CHARACTER OR INTEGRITY-WHICH? Edit
 IN THIS trying world crisis "character development" and its claimed importance and necessity are repeatedly stressed from the public platform and the pulpit and over the radio. Said a Toronto, Canada, clergyman recently in New York : "Fighting and beating Hitler may involve the danger of becoming [totalitarian] like Hitler. We must return to the idea that the character of God determines our moral order:' (N. Y. Times, July 21, 1941) Expressions also are frequent, such as :
"We must in this life became a perfect character or else we cannot eternally dwell with God." "Fitness of character to meet God's approval must be accomplished while in the flesh. Death and resurrection will make no change in our character."
What, then, is "character"? The word in the Greek text of the Bible from which the English word "character" is taken appears but once in the Scriptures. The Greek word is there rendered "express image", as follows : "Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high." (Heb. 1:3) This description of Christ Jesus relates to the time when he was resurrected and exalted to divine glory. The express image of the Father, which Jesus Christ now enjoys, is not something that he developed during his three and one-half years of suffering down on earth. The apostle; at Hebrews 1: 3, plainly says that Christ Jesus enjoyed this "express image" from the time when he "sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high". This glory he did not acquire by his own efforts, but it came to him as a reward from God because of his absolute obedience and faithfulness and maintaining of his integrity toward Jehovah while on earth.
This "express image", or "character" (Greek), is not something that the glorified Jesus possesses separate and apart from his person. The Emphatic Diaglott translation renders Hebrews 1: 3 in this manner : "Who, being an effulgence of his glory, and an exact impress of his substance, and making manifest all things by the word of his power, having made a purification for sins, sat down at the right hand of the majesty in high places." From this it must be concluded that when Jesus was exalted on high he then became the "express image" of Jehovah his Father and that life divine or immortality has to do with that express image. That being true, it was an absolute impossibility for Jesus to develop it while in the mortal flesh. The Greek word "character" means "the figure stamped in ; an exact copy; express image". (Strong's Concordance)
"Character is that which a person or thing really is." ( Webster's Dictionary) This definition is in harmony with the inspired Scriptures. It is true that in English usage the word "character" has many shades of meaning given to it by lexicographers, but usage by men can in no wise change the Scriptural meaning of a word or term. If the Lord through the inspired scribes plainly shows the meaning of a word used, then no man has authority to give that word a different meaning and then apply that meaning to the Scriptures.
Frequently in religious circles these expressions used, to wit, "God's righteous character" ; "Jesus' character" ; "the Christian's character" ; etc. Observe that of these expressions the possessive case of the person is employed, meaning ownership or possession of something as separate and distinct from the person or creature. Does God possess a character separate and distinct from himself ? Does Jesus own and possess a character which is separate and distinct from himself and which he has developed? Has a Christian a character which he owns and possesses and which he develops by his own effort?
Webster further defines the Greek word rendered "character" in harmony with the Scriptures, thus : "The peculiar quality or the sum of qualities by which a person or thing is distinguished from others ; that which a person or thing really is." What distinguishes God from all others ? The answer must be that at all times, without beginning and without ending, the four primary attributes, wisdom and justice and love and power, are expressed by and in him in exact harmony. Such cannot be said of any other. Jehovah, therefore, is THE Character. That being true, the expressions "God's character" or "God's righteous character" are unscriptural. These attributes are a part of Jehovah. He is THE Character. He does not possess or own a character.
From the time of the creation of God's only begotten Son, The Logos or Word, afterward called "Jesus", he was always a character and he was always perfect. When God raised Jesus up out of death and clothed him with immortality and with all power in heaven and in earth and exalted him to the highest place in the heavens, he made Jesus Christ exactly like Himself, his "express image". Therefore and from that time he is a character like Jehovah. This does not indicate that he possesses something which he developed and which is called "character", but that he is a character and he is like his Father.
Man is a creature, an entity, a soul ; as shown by the account of his creation, at Genesis 2 : 7 : "And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life ; and man BECAME a living soul." There are many people on the earth who believe themselves to be Christian and who use the expression, "I have a soul to save," thereby meaning that they possess something called "a soul" and which is separate and distinct from the body. This is not Scriptural. No man possesses a soul separate and distinct from his body. Every man is a soul. Likewise no man possesses a character. Every man is a character. "Character is that which a man really is." Hence the expressions "Jacob's character" and "Esau's character" are not properly Scriptural terms. The patriarch Jacob was a good man and therefore a good character, whereas his twin brother, Esau, was a bad man and therefore a bad character.
Is it a proper expression, therefore, to say that a Christian must develop a character pleasing to God before he can be received into God's kingdom ? Such is not a correct expression, because it implies that the Christian must develop something to a point where God will approve him, that he must do this by his own efforts, and that the thing developed is something separate and distinct from himself. are No wonder, then, that many Christians have become discharac- couraged. The improper view of the matter is discouraging, in each whereas the proper understanding of it gives courage to the Christian. It should be our purpose always to encourage and help one another.
To illustrate : A printer's type is made from metal. The letter A is a character. This letter may be cut out of a rough piece of steel. As soon as it is formed into the letter A it is a character, but it is rough and unsightly. The roughness is taken off and it is subjected to a high polish until it becomes very beautiful. The polishing process is not the developing of a character ; it is the change of the identical character from one degree of unsightliness to a degree of beauty.
At the time that a man consecrates himself to God by a covenant to do God's will as Christ Jesus does that will, that man becomes a Christian. He is then a character. He is a Christian. He does not possess a Christian nor does he possess a character. He is now in the rough. Must this Christian, this character, undergo a change, or must he "develop a character to perfection" before God can receive him? This question must be answered by the Word of the Lord. Man's theory is unsatisfactory.
The apostle Peter, in both of his epistles, addresses Christians that have been begotten of the spirit of God as his spiritual children. To these the apostle says : "For even hereunto were ye called : because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps." (1 Pet. 2: 21) Now the question is: Was Jesus required to develop a character before he could be received into the Kingdom, and did he develop such character while on the earth ? The proper answer to this question furnishes the criterion by which the followers of Jesus must be guided, and the answer to the question must be emphatically No; because Jesus was a perfect character when on the earth. He did not have a character to develop ; he was a character, and he was perfect; otherwise he could not have been acceptable as the great ransom sacrifice to redeem believing and faithful humankind.
But from the time he consecrated himself to Jehovah God and was baptized in water to symbolize that consecration and was thereafter begotten of God's holy spirit, from that time until his resurrection from the dead did not Jesus have to develop a perfect character as a "new creature" ? He did not. Had he developed such a character as a new creature while in the flesh, then Jesus would have had that likeness spoken of by the apostle before he died and was raised from the dead. He did not raise himself from the dead, but God raised him up.
At Hebrews 5 : 8, 9 it is written : "Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered ; and being made perfect he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him." Does not this mean that he was made perfect in his character? The answer is, No. Jesus entered into a covenant with his Father to do his Father's will. He was put to the most severe tests of his integrity toward Jehovah God, and under these tests he maintained his integrity and proved his unswerving loyalty, devotion and faithfulness to God. The purpose of the things which he suffered was to prove his faithfulness under the most adverse circumstances. He met all these tests ' and thereby completely learned obedience. "For it became him [Jehovah God], for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation [Christ Jesus] perfect through sufferings." -Heb. 2:10.
The word "perfect" used by the apostle Paul in the foregoing texts means to complete, to consummate, to accomplish. Note that the texts do not say that Jesus perfected his character by the things which he suffered. What is said is this : He learned obedience by the things which he suffered, and having completed or consummated his covenant with God he became the author of eternal salvation. "He humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." (Phil. 2: 8) Otherwise stated, when Jesus finished his covenant of sacrifice God gape him the reward by making him the author of the eternal salvation of obedient humankind. At the same time God gave to him immortality and a glory like unto His own, and thereby Jesus became "an exact impress of [God's] substance".
What Jesus did his followers must likewise do, because they are called to follow in his footsteps. All such as will ultimately be made perfect, glorious characters and "be like him" must be so made by Jehovah God in the "first resurrection". -1 John 3:2 ; Rev. 20:6.
The true Christian has, like Jesus, entered into a covenant to do Jehovah's will. The word- "covenant" is the solemn form of expressing the word "contract": 'Two are required to make a covenant, and the minds of both parties thereto must agree. "Christian" is the name applied to a man who makes a full consecration whereby he agrees to do God's will, trusting in the merit of Christ Jesus as his Redeemer. In substance, his part of the contract may be stated thus : "I believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and I promise and agree to do thy will, 0 God, whatsoever it may be." If God takes a man into covenant with him, that is called a "bilateral" or two-sided covenant. The obligation rests upon both parties to the covenant to carry that covenant into complete operation according to its terms. Jehovah God binds himself to perform all his covenants. Almighty God makes it impossible for his side of the covenant to fail. Can a man who has been taken into a covenant with God treat his obligations under that covenant lightly and violate or break them without punishment ? Romans 1: 31, 32 answers : "Covenant breakers . . . are worthy of death." God is faithful in all things he has promised, and he requires faithfulness of all those who undertake to perform an agreement or covenant with him.
Today the worldly powers endeavor to force God's covenant people to repudiate their covenant and to break the terms thereof by conforming themselves to the things of this world, which things are contrary to Jehovah's commandment and will. The facts show that God's faithful covenant people remain steadfast to Jehovah, faithful to the terms of their covenant and to The Theocratic Government by Christ Jesus, regardless of all threats or acts leveled against them. The faithful covenant people of God will not fear man or what man can do. They do fear Almighty God and obey and serve him. As for wicked men, their power ends with death, but the power of Almighty God is eternal. If one in a covenant dies unfaithful to God, that is the end of him everlastingly. If he dies at the hands of wicked men because he is faithful to Jehovah and to the obligations of his covenant, Jehovah will resurrect that faithful one to life eternal.