699.     The Greek noun, chora, means literally, “the space or room which a thing occupies.” The word is variously translated in the N. T. as “country,” “land,” “field,” “coast,” and “region.” The verb corresponding to it is choreo, and it means literally, “to make room or space.” It is used in two senses in the N. T. One makes room for a thing or person, by retreating, or withdrawing; hence it comes to mean “to pass on.” Again, one makes room beside or within oneself to receive the thing; hence, it comes to mean, “to receive, to contain.”

700.     The word is used in Matt. 15:17, “Whatsoever entereth in at the mouth passeth on,”¾see R.V.The word is used likewise in this sense, Dean Alford (rightly) holds, in 2 Peter 3:9, “Not wishing any to perish, but all to pass on to repentance.” The verbs are infinitives here, and we translate them accordingly. Paul used the verb in another sense, 2 Cor. 7:2, “Receive us; we have wronged no man.” The verb occurs in Mark 2:2: “There was no longer room for them” (R. V.). John 2:6 tells us of water-jars “containing two or three firkins apiece;” John 8:37, reads, “Ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you,” (i.e. they have not given room to it). John 21:25 again uses this same word in its infinitive form, and we translate literally, “I suppose even the world not to contain the books that should be written.” In each case the word, or words, not italicised represent choreo in the text.

701.     This word choreo occurs ten times in the N. T. We have quoted seven instances, and the remaining three are all found in the 19th chapter of Matthew. At the 11th verse we read, “All men can not receive this saying [logos, “word, teaching”] save they to whom it is given,” both in the A. V. and R.V.But the form of the verb here is the simple indicative case, third person, plural of the present active, and there is no such word as “can” in the sentence. It should therefore have been translated (as the International Commentary renders), “All men do not receive this saying,” or “teaching,”¾i.e., many reject it. The meaning is the same as expressed in John 8:37, “Ye seek to kill me because My word [logos] hath no place in you.” The form of the verb is precisely the same in the two passages, excepting in the latter it is in the singular number. In John it is declared that the logos has no place in them; in Matthew, that men give no place to the logos. . . . The result is, in the first case, murder; in the second, adultery at heart.

702.     Yet upon this misconstruction of Christ’s language¾by the adroit insertion of “can”¾is built up fallacious teaching, about “a gift of continence” being necessary to enable a single man to lead a pure life,¾a teaching which places the standard of purity for man as much below the actual standard for man and woman both, set forth in Scripture, as immorality is below morality.

703.     But what is this teaching as to a “gift” for men? Says the commentary of Patrick, Lowth, etc.: “They only can lead a pure single life, who by a special gift of God are enabled so to do.” Calvin’s Commentary says: “The gift of continence is a special gift.” Burkitt: “All men, without sinning against God, cannot abstain from marriage, but those only to whom God has given the gift of continence and grace of chastity.” Bishop Wordsworth (in a book published in 1901) declares; “Continence is as much a special charisma [gift of grace, spiritual gift] as the gift of tongues, or prophecy, or working miracles of any kind” This covert apology for the sin of uncleanness among men, in spite of God’s stern commandments to the contrary, can be found in almost every commentary of the Protestant Church.

704.     The passage is falsely applied as though referring only to the adult male. These very commentators would have been scandalized by the teaching that their wives, sisters, or daughters could not keep moral except by a special “gift.” Christ is not remarking here on the difficulty of men living chastely, as we shall show:

He has used the same sort of expression repeatedly elsewhere, as to its being “given” to some to receive His teaching, to others, not.  Matthew 13:11, 12 is an instance. His own teaching, not the disciples’ remarks, is the logos which the men do not receive. The Lord even plainly declares the precise contrary to the view that men “can not receive by saying that some are born with a natural self-control over sensual tendencies; others have not been trusted to be self-controlled, but have been mutilated; others again practice continence “for the kingdom of heaven’s sake.” We could have no clearer demonstration that “All men DO NOT RECEIVE” this teaching of the Lord, than in the fact that theologians deny His plain statements here, by building upon them a teaching that men cannot practice self-control apart from a special, miraculous “gift” of grace.

705.     The argument on which this vicious teaching of a need of a special “gift” rests is, that the Greek word choreo signifies “capacity.” So it does; but not limited capacity. Whether the capacity be limited, expansive, or abundant depends entirely upon conditions external to the scope of meaning of the word. To illustrate: In John 21:25, it is, practically speaking, immaterial to the sense conveyed, whether we say, with the A. V., “the world could not contain the books,” or, more correctly, with the R.V.“the world would not contain the books.” And why? Because the world is inanimate, and its size arbitrarily fixed. Not because this verb means equally “could contain” or “would contain”; the latter is the proper sense here, on the evidence of the R.V. So as to the water-pots, at the Marriage Feast in Cana:  Being of the limits they are, they both “contained” and “could contain” only so much; they had limited capacity. But this is proved by the nature of the vessel, not by the use of the word choreo. But moral capacity is not limited after this fashion. No man, no matter how excellently born, is bound to live within the moral limits of his natural birth. These very theologians have no object in preaching the Gospel if they do not include the teaching that the atonement and redemption of Jesus Christ is the precise remedy for the enlargement of moral capacity,¾or, at the very least, that humanity is capable of such development, since otherwise there is no need for preaching righteousness.

706.     But does it not say in verse 12, “He that is ABLE to receive it, let him receive it?” Yes, and here, in the verb “receive” we have the remaining two uses of the verb choreo. But what of it? Is that any more than to say as Jesus did, a dozen times, “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear?” Does the latter signify incapacity of a natural sort, or indifference of a moral sort? Jesus said, John 6:65, “No one CAN [using the word translated “able” in our Lesson] come unto Me, excepting it were given unto him of my Father.” Does that shut all out excepting those who receive a special and miraculous “gift of coming?” We know very well that all may come that “will come,” and we know, too, that all who stand about waiting until a special “gift of coming” is bestowed will be left outside. And so, as to this fabricated “gift of continence;” no such special “gift” has been bestowed, or ever will be bestowed, excepting in the ordinary way that all morality comes; all morality is a “gift” from God. Jesus Christ exclaims in another place, John 8:43, “Why do ye not understand My speech? even because ye CANNOT hear My word.” Does this excuse those who do not hear? Not at all, for He says again, John 12:48, “He that . . . receiveth not My words hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.” More to the same import will be found in Mark 4:11,12, 23-25; Luke 8:10; John 3:27; 12:37-40.

707.     A precisely similar manipulation of Scripture, excusing that sin which Jesus Christ condemned as heart adultery, in Matthew 5:28,¾and concerning which He plainly taught there, man must rid himself, if even at the cost of a right hand or right eye, or else go into hell fire,¾is to be found in 1 Corinthians 7:9, which reads, “If they can not contain,” whereas the original says “do not.” The meaning is perfectly obvious when the Apostle is so read,¾“If they do not behave themselves with self-control, they would better marry,”¾is the thought expressed.

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