THE CROSS

Written by Archibald Alexander

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Whence came the tree from which the cross was made?

What has become of the particles of which it was composed? What hands were employed in preparing this instrument of a cruel death? To such questions no answer can be given–and none is needed. The cross was a common mode of punishment among several nations, and among the Romans was reserved for the punishment of slaves and the vilest malefactors. It was never made use of by the Jews. If they had had the power of execution in their hands when Christ suffered, the punishment for the offence alleged against him would have been stoning. But by the ordering of divine Providence, our Lord was put to death in that way which was accursed, according to the Jewish law; for it was written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.”

The death of Christ on the cross may well be reckoned mysterious, for it was at the same time a cursed and a blessed death. Christ was “made a curse for us,” that he might deliver us from the curse of the law. And yet Christ’s death on the cross is the most blessed event which ever occurred in the world; for on the cross the price of our redemption was paid. Christ “bore our sins in his own body on the tree.” He died, “the just for the unjust,” to bring us unto God. This led Paul to say, “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The cross is a center in which many lines of truth meet.

The cross is an incomprehensible mystery. That God should be manifest in the flesh, is the great “mystery of godliness.” That the Prince of life should be crucified, was an event which caused the angels to stoop from their celestial thrones, that they might gaze in amazement upon it. The prophets who predicted these events were perplexed at their own prophecies, “They inquired into what time or what circumstances the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating, when He testified in advance to the messianic sufferings and the glories that would follow.”

The truths which are exhibited in a clear and strong light by the crucifixion of Christ, are such as these:

1. The infinite evil of sin, which in order to its pardon required such a sacrifice.

2. The holiness and justice of God, which would not allow sin to pass without full evidence of the divine disapprobation, and his inflexible purpose to visit it with deserved punishment.

3. The wisdom of God, in contriving a method of salvation by which his own glory would be promoted in the eternal salvation of hell-deserving sinners. This wisdom is chiefly manifest in the incarnation of the Son of God, by which the divine and human natures are united in one person.

4. But the most wonderful exhibition of the cross is the mercy of God, the love of God to sinners—such love as never could have been conceived of, had it not been manifest by the gift of his own Son!

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him, should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

The Simplicity of the Gospel: Perfect and Necessary for the Prepared Heart

Taken and adapted from, “The Great Concern of Salvation”
Written by, Thomas Halyburton

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“Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas: and brought them out and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” –Acts 16: 29-31

The Gospel proposes its remedy, not to those who are well in their own eyes, but to those who see and feel their disease.

Christ is offered to those who are sensible of their need of him. Hence, ministers of the Gospel begin their work with conviction of sin; for this alone prepares the way to receive Christ. When John the Baptist was sent to prepare for the coming of Christ, he began here: “Repent,” said he, “for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” So it was with Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost. Our Lord employed the same method in the conversion of Paul. The same have I attempted to do in dealing with you. I have laid sin before you; and now we enter upon the plan of relief, which is suited only to convinced sinners.

When the awakened man asked Paul and Silas what he must do, they answered him directly and plainly. They did not hold him in suspense till they could capitulate with him for their own escape from prison.

They, further gave him the simplest direction possible: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.” Have faith in him; receive him, and rest upon him, and thou shalt be saved.

They gave him the highest possible encouragement to comply with their direction: “Thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” The thing offered is the very thing he is seeking. Believe, and thou shalt be saved.

He might be saved, but he must believe. Belief and salvation are inseparable. He was not told, that if he would abide in faith to the end, he should be saved, for this would have left him still trembling, lest he might after all be finally lost.

He was told, that real belief rendered his salvation sure. He was farther encouraged by the promise that his family should be saved with him. Not that his faith would save them; they must believe for themselves, or they could not be saved. But this promise implied that his family would obtain some special advantages in order to their salvation. The promise was a covenant that they should be saved.

The covenanted mercies are indeed many to the children of pious parents; and were it not for the criminal neglect of parents to instruct their children in the fear of God, we should soon see a brighter day dawn upon the Church and the world.

When the “Day Star” Arose

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Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh. –Romans 13:13-14

In the spring of the year 372…

…a young man, we are told, in the thirty-first year of his age, in evident distress of mind, entered his garden near Milan. The sins of his youth—a youth spent in sensuality and impiety—weighed heavily on his soul. Lying under a fig-tree, moaning and pouring out abundant tears, he heard from a neighboring house a young voice saying, and repeating in rapid succession, “Take and read! Take and read!” Receiving this as a Divine admonition, he procured the roll of Paul’s epistles. Describing the scene, he says: “I opened it, and read in silence the chapter on which my eyes first lighted (it was the thirteenth of Romans). ‘Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in strife and envying. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof.'”

All was decided by a word. He did not desire to read any more; nor was there any need—every doubt had vanished, and the Day Star had risen in his heart. And the grand career of Augustine, one of the greatest theologians of the Christian church, then commenced.

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Meet the author and part of your Christian heritage:  Augustine of Hippo (354 – 430), was an early Christian theologian and philosopher whose writings influenced the development of Western Christianity and Western philosophy. He was the bishop of Hippo Regius (modern-day Annaba, Algeria), located in Numidia (Roman province of Africa). He is viewed as one of the most important Church Fathers in the Western Christianity for his writings in the Patristic Era. Among his most important works are City of God and Confessions.

According to his contemporary, Jerome, Augustine “established anew the ancient Faith.” In his early years, he was heavily influenced by Manichaeism and afterward by the Neo-Platonism of Plotinus. After his baptism and conversion to Christianity in 387, Augustine developed his own approach to philosophy and theology, accommodating a variety of methods and perspectives. Believing that the grace of Christ was indispensable to human freedom, he helped formulate the doctrine of original sin and made seminal contributions to the development of just war theory. His thoughts profoundly influenced the medieval worldview.

The Demands of the Law, and the Great Concerns of Salvation

Taken from, The Great Concerns of Salvation
Written by, Thomas Halyburton (1674 – 1712),  one of the ejected ministers

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The great concern of man is suggested by three important inquiries; What have I done? What shall I do to be saved? What shall I render to the Lord?

To the question, What have we done? The Bible answers, “All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” If it be asked, What shall we do to be saved ? the answer is, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” And if it be asked, ” What shall we render to the Lord for all his mercies?” We may reply in the words of the Psalmist, “I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord;” or in the language of the prophet, “He hath showed thee O man, what is good, and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?”

Ministers of the Gospel are principally concerned with the second inquiry. They are to persuade men to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. But as they come not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance, the foundation must be laid in a correct view of man’s natural state. Before we offer Christ, we must show your need of him; before we present the offers of mercy, we must describe your misery; before we call you to repentance, we must show your guilt.

On this account your attention is now invited to the words of the apostle, “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” This passage contains a general assertion, in which all stand convicted of sin. All, rich and poor, high and low, Jew and Gentile, have sinned, and come short of the glory of God. It is not asserted, that they may sin; and if tempted, may fall; but that they are already involved in guilt.

The original word rendered come short, is emphatic; it properly signifies to fall short of the mark aimed at, or to fall behind in a race, so as to lose the prize. Man, in his first state, had a fair prospect for glory. He had power to run the race ; and the enemy had no ability to prevent his winning the prize. But though man had originally no encumbrances to retard his progress, yet he fell short of the glory of God. He lost the peculiar enjoyment of the Divine favor, of which he had so fair a prospect; and the image of God, which was his glory, together with the advantages by which it was to be attended. The text of Scripture,” All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God,” expresses the sentiment, That all, who have descended from Adam in the ordinary way, have sinned, and thereby come short of the glory of God. A few propositions will prepare the way for a consideration of this momentous truth.

First. God is the absolute and independent sovereign of the world.

“The Lord Most High is terrible; he is a great king over all the earth,” and he alone is able to manage the affairs of so great a province; for there is none like him, neither are there any works like his works. The excellence of his nature gives him alone a claim to absolute sovereignty,” Forasmuch as there is none like unto thee, O Lord; thou art great, and thy name is great in might. Who would not fear thee, O King of nations? For to thee doth it appertain, forasmuch as there is none like unto thee.” His right to rule is also founded upon his being the Creator of all things, “The Lord is a great King above all gods. The sea is his own, he made it.” “O Jacob and Israel, thou art my servant; I have formed thee, thou art my servant, O Israel.” In short, his preserving all things, and his manifold mercies to his creatures, give him the best of all claims to absolute dominion. And his infinite wisdom, power, holiness, and justice, not only render him a perfect ruler, but make entire obedience to his authority desirable to all who know their best interests.

Second. God has given laws to all his creatures, by which he governs them.

Not to mention those for the control of the inanimate creation; he has prescribed to men their work. “There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy.” “For the Lord is our Judge, the Lord is our Lawgiver, the Lord is our King.” We are not in any thing left to our own arbitrary choice. He who has said to the sea, “Hitherto shalt thou come, and no farther,” has likewise so dealt with man. But the holy laws by which on every hand he has limited man, are not like those set to the waves of the sea; for God deals with us in a manner suited to our nature. Reason is given to man; and his limits he cannot pass, without abandoning his highest interest.

Third. The great Lawgiver has annexed rewards and punishments to his laws.

The authority of God cannot be disregarded with impunity. His glory he will not give to another; and therefore his laws are guarded with suitable rewards and punishments.  He was under no obligation to give any reward for obedience, beyond that which flows from obedience.

And this is sufficient; for in keeping his commandments “there is great reward.” But such was his goodness, that he promised to reward obedience with eternal life. Now this reward is greater than obedience deserved, and suited only to the bounty of the giver. On the other hand, a dreadful penalty is annexed to disobedience. God has not made it impossible for us to break his laws, if we choose to do it; –but if we do, the curse is inevitable, “Cursed is every one that continues not in all things written in the book of the law to do them.”

Fourth. These laws have a fourfold property.

“Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, just, and good.” “We know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin.” The law is holy. It is an exact transcript of the holy will of God. There is nothing in it unworthy of Him, who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity. The law is just. It is given as the rule of justice among men. It renders to God his due, as well as to man. Man has no title to anything, but from this law. Beyond what this grants, nothing can be justly claimed. The law is good. It was made with regard to the welfare of those who live under it; and not to gratify the lusts of the wicked. And with this regard to our good in time and eternity,our duty and interest are made inseparable; and disobedience and punishment are alike inseparable. The law is spiritual. It is not like human laws, which extend only to outward actions; but it is spiritual, reaching to all the thoughts and intents of the heart.

This made the Psalmist exclaim, “I have seen an end of all perfection, but thy commandment is exceeding broad.”

The Close Connection Between the Holy Sabbath day, the Tabernacle, and Beyond

Taken and adapted from “The Tabernacle, The Priesthood, and The Offerings
Written by, Henry W. Soltau, (1805-1875)

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Then the Lord said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘You must observe my Sabbaths. This will be a sign between me and you for the generations to come, so you may know that I am the Lord, who makes you holy. “‘Observe the Sabbath, because it is holy to you. Anyone who desecrates it is to be put to death; those who do any work on that day must be cut off from their people. For six days work is to be done, but the seventh day is a day of Sabbath rest, holy to the Lord. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day is to be put to death. The Israelites are to observe the Sabbath, celebrating it for the generations to come as a lasting covenant. It will be a sign between me and the Israelites forever, for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.’” — Exod. 31: 12- 17

Moses assembled the whole Israelite community and said to them, “These are the things the Lord has commanded you to do: For six days, work is to be done, but the seventh day shall be your holy day, a day of Sabbath rest to the Lord. Whoever does any work on it is to be put to death. Do not light a fire in any of your dwellings on the Sabbath day.” — Exod. 35:1- 3

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If you look closely…

…you can see that the Lord closed His directions concerning the tabernacle with the commandment respecting the Sabbath day. (Exod. 31: 12- 17.) Moses commenced his recapitulation of these directions to the people, with the same commandment about the Sabbath. (Exod. 35:1- 3.) There is therefore evidently an intimate connection between the truths foreshadowed in the tabernacle, and the rest typified by the Sabbath. 

We read in Genesis 2 “thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it; because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.”

Everything had been pronounced by the Creator Himself to be good. No sin, no death, had as yet entered to mar the works of God’s hands. He could rest, and be refreshed in the contemplation of His own work of creation; crowned as it was with man, the perfection and head of it all. Quickly however was this beautiful scene changed. By the “one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin.” “The whole creation was made subject to vanity;” and from that time to this, ceases not to “groan and travail in pain together,” having been ruined by the entrance of death, and thereby subjected to the slavery of corruption. From that time we read no more of God resting. The first intimation of a Sabbath for man is in Exodus 16 where this word occurs for the first time in the Bible. God had indeed hallowed the seventh day, having Himself rested on it: but it is not called the Sabbath, which means the rest, until the manna was given to Israel in the wilderness. And this is in keeping with the truth. The manna (bread from heaven) was rained down in profusion for a people stiff-necked and murmuring: beautiful shadow of “the true bread from heaven,” “the bread of God,” “the bread of life,” given in the riches of God’s love to a ruined world; “of which if a man eat, he shall live forever.”

In close connection with the manna, came the Sabbath.

“It shall come to pass, that on the sixth day they shall prepare that which they bring in; and it shall be twice as much as they gather daily. And it came to pass, that on the sixth day they gathered twice as much bread, two omers for one man: and all the rulers of the congregation came and told Moses. And he said unto them, this is that which the Lord hath said, Tomorrow is the rest of the holy Sabbath unto the Lord. Six days ye shall gather it; but on the seventh day, which is the Sabbath, in it there shall be none. See, for that the Lord hath given you the Sabbath, therefore he giveth you on the sixth day the bread of two days: abide ye every man in his place; let no man go out of his place on the seventh day. So the people rested on the seventh day.” Exod. 16:5, 22, 23, 26, 29, 30.

God had so provided for Israel in giving them this strange new bread from heaven, that there was no necessity for their working in any way on the seventh day. Their wants were fully met; so that they could cease or rest from any labor or toil. And here we have for the first time, man able to rest: “the people rested on the seventh day.” The first occurrence of the expression in Scripture since Genesis, chap. 2, where it is said, “and he (God) rested on the seventh day.” Is not this a very significant type of the blessed truth that God has provided in Christ, the first and only rest that man can know. A perfect and eternal Sabbath?

Another peculiar word is employed here for the first time; “the rest of the holy Sabbath;” and is subsequently used in Scripture in connection with the Sabbath day. “A Sabbath of rest.” Exod. 31:15; 35:2. “The day of atonement.” Lev. 16:31; 23:32.

“The day of blowing of trumpets;” 23:24; where it is translated Sabbath. “The feast of tabernacles,” 23:39; where it occurs twice, and is translated “Sabbath.” And “the sabbatical year,” 25:4, 5; “a Sabbath of rest”—”a year of rest.” The word in the Hebrew is, shabbahthohn; it may mean a resting, a time or continued act of resting. It is not unlikely that the word, Hebrews 4:9, “there remaineth therefore a rest, (margin, keeping of a Sabbath, a sabbatism,) to the people of God,” is a Greek translation of this Hebrew word, although it does not occur in the Septuagint.

Israel kept their first, and perhaps their only sabbatism, in the wilderness of Sin, when the manna was fresh and pleasant to their taste. Who does not know the delight, the peace and joy of the first fresh taste of “the bread of life?” The rest of soul which Christ gives to those who labor and are heavy laden? But, alas! How soon is that rest spoiled by the inroads of Satan and the world; and by the restlessness of self-will, pride, and the flesh. If we would retain the rest, yea, deepen and increase it, we must listen to the Lord’s words, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” Matt. 11:28, 29. There is a rest that Christ gives. There is a rest we have to find.

In Exod. 16:29, it is written, “the Lord hath given you the Sabbath, therefore he giveth you the bread.” We first, by faith, receive Christ; the true bread from heaven, given by God, His Father. We eat His flesh, the bread which the Son of Man giveth, and rest from doubt and fear; from works of our own, and from the heavy burden of our sins. We experience the joy and peace of conversion. We cease from our own works, as God did from His on the seventh day. But soon the struggle comes, the conflict between flesh and spirit. Having received rest from Christ as His gift, we have next to take His yoke upon us. His yoke of love, and obedience to the Father; another kind of yoke, an easy yoke; another burden, a light burden; in the place of the grievous bondage under sin and Satan, and the heavy load of guilt and misery. And we have to learn of Him, the meek and lowly one in heart, in order that we may find rest to our souls in the midst of temptation and trial, and difficulties and perplexities in our path. The meekness and lowliness of Christ were evidenced in His constant dependence upon God. Never doing His own will, or pleasing Himself. Never putting forth His own power, but humbly trusting in, and waiting on His Father. And His soul was kept in a perfect Sabbath of rest. Circumstances, however sudden or unexpected, never disturbed the serenity of His soul’s confidence in God; neither did they cause Him to act independently of God. He trusted not in any resources of His own. He was never surprised into an act of independence, though having almighty power. However adverse therefore the circumstances, the rest and quiet assurance of His soul were unbroken. The tempter might seek to insinuate doubts of His Father’s love and care, but such thoughts found no place in His heart. He was deaf to such whispers of the enemy. He was blind as to the circumstances around Him, if those circumstances seemed to militate against the faithful love of God. Such was His rest all through His pilgrimage below, till on the cross the billows and waves of judgment, and the noise of the waterspouts of wrath overwhelmed Him. And yet even then He trusted, and was delivered.

When the Sabbath was connected with the gift of manna, there was no commandment, but the Sabbath was given; and there was no penalty for the breach of the rest. When the Sabbath was subsequently connected with God’s work of creation, as in Exod. 20:8-11; 31:14-17, there was a distinct commandment, and the penalty of death was appended to any breach of it.

This affords a striking contrast, between being under grace, and under law…

…Israel before they reached Mount Sinai were dealt with altogether in the way of grace: they had come out from Egypt under the shelter of the Passover blood. The power of the almighty hand of God had been made manifest in their favor, in opening the depths of the Red Sea, and giving them a passage through on dry land; whilst their enemies had been engulfed in its mighty waters.

They had murmured at Marah, and the bitter waters were made sweet. They had found palm trees and wells ready for them at Elim. They had murmured in the wilderness of Sin, and the manna was poured down from heaven in reply. They murmured again at Rephidim and the smitten rock yielded its streams of living water. Thus up to their reaching the mount of fearfulness and judgment, all God’s ways towards them were in unwearied goodness and mercy.

The 105th Psalm recapitulates these dealings of God with His people between Egypt and Sinai, and grounds His ways of grace towards them upon His “remembrance of His holy promise, and Abraham His servant,” v. 42; and then all the subsequent wilderness journey is omitted, and the psalm concludes with “he brought forth his people with joy and his chosen with gladness; and gave them the lands of the heathen; and they inherited the labor of the people; that they might observe his statutes and keep his laws. Hallelujah.” v. 42-45. Is there not in this a prophetic intimation of their entering upon the land and enjoying it hereafter, on the sure ground of promise and unlimited grace? When their true Sabbath, their rest shall be connected with the true manna, “the true Bread,” and not with a fiery law, they will enjoy it in reality, and retain it without fear of ever losing it.

In the Epistle to the Hebrews, chapters 3 and 4, three rests are spoken of—the rest of Creation; the rest which Joshua gave; and the rest of God.

The two former have passed away, for in Psalm 95:11, God speaks of another day of rest, although His works of creation were finished from the foundation of the world; and the rest which Joshua gave must clearly have been in vain, for otherwise God would not have spoken by the mouth of David, of another day, after the people of Israel had actually been for many years in the land into which Joshua had brought them. There yet remaineth therefore, a celebration of rest, a full enjoyment of it to the people of God. An eternal Sabbatism, when they shall enter into God’s own rest. This is yet future. We find that there is a day of new creation yet to come. “And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold I make all things new.” Rev. 21:5. The old creation with all its groans— the former things, with their death, sorrow, crying and pain shall have passed away. A new heaven and a new earth, will have replaced the present heaven and the present earth. The holy city, the new Jerusalem, the Bride, the Lamb’s wife, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband, will be seen in all her eternal freshness, glory and beauty, coming down from God out of heaven. The Tabernacle of God will be with men, and He will dwell with them. The Lord will have reigned the thousand years, till He shall have put all enemies under His feet, and God will be all in all.

This is the eternal rest of God.

Already it can be said, “We which have believed do enter into rest.” We have a blessed foretaste of it in the peace of God which passeth all understanding, and in the victory which God giveth us through our Lord Jesus Christ. And we shall begin to keep our Sabbatism at the coming of Christ; when He will Himself descend with a shout, with the voice of the Archangel, and with the trump of God, and when we shall be caught up with the departed saints, all alike, raised and changed into His likeness, to meet the Lord in the air. And so shall we ever be with the Lord.

The connection of the Sabbath day with the construction of the Tabernacle, may have reference to this rest that remains, of which the Sabbath connected with the first creation, was a type.

A contrast may be drawn between the old creation with the man and the woman, formed at the close of it; and the new creation, of which the man and the woman are the commencement. The first Sabbath was broken (never to be restored) by the entrance in of sin and death. It stood at the close of the week of God’s work.

The closing act of God’s creative power being the making the man and the woman.

The putting forth of God’s power in new creation is the resurrection of His Son the Lord Jesus Christ, “the last Adam” “the beginning of the creation of God,” and “putting all things under His feet,” according to Psalm 8. And the next exhibition of God’s mighty power in new creation, will be the resurrection of the Church in glory. The new heavens and the new earth will be the closing manifestation of His creative power.

The Sabbath is called “holy”; “a Sabbath to Jehovah”; “a Sabbath of rest—holiness to Jehovah,” and “a Sabbath of rest to Jehovah.” Exod. 16:23, 25; 31:15; 35:2. It was also “holy unto the children of Israel.” Exod. 31:14, and a sign between the Lord and them. 31:13, 17; and was “a perpetual covenant.” 31:16.

We are told in Col. 2:16, 17, that the Jewish holy days, the new moons, and the Sabbaths, were a shadow of things to come, but the body is of Christ. To be in Christ is to be separated off to God in true holiness. A resurrection separation: to be cut off from the body of the sins of the flesh, and to be risen with Him. In this is true rest, for rest must be holiness. “The wicked are like the troubled sea when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. There is no peace saith my God to the wicked.” Isa. 57:20.

The Sabbath was a sign to Israel.

A token that they were a people separated off to God, claimed by Himself in a peculiar way as His creatures; and for whom He had prepared a rest in the holy land, provided they kept His law. May we not say that the risen Lord Jesus is a peculiar sign to us; an assurance of rest that yet remains for us. The first fruits in resurrection. A pledge therefore to us from God that resurrection shall be our portion, and that we are His peculiar people for whom He hath reserved an “inheritance, incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away.”

It will be observed that in Exod. 31:14, “every one that defileth the Sabbath shall surely be put to death; for whosoever doeth any work therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people.”—v. 15, “whosoever doeth any work on the Sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death.” This serves to explain the meaning of being cut off from his people, a phrase of constant occurrence under the law. It is the judgment of death to be inflicted upon the transgressor. Four special occasions may be noted in connection with which this fearful penalty is threatened.

First—If a man did any work on the Sabbath Exod. 31:14.

Secondly—If a man did not keep the Passover Num. 9:13.

Thirdly—If a man eat leavened bread during the feast of unleavened bread. Exod. 12:15, 19.

Fourthly—If a man did not afflict his soul in the Day of Atonement. Lev. 23:29.

May we not gather some instructive warnings from the non-observance of these four feasts? First—If Christ be not our true Sabbath; if we are mingling works with that rest of God which He has given, are we not endangering Salvation?

Secondly—If we trust in anything but the shedding of blood, the blood of the true paschal Lamb, for the complete answer to God, on account of sin, and for the complete putting away of His wrath, do we not imperil the soul’s safety?

If professing “Christ to be our Passover sacrificed for us,” we indulge in the sinful lusts of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life, are we not eating leavened bread, when we ought to be feeding on Him the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth? And will not our practice contradict our profession, and prove us to be still of the world, and not of the people of God?

Fourthly—If there be no real affliction of heart, because of sin, when the atonement made by the Lord Jesus in the shedding of His blood, is presented to the soul—but if there be a kind of boastful profession of faith in the doctrines of Salvation, without brokenness of heart because of sin, is not such an one in great peril as to eternal salvation, however well acquainted he may be with doctrinal truth?

The Sabbath therefore having this peculiar place in connection with the Tabernacle appears to intimate to us that a true rest of soul will be maintained only by our realizing the Lord’s presence with us, abiding in Him. And that our eternal rest will be attained when we dwell in His presence forever, in the holy perfection of new creation, on the morning of the resurrection.

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“And if Satan takes you by the throat…” Thoughts on Christ the Bridegroom

Taken and adapted from, “The Marrow of Modern Divinity,” Part I
Written by, by Edward Fisher: Published Scotland, 1790; pages 109-110.

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If sin offer to take hold of you, as David said his did on him (Psalm 11 and 12)…

…then say you unto it, thy strength, O sin, is the law, (1 Corinthians 15:56) and the law is dead to me.  So that, O sin, thy strength is gone; and therefore, be sure thou shalt never be able to prevail against me, nor do me any hurt at all.

And if Satan takes you by the throat, and by violence draw you before God’s judgment-seat; then call to your husband Christ, and say, Lord I suffer violence, make answer for me, and help me.  And by his help you shall be able to plead for yourself after this manner: O God the Father, I am thy Son Christ’s, thou gavest me unto him, and thou hast given unto him all power both in heaven and in earth, and hast committed all judgment to him.  Therefore, I will stand to his judgment, who saith, He came not to judge the world, but to save it; and therefore he will save me, according to his office.  And if the jury  should bring in their verdict, that they have found you guilty: then speak to the Judge, and say, in case any must be condemned for my transgressions, it must needs be Christ, and not I; for albeit I have committed them, yet he hath undertaken and bound himself to answer for them, and that by the consent and good-will of God his Father: and indeed he hath fully satisfied for them.  And if all this will not serve the turn, to acquit you; then add moreover, and say, as a woman, that is conceived with child, must not suffer death, because of the child, that is within her: no more must I, because I have conceived Christ in my heart though I have committed all the sins in the world.

And if death creep upon you, and attempt to devour you: then say, thy sting, O death, is sin; and Christ my husband hath fully vanquished sin, and so deprived thee of thy sting: and therefore do I not fear any hurt, that thou, O death, canst do unto me. And thus you may triumph with the apostle, saying, “Thanks be unto God, who hath given victory, through our Lord Jesus Christ,” 1 Corinthians 15:56, 57.  And thus have I also declared unto you, how Christ, in the fulness of time, performed that which God before all time purposed, and in time promised, touching the helping and delivering of fallen mankind.

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Posted on January 3, 2015 by Paul D. Posted in Assurance & Comfort

WHAT IS THE GOSPEL MESSAGE?

Written by, J. I. Packer

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IN a word, the evangelistic message is the Gospel of Christ and Him crucified…

…the message of man’s sin and God’s grace, of human guilt and divine forgiveness, of new birth and new life through the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is a message made up of four essential ingredients.

1. The Gospel is a message about God.

It tells us who He is, what His character is, what His standards are, and what He requires of us, His creatures. It tells us that we owe our very existence to Him; that for good or ill, we are always in His hands and under His eye; and that He made us to worship and serve Him, to show forth His praise and to live for His glory. These truths are the foundation of theistic religion; and until they are grasped, the rest of the Gospel message will seem neither cogent nor relevant. It is here with the assertion of man’s complete and constant dependence on his Creator that the Christian story starts.

We can learn again from Paul at this point. When preaching to Jews, as at Pisidian Antioch, he did not need to mention the fact that men were God’s creatures. He could take this knowledge for granted, for his hearers had the Old Testament faith behind them. He could begin at once to declare Christ to them as the fulfillment of Old Testament hopes. But when preaching to Gentiles, who knew nothing of the Old Testament, Paul had to go further back and start from the beginning. And the beginning from which Paul started in such cases was the doctrine of God’s Creatorship and man’s creaturehood. So, when the Athenians asked him to explain what his talk of Jesus and the resurrection was all about, he spoke to them first of God the Creator and what He made man for. “God…made the world…seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; And hath made…all nations… that they should seek the Lord” (Act 17:24-27). This was not, as some have supposed, a piece of philosophical apologetic of a kind that Paul afterwards renounced, but the first and basic lesson in theistic faith.

The Gospel starts by teaching us that we, as creatures, are absolutely dependent on God…

…and that He, as Creator, has an absolute claim on us. Only when we have learned this can we see what sin is, and only when we see what sin is can we understand the good news of salvation from sin. We must know what it means to call God Creator before we can grasp what it means to speak of Him as Redeemer. Nothing can be achieved by talking about sin and salvation where this preliminary lesson has not in some measure been learned.

2. The Gospel is a message about sin.

It tells us how we have fallen short of God’s standard, how we have become guilty, filthy, and helpless in sin, and now stand under the wrath of God. It tells us that the reason why we sin continually is that we are sinners by nature, and that nothing we do or try to do for ourselves can put us right or bring us back into God’s favor. It shows us ourselves as God sees us and teaches us to think of ourselves as God thinks of us. Thus, it leads us to self-despair. And this also is a necessary step. Not until we have learned our need to get right with God and our inability to do so by any effort of our own can we come to know the Christ Who saves from sin.

There is a pitfall here.

Everybody’s life includes things that cause dissatisfaction and shame. Everyone has a bad conscience about some things in his past, matters in which he has fallen short of the standard that he set for himself or that was expected of him by others. The danger is that in our evangelism we should content ourselves with evoking thoughts of these things and making people feel uncomfortable about them, and then depicting Christ as the One who saves us from these elements of ourselves, without even raising the question of our relationship with God. But this is just the question that has to be raised when we speak about sin. For the very idea of sin in the Bible is of an offense against God that disrupts a man’s relationship with God. Unless we see our shortcomings in the light of the Law and holiness of God, we do not see them as sin at all. For sin is not a social concept; it is a theological concept. Though sin is committed by man, and many sins are against society, sin cannot be defined in terms of either man or society. We never know what sin really is until we have learned to think of it in terms of God and to measure it, not by human standards, but by the yardstick of His total demand on our lives.

What we have to grasp, then, is that the bad conscience of the natural man is not at all the same thing as conviction of sin.

It does not, therefore, follow that a man is convicted of sin when he is distressed about his weaknesses and the wrong things he has done. It is not conviction of sin just to feel miserable about yourself, your failures, and your inadequacy to meet life’s demands. Nor would it be saving faith if a man in that condition called on the Lord Jesus Christ just to soothe him, and cheer him up, and make him feel confident again.

Nor should we be preaching the Gospel if all that we did was to present Christ in terms of a man’s felt wants: “Are you happy? Are you satisfied? Do you want peace of mind? Do you feel that you have failed? Are you fed up with yourself? Do you want a friend? Then come to Christ; He will meet your every need”—as if the Lord Jesus Christ were to be thought of as a fairy godmother or a super-psychiatrist…To be convicted of sin means not just to feel that one is an all-round flop, but to realize that one has offended God, and flouted His authority, and defied Him, and gone against Him, and put oneself in the wrong with Him. To preach Christ means to set Him forth as the One Who through His cross sets men right with God again…

It is indeed true that the real Christ, the Christ of the Bible, reveals Himself to us as a Savior from sin and an Advocate with God, does in fact give peace, and joy, and moral strength, and the privilege of His own friendship to those who trust Him. But the Christ who is depicted and desired merely to make the lot of life’s casualties easier by supplying them with aids and comforts is not the real Christ, but a misrepresented and misconceived Christ—in effect, an imaginary Christ. And if we taught people to look to an imaginary Christ, we should have no grounds for expecting that they would find a real salvation. We must be on our guard, therefore, against equating a natural bad conscience and sense of wretchedness with spiritual conviction of sin and so omitting in our evangelism to impress upon sinners the basic truth about their condition—namely, that their sin has alienated them from God and exposed them to His condemnation, and hostility, and wrath, so that their first need is for a restored relationship with Him…

3. The Gospel is a message about Christ—Christ, the Son of God incarnate;

Christ, the Lamb of God, dying for sin; Christ, the risen Lord; Christ, the perfect Savior.

Two points need to be made about the declaring of this part of the message:

(i) We must not present the Person of Christ apart from His saving work. It is sometimes said that it is the presentation of Christ’s Person, rather than of doctrines about Him, that draws sinners to His feet. It is true that it is the living Christ Who saves and that a theory of the atonement, however orthodox, is no substitute. When this remark is made, however, what is usually being suggested is that doctrinal instruction is dispensable in evangelistic preaching, and that all the evangelist need do is paint a vivid word-picture of the man of Galilee who went about doing good, and then assure his hearers that this Jesus is still alive to help them in their troubles. But such a message could hardly be called the Gospel.

It would, in reality, be a mere conundrum, serving only to mystify…the truth is that you cannot make sense of the historic figure of Jesus until you know about the Incarnation—that this Jesus was in fact God the Son, made man to save sinners according to His Father’s eternal purpose. Nor can you make sense of His life until you know about the atonement—that He lived as man so that He might die as man for men, and that His passion, His judicial murder was really His saving action of bearing away the world’s sins. Nor can you tell on what terms to approach Him now until you know about the resurrection, ascension, and heavenly session—that Jesus has been raised, and enthroned, and made King, and lives to save to the uttermost all who acknowledge His Lordship. These doctrines, to mention no others, are essential to the Gospel…In fact, without these doctrines you would have no Gospel to preach at all.

(ii) But there is a second and complementary point: we must not present the saving work of Christ apart from His Person. 
Evangelistic preachers and personal workers have sometimes been known to make this mistake. In their concern to focus attention on the atoning death of Christ as the sole sufficient ground on which sinners may be accepted with God, they have expounded the summons to saving faith in these terms: “Believe that Christ died for your sins.” The effect of this exposition is to represent the saving work of Christ in the past, dissociated from His Person in the present, as the whole object of our trust. But it is not biblical thus to isolate the work from the Worker. Nowhere in the New Testament is the call to believe expressed in such terms. What the New Testament calls for is faith in (en) or into (eis) or upon (epi) Christ Himself—the placing of our trust in the living Savior Who died for sins. The object of saving faith is thus not, strictly speaking, the atonement, but the Lord Jesus Christ, Who made atonement. We must not, in presenting the Gospel, isolate the cross and its benefits from the Christ Whose cross it was. For the persons to whom the benefits of Christ’s death belong are just those who trust His Person and believe, not upon His saving death simply, but upon Him, the living Savior. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved,” said Paul (Act 16:31). “Come unto me…and I will give you rest,” said our Lord (Mat 11:28).

This being so, one thing becomes clear straight away: namely, that the question about the extent of the atonement, which is being much agitated in some quarters, has no bearing on the content of the evangelistic message at this particular point. I do not propose to discuss this question now; I have done that elsewhere. I am not at present asking you whether you think it is true to say that Christ died in order to save every single human being, past, present, and future, or not. Nor am I at present inviting you to make up your mind on this question, if you have not done so already. All I want to say here is that even if you think the above assertion is true, your presentation of Christ in evangelism ought not to differ from that of the man who thinks it false.

What I mean is this: it is obvious that if a preacher thought that the statement, “Christ died for every one of you,” made to any congregation, would be unverifiable and probably not true, he would take care not to make it in his Gospel preaching. You do not find such statements in the sermons of, for instance, George Whitefield or Charles Spurgeon. But now, my point is that, even if a man thinks that this statement would be true if he made it, it is not a thing that he ever needs to say or ever has reason to say when preaching the Gospel. For preaching the Gospel, as we have just seen, means [calling] sinners to come to Jesus Christ, the living Savior, Who, by virtue of His atoning death, is able to forgive and save all those who put their trust in Him. What has to be said about the cross when preaching the Gospel is simply that Christ’s death is the ground on which Christ’s forgiveness is given. And this is all that has to be said. The question of the designed extent of the atonement does not come into the story at all…The fact is that the New Testament never calls on any man to repent on the ground that Christ died specifically and particularly for him.

The Gospel is not, “Believe that Christ died for everybody’s sins, and therefore for yours,” any more than it is, “Believe that Christ died only for certain people’s sins, and so perhaps not for yours”…

We have no business to ask them to put faith in any view of the extent of the atonement. Our job is to point them to the living Christ, and summon them to trust in Him…This brings us to the final ingredient in the Gospel message.

4. The Gospel is a summons to faith and repentance.

All who hear the Gospel are summoned by God to repent and believe. “God…commandeth all men everywhere to repent,” Paul told the Athenians (Act 17:30). When asked by His hearers what they should do in order to “work the works of God,” our Lord replied, “This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent” (Joh 6:29). And in 1 John 3:23 we read: “This is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ…”

Repentance and faith are rendered matters of duty by God’s direct command, and hence impenitence and unbelief are singled out in the New Testament as most grievous sins.

With these universal commands, as we indicated above, go universal promises of salvation to all who obey them. “Through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins” (Act 10:43). “Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely” (Rev 22:17). “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (Joh 3:16). These words are promises to which God will stand as long as time shall last.

It needs to be said that faith is not a mere optimistic feeling, any more than repentance is a mere regretful or remorseful feeling.

Faith and repentance are both acts, and acts of the whole man…faith is essentially the casting and resting of oneself and one’s confidence on the promises of mercy which Christ has given to sinners, and on the Christ Who gave those promises. Equally, repentance is more than just sorrow for the past; repentance is a change of mind and heart, a new life of denying self and serving the Savior as King in self’s place…Two further points need to be made also:

(i) The demand is for faith as well as repentance. It is not enough to resolve to turn from sin, give up evil habits, and try to put Christ’s teaching into practice by being religious and doing all possible good to others. Aspiration, and resolution, and morality, and religiosity, are no substitutes for faith…If there is to be faith, however, there must be a foundation of knowledge: a man must know of Christ, and of His cross, and of His promises before saving faith becomes a possibility for him. In our presentation of the Gospel, therefore, we need to stress these things, in order to lead sinners to abandon all confidence in themselves and to trust wholly in Christ and the power of His redeeming blood to give them acceptance with God. For nothing less than this is faith.

(ii) The demand is for repentance as well as faith…If there is to be repentance, however, there must, again, be a foundation of knowledge…More than once, Christ deliberately called attention to the radical break with the past that repentance involves. “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me…whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it” (Mat 16:24-25). “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also (i.e., put them all decisively second in his esteem), he cannot be my disciple…whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple” (Luk 14:26, 33). The repentance that Christ requires of His people consists in a settled refusal to set any limit to the claims that He may make on their lives…He had no interest in gathering vast crowds of professed adherents who would melt away as soon as they found out what following Him actually demanded of them. In our own presentation of Christ’s Gospel, therefore, we need to lay a similar stress on the cost of following Christ, and make sinners face it soberly before we urge them to respond to the message of free forgiveness. In common honesty, we must not conceal the fact that free forgiveness in one sense will cost everything; or else our evangelizing becomes a sort of confidence trick. And where there is no clear knowledge, and hence no realistic recognition of the real claims that Christ makes, there can be no repentance, and therefore no salvation.

Such is the evangelistic message that we are sent to make known.