A. Edwin Wilson’s not so Golden Rule

a-edwin-wilsonConducting research on kingdom exclusion, I’ve been listening to some of A. Edwin Wilson’s sermons, which I obtained through various online sources. Wilson, along with Watchman Nee, may well be among the earliest proponents of millennial exclusion, the idea that salvation is not strictly by grace, but by striving for the kingdom. What I’ve noticed is that he systematically recasts scripture to fit his theological supposition. His analysis of the Golden Rule is one such case.

In an undated sermon (audio link), Wilson says, “The Golden Rule is only for saved people… [it] has nothing to do with the lost.” What follows are a series of examples to demonstrate the point. He notes that you would not give a con man your choice business leads. A judge would not free a condemned man simply because he would want to be freed himself. But this is a red herring: Jesus’s audience would not have understood the Golden Rule this way.

So Wilson’s analysis is based on a false supposition. What follows is an astonishing misinterpretation of the Rule.

This is how he interprets it: “As one Christian, you treat another Christian like you would want to be treated.” That Jesus thought only of Christians — a class of people that did not properly exist until after the resurrection — is extraordinary. Jesus was instructing Jews; he was teaching the law of Moses; his words applied to all who were present.

Wilson’s motivation is clear. He restricts the Golden Rule so that he can apply the succeeding “judgment” passages (Matt. 7:13-23) to the body of Christ. Thus revised, scripture now says that Christians will be punished in the millennial kingdom, a thing not depicted in Rev. 20 or elsewhere, except through creative reinterpretation.

“When we come to these next few verses,” he explains, “they are like so many passages of scripture in the Bible just grabbed immediately and applied to lost people. Consequently [they] have no meaning or significance whatever, because a lost person cannot be involved in these.”

That is not fundamentally true. The crowds that followed Jesus were not Christian, but Jewish, so his words did indeed apply to the lost, “for the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10, ESV). Restricting the Golden Rule to the body of Christ is confounding, for it limits the ministry of Jesus to a people who did not yet exist.

There is also a sense of vulgarity in Wilson’s analysis. At one point, he (jokingly?) says he does not share fellowship with just anyone, but only specially selected individuals. “I guess I have a peculiar mind or thoughts. There are a lot of places I don’t want to go; there are a lot of places I don’t care to attend [long pause]. One reason I don’t go to lots of places is because I don’t want them returning the visit [chuckling].”

He adds: “The Golden Rule should occasion no difficulty for the Christian, just treat the other Christians like you want to be treated yourself.”

Apparently, practicing the Golden Rule is an exercise in determining who is a Christian and who is not, for otherwise why would Wilson avoid the company of certain persons? We find the exclusionary principle of his doctrine extends beyond the millennial kingdom to the present age.

Concluding thoughts

To restrict this portion of scripture to Christians is profane. It’s also novel. We do not find this understanding in the New Testament or in the writings of the early church fathers or even in the work of the reformers. Nor is Wilson consistent in his views. At one point, he affirms that the Golden Rule is quite universal, saying it is a concept found even in other religions. He answers stating that the lost cannot fulfill the Golden Rule and therefore it is “meaningless” to them. But why then did Jesus teach it? Why did he tell the Jews that treating others as you would have them treat you is “the law and the prophets”? It must have meant something to that audience.

Wilson’s principal concern, however, is not the Golden Rule, but the judgment passages that follow. Lacking explicit references to millennial exclusion, he must reinterpret scripture to say this other thing. The consequences are frightening, and this is no more obvious than in his interpretation of the Golden Rule.

© 2008, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.

9 thoughts on “A. Edwin Wilson’s not so Golden Rule

  1. I always find it interesting to read other men’s oppinion of what God’s Word has to teach us, (THE BODY OF CHRIST), and there oppinion of who is right, and who is wrong. I have also found it interesting that those who are always quick to critique another man’s work, do it because they lack real work of their own. They choose to take the easy way and try to destroy other men’s work that has taken a life time to achieve, with much hard work and sacrifice.

    The artical Mark Adams wrote about A.E. Wilson’s sermon on the Golden Rule is a prime example of someone trying to destroy anothers work. Here is a quote from Mark’s artical titled (A.Edwin Wilson’s not so Golden Rule); “So Wilson’s analysis is based on a false supposition. What follows is an astonishing misinterpretation of the Rule.”

    Mark, I said all that to ask this: By what authority do you have to say that Wilson’s analysis is based on false supposition? Also, who are you to say that it’s a “misinterpretation”?
    For the reader of my comment’s, I would like to direct you to the links for Wilson’s sermon on the Golden Rule. Mark has a link on the A.E. Wilson page, you can go to http://www.calvarybiblechurchtn.org and go to sermons by Wilson. You can also contact me at arlen@thekingdomoftheheavens.org and I will email the sermon to you. You can also download A.E Wilson’s book from my web site free of charge.
    A.E. Wilson was one of the great old school preachers that dedicated his life to serving our Lord, Christ Jesus. I encourage you to listen to his sermon on the Golden Rule!
    Here is a short bio on his education, and service to our Lord for more than fifty years.

    A native Texan, Rev. Wilson received his formal education at Howard Payne University and Southern Baptist Seminary. While in seminary during the years 1928 – 1930 he studied under such giants of that day as John R. Sampey, A. T. Robertson, and William Hersey Davis, men whose impact upon his life can still be seen in his ministry today.
    Returning to the West following seminary, Rev. Wilson taught school for a short time in New Mexico. He then pastored churches during the 1930’s and 1940’s in the Texas towns and cities of Lometa, Whon, Comanche, Robstown, and Amarillo. During his ministry in Amarillo, and for many years thereafter, he also held an annual series of Bible classes in Clovis, New Mexico.

    In 1950 Rev. and Mrs. Wilson were led of the Lord to leave their native state of Texas and move to Chattanooga, Tennessee. In Chattanooga, Rev. Wilson assumed the directorship of the Southern Hebrew Mission – a position which he held until January, 1980. In 1951, in addition to his work with the mission, Rev. Wilson became pastor of the Daytona Heights Baptist Church in Red Bank, Tennessee – a position he also held until January, 1980. At that time he resigned his position with both the mission and the church in view of other areas of ministry as the Lord should lead.

    In past years Rev. Wilson was a regular speaker at such popular and well known Bible conferences as those held at Winona Lake (1949) and Moody Bible Institute (Torrey Chapel — 1947 – 1949). While in Chicago he presented “Jonah, a Type of Israel” at the church pastored by A. W. Tozer. He also was a speaker at more than ten Mt. Hermon Bible Conferences in the West. During the decades of the ’60’s and ’70’s, Rev. Wilson was the speaker on the “Hear, O Israel” broadcast — a radio ministry of the Southern Hebrew Mission directed to the “lost sheep of the House of Israel,” which went out over stations in Miami, New York, Chicago, Phoenix, and San Diego.

    Rev. Wilson’s ministry was centered around proclaiming “What the Bible says,” and that “the Bible means what it says.” His study of the Scripture revolved around “words, and their meaning.”

  2. Arlen, you ask, “By what authority do you have to say that Wilson’s analysis is based on false supposition? Also, who are you to say that it’s a ‘misinterpretation’?”

    Wilson is not immune from criticism. He may have believed he was proclaiming “what the Bible says,” but he was really preaching his own ideas. That the Golden Rule only applies to Christians is vulgar. It defies the plain meaning of the text.

  3. “He may have believed he was proclaiming “what the Bible says,” but he was really preaching his own ideas.”

    Mark, (if) that be the case, you would be guilty of the same thing, wouldn’t you? You have explained the Golden Rule by your own interpretation as well. You are proclaiming your own interpretation of the Golden Rule. Also to use such a word as “vulgar” clearly shows a lack of respect for a man who gave his life to serving, and proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

    I do agree that A. Edwin Wilson is not immune from criticism, nor are you, or myself. But we that are young should show respect to our elders.

    Here is another question for you Mark. I’m curious how the Golden Rule applies to different Christians, and your intrpretation has made me wonder something. Mark, by your interpretation, is it alright to seek, and attempt to destroy the work of another Christian, whether you agree with their doctrine or not?

  4. Arlen, you must be profoundly ignorant of the teachings of A. Edwin Wilson, whose central message was that the church universal had fallen. He advocated the theory of the Hamitic curse; condemned ministers for allegedly setting aside the scriptures; and, advanced false and heretical teachings, including the idea that the blood of Christ is not sufficient to entirely redeem man. What sort of respect has the man earned?

    His disciples are worse still, speaking of condemnation and calling people who reject their teaching “unbelievers,” who preach that even Christians will suffer in the lake of fire. What respect have they earned?

    Arlen, the issue is what the man taught. If you want to defend the man, defend the teaching. Otherwise, spare me these emotional appeals.

  5. Mark, thank you for practicing your interpretation of the Golden Rule. My observation of your interpretation was correct; you interpretate the Golden Rule as you see fit. You ignore the teachings of Christ with your un-willingness to love thy nieghbor as thy self.

    Mark 12:30,31 And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with
    all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is
    the first commandment.
    12:31 And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as
    thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.

  6. I have been a student of the scriptures for many years and had always found difficulty interpreting many passages that seemed to deny the eternal security of the believer, but yet many others reinforced it. After questioning many and reading various commentaries, I was unable to reconcile the passages until I began to see that many of them were indeed referring to believers, but not for eternal damnation. Some call it millennial exclusion; some call them kingdom truths; but my favorite is what my son calls them, inconvenient truths. They make you feel a tad uncomfortable realizing we ARE accountable to God beyond accepting Christ as our personal savior.

    My children will always be my children no matter what they do, but based on their works and faithfulness they will be corrected for the wrongs and possibly lose/gain their inheritance and rewards based on their faithfulness and obedience. I love them all, but the ones who showed promise and responsibility would received the greater reward.

    God lives in us, so we choose to be obedient or rebellious.

  7. I don’t believe a “re-reading” of scripture will solve your difficulties. Consider this, were you more accountable to God before you were saved or after? Before, the consequence was everlasting damnation. After, according to Wilson, 1,000 years of exclusion or, perhaps, labor as a servant in the millennial kingdom.

    There was a time when people put off becoming a Christian so that they might “enjoy” life a little longer. What now?

    If I were to answer the question, I’d say that sins before faith and sins after faith are equal. God’s standard of righteousness does not change. If the solution for sins before faith is belief in Jesus, which we all agree is the case, why does the solution change once we become a Christian?

    That exclusion, or whatever you want to call it, is absent in Rev. 20 should be instructive. If when solving 2 + 2, you get 5, saying 2 is really 3 in the first instance, and 2 is 2 in the second really isn’t intellectually justified. It may solve your, but not the real problem.

    As regards Wilson’s thesis, that the Golden Rule applies only to believers, that is outlandish. Matthew makes it clear that both Jesus’s disciples and the people were present. Further, Jesus later teaches that we are to love our enemies. It does not appear that the standard by which we treat others changes based on whether one is a believer or not.

    Recasting scripture to suit ones theological interests (or needs) is not sound.

  8. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

    (The preceding is salvation past! )

    Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones (or) wood, hay, stubble.

    (These are the different works that can emanate out of the saved individual)

    Now if any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward
    (And) If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss, but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire. (Judgement)

    Note there are two groups mentioned here and both have laid the foundation (Jesus Christ). Both are saved! One receives a reward, the other suffers a loss!

    A.E. taught the bible; problem is very few understand it!

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