In 1929 the Pacific Press Publishing Association printed the book Brothers of the King by Arthur W. Spalding. This eight-chapter volume is a character study of the twelve sons of Jacob. In this remarkable portrayal of personality characteristics we recognize not only the ancient members of the kingdom but present members of the church, as well as ourselves. The central theme of the book can be summed up in the author's words: "We cannot improve any faulty character by finding fault with it, but we can improve it by giving loving service. We can never criticize anyone into heaven, but we can love one into heaven. It is by love, and not by faultfinding, that Jesus wins."
Abundant sermon ideas and material will be found in these chapters as well as spiritual courage and comfort. It is our plan to publish a section of this volume in THE MINISTRY each month.
The author, until his death in 1953, was one of the denomination's leading educators, authors, and editors. Much of his writing was done chiefly for young people. However, among his thirty books is found the church's most complete history, The Origin and History of Seventh-day Adventists. We wish to express our appreciation to his family as well as the Pacific Press for permission to republish this material in article form.—Editors.
Many a kingdom has this world seen, and many a one, too, that has sought universal empire, from the days of Babel to our own. But none has there been in design so vast, in spirit so unique, in purpose so all-embracing, yet in outward form so far unperceived, as the kingdom set up by the God of heaven, which "shall not be left to other people," but "shall stand forever."
Before a little despot of the Roman rule, there stood the King. Alone, despised, accused! "Thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered thee unto me: what hast thou done?" frowned the procurator of Judea, who thought he held in his hands this Life.
Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not of this world."
"Art thou a king then?" cried Pilate. Jesus said, "I am."
But not to Pilate, nor yet to the proud heads of His "own nation," did He, or could He, reveal the character of that kingdom of His, which is not of this world. That was reserved for a little band of fishermen, and publicans, and other humble ones, who had been drawn by His magnetic soul of truth (John 18:35-37).
The night before, in an upper chamber of a proud house in Jerusalem, He had revealed anew to His chosen disciples and apostles the nature, the law, and the future glory of His kingdom. All that the prophets had told, all that the longing heart of mankind has conceived and hoped since the flaming sword of cherubim shut the gates of Eden, all was comprised and promised in those words of comfort: "Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also" (John 14:1-3).
But not yet the glory! Preparation must be made for it. For that glory is the outward expression of the character of the King; and first, before the glory, must come into the soul of every one of the citizens of that kingdom the motive, the power, the character, of Him who makes the glory.
He had long held out to them the precious gift of brotherhood, the comradeship of equal fellowship with one another and with Himself. He had said to them at one time, "One is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren" (Matt. 23:8). And at another time He put Himself among them in the words, as He stretched forth His hand toward His disciples: "Behold my mother and my brethren!" (Matt 12:49). And so He referred to them when, after His resurrection, He bade Mary carry word thereof to His disciples: "Go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God" (John 20:17).
But to be a brother of the King is to be of the character of the King. "My meat is to do the will of him that sent me," and, "I do always those things that please him," He said of Himself. And of them He said, "Whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother" (Matt. 12:50). The will of God the Father is to do service to them that need service. This was the great lesson of His life and teaching.
All His life with them He had taught it; but now, on the eve of His departure, He taught it again. As ever through His life, He taught it first in deed, then in word. When the disciples had all come into the upper chamber, and had sat down before the feast, they suddenly found that there was no servant present to perform the usual service and ceremony of washing their feet. They looked at one another askance, these twelve men who, on the road from Galilee, had spent much of their time disputing which of them was greatest, which most deserved honor and promotion. If any one of them now should stoop to wash another's feet, would he not thereby disclaim honor and preferment? Would he not submit himself to be the least of them all? "I will not," said every one of them to himself. And so they sat, brooding.
Oh, yes, they had heard, each one of them, the lesson Jesus had taught them in the way: "Whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: and whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all" (Mark 10:43, 44). But it is one thing to hear, and another thing to perform. James and john, and Thomas, and Judas, were not the last Christians to balk at the personal application of things they preached.
Then Jesus, laying aside His garment, and girding Himself with a towel, took a basin of water, and "began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded" (John 13: 5). That broke one heart—yes, eleven hearts. And it hardened one. Peter laid his life at his Master's feet then. With him went ten of his fellow disciples, glorified servants now, all of them. But Judas—Judas went out; and it was night. It was night to the traitor, an eternal night. He could not measure up to the character of the kingdom; he could not be a servant; he could not love another more than himself. He went out.
And when the room was cleansed from his presence, Jesus put into words the law upon which He had acted, the law which was to be, as it had always been, the law of His kingdom, old, yet ever new. "A new commandment I give unto you," He said, "that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another" (John 13:34, 35).
Now when we would determine who are the disciples of Christ, how do we go about it? Why, we are prone to set some certain one before our mental gaze and proceed to ask questions about him such as these: "Does this man believe as we do? Is he straight upon doctrine? Does he understand the prophecies? Is he acquainted with the sanctuary question? Is he a health reformer? Does he pay tithe?" If so, "Well, we will admit him to the circle of the disciples; he belongs to the remnant church; he is one of God's peculiar people."
But not so does the Lord Jesus determine discipleship, nor ask men to determine it. He says, "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another." Ah, this is the touchstone of sincerity and of loyalty: love. A man may know his Bible from cover to cover, he may be able to dispute in theological circles, he may be able to preach wonderful sermons, he may give alms; but unless he has love toward his fellow disciples and toward all men, he is no disciple of Jesus.
In saying this, I am not minimizing the importance of true Christian doctrine. It is essential that we know all truth, that we inform ourselves on everything the Bible teaches, and take our stand with the law of God. For doctrine is the framework of religion, and without it there can be no church. But doctrine is not the life; doctrine is only the skeleton, the flesh, the form. Through that form of the church, through its arteries and veins, into all its tissues, there must flow the love which is the life of God. "If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am become sounding brass, or a clanging cymbal" (1 Cor. 13:1, A.R.V.).
Love is the law of the kingdom, the password, the vivifying power. Without love no one may enter the kingdom of God, nor stay there, nor live. With love the disciple is proved, and with it he lives in the presence of his Lord. "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another."
(To be continued)