The Gospel of God’s grace in Christ Jesus is not a thing to be proved, but truth to be believed. It is not submitted to our reasoning powers as a subject for critical examination. The gospel is a MESSAGE FROM GOD, addressed to the conscience, feelings, and affections. For this reason, men fond of argument and proving everything by strictly logical deduction generally make very poor preachers. In the Scriptures, God does not argue, He proclaims!
By J.C. Philpot
Thursday, February 26, 2009
"By grace ye are saved."
What a wonderful mercy it is to an enlightened sinner to hear what the Apostle says, "By grace ye are saved."
Men under the conviction of sin and the discovery of God's justice and holiness often feel themselves utterly hopeless, and whatever men may say to them about amending their lives, it leaves them in more despair than before, being made to feel with all their amendment they cannot mend that which is past.
What is still more wonderful, if these convictions be of God, they will cut deeper yet, by showing the sinner he was not only a transgressor from the womb, but born in sin, and shapen in iniquity. (Isaiah 48:8; Psalm 51:5) This puts the sinner beyond any help in himself. Some try to get over this mire by telling the people that infant baptism is regeneration, for not knowing the hidden secret [and] wisdom of God, they stretch their own wisdom into the utmost confusion by preaching baptism is regeneration, and yet teach children to say that baptism is only the outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace. We believe God has appointed this sign to show us the need of spiritual baptism, which Titus calls "the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost." (Titus 3:5)
When the convicted sinner has ears to hear this joyful sound, and a heart to understand it, then he finds his despair give way to hope. And though he finds his heart abounds in accusations of all sorts, yet these tidings of mercy and pardon to the returning sinner encourages him to hope. He is revived to perceive that Jesus Christ came to save sinners, and that salvation is of free grace. Paul begins his Epistle to the Galatians with these words; "Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God, and our Father." (Galatians 1:3-4)
This wonderful Scripture is to assure us that it is the will of the Father that a broken hearted sinner shall never finally despair; that the Lord Jesus Christ came to save self-despairing sinners. Not by teaching them to do many things, but by showing them the absolute necessity of Christ's mercy and pardon. Which he here declares shall bring peace and reconciliation with God, and the Father.
The Apostle tells us, there be some troublers that will preach another gospel and so pervert the gospel of Christ. These lead souls to utter despair, and hide the free grace of Christ and tell the people that by amending their lives they will obtain the favour and mercy of God. But we are taught that no inventions of men can reach the deep rooted leprosy of sin, nothing short of the blood of sprinkling can take it away. "By grace ye are saved." When we fall into distress, and deep temptation, we then find we have no power to help ourselves. What we would most willingly recommend to others, we find most terribly difficult to exercise ourselves. Despair seems to take hold of us. Yet even here, there is a cry and sometimes [it is] so feeble that we can scarcely believe it can be heard, but in the end we find it proves to be the cry of the poor and destitute, which the Lord regards. It is heard when all our strength is gone, and none shut up or left, to show to us that it is the free grace alone of Christ which saves us. When this comes, it always shows us all quarrels are made up with the Father, through this grace of Christ, and sensible friendship again renewed in the conscience. The Spirit bears witness to this truth, who brings along with it a sweet peace that passeth all understanding.
We are sure there are many pretenders to this gospel. They certainly are such as walk in craftiness, and handle the Word of God deceitfully (2 Corinthians 4:2) and hold their profession with drunkenness and mock God without shame, by a pretended worship and an untender walk. Hypocrites who are ignorant of this free grace of Christ, and yet are made to feel themselves guilty sinners, persuade themselves they can by some means gain pardon. The Apostle tells us plainly, that Christ gave himself for our sins, and that there is no other foundation for hope or mercy, and that this work of grace is so effectual on the heart as to deliver us from this present evil world of drunkenness, hypocrisy and every abomination.
We read, when the widow of Zarephath saw her son was dead, she cried out, "Art thou come unto me to call my sin to remembrance, and to slay my son?" (1 Kings 17:18) It is often so with us. As soon as any peculiar affliction overtakes us, we begin to sink in spirit, and fear lest the Lord should enter into strict judgment with us for many things. This the enemy takes the advantage of and adds many accusations, and this is what David calls "floods of great waters." (Psalm 32:6) "I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me." (Psalm 69:2) These floods are said to lift up their voice. (Psalm 93:3) This means all the dreadful feelings the children of God often fall into, especially when afflictions threaten to be very sharp.
Even here the Lord sits as our heavenly Pilot, so that we perish not, and we at length find that he raises as well as commands the stormy wind and says, "Hitherto shall thou go and no further." The Lord tells us, by these depths he melts our hard and barren hearts, and though we are made to stagger with fear yet the Spirit helps our infirmities in this dreadful place to cry unto the Lord. He makes this storm a calm and shows us more plainly our helpless ruined condition. It is only of the Lord's mercies we are not consumed. (Lamentations 3:22) Then we know what the Apostle means when he writes, "Behold...what carefullness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation" and disgust at the sin of your nature; (2 Corinthians 7:11) what zeal and revenge against those dreadful sins that bring a sad reproach upon the cause of God.
The Psalmist then adds, "Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men." (Psalm 107:8) He causes the watersprings to run in dry ground and thus shows us how free the grace of God is to returning sinners.
Never forget that Christ died for our sins. (1 Corinthians 15:3) The Apostle tells us to be sure to keep in memory this truth. If we will seek to be justified by the works of the law, we are under the curse, but if we come with our broken hearts to Christ, he is said to redeem us from the curse, and the Spirit will enlighten us under his convictions to cry to Christ alone for mercy.
A false ministry will set many things before the coming sinner as needful for salvation, but the Saviour says he was only sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. (Matthew 15:24) These lost sheep are called in another place dead, but Christ is said to quicken them who were dead. [These] must now make manifest they are partakers of true spiritual life by not walking after the course of this world, that in future ages may be seen the exceeding riches of this free grace in its effects in us. It humbles us, and makes us simple, sincere, transparent and shows the whole to be the gift of God. [It] gives us some comprehension of "the breadth, the length, the depth, and height, and to know" the sweet power of "the love of Christ which passeth" all natural "knowledge." (Ephesians 3:18,19) It is for want of this divine secret and hidden power, there are so many fruitless professors. I sometimes wonder such do not look out for the dresser of the vineyard, and expect him to come and examine their fruits. It will be truly awful to hear him say: 'Here is a fruitless tree full of the leaves of profession, but a sad bitter fruit appears. Cut it down, why cumbereth it the ground? I have been digging and dunging this tree for three or four years and yet nothing but an untender walk at last. Cut it down.' (Luke 13:6-9)
The art of Satan is firmly to persuade a hypocrite he is a child of God, and that he will get safely to heaven although he is not so particular as some. He also comes to a poor sheep of Christ and tries with all his power to persuade him he can never be saved. He has no end of his terrifying accusations which raise up many fearful misgivings thoughts in the trembling child of God. [The child of God] cannot see at once this device of Satan, on which account he sinks into many despairing feelings, until the Sun of righteousness arises with light and healing, (Malachi 4:2) to discover the cheat, and cheer the drooping spirit. Thus we find out Christ's love to us and how he gave up himself a sacrifice to God, not for saints, but for afflicted sinners. If Jesus Christ thus fully gave himself for us, and God the Father is said not to spare his own Son, but delivered him up, how shall he not also freely give us all things needful for our salvation. (Romans 8:32)
Is not this free grace for a dejected sinner?
"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?...Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us." (Romans 8:35,37) It may be asked; how is it that so many fair professors seem to start so well, and yet are by no means conquerors over their lusts and drunkenness, and are not ashamed.
Is it not because they never tasted of the true love of God?
For some fair show in the flesh [they] have proved like the foolish Galatians to be bewitched from the simplicity of the truth, and find no grace to render a spiritual obedience to God's Word. These fall away in the hour of temptation. Though they appear to begin [to decline] with very little circumstances of showing their heart is gone, yet presently they become bolder, till at length they are not ashamed to be called enemies--enemies to God; to his Word; to his cause; and to his people. God makes them a reproach by darkening the little wisdom they seemed once to profess. Therefore if by the grace of God any of us are enabled to stand our ground, let us all keep in remembrance the power that holds us up. All fullness is in Christ Jesus, therefore let us learn to magnify the riches of his free grace, who has brought us out of the spirit of this world, and has made us deeply to feel that it is of his mercy he saves us by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost, (Titus 3:5) which he often sheds abundantly on us when deeply immersed in grief and sorrow, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
This blessing reaching us in the time of temptation and conflict, or death itself, has such an unspeakable and divine power as to raise our sinking spirits from hell to heaven, as both Jonah and David tell us. Therefore above all things, keep your eyes; your hearts; and your thoughts; and best affections upon the free grace of Christ. Consider it as your safeguard in all your afflictions; although it be defamed, and reproached, call to mind what the Saviour says, "If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own; but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you."
"Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins."
Beloved, "hereby know we, that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit." (1 John 4:13)
We can but love him, because he first loved us. If we take up a profession merely to please men, we may obtain the favour of some, but let us remember no man can serve two masters, he will hold to one and despise the other. (Matthew 6:24) Therefore let us beg of the Lord, that he will continually reveal to us how freely he gave himself for us, that whatsoever conscience says of charges against us, to still come to Christ as an all sufficient sacrifice, believing he came to save sinners who are sick of their sins, and feel their need of a Saviour; to these he declares, "I will in no wise cast out." (John 6:37)
To him be all the glory, for ever. Amen.
By James Bourne
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
There were seven recorded utterances of the Lord Jesus just before He died. As you may already know, the number seven is the number that indicates "perfection".
But the number seven is also the number of "Rest" in a finished work. God created the heavens and the earth in six days, and He rested the seventh day. Today we will look at the seventh saying of the Lord Jesus indicating that He rested in His finished work on the cross. The task the Father had given Him was now complete, and now He rested and put His Spirit in the Father's hands.
Let me review those last seven sayings of Jesus.
This is the sequence in which He said to them:
1) Luke 23:34
Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.
2) John 19:26-27
Woman, behold thy son; Behold, thy mother.
3) Luke 23:43
Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.
4) Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34
My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?
5) John 19:28
6) John 19:30
It is finished!
7) Luke 23:46
Father, into Thy hands I commend My Spirit.
Today we want to look into the last of the seven sayings of the Lord Jesus. Let us first read about the events accompanying this saying of the Lord Jesus. We read here in Luke 23:44-45 that there were:
Three Hours of Darkness (Luke 23:44-46, Luke 34, John 19:26-27, Luke 23:43, Matthew 27:46, Mark 15:34, John 19:28, 30, Luke 23:46, Malachi 4:2, Matthew 27:51, Hebrews 10:20)
And it was about the sixth hour, and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. And the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst.
What was the sixth hour?
In the terminology of the Jews of those days the sixth hour was at noon. It was about 12 O'clock. And there was darkness over all the earth until 3 O'clock in the afternoon. This was not a sun-eclipse. The time of Passover always coincided with full moon. Therefore the moon did not position itself between the earth and the sun; the moon was on the other side of the earth, and the moon would become visible after sundown. This darkness over all the earth was a true miracle from God to indicate that God's face was hidden from the sin bearer, the Lord Jesus Christ, because darkness was symbolic of Hell.
In His parables the Lord Jesus compared Hell to a place of "outer darkness, where there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth". And perhaps you have noticed that the name of Hell is “outer darkness”, not utter darkness, indicating that it is the darkness out there that is outside the kingdom of God. It does not belong in the kingdom of God. And now Christ Himself was surrounded by that outer darkness, indicating that both in His body and in His soul He was suffering the wrath of God in that outer darkness, indicating that He was suffering the equivalent of the torments of Hell for all those sins He was bearing. And during these three hours there was no communication with the Father in heaven. This darkness did not originate from Satan. God repeated this in verse 45, where He said, "And the sun was darkened", referring to the "SUN of righteousness", out of Malachi 4:2.
This was a miraculous darkness, and God did it. God also said, "the veil of the temple was rent in the midst", or if we use the wording from Matthew 27:51, "And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom", as if the finger of God tore that veil from the top to the bottom. The result was that the Holy of Holies in the temple was exposed. The most holy place, which was the place where in the Old Testament God resided above the Ark of the Covenant, and where God spoke with Moses from between the cherubim, that most holy place was closed off with a very heavy curtain from the rest of the temple.
Only once a year, on the Day of Atonement, was a high priest allowed behind that veil with the blood of a bull for his own sins and with the blood of a goat for the people's sins. This was to indicate that the people had only access to God through a mediator, which was in the Old Testament time the high priest. But now the veil was rent, and the Holy of Holies was exposed, whereby God indicated that anyone could now have access to God directly, except he has to go through the torn veil, which represented the torn flesh of the Lord Jesus Christ, according to Hebrews 10:20. This is what God had in view when He recorded that incident of the torn veil. And then the Lord Jesus said in the next verse, Luke 23:46,
Father, Into Thy Hands I Commend My Spirit (Luke 23:46, John 10:17-18, John 17:23, 1 John 3:1)
And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.
The darkness had passed. It was beginning to get light again. Later Jesus indicated the end of His sufferings for our sins when He said with a loud voice, "It Is Finished". But now Jesus said also with a loud voice, "Father".
It means that the line of communication with the Father had been restored.
Why did He say these things with a loud voice?
For two reasons: First of all, Jesus spoke with a loud voice to let His enemies know that He obtained the victory. His prize was to have purchased grace and mercy for all His people, which are those whom the Father has elected from before the foundation of the world. All the efforts of His enemies to destroy Him were turned upon their own heads.
At the cross all the elect of God had all the guilt of all their sins erased. But in their lifetime, at the time of them being “Born Again”, their sins would also be erased. This was the only day in the history of mankind that the guilt of sins was blotted out, since the Lord Jesus Christ was the substitute for His elect people before the judgment throne of the Heavenly Father. This was the only day in history that a perfectly righteous man, a sinless man, suffered vicariously for the sins of other human beings. No sinless man existed before or after Him. Everyone else in the world was assigned to pay for their own sins in Hell. They desired to be the enemies of God, and God grants them their wish. Secondly, Christ spoke with a loud voice to let His disciples know, and to let us know, that the Lord Jesus laid down His life voluntarily for His sheep, and only for His sheep; it was not taken from Him, but He laid it down of His own accord. He was not an exhausted victim on the cross. He was not dying because He was exhausted from so much suffering at the hands of men. No! He laid down His life because in His Spirit He had completed the torments of Hell for all the sins of His sheep. He had completed the payment for our sins. The Lord Jesus spoke of this emphatically when He said in John 10:17-18:
Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again.
No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.
It means that the Lord Jesus suffered in His humanity, and that He received the authority to lay down His life when He has finished paying for our sins, and He also received the authority to make Himself alive in His humanity when He was lying in His grave. No other human being can say that of himself. No other human being can make his own body alive again. And now He said with a loud voice, "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit". The sword of Divine justice had smitten the Suffering Servant of Jehovah, but now justice has been served. The cup of the wrath of God was drained. The storm of wrath was spent. The darkness was passed. The communion was restored. And now, by an act of faith, He confidently laid His Spirit in the hands of His Heavenly Father.
What does it mean, “Heavenly Father”?
Think of this now: If we belong to His people, then His Father is also our Father. The Lord Jesus said in John 17:23, "That the world may know that Thou hast sent Me, and hast loved them, as Thou hast loved Me".
This is an incredible statement.
Does the Father love us as much as He loves the Lord Jesus?
This is what Jesus is saying here. But think of it now in human terms:
If a Father chose a Bride for His Son, would He not love His Son's Bride as much as He loves His Son?
In human terms, that is a distinct possibility. The Lord Jesus said that this applies to the relation between the Heavenly Father and the Bride of Christ. He is our Father, because God the Father is Christ's Father. What a love, and what a comfort, and what an assurance. It means that He will supply all my needs. It means that I do not need to be afraid of my enemies. The Father cares for me, and He will protect me that no harm will be done to me, so that all things shall work together for my good. God says in 1 John 3:1, "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God".
Then Jesus said: "Father, into Thy hands I commend My Spirit.”
What Spirit was He speaking about?
He was speaking of His human spirit. We know this from studying various passages about the incarnation and harmonize these passages with His atonement, especially His burial and resurrection. First we will consider
To be buried with Christ (Ephesians 1:3-5, John 6:37-44, John 6:65, Luke 10:20, Romans 6:3-5)
Let us first look at the atonement of Christ. When we look at the atonement of Christ, we should always remember that “WE were in Christ” at that time. And when the Bible says that “WE were in Christ”, the Bible does not refer to every human being in the world, but only to those whom the Father chose to become saved, and then the Father shall draw those to the lord Jesus, according to John 6:37, John 6:39-40, John 6:44 and John 6:65.
This is very clearly stated throughout the Bible, and cannot be denied. And when the Bible says that WE were in Christ, we should no try to rationalize it, for we personally did not exist yet, and our souls did not exist yet. But the Bible tells us in more than 200 verses of our being in Christ, and that already before the foundation of the world when no one else than the triune God existed. It is a fact that cannot be denied. The best picture of this fact is that our names were inscribed into the mind of God the Son from before the foundation of the world. For example, we read in Luke 10:20, “Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.”
We read in Ephesians 1:3-5,
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:
According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:
Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,
And so, since we were in Christ from the beginning of time, we were still in Christ when He went to the cross.
In addition, the Bible says in many places that WE have been crucified with Christ and in Christ, WE have died with Christ and in Christ, WE have been buried with Christ and in Christ, WE have been raised with Christ and in Christ, WE have ascended with Christ and in Christ into heaven, WE are seated with Christ and in Christ in the heavenlies, and WE are presently reigning with Christ and in Christ. Presently I cannot dish out all the references to the things I am speaking about, but we will look into one of them here in Rom 6:3-5,
Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?
Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:
What baptism is God speaking about here in Romans 6?
Is this passage speaking of water baptism?
No! We do not see any water here. The entire passage deals with the death and resurrection of Christ.
What does it mean to be baptized into His death?
The Lord Jesus spoke of this when He addressed the disciples James and John in Matthew 20:22-23, who wanted to have a place of honor in heaven. When we look at the context in Matthew 20, we see that Matthew 20:17-23 deals with the cross of Christ. It has nothing to do with water baptism. And so, the Lord Jesus answered James and John in Matthew 20:22-23,
But Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?
They say unto him, We are able.
And he saith unto them, Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with: but to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father.
And so, the baptism that the Lord Jesus spoke of was His crucifixion, which He calls a baptism, which means a washing, since He was going to be washed from the sins that charged to His account.
And so, Romans 6:3 speaks of the fact that we have been crucified with Christ, and Romans 6:4 speaks of the facts that we were buried with Christ and that we were raised with Christ.
But if we were buried with Christ, then what was that spirit that went into heaven when the Lord Jesus said, “Father, into Thy hands I commend My Spirit”?
We must have a clear understanding of what went into the grave. It means that:
His Deity Was Buried with Christ (Micah 5:2, John 3:13, Matthew 1:21)
When the Bible speaks of the Lord Jesus Christ as being one in essence with the Father, coeternal, the exact image of the person of the Father, and the reflection of His glory, being in all things like Him, then we know that He is the Son of God, not only from the time that He assumed our nature, but from all eternity. When the Bible also says that God created all things by Jesus Christ, then it must follow that He who is called God, or the Word, or the Son, or Jesus Christ, already existed when al things were created by Him.
And therefore the prophet Micah says in Micah 5:2 that “His goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting”.
So then, Christ is the true eternal God, the Almighty. Therefore, when God fulfilled the promise which He made to the fathers by the mouth of His holy prophets, in the fulness of time He sent into the world His only begotten and eternal Son, God the Son, who took upon Him the form of a servant and became like unto man, really assuming the true human nature with all its infirmities, except for sin. The human nature that God the Son chose to unite with was the man Christ Jesus, who was conceived in the womb of the Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit, without the means of man. God the Son did not only assume human nature as to the body, but also a true human soul, that He might be a real man.
Therefore, by this conception the person of God the Son is inseparably united and connected with the human nature, so that there are not two Sons of God, but two natures united in one single person; yet each nature retains its own distinct properties.
That is why he Lord Jesus could say in John 3:13, “And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.”
In other words, Christ was standing before Nicodemus and speaking to him, but at the same time He was in heaven. And so, His divine nature has always remained uncreated, without beginning of days or end of life, filling heaven and earth; likewise in His human nature He has not lost its properties, but remained a creature, having beginning of days, and retaining al the properties of a real human body. That is why the Lord Jesus in His humanity could be hungry or thirsty, or be so tired that He slept, but in His Divinity He could wake up and calm the storm and the waves. But since man sinned only a man could atone for the sins of man. And therefore the Lord Jesus had to suffer the atonement in His humanity, the human nature of His person, which was so strengthened by His Divine nature that He could endure the sufferings of Hell without being consumed in the process. These two natures are so closely united in one person that they were not separated even by His death. Therefore, that which He commended into the hands of His heavenly Father, was a real human spirit, departing from His body. That is why the Bible can say that we were buried with Christ; for the same person that we were in before the foundation of the world, God the Son, must still be united with the dead body of the lord Jesus when He was laid in the tomb. And thus the Bible declares hereby that the Divine nature always remained united with the human, even when He lay in the grave; and the Godhead did not cease to be in Him, even when He was an infant. Therefore we declare that He is very God and very man; very God by His power to conquer death, and very man that He might suffer the atonement for us in His human nature, both in body and in soul. Therefore He restored that which He took not away, and He suffered, the righteous for the unrighteous, in His body as well as in His soul, feeling the terrible punishment which our sins have merited. Therefore by His only sacrifice, once offered, He has forever perfected them that are sanctified, meaning set apart. This is also the reason why He was called Jesus by the Angel of the Lord, in Matthew 1:21, for Jesus means Savior, because He would save His people from their sins.
Now we understand what spirit the Lord Jesus was speaking about when He said, “Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit”. And then He died.
The Vengeance of God (Acts 2:23, Psalm 31:5, 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9, 2 Thessalonians 1:6, Matthew 18:7)
All along the Lord Jesus said to His disciples, "The Son of Man shall be betrayed into the hands of men, and they shall kill Him". Now, the appointed hour had struck. He was delivered into the hands of sinners. The Lamb of God was led to the slaughter. How shamefully had they treated Him. It was their opportunity to vent their hatred of Jesus.
And why did they hate Him so?
It was all out of envy. That is exactly right. This is what envy can do to you. And with wicked hands they caused Him to be crucified not knowing that it was all in "the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God", according to Acts 2:23.
God wanted Jesus crucified so that salvation can come to His elect, and God used the sin of the Scribes and Pharisees to accomplish His goals. Voluntarily He delivered Himself into the hands of sinners. And now, voluntarily He delivered Himself into the hands of His Father. "Father, into Thy hands I commend My Spirit".
Here again, the Lord Jesus said this so that the Scriptures might be fulfilled. He quoted these words from Psalm 31:5, "Into thine hand I commit my spirit: thou hast redeemed me, O LORD God of truth".
Never again will He be in the hands of man. Never again will He be at the mercy of the wicked. Never again will He suffer the shame of the cross. He put His Spirit in the hands of the Father. That is the safest place to be. His Spirit went into heaven; His dead body went into the grave. Two days later the Father raised up His body from the grave, and 40 days later the Father exalted Him high above all principalities and powers, and above every name that is named in heaven and on earth, and set Him at His own right hand in the heavens. From there He shall come on the Last Day to judge the living and the dead, and He shall come with power and great glory. Then the tables shall be turned. Him, whom the world has cast out, shall rule and reign over them with a rod of iron. When He was here on earth He was judged, but then He shall judge them. Once He was in their hands, or so they thought, but then shall they be in His hands. Once they cried, "Away with Him", but then shall He say, "Depart from Me, all ye that work iniquity".
Now He is in the Father's hands waiting for the right time to avenge Himself on all His enemies.
Does Christ have many enemies?
Most certainly He does. All the people in the world that know not the God of the Bible are His enemies. God says in 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9, "In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power".
All the people that know not God shall God consider to be His enemies.
Is that not harsh?
No! Not at all! Because in the same chapter, 2 Thessalonians 1, we read that they are the ones who trouble us here on earth. Some of them are envious of our material things, some are envious of the spiritual rest we have in Christ, some are envious of our knowledge of the Bible, and so on.
Their envy turns them into action, and this is why they trouble us. God says in 2 Thessalonians 1:6, "Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you". God is the avenger of those who will hurt the Bride He has chosen. God says in Matthew 18:7, "Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!"
God knows every sin that is going to be committed, for He is omniscient, and He knows the desires and the intents of every heart. And although God has made His plans on account of every sin, God is not the author of any sin. Man sins voluntarily. It is for this reason that God can justifiably send people to Hell; they sinned voluntarily.
The Lord Jesus said, "Father, into Thy hands I commend My Spirit".
He Gave Up His Spirit (Romans 8:16, Revelation 6:9, Hebrews 12:22-23, John 4:24)
Some people think that man consists of three components: a body, a soul and a spirit. But that is needlessly complex. Man consists of two components: a body and a soul, or a body and a spirit. The words "soul" and "spirit" are interchangeably used as synonyms. The non-material ego in man is called a "spirit" in contexts where the direct relationship to God is the point of emphasis, but where its bodily, emotional, or intellectual aspects are not prominent. For example, we read in Romans 8:16, "The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God".
"Our spirit" refers to our souls. For example, they are called souls in Revelation 6:9, "And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held". Here they are called souls, since there is special reference to the brutal form of their physical death. But these same souls in heaven are called spirits in the exalted description of the heavenly goal which lies before the church. We see it here in Hebrews chapter 12.
But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels,
To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,
Here the blessed dead are referred to as "the spirits of just men made perfect", which are the same entities as "the souls under the altar" in Revelation 6:9. Therefore, whether we call them spirits or souls depends on the context. The context must show whether the emphasis is on a direct relationship to God or on a relationship to the body, or whether the meaning is personal or impersonal.
Another example: The Lord Jesus said to the Samaritan woman in John 4:24, "God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth". Here we must consider the triune God as one Spirit, for the nature of God from eternity past is that He is a Spirit. We cannot speak here of a soul, because God does not have another spirit dwelling within Him. When the Lord Jesus Christ died His human spirit, or soul, went to heaven, and His body was laid in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathaea.
He Gave Up the Ghost (Luke 23:46, 2 Timothy 1:12, Philippians 4:13, John 10:17-18, Psalm 69:21)
We read in Luke 23:46, "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost".
Can you see that the Lord Jesus left us here an example?
Do we realize that He committed His Spirit to the Father, because it was in the Father's hands all His life?
Can we claim that also of ourselves?
If so, then it is in safekeeping.
Can we with the Apostle Paul say, "I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day"? (2 Timothy 1:12).
Are we living for His glory?
We know that the Lord Jesus said, "for without me ye can do nothing", and so, the question is are we then walking daily as depending on Him?
On the other hand, are we learning that we can do all things through Christ?
The Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 4:13, "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me". You see, how we die depends on how we live.
Are we living and dying in absolute dependency upon God?
Will it be easy for us to say, "Father, into Thy hands I commend My Spirit"?
If so, then it is well with our souls.
But now look at the unique way the Lord Jesus gave up the Ghost. His life was not taken from Him, but He laid it down of His own accord. The Lord Jesus was very explicit about this. He said in:
Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again.
No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.
With the sinner it is death first, and after that the judgment. With Christ the order is reversed. In laying down His life, His death was different from all others. He died by an act of His own volition. In mere man this would be called suicide, but in Him He died like He was the Prince of Life.
How can we know that He indeed laid down His life, and that He was not a victim?
Well, look at the following 6 examples:
1) During His arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus asked, "Whom seek ye?" They answered, "Jesus of Nazareth". Jesus said, "I AM", and they fell to the ground. Jesus could have walked away from them, because they were powerless on the ground. But He did not do that. He delivered Himself up into their hands.
2) Christ spoke with a loud voice. He still had most of His strength. Most of His blood was still in His body. Only after a soldier pierced His side gushed there out blood and water.
3) When Jesus said, "I Thirst", He spoke these words that the Scripture (singular) [not the Scriptures] might be fulfilled. The Lord was referring to one specific Scripture, Psalm 69:21. In other words, His mind was unclouded.
4) When Jesus said, "It is finished" He bowed His head. This means that His head was erect all the time for 6 hours on the cross. He consciously, calmly, reverently bowed His head.
5) When Jesus said, "Father, into Thy hands I commend My Spirit", he calmly gave up His Spirit; no one took it from Him. For example, when Stephen died he said, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit". Jesus gave up His Spirit. Stephen asked Jesus to receive his spirit.
6) It was not natural for Jesus to be dead in 6 hours. The 2 thieves next to Him were still very much alive. People have survived crucifixion for 10 days. Therefore, when Jesus gave up the ghost, He laid down His life; it was not taken from Him.
But now, look at the blessed place of eternal security that followed after Jesus died.
Eternal Security (John 6:37, John 10:29, 1 Peter 1:5)
His Spirit went into heaven. He knew which people had been given to Him. The Lord Jesus said in
All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.
He knew that He would come back after His resurrection from the grave to take home His elect. If He would not have been raised from the dead, our faith would be vain, and we would still be in our sins; for if Christ was not raised from the dead He would still be paying for our sins. But Christ was raised from the dead. This is the basis of our assurance, since God said through 1 Peter 1:5 that we are "kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation". Therefore, every soul that has been "Born Again" is eternally secure in the Father's hand, because Jesus promised it when He said in John 10:29,
My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand.
Just like Christ on the cross we can experience the blessedness of communion with God. We have the privilege to communicate with God at any time, any place, or under any circumstances, even near death.
We can talk to God about our fear of death, and why it is that our faith is failing at that moment?
Christ has extracted the sting out of death. We should no longer be afraid of death. Death is the door which admits us into the presence of Christ. We too can say, "Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit", because it is our earnest desire to be with Him. Nothing but God can satisfy our desires and our heartfelt needs in this world. The prayers of dying saints show what great value they place on their soul. At the time of our death we express our faith and trust in the Father's care for our soul. And when we say, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit" we plead with God to keep us safe until the moment our life flees from us. That is our eternal security, for God has promised that He will keep us safe until we die.
We live in a world full of trouble. We are unable to take care of ourselves in this life, much less are we able to do so at the time of death. The world, the flesh and the Devil are combined against us. They are too much for our strength. We need help from God, because in ourselves we are weak. Only by grace can we be strong. Only by grace can we have the faith that God provides to all who love Him, to all who are the called according to His purpose. Here is the harbor of shelter from all storms. Here is the blessed shield of faith, which protects us from all the fiery darts of the evil one. Thank God there is a refuge from the storms of life and from the terrors of death: It is in the Father's hand. It is our faith that we are in the Father's hand. That is truly a refuge.
By Alfred J. Chompff
Thursday, February 19, 2009
"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness."
My text is intended to be an added reason for the statement of the apostle in verse 16. There the apostle says: "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ. I am not ashamed to preach it, to represent it, to preach it wherever the Lord sends me, even in Rome."
The first reason for this statement, the apostle gives in verses 16-17: "for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth, for therein is the righteousness of God revealed." Therefore, he is not ashamed of it. No one needs to be ashamed of a power that accomplishes such an effect. The gospel is no philosophy. It is not a human word. But it is a power.
The other reason why the apostle is not ashamed to preach the gospel is expressed in my text. It might be that, although the gospel is such a power, men have no need of it. It might be that, although the gospel is the revelation of the righteousness of God which is by faith, men are not in need of that righteousness. But the apostle in the text tells us the opposite.
Men need that righteousness, for the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who hold the truth in unrighteousness, that is, who hold down the truth in unrighteousness.
In order not to be ashamed of a thing that we represent, three things are necessary. In the first place, the thing must do what it is supposed to do; it must do what we claim it will do. In the second place, the thing that we represent must actually be needed. In the third place, that particular thing which we represent must not only be needed, but must also be unexcelled, so that nothing can take its place. This, the apostle means to say in the context. "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it serves its purpose; it is an efficacious power. I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is needed, the world being full of unrighteousness. I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is unexcelled. No human wisdom has ever effected what the gospel effects."
"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven."
In this light we must look at the text. The text in itself is negative. The purpose of the text lies not in itself. The purpose of the text lies in the gospel. The purpose of the text is to show that our need lies in the gospel and to create the feeling that we need the righteousness of that gospel.
The Wrath that is Revealed
The wrath of God is emphatically the wrath of God. That wrath of God is revealed, the apostle says. God's wrath is the constant reaction of His holiness against all that refuses to seek and acknowledge Him as the highest good. It becomes active in the will and the power to curse. That is God's wrath.
God is holy. God's holiness is probably His most distinct divine attribute. When Scripture says that God is holy, it sometimes means almost the same thing as that God is God. God's holiness not only means that He is separated from all sin and corruption and unrighteousness, but it also means that He is separated from all creatures. God's holiness is that virtue in God by which He is entirely other from any creature. The distinctive virtue of God by which He is entirely other from the creature is this, that God is always motivated by the will to seek Himself. God is always motivated by the will to seek Himself because He is the highest good. Because God is the highest good He must seek Himself. What is sin in us, namely, to seek ourselves, is virtue in God. God has His purpose in Himself in all that He wills and does. That is God's active holiness.
In the second place, because of that fact His holiness reveals itself in a twofold way according as it comes into contact with different objects. God's holiness is mercy when it comes into contact with them that seek Him. That is the action of that holiness. That same holiness becomes wrath, that is, divine displeasure, the will to curse, unto them who refuse to seek and acknowledge Him. This is the meaning of the apostle when he says that the wrath of God is revealed. The divine anger, the divine displeasure, the will to curse, is revealed.
We must be careful when we speak of the wrath of God that we have in mind the wrath of God. The wrath of God is not like the wrath of man. The wrath of God is not a sudden, passing passion. God does not flare up in anger. God's wrath is constant. It never changes. It does not increase or decrease. God's wrath is not a sudden passion, which soon passes and for which He is then sorry. No, God's wrath is constant. It is as constant as His holiness.
In the second place, this wrath of God has all the attributes of the divine being. It is the wrath of God. This means that it is omnipresent. It is everywhere. God is everywhere. God touches you; He besets you; He pursues you; He surrounds you. God is omnipresent. So also is God's wrath.
In the third place, the wrath of God is absolutely efficacious. That is, it cannot be resisted. It does what it wills. And it wills to curse. Therefore, if we would understand the reality of the text, we must understand that the apostle means to say that there is in this world, in this night of darkness in which we live, an operation of the wrath of God in everything. There is an operation of the wrath of God around you and within you. There is in this world a divine "no" to the sin of man. God says "no" always, constantly, eternally, in the world, everywhere. God says "no" to the sin of man. That God says "no" does not mean that He forbids it. When God speaks there is power in that "no." There is power in that "no" to curse. That "no" does curse, and from it there is no escape.
The Provocation of this Wrath
This "no" is constantly provoked by what men do in the world. The apostle speaks reality. He is speaking of the world. He is speaking of the world as it really is. He is speaking of the cultured, the civilized world. He is not speaking of men in the wilds of Africa. He is speaking of Rome. He is speaking of men who stood at the pinnacle of culture. He is not ashamed to preach the gospel at Rome, for there the wrath of God is revealed. This wrath is revealed today, as it was then. I know, men also hold this truth down in unrighteousness. But the apostle says that there is an actual operation of wrath in the world, because the world provokes it.
The apostle says: by ungodliness, unrighteousness, and the wicked attempt to hold down the truth in unrighteousness. The apostle does not mean to say that this wrath is revealed wherever there is unrighteousness and ungodliness and wherever the truth is held down in unrighteousness. Rather, the apostle means that all men hold the truth down in unrighteousness. Men of learning, philosophers, men of culture, men for whom you take off your hat, all men in every station of life hold down the truth in unrighteousness. This is the reality of the world. By this reality it provokes from heaven God's "no."
What is this provocation?
Ungodliness, the apostle says. Ungodliness is the opposite of the fear of God. The fear of God, springing from the love of God, is godliness. If you love God - not a god, not a god that is nice and loving, not a god for whom you can do something, for whom you can work, to whom you can give a dollar in the collection plate. That God is just as much an idol as the heathen gods of wood and stone in Paul's day. That is not God. No, but God! If you know who God is, the wholly other, whom you must always fear, whom you must always love, whom you must always obey, whose will you must always do, whose honor you must always seek, and if then you love Him in reverent fear, then there is godliness in the heart.
Ungodliness is just the opposite. Ungodliness is that you do not love Him, do not fear Him, do not care about Him, never reckon with Him, and act as if He never was there. Ungodliness does not mean that you curse and swear. That is hardly decent. But ungodliness is that God is not in all your thoughts. Ungodliness is that you breathe His air, eat His bread, drink His water, and partake of His bounties, and never say, "Thank you." That is ungodliness. Ungodly also is modern philosophy (I mean philosophy that throws God away for the pleasure of saying that it cannot find Him). Philosophy is ungodliness.
In the second place, the apostle says that it is unrighteousness that provokes God's wrath. Unrighteousness follows from ungodliness. Unrighteousness in the heart and in the walk is to be contrary to the will of God. Not to will what God wills, that is unrighteousness. The apostle means to say that the whole world is characterized by this ungodliness and unrighteousness. No matter how cultured, how refined, how civilized that world may be, the natural man is ungodly and unrighteous. This is exactly what you and I are by nature. And over against this ungodliness and unrighteousness is God's terrible "no." It pursues you; it curses you; it drags you down; and you cannot escape it.
Why do men do this?
Why do men provoke the wrath of God, so that it pursues them and curses them at every step?
Do they not know?
Yes, the apostle says in the third description which he gives of the world, they hold down the truth in unrighteousness. This is an ethical principle. This is the dominating principle in the life of natural man: he holds down the truth in unrighteousness. Not a truth. Men seek after truth, as, for example, the truth that two times two is four. But the truth, they hold down in unrighteousness.
What is the truth?
The truth is God. The revelation of God, God as He is, God in His righteousness, in His holiness, in all His divine perfections, this truth, the apostle says, men know. This is what he says in the following verses. Men know this truth. That is why they say that there is no God. That is why we have atheists. Atheism is not ignorance. Do not be deceived by what people call a difference of opinion, or an honest error, when it comes to the truth. When it comes to the truth of God, men hold this truth down; they suppress it in unrighteousness.
What does this mean?
It means that men want to live in unrighteousness. They love unrighteousness and hate righteousness. Now comes the truth. As the apostle explains in the following verses "that which may be known of God is manifest in them, for God hath shewed it unto them. They know God."
When this truth comes to men, whether they be white, black, yellow, or brown, whether this truth comes to them from creation or from Scripture, or when it comes to them in the very body of His Son, they say, "There is no God."
Because they hold down the truth in unrighteousness. And if the truth persists, as it persisted in Christ, they crucify Him. That is the world. That is you and I.
Do not say, "Yes, but there is common grace." There is no common grace.
Do not try to light an oil lamp in our night. Our night is just as dark as the night in which Paul preached. Do not try to fix it up. Do not say, "I don't agree with you." That is not the question. It is the Word of God. The Word of God tells us that the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold down the truth in unrighteousness. There is no outlet. You cannot change it.
The Revelation of this Wrath
In this night the wrath of God is revealed. The apostle says that the wrath of God is revealed from heaven. We cannot see Him. If we could see God as the text pictures Him, the world would not have the peace that it seemingly has. But God is in heaven. We cannot see Him. But He frowns from heaven. We cannot see Him. He is in heaven. That is, His face is in heaven. But the apostle means to say that in the world this wrath of God, this "no" of God, this will to curse is revealed. This does not mean that God tells the world about it. But it means that this wrath is operating. It is plainly visible. We can plainly see God's anger. We can see it in its operation. It is plainly evident that God curses. It is revealed everywhere that God curses.
No, men! Men who hold the truth in unrighteousness.
This is evident in many things. The apostle in the following verses merely points to the general line in which this wrath is revealed. The apostle draws this line. The wrath of God takes hold of man and forces him, giving him over from corruption to corruption. We can easily see what is the end of that pursuing wrath of God. The end is nothing less than hell. The wrath of God takes hold of the human race. It takes hold of you and me as soon as we become a part of that human race. And it brings the human race from corruption to corruption until the end comes, and the end is hell.
You can see it develop in an individual life, in family life, and in the life of society. You can easily see this in our American family: the wrath of God is sweeping it on and bringing it from corruption to corruption. You can see it today in our economical world, how the wrath of God is bringing it from corruption to corruption, so that today the whole world is crying for an economic savior.
The general line of the development of men, who hold down the truth in unrighteousness, is the way of destruction. There is no way out. We must go on. There is no escape from this wrath of God. It pursues us every step of the way.
Is there no way out?
Yes, in this night God declared the gospel concerning His Son. He declared the gospel concerning His Son, who became flesh. He took upon Himself our sin. He said: "It is my delight to do thy will, O God." And God raised Him from the dead.
What does this mean?
It means that God said, "I stop saying 'no' right here. There is no more wrath. I poured it out upon the head of My Son, and My wrath has been burned out in Him. He that believeth in Me shall no more see the wrath of God."
What does this mean?
It means that he who says, "There is no hope for me," and says, "Be merciful to me a sinner," and seeks his righteousness in the risen Lord, will no more taste the wrath of God.
Therefore being justified, by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:
By Herman Hoeksema
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.
For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.
The word of my text gives a reason for something which the apostle had spoken of in the immediate context. There the apostle had said that all that is within him is ready to preach the gospel to them that are at Rome also. As the reason for that statement, or for something that lies at the basis of that statement, the apostle says that he is not ashamed to preach the gospel of Christ at Rome.
He was not ashamed to preach to them at Rome, as perhaps it had been slanderously said of him. To the contrary, he had long had the desire to visit them. This desire may have been born from the fact that the Roman church was well spoken of. Their faith was spoken of throughout the whole world. The reason was, perhaps, that they had suffered persecution and had endured. However that may be, the apostle had written that he always remembered them in his prayers. When he prays for the saints in Rome, he also makes request that the Lord may open the way for him to go to Rome. That is his desire.
He explains this desire as having a twofold reason. In the first place, he wants to impart some spiritual gift unto them, or, as he explains it "that I may be comforted together with you, by the mutual faith both of you and me."
In the second place, he would like to preach in Rome so that he might have some fruit among them, even as elsewhere. But he had been let hitherto, to come unto them. The Lord had closed the way for him. But he longed to come. For he is not ashamed to preach the gospel in Rome.
He explains why he is not ashamed. That gospel is a power. It is not a word of man. It is not a philosophy. It is not an offer. But it is a power. If it were a philosophy or an offer, one might be ashamed of it. But the gospel is a power of God unto salvation. It is sure to have effect. That the gospel of Christ is a power unto salvation has its reason in this, that therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith.
A Power, What?
The apostle says that the gospel of Christ is a power unto salvation.
We must, therefore, ask three questions.
In the first place, what is that power?
The answer is: the gospel of Christ.
In the second place, unto what is the gospel of Christ a power?
The answer is: unto salvation.
In the third place, why is the gospel such a power?
The answer is: because it is the gospel of God.
The gospel is glad tidings, a joyful message. That is the meaning of the word. It is a joyful message from God. That is essential to the gospel. It is a glad message from God concerning God's Son. The gospel is always that. It is a joyful message from God concerning God's Son. It is a joyful message from God concerning His Son that chiefly contains two elements. The first element is that the Son of God is, according to the flesh, of the seed of David. The second element is that He is powerfully declared to be the Son of God in the resurrection. These two elements must always be in the gospel. It is a message from God to His people as they are in the darkness of this world. That is the gospel.
In harmony with that, the apostle in the text calls the gospel the gospel of Christ. Christ is the center of that gospel. The gospel has Christ for its contents. It is the gospel of the whole Christ. It is the gospel of Christ as He was foreshadowed in the old dispensation. It is the gospel of Christ as He walked among us on earth for thirty-three years. It is the gospel of Christ as He interpreted Himself through the apostles. That is the gospel. It is the gospel of Christ, because in that gospel Christ tells all about Himself -- His incarnation, His walk here on earth, His suffering and death, His resurrection, His ascension. Having told all about Himself, He interprets Himself through the apostles. That is the gospel.
That gospel, the apostle says, that message from God concerning Christ, is a power. A power is, in general, virtue to accomplish something. Electricity is a power.
It accomplishes something. Wind is a power. Steam is a power. A power accomplishes something; it has effect. That anything is a power must be seen by its effect.
The question is, therefore, what does the gospel effect?
The text says that the gospel effects salvation. It has the sure effect of salvation. The gospel of Christ is a power. It is a power unto salvation.
Salvation from what?
In general, salvation from this world and all that this world stands for. The gospel of Christ is a power to save from this world with its sin, with its corruption, with its misery, with its death. It is a power to save from the world in which we live, in which we are born, in which we suffer, in which we die. It is a power to save from the guilt of sin in which we are born, from the corruption of sin from which we cannot deliver ourselves, from the power of death by which we are held. It is a salvation from this world and all that this world stands for.
Salvation unto what?
It is a salvation unto righteousness, both in the legal and in the spiritual sense.
Therefore, when the apostle says that the gospel is a power of God unto salvation, he means that the gospel of Christ has the inherent virtue to roll away your sin, to drive out your darkness, to cut the shackles of death, and to translate you into a state of righteousness, of holiness, and of life. That transformation, which Scripture calls salvation, is the effect of the gospel of Christ.
Not, it may be.
Not, perhaps it will be, if you meet it half way, if you accept it.
No, it is. The gospel is that power. It surely transforms. The gospel is a living, transforming power which, if it touch your inmost heart so that you are connected with it, drives away your sin, your darkness, your death. The gospel does that.
How is that possible?
How can it be maintained that the gospel is such a power?
You understand, this can never be said of any word of man. The Bible as such, which is the infallible revelation of the gospel, never transforms you. If I should preach until midnight, my word would never transform you. You might judge it, you might agree with it or disagree with it, but my word would never transform you. If I should get down on my knees and beg you, my word would never transform you. My word has no power, beyond the power of persuasion. Persuasion will never change anyone from a state of unrighteousness to a state of righteousness, from a state of corruption to a state of holiness, from a state of death to a state of life.
For this reason the gospel can never be an offer. An offer is powerless. I offer you something, but you shut your hand and refuse to receive what I offer. The power is gone. An offer has no power.
But the apostle says that he is not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, because it is not a human word, but the power of God. That is why he is not ashamed to preach that gospel, even in Rome. Rome may be powerful, but it has never seen anything as powerful as this. The gospel is a power.
Because it is the gospel of God.
What does this mean?
In the first place, it is the gospel of God because He is the author of it. In the second place, it is the gospel of God because He realized it. In the third place, it is the gospel of God in the sense that He declared it. He declared it throughout the history of the world.
But when now the apostle says that the gospel is a power of God, he means that God also delivers that message into your soul. Only when through the word the gospel is carried by God into the heart as a power which God uses, it becomes a power unto salvation. When God carries that gospel into my heart, the effect is that I say, I am a child of God, my sin is rolled away, I am delivered from the power of death. Though my conscience testifies against me, I know that I am righteous before God.
A Power, Why?
Why is that gospel a power unto salvation?
The apostle says: "therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith." This is not the reason why the gospel is a power, but why it is a power unto salvation. In order that you may understand what this means, I call attention to the following truths. In the first place, God is righteous, unchangeably righteous. The righteousness of God means that He always acts and thinks and wills in accordance with His holy being. God's righteousness is an attribute. God is righteous.
In the second place, that unchangeable righteousness of God as an attribute of God means that He can only love the righteous. He cannot love the unrighteous, for He is righteous. God is angry with the unrighteous. He is angry with the wicked every day. God cannot love the unrighteous. I do not say that He cannot transform them. That is just what we are talking about. But He cannot love the unrighteous. He hates all who are not in harmony with His being. He makes them the object of His wrath. Being the object of His wrath, they must perish.
In the third place, righteousness, that is, the state in which we are in harmony with Him and with His will according to His own judgment over us, is an indispensable requirement of salvation. Only the righteous can live. Righteousness is an indispensable requirement of salvation.
But we are unrighteous. We are unrighteous in the sense that we have sinned. We are behind in our obligation. Our obligation is to love God with all that we are and have, and at all times. Not only are we behind in our obligation, but we fall behind more and more. For we are corrupt. Therefore, our state is such that we can never become righteous. Everything around you, even your daily newspapers, points its finger at you and tells you that you are damned. Everything within you and without you testifies that you are unrighteous, corrupt, damned. In every sense of the word salvation is impossible, because righteousness is unattainable.
In the fourth place, the text says that in the gospel of God a righteousness of God is revealed. That does not refer to the righteousness of God as an attribute, but it refers to a righteousness which God has prepared and which He will give to you. The text does not mean to say that God is righteous. But it speaks of a righteousness which God has prepared and which He gives to His people.
It is the righteousness of God because God conceived of it in His eternal counsel. It is the righteousness of God because in time He realized it, by blotting out the sin of His people. He realized it in Christ, in the cross. That righteousness of God which He conceived of in His counsel, and which He realizes in time in Christ is declared in the gospel, in which the righteousness of God is set forth.
If that gospel is delivered into your heart, what do you do?
You take hold of it. You believe. I do not say, you must believe. I do not persuade you to believe.
When the almighty power of the gospel comes into contact with your soul, what do you do?
You believe. You surely believe. You absolutely believe. You cannot help but believe. God works through the gospel that faith in your soul.
A Power, unto Whom?
That is why the gospel of Christ is a power to everyone that believeth. Whatever the phrase "from faith to faith" may mean (for that is not so easy; in the original it reads: "out of faith and into faith"), it surely means that the gospel is a power out of faith and unto faith. For faith is essentially the tie that unites with Christ. That faith, God gives through the gospel. Because faith is the spiritual connecting power with Christ, it is faith in that gospel. Because the gospel reveals Christ, faith is a certain knowledge of that gospel. Because faith is a certain knowledge of the gospel of Christ, he that believeth says, "I am righteous before God." For that reason faith is a sure confidence, so that he that believes relies on that gospel. For that same reason he lives from that gospel.
The last clause of the text might be read, according to the original: "the just by faith, shall live." That is, he that is righteous by faith, shall live. But it can also be read: "the righteous, by faith shall live." It is my conviction that the apostle means both. The minute we look away from Christ, it looks hopeless. Therefore, let us clearly see the gospel of Christ. We must write death upon all our own works. When I have thrown away all my own works, then my eye, by the faith of the gospel, is fixed only upon the righteousness of Christ.
In the second place, the apostle means that the righteous out of faith shall live. Here there is so much that condemns us as unrighteous. But the time will come when God will cause us to become manifest, by a final justification, as perfectly righteous. The righteous by faith shall live.
By Herman Hoeksema
Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God,
(which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures,)
concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh;
and declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.
It is not known what is the beginning, and what is the origin of the church at Rome. Certain it is that the Romish tradition that Peter was the founder of it and that he was the first bishop cannot stand the test of Scripture. We may believe that, if the apostle Peter had been instrumental in establishing the church at Rome, at the time when Paul writes this epistle, the apostle Peter must still have been there and he must still have been, according to the Roman Catholic claim, overseer of the church. And that is impossible, for Paul would never interfere in another man's work. He would not have written this epistle.
Besides, in the long list of names mentioned at the end of the epistle, Peter is not even mentioned.
As to the origin of the church, there must have been a good deal of connection and traveling between Jerusalem and Rome. There were connections of business, etc. Besides, the large congregation at Jerusalem soon was scattered, due to persecutions. Undoubtedly many went to Rome. Perhaps the congregation at Rome was finally established by one of the helpers of the apostles, although it is not certain.
According to the evidence of the epistle, the congregation consisted of converts out of Jews and Gentiles.
As to its contents, the theme of the epistle is clear. This is due to the fact that there was no particular reason in the congregation which causes the apostle to write this epistle. There were no heresies and no particular sins against which the apostle is called to warn the congregation. He simply states that he longed to see them, but was let hitherto. And so he felt the need of writing them. What we have, therefore, in this epistle to the Romans is a quiet development of one theme. That theme is that a man is justified, not by the works of the law, but by faith in Christ.
We find that there is a threefold division. The first is that it is impossible for man to become righteous before God on the basis of works. The second is the expounding of the positive doctrine of justification by faith. And the third is the application of that doctrine of justification by faith to them that are so justified. Inasmuch as that is the main theme, and inasmuch as that faith by which man is justified cannot possibly rest on the word of man, the apostle introduces himself to the Roman church in our text as one separated unto the gospel. That is the theme of this part of the epistle.
A Significant Gospel
Notice that the apostle is speaking of the gospel of God. The gospel, as to the meaning of the word, is good news. It is a good message, a tiding of joy. As to the scriptural meaning, the gospel is in the first place a message from God. That is an essential element of the gospel.
In the second place, it is a message from God to His people as they are in this world. It is a message from God in this world of darkness, of sin, and of death. It is a message from God in that world in which His people are by nature children of wrath. It is a message from God in that world in which His children are loaded with sin and in which everything about them testifies of sin and of death. In that darkness comes a message. It is a message that comes from heaven, a divinely authoritative message, a message that is glad news.
That news consists in this that those who are in darkness see a great light; that those who are in sin receive righteousness; that those who are in death, receive life. That is the gospel.
Now notice that the apostle tells us concerning that gospel that it is the gospel of the Son of God, Jesus Christ our Lord. He is the object of that gospel. It is concerning Him that glad news comes from heaven. It is the gospel concerning His Son, who as we know Him, as He stands with His face toward us, is the Lord Jesus Christ, and who as He stands with His face to the Father, as we do not see Him and know Him, is the eternal Son. As He stands with His face to us, as we see and know Him, He is Jesus of Nazareth, who became like unto us and walked among us for thirty-three years. He is the object of that glad news.
If you ask, what does God declare concerning His Son, what is the contents of that glad news, then the apostle mentions two facts. The first is His incarnation. The second is His resurrection.
Notice: "concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; and declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead." That, God declared concerning His Son.
According to the flesh, He was made of the seed of David. Flesh in the text does not mean sinful flesh, but means His human nature; it means His human body and soul. Jesus, according to His body and His soul, was made. He was made of the seed of David. That is, He assumed, He took upon Himself, that flesh, that body and soul. He took that flesh from the heart of the covenant line which was in David. You may notice that, according to prophecy, the heart of the covenant line runs through David's house. The covenant line is like a pyramid that has for its base the seed of the woman. For its apex it has the house of David. The last that we have in Scripture concerning the coming of the Son of God in the flesh is that He will take on the flesh and blood, not merely of man, but of David. Jesus could not be a Roman; He could not be a Greek. But He took on the flesh from the heart of the covenant line. He was made of the seed of David.
That, God declared. That is the gospel, you understand. That is the one fact of the gospel.
The other fact is the resurrection. God declared concerning His Son that He was powerfully declared to be the Son of God, so that we also know Him as the Son of God by the resurrection from the dead. "Declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead," the apostle says. "According to the spirit of holiness" stands over against the flesh here. The spirit of holiness is not the third person in the Trinity. It is not the Spirit of sanctification, as the Dutch translation has it ("De Geest des heiligmaking"). But the spirit of holiness refers to the divine nature of Jesus. God is a spirit. His nature is spiritual. The chief characteristic of God as a spirit is that He is holy. When the apostle says that He was declared to be the Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness, the meaning is that Jesus according to His human nature is of the seed of David, but that according to His divine nature He is the Son of God. Now then, that is the gospel.
That powerful demonstration of Jesus as the Son of God is the resurrection. When He lies as a babe in Bethlehem, that does not become manifest. As far as we can see, He is just like any other babe. But when He rises from the dead, we have a powerful demonstration that He is the Son of God.
Now then, we have this: The gospel is glad news, coming from heaven, concerning the Son of God who, as we see Him, is Jesus Christ our Lord. That which God declares concerning His Son is that according to the flesh He is of the seed of David, but according to His divine nature He is declared to be the Son of God by the resurrection from the dead.
Why does the apostle select these two?
It is evident that these two mark the beginning and the end of His being with us. That period was the period. In that period the gospel is realized, the gospel which concerns His Son. It is in that period that God comes from heaven in His Son, is with us for thirty-three years, and then returns. All that lies between that beginning and that end constitutes the gospel of our salvation. That is the only historical basis for all that we believe. That is really the gospel.
Now what happened?
God came, through His Son, into our darkness. Here, there was nothing but darkness, sin, and death. The Son of God came into our darkness and death. If He was not the Son of God, then there is no gospel. Then there is no hope. If the modern interpretation is correct, there is no gospel. On the incarnation of the Son of God hangs all the righteousness which is by faith. He entered into our life. He became like us in everything, sin excepted. He became a man among men, weak and suffering. Not only that, but He died. He died as all men die. But if that is all that can be said about Him, there is no gospel. For, viewing Him as the Son of God entering into our night, we are watching and wondering whether He will come out of that night. No man ever did. No man ever entered into our night and came out of it.
When the Son of God comes into our night, the question is, what will become of Him?
In breathless expectation the church stands and asks the question, what will become of Him?
He was raised. The Son of God came, and He walked among us, and he bore our sins, and with our sins He sank into death, but He was declared to be the Son of God in the resurrection. Upon the incarnation as the beginning and the resurrection as the end depends the gospel, the gospel of our justification. If that child of Bethlehem is not God, He did not bear our sin. And if He is not raised, He failed to atone. But in the resurrection He was powerfully declared to be the Son of God. That is the gospel.
That gospel God declares. We read in the text that it is the gospel of God. "Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God." It is the gospel of God. That is, God is the author of that gospel. God made that gospel. He conceived of the glad news concerning His Son to His people. He made that gospel. God is the author of that gospel because He realized it in the fullness of time. In the fullness of time God rent the heavens and sent His Son into our darkness. He loaded upon Him our sin. He gave Him over to the death of the cross. He poured the vials of His wrath over Him. And He raised Him; He glorified Him; He set Him at His right hand in the highest heavens; He gave Him the Spirit without measure.
But the gospel is also the gospel of God in the sense that He declares it. He is the only one who is able to declare it. In the first place, this is because man is not able to understand and interpret that gospel concerning the Son of God. Suppose that it was left up to man to interpret the facts. He would never come to this gospel. All the philosophy of man cannot interpret that Babe in Bethlehem. All modern theology, for that is modern theology, in interpreting that Babe, sets aside God's interpretation of that Babe, and then you have nothing left but that an ideal man is born. Modern theology is the setting aside of God's interpretation. After setting aside God's interpretation, it interprets that Babe itself. Then you have nothing left. For there is nothing to see. From our side that Babe is just like all others. That is modern theology concerning the cross. Set aside the declaration of God concerning the cross, and you have nothing left but the pitiful spectacle that a man is cruelly put to death, whether that man be guilty or innocent.
In the third place, the gospel must be declared by God because it is only on the basis of God's declaration that we can believe impossible things. I believe in such impossible things as the forgiveness of sin. That that God who is unchangeably righteous forgives sin is impossible. Yet, on the basis of God's declaration, I believe that the impossible is possible. All such things that are contradicted by all that is around me, I believe. I live in the valley of death. I die and I am gone. In the midst of that, I believe that I have eternal life. All about me contradicts it. And I believe.
Why do I believe?
Did Moses say so?
Then my faith is vain.
Did Isaiah say so?
That faith cannot rest on the word of man. If I am to be confident of that righteousness and life in the midst of death, then there is only one that can tell me. If there is ever to be glad news for me, then it must be God that brings it to me.
This is what the apostle says. That is why he says, "The gospel of God, which He had declared afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures," that is, in the old dispensation. He declared it through His prophets. He declared it as a promise. In the old dispensation God said, "My Son will come." His people suffered. But they clung to that word of God. They died in that faith, not having received the promise. God finally declared it through His Son, when He sent Him into the world. Through Him God spoke directly to His people. He says, "I am the way, the truth, and the life; I am the resurrection of life."
A Necessary Separation unto that Gospel
In the new dispensation, the apostle says, He still declares that same gospel. The apostle means to say, "Don't take it as my word. If you ask me, how did you get it, Paul? Did you go to school to learn it? Did you prepare for it? Did you receive it by coming into contact with philosophers? What then? The answer is, 'Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, that is, His slave, who is to speak what He tells me to.'
"Called to be an apostle!" It was far from the mind of Paul to become an apostle. So far was it from his mind that he persecuted the church, and raved against that gospel. But Christ called him. He separated him unto the gospel. He so separated him that Paul became the instrument of the Spirit to receive the gospel and to declare it. So that we have that gospel in the Holy Scriptures. The Scriptures are God's testimony concerning His Son to His people.
The practical application is that upon the basis of God's declaration we believe, as soon as that gospel speaks to our heart, the impossible possibility, by the grace of God, that our sins are forgiven and that we have eternal life. The Son of God was made flesh from the seed of David.
Do you believe it?
The Son of God was raised from the dead.
Do you believe it?
Do you say of the Son of God, "Our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom I belong?" Then this gospel is yours, and you can rejoice, "I then, having been justified, by faith, have peace with God."
By Herman Hoeksema