In Christ Jesus? Got Comfort? Hope for all who are sin weary

Taken and adapted from, “Comfort for Christians”
Written by A.W. Pink

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“There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.”
–Romans 8:1

“There is therefore now no condemnation…”

…The eighth chapter of the epistle to the Romans concludes the first section of that wonderful epistle. Its opening word “Therefore” may be viewed in a twofold way. First, it connects with all that has been said from 3:21. An inference is now deduced from the whole of the preceding discussion, an inference which was, in fact, the grand conclusion toward which the apostle had been aiming throughout the entire argument. Because Christ has been set forth “a propitiation through faith in His blood” (3:25); because He was “delivered for our offences and raised again for our justification” (4:25); because by the obedience of the One the many (believers of all ages) are “made righteous,” constituted so, legally, (5:19); because believers have “died (judicially) to sin” (6:2); because they have “died” to the condemning power of the law (7:4), “there is therefore now NO CONDEMNATION.”

But not only is the “therefore” to be viewed as a conclusion drawn from the whole of the previous discussion, it is also to be considered as having a close relation to what immediately precedes. In the second half of Romans 7 the apostle had described the painful and ceaseless conflict which is waged between the antagonistic natures in the one who has been born again, illustrating this by a reference to his own personal experiences as a Christian. Having portrayed with a master pen–himself sitting for the picture–the spiritual struggles of the child of God, the apostle now proceeds to direct attention to the Divine consolation for a condition so distressing and humiliating. The transition from the despondent tone of the seventh chapter to the triumphant language of the eighth, appears startling and abrupt, yet is quite logical and natural. If it is true that to the saints of God belongs the conflict of sin and death, under whose effect they mourn, equally true is it that their deliverance from the curse and the corresponding condemnation, is a victory in which they rejoice. A very striking contrast is thus pointed.

In the second half of Romans 7 the apostle treats the power of sin, which operates in believers as long as they are in the world; in the opening verses of chapter eight, he speaks of the guilt of sin from which they are completely delivered the moment they are united to the Savior by faith. Hence in 7:24 the apostle asks “Who shall deliver me” from the power of sin, but in 8:2 he says, “has made me free,” that is has delivered me, from the guilt of sin.

“There is therefore now no condemnation.”

It is not here a question of our heart condemning us (as in 1 John 3:21), nor of us finding nothing within which is worthy of condemnation; instead, it is the far more blessed fact that God does not condemn the one who has trusted in Christ, to the saving of his soul. We need to distinguish sharply between subjective and objective truth; between that which is judicial and that which is experimental; otherwise, we shall fail to draw from such Scriptures as the one now before us the comfort and peace they are designed to convey. There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. “In Christ” is the believer’s position before God, not his condition in the flesh. “In Adam” I was condemned (Rom 5:12); but “in Christ” is to be forever freed from all condemnation.

“There is therefore now no condemnation.”

The qualifying “now” implies there was a time when Christians, before they believed, were under condemnation. This was before they died with Christ, died judicially (Gal 2:20) to the penalty of God’s righteous law. This “now,” then, distinguishes between two states or conditions. By nature we were “under the (sentence of) law,” but now believers are “under grace” (Rom 6:14). By nature we were “children of wrath” (Eph. 2:2), but now we are “accepted in the Beloved” (Eph. 1:6). Under the first covenant we were “in Adam” (1 Cor. 15:22), but now we are “in Christ” (Rom 8:1). As believers in Christ we have everlasting life, and because of this we “shall not come into condemnation.”

Condemnation is a word of tremendous import, and the better we understand it, the more shall we appreciate the wondrous grace which has delivered us from its power. In the halls of a human court this is a term which falls with fearful knell upon the ear of the convicted criminal and fills the spectators with sadness and horror. But in the court of Divine Justice it is vested with a meaning and content infinitely more solemn and awe-inspiring. To that Court every member of Adam’s fallen race is cited. “Conceived in sin, shaped in iniquity” each one enters this world under arrest–an indicted criminal, a rebel manacled. How, then, is it possible for such a one to escape the execution of the dread sentence? There was only one way, and that was by the removal from us of that which called forth the sentence, namely SIN. Let guilt be removed and there can be “no condemnation.”

Has guilt been removed, removed, we mean, from the sinner who believes?

Let the Scriptures answer: “As far as the east is from the west so far has he removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12). “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions” (Isa 43:25). “You have cast all my sins behind your back” (Isa 38:17). “Their sins and iniquities will I remember no more” (Heb. 10:17).

But how could guilt be removed? Only by it being transferred. Divine holiness could not ignore it; but Divine grace could and did transfer it. The sins of believers were transferred to Christ: “The Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isa 53:6). “For he has made him to be sin for us” (2 Cor 5:21).

“There is therefore no condemnation.”

The “no” is emphatic. It signifies there is no condemnation whatever. No condemnation from the law, or on account of inward corruption, or because Satan can substantiate a charge against me; there is none from any source or for any cause at all. “No condemnation” means that none at all is possible; that none ever will be. There is no condemnation because there is no accusation (see 8:33), and there can be no accusation because there is no imputation of sin (see 4:8).

“There is therefore no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.”

When treating of the conflict between the two natures in the believer the apostle had, in the previous chapter, spoken of himself in his own person, in order to show that the highest attainments in grace do no exempt from the internal warfare which he there describes. But here in 8:1 the apostle changes the number. He does not say, ‘There is no condemnation to me, but “to those who are in Christ Jesus.”’ This was most gracious of the Holy Spirit. Had the apostle spoken here in the singular number, we should have reasoned that such a blessed exemption was well suited to this honored servant of God who enjoyed such wondrous privileges; but could not apply to us. The Spirit of God, therefore, moved the apostle to employ the plural number here, to show that “no condemnation” is true of all in Christ Jesus.

“There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.”

To be in Christ Jesus is to be perfectly identified with Him in the judicial reckoning and dealings of God. And it is also to be one with Him as vitally united by faith. Immunity from condemnation does not depend in any way upon our “walk,” but solely on our being “in Christ.” “The believer is in Christ as Noah was enclosed within the ark, with the heavens darkening above him, and the waters heaving beneath him, yet not a drop of the flood penetrating his vessel, not a blast of the storm disturbing the serenity of his spirit. The believer is in Christ as Jacob was in the garment of the elder brother when Isaac kissed and blessed him. He is in Christ as the poor homicide was within the city of refuge when pursued by the avenger of blood, but who could not overtake and slay him” (Octavius Winslow, 1857).

And because he is “in Christ” there is, therefore, no condemnation for him. Hallelujah!

Cross-Bearing, The Law of Discipleship, and The Law of the Cross

 

Taken and adapted from, The Training of the Twelve
Written by, A. B. Bruce

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Referenced Texts: Matt. 16:24-28; Mark 9:34-38; Luke 9:23-27.

After one hard announcement, comes another not less hard…

…The Lord Jesus has told His disciples that He must one day be put to death; He now tells them, that as it fares with Him, so it must fare with them also. The second announcement was naturally occasioned by the way in which the first had been received. Peter had said, and all had felt, “This shall not be unto Thee.” Jesus replies in effect, “Say you so? I tell you that not only shall I, your Master, be crucified,–for such will be the manner of my death, –but ye too, faithfully following me, shall most certainly have your crosses to bear. ‘If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.’ “

The second announcement was not, like the first, made to the twelve only. This we might infer from the terms of the announcement, which are general, even if we had not been informed, as we are by Mark and Luke, that before making it Jesus called the people unto Him, with His disciples, and spake in the hearing of them all. The doctrine here taught, therefore, is for all Christians in all ages: not for apostles only, but for the humblest disciples; not for priests or preachers, but for the laity as well; not for monks living in cloisters, but for men living and working in the outside world. The King and Head of the church here proclaims a universal law binding on all His subjects, requiring all to bear a cross in fellowship with Himself.

We are not told how the second announcement was received by those who heard it, and particularly by the twelve. We can believe, however, that to Peter and his brethren it sounded less harsh than the first, and seemed, at least theoretically, more acceptable. Common experience might teach them that crosses, however unpleasant to flesh and blood, were nevertheless things that might be looked for in the lot of mere men. But what had Christ the Son of God to do with crosses? Ought He not to be exempt from the sufferings and indignities of ordinary mortals? If not, of what avail was His divine Sonship? In short, the difficulty for the twelve was probably, not that the servant should be no better than the Master, but that the Master should be no better than the servant.

Our perplexity, on the other hand, is apt to be just the reverse of this. Familiar with the doctrine that Jesus died on the cross in our room, we are apt to wonder what occasion there can be for our bearing a cross. If He suffered for us vicariously, what need, we are ready to inquire, for suffering on our part likewise? We need to be reminded that Christ’s sufferings, while in some respects peculiar, are in other respects common to Him with all in whom His spirit abides; that while, as redemptive, His death stands alone, as suffering for righteousness’ sake it is but the highest instance of a universal law, according to which all who live a true godly life must suffer hardship in a false evil world. And it is very observable that Jesus took a most effectual method of keeping this truth prominently before the mind of His followers in all ages, by proclaiming it with great emphasis on the first occasion on which He plainly announced that He Himself was to die, giving it, in fact, as the first lesson on the doctrine of His death: the first of four to be found in the Gospels. Thereby He in effect declared that only such as were willing to be crucified with Him should be saved by His death; nay, that willingness to bear a cross was indispensable to the right understanding of the doctrine of salvation through Him. It is as if above the door of the school in which the mystery of redemption was to be taught, He had inscribed the legend: Let no man who is unwilling to deny himself, and take up his cross, enter here.

In this great law of discipleship…

…the cross signifies not merely the external penalty of death, but all troubles that come on those who earnestly endeavor to live as Jesus lived in this world, and in consequence of that endeavor. Many and various are the afflictions of the righteous, differing in kind and degree, according to times and circumstances, and the callings and stations of individuals. For the righteous One, who died not only by the unjust, but for them, the appointed cup was filled with all possible ingredients of shame and pain, mingled together in the highest degree of bitterness. Not a few of His most honored servants have come very near their Master in the manner and measure of their afflictions for His sake, and have indeed drunk of His cup, and been baptized with His bloody baptism. But for the rank and file of the Christian host the hardships to be endured are ordinarily less severe, the cross to be borne less heavy. For one the cross may be the calumnies of lying lips, “which speak grievous things proudly and contemptuously against the righteous;” for another, failure to attain the much-worshipped idol success in life, so often reached by unholy means not available for a man who has a conscience; for a third, mere isolation and solitariness of spirit amid uncongenial, unsympathetic neighbors, not minded to live soberly, righteously, and godly, and not loving those who do so live.

The cross, therefore, is not the same for all. But that there is a cross of some shape for all true disciples is clearly implied in the words: “If any one will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross.” The plain meaning of these words is, that there is no following Jesus on any other terms–a doctrine which, however clearly taught in the Gospel, spurious Christians are unwilling to believe and resolute to deny. They take the edge off their Lord’s statement by explaining that it applies only to certain critical times, happily very different from their own; or that if it has some reference to all times, it is only applicable to such as are called to play a prominent part in public affairs as leaders of opinion, pioneers of progress, prophets denouncing the vices of the age, and uttering unwelcome oracles,–a proverbially dangerous occupation, as the Greek poet testified who said: “Apollo alone should prophesy, for he fears nobody.” To maintain that all who would live devoutly in Christ Jesus must suffer somehow, is, they think, to take too gloomy and morose a view of the wickedness of the world, or too high and exacting a view of the Christian life.

The righteousness which in ordinary times involves a cross is in their view folly and fanaticism. It is speaking when one should be silent, meddling in matters with which one has no concern; in a word, it is being righteous overmuch. Such thoughts as these, expressed or unexpressed, are sure to prevail extensively when religious profession is common. The fact that fidelity involves a cross, as also the fact that Christ was crucified just because He was righteous, are well understood by Christians when they are a suffering minority, as in primitive ages. But these truths are much lost sight of in peaceful, prosperous times. Then you shall find many holding most sound views of the cross Christ bore for them, but sadly ignorant concerning the cross they themselves have to bear in fellowship with Christ. Of this cross they are determined to know nothing. What it can mean, or whence it can come, they cannot comprehend; though had they the true spirit of self-denial required of disciples by Christ, they might find it for themselves in their daily life, in their business, in their home, nay, in their own heart, and have no need to seek for it in the ends of the earth, or to manufacture artificial crosses out of ascetic austerities.

To the law of the cross Jesus annexed three reasons designed to make the obeying of it easier, by showing disciples that, in rendering obedience to the stern requirement, they attend to their own true interest. Each reason is introduced by a “For.”

The first reason is: “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” In this startling paradox the word “life” is used in a double sense. In the first clause of each member of the sentence it signifies natural life, with all the adjuncts that make it pleasant and enjoyable; in the second, it means the spiritual life of a renewed soul. The deep, pregnant saying may therefore be thus expanded and paraphrased: Whosoever will save, such as in making it his first business to save or preserve, his natural life and worldly well-being, shall lose the higher life, the life indeed; and whosoever is willing to lose his natural life for my sake shall find the true eternal life. According to this maxim we must lose something, it is not possible to live without sacrifice of some kind; the only question being what shall be sacrificed–the lower or the higher life, animal happiness or spiritual blessedness. If we choose the higher, we must be prepared to deny ourselves and take up our cross, though the actual amount of the loss we are called on to bear may be small; for godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, as well as of that which is to come. If, on the other hand, we choose the lower, and resolve to have it at all hazards, we must inevitably lose the higher. The soul’s life, and all the imperishable goods of the soul,–righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness, –are the price we pay for worldly enjoyment.

This price is too great: and that is what Jesus next told His hearers as the second persuasive to cross-bearing. “For what,” He went on to ask, “is a man profited if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” The two questions set forth the incomparable value of the soul on both sides of a commercial transaction. The soul, or life, in the true sense of the word, is too dear a price to pay even for the whole world, not to say for that small portion of it which falls to the lot of any one individual. He who gains the world at such a cost is a loser by the bargain. On the other hand, the whole world is too small, yea, an utterly inadequate price, to pay for the ransom of the soul once lost. What shall a man give in exchange for the priceless thing he has foolishly bartered away? “Wherewith shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the high God? shall I come before Him with burnt-offerings, with calves of a year old? will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” No! O man; not any of these things, nor any thing else thou hast to give; not the fruit of thy merchandise, not ten thousands of pounds sterling. Thou canst not buy back thy soul, which thou hast bartered for the world, with all that thou hast of the world. The redemption of the soul is indeed precious; it cannot be delivered from the bondage of sin by corruptible things, such as silver and gold: the attempt to purchase pardon and peace and life that way can only make thy case more hopeless, and add to thy condemnation.

The appeal contained in these solemn questions comes home with irresistible force to all who are in their right mind. Such feel that no outward good can be compared in value to having a “saved soul,” ie. being a right-minded Christian man.

All, however, are not so minded. Multitudes account their souls of very small value indeed. Judas sold his soul for thirty pieces of silver; and not a few who probably deem themselves better that he would part with theirs for the most paltry worldly advantage. The great ambition of the million is to be happy as animals, not to be blessed as “saved,” noble-spirited, sanctified men. “Who will show us any good?” is that which the many say. “Give us health, wealth, houses, lands, honors, and we care not for righteousness, either imputed or personal, peace of conscience, joy in the Holy Ghost. These may be good also in their way, and if one could have them along with the other, without trouble or sacrifice, it were perhaps well; but we cannot consent, for their sakes, to deny ourselves any pleasure, or voluntarily endure any hardship.”

The third argument in favor of cross-bearing is drawn from the second advent. “For the son of man shall come in the glory of His Father, with His angels; and then shall He reward every man according to his works.” These words suggest a contrast between the present and the future state of the speaker, and imply a promise of a corresponding contrast between the present and the future of His faithful followers. Now Jesus is the Son of man, destined ere many weeks pass to be crucified at Jerusalem. At the end of the days He will appear invested with the manifest glory of Messiah, attended with a mighty host of ministering spirits; His reward for enduring the cross, despising the shame. Then will He reward every man according to the tenor of his present life.

To the cross-bearers He will grant a crown of righteousness; to the cross-spurners He will assign, as their due, shame and everlasting contempt.

Stern doctrine, distasteful to the modern mind on various grounds, specially on these two: because it sets before us alternatives in the life beyond, and because it seeks to propagate heroic virtue by hope of reward, instead of exhibiting virtue as its own reward. As to the former, the alternative of the promised reward is certainly a great mystery and burden to the spirit; but it is to be feared that an alternative is involved in any earnest doctrine of moral distinctions or of human freedom and responsibility. As to the other, Christians need not be afraid of degenerating into moral vulgarity in Christ’s company.

There is no vulgarity or impurity in the virtue which is sustained by the hope of eternal life. That hope is not selfishness, but simply self-consistency. It is simply believing in the reality of the kingdom for which you labor and suffer; involving, of course, the reality of each individual Christian’s interest therein, your own not excepted.

Such faith is even necessary to heroism. For who would fight and suffer for a dream? What patriot would risk his life for his country’s cause who did not hope for the restoration of her independence? And who but a pedant would say that the purity of his patriotism was sullied, because his hope for the whole nation did not exclude all reference to himself as an individual citizen?

Equally necessary is it that a Christian should believe in the kingdom of glory, and equally natural and proper that he should cherish the hope of a personal share in its honors and felicities. Where such faith and hope are not, little Christian heroism will be found. For as an ancient Church Father said, “There is no certain work where there is an uncertain reward.”

Men cannot be heroes in doubt or despair. They cannot struggle after perfection and a divine kingdom, skeptical the while whether these things be more than devout imaginations, unrealizable ideals. In such a mood they will take things easy, and make secular happiness their chief concern.

The Holy Spirit’s, and … YOUR … Testimony to the Blood of Jesus

Taken from, “The Blood of Jesus Christ”
Written by, William Reid, 1814-1896.

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The great work that the Holy Spirit is now occupied in performing…

…is that of directing sinners to Jesus, and inclining and enabling them to come to Him that they may be saved. Since this is the case, I am a fellow-worker with God the Holy Spirit only in so far as I tell anxious sinners to look to Jesus only, and have “redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins” as their first and great business—and “this one thing I do” (Eph. 1:7; Philippians 3:13).

The question is not whether we think it scriptural for an awakened sinner to desire the secret and power-giving presence of the Holy Spirit to open the eyes of his understanding and show him the all-sufficiency of Christ—that is what neither we nor any other true Christian would for a moment think of forbidding. Nor is it the question whether the work of the Holy Spirit is necessary in order to salvation. The very fact of writing as we have done on regeneration in a previous chapter, as well as writing to encourage our brethren to meet together—and also meeting ourselves, to pray for the Holy Spirit to put forth His reviving, sanctifying, convincing, and converting power—will satisfy all ingenuous minds that we hold the absolute necessity of the work of the Holy Spirit in order to the regeneration and conversion of perishing souls.

The only question, then, that falls to be considered is, what am I to say to an awakened and anxious sinner? Am I to say simply, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved,” as said the apostle of the Gentiles to the trembling jailor of Philippi (Acts 16:31)? Or am I, as the first thing I do, to exhort him to pray for the Holy Spirit to convince him more deeply of his sin, enlighten his darkened understanding, renew his perverse will, and enable him to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ to the saving of his soul? Am I to direct him, as the grand thing he has to do, to believe in Jesus and accept His blood-shedding as the only foundation of his peace with God; or to seek the work of the Spirit as an addition to Christ’s work, in order that he may be justified?

The former leads to justification by faith alone, the true apostolic doctrine of the churches of the first age.

The latter leads to “justification by sanctification,” the pernicious doctrine of a later era, by embracing which a man can never reach any satisfactory assurance that his sins are pardoned, even after a lifetime’s religious experience and devout and sincere performance of religious duties—whereas, by teaching salvation by the blood of Christ alone, a man may, like the Philippian jailor, “rejoice, believing in God with all his house” (Acts 16:34), “in the same hour” in which Christ is presented as the alone object of personal faith and consequent reconciliation.

There is, we regret to think, a large class of professing Christians who seem to have the unfounded notion engrained in their minds, that Christ came as a Savior in the fullness of time, and on being rejected and received up into glory, the Holy Spirit came down to be the Savior of sinners in His stead; and that whether men are now to be saved or lost depends entirely on the work of the Holy Spirit in them, and not on the work of Christ done for them…

…whereas the Holy Spirit was given as the crowning evidence that Jesus is still the Savior, even now that He is in heaven. The great work of the Spirit is not to assume the place of Jesus as our Savior, but to bear witness to Christ Jesus as the only Savior; and by His quickening grace bring lost sinners to Him, that they may become “the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:26). This He did on the blessed day of Pentecost, when thousands of divinely quickened souls received His testimony, believed “in the name of Jesus,” and obtained “remission of sins” (Acts 2:38).

The Holy Ghost is not the Savior…

…and He never professed to be so, but His great work, in so far as the unconverted are concerned, is to direct sinners to the Savior, and to get them persuaded to embrace Him and rely upon Him. When speaking of the Holy Spirit, Jesus said distinctly to His disciples, “He shall not speak of himself…he shall glorify me” (John 16:13-14). If to glorify Christ is the grand aim and peculiar work of the Holy Spirit, should it not also be the grand aim and constant work of those who believe in Him, and more especially of the ministers of His gospel?

The whole drift of the Holy Spirit’s inspired oracles, as we have them in the Bible, is to glorify Christ. The gospel ministry has been granted by Him (Eph. 4:11-12) to keep the purport of those Scriptures incessantly before the minds of men, and in so doing to beseech sinners to be reconciled to God. Now, Holy Scripture throughout clearly teaches that, simply on account of the one finished, all-sufficient, and eternally efficacious work of Christ, sinners who believe in Him are “justified from all things”; that we are “justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood” (Romans 3:24-25). We are justified as “sinners” as “ungodly” (Romans 5:6, 8), and not as having an incipient personal righteousness wrought in us by the Holy Ghost.

Few men, with the Word of God in their hands, would subscribe to such a doctrine, and yet it is the latent creed of the great majority of professing Christians. It is, in fact, the universal creed of the natural heart. Fallen human nature, when under terror, says, Get into a better state by all means; feel better, pray better, do better; become holier and reform your life and conduct—and God will have mercy upon you! But grace says, “Behold, God is my salvation!” (Isaiah 12:2). To give God some equivalent for His mercy, either in the shape of an inward work of sanctification, or of an outward work of reformation, the natural man can comprehend and approve of—but to be justified by faith alone on the ground of the finished work of Christ, irrespective of both, is quite beyond his comprehension. But “the foolishness of God is wiser than men” (1Cor. 1:25). Instead of preaching holiness as a ground of peace with God, “we preach Christ crucified” (1Cor. 1:23), “for other foundation can no man lay”—either for justification or sanctification—“than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1Cor. 3:11). Whatever others may do, I am “determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1Cor. 2:2).

“O my Redeemer, Who for me wast slain,
Who bringest me forgiveness and release,

Whose death has ransomed me to God again,
And now my heart can rest in perfect peace!
“Still more and more do Thou my soul redeem,
From every bondage set me wholly free;
Though evil oft the mightiest power may seem,
Still make me more than conqueror, Lord, in Thee!

Blessed are the Persecuted for Righteousness’ Sake

Taken from, “Plain Village Sermons on the Lord’s Prayer and the Beatitudes”
Written by, Henry Alford, (1810 – 1871)

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“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”    –Matt. 5:10-12

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Besides the blessings which are poured into the cup of Christ’s people, on account of those graces which he plants in their hearts…

…there are others coming from the natural and necessary temper of others towards them, and the situation of affairs with respect to them.

Now, they are described as a peculiar, a separated people; as citizens of a kingdom which is situated in another country, and having their affections fixed, and their rule of conduct laid down, not here, but in a place far away. Moreover, it is said that they are not com formed to the world in which they live, that they not only do not run with its inhabitants to that excess of riot and surfeiting; but that they do not, even in things seemingly innocent, suffer their hearts to be bound down to this lower world. Nor is this all: –they are transformed in the image of their minds, they are all united by faith to one living Head –even the Lord Jesus; and are all members of His body. They are begotten anew in Christ, and therefore they have lost their relish and taste for the old and cast off things of this vain world.

What, then, is the consequence? The children of the world, those who are living well contented to enjoy their present life, and caring for nothing beyond, think it strange that there should be those among them, who do not care for the life of which they make so much; and more than this, –they are moved by their holy and constant lives, to envy them, and to endeavor to remove them, if possible, out-of-the-way; for their own evil deeds cannot abide the light of truth and justice which these persons, by their presence, cast upon them. This same motive leads them also to speak evil of the saints of God, and to endeavor to reduce them down to their own level, that they may be able to carry on their bad practices, without the purity of the Christian character even giving warning to them to consider their path, and amend their ways.

And add to all these reasons the enmity natural to the heart of man, against everything that is of God, or belongs to the new nature, of which the members of Christ are partakers, and you will see abundant reason, independently of circumstances, why the servants of God should be held in hatred and contempt by the children of this world. At times these feelings have broken out openly, and they have been subjected to violent persecutions, and loss of goods and life; but in all times the world is of the same mind towards them –therefore the world hates them, because they are not of the world, as He Himself was not of the world.

And this has not been concealed from us by Christ; He has not held us out any prospect of ease and luxury. He has told us plainly, “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” Nay so far from concealing it from them, He makes it, as in the text, a part of their blessedness, that they are persecuted for righteousness’ sake. We have seen in the other blessings, that they belong to persons and qualities not highly esteemed by the world: but this seems the strangest blessing of the whole, that those should be blessed, who are persecuted –who are forsaken of their nearest friends, and made a gazing stock for all men.

We are naturally fond of the quiet and comfort of society, –of the smiles of our friends, and their confidence, and all the little advantages of friendly intercourse; we are fond of sharing our worldly advantages with those about us, and being counted as peaceful members of society, and respectable persons; we are jealous of our characters, and wish to keep them without stain among men, and our own advantage we consult, and eagerly pursue our own profit.

But here is a man who is cast out from society and comfort, –whose enemies are even those of his own household; who has few, and perhaps those, distant friends –and is left alone in the world: advantage she seems to have none, much less any with whom he can share them; owing to the malice of his adversaries, he is represented as a disturber of peace, and disreputable, his fair character in the eyes of men is blotted by their slanders, –he seems to neglect his own advantage, and seeks but little after that profit which all around him are going after, –he appears like one who has a mark set upon him that men should hate him, and cast him out from their company. One would think his very heart would sink within him, and that he would perish under the accumulated load of slight and injuries. But this is the very person who in the text, is pronounced blessed.

There must then be some upholding power, some mighty inward comfort which must work against the attacks of the enemies from without.

If we examine the nature of the blessing, we shall find that such does indeed exist: theirs is the kingdom of heaven. They are the sons of a king, waiting for their inheritance; nay, it is already theirs, they are counted in the Church, who is the body and spouse of that King, –even of Christ. He came down upon earth to purchase the Church to Himself; He stayed with her awhile here below; and He is gone up into heaven to prepare the heavenly mansions to receive her in.

Meanwhile He has left her on earth deprived of His bodily presence, but living on His precious promises, fed with His spiritual flesh and blood, to try her faithfulness to Him. She is espoused, betrothed, given in marriage to Christ, the King of heaven; and in her all His faithful ones, so that already, signed and sealed with a sure promise, the kingdom of heaven is theirs. And He has sent down to His earthly bride this memorable sentence, “To him that overcome will I grant to sit with Me in My throne, even as I overcame, and am set down with My Father in His throne.” Earthly power, riches, or kingdoms, belong not to the servants of Christ; yet however poor, however despised they are, they are princes in disguise: even now their royalty shews itself in an exalted and heavenly mind, in affections raised above the earth, in subduing their stubborn wills, and bringing every thought into subjection unto the righteous law within them: and they have their attendants too, –the ministering spirits who are sent forth to minister to those who shall be heirs of salvation; the angels of the Lord tarry round about them that fear Him, and if our eyes could be opened, and we could see the goodly company of heavenly guards which surround the head of the faithful servant of God, –if we could behold him in his most forsaken moment, when all are turned against him, thronged with bright ministers of joy and defense, we should see that not even Solomon in all his glory was attended like one of these.

When men revile them, and taunt them with lifting themselves above their neighbors, and cut them to the heart with bitter reproaches, they can hear the sweet voice of the heavenly Bridegroom saying to His Church, “Behold, thou art all fair My love, there is no spot in thee.” When the sons of the earth deprive them of their possessions, they can hear the same voice saying, “Fear not little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” And when they are put under severer trials than these, which are hard for flesh and blood to bear, cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover bonds and imprisonment; when their flesh and their heart fail, He who is the strength of their heart and their portion forever, is a very present help for them; and His golden words, “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life,” disarm all their tortures, and fix their eyes on Him who is waiting to receive their souls.

Thus great, thus exalted, is the blessing of those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake. And there is yet more of it behind. “Rejoice and be exceeding glad, for great is your reward in heaven.” If a cup of cold water given in Christ’s name shall not lose its reward, surely those who suffer for Him, and are made outcasts for His sake, shall have great and worthy reward in His kingdom. It is one of the marks of God’s people, to have respect unto the recompense of the reward;” to be fully assured that works done in Christ and for His name’s sake shall not be forgotten; but are all recorded before Him. There is no surer sign of a humble spirit and one subjected to the will of God, than a clear and practical view of the nature of our Christian reward for works done in Christ.

While some vainly suppose that our own works can effect our salvation; and some on the other hand seem almost to forget that such a thing as the Christian reward is mentioned in Scripture; he who loves Christ by faith, fully assured of his union with Christ and salvation in Him, is also fully assured that not the meanest work done in His name shall be unrewarded; for he has the word, the eternal unalterable word of his Savior for it; and long as the seal on that bond of the Scripture remains, –long as those words remain which though heaven and earth pass away, shall not pass away, –so long shall the work and labor of love of Christ’s justified people not be forgotten, but be surely and gloriously rewarded. To those who are in Christ sin is not imputed: being received into Him their sins are canceled by His satisfaction; and therefore all that they do and suffer for, and in Him, is accepted by God the Father, and will be rewarded by Him. “Rejoice and be exceeding glad; for great is your reward in heaven.”

But there is another source of comfort still; indeed they seem inexhaustible and never-ending to those who are united to Christ. “So persecuted they the prophets which were before you.”

Ye that are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, lift up your eyes and look on the stars, and see if you can tell their number and names. Far more in number is the company who are gone before you from affliction like yours, to glory brighter than the brightest of those heavenly bodies. Once, and once only, are we told that any of them descended and were seen by men, –and then, even our Lord Himself put on for a moment the brightness of His glory to meet them; when He was transfigured on the mount, Moses and Elias, two of those that were persecuted for righteousness’ sake, appeared in glory and talked with Him: and the Apostles trembled as they entered into the cloud which surrounded them –so bright and so heavenly was their appearance. But, as we advance in this divine subject, grounds of support and joy seem to thicken upon us, and the seed-time of persecution and tears appears, indeed, to lead to a rich harvest of rejoicing; –“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you; but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings, –that when His glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.”

Our profession is, to have been buried with Him by baptism into death; if therefore, we find ourselves made partakers visibly of His sufferings we, see accomplished in us what every Christian desires –likeness to Him; and the visible sign and participation of His death is openly shown forth in us. “If we be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye –for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you; on their part He is evil spoken of, but on your part He is glorified.”

Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast in the Lord.

If you live united to Christ, you have trials and severe ones too; it is equally true in all times, that those who live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. Let not the neglect, the scorn, the taunts of men, turn you aside from the steady serving of God and cleaving unto Christ. Be not ashamed of His name in the presence of men: what are their taunts and scorn to you? You are kings; surely it is not for you to tremble at these poor foolish slaves of worldly thought –surely it is not for God’s ransomed ones and the heirs of glory, to tremble at the presence of an ignorant scoffer of this world.

Look forward but a few years, and where are all their taunts and bitter words, and scornful looks?  Whenever you feel tempted to deny or to compromise Christ, look straight to that day when you hope to awake up after His likeness; look to the great day of recognition and account, and as you wish to be acknowledged by Him at that day, so now let your acknowledgement of Him be. And if you fall into persecution, if ungodly companions ridicule you or hinder your faith; for this you are all the more blessed –for you will be, by a visible likeness, shewing forth your Savior, “you will be by their persecution driven to cling closer to Him, to commune with Him more in prayer, to grow in grace and in the knowledge of Him.

One word more.

God knows whether I be now speaking to any who have been, or are, the persecutors of the children of God –who by deed, word, look, or thought, have attempted to hinder the faith and progress in holiness, of a neighbor. If have been destroying the sheep of Christ whom He bought with His blood. And, as one of those appointed to watch over His fold, I solemnly tell you in His name, that “it had been better for you never to have been born.” “Whosoever offends (they are His own words) one of these little ones that believe on Me, it were better for him that a millstone were hung about his neck, and that he were cast into the sea.” You may well tremble before that king whom you have so grievously angered.

Turn then to the Lord and to His people, with weeping, and mourning, and praying, if perchance, this thought of your heart may be forgiven you. Far better is the state of those you persecute and despise, than your own; with all your scoffs and reproaches they are happier than you –they have no hurt from without, and what is more, they have no worm gnawing within. Here I leave the comparison, for I tremble to think of you, if I look forward any further. May God give you a better mind, even the spirit of true repentance. Oh shame and sorrow, that we should have to turn in a Christian Church to address such as these! When will the Lord come and purify His temple, and present us to His Father, an acceptable people, a pure and blessed Church?

Pray, my brethren, for that glorious time, when the number of the elect shall be accomplished, and those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake now, shall have entered on the possession of the kingdom!

Some Abstract Thoughts Linking the Covenants to the Biblical Concept of “Testament”

Excerpt taken and adapted from, “A Summary of Institutes of Elentic Theology”, ‘Twelfth Topic: The Covenant of Grace and Its Twofold Economy in the Old and New Testaments,'” written by Francis Turretin, Translated by George Musgrave Giger, Edited by James T. Dennison Jr., Summarized by Nathan E. Lewis

crucified_with_HIM

[“You must understand the law of God to grasp the Covenant of Grace. This covenant is “the center and bond of all religion, consisting in the communion of God with man and embracing in its compass all the benefits of God towards man and his duties towards God.” In this study “peculiar accuracy” is needed!]

The N.T. usage explains the peculiar nature of the covenant of grace by reference to “testament.” (Luke 1:72; Acts 3:25; Gal.4:24);

(Nathan’s Notes: Some would insist that the covenant has been replaced by a testament. A testament is one person deciding to give his inheritance upon his death to whomever he chooses. This is certainly what Christ did for us. But he did it within the terms and context of the covenant of grace. In his life and death he kept the terms of the covenant and paid the penalty for Man’s breaking of the terms. He did not do this to abolish the covenant, to render it null and void, but rather to maintain it as the communal bonds between God and Man. What about Hebrews 8? See excursis below.)

In Hebrews 9:15 the idea of “testament” is not only emphasized, but linked to the covenant! (Now, it is not a peculiar use of “covenant” but of “testament” that we encounter. For in a testament, nothing is expected of the heir. But in this testament, which is a covenant, the heir is expected to exhibit faith and obedience. Read the whole of Hebrews.)

“foedus” – A Greek term referring to a pact/agreement entered into between God and Man, consisting partly in stipulation of duty (or of the thing to be done) and partly in the promise of a reward.

A little LXX (Septuagint) study:

1) in Genesis 9:9 the meaning refers solely to promise;
2) in Genesis 17, I Kings 8:21 the meaning refers to the symbols of covenant reality (also in Luke 22:20);
3) in Daniel 11:28,30 the meaning refers to the people of the covenant as “the covenant” itself!
4) in Isaiah 49:8 unusually refers to the Messiah as “the covenant” himself!

Excursis –

Hebrews 8: Bible students may be wondering up to this point, “If the covenant of grace begins at the Fall of Man into sin and endures until the second coming of Christ, what about Hebrews 8?” Hebrews 8 seems to declare the covenant that was operative in the days of Moses to be “obsolete,” replaced by a new covenant established with the first coming of Jesus. The Westminster Divines used Hebrews 8 as a proof text for their distinction between two “administrations” of the covenant of grace: 1) the administration of law; and 2) the administration of gospel (Chapter 7. V – VI). Why did they opt for this distinction when it seems as if the language points to two distinct covenants, not two administrations of one covenant? The answer: The language is a distinction not of terms , but rather a distinction between the promise of the terms fulfilled and their actual fulfillment in Christ. The second administration is an unfolding of the mediatorial fulfillment of the covenant of grace while the first administration was the promise of such mediatorial fulfillment.

(1-6) The terms of the first have not become obsolete; Jesus, the great high priest, comes to fulfill all that the high priests in the first administration communicated through roles and rites of promise; the second administration is “a better covenant” because the promise has been fulfilled in the coming of Christ who keeps the terms of the covenant of grace. Once he has done so, the covenant of grace takes on a profoundly different administration! Why then, “which has been enacted on better promises” ? Have the promises changed? No, but the surety of them has come. Prior to the first coming of Christ, the promise was that he would indeed fulfill the demands of the covenant of grace. In his first coming, these demands are met in his work of perfect obedience and perfect sacrifice. All of God’s children are thus justified! His work is once for all. So now, what are the promises that still remain after the work of the first advent is accomplished? The promises of Sanctification and eternal glorification – a final end to all of the curse of sin and death upon God’s good creation. These promises are better in the sense that the finished work of Christ has occured and is the down-payment, thus the absolute surety that the completion of our salvation shall occur upon his second advent.

(7-12) What was “faulty” in the first administration of the covenant? Certainly not God’s promise but Man’s participation. What was wrong with Man’s participation? It was connected to the symbols pointing to the fulfillment. Israel’s failure to be obedient resulted in their losing the benefits of the symbols – i.e. the Promised Land. But the Promised Land is a symbol of the new heavens and new earth. Just because it is a symbol does not mean that it is “fake” nor “intangible.” Israel lost real land; God “did not care for them” (9). But with the coming of Christ Jesus, the reality is secured. The symbol promises are lost forever since they are part of this cursed age and have served their purpose in pointing to the fulfillment. But there is still hope for covenant breakers who look to faith in Christ who ushers in the ultimate promises of the covenant which shall surely be fulfilled for all of God’s children in Christ Jesus. (10-12) is prophetic language from the first administration that is assigned to the reality of the new heavens and new earth in the book of Revelation, part of the second administration’s literature!

(13) So how do we interpret this verse? It seems quite clear that there are two distinct covenants after the Fall of Mankind (Genesis 3). Don’t be so quick. Take into consideration the points above, then read (13) in context. What aspect(s) of the first administration of the covenant are “obsolete” ? Certainly all that symbolically pointed to Christ, the fulfillment since he has come in the flesh! Have the terms become obsolete? NO. Jesus said, “I did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it.” Does the law, then have an enduring role in the church in these last days? YES. So there is continuity between the first and second administrations of the covenant. Hence it is the same covenant which takes on a drasticly new look because of the coming presence of Jesus. Has the aspect of grace become obsolete? No. Under the first administration, only through the forgiveness and gifts of God do the blessings flow. And so it is in the second administration. Therefore it is essentially one covenant of grace which explodes into a greater flowering of blessings than ever could be imagined prior to the coming of Jesus.

What does the last sentence mean?!! Simply this: the day of glorification is soon approaching. When the final and eternal reality dawns, we will cease this talk and longing for it, for we shall be consumed in it, enjoying the blessing forevermore.

ROMANS 8: Paul’s Song of Songs

Excerpts taken and adapted from, “PAUL’S SONG OF SONGS:
A Practical Exposition of the Eighth Chapter of Romans.”
Written by, John MacDuff, 1818-1895

In entering on the exposition of the eighth chapter of Romans, we listen to the music of the greatest of the Church’s prose-minstrels. It is a Gospel enshrined in the most precious of the Epistles–an epitome of divine truth. Though blended with other chords, let it be noted at the outset, that the Love of God, and the Security of the Believer, constitute the special dual strain intoned by our Apostle in his sublime Canticle.

 

love001“The Eighth Chapter of Romans is the Masterpiece of the New Testament.”–Luther.

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Let us listen to the key-note of the song.
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“There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus”
  

–Romans 8:1

The remarkable opening and ending of our chapter have often been observed; what, in accordance with the name of this Book, I may call the Antiphon. The Voice or Harp-note begins with “NO CONDEMNATION.” It is answered in the close of the chapter with “NO SEPARATION.” The key is struck by the inspired musician. This is followed by an ever-augmenting volume of melody, until it culminates in an anthem “like the voice of a great multitude and the sound of many waters.” It reminds us of another Master of sacred Song (Haydn)–with his “Let there be Light!”–and the Light broadens and deepens into the perfect day of heaven.

“No condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” This first proposition is ushered in with “Therefore.” It is the summing up–the great inference from the preliminary thesis of the earliest and best of Christian Apologists. And this initial thought of consolation and peace, like a golden thread, is interweaved throughout the chapter.

“In Christ Jesus.” We cannot now pause to expound and illustrate all which these pregnant words imply. They set forth, in a flash of thought, the personal, vital union or incorporation of the Believer with his living, loving Lord; transforming the old into “the new man which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” The expression is explained and unfolded in the sixth chapter (4-11). It is a favorite and often recurring formula which permeates the writings of him who specifically calls himself “A man in Christ” (2 Cor. 12;2). “In Christ”–safely immured in Him who is “the refuge from the storm and the covert from the tempest.” I have read, in the terrible story of the Crimean War, when rampart after rampart, bastion after bastion of the doomed city were being stormed and battered into shapeless ruin–deep down in the foundations of one of the grim fortresses was a hold, where the wounded were conducted safe from the iron hail–away too from the din and roar of artillery which in that battle of giants made night as hideous as day. There they were, for the time, safe and sheltered–“The weary to sleep and the wounded to die.”

Christ is that sheltering Covert.

He is “the Stronghold in the day of trouble” (Nahum 1;7). “In Him”–in the clefts of this Rock of Ages–within this Citadel of faith I am safe. The law and its avenging thunders crash against me in vain. Crippled and wounded in the stern struggle hours of life–sin-stricken and sorrow-stricken–assailed with temptation and legion foes–principalities and powers–spiritual wickedness in high places; I can listen to the voice of the Great Rest-giver as amid the shot and shell of battle He thus speaks–“Come unto Me!” “Come, My people, enter into your chambers, and shut your doors about you, and hide yourself for a little moment until the indignation be overpast.” “The peace of God which passes all understanding shall keep (as the word means in a citadel or garrison) your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4;7).

“In Christ.” It was the vital truth so beautifully enforced by the Divine Master Himself in His valedictory Parable of the vine and its branches–“Without Me”; out of Me; severed from Me, you are nothing, and can do nothing. Out of Christ, apart from Him, each soul is like a stranded vessel–mastless, sailless, rudderless, the sport of ocean forces–lying high and dry on the sands, away from its buoyant element. But the tidal wave flows–the rocky inlets and creeks are one by one filled–the “abandoned” is set once more a living thing on the waters–anew “compassed by the inviolate sea.”

That is the man “in Christ.” Environed with this new element–life in his living Lord with its ocean fullness and unsounded depths–he is safe, joyous, happy. No cyclone above, no submerged rocks beneath; a halcyon calm around. “In Me you shall have peace.” Not in vain did the early Christians–even in the midst of their great fight of afflictions–“the sea and the waves roaring and their hearts failing them for fear”–write on the slabs of their catacombs–IN CHRISTO–IN PEACE.

Enough now farther to say, that grasping thoroughly the phrase in its full evangelical meaning, all the varied succeeding affirmations of our chapter become at once comprehensible and luminous. It is the “Basket of Silver” in which “Apples of Gold” are inserted. Let us keep this in mind all through our exposition, as affording the guarantee of every covenant blessing–specially the two already distinctively indicated. It forms Paul’s security and the security of all believers as he utters the closing challenge and “persuasion” –“Shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is IN CHRIST JESUS our Lord.”

“No condemnation in Christ Jesus!”

How blessed the thought, if we are participants in what Dean Alford calls “the bringing in of life by Him, and the absolute union in time, and after time, of every believer with Him!” “Condemn” or “Not condemn;” “Condemnation” or “No condemnation” are no longer open questions–indeterminate and unsettled. He the Great Redeemer and Lord–the Brother in my nature has taken me into living membership and fellowship with Himself. In Him the debt is cancelled–liquidated. In Him I am pardoned and accepted. These are the words of the divine Pardoner (none more precious in all Holy Scripture)–“I will be merciful to your unrighteousness; your sins and your iniquities will I remember no more.” Paul, we must bear in mind, was now writing to Romans; who were familiarized with the forensic terms he uses. They knew well what was the significance of the proclamation “Condemno,” or “Non condemno,” as it rang through their pillared basilicas. Happy for those who have listened, as here, to the Great Absolution from the lips of the Just, yet the Justifier. Happy for me if, feeling my new covenant position in Christ, I can go forth to the world–to my daily work and business–amid “the loud stunning tide of human care and crime,” and hear this chime of heavenly music ringing through it all–“No condemnation.”

And to have the full comfort of this opening strain of the song, let me think of it, too, as denoting a present discharge–a present immunity. Not the limited and partial thought of being one day called to the tribunal of a Judge to receive the sentence and assurance of remission; but “There is therefore, NOW, no condemnation.” The absolution is already pronounced from which there is no appeal. “I AM pacified towards you” (Ezek. 16;63). “We who have believed do enter into rest” (Heb. 4;3). “He that believes shall not come into condemnation, but is passed from death unto life” (John 5;24). “Beloved, now are we the sons of God” (1 John 3;2).

The Prodigal in the parable is not ordered to undergo probation –to tarry outside as a dependent among the menials of his father’s house and halls, before restoration is accorded. The robe, the ring, the sandals, the welcome, are his at once. Let me accept the same lofty consolation, that the blessedness is even now mine of those whose iniquities are thus forgiven and their sin covered–that I am now a chartered citizen of that heaven of which the subsequent portions of this “Song of Songs” tell me I am to be a glorified inhabitant.

Yes, in beginning these successive cadences of Paul’s sacred Cantata, I can appropriately take up the words of other and older singers–“O Lord, I will praise You; for though You were angry with me, Your anger is turned away and You comfortest me” (Isa. 12;1).

“He has put a new Song in my mouth, even praise unto our God” (Ps. 40;3).

They are they which Testify of Me: The Scriptures regarding Christ in Resurrection Power.

Written by, A. M. Hodgkin.
Taken from, Christ in All the Scriptures.

Acts — The Risen Christ

Resurrection-2In the Acts, we see the risen, ascended, glorified Christ, still living and working on by the power of the Holy Spirit through His Church on earth.

The Epistles, likewise, are the continuation of His teaching through the Holy Spirit, according to His promise (John 16:12-14). There is no fundamental truth revealed in the Epistles which is not contained in germ in the Gospels. For instance, the Epistle to the Hebrews is one long commentary upon our Lord’s words: ”This is My blood of the New Covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.”

The teaching of the Epistles is one.

The great theme is salvation through Christ.

Like the Gospels, they have the advantage of giving us different aspects of our Lord’s work, by different writers. There is, moreover, a certain correspondence between the Gospels and the Epistles.

  • James reminds us of Matthew, especially the Sermon on the Mount.
  • The teaching of Peter is grounded mainly on the example of Christ, and reminds us of Mark’s Gospel.
  • There is an affinity between Paul and his companion Luke, whose Gospel is emphatically the Gospel for the sinner.
  • John, in his Gospel, tells us how the Divine life is exhibited in the person of Christ. In his Epistle, he shows how it is imparted, and how it manifests itself” (Moorehead).

This book might be called ”The Acts of the Holy Spirit,” or ”The Acts of the Risen Savior.”

Luke, in his Gospel, told us what Jesus ”began,” and here [in Acts] what He continued both to do and to teach by the Holy Ghost, through the disciples. [cp. v.1]

Our Lord told His disciples that He would send the Spirit, ”And He shall bear witness of Me; and ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with Me from the beginning” (John 15:26, 27). Our Lord fulfilled His promise on the day of Pentecost, and poured forth the Holy Spirit upon His disciples (Acts 2:16,17,33), and from that moment, as they bore witness to the Savior, the Holy Spirit bore witness at the same time in the hearts of the hearers, and multitudes were converted to the Lord.

”We are His witnesses of these things,” said Peter, ”and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey Him” (5:32). Throughout the book of Acts, we see the mighty working of the ascended Savior through this twofold witness. It was He who shed forth the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (2:33). It was He who chose the workers and selected their various fields of service. His last words to His Church before He ascended were, ”Ye shall be witnesses unto Me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (1:8). The infant Church was slow to recognize the breadth of this commission and to lay aside its Jewish prejudices. They confined their preaching to Jerusalem till persecution was allowed to scatter them. The blood of the first martyr, Stephen, proved indeed [to be] the seed of the Church. It was one of the means used in preparing the great Apostle of the Gentiles [8:1-4].

Those that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the Word. Philip preached Christ in Samaria, with the result of a great ingathering. Caesarea (8:40), Phenice, Cyprus, Anitioch (11:19), Damascus (9:2), heard the Word. The direct intervention of the risen Savior is seen in the admission of the Gentiles into His Church. He used Peter to open the door of the Gospel to the Jews at Pentecost [Ch. 2], and to the Gentiles in the house of Cornelius [Ch. 10], and so fulfilled His promise concerning the keys (Mat 16:18, 19).

The risen Savior appeared to Saul of Tarsus [Ch. 9], to make him ”a minister and a witness” (26:16), to send him ”far hence unto the Gentiles” (22:21); and at every step of his three great missionary journeys, he made known His will with unmistakable clearness. The record of the book of Acts mainly clusters around these two Apostles: Peter, the Apostle to the dispersed of Israel; Paul, to the Gentiles. It deals chiefly with the devoted labors of the Apostle Paul, the last called, but most honored of the Apostles, and shows us that it is his name, and not that of Matthias [1:15-26], that we must look for among ”the twelve Apostles of the Lamb” (Rev 21:14). The book opens with the preaching of the Gospel in Jerusalem, the great center of the Jewish nation. It closes with its preaching in Rome, the great center of the world-power.

The book of Acts is the best guide-book to missionary enterprise.

It tells us the true motive, the best plans, and the source of power. Guided by their risen Lord, the Early Church pursued a definite program in its extension, always selecting some great radiating center of population for its operation, whence the influence might spread to the surrounding district– Jerusalem, Samaria, Antioch, Cyprus, Iconium, Lystra, Derbe, Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, Athens, Corinth, Ephesus, Rome. Their methods were simple, straightforward, and successful. They went forth in dependence on the living God, with unquenchable zeal and undaunted courage. Their one aim was to bring men to a saving knowledge of Christ. He was their one theme, and the Word of God their efficient weapon. Christ was always and everywhere the center of their testimony, and the Holy Spirit their power for service. (Moorehead)

Romans — The Gospel of Christ This Epistle, which Luther called ”The perfect Gospel,”

…and Coleridge ”The most profound work in existence,’‘ stands first of all the Epistles as setting forth the great truths of man’s fallen state, and of justification by faith in the person and work of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

By birth a Hebrew, by citizenship a Roman, by culture a Greek, Paul was well fitted naturally to write it; but it was in the grace and apostleship received direct from Jesus Christ (1:5) that he trusted alone for his qualification. ”Thy faith hath saved thee, go in peace,” may be taken as the Gospel germ of the Epistle to the Romans.

The clue to the Epistle is to be found in 1:16: ”I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, the just shall live by faith.” He was not ashamed of the Gospel, for he had proved its power.

The Epistle naturally divides itself into three parts:

  1. Justification;
  2. Sanctification;
  3. Application of the foregoing to daily life. 

Each of [these divisions] are associated with one of the great Apostle’s irresistible ”Therefores.”

Justification by faith for access. Rom 5:1: ”Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Throughout the Epistle, we hear the challenge, ”Where shall righteousness be found?” It is found alone in Christ. It was while we were yet ”without strength,” ”ungodly,” ”sinners,” ”enemies,” that God commended His love toward us and Christ died for us (5:6, 8, 10). We are justified ”by grace,” ”by His blood,” ”by faith.” The results of justification are peace, access, joy in God.

Sanctification by faith in Christ, through the power of the indwelling Spirit (8:1-2, RV): ”There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.” Chapter 6 shows us our position as having been crucified and raised with Christ, that we should henceforth walk in newness of life. Chapter 7 shows us the religious “self” seeking deliverance from the power of indwelling sin. The personal pronoun ”I” which abounded in chapter 7 disappears in chapter 8, and the word ”Spirit” takes its place, showing Him as the active agent of God, in revealing Christ for our sanctification, making us ”more than conquerors through Him that loved us.”

Application. The dedication of heart and life to God’s service (12:1): ”I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.

In this practical and personal appeal, and in his clear words in chapter 6:1, 2, he forever refutes the charge that the doctrine of “justification by faith” countenances laxity in life; and it is a remarkable fact that the Epistle of Faith begins and ends with obedience (1:5; 16:26). See also the frequent repetition of the word ”obedience” throughout the Epistle.