Answers to Correspondents

 •  4 min. read  •  grade level: 15
H. D. R. Jameson
F.K.M. writes —
I shall be glad of a little help in regard to the above-mentioned scriptures.
In Hebrews 3:1919So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief. (Hebrews 3:19) we read “so we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.” Similarly Jude 55I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not. (Jude 5) states “that the Lord having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not.”
From these scriptures it is quite clear that unbelief prevented their entrance into “the land.” My difficulty, however, is this: Are we to view the company referred to as true believers or only professors? If the former, do we understand them to represent worldly believers who never rise to their heavenly standing? If, however, on the other hand, they are simply “professors,” how are we to reconcile this with the fact that they are under the shelter of the blood, and delivered from the power of the enemy?
In reply to this question we would point out that the people of Israel are viewed (typically) in Scripture in a double aspect: first as one whole as a people sheltered by blood in Egypt, redeemed by power at the Red Sea, divinely guided in the wilderness, and finally brought in victorious strength into their possession in the promised land (compare Psa. 78:51-5551And smote all the firstborn in Egypt; the chief of their strength in the tabernacles of Ham: 52But made his own people to go forth like sheep, and guided them in the wilderness like a flock. 53And he led them on safely, so that they feared not: but the sea overwhelmed their enemies. 54And he brought them to the border of his sanctuary, even to this mountain, which his right hand had purchased. 55He cast out the heathen also before them, and divided them an inheritance by line, and made the tribes of Israel to dwell in their tents. (Psalm 78:51‑55)). When thus viewed, their history typifies that of the believer, and the very fact that all the men of war perished ere they crossed the brook Zered (Deut. 2:14-1514And the space in which we came from Kadesh-barnea, until we were come over the brook Zered, was thirty and eight years; until all the generation of the men of war were wasted out from among the host, as the Lord sware unto them. 15For indeed the hand of the Lord was against them, to destroy them from among the host, until they were consumed. (Deuteronomy 2:14‑15)) becomes luminous with meaning, for though the link of identity between the Israel who came out of Egypt and the Israel who entered the land is clearly maintained in Caleb and Joshua (Num. 26:64, 6564But among these there was not a man of them whom Moses and Aaron the priest numbered, when they numbered the children of Israel in the wilderness of Sinai. 65For the Lord had said of them, They shall surely die in the wilderness. And there was not left a man of them, save Caleb the son of Jephunneh, and Joshua the son of Nun. (Numbers 26:64‑65)), yet the constitution of the host was otherwise entirely changed; and so in the case of the believer, he enters the glory in the likeness and beauty of Christ, an utterly changed man morally from what he was when, typically speaking, he was “in Egypt,” and yet he remains in identity the same person.
The second aspect in which the people of Israel are viewed in Scripture, is that which takes them up in detail as a people outwardly set in relation with God, but the reality of whose profession would be, and was, tested in the path of faith. It is this aspect which is so prominent in the epistles addressed to those who have professed faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; and undoubtedly the destruction spoken of in such scriptures as those quoted is typical not of God’s governmental ways with true believers (which are brought out in other passages), but of the eternal destruction which awaits those who, whilst in the outward profession of Christ’s name, are not really and truly believers. If this distinction of aspect be observed, difficulty disappears.
We would remark in conclusion that it is important to notice that the rest spoken of in Hebrews 3 and 4. is distinctly future (cf. 4:9, 10): it is not simply the spiritual rest which is ours today, but looks on to the end of all the present period of testing, labor, and trial, and when this is seen the parallel in Hebrews 3:18,1918And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not? 19So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief. (Hebrews 3:18‑19) becomes unmistakable.
He Cannot Sin
H. C. K. The passage you find it difficult to understand runs in the A.V. as follows: “Whosoever is born of God cloth not Commit sin: for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.”
A more correct rendering of the words “doth not commit sin” reads “does not practice sin” (J. N. Darby’s New Translation), and the change makes more clear the great truth stated: that is, that the practice of the child of God is not sin. He has been born of God, and in consequence his nature is to love what God loves, and hate what God hates.
This Scripture moreover views the child of God abstractly as such, and hence the statement “he cannot sin”: he revolts from it as foreign to his nature, somewhat as Joseph in the words “How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” It is not that he may not unguardedly be betrayed into sin, inasmuch as he still has in him the flesh with its sinful tendencies, but that is abnormal, and a grief to the child of God: he does not practice sin, it is not his deliberate choice, it is not what marks his manner of life.
A sheep does not wallow in the mire, a sow does (2 Pet. 2:2222But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire. (2 Peter 2:22)): in the figure the children of God answer to the sheep, and the children of the devil (1 John 3:1010In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother. (1 John 3:10)) to the swine.: nevertheless though a sheep does not wallow in the mire, that being contrary to its nature, it may fall in; but if so, is distressed, and seeks to get out again, just as the Christian who has been betrayed into sin is distressed and grieved, and seeks restoration.
We hope these remarks will make clear to you what has been a difficulty.
Several answers to correspondents must be held over until our January issue owing to lack of space.
Our thanks are due to those correspondents who have kindly called our attention to the fact that G. V. Wigram’s hymn, inserted last month as “hitherto unpublished,” appeared some years ago in at least two collections.