Friday, May 23, 2008
"For He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him."
(2 Corinthians 5:21)
What an exchange!
What a voluntary act of substitution!
Yonder debtor visited by his chief creditor, who condescends to become a prisoner, and renders Himself liable to all his demands, that the debtor may go free!
Was ever such a thing heard of among mortals?
"Scarcely for a righteous man would one die; yet, peradventure, for a good man some would even dare to die; but God commended His love towards us, in that, while we were yet sinners," (Romans 5:7,8) transgressors, debtors, "Christ died for us."
The language of my text contains the entire fullness of the Bible, the whole gospel of God; and, if thoroughly understood, will make a man completely orthodox; and, if personally enjoyed, will make him completely happy. "He hath made Him to be sin for us who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him."
Do I not see in this verse the doctrine of the Trinity inscribed as with a sunbeam?
Who "made Him" to be this?
Who appointed Him to it?
God the Father.
And who is this glorious "Him" that is "made sin" for His people?
God the Son.
And who is it reveals Him to us, so as to unite us with Him, and make us righteous in Him?
God the Holy Ghost. My brethren, I cannot fix upon a portion of Holy Writ anywhere, either precept, promise, principle, or privilege, but what I find the Trinity in it, from the beginning of the Bible to the end; and the man who does not believe in the Trinity is an Atheist, and does not believe in a God at all. He may call himself Arian, or Sabellian, or what he pleases, but if he does not believe in the Trinity he is an Atheist, and does not believe in a God; for there is no God if there be not the "Three that bear record in heaven--the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost; and these Three are one." (1 John 5:7)
Do you see the connection in which my text stands?
The apostle has just been stating that "the word of reconciliation" is "committed to us" ministers, to go forth and proclaim it; and it is not a "word of reconciliation" that coaxes the sinner's free-will in his unregeneracy, or offers to make any kind of bargain, or compromise, or terms, or contingencies to him. There is not a word of the sort in the Bible.
"God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself;" that is, Gentiles as well as Jews-- bringing man down to His terms, causing man to submit to His plan of saving him, emptying man of all self-confidence, and putting the confession and the cry into his heart which the prophet was commissioned to set down--"O Lord our God, other lords beside thee have had dominion over us; but by thee only will we make mention of thy name." (Isaiah 26:13)
Oh, the vast importance of getting a clear view of God's plan of saving sinners!
Modern divinity willfully distorts it, and consequently millions who pass for Christians are led by blind guides, till they "both fall into the ditch."
God Almighty, open their eyes in time!
You are to mark, beloved, that in the day in which we live, degeneracy has become almost universal; and it shows itself in the two prominent points of view we mentioned in reading the chapter; it shows itself in principle, and it shows itself in practice. In principle there is want of decision--in practice there is want of devotedness to God. If I look around me among the high pretenders to Christianity, I find the principles of the gospel perverted, and a mixture of free-grace and free-will made a potion of to poison men's minds; and if I look into the practice of the very persons who will give us such a mixture of free-grace and free-will, I find that the playhouse, and scenes of amusement, and the silly hop, and the like, are just as nice to them as the eloquent preacher or the house of God on the Lord's Day. Degeneracy in principle leads to degeneracy in practice.
But if I go among those whose principles are fixed according to the word of God, who know that Jesus was "made sin for us," though He "knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him"--who are well-established, rooted, grounded, and settled in this doctrine of substitution, I can follow them very closely, hard at heels, at home and abroad, in their counting-houses, in their businesses, in their leisure hours, in their families, and anywhere; and if I were to follow them from the beginning of the year to the end, I should never find them at the card-table, nor at the silly hop, nor at any of the silly fooleries that amuse the devil's slaves.
No, no; their decision in principle has brought about devotedness in practice; and having a salvation entire and complete in Christ, on which their faith can rest implicitly, it influences their lives, their spirits, their motives, their company, their associations, and their pursuits--and all that see them take knowledge of them, that they are a seed which the Lord hath blessed.
I did not intend to detain you so long in our exordium; but we will now come at once to the language of our text, and look first of all, at the holy nature of our precious Christ--He "knew no sin;" then look at His incarnate humiliation--He condescended to be "made sin;" and then look at the salvation wrapped therein--"that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him." Our salvation lies there, and nowhere else. If you can find me a condition in my text, I will preach it--I can find none. It is Jehovah's positive "word of reconciliation."
I. Let us, for a few moments, glance at that overwhelming, overawing subject, the sinlessness of Christ. He "knew no sin." Had it been otherwise, He could not have been a sacrifice--He could not have been an offering, an oblation, acceptable to God for us. This was set forth under the law, in the appointment and choice of all the victims that were to be sacrificed to God, as typical of Christ; they were to be without blemish. You read over and over again, that whether it was a ram, or a lamb, or whatever animal it was, it was to be without blemish; and there was an awful curse pronounced upon those who offered the blind or the maimed in sacrifice to God.
Why was this?
Why was not the blood of one animal as good as the blood of another?
Just because it must point to Christ. He must be "holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners;" (Hebrews 7:26) and I verily believe that all the regenerated among the Israel of God of old, in Moses' time, eyed Christ in all this--looked beyond the figure and the type to the great reality. Abraham himself "rejoiced to see" Christ's day; and it is declared, "he saw it, and was glad." (John 8:56) Of course he did not see it with his bodily eyes, for he had gone to heaven ages before; but he saw it by faith, and saw it clearly. So did Enoch; so did Abel; so did Adam--all saw Christ's day; and the types, and offerings, and shadows, and sacrifices, instituted and commanded to be without blemish and without spot, all pointed to His immaculate character.
Now, for a moment, observe, that this precious Christ of ours--as dear old Hawker says, "even our Christ, even our Jesus"--was as perfect and sinless in His manhood as He was in His Godhead. I suppose no one will impute sinfulness, or a capability of sinning, to His Godhead; and it was only imputed to His manhood. "That holy thing," it was declared to the Virgin, "that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God;" (Luke 1:35) and He would have never borne that appellation in His human nature, if His humanity had not been as perfect and as sinless as His Godhead.
All glory to His name, that He was without blemish, like the types and shadows that preceded Him and pointed to Him. This is stated in the most positive terms in New Testament language, and all worlds, are bound to give testimony to it. The Father declared, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."
The angels came down to minister to Him, and were glad indeed of the office; the Pharisees could not answer the challenge, "Which of you convinceth me of sin?" (John 8:46) The devil himself could find nothing in Him--"The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me." (John 14:30)
He was born sinless--He lived sinless--He died sinless; He "knew no sin" in His own person; all the sins of church were laid upon Him, but none were found in Him. There lies the grand distinction.
I have sometimes looked with sacred delight at the eighteen years that He spent in obscurity. He went down to Nazareth, it is said, and was subject to His parents, after He had been disputing with the doctors in the temple, at twelve years old; and we hear no more of Him till He was thirty.
Where was He these eighteen years?
Spending a sinless life, bearing the curse, by earning His bread by the sweat of His brow. I have sometimes sat alone, and fixed my meditation--the eyes of my mind--on Him using the carpenters' tools and engaged in labor day by day; and all, too, done perfectly, sinlessly, obeying the law of God, making it honorable, glorifying His Father, maintaining His purity, till at length He comes forth into the field of His ministry for three years and better; and through it all they could not provoke Him to sin; through it all they could not insult Him into sin; through it all they could not drive Him into sin; through it all they could not allure Him into sin. The devil did his best with Him when for forty days he tempted him in the wilderness, and applied the three great temptations, "the world, the flesh, and the devil," and saying unto Him, "All this will I give unto thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me."
But no; He was without sin--"He knew no sin." See Him now, a contrast to His disciples. When they were about to enter into a village, and the villagers would not receive Him, but rejected Him, His disciples had got sin enough in them, and they said, "Let us call down fire from heaven to consume them," they took a Scripture for their pattern, "even as Elias did."
What says our precious Lord?
"Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. Ye have got very little of my spirit about you." Instead of that, He goes to another place, passes away, and says, "The Son of man came not to destroy men's lives, but to save them." (Luke 9:54-56)
The blessedness of gazing fixedly upon the sinless beauty, purity, and glory of our precious Christ, as set forth in His own word. I should not like His company if He were not so; I would not desire Him to come down and visit me here, which, I thank His precious name, that He does. I have quite sin enough in myself, without wanting any sinful being to associate with me; but if my perfect, sinless Jesus will come and manifest Himself to me, and sit with me, and walk with me, then I can rejoice that I shall spend an eternity with Him on high, when I shall have done with all sin.
Just mark, that this precious, sinless Christ of ours asserted His co-equality with the Father--"I and my Father are one;" (John 10:30) and it would not be more impious to charge God the Father with being capable of sin, than it is to charge God the Son. All the holy attributes and perfections of Deity are essentially His own--self-existent, not derived or borrowed, everlastingly one with the Father in the glory of the divine, united, undivided essence. All glory to His name, that He is as omnipotent as the Father, as omniscient as the Father, as immutable as the Father--all the attributes of Deity being essentially His own. There is a Saviour for you and for me to lean upon, and confide in, and to stand related with.
Oh, the blessedness of standing related to such a Christ as this!
Now just go on to mark, that our precious Christ, essentially and everlastingly one with the Father, who knew no sin, perfect and holy as the Father of mercies, is loved and adored in heaven and earth, all glory to His name, that He is the Lord of angels, that there is not an inhabitant of the heavenly world but adores Him, that there is not a being around the throne but is crying, "Holy, holy, holy," (Isaiah 6:3) to Him as well as the Father, singing their loudest songs "to Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His blood." (Revelation 1:5) The angels are permitted to join the response, though not to participate in the salvation, for they never needed it. All glory to His name, that when He sits upon the throne at the Father's right hand, myriads of saints that went home to glory by virtue of His covenant bond, saved by the blood of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, (Revelation 13:8) cast their crowns at His feet, and adore Him; all the angel hosts wait, and watch, and look His high command to go forth and minister to them that shall "be heirs of salvation." (Hebrews 1:14)
He is adored and loved on earth by all His Church. If you do not love Him and adore Him, He will "dash you in pieces like a potter's vessel."
He says in His word, that if you are not brought, sooner or later, before you quit this world, to love Him, and trust Him, and adore Him, you will perish everlastingly from His presence and from the glory of His power. I would have you put this matter home closely, as to whether you really love Him, love His company, love His preaching, love His presence, love His voice, love His people, love His house, love His ways. And do you give Him all the honor and glory that you do to the Father, remembering that it is written, "It is the will of the Father that all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father that sent Him;" adding, "He that honoureth not the Son, honoureth not the Father that sent Him." (John 5:23)
How discriminating are these statements!
How exclusive are they!
How entirely they shut out Arians and Socinians from all hope of salvation, and prove them to be of the world, for they will not honor the Son as they honor the Father, and consequently the Father will receive no honor nor homage from them. I think these are as plain truths as can be found recorded in the precious word of God; and they come to this one point, that our precious Christ knew no sin, and that all in heaven and all His Church on earth love Him and adore Him, and trust in Him, and will everlastingly glorify His name.
Now let us go on to say a few words relative to His incarnate humiliation. "He was made sin."
And who made Him so?
The Father made Him to be sin for us. He hath made Him to be sin for His Church, in a vicarious sense, as a Representative, a Substitute, a Daysman, a Surety; so that He who made Him to be sin, charged on Him all the sins of all His Church to the end of time. Do look for a moment, in confirmation of what I here state, at Isaiah 53., where you find it recorded, "The Lord hath laid upon Him"--not put in Him, mind that--"the Lord hath laid upon Him the iniquities of us all."
Who are the "us?"
His sheep. "We all like sheep have gone astray"--the iniquity of the sheep. The "we" is the antecedent to the "us;" so that the Lord hath laid upon Him the iniquity of all the sheep. Therefore He said, when He came forth into the world in His vicarious character, "I lay down my life for the sheep." (John 10:15) There it is in express terms.
Now mark, I beseech you, what amazing love there must have been in Jesus' heart thus to value His Church more than His life. We cannot find that among mortals. Blessings on His dear name, that such was His love to His Church, that He submitted to endure death, even the death of the cross, and humble Himself to it, rather than that His Church, or a single member of His Church, should perish; having shown that they were in His hand, and that they should never perish, that none should pluck them out of His hand. (John 10:28)
Then, dear Lord, if thou wilt not allow these wretched sinners to be plucked out of thy hand, thy hand must be pierced and nailed for them--if thou wilt not allow them to be plucked out of thy hand, thy hands and thy feet shall suffer for them. He knew for that cause He came to that hour, and He says, "Not as I will, but as thou wilt," in the very depth of His sufferings. (Luke 22:42)
He eyed this all-important fact--"Either the Bride must be doomed to the blackness of darkness for ever, or I must endure hell for her." He came to this point--He put Himself in her place; He volunteered Himself to be liable for all her debts, and all her curse, and all her sin, and all her thralldom, that He might vanquish the foe, effect redemption and deliverance, cancel her entire debt, and bring her in all her liberty home to everlasting glory. This is our precious Christ, who was made sin; that is to say, He was viewed as so responsible for His entire Church, that the law and the justice of God eyed Him as the sinner, dealt with Him as the sinner. I do not like that phrase which one or two old divines have taken the liberty of using--that Christ was the greatest sinner that ever was upon earth. It is a falsehood.
The word "sinner," in its simple meaning, implies a being that commits sin, or else he is not a sinner. But when the word says that He was made sin, or, as some read it, a sin-offering, I view to this extent--though I cannot agree with such unwarrantable language as I have just been quoting--I view it to this extent, that all the guilt, and all the iniquity, and all the pollution, and all the condemnation, and all the wrath due to the entire election of grace, were laid upon Him; and He has everything laid upon Him. Thus said the Holy Ghost by the apostle, "He bare our sins in His own body on the tree." (1 Peter 2:24)
When I repeat such a text as that, I begin to say to myself, "Well, I have not got anything to bear, no wrath, no vengeance due to me, no sort of judicial punishment, no condemnation, no hell for me."
Can you prove it?
He has borne it in His own body on the tree, and that, too, by His own voluntary consent. He gave Himself for us, and by the Father's own appointment He was made to be sin. Oh! The wonders of the grand scheme of salvation by grace.
Is it not a grievous thing that men should take so much pleasure in marring it?
Is it not a grievous thing that it should be so artfully misrepresented as it is in thousands of places to this very day?
As if Christ had done all He could, and could do no more, and all the rest must be left to the sinner.
Make Christ sin, and then let it lie at the door of those for whom He bled?
Make Christ to bear our sins, and yet leave them to us to bear?
Make Christ to yield up His body and soul as the one finished atonement and sacrifice for sin, and yet let it lie upon us?
See, beloved, if this was the case, the certain and the eternal ruin of all the race of Adam; for it is thus written, "There remaineth no more (no other) sacrifice for sin;" (Hebrews 10:26) but to them who reject this one sacrifice, "a fearful looking for of judgment and of fiery indignation to devour the adversaries."
Think of this seriously, beloved, and follow out the train of thought a little further. He was not only made vicariously sin for His people, having the whole mass and amount of their transgressions laid upon His Person; but being viewed responsible He must die again, and die again, if He has not redeemed them; He is held responsible, and consequently He must come down and suffer again, if it is not completed. But I hear Him say, and I hear it with infinite delight, "I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do" (John 17:4)--it is entirely accomplished.
Now, just mark how acceptable this grand substitution is both to God and man. We shall look presently at the "we" and "us." It is so acceptable to God that He says He has not "seen iniquity in Jacob, nor perverseness in Israel." (Numbers 23:21)
Nay, He tells us that "when the iniquity of Judah is sought, there shall be none; and when it is looked for, it shall not be found." (Jeremiah 50:20)
How is this?
It would be a wonder if it could be found when it is canceled, and when He bare it in His own body on the tree, when He was made a scape-goat, and carried it away on His head into the land of forgetfulness; (Leviticus 16:21,22) we might seek for it long enough, for there is none.
Oh! The vast mercy of having a believing apprehension of the substitution of Christ--that He was made sin for His Church, and that all that could be found in His Church, for Adam's day to the day of consummation, being laid upon Him, can never be laid upon His Church.
Oh, the mercy!
Do not tell me any more about your contingent salvation, or proposals, or offers, or conditions, or terms, for man to meet and fulfill. I tell you, my hearer, with all possible affection, while with all possible vehemence and faithfulness, that if your salvation depends on one thought of yours, or one act of yours, you will perish everlastingly; you must have it complete and entire in Christ, or you will never have it at all.
Now let us go on to mark how acceptable this is, not only to God who is so well pleased, but to all the elect of God upon earth. And here I shall again make a little sweeping work, and insist upon it that no fallen child of Adam ever obtained forgiveness, justification, or entrance into eternal life, but by accepting of Jesus as the Father's gift, and a full salvation in Him. You must not tell me of any peradventures, or probabilities, or ifs or buts; you must come to these terms. Here is a salvation entire in the Person of Christ--it is proclaimed in the sinner's hearing. The sinner says, "I will not have this man to reign over me." (Luke 19:14)
God says, "You shall, or be damned." That is the conclusion. Now, I put it to your consciences. Have you been brought, under the teaching and operation of grace, really to accept of this precious Christ, with His full salvation, in all the offices He sustains, in all the grace He bears, in all the perfect work He has accomplished? And are you ready to say--
"None but Jesus, none but Jesus,
Can do helpless sinners good?"
Have you really been brought to quit all other confidences, reliances, all other hopes, and holds, and being found among those who are enabled to rejoice in Christ Jesus, renouncing all confidence in the creature?
Come, be honest with yourselves. Now, try; do not sit and judge harshly, and say, "This is very severe--this is very high doctrine--this is hyper-calvinism, if not Antinomianism."
Well, it will do you or me no good to cavil at it, but come to the point:
Is it worth our hearing?
Is it the doctrine of the Bible or not?
Is it God's way of saving sinners or not?
Put the question home closely; and if the Holy Ghost be your teacher, I know the conclusion you will come to.
Well, let us just go on to the other particular of the subject--the salvation contained therein. "Well," say you, "you have been upon this all along."
Yes, and I mean to be. There is a peculiar beauty in this sacred declaration, "that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him."
A poor ruined sinner not only made righteous, but emphatically, "the righteousness of God;" not only washed and cleansed from his filth, not only turned from the error of his ways, not only taught and enabled to live like a new creature, a new creation, but forbidden to present that or anything in himself before God as the ground of his acceptance; but he must only come before the throne dressed in the righteousness of God. If I could live--and oh!
That I could--as holy as John, or Paul, or Christ did; if I could live as holy as any of the apostles, or as the glorious Prince of the apostles; the Apostle and High Priest of my profession, did; I should not dare to approach God in my creature righteousness; I should not dare to come nigh to him dressed in such linsey-wolsey; but I must still say as Paul did-- "not having on my own righteousness, which is of the law, but the righteousness which is of God by faith." (Philippians 3:9)
Then I must look for a transfer; that as my sins have been transferred to Christ, and laid upon Him; His righteousness, which is the righteousness of God, is transferred to me; and therefore, I feel delighted with the Holy Ghost's representation by the apostle, that His righteousness, which is the righteousness of God, is "unto all and upon all them that believe." (Romans 3:22)
It is placed to their account for their justification; it is put upon them for their sanctification; and I cannot own the one without the other--"unto and upon all them that believe."
As we have just been singing, it is Jesus that is seen as the Surety and Advocate, standing in the place of His people; and I can come to God in no other way, than, "Behold, O God, my shield;"
I have got no other: He is thine anointed; look upon His face; (Psalm 84:9)
I have no shield in my morality, in my profession; I have no shield in my talents, parts, or attainments: they are only like a paper shield that the first fiery dart would not only pierce but set fire to and burn up.
Behold, O God, our shield. Shielded by Him behind His cross, within His side, on His hand, heaven, earth, and hell may frown, and I am safe. The fiery darts which Satan hurls I meet again and again; all will be poured forth from his quiver till it is emptied quite, and none shall touch my soul; my shield is up; my shield is quite invulnerable, and all is well. Jehovah says to me, as He once said to Abraham, "Fear not, I am thy shield." Is not that enough, "I am thy shield?" (Genesis 15:1)
This transfer of which I have been speaking, may be considered as reducing the whole gospel of God to one word. I thought in the opening of my subject to reduce it to the one word "substitution." Well that will do, but I think I will reduce it to the one word "transfer." All my salvation lies in that word. My transgression is transferred to Christ; He is charged with it; and His righteousness, which is the righteousness of God, is transferred to me, and I am to put it on and wear it, and go to God in it.
Now I beg of you to remark that this righteousness of God which is transferred for our justification, is placed to our account, is transferred in another sense--that is, being imparted, implanted, bestowed, possessed. Now here I beg of you to bring in the personality of my text--"made sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him."
I should like to dwell a little upon the "us" and the "we," for these little appropriating pronouns are of infinite value in the precious book of God--do not overlook them in reading the verses of Scriptures. Probably, some of my hearers are a little on the alert, and are now ready to say, "Ah, I shall be shut out; I shall not be able to put on the 'us' and the 'we.'" I wish you would not till God shall bring you to it; but if God brings you to it you cannot help yourself; you will be obliged to say, as Thomas did, "my Lord and my God." (John 20:28)
I do not wish you to say it till you are brought to the assurance in the manner I am about to state to you. When Jehovah the Spirit implants that righteous principle of life in the soul of the sinner, which has been already presented before the throne for His justification, one of the first results it effects is an internal abhorrence of sin, and a loathing of self on account of it that nothing can remove. He will abhor himself in dust and ashes. So long as you are proud of attainments, or proud of anything in the creature--so long as, like the gay butterfly, you will flap your wings in the face of the sun, as if you were lord of creation, so long you would be doing your own soul wrong, and offering God an insult to say "for us" and "we."
But when the power of the Spirit of God influences the heart, which He always does in regeneration, and informs the soul of its ruin, of its degradation, of its depravity, so as to make it loathe itself in dust and ashes before God, then you may say it is "for us," and it is "we" that are "made the righteousness of God in Him."
Go a step further in these two beautiful words, for I wish you to hug them to your bosoms, you whom God shall enable so to do; and I would have others look at them very seriously, and examine them very closely, whether they may or may not claim them, and come to the point. When the sinner is brought to the internal conviction and hatred of sin, the work is not finished, because it is mostly of a general description, that he is a sinner among mankind at large; and perhaps he is led to fix on some gross, or open, or known sin or neglect. But, by-and-bye, in comes the law of God in its spirituality, with its rigid demand, "Pay me that thou owest;" (Matthew 18:28) and if the poor sinner be as proud as the young man who came to Christ, "This have I done from my youth," (Luke 18:21) then the Lord will reply, "He that keepeth the law whole, but offendeth in one point, is guilty of all." (James 2:10)
Now, sinner, will you dare tell God or man that you have really kept all the law of God in its spirituality and extent, without a single offense in thought, word, or deed?
I hardly think there is such a proud wretch upon earth, that would dare to assert such a thing. Now, if you have offended only in one point you are guilty of it all, and there is no hope for you. Down the sinner lies, lower and lower in the dust, a sinner by nature, a sinner by practice, and condemned by the law; and then, while he is musing, sin revives, and he dies; all hope goes from him.
Must he despair?
No, no. He hears a voice behind him, saying, "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world." (John 1:29)
His eyes have been anointed with eye-salve, and he lifts them up, and he looks, and beholds Him by faith on the cross, sees Him ascend from Mount Olivet, views Him with delight upon His throne, and hears His voice, saying, "I, even I, am He that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and I will not remember thy sins any more." (Isaiah 43:25) Then he may say, "It is for us" -- "He was made sin for us, who knew no sin."
There is one thing more I must name here, for I feel very unwilling to quit this little word "us," it is so precious to my own soul--the "us" and the "we;" that is an ardent affection for Him who has condescended to stoop to this transfer; an ardent affection for our precious Christ; for thus it is written, "If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be accursed with a curse at the coming of Christ." (1 Corinthians 16:22)
Look, I beseech you, at this prominent point of personal Christianity--love to Jesus; a holy, supernatural, newly-created, heaven-born affection, going out after the Son of God. And this, too, must be supreme and superlative, for the dear Lord Himself said, "If any man love father, or mother, or wife, or children, or house, or lands, more than me, he is not worthy of me." (Matthew 10:37)
Jesus must be foremost--He must have the throne of the affections; and if this be the fact you may use the language of the text as your own, "He was made sin for us, who knew no sin."
One thought more here before I pass on. If you really love Jesus, you would not willingly dishonor His name, you would not willingly disgrace His cause, you would not willingly grieve His Spirit. Your entire life, and walk, and talk, every department of your existence upon earth, and everything pertaining to your histories from the time you were brought speak, and made to own Him as "made sin for us," ought to be in one direct line and tendency to exalt His precious name, to glorify Him. I want more practical godliness among the followers of the Lamb.
Observe, that this salvation is owned and acknowledged in heaven by Jehovah, and on earth by all the church, and shall never be disowned. I am anxious that my hearers should attend to this acknowledgment of Christ, in the manner I have just been speaking of, in the whole course of their journey through the wilderness. Do not leave your Sunday clothes at home--do not put your religion on one side, because you have to meet some enemies of Jesus Christ--do not cloak or conceal it, lest it should bring reproach; for "if any man be ashamed of me," He says, "in this wicked and adulterous generation, of him will I be ashamed before my Father and His holy angels." (Mark 8:38)
Oh! Piercing thought, Christ being ashamed of me.
Oh! Piercing thought, when, in the midst of the throng before His tribunal, and He will not own me, He is ashamed of me.
Sinner, is it not a hell begun, even to think of such a thing?
Look to it, then, that you are not ashamed of Christ upon earth.
I fear that the flimsy thing which passes for Christianity in these days will drown millions of souls in perdition under disguise; and I am anxious, in my declining days, to be clear of the blood of all men, and therefore urge my Lord's text upon you, "By their fruits ye shall know them." (Matthew 7:20)
You will look in vain for the fruits of righteousness among Papists and other Pharisees; theirs are only artificial fruits, useless to man and offensive to God; but among those who claim the high privilege of saying, We are made the righteousness of God in Christ, you have a right to look for the "works of faith and the labors of love," which shall testify before God and man that their religion is a living principle, obtained from God and leading to God. In fact, that it is altogether supernatural, and produces supernatural effects. Examine yourselves, then, my hearer, whether yours is an artificial Christianity, which produces only artificial fruits and flowers, or a supernatural, real Christianity, which brings forth fruit unto God.
One thought more, and I must close, or I fear my strength will not hold out. It is on this ground only that negotiation with God is honorable. I know there are many people who talk about their prayers, and saying their prayers, and the like, as if there were some negotiation with God that is not honorable. It is like the case of a debtor, who has deposited the greater part of his property somewhere, and goes and offers his creditors half-a-crown in the pound.
But is that honorable?
I would not look my creditors in the face if I could not say, "I have nothing to pay; but here is my elder brother, amply rich; I have brought him beside me; he is able to pay all; I have come to negotiate the matter; I have come to look at the books, examine the ledger, hear its highest demand, know what there is standing out against me, fully prepared that the last mite shall be paid."
Well, that is just the way I go to God. I cannot ask for mercy--I cannot ask Him to fulfill His promises, nor to give me pardon, nor to afford me any one grace, without I have a full compensation in my hand.
But I can go to Him with my precious, elder Brother by my side, and say, "Behold in Him! Wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption." (1 Corinthians 1:30)
Anything more demanded?
Lord, reach that ledger down again.
Is there anything more to be demanded?
Wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption?
Why, thou thyself hast made Him all that to me. I can negotiate honorably--I can ask the promises to be fulfilled--I can ask for mercies to be bestowed--I can ask for blessings to be showered down--I can ask the fullness of the covenant of grace to be thrown open, and for faith to be given to me sufficiently strong and active to lay hold of every comfort in it.
Because all is paid, all is secure. It is on the ground and by the doctrine of substitution only that there can be any honorable negotiation between God and man. You cannot get nigh the throne, you cannot obtain His ear, you cannot receive an answer in any other way from God than through the precious Christ of God, who "was made sin for us, who knew no sin."
All those rebels against God, that they call priests, never gave the poor sinner access to the throne, never obtained a pardon for the poor sinner, though they have been blasphemous enough to pronounce it, never found redress for any child of Adam, but heaped up the blackest condemnation on their own heads, while doing all they could to drag their millions to hell with them.
If you want to negotiate with God honorably and successfully, bring the righteousness of Christ, bring the offering of Christ, bring the official character of Christ, bring the perfect work of Christ, bring the victories of Christ, and then tell of his present intercession before the throne, and say again, "Behold, O God, my shield, and look upon the face of thine anointed." Go, my hearer, if God has taught you your sinnership, and deal thus with the Most High; and sure I am salvation is yours for time and eternity.
May the eternal Spirit command His blessing upon His word, and His name shall have all the glory.
By Joseph Irons
We are still discussing the text from Romans 9:14-16, and this time we must call special attention to the words: "For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy."
The sin which the people of God had committed at Sinai in worshipping the golden calf was a principal sin: they had violated the covenant of God in the very spot where they had heard the thunder of God's voice and trembled; at the very moment when God made His covenant with them, they had manifested the perversion of their wicked heart, making gods after their own heart and worshipping them.
At Sinai carnal Israel broke God's covenant; there they commit the sin that will follow them all through the desert and all through their history, until it reveals itself in its final horror when they crucify the Son of God. And when Moses, the servant of God, came down from the mount and called upon the faithful to pass through the camp and take vengeance, three thousand fell by the sword of the sons of Levi.
But Moses realizes that this cannot be the end of the matter; and, therefore, he intercedes for the people with God. He confesses the sin of the people before the face of Jehovah and pleads for forgiveness. He bears the people on his heart, for in pleading for their salvation he uses words similar to those employed by the apostle Paul in the opening verses of this chapter: "O, this people have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods of gold. Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin --; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written."
This prayer of Moses certainly cannot be answered, and the Lord replies: "Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book."
Nevertheless, He commands His servant to lead the people unto the place which the Lord had promised to give them for an inheritance; but He will not go up in their midst, but will send His angel that should go before them. This is reiterated in the words of chapter 33:1-3; there the Lord commands Moses once more that he must lead the people into the land of promise. And once again Jehovah emphasizes that He Himself will not go up in the midst of Israel, for they are a stiff-necked people, "lest I consume thee in the way."
Now, we must remember that all this was entirely new to Moses. He could not understand. To him the people of Israel as a whole were the people of God. To them Jehovah had given the promise that He would make them heirs of the land flowing with milk and honey. Them Jehovah had delivered with a strong hand from the house of bondage for the very purpose of bringing them to the promised land.
How then could it be possible that God would consume the people and destroy them in the wilderness?
Can the promise of God become of none effect?
And when the people mourn because they heard that Jehovah would not go up in their midst, and deeply humble themselves before the face of God, Moses enters into the tabernacle once more to plead more earnestly for Israel, for God's forgiving mercy upon them, and for His presence with them: "If thy presence go not up with me, carry us not up hence."
And Jehovah heard the supplication of His servant and granted His request Himself to go up with the people in their midst. It is in this connection that the servant of God approaches the Lord with that amazing prayer: "Show me thy glory."
He would see the goodness of the Lord.
Had not the Lord intimated that He would consume the people in His wrath if He would go up in their midst?
Hence, he must have the promise that the Lord would go up with them in His favor. God must be gracious to them. And, therefore, he would see the goodness of God for His people. And it is in answer to the prayer of Moses that the Lord says to him: "And I will be gracious unto whom I will be gracious, and I will show mercy on whom I will show mercy." Exodus 33:19. It is these words that are quoted by the apostle Paul in Romans 9:15, in order to prove from Scripture that God is merciful in absolute, sovereign righteousness.
Even these words have been given an Arminian twist. Interpreters that would by all means avoid the consequence of absolute predestination explain that the Lord had said before to Moses that He would blot out of His book him that sinneth. Hence, the words quoted by the apostle from Exodus 33:19 can only mean that whereas God would blot out the unfaithful and violators of His covenant out of His book, He would be gracious and merciful to His faithful covenant people. True, He would not be gracious to all; Moses must not imagine that all the people as they are encamped at Sinai are true people of God, and that God cannot consume a large number of them. He will be merciful, however, to them that keep His covenant and are therefore, worthy of His compassion.
But how evident it is that such an interpretation is guilty of distorting the plain meaning of the text. First of all, how impossible is such an interpretation. The text would then mean: I will blot out of my book him that sinneth, but I will be merciful to him that sinneth not.
But why should there be need of mercy and compassion and grace for him that sinneth not?
And where is he that does not sin?
Would in that case not all be blotted out of God's book?
Who then could be saved?
Secondly, how contrary to the meaning of the words as they stand is such an explanation of the text: for the Lord does not say: I will show mercy to him that is worthy of my mercy, and I will have compassion on him that deserves my compassion. But: I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. His will, His sovereign will alone is emphasized in the text. And finally, how contrary to the entire text in Romans 9 is this Arminian interpretation of the text. The whole context deals with God's sovereign determination in the matter of the promise: not all are Israel that are of Israel, because it pleases God to mke separation even between the seed of Abraham, according to His predestinating purpose. How strange, then, that in such a connection the apostle should of a sudden refer to the worth of man as the basis of God's mercy to him.
Besides, what occasion is there in the light of this Arminian interpretation for the question that introduces the words of our text?
"Is there then unrighteousness with God?" We can understand that this question should arise if Paul here teaches that God sovereignly chooses and rejects; but we cannot see any reason for this question if the Arminian interpretation must be adopted, and Paul merely teaches that God is merciful to him that is worthy.
And therefore, we will have to maintain that the apostle quotes these words from the Old Testament as proof of the fact that God Himself maintains His sovereignty in bestowing His mercy on whomsoever He wills. The cause of the distinction whereby some are saved, while others are not, even among them that are called Israel, even in the Church of Christ on earth, as it is established in the line of the generation of believers, is not in man: it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but only of God that showeth mercy. All boasting is strictly excluded.
But now we must hasten to explain that last part of our text: "So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy."
It ought to be very plain that the pronoun it by which the apostle introduces these words refers to nothing less than eternal salvation. Those that deny the truth of God's sovereign election and reprobation interpret the preceding verses, that deal with Jacob's election, as having reference only to a national distinction and to temporal blessings, and not to eternal salvation. Jacob's distinction consisted merely in this, that God would establish the theocracy in the line of his descendants. And it stands to reason that they are constrained to interpret the words of our text in the same fashion. I will not try to refute this false interpretation again. It is refuted by the very words of our text: for let us notice that the apostle is not writing about distinctions between one nation and another, but plainly refers to members of the same nation, to Israelites in the natural sense of the word. The words, "I will have mercy upon whom I will have mercy, and will have compassion on whom I will have compassion," express according to the context in Exodus 33 a distinction God freely and sovereignly makes between individuals of the same nation; persons, not nations, are distinguished by the mercy of God. And this applies certainly to verse 16. The text means: it is not of any individual, of any man that wills or runs, but of God that showeth mercy to attain salvation. Eternal salvation is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy.
God's mercy is His eternal will to bless, to make happy. God is merciful, and He is the most blessed God in Himself. And He wills Himself as the most blessed God. This virtue of God according to which He knows and wills Himself as the most blessed is His mercy, considered apart from any relation or attitude of God toward the creature. And with respect to man God's mercy is His will to reveal His own blessedness by making man partaker of it, causing him to taste it, so that he also becomes blessed in God. And if such a man is in a condition of misery, God's mercy reveals itself in the deliverance of that miserable man from all his misery, and bestowing upon him the blessing of eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The mercy of God, the will of God to bless us in the highest possible degree, is centrally revealed in the cross and resurrection of the Savior. And that mercy of God is abundant according to Scripture. It does not reveal itself merely in delivering us from our misery and bringing us back to a former state, but it leads us on to the highest possible glory and bliss, to the inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away. It blesses us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ. This it is, according to all Scripture, that flows from the mercy of God, which is from everlasting to everlasting upon those that fear Him. And therefore it is to this salvation, consisting in the forgiveness of sin, righteousness, and the glory of eternal life, that the apostle refers, when he writes: "It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy."
And thus the apostle emphatically reasserts that God is absolutely sovereign in bestowing His mercy on whomsoever He wills.
For what else could these words mean?
He that willeth is certainly the man that is willing to receive the grace of God, that longs for the salvation of Christ, seeks for it, knocks at the door of the kingdom of God, asks for the blessing of God's mercy. And he that runneth is the man that has entered into the strait gate and is already running the race, walking in the narrow way. The figure of running is derived, as more often in Scripture, from the running in the race. It denotes an earnest endeavor, keen interest in the salvation of God, the strife to enter in, to attain to the goal, the battle of faith, of walking in the way of sanctification.
The apostle, therefore, asserts in the 16th verse that salvation is not of him that wills it, desires it, and seeks it, and asks for it; nor of him that earnestly endeavors to attain it, and strives to enter in; but only of God that showeth mercy. Now it is very plain that these words cannot mean that he who wills, seeks, and knocks, and earnestly desires to be saved, and prays for it, and he that strives to enter into the kingdom of God and the rest that remaineth for the people of God, shall not be saved. For, first of all, the very opposite is true, according to all Scripture.
Whosoever will shall surely be saved. He that fights the battle of faith shall surely have the victory. He that runs the race shall surely receive the crown. Nor does the apostle deny this in the words of our text. But he says that salvation is not of him, but of God that showeth mercy. The ultimate source of anyone's salvation, the reason why a man is saved, must not be sought in the fact that he wills or runs in distinction from others that do not will and do not run; it lies only in the mercy of God. Not to man, not to his will or endeavor, it must be attributed that he is saved and that God is merciful to him; but to the sovereign mercy of God alone.
That mercy is first, not the will or endeavor of man. That mercy of God is the ultimate cause even of a man's running and willing, his seeking and knocking and praying, of his entering into the strait gate, and of all his earnest endeavor to obtain the crown of life. If it were not so, man could not be saved. Never would we of ourselves, we, who are dead in trespasses and sins, repent of sin, become broken-hearted, seek the grace of forgiveness, and wash our garments in the blood of the Lamb. It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth; it is only of God that showeth mercy, even that a man wills and runs. That mercy precedes his willing and all his running. It is the deepest cause of his willing and of all his striving to enter into the kingdom of God.
Such is the plain meaning of the apostle's words.
And this is true consolation for every sinner that truly comes to Christ, as well for every believer that strives to enter into the rest that remaineth for the people of God. When you see a man bowing his head with shame and beating his breast in consternation, and when you hear him utter the prayer of the publican, "God be merciful to me, a sinner," then you must not say to him, "God will surely be merciful to you, for you will and desire to seek His mercy"; but you may tell him this: "Brother, God surely was already merciful to you, for that repentance and sorrow over sin, that contrition and that prayer for mercy were not of you, but of God that showeth mercy." And the same may be said to the believer that earnestly strives to persevere in the way of sanctification. When you ask the question why one willeth and another willeth not, why one runneth and persevereth and another does not, the only answer of the Word of God is that God is merciful to whom He will be merciful, and hath compassion on whom He will have compassion. He is absolutely sovereign in the bestowal of His mercy. Therefore, he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.
By Herman Hoeksema
We now continue our discussion of the truth of predestination as taught in that marvelous ninth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans. And this time we call your attention especially to Romans 9:14-16: "What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy in whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy."
Note, in the first place, that this passage is introduced by a most significant question: "What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God?"
Notice, in the second place, that the epistle appeals for an answer to God Himself, and that he does not attempt to solve the problem by his own philosophy: "For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion."
And notice, finally, that the apostle concludes by emphasizing anew the truth of God's predestinating purpose when he writes: ''So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy."
Also this time we shall have to go slowly, for the matter is extremely important, and it is our earnest desire to make very plain to all our hearers, whether they will accept this truth or not, that we are nevertheless teaching nothing but the pure Word of God. Surely, in regard to this tremendous truth of predestination our own speculation and philosophy means nothing. We have to be silent, and just listen to the Word of God.
What shall we say then?
Is there unrighteousness with God?
The little word then refers undoubtedly, first of all, to the very immediate context. There the apostle had adduced the example of Jacob and Esau to prove the matter of God's sovereignty in regard to the salvation of men. Jacob and Esau were of the same parents. They were, moreover, twin brothers. And from a natural point of view Esau had the pre-eminence, for he was the firstborn. Yet, the Word of God came to Rebecca when she went to inquire of the Lord concerning her extraordinary condition that the elder should serve the younger. And this was said unto her before the children were born, neither had done any good or evil, in order that the purpose of God according to election might stand. And this sovereign, predestinating purpose of God was moreover, plainly expressed in that which was written, "Jacob have I loved, and Esau have I hated.''
It is in close connection with this example that the question now is raised:
What shall we say then?
If the matter stands thus with the salvation of man in the light of God's predestinating purpose, what shall be, what necessarily must be our conclusion concerning God?
Shall we say that there is unrighteousness with God, when He chooses the one and rejects the other without regard even to their work?
This is, indeed, an amazing question. Although we certainly cannot agree with Dr. Barth's interpretation of the passage, yet, from a merely formal point of view, he undoubtedly paraphrases this question correctly when he writes: "Is it not inevitable that from the highest pinnacle of human faith there should ring out the mad questioning cry, 'Is not such a God unrighteous?' Yes, is He not indeed a capricious, spiteful demon, seeking to make fools of us all?
Does He not rebel against the law of righteousness which He ought to obey?
Can anything be so revolting to us as the majestic secrecy of one who is incomprehensible, unapproachable, inaccessible, self-sufficient, and completely free?
Must we not all, all of us, cry out instinctively that such an one cannot and must not be God?"
Yes, indeed, the question is very bold and extremely presumptuous. Imagine the audacity and presumption of the creature, of mere sinful man, that would undertake to summon the Must High, the absolute Sovereign of heaven and earth before the tribunal of His own judgment in order to determine whether or not He were guilty of unrighteousness. Such an attitude over against the supreme Judge of heaven and earth is, of course, absurd and absolutely impossible.
But, secondly, what if the answer which we would give to this bold question should happen to be in the affirmative, and we would indeed pass a verdict of guilty in this impossible and inconceivable trial?
Would this, then, change the truth of God's absolute sovereignty?
Would He not still be God, Who performs all His good pleasure, and would not the ultimate conclusion in such a case have to be that our condition is absolutely hopeless, seeing that Go,
Who is nevertheless God, is found guilty of unrighteousness?
Yet, the question must be put, for the apostle is writing about the truth of God's sovereign grace, according to which salvation is not of him that willeth, neither of him that runneth, but of God's predestinating mercy. And this truth meets with many objections in the sinful heart and mind of man. And it is one of these objections which the apostle intercepts by the question: ''What shall we say then ? Is there unrighteousness with God?"
To be sure, as we have said before, many there are who must have nothing of the truth of God's absolute sovereignty. First they may make an attempt to show that the Word of God is on their side, and that it teaches no such thing as absolute election and reprobation. And when this fails, -- because the language of Scripture is too plain to be denied, -- they begin to judge the truth and introduce objections of human invention, arguments that are not derived from the Word of God but from their own mind. The purpose usually is to bring the truth into discredit and thus to show that it cannot be the truth, that it is not acceptable.
The untenableness of this doctrine is set forth. Its absurdity is proved. The cruelty and the injustice that is implied is emphasized. It is called a monstrous, horrible doctrine. And well we are acquainted with some of these objections of the human mind. The opponents never weary of repeating them. If it is true,. they say, that God determines with absolute sovereignty in the matter of salvation of man, if He loves the one and hates the other before the foundation of the world, even before they have done either good or evil, then God is the author of sin. If you teach the doctrine of absolute predestination, you must needs deny the responsibility and freedom of man.
Then you make men careless and profane, for they will say: "If we are elect, we shall be saved and if we are not elect, we cannot be saved anyway." Then you make of God an arbitrary, cruel tyrant; then your God is devoid of justice and righteousness. And such a God we simply do not want. God is a God of love, and He seeks the salvation of all men. And if men are not saved, it is because they do not want to come to Christ. Salvation is of him that willeth and of him that runneth, not of God that is absolutely sovereign, and sovereignly shows His mercy to whomsoever He wills.
These objections and arguments of human invention are as old as the truth. Wherever the truth of divine predestination was taught and preached, from the earliest times of the history of the Church, it met with bitter opposition. And our text shows that this was the case even in the times of the apostles. Paul knows that the truth that God is sovereign in the matter of salvation will not be received by the sinful heart and mind of man, that it will meet with opposition in the world. Men will raise objections against this teaching. And some of the most weighty of these objections he therefore considers in this chapter. In our text he intercepts the objection that there is unrighteousness with God if He loves Jacob and hates Esau without regard to their works.
What shall we say then?
Is there unrighteousness with God?
And the apostle answers immediately and emphatically: "God forbid."
But is this answer sufficient?
Must there not be more than a simple denial of God's unrighteousness?
Must not the people of God meet arguments with arguments on this score?
To be sure, attempts have been made to do so. God-fearing people have tried to show that God's sovereign predestination is justifiable, and the attempt was well-meant. A very common mode of defense was, and still is, that which proceeds from the fact that all men have sinned and, therefore, are worthy of damnation.
God is not obliged, therefore, they say, to be merciful to any still less to all. No one could accuse Him of unrighteousness if He would leave all men in their damnable state. How much less does the indictment hold how God is merciful to some and saved them to the glory of His sovereign grace.
And we must admit that there is an element of truth in this argument, but it is no final and satisfactory answer.
For, to say the least, could not God have prevented the entrance of sin into the world?
And seeing that it is certainly according to His own counsel that sin came into the world, is there then no unrighteousness with God when He sovereignly determines to leave some in their damnation and prepare them as vessels of wrath fitted unto destruction?
We shall, therefore, not attempt to meet the arguments of the opponents with any human reasoning. We shall not presume to justify God by summoning Him before the bar of human reason and clearing Him of all guilt. For God is always God. He is always Judge: He is never defendant. We are always judged by Him; but He cannot be judged by us. Neither do we justify Him, but He always justifies Himself.
We can never say anything of ourselves about God. If we do, we will surely lie found liars. Thus, we are always thrown back upon the Word God Himself. If we would know God, Who is really God, the living God, we must needs listen, never speak. If then, we would have an answer to the question, if in all sincerity arid truth, and not in an attitude of rebellion and opposition to the truth, we put the question: Is there then unrighteousness with God? --we shall have to turn to the Holy Scriptures for an answer and inquire what God will say.
And this is exactly what the apostle does in the words our text. ''Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. For he saith to Moses...." It is the Most High Himself that answers the question and He answers it by emphasizing His sovereign prerogative as God and as the Lord of all. For that is the implication of the answer: ''I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion." It must be plain that these words which are quoted from Exodus 33:19 merely emphasize that God is sovereign in His mercy, and that in His sovereignty He is righteous.
Let us briefly analyze and review the situation that is called to our mind by the words of Exodus 33. They were spoken first of all to Israel as a nation, as they had been delivered with a mighty hand from the house of bondage in Egypt, had been led through the Red Sea and were now encamped at Mount Sinai. And the people had grievously sinned: they had violated the covenant of God by making and worshipping the golden calf. Jehovah threatens to destroy this people that had rebelled against Him and trampled His covenant under foot. But Moses pleads for mercy. And he pleads not only that God will forgive the sins of His people, but He also implores the Lord that He Himself will go up before the people and lead them to the promised land. And Jehovah heard the supplication of His servant, and granted his request.
Still he is not satisfied. He must have not the mere assurance that Jehovah would go up with them and be in their midst, but he wants the promise that the Lord would go up with them in His favor. God must be gracious to them, He must be good to Israel. That goodness of Jehovah he would see. And he beseeches Him: "Show me thy glory." And even this bold request the Lord will grant His servant. He will make all His goodness to pass before Moses, and He will proclaim before him the Name of the Lord. Yet, even so, Moses must learn to understand that this goodness is not for all that are called Israel, that Jehovah is sovereign in the dispensation of His mercy: "And I will be gracious unto whom I will be gracious, and I will show mercy on whom I will show mercy." Exodus 33:18,19.
These last words are quoted by the apostle in the words of our text. And their meaning is very plain: God maintains His sovereignty in bestowing His mercy on whomsoever He wills, even making separation between Israel and Israel. The answer of God to Moses, who is anxious about the people of God in the desert, is: yes, God is merciful unto His people; but He will not be merciful unto all these people: they are not all Israel, though they be of Israel. And the question, who belong to the true Israel of God and who do not, is not determined by the worth or will of man, but only by the sovereign will of God.
He is merciful to whom He will be merciful, and hath compassion on whom He wills. Such is His sovereign prerogative, and there is no unrighteousness with Him. That is His own Word. And His Word comes to us and we believe. There is no unrighteousness with God, and God forbid that we should ever say or think that there is. But He is merciful unto whom He will be merciful. It is not of him that willeth, neither of him that runneth. Humble yourselves before Him. For if you will and run, it is solely of God that sheweth mercy. Of Him, and through Him, and unto Him are all things; to Him alone be the glory forevermore.
By Herman Hoeksema
We were discussing the passage from Romans 9:10-13, and I will not take time now to quote it again. Only, in the present lecture I must call special attention to the words of verse 11: "(For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of Him that calleth.) "
These words state very plainly that predestination is not based upon works or upon foreseen faith, but rests only in the good pleasure of the Most High.
We must bear in mind that the doctrine of God's sovereignty and of His free determination with respect to the salvation of men is not according to man. Many there are, and always have been, that object to this truth and all its implications. There were not many periods the history of the church of Christ in the new dispensation which she was strong enough to maintain and to confess the truth of God's sovereign predestination in all its purity according to the Scriptures.
And ours is certainly not a time in which we expect that the faithful professors of this truth abound. Even those who officially profess to believe this truth usually prefer to keep silent about it; and when they are required to give an account of this strange, ambiguous attitude, they answer that the doctrine of sovereign predestination is a mystery, belongs to the hidden things of God with which we have nothing to do.
The revealed things, thus they argue, are for us and our children. And this revealed will, which in the minds of those who assume this ambiguous position usually implies that God is willing to save all and that the gospel is a general offer of salvation on the part of God, must have all the emphasis in the ministry of the Word and the preaching of the gospel of Christ.
The doctrine of a general will of God unto salvation is maintained alongside of the truth of sovereign election and particular grace and the former is emphasized to the exclusion of the latter. And when it is objected that such a position is absurd and untenable, the defenders of this position usually seek a haven of refuge in the well-known excuse that this is an insoluble mystery and that we must maintain both sides of this dilemma without curiously inquiring into the deep things of God.
This false and ambiguous position has proved more dangerous to the maintenance of the pure truth of Scripture concerning God's sovereign predestination than professed free willism.
For under the Reformed flag the entire cargo of Arminian heresy is smuggled into the Church.
However, in this present lecture we are more concerned with the theory of the Arminians. They also pretend to believe in the doctrine of election and, of course, of reprobation. But they explain it in such a way that it is really contingent upon the works and the faith and the free will of man.
Granted, they say, that Scripture teaches personal election and reprobation and that this sovereign predestination determines the eternal state of the predestinated, this cannot possibly imply that God in predestinating has no regard for the character and works of those that are so predestinated. The ultimate ground upon which, and the reason why one is elected unto eternal life while another is rejected unto eternal desolation cannot be the mere sovereign good pleasure of the Most High. This, they claim would be arbitrary; it would present God as a cruel tyrant.
Predestination, therefore, rests on the part of God in His foreknowledge of the character and works of man, and on the part of man is based on his foreseen works and, therefore, ultimately on the free will of man. God elected, according to the doctrine of the Arminians, those whom He foreknew would be willing to believe in Christ and to persevere in that faith and He reprobated them that were by Him foreknown as unwilling thus to believe and persevere. Only thus, they claim, can man's freedom be explained and maintained in the light of God's predestinating purpose; and only on the basis of this presentation of the truth of election and reprobation can the gospel be preached that whosoever will may come and drink of the water of life freely.
We like to emphasize in this connection that the doctrine of predestination is not at all in conflict with the gospel promise that whosoever will may come and drink of the water of life. This we also preach without any distortion or limitation of the words. Surely, whosoever will may come. And what is more, they may have the assurance that they will be received, seeing that their will to come is already the fruit of God's grace. The Lord Himself gives them the assurance that they that come unto Him He will in no wise cast out. And the promise of rest is for all that are laboring and heavy laden and will come unto Christ. No one will ever be able to say that on his part he was willing to come to Christ and to receive salvation, while God rejected him. But this is the difference between the pure Scriptural truth of predestination and its Arminian corruption, that according to the latter the will to believe is the ground of God's election, while according to the former the will to come is the fruit and outcome of God's predestinating grace.
But suppose we adopt for a moment for the sake of argument the Arminian conception.
God has foreknown from all eternity those who would believe in Christ and those who would reject Him; and He unchangeably predestinated the former unto eternal life and the latter unto everlasting damnation.
Would this really gain for man the so eagerly desired freedom to determine upon the matter of his own eternal state?
Is even then not the eternal state of the elect and of the reprobate immutably fixed and determined?
Can even God's foreknowledge be changed?
To return to the words of our text, does not God unchangeably know that Esau will be wicked; that he will prove to be a fornicator, profane that he will despise his birthright if it is placed within his reach; that he will stumble at that stone, and that it were better for him had he never possessed the birthright, yea, that he never had been born?
And yet does not God sovereignly place him in the position of the firstborn and put the stone of stumbling in his way?
Furthermore, can it be said that while God eternally and unchangeably foreknew that Esau would be lost forever, according to the divine intention Christ died for him?
Speaking in general, is it conceivable that God seriously gave His only begotten Son unto the death of the cross for the salvation of them who in His foreknowledge are unchangeably predestined unto damnation?
It will be evident that the Arminian cannot be permitted to retain the semblance of the truth of God's sovereign predestination. If one desires to present the salvation of man as contingent upon his own will, he must deny predestination in any form. One must choose between the sovereignty of man and the sovereignty of God. There is no alternative.
However, this Arminian presentation of the doctrine of predestination is contrary both to the context and to the text itself. Especially if we view the text in the light of what follows in the chapter, it ought to be very evident that the apostle had in mind no such view as that of the Arminians. For why should he in that case conceive of the objection which he himself expresses in the question, "Is there then unrighteousness with God?" or why again should he consider the other objection often raised by sinful men, "Why does he yet find fault, for who hath resisted his will?"
It is evident that, considered in the light of the Arminian view, these objections are simply meaningless and have no sense or force whatsoever. But also in conflict with the text is the view that God's predestination rests upon His foreknowledge of the works of men. For the apostle emphatically states that the Word of God, which was the revelation of the purpose of God according to election, came to Rebecca before the children were born, neither had done good or evil. Had the Word of God come to Rebecca after the children had grown up and after it had become manifest that Esau was a wicked fornicator while Jacob was the true child of the covenant, she might have drawn the conclusion that God distinguished the brothers on the basis of their own works.
But now the purpose of God according to election must stand. Hence, this purpose is revealed to her before the children were born, neither had distinguished themselves by their works, whether good or evil. From this it is evident that it was God's purpose to show unto Rebecca that His counsel of election and reprobation with regard to Jacob and Esau was entirely independent of their works and rested solely in His own sovereign good pleasure.
The text, therefore, makes it very plain that God's predestination is absolutely sovereign and has nothing to do with the works or even the faith of man as a ground of His predestinating counsel. The only ground of His love of the elect and His sovereign hatred of the reprobate is in Himself. He chose to life and He rejected to death according to His sovereign will. He alone determined from before the foundation of the world who would and who would not have a place in that Church in which forever the glory of His grace will be manifest and shine forth.
We conclude, therefore, that the predestination of Jacob and Esau is a personal election and reprobation, that it is an election and reprobation unto eternal salvation and eternal desolation respectively, and that it rests in God's sovereign good pleasure alone. And this truth is taught not only in this passage, but is corroborated by all of Scripture. Jacob and Esau are types of the elect and reprobate, for God "has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places with Christ, according as He has chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world." See Ephesians 1:3, 4.
And in Christ "we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will." Ephesians 1:11.
To the unbelieving Jews the Lord says openly that they believe not because they are not of his sheep. John 10:26. His sheep are those whom the Father gave Him. John 10:29. And they hear His voice and follow Him, and He knows them and gives unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish.
In Mark 4:11, 12, we read that Jesus explains the purpose of His teaching in parables as follows: "And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables: That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them."
In John 12:37-41 we read: "But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him That the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed? Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them. These things said Esaias, when he saw his glory, and spake of him."
And, to quote one more, in 1 Peter 2:7-9 we read: "Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient whereunto also they were appointed. But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light."
It has often been objected to this doctrine that it offers no comfort to the wicked or to the sinner. But in reply we may ask:
Is there then any form of presentation of the gospel that could possibly comfort the wicked and the reprobate?
As long as a man walks in the way of iniquity, there is no comfort for him in the whole of Scripture. And the pure, unadulterated truth of predestination maintains even over against him, yea, over against all the workers of iniquity, and even over against the devil and his host, that God is God and that He executes His counsel and realizes His sovereign purpose even in them.
Not even in their wickedness and in their deliberate walking in the way of destruction and of everlasting damnation are they able to boast that in doing so they frustrate the will of God concerning them, or are effectively opposing the Most High. Even in hell they will have to confess on the one hand that God is righteous and that their condemnation is just, but also that their eternal desolation has its ultimate cause in God's sovereign predestinating purpose. Hell will confess that God is good and that He is the sovereign God indeed.
But for the godly this doctrine is the ground of his assurance and the source of all his comfort. And comfort it is for him at every stage of his spiritual development and in all circumstances of his life.
Are you seeking?
Know, then, that you shall surely find: for the fact of your seeking is the indubitable evidence that God has sought you first.
Are you knocking?
It surely shall be opened unto you: for the fact of your knocking is already the fruit of His grace.
Are you weak and wavering?
His counsel shall surely stand, and you shall never perish.
Are you a confirmed believer?
You will know, then, that no one shall pluck you out of His hand: for He will perfect the work which He began and surely preserve His own even unto the very end, so that they can never be lost.
But not only is the truth of God's predestination a source of rich consolation and a ground of firm assurance to the godly; it is also a reason for profound humiliation before God and men. After all, the Arminian doctrine is a proud error: for it teaches after all that salvation is based upon the works and free will of man. But the truth of sovereign predestination emphasizes that God is all and man is nothing. There is absolutely no reason to boast. And the end of the matter is: "He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord."
By Herman Hoeksema
Thursday, May 22, 2008
It may be shown from scripture that the CAUSE of salvation is not a single one, as so many suppose.
Here, too, it is necessary to distinguish between things which differ.
First, the ORIGINATING cause of salvation is the eternal purpose of God, or, in other words, the predestinating grace of the Father.
Second, the MERITORIOUS cause of salvation is the mediation of Christ, this having particular respect to the legal side of things, or, in other words, His fully meeting the demands of the law on the behalf and in the stead of those He redeems.
Third, the EFFICIENT cause of salvation is the regenerating and sanctifying operations of the Holy Spirit, which respect the experimental side of it, or, in other words, the Spirit works IN us what Christ purchased FOR us.
Thus, we owe our personal salvation equally to each Person in the Trinity, and not to one (the Son) more than to the others.
Fourth, the INSTRUMENTAL cause is our faith, obedience, and perseverance; though we are not saved because of them, equally true is it that we cannot be saved (according to God's appointment) without them.
By A. W. Pink
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.
Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily.
But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.
And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.
Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying,
Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.
The fullness of time was almost there when what is narrated in our text took place.
The angel Gabriel had been sent with a strange and wondrous tidings, in the first place, to Zacharias as he ministered in the temple; and six months, later he had been sent to the virgin Mary in the city of Nazareth. And Mary, having received the message of the angel, and also being informed of the wondrous thing that had happened to her cousin, had gone to visit Elizabeth.
Now, at the time of our text, we may draw the conclusion that John the Baptist had already been born. It seems from the narrative that Joseph had not been informed by Mary of the tidings she had received. He seems to have been ignorant of what Mary had heard from the angel.
Mary was espoused to Joseph. They were betrothed, which meant much more than an engagement today. A betrothal in those days was legally equal to being married, so that, if one that was betrothed was found to be not worthy, and the man to whom she was betrothed wanted to put her away, he would have to go through some such procedure as is called divorce. Now God had seen to it that Mary was betrothed; and the reason is plain. It was that Jesus might be legally registered as the son of Joseph, and therefore of David. Thus He might be protected from slander.
Now Joseph observes Mary's condition; and he does not know the reason for it. Mary had not told him, the reason being, in the first place, that Mary was inclined to keep things in her heart and ponder upon them. In the second place, the subject was too delicate for Mary to discuss with one that was not yet her husband. And in the third place, was it not that the thing was too wonderful, too great, that Joseph should be convinced simply by the word of Mary? Was it not necessary for Joseph to receive a divine revelation in order to be convinced? And it was Joseph's attitude in the case of Mary that occasioned this revelation.
The Sign of the Virgin Mother
A Unique Sign
A Marvelous Fact
A Blessed Gospel
I. A Unique Sign
Notice that this sign of the virgin mother is a unique sign. It cannot be repeated; it can occur only once; and therefore it is an outstanding sign.
That sign had long before been prophesied by the prophet Isaiah. It was a dangerous time for Judah and Jerusalem; they were being threatened by a wicked alliance. That alliance was the alliance of Rezin, the king of Syria, and Pekah, the king of Israel. They threatened Judah and Jerusalem; and at the same time the king of Judah was very wicked.
Isaiah prophesied at this time. Isaiah's name means "salvation"; and his son's name limits that meaning. His son's name, Shear-jashub, means, "the remnant shall return," "the remnant shall be saved." Thus Isaiah and his son were a sign unto Israel that the remnant would be saved, and the rest would be destroyed.
Now Isaiah must go to meet king Ahaz at the end of the conduit of the upper pool in the highway of the fuller's field; and he must tell Ahaz that he must not put his trust in an arm of flesh, he must not look to Assyria for help, but he must be quiet and trust in the Lord. But, you understand, the wicked will not put his trust in the Lord; and so Ahaz, receiving the word of God, did not hear it. He did not want to hear it. He did not want to trust in the word of Jehovah; he wanted to trust in the flesh.
It is then that King Ahaz is told to ask for a sign. You understand that the general significance of this is that God will surely save them, that it will be impossible that they should perish. God will surely save his people; and because God will surely save his people, the kings of Syria and Israel shall not prevail against them. But Ahaz does not want a sign; and so he says that he will not tempt the Lord. That was, of course, a bit of hypocrisy. He does not want a sign; but Isaiah says, "the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." It is to that prophecy that the evangelist refers in the text. It is a unique sign.
A sign is a visible representation of the invisible things of the kingdom of God, the things of the kingdom of God we cannot see. It is something taken from our world, something that takes place in the world in which we live, and which we see so as to picture to us the invisible things of God's kingdom.
In the second place, a sign is always something that attracts attention. Our attention is called to a sign either by the word of God, or by the character of the sign itself. To the former belong such signs as that of the rainbow; God calls our attention to the rainbow as a sign of his covenant. So it is with the sand on the seashore, the stars of the heavens, and the bread and wine in the Lord's Supper. These things are signs because God calls our attention to them as signs. But there are also signs that attract our attention in themselves. Such a sign we have in this wonder. A wonder is always a sign. Not all signs are wonders; but something which we do not understand is. A wonder does not differ from the ordinary things of life either, except that we do not understand it. A wonder is the breaking through of God's power of grace into our world of sin and death. A wonder has to do with grace. This world is under the curse of God - hence sickness and pain and sorrow and death. Now, whenever God's redeeming grace breaks through you have a wonder; and where you have a wonder you have a sign. It is a sign of the power of God's grace breaking through. That was the case with the Red Sea; the power of God's grace operated in that sea. So it was with all the wonders of the Old Testament; and so it was with the signs of Jesus. In all these signs you have the power of God's grace, lifting up a sin-cursed world into the kingdom of God.
Now of the signs which are also a wonder, the sign here is unique. A virgin is pregnant; and this is noticed by Joseph. People have tried to show upon other grounds that Mary was not a virgin; and they have denied the virgin birth. They reason that the original word for virgin may be translated " young woman"; and that is true. But the trouble is that in this text it cannot be so translated, for Joseph informs us that they had not yet come together; and the context emphasized that Mary was a virgin. They say that Christ certainly is of the seed of David; and the genealogies which we have in Scriptures both in Matthew and in Luke are of Joseph and not of Mary. Now that statement is extremely doubtful; it is extremely doubtful that in Luke we have the genealogy of Joseph. But it makes no difference, for it was inevitable that Christ should be legally registered as the son of Joseph, and that He should be protected against slander. And Jesus was never slandered because of his birth. Nor does it mean that Mary was not of the house of David.
In the second place, the entire purpose of the gospel is to emphasize that Christ was born without the will of man. How else could this be a sign? That Jesus was born of a virgin was a sign; and Joseph observed that sign. He did not understand; and therefore the attitude of Joseph was, in the first place, a very natural one. In the second place, it was a very noble attitude. And in the third place, it was an attitude of faith.
In the first place, the attitude of Joseph was very natural. He was betrothed to Mary; and Mary had committed adultery. That was what Joseph thought, of course; what else could he think? That is why this sign needs interpreting.
In the second place, the attitude of Joseph was a noble one. We read that he was a just man, - that is, he was a just man in respect to Mary. And, being a just man, he was also a noble man. And, being noble, he did not want to put Mary to public shame. To put her away legally, he must get a letter of divorcement; and that had to be done publicly. That Joseph did not want; and therefore he decided to put her away secretly, that is, without any public procedure.
In the third place, this attitude of Joseph was an attitude of faith. The angel explains things to him in a dream. He explains to Joseph that which was almost impossible to believe; and Joseph believed.
II. A Marvelous Fact
Now this sign was of a marvelous fact; it was a sign of the fact of the incarnation.
Notice that Matthew gives an account of the birth of Christ. He begins with saying that Mary was found with child of the Holy Ghost; and the account closes with saying that they shall call his name Jesus, so that there is here an account of the birth of Christ. But what is emphasized is the manner and way in which he is born; and therefore it concentrates on the sign.
Jesus was born, negatively, without the will of man; and, positively, by the Holy Ghost. So this sign is an outward token of a most marvelous wonder, the wonder of the incarnation, that is, the wonder of wonders. It is the most marvelous wonder because, if you take that wonder away, you have no wonder left. All other wonders point to this one wonder; and they all follow from this wonder. There is no prophet, priest, or king possible without the incarnation. That is true in the New Testament, the incarnation is the central wonder.
But there is more. Take the incarnation away, and there is no salvation. Take the incarnation away, and the cross and the resurrection mean nothing - that is, if nineteen hundred years ago God did not come in our nature, nothing is true. The doctrine of the incarnation is even a more central doctrine than the cross and the resurrection. The doctrine of the cross and the resurrection are central; but the doctrine of the incarnation is even more central than that of the cross, and the resurrection, for both follow from the incarnation. And looking at the incarnation from the point of view of salvation you must say, the incarnation was necessary to save us. That is true. He that is to save us must be God in order to be mighty to save us; and He must be man in order to be able to suffer and die for our sins.
But there is nevertheless a viewpoint that is higher. The incarnation of the Son of God means this, that God united Himself with us. In the incarnation God united Himself with his people in the most intimate fellowship that can be conceived of. In the incarnation eternity unites itself with time, infinitude unites itself with the finite, the Lord unites himself with the servant. In the incarnation God dwells with us in the most intimate relation so that, while with Adam in paradise the covenant was external, in Christ we have God within us; so that, as in paradise God spoke from without, in Christ He speaks from within. The covenant idea, God dwelling with His people under one roof, has been realized; and that is eternal life. The incarnation is the central realization of the covenant; and that covenant fellowship shall spread until we shall enter into the perfected covenant fellowship in the new heavens and the new earth.
III. A Blessed Gospel
That is why we have the gospel in these two names, Immanuel and Jesus. Immanuel means, God with us; and Jesus means, Jehovah salvation. Neither of these two names do we find in the revelation in creation. God is not with us as we see him round about us. As God reveals himself in creation, He is against us, He is not with us. As we see God in creation, He is against us; that is what we see; that is what we feel; that is what we experience. God sends sickness, sorrow, pain, death; and nowhere in creation do we find Immanuel, Jesus. Everywhere we find the same language, God is filled with wrath against sin. We see no Immanuel; no: "God with us."
Immanuel means "God with us"; but it also means that God will help us. He must be Immanuel to be Jesus; and He must be Jesus to be Immanuel. He shall save his people from their sins. That is, He shall remove the guilt, the dominion, the effect of sin; and He shall save his people in order to lift them up into the perfected fellowship of God.
Of that fellowship Jesus speaks when He says, "I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one." He will save his people. There is election in the very name Jesus. He will save his people; and his people, from God's point of view, are they whom God gave him. And from our point of view, they are those that believe the sign, that believe the gospel. Do you believe it? Do you believe the sign that a virgin conceived and brought forth a son? And do you believe it so that you put your trust in that sign? He shall save his people.
Because that is the case, therefore the glory of the cross is this, He shall save his people. Not, He will try to save them. Not: He is willing, if you are willing. Because we do not will until the power of Immanuel has touched us, but He shall save his people because He is a complete Savior; He will save them to the very end.
This is a blessed gospel. Believe in that name, and you will never be put to shame.
By Herman Hoeksema