Wednesday, March 24, 2010
THE REASON FOR CHRIST'S SUFFERINGS
Sermon preached by Mr. J. J. Farley at Union Chapel, Bethersden, 1971.
"Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into His glory?"
Very many times since the event which I have read to you took place have the solemnities of the crucifixion of the Son of God been brought before, and meditated upon, by the servants of God to the people of God.
This day for some reason my thoughts seem to have been led away from the chapters which are customarily used on this occasion. I felt some reluctance in speaking, or attempting to speak, on a word which was found in a chapter which deals with His triumph instead of His crucifixion.
And yet, you see, I have before me in the words of the Lord Jesus Himself a reason hinted at for the sufferings. And will it not assist us, if God be pleased to lead us into it; will it not assist us just as much to worship Him, if He shall reveal to us the reason for the sufferings as well as knowing what they were? This we have already discovered by the reading which has taken place. We have read as far as our intellects could understand what the dear Lord suffered.
Surely here now we have His own words as to the design. This was needful. There is hidden here something more than appears on a momentary glance at these first two words: "Ought not?" These have stayed with me a great deal during the past week: "Ought not?"
Is it without purpose?
Was it entirely without fruitful effects?
Was it just a promiscuous happening?
Or, was it indeed in the counsels of God from all eternity?
Must it not be so?
Is there not a cause?
Is there not a reason why the Lord Jesus should leave the realms of glory, and come down and suffer as never anyone else suffered?
Was this entirely without purpose?
Ought not this to have been?
Well, may the Lord show us in His mercy at least somewhat of why it was, why it ought to be so. That our small meditation on these solemn things may be the means of causing us to worship Him sincerely before we separate, is my earnest desire.
There is an outstanding reason. My thoughts were assisted when another word was brought to my mind. You know it occurs in that intimate communion Jesus had with His Father, which we read in the 17th chapter of John. The first clause of one verse was sufficient to set me thinking: "I have glorified Thee on the earth" (v. 4).
In what way particularly?
Well, I shall never be able to tell you or anyone else fully how He glorified His Father. But it has been shown to me, I believe, that He glorified Him very much, and therefore He ought to have suffered these things, because in so doing He proved all the Scriptures in the prophecies concerning Himself to have been the Word of God.
There is nothing more stable than the Word of God, and it must be fulfilled. So often I am brought to this in my little ministry: the words of Jesus Himself frequently emphasize that the Scripture must be fulfilled - "the Scripture cannot be broken." Well, there have been since that time many of those that oppose the Scriptures, and there are many today - who question its veracity and truthfulness and its divine origin. The Lord Jesus Christ in this solemn way proved that the words of those who had spoken or written in time past had come from God, and He honoured God in the fulfilment of the prophecies of His own Word as revealed to His own servants. There was honour to God here in this. No wonder He was able to say, "I have glorified Thee on the earth," because He had proved that which He gave utterance to. You will find in the 5th chapter of Matthew, verse 17: "Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets. I am not come to destroy but to fulfil." We have a solemn word too: "This that is written must yet be accomplished in Me." I would like you to consider that very carefully - "must be accomplished in Me."
That He was deeply concerned with fulfilling the mind and will of His Father, even in all its most painful matters concerning Himself, we find in various Scriptures.
One which occurs to the mind at the 'moment shows the intense exercise of His soul concerning this as He approached the time. To complete the verse I partly quoted, it is this: "The things concerning Me have an end"; they were coming to the close, were nearing the finish of His stay on earth, and there remained now the solemn completion of the work the Father had given Him to do.
But as He approached it, let me remind you how clearly His humanity was revealed, as well as His divinity. You will find in the Word of God that He said this: "Now is My soul troubled, and what shall I say? Father save Me from this hour." We are told by those who are far wiser than I, that this clearly shows Jesus to be man, human man, sinless but human. "My soul is troubled, what shall I say now of this which confronts Me?" But His divinity we are assured is clearly shown in the next declaration: "But for this cause came I to this hour."
There ought to be this. There is no avoiding it. It must be passed through for the honour and glory of God. "Ought not Christ to have suffered?"
Another reason is that He is the divinely appointed Surety of His people. Their sins - the tremendous total of them, the dreadful guilt of them, the awful number of them - were laid upon Him. I cannot say this too reverently (I hope I have said that sincerely): "The Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all" - all who fear God. There was one who said, and some of us have a little feeling in that direction: "How huge the heavy load of all When only mine's so great!"
Consider that there ought to be this, because without it not one sin of all the election of grace should be pardoned. This is a profound truth. It should form the subject of our amazement and meditation, gratitude and thankfulness, to a suffering Saviour. I can only wish you had before you this morning a more deeply taught and gracious servant of God to speak to you on such solemn things. May the Lord still lead me into the truth and enable me to deliver the message He sees shall be for His glory and your instruction and edification, if it is His holy will.
"Ought not Christ to have suffered these things?" The sins of the Lord's people were to be atoned for. There was no other way. God provided no other way than that there should be the shedding of blood. The Word says, "Without the shedding of blood there is no remission"; and therefore blood must be shed which is pure, sinless and holy.
Where is it to be found?
Not on earth as such. But He came to earth who was and is pure and holy, and He did shed His precious blood for poor sinners, and thus became, in a most glorious sense, the Lamb of God.
The Paschal Lamb is set forth, and blood was used for the protection and preservation of the literal national people of God in time past, as a type of what His blood should be, whom I have referred to as the Lamb of God. This precious blood has atoned for your sin and mine, if our names are written in the Lamb's book of life, and we are predestinated to obtain salvation. Therefore - solemnly I would say it - He ought to suffer death, He ought to shed His blood, because this is so essential for the atonement of sin. But we are still unclean, my friends.
Do you realize this?
We are unclean and cannot stand before God until clean; clean, that is, in God's sight - which, I am told is a simple interpretation of the word "justification."
Being justified is to stand clean and sinless, regarded as sinless by God Himself, through His Son.
Ought not this precious blood to have been shed, which alone can cleanse from all sin?
O, it is vitally necessary!
Without it we stand unforgiven and unclean in the sight of God. I do hope, my dear friends young and old, that you solemnly realize this. It is absolutely essential to be pardoned and cleansed.
Still there is more to perform for poor sinners.
Ought not Christ to have suffered these things to procure eternal life?
All human beings are born and, short of being in the covenant of grace, are under the condemnation of death. There is no eternal life in that sense, as set before us in the Scriptures, for the whole race of humanity. Unless grace reach their hearts, and they be included in the electing love of God, there is for them no propitiation, no Saviour, no eternal life. The Scriptures are clear in this. But the way to it was this way, the solemn way, the suffering way. He must die that they might live. This is the essence (condensed very much I admit) of the gospel of Jesus Christ. One must live a holy life; One must fulfil in every jot and tittle the sacred and holy law of God. It must be fulfilled on our behalf, or God's honour would still be tarnished. God's honour was restored when the Lord fulfilled the law on behalf of His people, made it honourable, and honoured God in so doing.
When He died, then He opened a way to heaven, as well as atoning for sin and cleansing His people. Being God, He was able to say of His sheep before all this took place: "I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand."
.. Eternal life, at His request,
To every saint is given;
Safety on earth, and, after death,
The plenitude of heaven."
"Ought not Christ to have suffered these things?"
Think what His sufferings accomplished!
I know that for the most part we are, quite rightly, deeply concerned about our own soul's salvation. Under the Spirit's instruction, as we journey on through life, this is far from becoming something that we regard as of lesser importance. It becomes increasingly important, because we are led by the Spirit into some knowledge of a deepening need of salvation. This is the way, by the Spirit's instruction, by which the Lord Jesus becomes precious, exceedingly precious. As we journey on nearer to the end it becomes to us, if we consider it more frequently and clearly, a more marvellous thing, a more miraculous thing, that such a one should ever be completely pardoned, completely washed, and favoured with eternal life and the complete freedom from condemnation.
Now, my friends, this is becoming to many of us who are heading along in this path a wonder of wonders, and nothing short of a miracle, that such should reach the glories and wonder of heaven, and dwell with Jesus there. Consider what the Lord accomplished when He suffered these things. Consider the tremendous amount of sin He atoned for and the huge number who have profited under, and are blessed through, this solemn and sacred suffering mentioned in my text.
Then consider, if you can, the wisdom of God in providing such a way of escape, such a refuge for sinners, such a way by which there could be communion with Himself. This is another of the reasons why He ought to have suffered, because this establishes for every child of God contact with God through Him. I once made a great mistake unintentionally in a certain statement in my ministry, which happily I was able to correct immediately. I said that today we are favoured with this direct contact with God, and we have no need of a priest. There I was wrong. "We have no need of an earthly priest,"
I should have said. We have great need of a Priest, that great High Priest whom God has provided; and in suffering, by suffering and through suffering we read He became that High Priest who can be "touched with the feeling of our infirmities, being tempted in all points as we are" (much more than we are) "yet without sin." I believe now, if you care to consider this carefully and seek for grace to meditate upon it, you will see this as a wonderful, lasting reason why Christ ought to have suffered. I will, as helped, bring before you a most solemn portion of the Word of God, which is beyond my understanding completely: "Though He were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered." There is a profound truth there, too deep for human minds to reach. The truth there is so high as to be out of reach. Faintly we see this. I travel along in this respect very close to the apostle and his words.
What were they?
"Now we see through a glass darkly."
Reception is obscured, often obstructed, generally misty, very small.
But have we seen, my dear friends, enough to cause us to seek earnestly to be led more deeply, sweetly and experimentally into the truth as it is in Jesus?
"Yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered." He was the great Exemple, you know, as well as the Saviour of sinners. If I might drop just a word here: an obedient Saviour who fully fulfilled all the will of God has every right to expect that those who say by their actions, and sometimes by their words, that they desire to be followers of Him, are also obedient children. If they should happen to have to learn this obedience by walking to some extent in the path He walked, they will learn the lesson surely, they will learn it securely.
In spite of all the previous excuses which may have been made, or hindrances raised up, they will be brought to this finally (never in the measure that He said, but after the same manner and under the influence of the same Spirit which was so much in the Lord Jesus); "Not My will, but Thine be done."
Here is a reason then for the Lord's sufferings, because it is only through them that any poor sinner is brought to that condition to say, "Thy will be done, whatever it may cost"; and it does usually cost something. You cannot be a follower of the Lord Jesus without walking in the path He Himself has laid down.
"What is that?" you will say. It is this: "If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me."
"Ought not Christ to have suffered these things?"
They crucified Him under the charge that He had falsely said He was the King of the Jews. He is the King of the whole earth; He is the King of Israel. There was no false charge; it was misunderstood. But it ought so to have been.
His kingdom was not of this world. The kingdom is in the hearts of His people. He said so Himself: "The kingdom of God is within you."
O may it prove to be within you and me, as we seek to adore Him who ought to have suffered, because it was the mind and will of God the Father: who ought to have suffered because there was no other way by which sin could be pardoned, and cleansing wrought and eternal life given; and poor sinners constrained to become worshippers of God in spirit and in truth. All this was involved and is the result of and the fruit of the sufferings of Christ. Now I must here say, very carefully, that there were other things accomplished relative to the final salvation of the people of God and their entry into heaven, but these we do not normally deal with in seeking to speak today of the sufferings of Christ. The Lord has seen fit to give me, I do trust, this portion to speak to you from, which I have read and feebly tried to deal with, and there are yet a few words in the text which I have not yet been able to bring before you: "Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into His glory?"
There is another reason why the Lord Jesus must suffer. The Scriptures must be fulfilled and, unless He had come to earth and had been the propitiation for His people, how could He then have been received again into the kingdom of heaven in accordance with, and compliance to, the word: "Open the gates that the King of Glory may come in."
You see, He had to enter; it was ordained that He should enter as a triumphant Saviour, then and there to receive adoration in heaven from the angelic host as the triumphant Victor over death, sin, the grave and Satan. His praise was to be enlarged and emphasized by the redeemed spirits of ransomed souls in heaven, later to be augmented from those now on earth and maybe those yet to be born.
"Ought not Christ to have suffered," to have brought such honour and glory to God, which shall be endless in the proclamation of it?
Ought not this to have been attended to in every detail for the honour and glory of dod, who had designed this plan?
Briefly, I would recount the part of the Persons in the Trinity in this solemn matter of salvation, desiring to show that there is clearly a necessity for Jesus to suffer as He did for His people. The plan of salvation was devised or designed by the wisdom of God the Father, and in accordance with His holy will. There is no need for any other reason for the salvation of sinners than that it should be in accordance with the mind and will of God Himself. Coupled with this, the Lord Jesus Himself said, "Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom," in accordance with His design.
It is exactly what He wills, and therefore, your salvation is secure. But this plan involved the gift of His Son, and this involved that He should be the Surety of His people; and He should come, be born into the world, live in the way they live and experience the things they experience (only to so much greater experience of opposition, scorn and derision) in order to prove Himself to be the very essence of patience and complete obedience to the path which was laid down for Him to walk in.
This was essential, because it was in the provision of God and part of the plan, and no part could be omitted of the suffering any more than there will be of the joy and benefits accruing thereto.
The one must be as equally fulfilled as the other. But while that point is in my mind, I feel I must just mention this. The Lord Jesus knew perfectly well, since He is the Fulfiller of Scripture, that there was this appointment for Him as well: "He shall see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied."
I felt I must bring this before you, because this Scripture will equally be fulfilled to the honour and glory of the Lord Jesus Himself. He will receive eternal satisfaction for His serious and solemn sufferings throughout the whole of eternity. And, I do venture to believe, there are a few occasions now when He receives honour from His people here below, and there is to Him a feeling of satisfaction that His work when upon earth is bearing fruit - fruit in the lives and deaths of His people, and fruit to His own and His Father's honour and glory.
There was a reason for it, and it can all be summed up in a very few words - the worship of God. You will say, "Was that the only real reason why all this was accomplished, and all this preaching goes on about the gospel of Jesus Christ?"
Well, I will quote from the Word of God, the words of the Lord through the prophet, which Jesus fulfilled: "This people have I formed for Myself; they shall show forth My praise." Then there ought to have been this, because God will be worshipped in spirit and in truth. All the sacrifices that were diligently and carefully attended to through all that period of time previous to the coming of the Lord Jesus pointed to, and were types and shadows of, this one great Sacrifice.
When John the Baptist saw One coming toward him, he uttered a great and profound truth when he said, "Behold the Lamb of God." It is my desire that you and I may be favoured by faith frequently to see Him in the sanctuary; to see Him in His Word; and to see how fully and blessedly He was in every detail the Lamb of God.
"And to enter into His glory." Ought not Christ to have suffered these things so that in entering into His glory He became visibly and actually the way to bliss for all His people?
I expect in this house of prayer you have more that once sung that hymn about Jesus:
"Jesus is the way to God,
Jesus is the way to bliss."
And it was essential that He should suffer these things and to enter into His glory, for now there is an open way into heaven for the whole election of grace. He said - and what it meant I shall never succeed in fully bringing before the people of God, but I hope the Spirit will reveal to you somewhat of what is hidden in these words - "I am the way." "I am the way." Man has contrived, and still does contrive, many ways of approaching God.
I am not prepared to go into them or anything of the kind. I am still very much a learner in the way, but I would much rather (and do hope I may be kept so to the end of time with me) look alone to this Way by which I may be favoured to approach to God, have contact with Him through His blessed Son.
And so, in coming towards the close of my few remarks this morning, I now see why it was necessary for the Lord Jesus to suffer as He did. You see, we could not approach God while upon earth, still inhabiting a sinful body, unless there was a Mediator; and this Mediator must be One who could plead from the standpoint of authority with God; He must be able to deal - I want to say this very reverently - on equal terms with God, as being God.
And then you see He can receive, and does receive, the prayers His Spirit indites, and makes them acceptable to God, receivable by Him through His own Person; because these are offered, if they are offered rightly, in His name and through His merits.
And if you and I, in
prayer to God, feel to come to God by Him, we come rightly. I believe I may go one step further and say that when you feel an inward interest in the intercession of the Lord Jesus on your behalf, you will know what it is to feel liberty in letting your requests be made known unto God; because you will feel that there is One who has atoned for you and cleansed you and renders you acceptable in the sight of the Holy God of heaven.
It was essential, most necessary, that Jesus should suffer, and that He should then enter into His glory.
Coming to the close, I could earnestly wish that everyone in this house of prayer should be keenly exercised to know this: "Am I His, or am I not?"
My dear friends, may I put it to you most affectionately?
Does it cause you anxious thought? Do you question, "Do I love the Lord, or no?" It is so essential.
The time is passing on more rapidly perhaps than we are aware toward the end of all things, a time not known to me or anyone on earth, according to the words of Jesus Himself. But we need a vital interest in the solemn truths read to you this morning, and a few things I may have been enabled to say which are right in the sight of God.
It is essential that you should seek earnestly to know how you stand, not in my sight, or in the sight of your fellow creatures, but in the sight of God. A solemn question occurs at the end of certain verses in the hymnbook we used when I was a boy.
That solemn question has remained with me, and is very frequently still in my heartand my heart's desires flow from the need of a satisfactory answer to it. It says simply, but so solemnly, concerning eternity and heaven: "O say, will you be there?"
You will be there, my friends, if the Lord suffered for you, and has gone into His glory to prepare a place for you. He has said for your comfort and mine, if this be the case, "I go away. I will come again and receive you unto Myself, that where I am there ye may be also."