deed is the Divine requirement. This is a mistake. Such perfection in the flesh is an impossibility. The perfection which God requires is, according to the Scriptures, a perfection of the heart, a perfection of the will. "Blessed are the pure in heart" – the pure in desire, and hence the pure in endeavor. God's Elect are selected from various stations in life, and hence are some more and some less noble by nature, some more and some less injured by [SM634] the fall of Father Adam. Therefore we are not to expect that all these will reach the same plane of outward self-control in the present life.

The Scriptures point out that the Lord's judgment of His people will not be according to their outward attainment, but according to their inward development. Hence some of them who are naturally noble, and who are held in more or less high estimation amongst men, might in the Lord's estimation be unfit for the Kingdom and its high honors and responsibilities. On the other hand, some of those whom the Apostle denominates, according to the flesh, "the mean things of this world," and who according to men might never be highly esteemed in the flesh, might in the Lord's estimation be highly esteemed because of His knowledge of the loyalty of their hearts – their loyalty to Him, to the brethren, to the principles of righteousness – and their fullness of the spirit of love. Undoubtedly there are some great surprises in store for the time when the Lord will make manifest His judgment, His decision, as to who are His Body members.

In conclusion, let us who recognize ourselves as New Creatures in Christ, begotten of the Holy Spirit of God, fight a good fight against the old nature, putting off more and more of the works of the flesh – anger, wrath, malice, hatred, strife – and putting on more and more the character fruits of the Holy Spirit – meekness, gentleness, patience, long-suffering, brotherly kindness, love. The possession of these Heavenly qualities will not make us popular with the world; for the spirit of darkness hates the spirit of light, which constantly reproves the wrong spirit. But these fruits and graces of God's spirit of love constitutes a panoply which will enable us to withstand all the fiery darts of the Adversary and to assist others in the good fight. Finally through the grace of God in Christ these qualities will perfect us as conquerors, yea, more than conquerors, through Him who loved us and bought us with His own precious blood.