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Letter to the Galatians - Part 2
A T Pierson: A Short Biography
Arthur Tappan Pierson was born on March 6, 1837. He was the 9th child of Stephen and Sallie Pierson, a family with strong Christian and Abolitionist roots. Born in New York City, he was named after Arthur Tappan, the famous New York abolitionist. While attending a Methodist Revival meeting in 1850 at the age of 13, he first publicly professed faith in Jesus Christ. He graduated from Hamilton College, Clinton, New York State (1857), and the Union Theological Seminary (1869). In 1860, he had married Sarah Frances Benedict; they had seven children, all of whom professed conversion to Christianity before the age of 15 and later served as missionaries, pastors, or lay leaders.
He began his ministry as a Presbyterian minister, and pastored in New York state; Detroit and Philadelphia. At the age of 40, while serving as pastor of the largest church in Detroit, he attended a series of evangelistic messages and realized he was proud and greedy, and had sought the approval of the rich. As a result, he led his wealthy congregation to reach out to the poor of Detroit. He then moved to banish the practice of pew rents and committed to accept his salary on a faith basis.
In 1889 he went on a missionary tour of England, and met C.H. Spurgeon. In 1891-92, he lectured on missions at Edinburgh, and when Spurgeon could not continue preaching because of illness, Pierson filled his pulpit at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, London. When Spurgeon died, Pierson remained in his pulpit till 1893. In 1896 he became a Baptist.
He was editor for the Missionary Review of the World for 23 years. He was a pioneer advocate of Faith Missions, and was determined to see the world evangelized in his time. A great movement of foreign missions began in the 1880s and accelerated into the 20th century, in some measure due to the work of Pierson. He acted as the elder statesman of the Student Missionary Movement and was the leading advocate of Foreign Missions in the late 19th century.
Among his many activities, he was an outspoken defender of the fundamentals of the faith, lectured at Moody Bible Institute and at the Keswick Convention meetings. Dr. Pierson attended the Keswick Convention in England, regularly from 1897 to 1909. He displayed great spiritual and intellectual power. Thousands listened to his messages with intense interest, and were greatly benefited.
Pierson was lithe, tall, stern, severe in appearance, with the burning eyes of a prophet. But behind his formidable appearance, was a heart of concern and prayer. When he spoke a hush fell over all in the tent, and the convicting work of the Spirit was felt.
His favorite Bible verse was Philippians 4:19, and he gave away over 50,000 bank “checks” that were engraved with “My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”
He died on June 3, 1911 in Brooklyn, New York, aged 74.
"Arthur T. Pierson best exemplifies the integrity of the Philadelphian Church Era... His preaching (over 13,000 sermons), extensive writings (over fifty books), and Bible lectures made him widely known in America. He was a consulting editor for his friend, C. I. Scofield (1843-1921), with the original Scofield Reference Bible (1909), and was the author of the classic biography, 'George Muller of Bristol'..."
(This is the Part 2 of the Hub on the Letter to the Galatians as interpreted by AT Pierson in his excellent exposition in the book, "In Christ". Read my Introduction in Part 1.)
In his exposition on the letter to the Galatians, Pierson speaks of a four-fold crucifixion of the believer – the believer is dead to the law; he is crucified to the world; he crucifies or mortifies the deeds of the flesh; and, finally, the ‘I’ (or self) is ‘crucified with Christ’. In short, Pierson says that the believer or child of God
i. dies to the LAW (which usually accuses a person);
ii. dies to the WORLD (which attracts or draws away);
iii. dies to the FLESH with its affections and lusts;
iv. dies to himSELF that Christ may live in him.
Pierson goes on to discuss the tenses of the expressions related to the crucifixion of the believer. In almost all the cases, we have the passive voice: “I am dead,” or, “I died” (Revised Version); “I am crucified,” or, “I have been crucified (RV); “the world is crucified,” or “hath been crucified unto me” (RV). But where the FLESH is concerned, the expression is: “have crucified the flesh.” Here it is the active voice. Pierson says that while our crucifixion with Christ is judicial and passive, belonging wholly to the finished and completed work of the cross; at the same time it is practical and active, whereby the cross works to destroy the power of the flesh (and to separate us from the world); and we cooperate with the cross in its work in us.
Crucified to the Law
So far as the law is concerned, I have nothing to do as a believer but to accept Christ’s satisfaction of its claims by His death, and His purchase of my justification by His obedience. The whole transaction is as much a past one as a cancelled debt or a ransom paid. The law brought Christ to the cross as the sinner’s satisfaction and surety; and I, having died in Him, have died to the law which was my accuser.
I have died to the law, which is a system. I have died to legalism. I have died to the bondage of a strict and unfeeling system, for the law can never show mercy. It can only expose my faults and failures, for the law does not save; it only condemns. Furthermore, by keeping the law, all that I gain is a self-satisfaction and a self-righteousness, for I am only encouraging 'the flesh' (my own ability, my confidence in myself) - and this is very much like the Pharisaic and legal righteousness that Paul spoke of in chapter 3 of Philippians.
Crucified to the World
By faith I am identified with His death, and as the world crucified Him (both the religious and the political world of that time, i.e. the Jews and the Romans), I too am crucified to the world. The world is as much my enemy, as it was His; for the world hated Him and exposed Him to its mockery and derision on the cross. To be crucified to the world implies, therefore, that the world no longer has a hold over me; I am no longer influenced by it; I am dead to all its appeals and attractions. Though I am in the world, I do not belong to it. 'Crucified to the world' (past tense, passive voice) indicates a past transaction, but it becomes more and more a practical reality as I come increasingly under the power of the cross (and its crucifixion). Being 'in Christ' I am moving away from the world, and drawing closer to heaven. That is why the Bible says we are 'strangers and pilgrims' on this earth.
(Please read the 3rd and final part of this Hub on Galatians are interpreted by A.T. Pierson.)
© Pratonix/ Roland Olivier