|Conclusion of the New Testament, The (Msgs. 157-171), Chapter 14|
(5) Not Giving Place to the Devil
In Ephesians 4:27 Paul says, “Neither give place to the Devil.” This immediately follows Paul’s word, “Be angry, and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your indignation” (v. 26). According to the context, to continue in anger is to give place to the Devil. In nothing should we give any place to him. If we hold on to our anger, we are actually welcoming the Devil. But if we relinquish our anger, we close the door to the Devil and give him no place.
(6) Not Taken Advantage Of by Satan, Not Ignorant of His Devices
In 2 Corinthians 2:11 Paul says, “That we may not be taken advantage of by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his thoughts.” This verse discloses that the evil one, Satan, is behind the scenes in everything and works in everything. The Greek word translated “thoughts” here means plans, plots, devices, schemes, designs, wiles, intentions, purposes. Even in the church life Satan may be behind the scenes. As the context indicates, even a matter such as forgiving a brother may involve not only the church but also the devices of Satan. Even behind a matter such as this, Satan may be crouching, looking for a way to execute his evil plans and devour the weak ones. Therefore, we need to be aware of the subtlety of the enemy.
Satan is subtle in taking advantage of the believers. He often comes to us through someone else. When Satan came to Eve, he came in a serpent. When he came to the Lord Jesus in Matthew 16 he came through Peter. However, the Lord was on the alert and realized that Satan was right in front of him. For this reason the Lord said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan!” (v. 23). Just as Satan came to the Lord Jesus through Peter, Satan may come to us through a certain person. Therefore, we need to be on the alert and know the devices of the Devil.
(7) Guarded by the Faithful Lord from the Evil One
The believers can overcome Satan because they are guarded by the faithful Lord from the evil one. In 2 Thessalonians 3:3 Paul says, “The Lord is faithful, who will establish you and guard you from the evil one.” We are guarded by eternal encouragement and good hope (2 Thes. 2:16-17). Only the eternal life can guard us from the evil one. The whole world lies in the evil one (1 John 5:19), but the divine life with which we have been born of God keeps and guards us from him (1 John 5:18, 4; 3:9). We have a part within us that has been regenerated, born of God. That part, which is actually the Lord Himself, always guards us from the evil one.
THE CONCLUSION OF THE NEW TESTAMENT
MESSAGE ONE HUNDRED SEVENTY-ONE
THE BELIEVERS—THEIR PRESENT
In this message we shall consider two further aspects of the believers’ experience of the dispensing of the divine Trinity: fighting the good fight and running the course of the race.
e. Fighting the Good Fight
In 2 Timothy 4:7a Paul says, “I have fought the good fight.” This good fight is against Satan and his kingdom of darkness for the interest of God’s kingdom. In 1 Timothy 6:12 Paul refers to this fight as “the good fight of the faith,” that is, a fight for the contents of the complete gospel according to God’s New Testament economy.
(1) By Receiving the Apostle’s Charge
The believers fight the good fight by receiving the apostle’s charge. First Timothy 1:18 says, “This charge I commit to you, child Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that in them you might war the good warfare.” We need to consider Paul’s use of the word “charge” here in the context of the chapter as a whole. The charge in verse 18 covers the main points presented in the previous seventeen verses. On the positive side, the main point of these verses is God’s dispensation; on the negative side, it is the differing teachings. Hence, the charge given by the apostle to his spiritual son concerns the dispensation of God positively and the differing teachings negatively. Because of different teachings, the church had already become degraded, and a deviation from the faith had taken place. Paul charged Timothy to fight against this deviation from the faith, that is, to fight the good fight for the faith.
In verse 18 Paul says that he committed the charge to Timothy “according to the prophecies previously made” concerning him. It may be that some prophetic intimations were made concerning Timothy when he was admitted into the ministry (Acts 16:1-3). Paul charged Timothy to war the good warfare in the prophecies. This means in the sphere, support, and confirmation of the prophecies.
Paul told Timothy that in the prophecies previously made he “might war the good warfare.” To war the good warfare is to war against the differing teachings of the dissenters and to carry out God’s dispensation (1 Tim. 1:4) according to the apostle’s ministry concerning the gospel of grace and eternal life for the glory of the blessed God (vv. 11-16).
On the one hand, Timothy was to war against the differing teachings of the dissenters. On the other hand, he was to carry out God’s dispensation according to the apostle’s ministry. If we wish to carry out God’s dispensation, we must not do it according to the teachings of traditional Christianity nor according to systematic theology but according to the apostle’s ministry. All true apostles teach and preach the same thing, even the one thing—God’s New Testament economy. The focus of our preaching and teaching is Christ and the church. To teach and preach God’s economy concerning Christ and the church is to war a good warfare.
(2) By Laying Hold on the Eternal Life
First Timothy 6:12a says, “Fight the good fight of the faith.” To fight for the faith means to fight for God’s New Testament economy. In particular, it is to fight for Christ as the embodiment of God and for the church as the Body of Christ.
In 6:12b Paul goes on to say, “Lay hold on the eternal life to which you were called.” The eternal life here is the divine life, the uncreated life of God, which is eternal. Eternal denotes the nature more than the time element of the divine life. To fight the good fight of the faith in the Christian life, especially in the Christian ministry, we need to lay hold on this divine life and not trust in our human life. Hence, in 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus the eternal life is stressed again and again (1 Tim. 1:16; 6:19; 2 Tim. 1:1, 10; Titus 1:2; 3:7). To bring forth God’s dispensation concerning the church in 1 Timothy, to confront the process of the church’s decline in 2 Timothy, and to maintain good order in the church life in Titus, this life is a prerequisite.
We have been called to the eternal life of God. We were born of the human natural life, but we were reborn of the divine eternal life when we were called by God in Christ.
We fight the good fight of the faith not only objectively but also subjectively by laying hold on eternal life. We should not do anything apart from this life. As those who would fight the good fight, we need to lay hold on eternal life.
We need to realize that we have been called to eternal life. This eternal life does not mainly refer to blessings in the future. To be called to eternal life does not mean that we have been called to enjoy blessings in heaven. Eternal life should be our life today, a life for our present daily living. By our first birth, the physical birth, we received the Adamic life. But because we have been called to eternal life, we should no longer live by the Adamic life, the natural life. Although we should be truly human, even Jesusly human, we should not be human in our natural life. On the contrary, we need to live a human life by the eternal life. We have been called to this life, and now we need to live it.
As believers in Christ, we have been called uniquely to eternal life. This life, the divine life, is actually the Triune God Himself. Having been called to eternal life, we now should lay hold on this life, live this life, and have our whole being according to this life.
The subtlety of the enemy in bringing deviation from the faith is to keep the believers from the eternal life. Therefore, we, the genuine believers, must lay hold on the eternal life. Without the eternal life we are nothing. This eternal life is actually the processed Triune God being life to us.
Not only heretical teachings but even fundamental teachings may be used by the enemy to keep us from enjoying the eternal life. Teachings that are scriptural, fundamental, good, ethical, and moral, teachings about the improvement of character and about making up our mind to do good things, keep the believers from the experience of the processed Triune God as eternal life to them.
It is crucial for us to see that all the matters in the New Testament concerning the believers are related to the dispensing of the processed Triune God into us. To experience this dispensing is to enjoy eternal life. Some may teach according to the Bible without teaching the believers how to contact the processed Triune God and to receive His dispensing, which becomes the vital factor of our Christian life. Because even fundamental teachings may be subtly used by the enemy to keep us from enjoying eternal life, we need to lay hold on the eternal life. Then we shall be able to fight the good fight for the faith.
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