A Trinitarian Perspective on, “Who Raised Jesus from the Dead?”

Taken from the Website, of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals
Written by, Pastor Richard Phillips

Ricci,_Sebastiano_-_The_Resurrection_-_Google_Art_Project

“Who raised Jesus from the dead?” 

It is natural to inquire about the details of an event so important to us.  But we should first remember that the Bible avoids providing us details about what happened within the tomb when Jesus arose in resurrection life.  We know he was killed and buried, that the tomb was sealed and guarded by Roman soldiers.  But the next thing we learn is that when the women arrive on the third day with anointing spices, the stone was rolled away and Jesus was gone.

The situation here is similar to that of the cross.  God does not provide us intimate details of Jesus’ excruciating suffering.  The Bible mainly tells us that he was crucified and died.  Likewise, we are told that Jesus rose from the death.  The Bible’s chief concern is with the bare facts, along with their saving significance for all who believe.  This being the case, we should never try to reconstruct or dramatize those holy moments in Jesus’ experience about which the Bible is silent.

But one thing the Bible is not shy in speaking about is the answer to the question “Who raised Jesus from the dead?”  Perhaps the most pointed answer was given by Peter in his Pentecost sermon, just weeks after the resurrection: “God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it” (Acts 2:24).  The answer is that “God raised him up.”

The obvious follow-up question is “Who, within the Trinity, raised Jesus from the grave?”  Here, things become interesting, because the biblical answer is “Yes.”  That is, at different places, the Bible ascribes the raising of Jesus to each of the three members of the Trinity: God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

No doubt, the majority of references point to God the Father.  Where we read, “God raised Jesus,” we should certainly take this as a reference to God the Father.  This emphasizes a number of things.  First, it is the God to whom Jesus cried, and into whose hands Jesus committed his Spirit, who raised him from the dead.  In Matthew 27:43, we read of the chief priests mocking Jesus: “He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’”  By the resurrection, Jesus’ claims regarding his relationship as Son to the Father were proved to be true, and God the Father was proved to be faithful to all who trust in him.  Moreover, Peter could say, “The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree” (Acts 5:30), so that the resurrection was a proof that the Old Testament is fulfilled by the risen Christ.

The Bible also ascribes Christ’s resurrection to Jesus’ own power as Second Person of the Godhead.  This is in keeping with the power he claimed to Martha at the tomb of Lazarus: “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25).  Jesus said in John 10:17-18, “I lay down my life that I may take it up again…  I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”  Hebrews 7:16 says that Jesus lives for ever because he possesses “the power of an indestructible life.”  The point is that being the ever-living divine Son, the Alpha and Omega, death could not hold Jesus, and therefore death cannot hold those who belong to Jesus in faith.

Lastly, there are references to the Holy Spirit raising Jesus from the dead.  Romans 1:4 says that Jesus “was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead” (Rom. 1:4).  More blatantly, Romans 8:11 says, “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.”  The point is made evident right there, that the Spirit’s work in our lives is analogous to his work in raising Jesus from the dead.  To be born again by the Spirit, is to experience a spiritual resurrection.

This ends up providing a useful lesson in Trinitarian theology…

…namely, that in the work of any member of the Trinity, the other two members are always intimately involved.  Everything the Trinity does is done by all of the Trinity.  Surely, in the case of the resurrection of Christ, the great preponderance of references speaks of God the Father as the leading actor.  But the Son and the Spirit were also responsible in the resurrection, just as all three divine Persons are actively involved in our spiritual rebirth and on-going sanctification, which is our first resurrection, just as they will together conspire to ensure our second and final resurrection on the great day to come.  To all Three be glory.

Tender and Intimate Thoughts Regarding “Jesus, as Our Resurrection”

tumblr_mjz6iaqdej1s3zgyzo1_500_large

[I would impart this as a pastoral word for all those who are struggling with the specter and terror of death. Death has rightly been named as the final enemy. My heart especially goes out to those Christians in Kenya, whose sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, have been martyred for their belief in Christ. The world may little care. They may say, oh well, another Christian had died, –it is of little moment. But in heaven it is a different story. The Lord of Creation sees; and he hears the tears and cries of his children. The tears of his saints is precious to him, and the cries of his children moves his own heart. There will be an end. An end in which death will be swallowed up in victory. And the grave, yes, the grave will release his children. It will come. You can count on it. –MWP]
.

“Jesus said unto her, I am the Resurrection and the Life.”

–John 11:25.

We discover something in the lessons of the hour in the graveyard, culminating as they do in such touching symbolism, which illustrates better than studied devices, Paul’s sublime argument concerning the resurrection of the dead. You remember that the Apostle’s logic insists upon Revelation as the only sure basis of the doctrine, and acids the argument from analogy, to meet the instinctive questionings or fears of those who already accept the historical fact of Christ’s resurrection.

The main argument is given in epitome, in the words “I am the Resurrection and the Life,” while the attendant argument from analogy is set forth, in the most winning way, first, by the voices of the wide landscape during the hour of waiting, and then by the child’s offering. The word of Jesus holds the regal place, while analogy is content to serve. You will readily perceive, that the selection of a text for the meditation of this hour, was an easy matter. I could not do otherwise, indeed, than invite you to follow me in an attempt to unfold the meaning of a word from the lips of Jesus.

“I am the Resurrection and the Life!”

This is the central word of one of the most simple, lucid, and affecting narratives of the Gospel. It implies that the dead shall be raised at the last day, and more, it declares that the power of this final resurrection, even then encompassed the sorrowing Martha, and her sleeping brother. He is the Resurrection and the Life – “the Resurrection” because he is “the Life.” Herein rested her hope, and his glory. She had placed her brother in the tomb, and there her thoughts were lingering, save when they took an occasional flight, into the distant future, and found solace in the belief that there would be a resurrection of the dead, at the last day.

Away from the corruption of the grave, and back from these wanderings into the dim distance, he would lead her to look upon himself. The Resurrection he tells her is not so really and truly there, as here. “I am the Resurrection,” and this need be no wonder to you, since “I am the Life.” He is the Life-giving One, “the Living One,” “the Life” in such a sense, that we may believe the death of man would not be possible, were it not for the restraint he places upon himself, in order that sin may have its just wages;” for the whole Gospel story impresses us with the conviction, that the sisters of Bethany were right in their passionate and sorrowful exclamation, “If thou hadst been here, my brother would not have died.” “It is beautifully consonant with Divine propriety,”says Bengel, “that no one is ever read of as having died while the Prince of Life was present.”

The doctrine of the resurrection of the dead is associated with profound and insoluble mysteries. We meet with many discussions which propose to remove the objections arising in every mind, but have we ever been able to find rest in them? Such discussions have their place, and are by no means to be accounted useless, but we need something superior to them. The best we can do with the mysteries of the doctrine, is to cast them into the depths of a greater mystery “Christ’s personal love for us” which, mystery as it is, is yet something we can feel and enjoy. Personal faith in Jesus is the only power that can bring us into friendly fellowship with the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead; yet it will be granted that if it is impossible by any efforts of the reason to secure terms of intimacy with the doctrine of the final resurrection, so also it is not easy to gain a practical view of the word of Jesus, “I am the Resurrection.”

If we think for awhile upon the solemn revelation that the dead will rise at the last day, our feelings are like those awakened when we visit one of the grand caves of the earth, to gaze upon its wonders, ” its narrow passages, its lakes and cascades, its gorgeous roof flashing with brilliancy, ” though we bear but flickering lights in our hands. Yet the cave is chilly, and not a place to live in. If, on the other hand, we attempt to turn our thoughts upon Christ as “the Resurrection” an opposite difficulty occurs. We are seeking to draw near to a doctrine which has indeed come forth from the cave, but only to make its home in a castle founded upon a rocky cliff which it would be well-nigh impossible to scale. A mighty faith, it is true, could conquer the difficulties, but as most of us are not equal to the effort we ask what a weaker trust shall do. Is there no gateway? Yes, and one which, perhaps, the faith of most of us would be able to enter; but a question still remains. How shall we come near to a gateway so far above the plane of our present standing? Is there no easy approach, no common highway whose lower terminus lies among the frequented walks of men? The traveler in Scotland will not forget the bold and forbidding front of the castle of Stirling. It seems impregnable and unapproachable, but you have only to enter a common gate, which opens by the side of a common dwelling, upon a common path, and saunter along as you would in any way which is made pleasant by cheerful views at every turn, and you will come into the presence of the guard at the very gateway of the castle on the cliff.

Apart from, and above, all common things, is this lesson concerning Jesus as “the Resurrection.” No one can really reach it but by faith, yet we may draw near unto it, and it is greatly to be desired that we should do so. I have more than intimated already in figurative words that there are easy methods of passing from our most familiar conceptions of Jesus to this higher view of him as “the Resurrection.” Nor is this more than we might expect, since he is elsewhere revealed to us as “the Way,” and we ought to find in him the way to himself as “the Resurrection.”

We are ready now to name some familiar ideas concerning Jesus, upon the consideration of which we may enter with the hope of reaching a position from which our faith may readily lay hold upon him as “the Resurrection.” They are these: His Wisdom; His Tenderness; and His Power.

I. Very many are the evidences we have of the Wisdom of Jesus.

No artifice of Pharisee or Scribe could entangle him in his words. He, who could ask the chief priests and elders whether “the baptism of John was from heaven or of men,” and could answer his crafty foe in these wonderful words, “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s,” is surely wise, far above our common standards of estimate. Everywhere this wisdom displays itself, and perhaps nowhere more surely, though often more openly, than in his methods of presenting his great practical argument to maintain the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead. He so selects and arranges his proofs, that the heart of humanity opens healthfully under their light and warmth. He does not blind and bewilder us with the glory of the miracle in Bethany, because we have been prepared for it by less dazzling displays of his power over death. The “ruler’s daughter” opens the way for the coming of the “widow’s son,” and it was needful that both should go before the loved one of Bethany. But more than this, the raising of Lazarus did not furnish full proof of His avowal, “I am the Resurrection and the Life.” This miracle, also, was preparatory, and thus humanity was not withered, but cheered by the brilliant testimony which afterward came from the tomb in the garden of Joseph of Arimathea.

Thus, beginning with a meditation upon his Wisdom, we are led in a few steps to his grave, and feel how truly he is “the Way” to himself as “the Resurrection.”

II. Let us seek another path. Here is the Tenderness of Jesus.

It is always manifesting itself. It weeps over the Holy City, and sends its special message to the penitent Peter. Nor does it overlook physical want and weariness, but feels “compassion for the multitude because they had been three days with him, and had nothing to eat,” and says to the Apostles, worn and pressed by their labors, “Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place and rest awhile.”

His heart is so delicately tender, that we have no friend who feels as keenly as he feels the burden of our trials, great and small.

But here in the narrative concerning the sickness and death of Lazarus, are words which give a shock to our faith in his tenderness. The sisters send a message to Jesus. “He whom thou lovest is sick.” No more is said. This surely would be enough. It would be a waste of words to add, “Come and see him.” They were confident that he would come at once, as the friend and the healer. And do you not hope with them? Would you not have expected that the narrative from this point would read something in this way: ” Now Jesus loved Martha, and Mary, and Lazarus, and therefore he hastened to Bethany? But it tells us that he loved them, and therefore he tarried for two days where he was. What can explain this apparent inconsistency? The answer is here. “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby.” In other words: The sickness was not unto death, but unto the resurrection from death.

Another illustration occurs to me under this head, but I cannot persuade myself to pass to it, until I have called your attention to a thought which has its place here, and is discovered only when we glance at the original language of the Scriptures. 

The Greek has two verbs which signify “to love,” and Trench says of them that “it would not have been easy, perhaps not possible, to have discriminated between them in our English version; and yet that there is often a difference between them, one very well worthy to be noted, if this had lain within the compass of our language. “The one,” he continues, “expresses a more reasoning attachment; the other, without being necessarily unreasoning, does yet oftentimes give less account of itself, is more instinctive, implies more passion.”

It would be easy to multiply instances of the use of these two words. One of each will be sufficient for our present purpose. In that remarkable passage, “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life,” we have the word which expresses the reasoning love. The other word we may find in the passage which tells us that Mary ran with the tidings of the Savior’s resurrection “to Simon Peter, and the other disciple whom Jesus loved.”

Now, see the bearing of this distinction upon our subject. When the sisters send this message to Jesus: “He whom thou lovest is sick,” they use the word which implies that his affection is of that peculiar type which bound his heart to the loved disciple John. But this same John, who alone records the story of this great miracle, and who knew better than any one else the real distinction between the words, while he is ready to allow that Jesus does indeed love the family at Bethany, seems careful not to use the word which the sisters employed, but the other. Thus it would seem that the evangelist perceived the apparent coldness of our Savior’s course, and by the very choice of his words explains it. As if he would say, the love of personal intimacy which he felt for Lazarus, would indeed have prompted him to respond at once to the call of the friends who so much longed for his presence, but that more reasoning love which sought for them and for humanity, a higher good in the resurrection of their brother than could possibly have been secured by his restoration to health, induced him to remain where he was.

Let us pass now to another illustration. You will not forget the first word of Martha to Jesus when they met, and that it was the same as the first word of Mary at her meeting with him, and that the bearing of them both makes it quite evident that their exclamation was indicative of the prevailing tone of their lamentations during the previous four days. Many a time doubtless they had said, “0 that Jesus had been here.” Jesus, only a few miles away, knows all this, and yet says to his disciples,”Lazarus is dead, and I am glad I was not there.” While from Bethany the wail ascends, “0 that he were here,” Jesus is saying, “I am glad I am not there.” Why, 0 why this seeming coldness? Savior, why art thou glad? “I am glad for your sakes I was not there, to the intent ye may believe.” Gladly would he have hastened to Bethany, but he denied himself that he might open a way in which he could lead humanity to a better understanding of his words, “I am the Resurrection and the Life.”

Thus beginning with the Tenderness of Jesus, our established views are first violated by a strange delay, and then by a gladness still more strange. We seek an explanation, and find it at the grave in Bethany, where he teaches us by a preparatory miracle, to look on toward him as “the Resurrection.”

III. We seek still another path and would come near to Jesus as “the Resurrection” by the way of his Power.

The Power of Jesus is manifest in all his works of wonder, and perhaps still more in the calm and collected tone in which he speaks of drawing all men to himself, as if it were a very small thing to do. But I know of no display of his power which more amazes me than that which was needful to subject himself, as “The Life,” to the power of death. I have remarked already that we do not learn that death ever attempted to seize any one from his presence. Besser has thus well expressed this idea: “We may estimate the power which he must have had to be able to give up his life unto death, when, in his life-streaming presence, Death ventured not to kill even a child of death.”

We are told that “the Pharisees and chief priests took counsel together to put Him to death;” but we are also taught that he had power to lay down his life and power to take it again. It was only his infinite power that could keep him obedient to death during the hours of that Jewish Sabbath. Very early on the first day of the week he came forth –“The Resurrection.” Before that hour there were indeed living witnesses that he had power to raise the dead, but it was not yet established that that power was his “Life.” Unquestionably he is so far the Life-giving One that he has become “the Resurrection” of three who were dead; but this does not prove as yet that he is so truly and so fully “the Life” that he can be “the Resurrection” in all cases. To establish this there is only one proof conceivable; that is, the resurrection of his own body.

Therefore he exercises his power in obedience to a holy strategy which sought to bring death into such a relation to himself that he might prove his supremacy as “the Life,” and thus the Vanquisher of death. How expressive are his own words! “I lay down my life that I might take it again.” Who doubts now that he is “the Resurrection and the Life”? Not only has he come forth from the grave himself, but even while his power was in exercise, to the end that death might have a temporary hold upon him, he was so truly “the Life” that from his very tomb currents of vitality were issuing which found their way into the graves of many, and quietly put them in readiness to go forth with the Lord of Life. The tide of his life was so full and so strong, that when the restraints which his power had imposed were withdrawn, it swept from the grave many besides himself. Thus we have found another path. Commencing with his Power we were attracted by a marvelous display, which finds its only explanation in the fact that he must lay down his life in order that he might take it again, and thus finish the way to himself as “the Resurrection.”

You perceive then that Jesus as “the Resurrection,” is not so far from you as you may have thought, but I must remind you that the most I hope to do by this discussion as thus far conducted, is to show you how you may draw near to him. Having drawn near, you must lay hold of him for yourselves by an exercise of simple trust. You know that it is of the very genius of our religion to give us personality, and now, all things in Christ. All things, even “things to come,” are ours now. With Christ we are crucified, and with him we are risen. The doctrine of the resurrection of the dead, should seem to us taken up into Christ, and thus we, in whom Christ abides, should, feel the power of the resurrection in our daily experiences.

Now how much do we know of the power of the resurrection?

Do we feel a solemn awe in contemplation of the theme? This is well, but it is not enough, for there are ignorant men in heathen lands who feel as much as this. We have heard of a barbarian chief who could listen without emotion to all the statements and appeals of the missionary of the cross, save the solemn announcement that the bodies of the dead would yet come forth from their graves. This was overwhelming. It was more than he could endure to think that the many he had slain in savage warfare would again stand before him. Now there was a sense in which this barbarian prince felt the power of the resurrection, and it would be well for the eternal hopes of some in Christian communities, perhaps of some within the sound of my voice, if they would yield themselves as far as he did to its’ sway. Yet this surely is a great way off from a personal recognition of Jesus as “the Resurrection.”

Still further. Are we filled with admiration in our views of the doctrine of the resurrection as a power which has changed the whole face of human society? This, too, is well. Doubtless we do not study as carefully as we should the great historical problem presented at the birth of the Christian church, which finds its solution in the resurrection of Jesus. When he was crucified the disciples were scattered, and it seemed impossible that they could ever be brought together again since they found their bond of union in his person. Yet a few weeks after they are more strongly united than ever, more fully than ever consecrated to his work. How is this? “The Crucified” has become “the Resurrection,” and thus the bond of union is the same as before;” and yet not the same, but far more glorious. It is no wonder then that the fishermen of Galilee were changed into the heroes of an enduring and overcoming faith, and that they became in a day the most mighty of all reformers. Yes! this miracle is the basis of man’s highest hopes as a social being. Take away the fact of the resurrection of Jesus from history, and the wildest confusion would result. Deep darkness would fall upon all human hearts, and the cry ” Ye are yet in your sins,” would ring in our ears with a new and awful meaning.

All this we may be ready to recognize, and yet we may not know Jesus as ” the Resurrection.”

Again. Are we able to find rich personal comfort in the belief that there is to be a final resurrection of the dead? This is better truly than a mere solemn awe in contemplation of the theme, or than admiration of its elevating and reforming power; but even this is not enough. It is only the ground which Martha held when she said of her brother: “I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

Far it be from me to undervalue the comfort which flows from this view. When in our thoughtful hours we are moved to solemn reflection upon our own frailty; when we look upon our loved ones in their struggle with “the cold mystery ;” when we go to the grave and commit “earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust;” and when we come back again to desolate homes, it is well if our faith can rise to see immortality, and to well know that there is comfort here!

As Boyd has said: “The grave of the righteous is the treasury of the skies; it will hear the voice ‘Restore the dead,’ and every atom of its trust shall be rendered back. From places which we pass with little thought of those who are resting there, human forms will come forth to judgment. From some unknown spot, over which the Deluge rolled its effacing waters, the first of men will rise. Ruth will rise from that place where she was buried by Naomi’s side, and Moses from the sepulcher which no man knew. The cave of Machpelah will give up its charge, and David and his fathers will rise from the place where they slept together. Martyrs and patriots will come out from the dungeon where they died, and be brought back by the winds to which men scattered their ashes. The material frame will as certainly be there, which was burnt to “ashes, ground to powder, cast into a rapid stream, as that which lay, in careful seclusion, from the hour of death to the day of judgment.

Massive stones and cathedral arches do not keep the remains of royalty more securely than the wide elements of nature, which are preserving the vestiges of every man that ever breathed. From ocean depths, from mountainside, from the forest and from the desert, they shall come again! And thus, the earth is more valuable than you would think it. God has far more to watch over in it than its living population. It rolls on its way, bearing in its bosom a vast freight of that which is yet to people heaven. Let us remember, that the quiet burying-place which we pass with scarce a glance contains mines which, in God’s sight, are richer by far than ever enriched Peru. Not merely the mouldering remains of organized matter; not something which has seen its day and done its work; but something whose day is only coming, and whose work is not yet well begun; something which rests less in memory than in hope; the “body still united to Christ!” “The field of the world is a harvest-field.”

Is Jesus ours?

He is “the Resurrection,” and are we are risen with Him? Thus a future event is changed into a present. Do we abide in Christ and he in us? Then our resurrection is a fact accomplished. As Adolphe Monod said in his last days, “The resurrection of Jesus Christ, which, like the rest of his life, we appropriate to ourselves, becomes a visible event, bringing to light our own resurrection, though it were before invisible. What an immense blessing and privilege for the Christian, to be able to contemplate, in Jesus Christ, visibly risen, his own resurrection! It is thus raised above, I do not say the doubts, but even the difficulties of faith itself, and becomes a tangible fact, which we find in Jesus Christ and apply to ourselves.”

Are you ever perplexed in your meditations upon the resurrection of the dead? Come back from your vain speculations! The mystery is too great for you. Come bury your face in the bosom of your risen Lord. You are risen already! This is what the Savior meant when he said, “I am the Resurrection and the Life.” It is what Paul had in his heart when he talked of the “power of the resurrection” as something he could know, and when he addressed the Colossians as those who were already “risen with Christ.”

0, for faith in Jesus “the Resurrection!”

———————————————

Taken and adapted from, “Jesus, as Our Resurrection”
Written by, Albert D. Hunt.

A VISION OF THE GOSPEL: Jesus at His Friend’s Feast

Taken and adapted from: “A Vision for a Gospel-Centered Life”
Written by Timothy Keller

24wine2

On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.” “Dear woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My time has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.” They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.” This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him.  –John 2: 1-11

 

This is the story of Jesus at the wedding feast of Cana…

…and there’s a certain ‘oddness’ about it. Reynolds Price of Duke University said, “if you were inventing a biography of Jesus Christ (that is, if you were just making up stories about Jesus to get across His power and His glory)…who would invent the inaugural event of Jesus’ career a miraculous solution to a mere social embarrassment?” In other words, here…Jesus is using all His great divine power for a catering disaster. If you were making up a story…a story about His greatest and power you’d never make up a story like this. Which means, it’s here because it happened. Why did it happen? Why did He do it? What does this mean? What was He teaching by it? In this passage, we learn
(1) what Jesus came to offer,
(2) how He provides it, and
(3) how we can receive it.

What Jesus Came to Offer

There was a wedding, verse 1. You’ve heard, of course, that in ancient times, in more traditional cultures, weddings were even bigger deals than they are in our day. Weddings in those days lasted about seven days. The key to the wedding was the wine. The wine was what made the wedding a feast…a party. It was the groom’s family’s responsibility to make the wedding a great feast and to supply enough wine to last seven days. What we find here…in the beginning of story…(but we aren’t told how or why)…the wine ran out early. But.. it was a disaster…even though I joked about it being a ‘catering disaster.’ In that context, it was a lot more serious…for this was a shame culture. In a shame culture, the social expectations of the society were such that if the family didn’t fulfill the social expectations, it was a great disaster for everyone. In a shame culture this was not a small thing.

Mary, the mother of Jesus, heard about it, and was evidently close to the family (perhaps a relative)…she found out about the catering disaster before anyone else, and she went to Jesus and told Him about the situation…and Jesus did do something about the situation. What does it teach us that Jesus did it, that is, fulfills the need and provides the wine? It is an extremely important question…because this is His inaugural sign. Verse 11 tells us that this is the first of His miraculous signs by which He was revealing His glory. When you roll out a new magazine or you go public with a new business enterprise, you want to make sure every single word is carefully crafted to convey the quintessence of what the enterprise is all about. What does it mean that the first inaugural sign of Jesus Christ’s mission, by which He is telling us who He is and what He came to do? He did not raise someone from the dead…He did not heal a sick person…He did not preach a sermon. He didn’t call anyone into discipleship. What did He do? He produced 150 gallons of the best wine to keep a party going. And that’s His first sign. What does that mean? How could that be His first sign?

If you and I do find that odd (even though I’ve labeled this somewhat facetiously a catering disaster), perhaps it means we don’t understand what Jesus is really about…very well. This term “master of the banquet” (in verses 7 & 8), is a Greek word that literally means the ruler of the table or the lord of the feast. We don’t have in our weddings today someone quite like this, unless it’s a really, really big wedding. This person was essentially a master of ceremonies. His real job was to make the party a real party…the banquet a real banquet…to make it a great feast. But, the whole point of this passage is what…who makes this a great feast…who is it that supplies the wine in the end? Who is the true Lord of the feast? It’s Jesus. Jesus Christ is saying by making wine His calling card, He is saying: ‘I come…yes, to bring self-denial…yes, to bring rules and regulations…yes, to bring humbling…yes, to bring codes of conduct…yes I come to bring all that and my followers will experience all of that, but ultimately, what am I here to do…where am I driving the universe?’ (We saw this earlier in Isaiah 25…in the last day… the Lord of hosts will make for His people a feast of the finest meats and wine well refined…and on this mountain He will swallow up death forever. And the LORD God will wipe away tears from all faces and your reproach and shame will be taken away forever, for the Lord God has spoken.) Jesus is saying ‘I am the Lord of the feast. I come to bring festival joy.

I remember some years ago, a pastor of a church of which I was a member…this pastor was talking about some people who had been nominated for office, and at one point he said, ‘I really love this man, but this man has not yet taken responsibility, for the fact that he doesn’t have much joy in his life.’ And that sure sounded strange to me. What did he mean…responsibility? For joy??!! And yet Jesus is saying here, ‘I come to bring you joy! That’s what I’m about…that’s where I’m driving the whole universe…I’m driving the whole world to there.’

Why is it that the Bible over and over again uses sensory language to get across what God offers us? For example:

Psalm 34 – Taste and see that the Lord is good.
1 Peter 2 – Now you have tasted that God is gracious

Ephesians 1 – I want the eyes of your heart to be enlightened so that you may know His power in us
Ephesians 3 – I want you to have power to grasp how long, and wide, and high, and deep is the love of Christ.

Look at that language. We know God is good, but His word is saying, ‘I want you to taste that God is good. You know God is a God of grace, but I want you to taste His graciousness.’ We know God is powerful from Ephesians 1, but He wants us to see His power…not just know about His power. We know that He loves us, but He ‘wants us to grasp…to feel His love.’ Paul says His love is spread abroad in our hearts, by His Holy Spirit.

Why all this sensory language? Christians are being called…in all of these passages to go beyond just believing into experience. The Bible says it is not enough to just know God is loving and to know God is powerful. You’ve gotta taste…you’ve gotta see…you’ve gotta grasp His love and power. The person who put this best is Jonathan Edwards in his very famous sermon “The Divine and Supernatural Light” Edwards says,

“There is a difference between having an opinion that God is holy and gracious and having a sense on the heart of the loveliness and beauty of that holiness and graciousness. So there is a difference between knowing that honey is sweet and having the taste or the sense of its sweetness.”

A sense venue can only be understood in terms of itself… not in terms of another sense venue. For example, if a person born blind asks you, ‘is blue like the taste of salt…is red like the sound of a trumpet’…you’re going to respond, ‘not really.’ You’re going to say that you can’t really convey the reality…if you don’t have eyes. You’re never going to really grasp the full reality of color by having it described to you in a book, or in terms of another sense. You have to actually see the color if you’re ever going to experience the reality of it. What Edwards is saying, and what the Bible is saying, is this: it’s one thing to say oh I know God loves me…but have you seen…have you tasted…has it been shed abroad in your heart? Have you actually had the life shaping reality come upon you? You say, ‘oh, when you say sense of the heart, you mean the feeling…you’re talking about emotions.’ Oh, NO!! I’m talking about something much deeper than the emotions…not less than emotions…but much more. The heart is the control center of the life. It is where your deepest commitments and trusts are. It’s the things that you cherish the most…that’s what your heart is…and therefore, the things that have captured the imagination…and control you… mind, will, and emotions. Therefore, if you say, ‘oh, I know God loves me,’ yet you still live a life of shame and failure, you don’t have a sense on the heart of His love for you…or you’d be living with confidence. Your life would be shaped from the inside out.

Or, if you say, ‘oh, I know God is wise and powerful,’ yet you’re always scared and anxious…you’re always worried about this, and about that…you’re worried about money…you’re worried about your children…or…’oh, I know God’s wise…I know God’s powerful’…YET, you’re not seeing His wisdom…then you’re not really seeing His power and His wisdom as the massive majestic thing that overshadows all other threats, so that you actually live your life with boldness. Until that happens…until you taste…until you see…until you grasp His love…and His power…and His greatness…until you feast…until you feast on Him…you haven’t gotten ‘it.’ Jesus says: “Behold I stand at the door and knock…if any man will open and come in to me, then I will eat with him,” (Rev 3:20). Not just that I’ll visit with him. What’s all this sensory language about? Jesus is saying, ‘I come to bring you festival joy…I come to bring you the experience of God’s love and the experience of His reality…a reality that so shapes you through joy that you won’t live like you used to live. That’s what I bring. Take responsibility for it…’cause that’s what I come to offer.’ That’s what He offers…festival joy.

How He Provides It

How He provides it is seen in how He actually gives the wine. In verse 3, ‘when the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to Him, they have no more wine.’ That’s a very reasonable request. Mary certainly knew that it was a social and cultural disaster. She went to Jesus (even though she had yet to learn of the fullness of who He was…but she certainly had more of a sense than anyone else that there was hidden power in Jesus…and she knew He was a loving man…she knew He had a certain power) and so she asked Him if He could do something about it…about the catering disaster. What was His response? Now, the NIV[18] as well as most other translations don’t seem to want to get across to us the ‘rudeness of Jesus at this moment.’ It says “Dear woman’ (but that’s not what He says…the word ‘dear’ is not in there…He doesn’t say ‘Mother’…He doesn’t say ‘Mom’) He says, “WOMAN!” That’s all He says. “WOMAN!” It’s very brusque…emotionally brusque. ‘Woman…why do you involve Me?” …very sharp and very harsh…and clearly Jesus is troubled by something. What is it? “My time has not yet come.” Now, what is going on here?

If you’re young and you’re single…like Jesus…(and by the way, Jesus was 30 and certainly people at that time and in that culture were asking constantly, ‘why aren’t you married yet?…all the time…constantly.) So, if you’re young and you’re single…and especially if you live in a traditional culture…(though you pretty much feel it anytime at any place)…and you go to a wedding…what are you probably thinking about? You’re going to be thinking about your own wedding. When will it be? Will it ever be? Who will it be with? And of course that can happen…you’re your mind’s a million miles away as you’re sitting there…at the wedding…thinking about another wedding. But, if Jesus is really thinking about His wedding…because of His self-consciousness…He would be much more profoundly stirred than you and I would be, and here’s why.

All through the Old Testament…all through the Hebrew Scriptures, God tells us that He does not just want to relate to us as a King to subjects…or as a shepherd to sheep…or even as a father to children. He wants to have such a profoundly loving, close, and intimate relationship with us…He wants to relate to us as a husband to his wife. Therefore, in an astonishing number of places…like Isaiah 62, Hosea 2, Ezekiel 16, and Jeremiah 2, God calls Himself the bridegroom of His people. With that understanding, do you realize the audacity of what Jesus said? There’s another place in the Gospels in which people were coming to Jesus saying, ‘hey look, your disciples don’t fast…and they don’t pray…and they don’t do all the various sorts of spiritual disciplines that other disciples do,’ and Jesus says, ‘No, No.’ “Do the friends of the bridegroom fast when He is still with them?” He calls Himself the Bridegroom!! In John 3, the people came to John the Baptist and said, ‘hey, you used to be the big prophet in town, and now everybody’s going after Jesus…doesn’t that bother you? Everybody’s following Jesus…everybody’s following Jesus.’ What’s John’s response? He says, ‘of course…the bride is for the bridegroom. I’m just the best man.’

Jesus Christ was probably sitting at that wedding feast thinking about what John the writer tells us at the end of the Bible in Revelation chapter 21, where we read: “I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. Jesus Christ is thinking about that great day in the future when His people, His bride, will fall into His arms…in unity and embrace. But…why is He troubled? Why does he say, “WOMAN,” and why does He say, “My time has not yet come”? Certainly for many years when I read this I thought it meant…what you probably think it meant…’it’s not My time to do a miracle.’ ‘Mom, it’s not time to do a miracle.’ But, He immediately turns around and does it. And therefore, I don’t think that’s what He was saying. I don’t think Jesus related to His Mother the same way you and I do our mothers. It’s not, ‘oh, Mom, no…oh, Mom, no! No, Mom, no…I’m not going to do it…well, alright!!’ But there’s no indication that that was how He was responding to her then…because, when He says, ‘my time has not yet come,’ He actually uses the Greek term that literally means “My hour” has not yet come.

Every single place in the book of John where Jesus uses the term “hour,”…

…He is referring to the hour of His death. Wait a minute, now! Now we suddenly realize it’s not as much of a non sequitur as we’ve thought…though it still looks pretty weird. She comes up to Him and says, ‘Jesus…they have no wine.’ And Jesus says, ‘…but it’s not My time to die yet.’ Jesus is thinking of another wedding…and He’s saying, ‘Mom, the only way that I’m going to have wine at My wedding feast…the only way I’m going to be able to lift the cup of festal joy, and have my spouse fall into My arms at My wedding feast…is, I’m going to have to die. And if you think, ‘that’s not what He’s thinking, that I’m reading it in’…I want you to see…how much clearer could He be, when He goes ahead and does the miracle…He’s thinking about another feast …another wedding, another kind of wine of which this wedding…and this wine is just the image.

But when He turns, and starts to create the wine for this wedding feast, notice where He goes. John says, “nearby stood six stone water jars’…the kind used by Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from 20 to 30 gallons. And Jesus said, ‘fill those jars with water.’ Jesus deliberately chooses the jars that were used for ceremonial washing. ‘What do you mean, ceremonial washing?’ When the Jews went into worship God, they would wash ceremonially with water. It was a symbol of the fact that they were sinful. And they needed to be cleansed if God was going to embrace them in love. This is what Jesus Christ is saying: ‘Mom, the only way that My people are going to fall into My arms, the only way I’m going to embrace them and love them, the only way I’m going be able to lift the cup of festival joy with them, is if I drink the cup of eternal justice for them.’ ‘This,’ He said on the night of the Last Supper…’This wine is my blood.’ ‘Let this cup pass from Me,’ He said to the Father. What He was saying was, ‘the only way I’m going to have My spouse…My love…’ …the only way we’re ever going to fall into His arms and know the absolute unity of oneness with Him and know His love and know that joy…is if He, first of all sheds His blood. He can only raise the cup of festival joy with us if He first drinks the cup of eternal justice…all by Himself. And that’s what He’s thinking about!

Do you know what this means? Do you know the implications of Jesus as the bridegroom? Every single time God chooses an image for Himself, He is saying something about us. For example, when He says, “I am the Shepherd”…He’s saying, “you’re stupid. You’re sheep.” I am the King. You’re subjects. I am the bridegroom. You’re My bride. What’s He saying about us? One of the things most intriguing to me about wedding customs is that there are some wedding customs that, pretty much universal…one of them is that the bride is absolutely bedecked with colors, and with jewelry, and with the most beautiful garments, and with cosmetics…AND, the bridegroom is not allowed to see her until the last minute. The best man sees her…everyone else sees her…in various stages of becoming more and more beautiful…bit by bit by bit, but not the bridegroom. Why? So that when the bridegroom is standing at the altar, and around the corner the bride comes, everything that’s happened on that day, is to create…A POWERFUL IMPACT…of beauty…on the bridegroom. The sense of her beauty, on his heart…when she starts down the aisle, he’s ravished…he’s delighted…she looks more beautiful than he’s ever seen her look…he wants to throw himself at her feet…he wants to not only promise undying faithfulness…but perhaps dying faithfulness…and he wants to give her the world…if he could.

How dare Jesus Christ call Himself the bridegroom…how dare He use this metaphor? He better mean it. And He does. He is saying, ‘I’m that ravished with your beauty…I’m that delighted with you…’ and if He’s that ravished with our beauty…and He’s that delighted in us…and He loves us like that…and He wants to give us the world…He will. And that’s the reason why we’re told…you become the spouse of Jesus Christ…you’re betrothed to Him, the minute you look at Him and you say, ‘with all that I am, and all that I have, I honor You. I give myself to You.’ And on the wedding day…the last day…the day of the Great Feast…we will fall into His arms…on that day, the universe is consummated…not just our marriage. History IS consummated. Everything sad is going to come untrue. The power of the loving union between us is going to transform the world and make it a new heavens and a new earth. That’s what it means…and, that is the wine.

Are you living on bread and water? Jesus is my King! I need to obey Him. Jesus is my Shepherd…He takes care of me. Do you have the wine? Do you believe Scripture when it says, “Be glad O daughter of Jerusalem…the Lord has taken away your punishment…He takes great delight in you…He quiets us with His love…He rejoices over you with singing” (Zephaniah 3:14-17)? Do you taste that? Do you see that? That…by the power of the Holy Spirit, is what is being shed abroad in your heart. That’s the feast. The feast begins now…IT BEGINS NOW…the wine begins to flow now; the joy begins to shape your life now. Live in the reality of that!! That’s what He offers and how He provides it.

How We Can Receive It

There are many ways of applying this, but I would like to just apply what we’ve learned here to your prayer life. Your prayer life!! Let me give you five ways in which the knowledge of what Jesus came to offer and how He provides it should transform your prayer life.

Saving prayer. Some of you have been attending church for weeks. It might be time for you to cross ‘the line.’ Do you know what it means to become a Christian? We’ve got a beautiful picture of it here in verses 9 and 10. What do we see? What we see is, “then the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine; he did not realize where it had come from; and then he called the bridegroom’ (of course the bridegroom’s family were the ones who’d allowed the ‘catering disaster’)…he called the bridegroom and said, ‘everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink ‘ (this really happened…who would make up such a story?) …’you have saved the best ‘til now.’ Guess what!! Jesus does the work and the bridegroom gets all the credit. And that’s what it means to be a Christian.

Don’t you dare say: ‘Oh, Lord, I would love to have a relationship with You. I’ve tried very hard and I’ve ticked off all the lists…the party’s going fine…and I’ve really worked very hard…now would you please reward me for all of my hard work.’ That’s not how you become a Christian. You have to say, “I’ve absolutely blown it. I’M OUT!! I don’t just have to be ‘topped off here’…now that I’m out of wine…out of joy…I’m out!! Give me credit for what Jesus has done. Jesus has gone to the cross. Jesus has provided the wine. Jesus has shed his blood. Jesus has lived the life I should have lived and died the death I should have died. Now, for Jesus’ sake, love me. Give me credit for what Jesus has done.” And that’s what it means to be a Christian. If you don’t understand that, you’re always going to be anxious. You’re not going to experience wine…it’ll always be bread and water. You’re always going to be wondering whether you’ve lived a good enough life. No! No! Learn to say a saving prayer. Admit that you are out…admit that you need salvation…and ask for credit for what Jesus Christ has done…in other words, ask God to transfer to you what Jesus has done to your account.

Petitionary prayer. You know what I love about this passage? Remember what I mentioned earlier about Reynolds Price’s comment “a lot of people are scratching their heads…’this seems so unworthy of Jesus…to use His divine power just to deal with a catering disaster.’” Do you realize what this means? When you really love someone, you care about the little things in their life. You care about little inconveniences…little things that are clearly hurting them…or wringing their heart…making them feel downcast that day. If you really love someone you don’t just care about the big things…you care about the little things as well. Jesus Christ did not think it was a poor use of His divine power and precious time…did not think it was a bad use of His time…to ‘wipe egg off the face’ of two disorganized teenagers. That’s what you’ve got here. Two disorganized teenagers who are basically going to be embarrassed for a while. Does Jesus say, ‘I’ve got bigger fish to fry! I’m the incarnate Son of God…I’m down here to save the world…gimme a break?!’ He never does that! Of course not…He loves them. And if Jesus Christ, comes into your life, with omnipotent power, and yet shows love that detailed…with that kind of care for you, I don’t know what you should be afraid of. So, go to Him with little things. Don’t think there’s anything too small to bring to Him. Don’t say, ‘oh, I can only go to Him with big things.’ No…what this means is that He comes into your life and He cares about everything…every part. So…go to him with everything. Pray without ceasing

Patient prayer. Look…Mary goes to Jesus with a reasonable request…’could you help me with this problem.’ First, He yells at her, “Woman!” Secondly He says something which is totally cryptic and confusing…”My time is not yet come.” Third…He sends everyone off to fill the ceremonial jars with water—which seemingly has nothing to do with the problem. There you have a beautiful picture of the future of your Christian life. Year after year you’re going to ask God for things…and He’s either going to seemingly brush you off, or say confusing things to you, or just fill your life with tasks that you think have nothing to do with what you really need. This is your future!! So respond the way Mary responded…because, what does Mary do? What a lot of us do, we get in a huff, saying: ‘I work my fingers to the bone for you Jesus, and what thanks do I get.’ That’s what a mother can often do: ‘You little…I wiped your nose…I wiped your behind, I’M YOUR MOTHER! You don’t have any right to talk to me like that.’

Oh, yes He does. You know why? She remembers the angels. She remembers there are infinities and immensities in Him that have not yet been revealed. What looks to you like red herrings…things He’s sending into your life that you are sure you don’t need. YOU need to remember the angels…YOU need to remember who He is, and you need to do what Mary did! What exactly does she do? He’s abrupt to her…He’s harsh to her…He’s seems to be brushing her off…He’s confusing…so what does SHE do? She says, “do whatever He says.” Whether it makes sense or not…whether it fits into your agenda or not…do whatever He says…and remember the angels. When you’re in trouble…when everything is going wrong…you’re filled with disappointment and you’re ready to give up…or even give up on God, just do…whatever He says. Remember the angels. Follow Mary. Be patient.

Perspective prayer. Jesus deals with the present by looking to the future. For Him that meant constant sorrow…but for us it means power and joy. Many years ago I heard Edmund Clowney preach a sermon on this text, and at one point in the sermon he said this…and suddenly the entire passage made sense to me…actually the basis for this whole message: “Jesus sat amidst all the joy sipping the coming sorrow so that today you and I can sit amidst all this world’s sorrow sipping the coming joy.” The reason why Jesus…in the midst of all the happiness…was sad…was because He was living in the present…in light of the future. But, Jesus sat amidst all that joy, sipping the coming experience…tasting the coming sorrow…so that you and I can sit in the midst of the worst sorrow…and handle it…because we’re sipping…we’re experiencing…tasting…to some degree, the coming joy. In fact, we’ve got a stability now because of that coming joy.

Every time you take the Lord’s Supper…and the Spirit of God makes it real to you, you are getting an hors d’oeuvre…you’re getting a foretaste of that incredible feast. You can apply this to marriage. There…Jesus Christ at a wedding…and He’s not married yet…and He’s got this kind of faraway look… Think about this…many of us are unhappy about marriage because we’re not married and want to be. Many others of us are unhappy about marriage because we’re in a marriage and it’s not a good one…and that’s a large portion of the human race. So, very often marriage is just…a source of great pain…but sit in the midst of your sorrow sipping the coming joy. There is only one lover…there is only one spouse, who can really give your heart all that your heart needs, and He awaits you. There is only one marriage feast that will really, really finally fulfill every fiber of your being, and it’s guaranteed to you…it awaits you. Only if you sit…sipping that coming joy, will you be able to handle the great disappointment of a bad marriage. In fact, I must say, even those of us who are experiencing pretty good marriages, need to do it…otherwise we’ll put a burden on the spouse that no human being can possibly bear. We’re going to make our spouse have to be practically perfect…because all our hopes and all of our happiness and all of our sense of self-worth come from that person…and that will destroy even a good marriage. Sit in the midst of this world… tasting that coming joy, and you will have something that will enable you to face anything.

Presence prayer. This entire passage is here to say, when you pray, don’t just pray, ‘give me this and give me that…help Mommy…help Daddy…help Aunt Gertrude’…go for the wine. Stop settling for bread and water. Dwight Moody, a minister in Chicago in the late 1800s… his church was destroyed by the great Chicago fire of 1871. Many of his people’s homes were destroyed by the fire. After that disaster, Moody went into a period of depression. For him, there was a great sense of weakness and despondency, and he couldn’t lift it. As it would turn out, he was here…in New York City…raising money to rebuild homes and the church in Chicago, and he was praying:

 Oh, Lord, become a reality to me. I’m on bread and water. Give me the wine!” Interestingly enough, one day he recounts: “One day in the city of New York… oh what a day…I can’t describe it. I seldom refer to it. It’s almost too sacred an experience to name. I can only say that I had such an experience of God’s love that I had to ask Him to stop. I would not now be placed back where I was before that experience if you should give me all the world.”

This is an amazing statement. What he was actually saying was, ‘I was pretty happy…and then I became depressed…and then because of that depression…I had an experience of God’s love…that was worth the depression to have. I would never want to go back to the way I was before.’ Do you know anything of that? Do you know that wine? Isaac Watts wrote a hymn[xliv], the opening line of which goes like this:

The hill of Zion yields
A thousand sacred sweets,
Before we reach the heavenly fields,
Or walk the golden streets.

A thousand sacred sweets! Take responsibility…take some responsibility for your joy.

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.

dKTrfL

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!

The “Perfect Storm” and the Preciousness of Jesus

Steven Kern column

There lived a good Christian fisherman in the village of St. Monance, on the coast of Fife.

His name was Andrew Davidson, and he was the owner and captain of a fishing boat called The Rose in June. The herring season came, and Andrew Davidson and his little crew prepared to go to sea. He had but lately been married, and, before leaving home, he knelt down with his young wife, and asked God to keep her safely while he was away; but she noticed, and her heart sunk within her at the thought, that he said not a word about his own safety.

On Monday, 15th December, 1872, the boats started to their grounds, and soon thereafter a strong easterly wind began to blow, which increased to a gale by midnight, at which time the sea was running very high. The gale was accompanied by torrents of rain, and lasted with extreme severity till Tuesday. The most of the St. Monance boats made for Elie harbor, which they reached with great difficulty and danger. An anxious crowd of women and children, made up of the families of the absent fishermen, gathered on the beach and along the shore. Every eye was strained across the waters to catch the first glimpse of the returning boats.

One by one they struggled in, and shouts of joy and thankfulness arose from one and another as a husband, a brother, a father, or a son sprang ashore. But The Rose in June did not come.

Driven by the storm, and dashed upon the rocks, she had become a total wreck. Turned bottom upwards, her crew of six men clung to her sides with desperate energy. No other boat was near to help or save them, and, all around, the wild waves were rolling and roaring, threatening every moment to tear each man from his hold and dash him to pieces on the sharp rocks. Andrew Davidson thought of Jesus in that hour of peril, and, in the face of certain death, that thought did for him what nothing else in the world could have done –it made him happy.

It may have been that he remembered then how Paul and Silas glorified God in the prison of Philippi, for he shouted, loud and clear above the storm, – “Now, boys, let’s sing a hymn of praise to God!” and at once he began and sang this verse, —

“Jesus, lover of my soul,
Let me to Thy bosom fly,
While the nearer waters roll,
While the tempest still is high:
Hide me, 0 my Savior, hide,
Till the storm of life be past ;
Safe into the haven guide,
O! receive my soul at last.”

The voices could be heard by those on the shore above the noise of the tempest and the tumult of the waters. Ere the hymn was closed, one of the fishermen became unconscious, and the boat was caught by an immense wave, and carried on the top of it to a considerable distance at a fearful rate. When it left her, she was struck on the broadside by a heavy sea, and thrown on her beam ends, after which, another sea made a breach right over her, and carried away Skipper Davidson, who left this world and entered heaven with a song of praise on his lips.

A sad silence fell upon the men who had been trying to join in that song of praise. For awhile no one spoke. At last, John Allan, the mate of the little vessel, who was also a believer in Jesus, exclaimed, –“Come, my lads,let us go on with the hymn that our skipper is now finishing in heaven.” And then those brave men, rocking on their wrecked boat, with the waves dashing, and the wild winds wailing around them, sang on till they had finished the hymn.

Just as they were finishing these last words, another huge wave burst over the boat, and the young mate was carried away to join his friend and shipmate in that blessed world–

“Where, anchored safe, his weary soul
Shall find eternal rest,
And not a wave of trouble roll
Across his peaceful breast.”

The rest of the crew of that wrecked boat escaped with their lives. But they never forgot the scene they had witnessed during that terrible storm. And no sermon ever preached about the preciousness of Jesus could make such an impression on their minds as was made by that memorable scene. They felt, deep down into their very souls, that the truth in Jesus is the best of all truth, because it satisfies us and makes us happy.

——————————–
Written by, William Adamson

Jesus Only!

Taken and adapted from, “Around the Wicket Gate”
Written by Charles Haddon Spurgeon, (1834-1892)

jesus-the-only-name_554083665


We cannot too often or too plainly tell the seeking soul…

…that his only hope for salvation lies in the Lord Jesus Christ.

It lies in Him completely, only, and alone. To save both from the guilt and the power of sin, Jesus is all-sufficient. His name is called Jesus, because “He shall save his people from their sins” (Mat 1:21). “The Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins” (Mat 9:6). He is exalted on high “to give repentance…and forgiveness of sins” (Act 5:31). It pleased God from of old to devise a method of salvation which should be all contained in His only-begotten Son. The Lord Jesus, for the working out of this salvation, became man, and being found in fashion as a man, became obedient to death, even the death of the cross. If another way of deliverance had been possible, the cup of bitterness would have passed from Him. It stands to reason that the darling of heaven would not have died to save us if we could have been rescued at less expense. Infinite grace provided the great sacrifice; infinite love submitted to death for our sakes. How can we dream that there can be another way than the way which God has provided at such cost, and set forth in Holy Scripture so simply and so pressingly? Surely it is true that “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Act 4:12).

To suppose that the Lord Jesus has only half saved men…

…and that there is needed some work or feeling of their own to finish His work, is wicked. What is there of ours that could be added to His blood and righteousness? “All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags” (Isa 64:6). Can these be patched on to the costly fabric of His divine righteousness? Rags and fine white linen! Our dross and His pure gold! It is an insult to the Savior to dream of such a thing. We have sinned enough, without adding this to all our other offences.

Even if we had any righteousness in which we could boast; if our fig leaves were broader than usual, and were not so utterly fading, it would be wisdom to put them away, and accept that righteousness which must be far more pleasing to God than anything of our own. The Lord must see more that is acceptable in His Son than in the best of us. The best of us! The words seem satirical, though they were not so intended. What best is there about any of us? “There is none that doeth good; no, not one” (Rom 3:12). I who write these lines, would most freely confess that I have not a thread of goodness of my own. I could not make up so much as a rag, or a piece of a rag. I am utterly destitute. But if I had the fairest suit of good works which even pride can imagine, I would tear it up that I might put on nothing but the garments of salvation, which are freely given by the Lord Jesus, out of the heavenly wardrobe of His own merits.

It is most glorifying to our Lord Jesus Christ that we should hope for every good thing from Him alone. This is to treat Him as He deserves to be treated; for as He is God, and beside Him there is none else, we are bound to look unto Him and be saved.

This is to treat Him as He loves to be treated, for He bids all those who labor and are heavy laden to come to Him, and He will give them rest. To imagine that He cannot save to the uttermost is to limit the Holy One of Israel, and put a slur upon His power; or else to slander the loving heart of the Friend of sinners, and cast a doubt upon His love. In either case, we should commit a cruel and wanton sin against the tenderest points of His honor, which are His ability and willingness to save all that come unto God by Him.

The child, in danger of the fire, just clings to the fireman, and trusts to him alone. She raises no question about the strength of his limbs to carry her, or the zeal of his heart to rescue her; but she clings. The heat is terrible, the smoke is blinding, but she clings; and her deliverer quickly bears her to safety. In the same childlike confidence cling to Jesus, who can and will bear you out of danger from the flames of sin.

The nature of the Lord Jesus should inspire us with the fullest confidence. As He is God, He is almighty to save; as He is man, He is filled with all fullness to bless; as He is God and man in one Majestic Person, He meets man in His creatureship and God in His holiness. The ladder is long enough to reach from Jacob prostrate on the earth, to Jehovah reigning in heaven. To bring another ladder would be to suppose that He failed to bridge the distance; and this would be grievously to dishonor Him. If even to add to His words is to draw a curse upon ourselves, what must it be to pretend to add to Himself? Remember that He, Himself, is the Way; and to suppose that we must, in some manner, add to the divine road, is to be arrogant enough to think of adding to Him. Away with such a notion! Loathe it as you would blasphemy; for in essence it is the worst of blasphemy against the Lord of love.

To come to Jesus with a price in our hand, would be insufferable pride…

…even if we had any price that we could bring. What does He need of us? What could we bring if He did need it? Would He sell the priceless blessings of His redemption? That which He wrought out in His heart’s blood, would He barter it with us for our tears, and vows, or for ceremonial observances, and feelings, and works? He is not reduced to make a market of Himself: He will give freely, as beseems His royal love; but He that offers a price to Him knows not with whom he is dealing, nor how grievously he vexes His free Spirit. Empty-handed sinners may have what they will. All that they can possibly need is in Jesus, and He gives it for the asking; but we must believe that He is all in all, and we must not dare to breathe a word about completing what He has finished, or fitting ourselves for what He gives to us as undeserving sinners.

The reason why we may hope for forgiveness of sin, and life eternal, by faith in the Lord Jesus, is that God has so appointed. He has pledged Himself in the gospel to save all who truly trust in the Lord Jesus, and He will never run back from His promise. He is so well pleased with His only-begotten Son, that He takes pleasure in all who lay hold upon Him as their one and only hope. The great God Himself has taken hold on him who has taken hold on His Son. He works salvation for all who look for that salvation to the once-slain Redeemer. For the honor of His Son, He will not suffer the man who trusts in Him to be ashamed. “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life” (Joh 3:36); for the ever-living God has taken him unto Himself, and has given to him to be a partaker of His life. If Jesus only be your trust, you need not fear but what you shall effectually be saved, both now and in the day of His appearing.

When a man confides, there is a point of union between him and God, that union guarantees blessing. Faith saves us because it makes us cling to Christ Jesus, and He is one with God, and thus brings us into connection with God.

Years ago, above the Falls of Niagara, a boat was upset, and two men were being carried down by the current, when persons on the shore managed to float a rope out to them, which rope was seized by them both. One of them held fast to it, and was safely drawn to the bank; but the other, seeing a great log come floating by, unwisely let go the rope, and clung to the great piece of timber, for it was the bigger thing of the two, and apparently better to cling to. Alas! The timber, with the man on it, went right over the vast abyss, because there was no union between the wood and the shore. The size of the log was no benefit to him who grasped it; it needed a connection with the shore to produce safety. So, when a man trusts to his works, or to his prayers, or almsgivings, or to sacraments, or to anything of that sort, he will not be saved, because there is no junction between him and God through Christ Jesus; but faith, though it may seem to be like a slender cord, is in the hand of the great God on the shore side; infinite power pulls in the connecting line, and thus draws the man from destruction. Oh, the blessedness of faith, because it unites us to God by the Savior, whom He has appointed, even Jesus Christ! O reader, is there not common sense in this matter? Think it over, and may there soon be a band of union between you and God, through your faith in Christ Jesus!

——————————————-

Meet the Author and part of your Christian heritage: Charles Haddon Spurgeon (19 June 1834 – 31 January 1892) was a British Particular Baptist preacher. Spurgeon remains highly influential among Christians of different denominations, among whom he is known as the “Prince of Preachers”. He was a strong figure in the Reformed Baptist tradition, defending the Church in agreement with the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith understanding, and opposing the liberal and pragmatic theological tendencies in the Church of his day.

It is estimated that in his lifetime, Spurgeon preached to around 10,000,000 people, Spurgeon was the pastor of the congregation of the New Park Street Chapel (later the Metropolitan Tabernacle) in London for 38 years. He was part of several controversies with the Baptist Union of Great Britain and later had to leave the denomination. In 1857, he started a charity organization which is now called Spurgeon’s and works globally. He also founded Spurgeon’s College, which was named after him posthumously.

chspurgeon2Spurgeon was a prolific author of many types of works including sermons, an autobiography, commentaries, books on prayer, devotionals, magazines, poetry, hymns and more. Many sermons were transcribed as he spoke and were translated into many languages during his lifetime. Spurgeon produced powerful sermons of penetrating thought and precise exposition. His oratory skills held his listeners spellbound in the Metropolitan Tabernacle and many Christians have discovered Spurgeon’s messages to be among the best in Christian literature.

God’s Love Sandwiched Between Two Theives

Written by J.C. Ryle
Edited for space

300px-Ge_ChristandRobber

“And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? “And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds but this man hath done nothing amiss. “And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. “And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, today shalt thou be with me in Paradise.”
–Luke 23:39-43.

Few passages in the New Testament are more familiar to men’s ears.

And it is right and good that these verses should be well known. They have comforted many troubled minds. They have brought peace to many uneasy consciences. They have been a healing balm to many wounded hearts. They have been a medicine to many sin-sick souls. They have smoothed down not a few dying pillows. Wherever the Gospel of Christ is preached, they will always be honoured, loved, and had in remembrance.

First of all, you are meant to learn from these verses, Christ’s power and willingness to save sinners.

This is the main doctrine to be gathered from the history of the penitent thief. It teaches you that which ought to be music in the ears of all who hear it,—it teaches you that Jesus Christ is mighty to save.

I ask you if any man’s case could look more hopeless and desperate, than that of this penitent thief once did?

He was a wicked man,—a malefactor,—a thief, if not a murderer. We know this, for such only were crucified. He was suffering a just punishment for breaking the laws. And as he had lived wicked, so he seemed determined to die wicked,—for when he first was crucified, he railed on our Lord.

And he was a dying man. He hung there, nailed to a cross, from which he was never to come down alive. He had no longer power to stir hand or foot. His hours were numbered. The grave was ready for him. There was but a step between him and death. If ever there was a soul hovering on the brink of hell, it was the soul of this thief. If ever there was a case that seemed lost, gone, and past recovery, it was his. If ever there was a child of Adam whom the devil made sure of as his own, it was this man.

But see now what happened. He ceased to rail and blaspheme, as he had done at the first. He began to speak in another manner altogether. He turned to our blessed Lord in prayer. He prayed Jesus to “remember him when He came into His kingdom.” He asked that his soul might be cared for, his sins pardoned, and himself thought of in another world. Truly this was a wonderful change.

And then mark what kind of answer he received. Some would have said he was too wicked a man to be saved. But it was not so. Some would have fancied it was too late: the door was shut, and there was no room for mercy. But it proved not too late at all.

The Lord Jesus returned him an immediate answer,—spoke kindly to him,—assured him he should be with Him that day in Paradise: pardoned him completely,—cleansed him thoroughly from his sins,—received him graciously,—justified him freely,—raised him from the gates of hell,—gave him a title to glory. Of all the multitude of saved souls, none ever received so glorious an assurance of his own salvation, as did this penitent thief. Go over the whole list, from Genesis to Revelation, and you will find none who had such words spoken to them as these: “To-day shalt thou be with Me in Paradise.”

The Lord Jesus never gave so complete a proof of His power and will to save, as He did upon this occasion. In the day when He seemed most weak, He showed that He was a strong deliverer. In the hour when His body was racked with pain, He showed that he could feel tenderly for others. At the time when He Himself was dying, He conferred on a sinner eternal life.

Now, have I not a right to say, Christ is able to save to the uttermost all them that come unto God by Him? Behold the proof of it. If ever sinner was too far gone to be saved, it was this thief. Yet he was plucked as a brand from the fire.

Have I not a right to say, Christ will receive any poor sinner who comes to Him with the prayer of faith, and cast out none? Behold the proof of it. If ever there was one that seemed too bad to be received, this was the man. Yet the door of mercy was wide open even for him.

Have I not a right to say, by grace ye may be saved through faith, not of works: fear not, only believe? Behold the proof of it. This thief was never baptized. He belonged to no visible Church. He never received the Lord’s Supper. He never did any work for Christ. He never gave money to Christ’s cause. But he had faith, and so he was saved.

Have I not a right to say, the youngest faith will save a man’s soul, if it only be true? Behold the proof of it. This man’s faith was only one day old, but it led him to Christ, and preserved him from hell.

Why then should any man or woman despair with such a passage as this in the Bible? Jesus is a physician who can cure hopeless cases. He can quicken dead souls, and call the things which be not as though they were.

Never should any man or woman despair! Jesus is still the same now that He was eighteen hundred years ago. The keys of death and hell are in His hand. When He opens none can shut.

What though your sins be more in number than the hairs of your head? What though your evil habits have grown with your growth, and strength­ened with your strength? What though you have hitherto hated good, and loved evil, all the days of your life? These things are sad indeed; but there is hope, even for you. Christ can heal you. Christ can raise you from your low estate. Heaven is not shut against you. Christ is able to admit you, if you will humbly commit your soul into His hands.

Are your sins forgiven? If not, I set before you this day a full and free salvation. I invite you to follow the steps of the penitent thief: come to Christ, and live. I tell you that Jesus is very pitiful, and of tender mercy. I tell you He can do everything that your soul requires. Though your sins be as scarlet, He will make them white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. Why should you not be saved as well as another? Come unto Christ, and live.

Are you a true believer? If you are, you ought to glory in Christ.

Glory not in your own faith, your own feelings, your own knowledge, your own prayers, your own amendment, your own diligence. Glory in nothing but Christ. Alas, the best of us knows but little of that merciful and mighty Saviour! We do not exalt Him and glory in Him enough. Let us pray that we may see more of the fullness there is in Him. 

Remember to tell everyone about Christ. Tell the young, tell the poor, tell the aged, tell the ignorant, tell the sick, tell the dying,—tell them all about Christ. Tell them of His power, and tell them of His love. Tell them of His doings, and tell them of His feelings. Tell them what lie has done for the chief of sinners. Tell them what He is willing to do to the last day of time. Tell it them over and over again. Never be tired of speaking of Christ. Say to them, broadly and fully, freely and unconditionally, unreservedly and doubtingly, “Come unto Christ as the penitent thief did: come unto Christ, and you shall be saved.”

If some are saved in the very hour of death, others are not.

This is a truth that never ought to he passed over, and I dare not leave it unnoticed. It is a truth that stands out plainly in the sad end of the other malefactor, and is only too often forgotten.

What became of the other thief who was crucified?

Why did he not turn from his sin, and call upon the Lord? Why did he remain hardened and impenitent? Why was he not saved? It is useless to try to answer such questions. Let us be content to take the fact as we find it, and see what it is meant to teach us.

We have no right whatever to say this thief was a worse man than his companion.

There is nothing to prove it. Both plainly were wicked men. Both were receiving the due reward of their deeds. Both hung by the side of our Lord Jesus Christ. Both heard Him pray for His murderers. Both saw Rim suffer patiently. But while one repented, the other remained hardened. While one began to pray, the other went on railing. While one was converted in his last hours, the other died a bad man as he had lived. While one was taken to paradise, the other went to his own place, the place of the devil and his angels.

Now these things are written for our warning.

There is warning, as well as comfort in these verses, and that very solemn warning too. They tell me loudly, that though some may repent and be converted on their death-beds, it does not at all follow that all will A death-bed is not always a saving time.

They tell me loudly that two men may have the same opportunities of getting good for their souls,—may be placed in the same position, see the same things, and hear the same things; and yet only one shall take advantage of them, repent, believe, and be saved.

They tell me, above all, that repentance and faith are the gifts of God, and are not in a man’s own power; and that if any one flatters himself he can repent at his own time, choose his own season, seek the Lord when he pleases, and, like the penitent thief, be saved at the very last,—he may find at length he is greatly deceived.

Take heed that you do not fall into this mistake. Look at the history of men in the Bible, and see how often these notions I have been speaking of are contradicted. Mark well how many proofs there are that two men may have the same light offered them, and only one use it; and that no one has a right to take liberties with God’s mercy, and presume he will be able to repent just when he likes.

Look at Saul and David. They lived about the same time. They rose from the same rank in life. They were called to the same position in the world. They enjoyed the ministry of the same prophet, Samuel. They reigned the same number of years.—Yet one was saved and the other lost.

Look at Sergius Paulus and Gallio. They were both Roman Governors. They were both wise and prudent men in their generation. They both heard the apostle Paul preach. But one believed and was baptized,—the other “cared for none of these things.”

Look at the world around you. See what is going on continually under your eyes. Two sisters will often attend the same ministry, listen to the same truths, hear the same sermons; and yet only one shall be converted unto God, while the other remains totally unmoved. Two friends often read the same religious book. One is so moved by it, that he gives up all for Christ; the other sees nothing at all in it, and continues the same as before. Hundreds have read Doddridge’s “Rise and Progress” without profit: with Wilberforce it was one of the beginnings of spiritual life. Thousands have read Wilberforce’s “Practical View of Christianity,” and laid it down again unaltered;—from the time Legh Richmond read it he became another man. No man has any warrant for saying, Salvation is in my own power.

I want you to beware of presumption. Do not abuse God’s mercy and compassion. Do not continue in sin, I beseech you, and think you can repent, and believe, and be saved, just when you like, when you please, when you will, and when you choose. I would always set before you an open door. I would always say, “While there is life there is hope.” But if you would be wise, put nothing off that concerns your soul.

I want you to beware of letting slip good thoughts and godly convictions, if you have them. Cherish them and nourish them, lest you lose them for ever. Make the most of them, lest they take to themselves wings and flee away. Have you an inclination to begin praying? Put it in practice at once. Have you an idea of beginning really to serve Christ? Set about it at once. Are you enjoying any spiritual light? See that you live up to your light. Trifle not with opportunities, lest the day come when you will want to use them, and not be able. Linger not, lest you become wise too late.

You may say, perhaps, “it is never too late to repent.” I answer, That is right enough, but late repentance is seldom true. And I say further, You cannot be certain if you put off repenting, you will repent at all.

You may say, “Why should I be afraid?—the penitent thief was saved.” I answer, That is true, but look again at the passage which tells you that the other thief was lost.

The Spirit always leads saved souls in one way.

The Spirit always works in one way, and that whether He converts a man in an hour, as He did the penitent thief,—or whether by slow degrees, as he does others, the steps by which He leads souls to heaven are always the same.

I want you to shake off the common notion that there is some easy royal road to heaven from a dying bed. I want you thoroughly to understand that every saved soul goes through the same experience, and that the leading principles of the penitent thief’s religion were just the same as those of the oldest saint that ever lived.

See then, for one thing, how strong was the faith of this man.

He called Jesus, “Lord.” He declared his belief that He would have a kingdom. He believed that He was able to give him eternal life and glory, and in this belief prayed to Him. He maintained His innocence of all the charges brought against Him. “This man,” said he, “hath done nothing amiss.” Others perhaps may have thought the Lord innocent,—none said so openly but this poor dying man. And when did all this happen? It happened when the whole nation had denied Christ,—shouting, “Crucify Him: crucify Him. We have no king but Cæsar!”—when the chief priests and Pharisees had condemned and found Him guilty of death,—when even His own disciples had forsaken Him and fled,—when He was hanging, faint, bleeding and dying on the cross, numbered with transgressors, and accounted accursed. This was the hour when the thief believed in Christ, and prayed to Him. Surely such faith was never seen since the world began.

The disciples had seen mighty signs and miracles. They had seen the dead raised with a word,—and lepers healed with a touch,—the blind receiving sight,—the dumb made to speak,—the lame made to walk. They had seen thousands fed with a few loaves and fishes. They had seen their Master walking on the water as on dry land. They had all of them heard Him speak as no man ever spake, and hold out promises of good things yet to come. They had some of them had a foretaste of His glory in the mount of transfiguration. Doubtless their faith was the gift of God, but still they had much to help it.

The dying thief saw none of the things I have mentioned. He only saw our Lord in agony, and in weakness, in suffering, and in pain. He saw Him undergoing. a dishonourable punishment; deserted, mocked, despised, blasphemed. He saw Him rejected by all the great, and wise, and noble of His own people,—His strength dried up like a potsherd, His life drawing nigh to the grave. (Ps. 22:15; 88:3) He saw no sceptre, no royal crown, no outward dominion, no glory, no majesty, no power, no signs of might. And yet the dying thief believed, and looked forward to Christ’s kingdom.

See another thing, what a right sense of sin the thief had. He says to his companion, “We receive the due reward of our deeds.” He acknowledges his own ungodliness, and the justice of his punishment. He makes no attempt to justify himself, or excuse his wickedness. He speaks like a man humbled and self-abased by the remembrance of past iniquities. This is what all God’s children feel. They are ready to allow they are poor hell-deserving sinners. They can say with their hearts, as well as with their lips, “We have left undone the things that we ought to have done, and we have done those things that we ought not to have done, and there is no health in us.”

Do you feel your sin?

Then see another thing, what brotherly love the thief showed to his companion. He tried to stop his railing and blaspheming, and bring him to a better mind. “Dost not thou fear God,” he says, “seeing thou art in the same condemnation?” There is no surer mark of grace than this. Grace shakes a man out of his selfishness, and makes him feel for the souls of others. When the Samaritan woman was converted, she left her water-pot and ran to the city, saying, “Come, see a man that told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?” When Saul was converted, immediately he went to the synagogue at Damascus, and testified to his brethren of Israel, that Jesus was the Christ.

Would you know if you have the Spirit? Then where is your charity and love to souls?

In one word, you see in the penitent thief a finished work of the Holy Ghost. Every part of the believer’s character may be traced in him. Short as his life was after conversion, he found time to leave abundant evidence that he was a child of God. His faith, his prayer, his humility, his brotherly love, are unmistakable witnesses of the reality of his repentance. He was not a penitent in name only, but in deed and in truth.

It may be you are a believer, and yet tremble at the thought of the grave. It seems cold and dreary. You feel as if all before you was dark, and gloomy, and comfortless. Fear not, but be encouraged by this text. You are going to paradise, and Christ will be there.

Some of us know by bitter experience, what a long and weary time it is between the death of those we love, and the hour when we bury them out of our sight. Such weeks are the slowest, saddest, heaviest weeks in all our lives. But, blessed be God, the souls of departed saints are free from the very moment their last breath is drawn. While we are weeping, and the coffin preparing, and the mourning being provided, and the last painful arrangement being made, the spirits of our beloved ones are enjoying the presence of Christ. They are freed for ever from the burden of the flesh. They are “where the wicked cease from troubling, and the weary are at rest.”

Here is encouragement for you. See what the penitent thief did, and do likewise. See how he prayed,—see how he called on the Lord Jesus Christ,—see what an answer of peace he obtained. Brother or sister, why should not you do the same? Why should not you also be saved?

Some are proud and presumptuous men of the world,—Are you that man? Then take warning. See how the impenitent thief died as he had lived, and beware lest you come to a like end. Oh, erring brother or sister, be not too confident, lest you die in your sins! Seek the Lord while He may be found. Turn you, turn: why will you die?

Some are professing believers in Christ.—Are you such an one? Then take the penitent thief’s religion as a measure by which to prove your own. See that you know something of true repentance and saving faith, of real humility and fervent charity. Brother or sister, do not be satisfied with the world’s standard of Christianity. Be of one mind with the penitent thief, and you will be wise.

Some are mourning over departed believers.—Are you such an one? Then take comfort from this Scripture. See how your beloved ones are in the best of hands. They cannot be better off. They never were so well in their lives as they are now. They are with Jesus, whom their souls loved on earth. Oh, cease from your selfish mourning! Rejoice rather that they are freed from trouble, and have entered into rest.

Some aged servants of Christ.—Are you such an one? Then see from these verses how near you are to home. A few more days of labour and sorrow, and the King of kings shall send for you; and in a moment your warfare shall be at end, and all shall be peace.