S. D. Gordon on “Withdrawal” as God’s Method of Judgment
By Troy J. Edwards
Since they did not consider worth their while to acknowledge God in the way they lived, God’s judgment was to abandon them to the further consequences of their own degenerated minds and outrageous conduct. (Romans 1:28; Living Water Translation)
I love many of the classic writers and Bible teachers: A. B. Simpson, R. A. Torrey, E. W. Kenyon, Andrew Murray, Watchman Nee—just to name a few. They have left us a wonderful legacy in their writings and teachings.
However, one of my definite favorites is Samuel Dickey Gordon. His books are wonderful and worth reading, re-reading and quoting from. Since, as of late, I have been doing some study and teaching on how God’s judgment is actually executed, it was a wonderful delight to come across Gordon’s teachings on this.
As I believe from my study of Scripture, Gordon affirms that God’s judgment (from a negative standpoint) is activated, not by directly, using His divine omnipotent power, to bring upon us the “punishments we deserve. It is done by withdrawing His presence and giving us over to the consequences of our rebellion. Gordon writes:
It is of intense interest to note the principle underlying God’s action in all this. It is simply a withdrawal, a partial withdrawal. It is as though man’s unspoken prayer, the prayer of action and attitude, is being answered, partly. God has been so much blasphemed or ignored, practically left out of reckoning so far as possible. He never ignores any one or leaves him out of His unfailing, creative, sustaining care.
Now there’s a partial withdrawal. God simply does less; that is all. The persecution comes through the withdrawal of the Holy Spirit, a partial withdrawal, from the Church. The visitation of judgments comes through a partial withdrawal of the Creator's preserving, sustaining touch in the common life of men, and of the earth, and of the heavens.
Gordon emphasizes a “partial withdrawal” as a means of God’s judgment. God loves men so deeply that even when He is forced by the action of men to step away, He does so in reluctantly. He also does so only in part with the hope that men will see what it is like to be without God’s presence. Gordon states this truth again some chapters later in his book in explain Jesus’ method of “killing” by the sword in His mouth in the book of Revelation:
God’s method of warfare is noteworthy. The leaders are killed by the sword that comes forth out of the mouth of Him who appears. The same One who created things by a word now acts in judgment in the same way. The immense numbers who are gathered against Jerusalem become terror-stricken; a confused tumult breaks out among both men and horses. There is an utter loss of self-confidence or morale. Discord breaks out in the ranks. They take to fighting each other. Pestilence breaks out, and a strange loss of vitality affects them.
It is worth remembering here what has been said a little bit back, that the principle of judgment is simply the partial withdrawal of the divine creator power that holds things together and keeps life and vigour in man and beast, and in all nature.
Men do not realize that, apart from God’s merciful presence remaining among men in some measure, we would have no vitality at all. God told the Israelites, “…. that thou mayest cleave unto him: for he is thy life, and the length of thy days” (Deut. 30:20b).
God is life and the separation or withdrawal of God from men is what produces a lack of vigor. God told Jeremiah concerning His chosen people. “.... they have forsaken the LORD, the fountain of living waters” (Jeremiah 17:3b). It is this withdrawing of God, who is our life, as the judgment upon men who reject Him, that S. D. Gordon says, affects their vitality:
God’s method of making war or visiting judgment on the nations is outstandingly striking. There is a great tumult of discomfiture from God among the masses gathered against Jerusalem. They become terror-stricken. Their breakdown of self-confidence is complete. A strangely terrible fear seizes and holds them in a death-like grip. They take to fighting each other. There is a strange withdrawal of vitality from their bodies.
Gordon further explains in other portions of his book that it is God’s withdrawal, and not His display of divine power, that brings about the evil that will occur in the end times:
There would be a falling away from the true faith in the Church. There is now a restraint upon evil in the world. At some future day that restraint would be withdrawn. Then there would forge to the front in the world a great evil leader.
This restraint will be withdrawn. That is, the Holy Spirit will reverse the action of Pentecost. Then He came upon the Church. Now He withdraws from the Church. He was in individual believers before Pentecost. He will remain in individual believers after this withdrawal. That He withdraws is tremendously significant of the condition of the Church. It is a forced withdrawal. The “falling away” has become the dominant factor there. It is a heartbreaking bit of truth. His withdrawal gives evil free rein.
This is consistent with Paul’s own divinely inspired revelation in 2 Thessalonians 2:
And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. (2 Thess. 2:6-17)
The Bible in Basic English renders verse 6, “…. but there is one who is keeping back the evil till he is taken out of the way.” This is when the judgment outlined in the book of Revelation will take place. Again, it does not take place by God personally afflicting mankind, but by His withdrawal from man.
God is a loving God who wants to be in fellowship with His creatures. It is we who push Him away, this bringing judgment upon ourselves. Seeing that S. D. Gordon saw this truth in Scripture over 100 years ago, we know that this teaching is neither novel nor new. Amen.
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 Gordon, Samuel Dickey Quiet Talks on the Deeper Meaning of the War and Its Relation to Our Lord’s Return (New York: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1919), p. 93
 Ibid, pp. 106, 107
 Ibid, p. 228
 Ibid, p. 249
 Ibid, pp. 249, 250