Tuesday, December 29, 2009
When God declares a sinner righteous in His own view based on the righteousness of Christ imputed (charged, accounted) to that sinner, make no mistake, it is a REAL justification, a REAL righteousness, and a REAL transaction.
It is not, as some say, a “legal fiction,” or God declaring or viewing something as if it were true when it really is not true. However God views or declares something to be is the only true reality. The imputation of sin to Christ was so REAL that Christ actually suffered under the justice of the law’s wrath against all the sins of all His people as they were accounted to Him.
The imputation of righteousness to His people was so REAL that, as a result, the Holy Spirit comes in time and gives all of them life in the new birth. Those who do not understand the reality of imputation do not understand the reality of Christ as our Substitute and Surety.
By Bill Parker
Sunday, December 20, 2009
The preservation of the saints is the teaching of the Holy Scriptures that all whom the Father elected eternally and all whom Jesus redeemed with His own blood and all whom the Holy Spirit irresistibly calls to salvation will be surely kept by God’s power in faith. And they shall be brought to eternal glory in heaven. We can put it in these words: The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose, I will not, I will not desert to its foes. That soul, though all hell should endeavor to take, I will not, I will not, I will never forsake.
The truth of the preservation of the saints, or the fact that a true believer, saved by God’s grace, will not and cannot fall away from his faith, this truth calls us to lift up our eyes unto the hills from whence cometh our help (Psalm 121).
Specifically, it directs us to two mountain peaks of faith: to the truth of God’s absolute power, and to the truth of His unbreakable faithfulness. We lift up our eyes to the mountain peak of God’s absolute power. We read, “My Father is greater than all” (John 10). And no man is able to pluck the sheep out of His hand. And then we lift up our eyes unto the mountain peak of God’s faithfulness. II Timothy 2:13: “He abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself.”
“My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips.”
The teaching that a person’s salvation depends on the will or the work of the sinner falls under this judgment of God: it has no comfort. It has no confidence. If salvation depends upon me, upon my will, my ability, or merit, or the merit of any man, I will be lost. But the truth of the preservation of the saints glorifies God. And it brings confidence to the heart of believers. It brings personal confidence:
“The Lord will perfect [complete] that which concerneth me: thy mercy, O Lord, endureth for ever: forsake not the works of thine own hands.”
“Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ”
Jesus teaches this wonderful truth in His prayer in John 17:11-12. In John 17 Jesus is praying that we might have the assurance of God’s keeping us. It is one of the most beautiful and profound prayers in all of the Bible. It is an intimate prayer of Jesus that He brings to the Father just hours before the cross. All the truths of God’s sovereign and saving grace are woven throughout that prayer. And Jesus prays, not only for our hearts to understand our Father’s eternal election, not only that we would understand the Father’s gracious provision of the Son to stand in our place upon the cross, not only that we would understand the irresistible love of the Father to keep us, but Jesus prays that our hearts might be secure in the truth of the preservation of the saints.
We read in John 17:11-12: “And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are. While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled.”
Jesus is praying, as I said, and His prayer is to the Holy Father. He prays that the Father would keep or guard and protect “those whom thou gavest me.” This prayer arises out of the fact that we are in the world, says Jesus. The fervency and the urgency of the prayer arises from this consideration: “I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee.”
So, in Jesus’ prayer there is a contrast between the place where Jesus would soon be (heaven), and where we now are (earth). Jesus sees that soon He will be no more in the world. He will be raised from the dead and He will ascend into heaven on the fortieth day. And He will be crowned with the glory of the Father. Jesus says, “I will, then, soon be in Thy presence — the place of the fullness of joy, before the eternal throne of God. But My church,” He says, “is in the world. And in the world they will be subject to waves of sorrow, temptations. They must pass through desert lands of trial. They will be under the constant attacks and assaults of their own sins and of the Devil and of the wicked world. So, I come to Thee, Father. I am going to that place where no enemy can follow Me, where no weariness and despair can possibly be, where there is no sin and no darkness. I will soon come to Thee. But these, my children whom I have saved in My cross, these are in the world. They are in the place that is hostile to their faith.”
One day Jesus Christ is going to return for all of His own. But until then His people are in the world. And so long as they are in this present world, they have a battle of faith to fight. And they have sin raging within them. They have a journey to complete. They have a race to run. They have a prize to pursue. They have foes who will oppose them.
And what are we of ourselves? If you look at the disciples who were with Jesus during His earthly ministry, you see that they were nothing without Him. And then there is Satan. Satan, we read in I Peter 5, goes about seeking to destroy God’s children. And then there is the world, the influences and the pressures of this world to conform — that we, as God’s children, take on the mold of the world, that we be drowned in its sin and materialism. Simply put, if we were left to our own strength, we could not continue as His church and people. So Jesus prays. Which also tells us today what we should do. We should be praying.
But Jesus prays for us personally. He says, “Keep those whom Thou hast given Me.” And He says in verse 20: “Neither do I pray for these alone [that is, His present disciples], but for them also which shall believe on me through their word.”
So our Savior prays for us. We should think about that as we confront temptations and lust and anger and hopelessness — Jesus prays. And His prayer is not generic but it is specific. He prays for us each day, throughout the day. He prays for His people in the world according to their present need.
What keeps us from falling?
What stands between us and the waves of temptation?
What holds us up?
This: We have an advocate — Jesus Christ, the Righteous. He is the One who has prayed that our faith fail not.
And the prayer of Jesus is not a wish, it is not an impotent desire. He prays to His Holy Father. The Holy Father is God triune. He is the God who has willed to bring us into covenant life with Himself. He is the Holy Father who works to keep the believer in his faith. Jesus is not praying to an idol, but He prays to the living and the true God, the God who is powerful to preserve and to keep His children.
Still more. Jesus prays based on the love of God. He says, “Holy Father, keep those whom Thou hast given to Me. This has arisen out of Thine own eternal love. Father, now take care of them. As Thou hast loved eternally, keep them in that love. And bring them to eternal glory.”
The preservation of saints is God’s eternal power, the power of His grace and love, to keep us unto eternal salvation; to keep us in a life of faith and repentance; to restore us unto faith and repentance; to keep us from falling into eternal punishment; to bring us at last across the Jordan; and to preserve us in the state of grace.
God accomplishes this through the use of means. We might ask: What are those means? The means are, first of all, God’s own name. We read in John 17:11, “Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me.”
“Guard them by Thy power, and by the honor of Thy name.” God’s name represents all that God is. God’s name stands for who He is. His name represents Him as the sovereign and the faithful and the holy God; as the One for whom nothing is too hard; as the name that is strong and mighty.
But God’s name also refers to His honor. That is why Jesus prays, “Keep them through thine own name.” God’s name reflects upon Himself.
Therefore, the question is:
Is there a power able to take away from God?
Is there a power that is able to rob from God?
And Jesus prays, “Father, for the honor of Thy name, that Thy name may be known as the God of all strength and glory; keep them by the power of Thy own name.”
But there is another reason why we are preserved. We are preserved not only by the strength of God Himself, and by the honor of His name, but also because we have been given to Jesus. We have been given faith in Jesus Christ. And true faith is unbreakable.
Now, you might ask, Is that indeed so?
Do we not see a falling away from faith?
Do we not see that churches apostatize from the Christian faith?
Do we not see that former members, who once confessed Jesus Christ, abandon the truth of God and forsake Christ and live a sinful life?
And does not church history teach this throughout — that there is a constant falling away and abandoning of the holy life of a believer?
This is indeed grievous. There is nothing so grievous.
But the question is: Does this prove, then, that the saints are able to fall away?
Jesus addresses this when He says,
"While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled."
There Jesus is speaking of Judas Iscariot. Judas, who was very close to Him; Judas, who apparently was a believer. He never truly was. He had the appearance of a believer, but he was not a believer. He had never been given to Jesus in God’s decree of eternal election. But outwardly, and for various reasons, it looked as if he was a believer. The son of perdition, says Jesus, is lost. That is, one can have the false appearance of a child of God but never have the genuine work of the Holy Spirit in his heart. Such may indeed be exposed in their hypocrisy.
But the true child of God, the one whom the Father has given to Jesus, the one who has been entrusted to Jesus for eternal salvation — of these, says Jesus, none of them is lost. God will preserve every one of them.
The means that God will use is His word. Jesus says in John 17:8, “For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me.”
He says again in verse 17: “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.”
The word of God, the gospel of the grace and the glory of God, revealed in the Holy Scriptures, the word as it is faithfully preached and taught in the church — this word is the mighty power of God whereby God preserves and keeps us in the state of faith. God works His powerful grace through the word. We must read the word. We must hear the word preached to us. This is why the fiercest attacks of Satan are against the word. He wants to remove the word or corrupt the word or destroy the word of God. The devil is no fool. He knows what means God uses for the preservation of the saints. Therefore his attack is focused on taking away that word of God. So also in our own personal lives. We become too busy to read the Scriptures. Perhaps our church attendance becomes spotty. Perhaps we begin to despise different doctrines. Then our spiritual decline is inevitable. It is through the word, purely taught and faithfully expounded to us through the preaching, that God preserves us in our faith.
The response to this truth is that we will be resolved to fight even unto the end, to persevere, as Paul says, in the good fight of faith.
There are some who say that if you believe in the preservation of the saints, you will go out and live a sinful and a careless life, that the result will be: Why should we not sin, since we shall be saved anyway?
Is that the way that you feel?
Do you feel free to sin because God has sworn to keep you in your salvation?
If you feel that way, then you must ask:
Do you know the Lord at all?
Has His grace truly worked within you?
Do you know Jesus Christ as your Savior?
Do you and I know that the one who truly is for me is God?
Do we truly know God?
Do we know the power of God?
Do we rest in God?
Then we will seek also to please God. We will rely upon God. We will turn to God in the hour of our trials.
Those who are assured of their preservation will not take this truth to justify a carnal way of life. But, rather, distrusting themselves, knowing the greatness of their sin, they will fly to God for their strength, for their comfort. And they will fight the good fight of faith. They will walk in love. They will walk in love with one another. They will seek to live as children of God. And they will have assurance.
Take these words, now, upon your heart: I shall not perish. Yes, as a child of God, we shall go through many a trial. There will be many problems and many worries and many pressures coming upon us all at once. But we shall not perish. And we shall not perish, not because of our own strength, not because of our own worth, not because of our own spiritual mettle or resiliency, but because the sovereign Father will preserve, even unto the end, all of His own—because the sovereign Father will hear the prayer of His Son. His Son, our intercessor at God’s right hand, prays for us.
"And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are."
The Father hears that prayer. By His Holy Spirit He keeps us in faith. He works in us a desire to love and cherish the Holy Scriptures and to hear those Scriptures preached to us. And He preserves us. This is our comfort in life and in death: God is faithful to me.
By Carl Haak
Our meditation from the word of God today is found in John 6:37: “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.”
They were not coming to Jesus. They had seen Jesus and His mighty miracles. They had heard His gracious words. And, yet, they believed not. Standing before them in John 6 was the true Bread of God from heaven, which, if a man eat, he shall never hunger; and he that would believe in Jesus shall never thirst. God had sent His Son into the flesh. His Son had clearly spoken to them in the streets of Capernaum. He had revealed His mighty power in the feeding of 5,000. But they did not come to Him. They believed not.
It seemed at that point in our Lord’s ministry as though the great power of sin, the forces of unbelief, the hardness of the human heart would keep from Jesus those He came to save. He had been sent of the Father as a Savior, and it appeared that He would return empty-handed.
The beautiful words of the text that I read at the beginning of our message were Jesus’ calm, unshakable confidence in the unconditional election of His heavenly Father, the triune God. “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” Jesus rested upon the mighty and undefeatable saving love of God to bring to Him all that His Father had graciously chosen from eternity to be saved. The power of unbelief did not cause Jesus to despair. He stood confidently in the knowledge of God’s gracious election and just reprobation. Jesus said, Not sin, not hardness, not evil—these are not the unbreakable power. But God’s free, gracious love of election is the certain and conquering power.
And this is our confidence, this is our faith, this is our comfort in the rejoicing of our hearts: unconditional election of the Father.
How is a soul to be saved?
There is no question more important. If this is not an important question to you at this moment, it is because the devil would have you sleep the sleep of death.
Does salvation depend upon the sinner?
Does it originate and proceed from our choice?
Does God base His choice of whom He will save upon something that we are or we do?
Is it because you were born in the church?
Or was there something in you that caught God’s eyes?
Did God choose those who would first choose Him?
Does God want everyone to be saved?
Does He offer to save all, but He cannot save any unless they first will to choose Him?
That is not the gospel of Jesus Christ. That is not a gospel that can save—not the false doctrine of free will. But the gospel is a gospel of free grace. Our natural condition is that we are totally depraved. We are left of ourselves dead in sins, without, of ourselves, hope for salvation. Without Jesus we can do nothing. We are born dead in trespasses and sin. The power and the source of our salvation is God’s free and everlasting, particular, electing love. Predestination, or unconditional election and sovereign and just reprobation—these are the truths of the Holy Scripture. This is the gospel. God’s eternal choice of who will be saved, a choice not based on who or what a man is, but solely on the good pleasure of God’s own will. “He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord” (I Corinthians 1:31). This truth is the foundation of all true humility and comfort in the adoration of God. Unconditional election.
Jesus said in John 6:37 that the Father had given some persons to Him to save. He said, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me.” Our Lord was deeply aware of this, and He would speak often of this in the Gospel of John. That is, the phrase: “All that the Father giveth to me,” or the reference to the Father giving to Him certain ones to be saved. He would say it again immediately in John 6:39: “And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.” The giving of these persons, said Jesus, took place in the will of God—it was God’s choice. God elected them. God gave them to Jesus. God did this eternally (Ephesians 1:4): “According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world.” All that the Father giveth to Me—by this Jesus is referring to an eternal choice of God.
Again, in John 10:29, the Savior would say, “My Father, which gave them me.” There He is referring to the sheep. “My Father, which gave them me is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.” And, again, in John 17, in what is called His High Priestly prayer in the night before His crucifixion, He says in verse 2, “As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.”
To give the elect to Christ was an act of God’s undeserved love. It was an act of God’s grace. “All that the Father giveth to Me.” You may read it this way: “All that the Father entrusted to Me.”
As a human father gives his daughter whom he loves to a man to marry, so that this man now becomes responsible to protect and to lay down his life for her, “so also My Father gave them to Me.” Not a cold, distant move on the eternal books, but a loving bestowal into the bosom of Jesus Christ. Election is God putting into the arms of Jesus Christ those whom He willed to be saved. Election was a solemn charge in the being of the triune God in which He said, “I have loved them for mine own sake, out of mere grace. They are precious to Me. And now, My Son, I give them to You.”
Election is the divine marriage of our souls to Jesus.
And why would God give them to Jesus?
Why is that so important?
The answer is, Because we are sinners. We need salvation. Because you and I are exposed to God’s holy wrath because of our sins. He gave us to Jesus in order that we might be saved, that we might be the beneficiaries of salvation, so that we would not be lost. Jesus said, “All that the Father gives to me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me shall in no wise be cast out.”
To be cast out is to be lost. It means that in the final judgment you would be cast out, you would be banished from the kingdom of light and glory, and you would be cast into the eternal pit of fire. In order that we would not be cast out, the heavenly Father freely gave us to Jesus Christ that He might save us.
This is what is meant by unconditional election. It means that salvation is of grace — that the reason for one to be in Christ is God’s act and God’s act of grace. The reason is not to be found in a man. Deuteronomy 7:6-8: The Lord did not set His love upon you or choose you because you were more in number than any other people, but because the Lord loved you.
Now there is a question:
Why did God give some men and women to Jesus Christ?
Why did God elect some to salvation?
More personally, why did God give you to Jesus Christ?
There are only two possible answers to the question. The one is, because the person chosen somehow deserved that choice. The answer, then, would be works. One distinguishes himself somehow. He shows a willingness, perhaps, an inclination, to love God. God chose those, then, whom He saw would be willing to choose Him. Somehow or in some way they merited God’s choice—they caught His eye. Or the other answer would be grace. Then the answer would read this way: Because, though these chosen were yet sinners, dead and fallen, God freely loved them in spite of their not deserving it. Indeed, being undeserving of any of His love. The answer of the Bible is: Election is of grace. It is unconditional.
This is Jesus’ explanation. The Father did not give these people to Him because they came to Him. Not because they believed in Him. Of themselves they did not come to Him. But out of sheer grace, only grace. Our coming to Jesus is the result of God’s giving us to Jesus. It is not the condition on which God first loved us. But it is the evidence of God’s free love to us. It is all due to sheer, sovereign grace—a grace that was given to us from eternity. We read in II Timothy 1:9, “Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.” Before the world began God freely gave grace to some. God’s choice of those who would be saved is entirely gracious, entirely to be found in Himself.
Do you believe this?
The fruit of this faith will be humility, a profound, deep humility, before God. We will fall upon our knees. On a very practical level, we will be humbled before God and we will confess that salvation is entirely of the Lord, of grace alone.
What illustrates and recommends the eternal and the unmerited grace of election is the expressed testimony of the Holy Scripture that not all are given to Jesus. Some are left in their sins. This is the decree of reprobation. When Jesus says that there are those given to Him — “All that the Father gives to me” — He teaches that some are not given to Him. Jesus is addressing in John 6 those in His audience who did not believe on Him. Verse 36: “Ye also have seen me, and believe not.” Their unbelief did not indicate a failure on the part of God or Jesus, a failure in the will of God. But Jesus emphasizes that the Father never gave them to Jesus.
When Jesus teaches that God did not give all men to Him to be saved, He is teaching the biblical truth of reprobation. Reprobation is God’s sovereign, just decision to appoint definite persons to everlasting punishment because of their sin—to lead them in their unbelief. I tremble when I preach this. Romans 9: Hath not the potter the power to make, out of the same lump of clay, vessels to honor and to dishonor? Matthew 11:25-26: Jesus’ words, “I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight.” It is just. Men deserve this punishment to which God has appointed them. It is sovereign. They are no worse than the elect. It is God’s good pleasure before which we, as humans, must bow.
Our Lord’s teaching is that God’s gracious election will produce faith. “All that the Father gives to Me shall come to Me.”
Faith is not first the work of man, upon which God makes His decision. But the gospel is that God, out of mere grace, elects, and those whom He elects are given faith. Faith is the fruit, the certain fruit, of election. There is no uncertainty in this. The elect (all that the Father gives to Me) shall come to Me, shall believe.
When Jesus says, “shall come to Me,” He is talking about true, saving faith. In verse 35 of John 6 He said, “He that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.”
In verse 36 He had told them that they believed not. So, coming to Jesus is the gift of God, the activity in your soul of trusting Jesus for eternal life and pardon. It is the knowledge of yourself as a guilty and needy sinner standing before damnation. It is to be united to Christ now and eternally. It is to say, “My Jesus, I love Thee; I know Thou art mine. For Thee all the folly of sin I resign.” To come to Jesus is to believe Him personally and to receive, through faith, salvation. “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
Our faith, our coming to Jesus, is the gift of God rooted in His election. We read in Acts 13:48: “As many as were ordained to eternal life believed.” Our believing does not proceed from our natural will. Faith is not a decision of the depraved sinner. Faith is not a condition to salvation. It is not that God promises to save if you believe, that is, that God cannot save, that God cannot open, that God cannot deliver, unless you first indicate to Him a willingness on your part. That is not the teaching of the Scriptures. That is heresy. But the teaching of Scripture is this: Your faith is the divine, gracious creation of God. And it finds its source in the free love and grace of God. He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord. For of God are ye in Christ Jesus (I Corinthians 1).
But there is more. When Jesus emphasizes faith as coming to Him, He is referring to the personal and to the experiential aspect of faith. It means that you must leave behind all other confidences. You must leave behind all else. It means that you trust in Him. It means that you follow Him. It means that you place all of your confidence in Him.
You see, the fruit of election is not carelessness. It is fervent faith in Jesus Christ. Election, the election of God, not only determines the end (eternal salvation), but also the means, the way of salvation (faith).
We read in II Thessalonians 2:13.
“But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.”
The truth of God’s unconditional and eternal election does not teach that it is not necessary, personally, to come to Jesus. But it says we shall come to Jesus. To think of election as an excuse for sin or for carelessness in the Christian life or for flirting with sin in the world or for the conclusion that sin is not serious since we are elected anyway, that idea is as much a denial of eternal election as is the heresy of free will. To use election as a defense for indifference in the Christian life is the theology of the devil. It is forged in darkness. And it is intended for the ruin of souls.
But we are chosen (Ephesians 1:4) in Christ “before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love.” Election produces faith. All that the Father chooses, in them He works the gift of faith. He works within them a deep trust and a deep need—an awareness of the deep need for Jesus Christ.
We are given, then, personal assurance. Listen to Jesus in John 6:39: “And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.”
All that the Father giveth to Me shall come to Me, and him that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out.
Falling away from the love of God, slipping through the hands of Jesus Christ?
If that were the case, then life would be filled with uncertainty.
But listen to Jesus. “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.”
That is very personal.
Can I be sure that I belong to those who are given to Jesus — that I shall not be cast out?
The answer is this:
Has God worked in you the knowledge of your need, of your sin, a knowledge of Jesus, a distrust of yourself and a glory in God?
This is His work of grace in you. You belong to Jesus Christ by the free mercy of God. You will not be cast out. That means that nothing can ever remove you from the arms of your Savior.
In Romans 8 we read:
"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, distress, persecution, nakedness, peril or sword? No, I am persuaded that nothing can separate us, says Paul, from the love of God in Christ Jesus."
This is assurance. This is peace. It is found in the gracious, eternal, sovereign, free election of God. All that the Father gave to Jesus shall come to Jesus. And all those coming to Jesus shall never be cast out.
By Carl Haak
Our meditation from the word of God is taken from Jesus’ words in John 6:44, “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.”
In those words, Jesus Christ speaks to us of the truth of irresistible grace.
Irresistible grace is the teaching of the Bible that all whom God has chosen eternally, and all for whom Jesus gave His life, shall be drawn by the Holy Spirit, personally, to Jesus Christ for salvation. They shall be brought into the fold of Jesus. They shall be held in His bosom. They shall come to know His love. They shall be empowered to repent and to believe and to live a holy life in Jesus.
It is the teaching of Scripture and of Jesus Christ that there is an almighty power of God (God’s grace) running victoriously throughout the world; that this mighty power of God’s grace is never defeated; that it seeks and it finds everyone chosen and redeemed by the precious blood of Jesus Christ. This power of God’s grace is carried in the gospel as it is preached. And it stays on the trail of God’s elect and pursues them down through the halls of time to save all of those given to Jesus.
This power goes throughout all the world. It goes on the streets of countries where there is poverty and where people live in shacks. It goes into the cities (the greatest cities) of the world. It enters into the dens of drugs and alcohol—the places of darkness where men are enslaved to sin. It operates in homes. It works in cradles and in babies in mothers’ arms. It is at work at a family table where the father bows his head and leads his family in prayer. It knocks at the door of a home where there is alcoholism or abuse and it says, “One of my Master’s sheep is here, and I am come now to bring him home.” It enters into universities. It works in those who are hardened in intellectual pride. It works in the hearts of sinners, in the darkest and deepest place of sin; in that place where, according to God’s word, we are without God or hope: the heart of man, the temple of the idol, dead and hardened in sin—this power comes and softens and subdues and illumines and inclines and brings to faith in Jesus Christ. It is a power that is never defeated. Irresistible grace is the saving love of God that will not be denied. God’s love is not denied. It saves everyone whom God has eternally loved.
Do you know this power — this wonderful power of irresistible grace?
Very strangely, whenever this beautiful doctrine of irresistible grace is preached it is opposed. It is resisted. It was resisted in Jesus’ day. And it is resisted in ours.
In John 6, the crowd that was before our Lord was a hostile crowd. The Lord had rebuked them. He had told them that they could not save themselves, that they could not believe in Him, that they could not come to Him unless the Father would draw them to Him. In effect, He was telling them that they were helpless and hopeless and impotent of spiritual strength. He was telling them that they were devoid of any good. “Ye believe not. Ye cannot come to me.”
And, as a result of His words, we read in John 6:41 that the people murmured at Him. They directed their attacks at Jesus personally.
They said, “Is not this Jesus, whose father and mother we know? Is this not the ‘nobody’ from the sticks of Galilee?” And the Lord responds: “No man can come unto me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.”
So also today, the truth of irresistible grace is opposed. It is falsely caricatured. It is said that this teaches that men are dragged kicking and screaming to heaven. Rather, the gospel preached by many today is that Jesus Christ waits at the door of man’s heart and that He cannot enter into that heart unless we will let Him in.
The truth of irresistible grace is opposed.
And we would ask, Why?
Why was the truth opposed in Jesus’ day and why is it opposed now — this most glorious and comforting of all truth?
The answer is: Because our flesh wants credit for salvation; because man wants to put himself in the harness with Christ because we want to sit upon the throne.
But when grace makes known our sin and the depravity or the plague of our own heart, and when grace gives us daily to struggle against our sins and temptations and to feel the forces of evil against us and to know our own selves, then irresistible grace is the sweetest gospel, it is the sweetest doctrine that you can ever hear. It is the love of God that not only redeemed me in the precious blood of Jesus, but also now seeks me and saves me and brings me to Jesus Christ. Irresistible grace!
Irresistible grace is a mighty power. Jesus was talking that day in John 6 about a mighty power of God that would draw a sinner to Himself to be saved. He says that this grace is undeserved. But especially, He says, this grace is a mighty power. His words are: “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him.” Now certainly you see the grace of God in sending His Son into the world to save those who had no merit or worth in themselves. God did not do this because we deserved it or because we sought salvation or because we asked for salvation.
No, that God sent forth His Son means that the grace that brings us to Jesus Christ is a grace that shows mercy to the undeserving. It gives salvation to those who have not sought salvation. Surely the grace of being brought to Jesus Christ is a grace undeserved, unmerited, and unsought. But the emphasis of Jesus here is that God’s grace is a mighty and irresistible power. Jesus said, “No man can come to me.” He is referring to ability. We should read those words weeping. We cannot, we are not able to come to Jesus.
There is the depth of human depravity. We are spiritually dead. In John 5:40, Jesus said, “And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.” There He said, “You will not. You are unwilling to come to Me.” Here in John 6:44 He says, “You cannot, you do not have the ability. You are devoid of the power.” It is not found in you to love and to believe in Jesus. This ability must come from God. It must be given by God’s wondrous grace in your heart. We read in II Corinthians 5:17, “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature.” God’s grace must first work in us. What is impossible with man (namely, coming to Jesus) is possible with God.
Jesus said, “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him.” The word “draw” is not like getting the halter around a trained horse and gently nudging him along. You must think of a mule. You must think of a donkey with all four legs locked stiff. It implies resistance. Irresistible grace does not mean that we do not resist grace. The Father must draw us. And the word “draw” refers to the one who has the superior power. The word “draw” in the Bible always implies resistance.
The grace that saves is a mighty power. Though we, in our human nature, would resist, grace is a conquering power of God to subdue and to change our hearts. The grace that saves, draws your soul to Jesus. It is a grace that is, in its power, beyond all other power. Consider the power of sin. The power of sin surely makes us tremble. The power of sin is able to hold us in our pride, hold us in hatred, hold us in addictions. But God’s grace is greater. God’s grace is the mighty power to bring to Jesus.
Now the question is, of course, Is God’s grace irresistible?
Can it be defeated?
Can the one whom God has loved and for whom Jesus has died upon the cross, remain hardened in sin and resist the intentions of God to save him?
Shall we say, Yes, the sinner cannot save himself; he needs God’s grace to enable him; so God offers His grace to this man if he is willing to accept it; but he might not accept it?
And shall we bring that, perhaps, more close?
Shall we say, Knowing our own sins, have we ever trembled and cried out for God’s grace to break the hold of that terrible sin?
Is there a sin too great for God?
And we think of a loved one who is upon our soul. We think about them when we fall asleep at night.
Is the sinner whom God has loved eternally, chosen in Christ, and given to Christ so that Christ died for his sins upon the cross, is such a sinner able to stiff-arm God and to walk into hell?
A mother, we’ll say, loses her infant son. Much later she discovers her son through DNA or whatever. And she finds that he doesn’t want her, because he has grown up without her. No matter how much she loves him, he does not want her. Human love, you see, cannot change the other person.
Is that true of God’s love?
Will God’s love be denied?
Can the addictions of sin defeat Him?
Can the devil keep a soul from Jesus Christ?
The answer is: God’s grace is irresistible. God’s grace goes forth to conquer and always to conquer. That is the whole Bible. Isaiah 53, the beautiful chapter on the sufferings of Jesus Christ, concludes with these words: “He shall see the travail of his soul.” Jesus shall see brought to faith everyone for whom His soul travailed upon the cross.
First of all, Jesus, in John 6, says, “Except the Father which hath sent me draw him.” He is referring to the mighty power of the Father. It is the Father that draws. And of the Father, Jesus says in John 10, “My Father is greater than all. My Father is the One who spoke the world into being. He is almighty God.” Therefore, if you teach that God’s grace for salvation is a resistible grace, that the sinner can overcome God’s grace, then you must teach a resistible God. Then you must teach that the will of the sinner, hard as it is, is stronger than God.
But this is not the God of the Scriptures. To teach a God whose will and grace can be resisted is to have an idol. Psalm 115:3, “But our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased.”
But more. Observe with me in John 6 the certainty of our Savior. Jesus expected God’s grace to accomplish all that it intended to accomplish. Our Savior certainly was a compassionate Savior. He came forth to save all those given to Him of His heavenly Father. But our Savior, after having given His life for us on the cross, is not now in heaven wringing His hands. Rather, He sits upon His throne, and they shall come to Him. Jesus says, “I will raise them up at the last day.”
Now, that certainly is a statement of indisputable, sovereign power. The resurrection of the body at the last day, the resurrection of our body—that is a power that is greater than death.
Who can raise the dead?
Who can escape the grave?
Who can keep their body from decay?
Jesus says, “I will raise it up.” He says, “This resurrection, this beautiful culmination of His work, begins already in the sinner when the sinner is drawn to Him. He will raise him up in the body unto everlasting life. This is a power that is greater than any other that we know. God’s grace is irresistible. It brings to Jesus everyone whom the Father has loved eternally and for whom Jesus died.
God draws us by His grace so that we come to Jesus, so that we believe personally, so that we repent and embrace Him and live a godly life. Irresistible grace works within us a new will—the will of Christ. It is to be born again. The life of Jesus Christ is graciously implanted within our heart. That grace of God infuses into our will new qualities, so that we desire Him and we want to obey Him. When God draws us, it is not like the drafting of young men into the armed forces. It is not like a robot. It does not mean that we remain unchanged. That is not the picture of the Christian saved by grace. Irresistible grace brings us to Jesus’ feet, broken, humbled under the knowledge of our sin, but now created anew in Christ, sold to do the will of our Savior. It changes us within. We will know irresistible grace by the change it works within us.
We come to Jesus consciously. We come to Him willingly. We come to Him actively. We repent of our sins and we believe in Jesus. We certainly do not defend the mighty grace of God in His election, and the mighty grace of God in His irresistible salvation, by downplaying the Christian life of faith, by downplaying the calling of personal faith. The grace of God, irresistibly, enables us to come to Jesus. It works faith in our hearts. It works sorrow and hatred of sin. And it works love for Jesus.
To come to Jesus means that you will forsake all of your former loves, all the former trust of your heart. It means that you will trust Him as your Savior. It means that you will follow Him, renouncing your own will and obeying Him. God’s grace brings us to Jesus Christ in faith and in love.
The working of God’s grace within us is a delightful, astonishing, and mysterious thing. It is too overwhelming to be expressed with words. It is irresistible in the covenant. It works within the hearts of the children born to believers—those children, according to God’s grace, of election. There it works sweet and soft. It works within the home. It works from earliest childhood. The grace of God often picks its own time to work. A person could hear the word many times but never really hear it. Then suddenly that mighty grace stirs within his heart. The grace of God often will come through afflictions, when our own will and our pride has been stripped away through a bed of pain. God’s grace often comes when we have exhausted our last resource and are left without strength. God’s grace will come in death, it will come powerfully. It will come in a moment of tragedy. God’s grace is mysterious and delightful. It comes according to the Father’s will.
But the grace that draws us personally to Jesus always comes through the word, the Holy Scriptures, and through the preaching of the word. Jesus said in John 6:45, “It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me.”
We call this the means of grace—the means whereby God brings us to Jesus is the means of the living word of God. The Holy Spirit works through the word—especially through the preaching of the word. For we read in I Corinthians 1 that it pleases God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. God draws us to Jesus by teaching us through the powerful and living word of God. God draws us to Jesus through the hearing of that word, for faith cometh through hearing (Romans 10:17), and hearing by the word of God. When the blessed gospel is preached, it is the voice of the risen Lord Jesus, who speaks: “Come unto me all ye that are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
It must be accomplished, of course, by the secret work of the Holy Spirit. The word and the Spirit. The Holy Spirit must take that word preached and must incline our hearts and illumine our souls and soften us and teach us. The Bible can be picked up and put back down, unless the Holy Spirit arises with His light. The word must be preached to all, wherever God gives us the opportunity to preach. We cry out in the name of Christ: Repent and believe. But what makes that preaching powerful is the Holy Spirit and the grace of God.
What a wonderful assurance we have. There can be no assurance without irresistible grace. If God’s grace, that is, God’s intention to save a person, can be resisted, then the whole world is turned upside-down. You see, this is not a little point of doctrine. Without sovereign, irresistible, saving grace, the world is spinning by fate.
Do you want to live in such a world?
Do you want to believe that the cords of God’s love can be cut?
Do you want to believe that a purpose of God can fail to be realized?
Do you want to believe that God’s grace cannot reach you, cannot save you, cannot prevent you from entering into hell?
Knowing the depravity of sin within ourselves, we confess that we need irresistible grace—or we will be lost forever.
Imagine this on a personal level. What would it mean for us? Imagine the Son of God returning to His heavenly Father in the ascension and saying to His Father, “Father, I tried. I died. I offered Myself. I said, ‘I would if they would.’ But the stubborn fools decided to reject the offer. I come back to You, heavenly Father, with a list of maybes. We’ll have to wait and see if there is anyone out there who is willing to take the offer.” That is blasphemy. When the Son returned to the Father, He said, “Father, My sheep are redeemed. They are in My arms. Because You loved them and You have drawn them to Me, and not one of them is lost.”
This is a wonderful assurance for ourselves. As we become more and more convinced of our own depravity, we see the excellent and precious power of Jesus Christ. Our faith now rests solely in God. And we believe in Jesus because God has worked that in our hearts through irresistible grace. And we are led to praise Him and to worship Him and to fall down and confess that our salvation is all of grace.
By Carl Haak
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Today we consider the biblical truth of total depravity. We will do so from our Lord’s words found in John 15:5, “For without me ye can do nothing.”
We see from the last verse of John 14 that our Lord Jesus and His disciples have now left the upper room where they had gathered to eat the last Passover and they had begun a midnight walk across the city of Jerusalem, up to the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus will be betrayed to the Jews. We read in John 14:31 Jesus saying to them, “Arise, let us go hence.”
That is, Jesus was interrupting the discourse or sermon that He had begun in chapter 13, a sermon spoken to His disciples. He interrupts this sermon and leads them out of the upper room towards Gethsemane.
No doubt, as they walked, they passed by many orchards and vineyards along the way. And, as was the Lord’s custom, He uses what He sees in the creation as an object lesson to teach His disciples and us a vital truth that we must know as He is about to leave His disciples.
He says in John 15: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.”
He goes on to say, “Ye are the branches. Abide in Me. As the branch canno bear fruit of itself except it abide in the vine, no more can you, except you abide in Me.”
The Lord begins to speak to His disciples of the indispensible and urgent need of true faith, of a living, vital connection to Him. He, in the way of the cross, in the way of His resurrection and ascension, is about to return in glory to His heavenly Father. We will on the earth be subject to sin, temptation, death, sorrow, real grief and turmoil. The Lord says, “You must abide in Me and I in you. As the branch abides in the vine and draws its sap and life from the vine and thus is able to bear fruit, so also must you abide in Me.”
He speaks, in this figure, of the gift of true and living faith, of the true, heavenly-wrought, spiritual union between you and Christ—the gift of faith, faith that is not a formal, purely intellectual attachment to Jesus Christ. It is not like two boards nailed together. But faith is a living union to Jesus Christ, worked by God in our hearts so that we say with the apostle Paul, “For to me to live is Christ.” And, “I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.”
And then the Lord, in the words of our text, emphasizes the need that we have to abide by faith in Him. For He says that “without me ye can do nothing.” As a branch, severed from the vine, dries and is gathered up to be burned, so we, without Jesus Christ, can do nothing. In words that are clear, simple, and pointed, Jesus teaches us the truth of our total depravity.
Without Jesus, we can do nothing.
You could not save yourself, you could not will to accept Him, any sooner than a dead branch can will to pick itself up and insert itself into the vine. “You cannot receive Me unless I work My grace first in you. You cannot be saved, nor can you persevere (keep yourself within the state of salvation) without Me. Without Me ye can do nothing.”
These words, then, underscore the words of the Lord Jesus: “Abide in me, stay close to Me, seek all of your strength in Me.” As sinners, we are depraved, and we are saved by grace. And, as children of God in the midst of this world of temptation and woe, we have one great desperate need every day: Abide in Christ, a living, true faith in Jesus Christ.
For without Jesus, we can do nothing.
These words, first of all, then, are very humbling: "Without Me ye can do nothing."
They are words that point first to our total depravity as a sinner, and our need of a completely gracious salvation. Jesus here speaks of all men as they are without Him. He speaks of every man, woman, and child as they are without Him. “Without Me, you can do nothing.” He is not talking just about drug-addicts or those who are on death-row. He is not talking only about predators or abusers of mankind. But He is talking of all mankind—of professors, scientists, teachers—men as they stand apart from Christ—you, considered of yourself. You, apart from Jesus, can do nothing. He means nothing good. That is His point. Nothing pleasing to God, nothing good in the sight of God. You can do many things, but you cannot do anything pleasing to God.
Note that Jesus (in the first four verses of John 15) has been talking about bringing forth much fruit to God. He has been talking about a life of good works pleasing to God. He has been talking about love for God, sorrow for sin, humility, meekness—those things that please God. He has been talking about the fact that the failure to bring forth such fruit means that a branch is dead, withered up, and is to be gathered up to be burned in the lake of fire. Jesus, therefore, was talking about every man, every woman, every child—whether they are in poverty or whether they are in wealth, whether they live in a third-world country or in a country of great prosperity, it makes no difference. They cannot do anygood in the sight of God. Apart from Jesus Christ we are dead in sin, fallen in Adam, incapable of any saving good.
The fault is not simply in the totality of our makeup, so that there are spots of sin in every part of our makeup, of our will, words, and emotions, but we are totally depraved, shot through completely with sin, sold in sin, leprous in sin.
Ephesians 2:1-3, “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins….”
Romans 3:12, “…there is none that doeth good, no, not one.”
Romans 8:7, “…the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.”
You can do nothing apart from Me.
The Lord is speaking there of ability. Apart from Jesus Christ no one has the ability to do good in the sight of God. We cannot of ourselves will to accept Jesus Christ. It is not we who can do a little. It is not we who decide for Christ and then, depending upon our decision, Christ will respond and come into us. No. Ye can do nothing. As a branch severed from the vine, withered, we are dead in our sins. Salvation is not the acceptance of Jesus by the human will. Salvation is the resurrection of a dead sinner. When we have the testimony within us of the burden of sin, when we feel sorrow for sin, when we covet God’s grace to lead a new, Christian life, all of this is His work in us. It did not proceed from us. It was not me, O Savior true, but it was Thou who didst love me and raise me from the dead.
But Jesus’ words are humbling also in this sense, that they mean that as a renewed, saved-by-grace child of God, without Him, I can do nothing. As renewed by the Holy Spirit, by grace, we are called to live a life of sanctification, that is, to delight in serving God. We are called to live to the service of God in everything that we do. We are to bear our cross, we are to fight a good fight of faith. But we can do nothing apart from Jesus Christ. He must daily by grace infuse His strength into us. Your strength, says Jesus, your fortitude, your personal determination, your guts, your stubbornness, your stick-to-itiveness—all of this is nothing. Ye can do nothing in the Christian life without Me, without Jesus. That is, apart from a conscious, heartfelt faith-dependence upon Christ, we can do nothing.
You cannot white-knuckle and overcome that addiction that has cast you down time after time and of which you have said, “I’ll beat it, I can stop, I’m man enough, I’ll preserve my reputation. It’s not going to go any further.” Jesus says, “Without me, ye can do nothing.”
You cannot escape that temptation, the net and the pit laid for you by Satan, the lust, the desire to live for the approval of friends. Believe in this word. “Without Me,” says Jesus, “ye can do nothing.”
You cannot endure that trial, that loneliness, that sorrow that is swallowing you up, pushing you down of yourself. Getting away, a change of scenery is not going to do it. Without Me, ye can do nothing.
A great evil, but performed against you, an abuse, a horrible abuse that haunts you and pursues you and fills you with fear—without Me, ye can do nothing, says Jesus.
A great sin is in your past. You confess this sin, but yet its memory gives you no rest. You try to keep yourself busy. You try to keep in front of it. Without Me, says Jesus, you can do nothing.
Always our sinful nature, that is, our pride, looks to our self. We try to build our own citadel. We try to use our treasured resources and strength. And God, in His wisdom and justice, so often says, “Go ahead. Exhaust your treasured strength—until grace brings you to know that you can’t.”
It is by grace, through faith in Jesus Christ. The way of God’s grace leads us to this point that we give up on our own strength, our own way, our own will. And we cry, “Oh, I to the fountain fly, cleanse me, Jesus, or I die.” For without Jesus I can do nothing.
But as humbling as that is, it is also exalting. It is exalting to Jesus Christ.
Jesus is making the most amazing and astounding claim. Think about it. “Without Me, ye can do nothing.” That means that Jesus is saying, “I am the source of all good, all spiritual strength. I am the source of good and spiritual strength. You have no good, no strength, no merit; I and I alone am the source of all good and strength. As you are devoid, utterly devoid in yourself, and cannot find any strength of yourself, you will have all strength and all merit in Me.” So it always is. If you lift up man in your faith or religion, you debase Jesus Christ. If you give credit to yourself or to man, you discredit Jesus Christ. If you walk in pride, any pride, you will think little of Jesus Christ.
But when our emptiness is shown, when our weakness is made plain, when our depravity is exposed to us, it is then that Christ is exalted for who He is. Christ is the source, the only source, of good in all the world. Christ is the source, the only source, of strength in all the world.
Christ, therefore, is exalted in salvation. Total depravity is the gate or the door to the gospel. You must go in through that door. The teaching of free will, that notion that salvation is owed to a decision of the dead sinner, who must first accept Christ before Christ can save him—this heresy of free will debases Jesus Christ. Free will glories in itself. I accepted Christ. He could not enter in unless I allowed Him into my heart, unless I first invited Him. He stood there knocking, unable to do anything until I gave Him the permission. The glory is free will.
In the name of Jesus Christ, I say, away with that false doctrine.
in I Corinthians 1 we read: “He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.”
For of God are ye in Christ Jesus, says the Scripture. Of God, not of free will. Of God, God’s work, are you in Christ Jesus. We cry out with the hymn: “Nothing in my hands I bring.”
It is Jesus Christ, by His Spirit, who opens our heart that is closed, shut up, and sealed, as in a coffin of sin. We read in Acts 16:14 of Lydia, whose heart the Lord opened. It is Jesus Christ who regenerates, that is, by Him we are born again. He implants His life in us. “If ye then be risen with Christ,” says the apostle in Colossians 3:1. It is Christ who converts. It is Christ who regenerates. It is Christ who saves. It is Christ who illumines our minds. It is Christ who softens our will and enters into the inmost recesses of our soul. It is Thy grace, O Lord, that saved me, not myself. All hail the power of Jesus’ name. Not free will. Not your name. Not man’s name. Not this man saved me, or this person. But Jesus Christ saved me.
So also it is that Jesus Christ is exalted in our life of sanctification, that is, in our Christian living. It is Christ who infuses His strength into us through faith. It is Christ in me. It is Christ in me in every trial and every way of darkness, in every burden and in every temptation. Christ Jesus is our strength.
But you might say, “I know that and I believe that. I believe that without Christ I can do nothing. But why are there yet times in my life that it seems that I cannot find Him or when He is absent from me, when the peace of His grace eludes me?”
The disciples of Jesus Christ at this point were about to go through that in that very night. At the moment of trial, they will all run away from Jesus. Apparently the strength of Jesus Christ was gone and their hearts were filled only with fear.
Why, then, are we led down ways of darkness?
“Lord,” we say, “I believe this. Why must I be led in such dark and difficult ways?” And the answer is: Because our need of Jesus Christ must be burned, must be branded, into our heart, because His grace and His strength are not cheap, because it pleases the Father to work this truth into our deepest heart. Through every way of trial and through every way of woe, Jesus Christ wills that we confess: without Jesus, I can do nothing.
But, you see, this is assuring, it is humbling, it is exalting of Christ and it is assuring to us. This is not a false assurance. This is not a sales pitch. This is not a soap bubble to pop on the first sharp point of life. Jesus Christ is our good and our strength. His perfect work on the cross is our righteousness. His grace is our strength. He is the solid rock. Everything else is sinking sand. Believe in Him, rely solely upon Him.
The assurance is, first of all, that when we feel the burden of sin, when we feel within us the desire to obey and serve Him, then this is due to His work in me. It did not arise out of me. I did not create that. But it came from Him.
Do you know yourself as the sinner in God’s sight?
Do you know your sorrow and the depth of your sin?
All of this is worked in your heart by Jesus Christ and by His wonderful grace.
And, still more. There is the assurance that Jesus Christ will also strengthen us unto every good work. He will give us His grace. He will dwell within us. It is Christ who will strengthen us.
So, hear the call of the gospel. He speaks. He calls in the gospel: “Abide in me.” That is your need. Always stay closer to Jesus Christ. That is your one, and your great, and your desperate need. Stay close to Him in the word. Stay close to Him in the church. Stay close to Him in prayer. Stay close to Him in your daily walk of life. Abide in Jesus. For without Jesus, you can do nothing. But "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13).
By Carl Haak
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Salvation from sin through Jesus Christ is entirely of God’s grace. This is something that Jonah learned when he was in the belly of a whale. We read in Jonah 2:9, Jonah’s confession: “Salvation is of the Lord.”
Salvation in its plan, that is, in its eternal election; in its accomplishment, in the actual payment for sin upon the cross; in its application, the giving of this salvation into the human heart; in its consummation, when at last one is taken before the presence of God — all of it is of God. "Salvation is of the Lord."
This is especially true of the doctrine of the Bible called “Limited (Particular) Atonement.” The truth is that Jesus Christ, in His atonement, saved by grace all those given to Him of the Father. And they shall never perish, because Jesus died for them upon the cross.
Limited or definite atonement of Jesus Christ upon the cross is the heart of the precious gospel of Jesus Christ. Here we sinners will see our Savior in all of His beauty. Through all eternity we will know Jesus as the Lamb who was slain and has redeemed us unto God. Throughout all eternity we will see Him as the One by whose stripes we are healed. We will rejoice in Him as the crucified one. And this is how we know Him today. In every trial, in every heartache, in every moment, in joy or in death, old and young, those who have walked with Him all their life, and those who have learned His secrets only recently in their new conversion — all of us will know Jesus as the One who died for us, who laid down His life for us.
In John 10:15, Jesus says: “As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.”
In John 10 Jesus was contrasting Himself with the false leaders and teachers of His day, whom He calls intruders, hirelings among God’s people. They did not love the sheep. They fleeced the sheep. They used the sheep for themselves. They were hirelings who would run at the first sign of danger.
In contrast to that, Jesus says, in John 10:14: “I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.” He calls Himself the Good Shepherd because He knows His sheep and will keep those sheep. And He calls Himself the Good Shepherd because He lays down His life for them. “I lay down my life for the sheep.” In those words Jesus Christ taught the truth of a limited, particular atonement.
We consider that today.
The question is: For whom did Jesus Christ die?
And the answer of the Bible is: Jesus Christ died for the elect, for all those throughout all ages and races, chosen eternally and loved graciously by God. The atonement was limited. That means that Jesus Christ died on the cross for a definite, particular number of persons. Revelation 7 refers to this as a multitude that no man can number. A great number known and chosen of the Father.
His death was an atonement.
That is a biblical word that refers to a payment or a covering for the sins of men and women.
It was redemption.
That is another word that is used in the Bible: redemption from sin. It was the purchase of men and women out of the guilt and bondage of their sin to the state of pardon and adoption as the sons and daughters of God.
This atonement or redemption was limited. Not in the sense of what He suffered, that what He suffered was limited. No. He suffered the full and the eternal wrath of God against our sins. But it was limited in the sense of for whom He suffered. He was definite or particular. He did not die for all human beings, but only for some, for those given to Him of the Father. His death on the cross was for a definite, particular group of men and women, each one of whom He knew personally, in divine, particular, gracious, saving love.
Now it is this truth, this truth of a limited or particular atonement, this truth of all the doctrines of God’s sovereign grace, that becomes so offensive to many. The response is that it is hated.
“What,” people will say, “did not Jesus die for all? Does not Jesus love all? How can we possibly do mission work?”
This truth will be assaulted and hated, and those who confess it will be accused of denying the gospel, and of denying the love of Jesus for sinners. It will be assaulted with a host of Bible verses: I Timothy 2:4, “Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
But what seldom happens is that men and women listen to the biblical exposition of this truth. Listen to Jesus, who taught this truth.
Jesus Himself will answer the question: For whom would He die upon the cross?
In John 10 He says, “I lay down my life for the sheep” (John 10:15).
When He says, “I lay down My life,” He is talking about the cross. He is not simply talking about a sacrificial desire that He has to serve other people. But He is referring to the cross of Calvary. John 13:1, Jesus knew that His hour was come, and in the Scriptures we go on to read that at that night He said, “The cup that My Father hath given Me, shall I not drink it?”
Jesus knew that He had to go the way that the Father had willed. True, the Son of man goeth as it was determined of Him (Luke 22:22), but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed. And He says that that death, that predetermined death on the cross that He had come to suffer, had a definite intention or purpose. On the cross He would lay down His life, He would die for a definite number of persons. “I lay down My life for the sheep.”
He does not lay down His life for all humans, but for the “sheep.”
In John 10, He makes that very plain when in verse 26 of the chapter He refers to some (the unbelieving Pharisees) as not being of His sheep. “But ye believe not, because ye are not of My sheep,” He says to them. “I will not lay down My life for you.” Sheep does not include all men. But sheep includes all those whom the Father had given to Him.
Jesus goes on to say that in John 10 as well, verses 27-29: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me….”
My Father gave the sheep to Me. He is “greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.” Jesus teaches that He lays down His life for everyone whom the Father, out of mere grace, out of free election, gave to Him.
The ones for whom He dies are the ones He knows in that gracious, unbreakable bond of love.
“I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father.”
He is referring there to a knowledge of gracious, personal, intimate love. He says, “As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father.”
He brings us there to the point of intimacy beyond our ability to comprehend—the tender, the personal, the intimate love of the triune God. The Father loves the Son, knows the Son; and the Son knows the Father. Jesus says, “In like manner, even so I know My own and My own know Me. I know them intimately. I know them personally. I know them exhaustively. There is nothing in these people that will startle Me.”
There is nothing that can suddenly come up and He would say, “But I didn’t know that about them.”
“I love them graciously and unchangeably. I know who My own are. I know the sheep given to Me of the Father. They will hear My voice and they will come to Me. And I will die on the cross, for the ones chosen from before the foundations of the world, whom I have loved with an everlasting love and whom I will draw to Myself.”
The death on the cross of Jesus Christ extends to all the elect. God’s gracious and eternal election determines who Christ died for on Calvary’s cruel cross.
The question, of course, is: “Who determines the extent of Christ’s death? Who determines who it will be for whom Jesus will die?”
The answer is: Not man! Not yourself!
“But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you.”
Jesus did not say, “You are not of My sheep because ye believed not.”
He did not say, “Your unbelief has excluded you from the sheep.”
But Jesus said, “You ye believe not, because ye are not of My sheep.” The cause of their unbelief was that they were not His sheep.
God did not elect them.
God did not give them faith.
So also those who believe do not make themselves sheep by their faith. You are not one of the sheep because you believe. No. You believe because you were made one of His sheep. God determines the sheep in the decree of election. “My Father gave them Me” (John 6:39). And the fruit of that election is faith. For these elect of God, to whom God gives faith as a result of His election, for these Jesus dies.
The atonement of the cross is in harmony with divine election.
We read Jesus’ words in John 6:38-39)
“I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.”
Again, in John 17:2, in His prayer on the night before He went to the cross: “As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.”
But there is an even more important question.
It is this: What was Jesus death?
We must see that the question, For whom did Jesus die? is related to this other crucial question: What was His death?
The difference between the truth of saving, sovereign grace and the teaching of free will is not that sovereign grace has Jesus dying for a few, and free will has Jesus dying for many. Or, to put it bluntly, the difference between free and sovereign grace and Arminianism works religion is not that the one (sovereign elective grace) is stingy and the other (Arminianism) generous and more loving.
But the difference between them is this: A Christ who dies for some (the elect) and a Christ who dies for all.
The difference is, what is the nature of Jesus’ death?
The Christ who dies for all those given to Him of the Father saves them so that they shall never perish.
A Christ who dies for all saves no one.
Did Jesus, then, intend or want to save all?
Does God’s love mean that He wants all to be saved?
Then, of course, there is a question to be put to that: All, clearly, are not saved—unless one wishes to throw out the Bible, for the Bible does not teach a universal salvation. It does not teach that all are saved. Jesus Himself spoke repeatedly of hell. He said, “Fear Him who is able to cast the body and soul into hell.”
There is a hell.
Not all are saved.
Well, if Jesus died for all, did Jesus fail?
And the answer that is given by those who believe in the free will, or the Arminian heresy, is that, “No, He didn’t fail. You see, on the cross, what Jesus did was to make it possible for everybody to be saved if we add something to that, namely, our decision for our faith. He cannot (even though He died on the cross—supposedly for sin) He cannot save unless we help. We save, then, ourselves—with Jesus’ help.”
But this does not exalt the cross.
This cheapens the cross.
This limits its power.
Then the cross does not save any.
It is a Christ who does not save unless He is helped.
It is a love that cannot keep anyone from hell unless he helps God.
And then sinners are flattered.
Sinners are assured that it is in their power to repent and to believe.
To make the cross of Jesus Christ actually effectual depends upon them.
God cannot save them, even though His Son suffered on the cross.
They can keep God at bay.
And the gospel is trivialized.
This is not the gospel.
This is not the biblical, wonderful truth of the gospel.
The gospel proclaims that the cross truly saves.
It saves everyone for whom Jesus laid down His life.
The cross does not fail.
By His death, Jesus has made certain that all for whom He died shall go to glory.
There is power in the cross.
Look upon the cross. It is flanked on the one hand by the total depravity of the sinner. The sinner cannot save himself. On the other had it is flanked by unconditional and free grace of election. Jesus Christ died to save a certain number of helpless sinners upon whom God set His free and electing love. Christ’s death insured not only that they would all be saved, but that, because Jesus died for their sins, they would also be called. And the Holy Spirit would work faith in their hearts. The cross saves. And the cross saves because Jesus laid down His life for you, for everyone given to Him of His Father.
What does the Bible teach about the nature of Jesus’ cross?
It says that this cross was, first of all, a precious death. The One who died upon Calvary was God’s Son in the flesh. He was the Holy Son of God without spot or blemish. His blood is the blood of God in the flesh. The value and the power of that blood is mighty.
Still more. It was a willing death: “I lay down My life.” His death was not an accident. His death was not a misunderstanding or tragedy. He was not forced to this cross against His will. It was a deliberate and intentional action. It was a willing sacrifice. He laid it down.
And His death was substitutionary. “I lay down My life for the sheep.”
“For,” that is, “in the place of, instead of, as a substitute for.”
We were guilty before God in the judgment. We deserve to be bound over to the torments of hell. But Christ, by grace, was sent of the Father, and upon the cross He said, “Father, I have been sent to stand in their stead that they might not be condemned. Let the condemnation that they deserve fall upon Me. That they might never be forsaken or cast out, forsake and cast Me out.”
He died for sins.
For whose sins?
Not His own sins, but for the sheep. He was wounded, Isaiah says in chapter 53, “for our transgressions. He was bruised for our iniquities.”
What you deserved was given over unto Him.
“For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.”
Therefore, the death of Jesus Christ accomplished something. It availed. It redeemed everyone for whom He died.
“In whom we have redemption through his blood.”
“Who has redeemed us to God by his own blood.”
“..having forgiven you all trespasses;
Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross."
Our Lord’s crossword: “It is finished.”
All for whom He died—their debt is paid. He has obtained eternal salvation for the sheep. He obtained their faith. Faith is not the key in your pocket to open salvation. Faith is a gift that Jesus earned on the cross. It is the power of the cross. The power of the cross does not wait for the dead sinner, but it breathes into the dead sinner new life.
To teach that Jesus died for all is to deny His cross.
It is to present the cross as a failure.
It fails to save those whom it intends to save.
Indeed, it cannot save them at all unless they first help.
It did not pay any debt.
It did not obtain righteousness.
It has no worth.
It has no power.
It has no comfort.
But the truth of sovereign, saving grace is this: Jesus is no failure. Jesus, on the cross, conquered. Jesus paid for the sins of all His sheep.
Did Jesus then die for me?
This question must be answered in our souls. We cannot leave this unanswered. If Jesus died for you, then you will never die, you will never be condemned by God, you will never be forsaken. And if Jesus did not die for you, if you live impenitently and without faith, in your sins, if there is no fruit of sorrow for your sin, no desire after Christ, you are going to stand accountable to God for your sin.
How do I know that Jesus died for me?
Everyone for whom He died, in them, by the power of His cross, He sends forth the Holy Spirit. By this Holy Spirit, He gives you to know that you are in Christ. He gives you to know your sin, your unworthiness, your deep pain of heart of having offended God.
Still more, He gives you to see yourself, to see Jesus as your Savior, your hope, your good. You marvel at the love of God, that He would give for you, a sinner, His own Son. He gives you to believe on Him, to trust Him, to desire to obey and follow Him. You feel His grace working in you. Jesus works spiritual life in everyone for whom He died. By the power of the cross, He works in them a sorrow for sin, a repentance, a trust in Him, a hiding in His blood, and a deep personal love for Jesus. Then I know that something happened on Calvary long ago, on the hill outside Jerusalem — something happened that cannot be undone.
Jesus died for me.
He paid for all my sins.
He obtained the right to God’s presence.
Why did He do that?
Because He loved me purely, graciously. God so loved me, that He gave His only Begotten Son for me. Christ loved me and gave Himself for me. I will not perish.
This is the Jesus we preach.
This is the Jesus we love.
This is the Jesus we obey.
And all who put their trust in Him, by God’s grace, shall never be ashamed.
And we say, “This alone my plea shall be: Jesus Christ who died for me.”
By Carl Haak
Friday, December 11, 2009
[Christ] was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.
Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.
Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.
In these passages the Bible speaks of justification as a work accomplished by Christ 2000 years ago as He obeyed the law and died on the cross for His people.
Christ went to the cross, not as a private person, but as the Representative and Substitute of His sheep. He died, not for sins He had committed, but for the sins of all whom He represented.
Their sins were legally charged (imputed) to His account so that God the Father was just to punish His holy, harmless, undefiled Son, for sins.
Christ did all this in order to establish a righteousness for His people so that God could be just to justify them, the ungodly. This was completely accomplished 2000 years ago (John 17:4; John 19:30) so much that God's elect in the Old Testament were justified based on this righteousness even before it was accomplished in time, and God's elect in the New Testament era are saved based on its having been accomplished in time.
By Bill Parker
For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.
Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.
Here we see the matter of justification as is it viewed in God's eternal mind and purpose. God in eternity past sovereignly chose a people in Christ and determined to justify them based on the righteousness of Christ. His purpose was and is to glorify Himself in the salvation of sinners based on the righteousness of Christ. In Romans 8:30 it says that all whom God foreordained and predestinated to be conformed to Christ, He also called, justified, and glorified. All of these blessings which are earned by Christ for His people are spoken of in past tense, as if they had already occurred. Yet, many of God's elect had not even been born at this time.
How, then, could it be said that they are already called, justified, and glorified?
We must make a distinction between God's eternal purpose before time and what God accomplishes in His elect in time. It is true that in the mind and purpose of God, His elect have always been saved, called, justified, and glorified, not in their own persons but in the mind and purpose of God. It has always been so sure and certain that they would be saved, called, justified, and eternally glorified, that it is sometimes spoken of in past tense as if it had already taken place. It has always been so sure and certain because it was never conditioned on them. It was always conditioned on the sovereign grace and power of God who cannot fail and on the Person and work of Christ who is faithful to His Father.
By Bill Parker
Thursday, December 10, 2009
The Bible is clear and adamant that in the matter of the justification of a sinner before God, our works and efforts to keep the law, deeds of law, anything proceeding from our personal character and conduct, even the work of the Holy Spirit in us, must be totally excluded from the ground of justification (Romans 3:19-20).
The work of the Holy Spirit in a person is as necessary in salvation as the work of Christ for a person but not for the same reason. The work of Christ for sinners is the only ground of justification. The work of the Holy Spirit in sinners is the fruit and effect of the work of Christ for sinners. This is very important if we are to have right views of salvation and of how God is glorified, Christ is exalted, and all boasting is excluded in redeemed, converted sinners.
The Bible tells us that God justifies the ungodly (Romans 4:5).
How could He justify the ungodly based on things proceeding from their character and conduct?
If they are ungodly, then everything proceeding from their character and conduct is ungodly. The Bible reveals that before salvation, all of us by nature are guilty, defiled, condemned, ungodly sinners (Romans 3:10-18) who are in need of a righteousness we cannot produce. The Bible reveals that God has chosen a people out of Adam's fallen race before the foundation of the world, and He has promised to save them and give them all the blessings of eternal life and glory. But God could not give them the first blessing apart from His holy law and inflexible justice being satisfied.
God is holy!
Therefore if any of us are to be saved, we need a substitute, a mediator, a surety, a representative. We need a divine substitute who can do for us what we cannot do for ourselves -- produce a righteousness that answers the demands of God's holy law and justice.
The Bible reveals that God's love provided in the Person of His beloved Son what His holiness demanded. In order for Him to be glorified, to be just and the Justifier of the ungodly, God appointed His Son and conditioned all of the salvation of His people upon Christ. He sent Christ to fulfill those conditions by His obedience unto death to satisfy law and justice on their behalf and bring forth a righteousness that equals all the demands of the law. And on the basis of the death of Christ alone, His righteousness alone, the law and justice of God is perfectly satisfied (Romans 3:21-25). As a result, all whom Christ represented in His obedience unto death must be released from the curse of the law and released from the requirements of that law as to the ground of salvation.
In the Gospel, God commands sinners to seek salvation and every part of it based on what Christ has accomplished by way of obedience and death (righteousness), and He forbids sinners to seek salvation or any part of based on anything that proceeds from their character and conduct. God reveals that He can only be glorified in the salvation of sinners based on the righteousness of Christ freely imputed to them and received by God-given faith. He reveals that He cannot be glorified if salvation is conditioned on anything proceeding from the sinner's character and conduct, because that which proceeds from our character and conduct cannot satisfy the law's demands. It cannot satisfy God's holiness and justice. Therefore, to seek to be justified before God based on anything that proceeds from our personal character and conduct dishonors God, denies Christ and His blood and righteousness, and keeps sinners in a state of bondage and cursedness (Galatians 2:21; Galatians 5:2-4).
We must conclude, according to God's revelation in the promise of the Gospel, and according to God's holy law and justice, that the only ground of the justification of a sinner before God is the righteousness of Christ freely imputed and received by God-given faith (Romans 4:6-8; Romans 5:18-21; 2 Corinthians 5:21). Sinners who come to God seeking salvation upon any other ground, even if they attribute it to God or a work of the Holy Spirit, shall be damned (Matthew 5:20; Luke 18:9-14; Romans 9:32-10:3).
This one ground of justification is revealed in the preaching of the Gospel (Romans 1:16-17). When a sinner hears and believes this Gospel savingly, he/she will see the futility and wickedness of seeking salvation based on any other ground. This brings true repentance from dead works and idolatry. When we see the holiness of God in light of these blessed truths of Christ and the righteousness He established by His obedience unto death, we also see that all of our efforts to be saved based on any other ground were dead works, evil deeds, and fruit unto death (Philippians 3:7-10). We then become ashamed of ever thinking in our self-righteousness and pride that God could have saved us or blessed us based on anything proceeding from our character and conduct. Consider how highly a person must exalt themselves and their works to think that a holy and righteous God could save them or bless them based on anything other than the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ.
By Bill Parker
The word justification, in the Bible, sometimes means the justification of persons. Sometimes it means the justification of actions. Sometimes it means the justification of both the persons and the actions. The word itself is a form of the word translated as right or righteous or righteousness.
Justification, then, has to do with a person being made righteous or declared righteous. In the sense of being made righteous, justification is legal or forensic, having to do with how a person (a sinner) is legally made righteous before a holy and just God. In the sense of being declared righteous, justification is evidential, i.e, not having to do with what actually makes a person righteous, but having to do with evidences that declare or prove that a person has already been made righteous.
We have a classic example of this in Romans 4:1-5 and James 2:21-24. Both Paul and James used Abraham as an example of justification. Paul was writing of how Abraham, a sinner, was actually made righteous before God. He emphasized how Abraham was not made righteous by his works in any way. Abraham was made righteous by God's grace through the Lord Jesus Christ. James was writing of how Abraham, a saved/justified sinner, was declared righteous before men. He emphasized how Abraham's works proved him to be justified before God. Abraham's works did not make him justified before God. His works merely evidenced that he was justified before God.
Justification in the legal, forensic sense, has to do with how a sinner, one who deserves nothing but wrath and condemnation according to God's strict law and inflexible justice, is actually made righteous before a just and holy God. It is true that sometimes we speak of justification as God declaring a sinner righteous, and this is so, but when it comes to justification before God, we must specify the difference between legal justification and declarative justification in the sense that declarative refers to the evidences of justification before God. Justification then is a matter of a holy and just God making and declaring a sinner righteous according to His strict law and inflexible justice.
In this context then we must understand that the main issues of both "lost" and "saved" are primarily law and justice. Every term used in the Bible to describe "lost" people refers to those who owe a debt to God's law and justice. Every term used in the Bible to describe "saved" people refers to those whose debt to law and justice has been paid in full by Christ as their Representative and Surety.
The Bible divides the whole human race into two classes of people:
(1) the "lost" -- those who owe a debt to law and justice, and (2) the "saved" -- those whose debt has been paid.
So "lost" and "saved" are primarily matters of law. Some may object that "saved" is primarily a matter of grace. It is true that salvation is attained and maintained strictly by grace and not in any way by works of the law. The way of salvation is by God's grace in Christ Jesus, but this is another way of saying, "For Christ is the END OF THE LAW for righteousness to every one that believeth" (Romans 10:4).
This means Christ paid the debt to law and justice in full for every one that believes God's Gospel -- His promise of eternal salvation and final glory based on the righteousness of Christ.
The law and the Gospel are not the same thing, but the Gospel does reveal the way God's law and justice are satisfied in the Person and work of Christ. The law and the Gospel are not opposed as the Gospel shows how God's love provided in and by Christ what His holy law and justice demanded. The law and the Gospel are only opposed when sinners seek salvation or any part of it by works of the law. This is why the Apostle Paul was so adamant and dogmatic in saying "I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain" (Galatians 2:21).
He was saying, "If you reject Christ's righteousness as paying the debt in full, you are a debtor to do the whole law. If you think salvation is conditioned on your efforts to keep the law in any way or in any form (ex. circumcision), you reject God's grace, you reject Christ and His righteousness, and you must establish one of your own (Galatians 5:2-4), and this is impossible" (Romans 3:20).
By Bill Parker
Monday, December 07, 2009
Preached to the church at Choteau, Montana - In the year 2009 - By Michael Pickett. -------------------- With the Lord’s help I will venture to speak to you this morning from the epistle of Paul to the Ephesians chapter two and verses six and seven.
"And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus." (Ephesians 2:6-7)How precious is the Word of God? And we would say without any contradict: There is no book like the Bible. I feel that the apostle is lifted up by the Spirit of God in these magnificent verses which form the letter to the Ephesians and especially in the first two chapters we have doctrine, experimental doctrine set forth so clearly, so precisely that any honest person could make no mistake with them. The apostle starts, as it were, at the beginning, born in sin, lost to all eternity, having the spirit of this world entrenched within our hearts. But because of His sovereign grace he calls forth His people that they might leave a pathway of evil to serve the true and living God.
“And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins.” (Ephesians 2:1)Now answer honestly. Could the language be any simpler or any more profound? Here we have a glorious truth that man by birth and by nature is dead, spiritually, utterly dead and that that person can do nothing for themselves and nor can any other creature affect them or touch them to instill life and spirit within them. God is a God of creation. He created man in the first instance in His own image and likeness. If God had not created man it stands to reason there would be none to populate this earth. But God did create man and man fell wholly into sin and he rendered himself excuseless having disobeyed the commandment of God. That moment he died, he died spiritually and that means that he is dead to every attempt, every carnal inspiration for him to rise up in life and immortality.
“He hath quickened.” (Ephesians 2:1)This, then, is the sovereign work of almighty God to quicken the soul. Man has no part in the second creation as he had no part in the first creation. He is helpless and hopeless and utterly devoid of any strength. The description of death shows us very graphically that man is not in a state that is capable to alter or to respond to any overtures however sweet and gracious and kind and blessed that they may be. For man to hear the gospel he has to be awakened and no eloquence or oratory of any preacher can do that for him. But what a mercy to learn that there were those in the world—and I trust that there are some here who may be among them—who were dead in trespasses and in sins that have been quickened. The word “quicken” is an old fashioned word not used so much today. But its meaning is true just the same. It means to have life, to be given life, to be given sensibility, to be given power. And all this comes from God. And whilst we think upon these precious truths, let us also realize that no man can keep himself alive. He needs to be sustained spiritually day by day in the same sense in which he needs to be maintained bodily. We cannot live without sustenance on this earth. Our bodies require it. And without it we would soon languish and die. And so we need that spiritual food from heaven continually day by day. Now the Israelites learned this lesson in the wilderness as the manna came down from heaven. They had to go out day by day and gather that manna. There was an exercise. There was a procedure necessary that they and their families might sustained. And is there not a spiritual exercise with God’s people to gather from the table of the Lord that which is necessary for the sustenance of their never dying souls? Now look back, look back over your life and you will record a time — and it may be very solemn to your feelings so to do it. Sometimes it is necessary to see how you walked according to the course of this world. You were of the earth, earthy. You conformed the very image of this world. But everything in this world delighted and transfixed you. You were walking in disobedience to God. You were filling the loss of your flesh. You were satisfying the desires of your heart and of your eyes. And then notice in verse four we have that little word “but.” And what a precious word it is. Except for this word where would we be? We would still be in our sins. We would still be lost. We would still be dead spiritually. But something magnificent took place. Something wonderful happened. The Lord appeared unto His people.
“But God...” (Ephesians 2:4)Here is the instigator. Here is the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the ending, the all and in all of God. He appeared. He performed. He created anew but only because of the richness of His mercy and the great love that he bore towards us His people. Do we know anything of these things or isn’t it vitally important that we should experience something that there may be some small seed of vital truth planted into our hearts, something that will rise up to glorify God, something that is pure and holy, a perfect that is a solemn work of an almighty God who has done all things well.
“By grace are ye saved.” (Ephesians 2:8)And if there are any here this morning that are saved, it is all owing to sovereign grace, nothing of the works of the flesh, nothing of the desires of the natural mind. No, it is the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, beloved of God our Father and the operation of the Holy Spirit within that has brought us to cry out like the Philippian jailer, “What must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30). And as we come under the authority of God’s Word through the means that he has chosen, the preaching of the gospel, so our hearts have been enlarged, our spirits overwhelmed with the love of the Lord Jesus Christ toward us. Well, let us come to our text. “And,” which means in addition to.
"And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus." (Ephesians 2:6-7)It is these opening words which struck my spirit as I thought upon them.
“Hath raised us up.” (Ephesians 2:6)So we see our condition by nature. We are in the pit, in the miry clay, our feet stuck fast, helpless, hopeless, lost. We had no strength to deliver ourselves. But as we began to cry everything appeared hopeless to us. We can see ourselves in that miserable condition. What a mercy that we began to see it because there was a time when our eyes were closed in death and we could not observe these things. But began to see our lost estate and the thought and the sight of these things so infected upon us that we were distraught with the very feeling of a lost eternity. You know, there are so many in the world today and in ever age who are content with a form of religion. We have it with the Pharisees and Sadducees and others in the days of the Lord Jesus Christ. We have it with many who opposed the preaching of the apostle Paul and the apostles in their day. We have seen it in the fires of persecution throughout the ages of time up until this present day. We seem to be living in a day of apathy, a day when man is content with a form of religion, denying the power thereof. And so many are content to live as though they were secure without any knowledge of that security. And, therefore, they perish in their sins and they wait for a lost eternity and their solemn end on this earth is but the beginning of that which is worse to come. Oh, to be stirred up within, to come into the experience of these things that every true child of God has experienced in one way or another, to know that we are lost. A sinner is a sacred thing. The Holy Ghost has made him so. Now most in the world today wouldn’t understand that language. They won’t begin to comprehend the truth that lies behind it because they have never died to their sins. They are still living, wallowing in their unbelief and in their carnal situation. But God arrests His people. He brings them to account. He shows them what they are in their natural state. And the sight is a solemn sight indeed. It is awful to witness that some have been lead deeper into these things, but others... some have been hung, as it were, over the fires of hell. But look at the words of our text. “Hath raised us up... hath raised us up...” Sovereign power was exerted to raise up God’s people from the dungeon of their sins and to set their feet upon the eternal Rock of ages, “Raised us up.” Ah, do we know anything of the devil, of his tempting power, of his subtle questions concerning the sovereignty of God? Have we not been there? Have we not experienced some of these things? And we believe him. We tend to believe him if put before us in such ways as though it seems highly believable. Of course the devil is right and we are wrong. If we are not worthy to be called God’s sons, we are not worthy of the least of all His mercies, our sins have condemned us. They have separated us from our God. And so there is no worthiness within us. Our righteousnesses are before him as filthy rags. We are wretched and undone. But he hath raised us up. He has raised us up from the dead, carnal, formal condition. He has raised us up out of the pit, that filthy pit and he has raised us up together and made us fit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. Have you come this morning cast down because of sin and unbelief? Do you feel your carnal nature? Do you feel your wretched unworthiness? Do you feel that you have despised the Word of God, you have rejected the truth, youhave turned your back upon an holy God? What do you need? You need to be raised up. Can you raise yourself up? Can you put forth strength to deliver yourselves? Oh, the trying or the exercise only renders you weaker and weaker and you come to despair of ever being delivered. Hath raised us up, raised us up from that awful condition to be with him. Isn’t this the glorious truth that is set before us here? And then we have this word “together.” “And hath raised us up together... together with Christ.” And the text in these two verses puts forth that precious name of Christ Jesus twice. But I believe that this also means together with God’s people.
"How can two walk together, except they be agreed?" (Amos 3:3)And does not the Holy Spirit teach all men alike? That doesn’t mean that all have the same experiences. It doesn’t mean that they are all in the same depth of confusion. It doesn’t mean that they are all raised up in exactly the same way. But there is something here in common, something here that binds the children of God together. They can relate their experiences one to another. Now some of you who read our Christian magazines wherein are contained from time to time some of the experience of saints of bygone days, can you read those things and not have some feeling toward the person who experienced them? Isn’t there a similarity in their experience in some point to your experience? Do you not in some ways envy the trials of their faith, what they passed through, seeing where it led them? Together. Birds of a feather flock together. What have we that holds us together here? We come from different backgrounds and, indeed, I can say from different nations, different circumstances entirely in our lives. And yet we have come together this morning. What has brought us together? I believe, surely, it must be for the preaching of the gospel. This is the part of the service that takes the most time. We come to hear the Word of God expounded. And we have a desire — and some, perhaps, more than others a delight---to hear these glorious truths set over and over again. We want something old and we want something new. We want a consistency in the truth of God’s Word. We want something that will feed our souls and satisfy our desires. And we know that these things can only come from God, but God who uses means to convey His truth to our hearts. Together, then. This is what naturally brings us to the house of God that we might be together in the assembly of God’s people to hear the same things. Now the Word of God does not touch the heart of each one the same. Sometimes we may be so cold and lifeless the Word of God doesn’t touch us at all. But another time we may come in warm hearted, desirous, waiting for the truth of God and the Lord speaks through that Word. But we need something more than a mere attendance to bind us together. You see, one day this world will end and Christ’s kingdom will be complete. Every last elect vessel of mercy will be safely gathered in and Christ will be the King reigning sovereignly and supremely over his people. And all those that are in Christ Jesus will be together and together with him. It is a precious thought for those that have any good hope through grace that they will be among them together in union, perfect union, sinless union. We cannot begin to imagine what that can be. Our poor, puny minds cannot grasp these glorious truths that sin will no more annoy and that these weak bodies of ours will be transformed into glorious bodies like unto Christ’s. We will be together through another ending eternity. Now, the true child of God wants a foretaste of that before. He wants to know or be assured that he is part of that people. And he knows that if he is one of God’s people he will be bound in love to all God’s people. For this is the commandment of the Lord Jesus Christ. Raised up together. I say we come from very different backgrounds. We are our own people, our thoughts differ one from another and we may see certain things in the Scripture differently one from another. But there is something secret that lies within the hearts of all God’s people that binds them together. You take the doctrines of sovereign grace. Can we give up these truths? Can we differ upon these points? Indeed, not. These are the foundation truths of our most holy faith. These are the very things that bind us together. There are some other issues, important issues, doubtless, because they are the issues of God. But we might have a different mind upon these things, a different opinion. But it doesn’t separate that friendship and that fellowship in the gospel. Rather, these are willing to look upon one another as brothers and sisters in the Lord Jesus Christ. Why does God raise us up together? For this purpose that we might all sit together, that we may come to the same place, to the same glorious truth, that we may come to a little of heaven begun here below. Sitting is the posture that is taken when labor is at its end. A man goes out in the morning to his daily occupation and he labors through that day and in the evening he comes home from his labour, but what does he want to do? He wants to sit down. He wants to rest. He has been on the go all day. His limbs are feeling somewhat tired. His whole bodily frame needs rest and so he sits. And so it is spiritually to sit together. Remember the Lord Jesus Christ as a young child 12 years of age? He came into the temple and he sat down with the doctors of divinity, those who were knowledgeable in the Scriptures in that day. And there he debated with them the words of God. They sat together. They were astonished at this young boy, of his understanding, his perception of the Word of God. Perhaps they didn’t understand that he was the very Christ of God sent from heaven, but they saw something in him which made them realize that he had the truth. And isn't this, when we come together and sit down together to consider not the points of distinction or separation, but rather the points of truth? Now he goes on to say that they sit together in heavenly places. What are these heavenly places which the apostle is speaking of to these Ephesians? What is heaven to the believer? Isn’t it where Christ is? If Christ were to be found in hell, hell would be heaven to us. I believe we can put it this way, that wherever Christ is, is heaven to us. Where we discover him it is a heavenly place. Cponsider Moses when he came to that burning bush where he was commanded to take his shoes from off his feet. Why? He was there in an open country, there in the wilderness, as it were. What was the place? Just rolling countryside or flat desert or whatever it was. But, no, the Lord says to him, “The ground upon which thou standest is holy ground.” (See Exodus 3) And why was that? Because the presence of the almighty was there.
“Made us sit together in heavenly places.” (Ephesians 2:6)Doesn’t the house of God, then, become to us a heavenly place when we experience or feel something of the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ? And don’t we need to be extremely careful as we are reminded from time to time that “where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst”? Do we believe these things? Do we believe that Christ comes into the midst of his praying, worshipping people? Well, Christ himself has said it. And we believe him to be true. And, therefore, where Christ is, heaven is. It is a heavenly place. For in the exercises of God’s people do they not find, at times, heavenly places? As you kneel down to pray sometimes, it may be formal prayer, and you may be tired and not realize even what you are uttering, how fallen we are, what poor creatures we oft times have to confess that we become. But in those times when religion is lively within our souls and our hearts go out toward the Lord Jesus Christ and prayer seems to be indicted by the Holy Spirit and we make confession unto our God, it is a heavenly place for Christ is there. He condescends to meet with His people. Yes, in their personal, individual worshipping of Him, in their prayers and meditations the Spirit of the living God at times comes upon them and they feel drawn up in their souls to Christ that He becomes everything, all and in all to them. You see, it is all in Christ Jesus.
“And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:6)Remember how the Lord Jesus Christ experienced this world in all its fallen condition, all its oppositions, all its troubles and trials. He experienced these things that he might be a sympathetic high priest unto His people. And it shows that He cares for His people because He loves them so much. Everything, then, is in Christ Jesus, by Christ Jesus, through Christ Jesus. He is the one to whom we are bound, the one to whom we must come like that woman with the infirmity of 12 years. Oh, how afflicted that poor woman was. But she comes to a knowledge of Christ. And isn’t this, in type, what every one who is the Lord’s people come to? They come to see their affliction, to see how long standing it has been and what it has done for them and how it has bowed them down with the feelings of this world. But then they come to Jesus, drawn by the influence of the Holy Spirit, come because there is a divine compulsion that they must come and they come and touch the hem of His garment and then they are made whole every whit, and they confess, “It was I.”
“And he said unto her, Daughter, be of good comfort: thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace.” (Luke 8:48)Yes, together in Christ Jesus. And, I believe every child of God can speak something along these terms of what the Lord has done for them, how they became attracted to Christ and how they saw that their salvation was in Him and in Him alone that he was the object of their chief desire: Jesus crucified for me.
“That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:7)“In the ages to come.” That could, of course, mean in eternity when we have laid down this body and we become new creatures in heaven. But I believe it has a meaning also for this life.
"He that hath begun a good work in you shall perform it to the day of Jesus Christ." (Philippians 1:6)We don’t begin and then it all comes to nothing. No. Where the Spirit of God begins within us, there is a continuance. But in the ages to come whatever those ages may be, it may mean the course of our lives from that day of grace to the end and then through a never ending eternity. It may mean that God’s people now and in the ages to come, in a latter age. And I believe this is one of the meanings that the apostle speaks of here. He felt that the world was not immediately coming to an end. There would be a period when God would display His sovereign grace for sin abounding. But in the ages to come. Whatever interpretation we may like to put upon it, and it would include all time in the experience of God’s chosen people, “he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace.” And how is this to be done?
“In his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:7)Everything that flows to us from heaven, from God, flows through Jesus Christ. We were considering recently that, “No man hath seen God at any time.” (John 1:18; 1 John 4:12) God ever operates through the person of His only beloved Son. It is through Jesus Christ that all the blessings of His grace are revealed. Now that doesn’t mean that the Father has a lesser interest in us than the Son or the Spirit. No, there is an equality in heaven. The Father loved His people and sent His Son to deliver them and the Spirit was given the work to reveal the truth to them. It seems to me that there are times when the apostle cannot fully express himself because there are not words sufficient thus to do. But how great is this language, “the exceeding riches of his grace”? It exceeds or excels everything, His grace.
“I...will be gracious to whom I will be gracious...” (Exodus 33:19)How rich is the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ toward us? Who can enumerate the greatness of it? So great, so glorious, so marvellous are His riches, the riches of Christ’s grace? How can we even consider these things is beyond all earthly wisdom and understanding. Only as we experience something of them. What do we know of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ? Well, daily in our lives we realize and recognize that we come short in every way. There are those sins of commission and sins of omission, great sins and small sins if there can be descriptions put in that way, but sin that needs to be put away. Can we remit one sin? Can we do sufficiently to hide the smallest sin that we have ever committed, again, if we can describe it thus? Man is not able to do anything, not the minutest thing towards his own deliverance. What if he could render unto God sufficient to pay for the tiniest sin? What about all the rest? What about that mountain of sin that wells up before him? No, man cannot deliver himself even from the smallest. So how can we think of that which is the greatest? But God says, “Sin shall not have dominion over you,” (Romans 6:14), because Christ has paid that price of sin and brought in an everlasting righteousness for His people. And when we can kneel down and fall down before God and confess our sins to Him and feel something of the riches of His grace, we cannot plunge into the depths of that grace. We cannot reach to the heights of that grace, so rich, so full, so free. Such is the goodness of God. And it is displayed, wonderfully, graphically displayed in His kindness. Oh, who is sufficient to speak of the loving kindness of our God, so kind in His dealings toward us? It leaves us expressionless. It leaves us breathless, the kindness of God toward us. Oh, to meditate, then, upon these things, to consider something of that kindness. And will it not take all eternity and then that will not be sufficient to recount the kindness that God has shown toward us, so kind, so tender, so merciful and all through Christ Jesus. He is the Christ of God. He is the Savior of sinners. He is that great Mediator that stands between God and man, the only Mediator who through His own work has opened the door to heaven that every child of God may freely enter in. Everything now and in the future and through eternity will be through Christ Jesus.
"There is one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus." (1 Timothy 2:5)There was no other good enough, no other man to pay the price of sin. He only, Christ only could unlock the gate of heaven and let us in. Ah, we leave the subject, but I hope it won’t leave us. We come lamentably short in trying to open it up. But I say it is language that is far beyond the wisdom of all humanity to be able to express nor to have a touch, a glimpse, a taste of these things again will be a little heaven begun here below. Amen.