What is meant by saying: “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you?” (Matt. 7:7.) Who is he talking to? Also please explain verse 11 and Acts 2:41.
It seems to me three plainer sentences cannot be found in the Bible. They mean exactly what they say, meaning always, as Christ so often declares, that we shall ask according to God’s will, seek where he has directed, and knock at his appointed door, and the blessings asked, sought, and knocked for shall be obtained. There is nothing mysterious or singular or difficult to understand that we can see. This is laid down as a general principle. Many specific directions involving this same principle, with the modifications, are presented in the Bible. “If we ask anything according to his will, he heareth us.” (I John 4:14.) “Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss.” (James 4:3.) “Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able. When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and he shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are.” (Luke 13:24f) These show that the asking, seeking, knocking must be done according to the will of God, else they cannot meet the promise. Verse 11 cannot be made plainer. It says God is more ready to give good things to his children than we are to ours. Acts 2:41 says those who received the words spoken by Peter were baptized as he directed, and three thousand were added to them (the disciples).
Brother Sewell: Please give us your views on James 5:13-15. Is not that portion of his letter as applicable to us in this age as any other portion of it? If not, how can we know where to draw the line? In verse 17 he refers to Elijah’s being a man subject to like passions as we are, and then speaks of the efficacy of his prayer. Is not the want of faith and works on our part the reason why our prayers are not efficacious in cases like those mentioned in the verses referred to above?
Verse 13 is plainly applicable to Christians at the present time. All Christians suffering afflictions should pray to God for help in these afflictions — in fact, all Christians should pray to God at all times, and then when afflictions come their special prayers will be regarded. People that are merry should always sing psalms rather than go into frivolity. But as to the matter of praying for the sick, with the full assurance that they will be restored, there are differences of judgment regarding this. Some think this pertained to the miraculous age of the church, and that the raising up of the sick had special reference to miraculous healing; and to this idea I am inclined. But, at the same time, anointing with oil is a good remedy in many things, and would be no bad thing to do in any case where oil could be beneficial. Calling the elders together and praying for the recovery of the sick, praying that the efforts made to cure the sick may be made effectual, is also a good thing to do at any time. And in all such prayers there should be the meek and humble expression: “Thy will, not mine, be done.” Then after all these things are done, if our sick do not recover, we should confidingly submit, Job-like, and still praise the name of the Lord. And while these prayers are going on for the recovery of the sick, if the sick member has committed sins, he should sincerely repent of and confess his sins to God and all pray together for their forgiveness. All this, I think, would be proper and right. But to expect speedy and certain cure of the disease of the sick, I think, belonged to the age of miracles. Prayers for healing, through the general laws of healing, for the success of our efforts to heal, I think, are in order all the time.
Elisha G. Sewell
Brother Lipscomb: Where was the God-appointed place for the golden altar of incense — in the holy place or the most holy? Brethren are on both sides. Please give reasons for apparent discrepancies in the Bible on this.
The place appointed for the altar of incense, or the golden altar, was in the holy place, beside the veil that leads into the most holy. The most holy was the dwelling place of God. The incense arising from the altar without the most holy passed through the veil and entered the most holy as incense to God. In Ex. 30:6-7 the order is given: “And thou shalt put it before the veil that is by the ark of the testimony, before the mercy seat that is over the testimony, where I will meet with thee. And Aaron shall burn thereon incense of sweet spices: every morning, when he dresseth the lamps, he shall burn it.” In Ex. 40: 26-27 he repeats the statement that he placed them as he was commanded: “And he put the golden altar in the tent of meeting before the veil: and he burnt thereon incense of sweet spices; as Jehovah commanded Moses.” Because the incense arising from this altar reached God in the most holy place, it is sometimes spoken of as though it belonged to the most holy place. It was placed in the holy place beside the veil that enters the most holy, that the incense might, like the prayers of the saints, pass through the veil to the presence of God.
A perversion of one of these figures is seen in the pictures intended to represent the cherubim — a couple of winged women squatting with their faces opposite each other. If one will read the description of the cherubim as given in 1 Kings 6:23-28 and 2 Chron. 3:10-14, he will find that they were images ten feet high, reaching the ceiling above, the wings extended, touching each other in the center and the walls on each side. They looked toward each other. I used to know a Methodist preacher who insisted that Methodists should keep up the primitive and approved style of kneeling in prayer. In kneeling, many of them squatted to keep their knees out of the dirt. This preacher got to see who kneeled and who squatted, and reproved the latter as following a custom nowhere approved by God.