Brethren Archive

God Blessing Man in Christ

by G.J. Stewart


MAN AS FOUND BY THE SON OF GOD. (Read Mark 5)

There is a notable contrast between the condition of man as God made him, and that in which Christ found him. Four thousand years had rolled their course between these two points. Not that it required so much time to develop this contrast, but God waited that man’s fallen condition might be fully proved before all. He was made upright, placed in Eden, and surrounded with everything to make him happy. Above all, God came down in the cool of the day to talk with Adam! A place of wondrous blessing and privilege.

But when the Lord Jesus came into this scene, how did He find man? In the poor wretched creature mentioned in this chapter we see a figure of man’s condition in God’s sight. It is an extreme case, but is a sample of what man has fallen to.

When the Lord was come into the country of the Gadarenes, “immediately there met Him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit . . . who

HAD HIS DWELLING AMONG THE TOMBS” (vv. 2-3).

That is where He found him! He dwelt in no house, but in the tombs, the place of death and departure from God; more than that, he loved it! When Jesus came to him, he cried out, “What have I to do with Thee, Jesus thou Son of the Most High God? I adjure Thee by God, torment me not!” (v. 7).

Note the contrast! In the beginning man was in the highest place of earthly creature-blessing with God. When Christ came, he was in the place of death and separation from God, and possessed of an unclean spirit!

Man’s state today is set forth by that man, who had his dwelling among the tombs. After all has been done, he is still there in the place of death, from which by his own efforts he cannot escape. No amount of education can either improve his condition, or deliver him from the power of the devil, and from death.

While it is the man’s lips that cried out against Jesus, the voice is that of the unclean spirit; it was he who was afraid of the torment, he who knew the Lord Jesus as the One with power to inflict it. The devils believe that torment awaits them, and seem to have some idea of the time, and they tremble. “Art Thou come hither to torment us before the time?” they say (Matt. 8:29). Satan, their leader, knows he has found his Master in the Lord Jesus; he learned this lesson in the wilderness.

But there was not only one demon; a whole legion has possession of this man, and they made nothing of the man, save as a vehicle of their wickedness and malice. Think of a whole legion of wicked spirits in a man! What hope has he? A Roman legion numbered ten thousand men.

The man, influenced by the demons, gives the Lord His true title as Son of God, but knows Him only as a Judge, not as a Saviour. Satan deceives man now, by nattering him that he also is a son of God, even as the Lord is, and so he thinks he does not need saving. But to recognise heartily that Jesus is God, for a man with conscience towards God and faith towards the Lord Jesus, is to be truly saved. Peter was thus blessed in confessing Him Son of the Living God, the Father Himself having revealed it to him. But this poor creature’s knowledge was from a wrong source and he only used it to beseech the Lord to depart from him. Alas! how many do so.

In this place of death, man has

NO REST.

Always, night and day, he was in the mountains and in the tombs, crying and cutting himself with stones. He was using his very God-given power against himself. How mad an act! But surely one may say, I am not like that! Yes! If following your own will, though circumstances may be different, you have in this man a representation of yourself. Unbelief may refuse it, but before God it is true.

Does not everyone know a drunkard is using his power against himself? Aye! and while not in so gross a form, every unconverted man is in just the same state Godward. Take the higher critic, who uses his intelligence that he may do away with God’s blessed book, picking it to pieces, announcing his own folly by saying, “This is not of God, and that is not of God.” What is that but using the power God gave him against himself? Not his physical but his mental power, and like this man crying out his own shame, for a miserable creature he is. The poor drunkard is but a drunken sinner; while the mere scientist is a scientific sinner, and the higher critic a religious sinner, far worse than all!

In Luke 8:27 we are told the demoniac wore no clothes; that is, he had

NO RIGHTEOUSNESS.

Clothes are a figure of righteousness, and this in our gospel is set forth by the incompetency of man to bind or tame him (see vv. 3-4). There had been frequent attempts to hold him within bounds, but it was impossible; even a God-given law could not do it. The moral chains and fetters, the “Thou shalt” and “Thou shalt not” of the law, were plucked asunder, and broken in pieces by him. Was ever a man able to keep the law? Not one! Instead, that chain of ten links only roused man’s opposition to break the barriers. Why is this?

Because there is a principle in man which is only maddened and urged on by these restraints. This appears even in a child. Tell a child not to do a certain thing, it is all the more eager to do it. The demon we know was in this man, he would not be bound with those chains. That is the real secret of that intense longing in the heart for its own will, for that which is forbidden. It indicates a power which is beyond man.

The devil has got hold of man. He does not believe it, for man is blind, and the devil very insidious, but it is true.

Satan has been at this work now for six thousand years, and knows how to urge man on with that longing desire, which makes him say, “I must do it; let me have my fling now, and then I will turn.” No! You cannot turn, it is impossible. You must be turned. Let me press this upon you. If help is to come to you it must come from God. It is to be found nowhere else; but it is found there, “Surely after that I was turned, I repented” (Jer. 31:19).

Others have tried their hands at this with what they call handmaids to Christianity! All these things can accomplish nothing with regard to man’s state before God; they can but ameliorate his condition socially. The evil nature is still there; the poison is in the blood, it will break out again in the same, or some other direction.

For example, here in Australia, they took a full-blooded black boy, cared for him as a child, sent him to school, and finally to England to college. He passed well, and came out equipped with clothes, and books, prepared for a business or other career. As soon as he saw the bush, his soul longed for it, and it was not long till he got rid of books and clothes, and betook himself to the bush and his people again, in his natural state.

So man is hopeless in himself. Neither can any man tame him. The case is too bad.

MAN NEEDS A DELIVERER.

Every man like our sample man needs a deliverer. But the Deliverer has come, and man will not have Him! This man would not; he tells the Lord to go away, “I beseech Thee, torment me not.” Reader! have you ever besought the Deliverer to go away from you? Most of us have many a time. But Jesus said, “Come out of the man, thou unclean spirit!” (v. 8). The blessed Lord Jesus had come into the scene as Deliverer; the devil had found his Master; he must go.

Blessed be God, His gospel is not a negative thing; it tells of deliverance positively accomplished. God looked down, and saw there was none to deliver; then His own arm brought salvation. The Lord Jesus—God manifest in flesh—came to deliver man, and that in spite of himself. So it is with each one! Who would have come to Christ of himself? People talk of volunteers! Where are they? When converted a brother put his hand on my shoulder, and said, “This is a pressed man.” Looking up and catching his eye, I understood, and said, “Yes! It was all of God.” We cannot take credit to ourselves; we owe all to the Son of God, who came in flesh, and died to put us in this place of blessing.

The last verses of chapter 4 prefigure the way of this deliverance. The incidents are all figurative. Here was a man under the power of the devil; Jesus says, as it were, “I will go and save him!” But before He could do that He must cross the Sea of Galilee, and calm its waters. But shall the prey be taken from the mighty? or the lawful captive be delivered? Yes! Jesus will take the captive from the mighty, and deliver the prey of the terrible. But to do this He must crush his power first; must destroy him who had the power of death. This was done by His own death at the cross, which gives a righteous basis for the exercise of His power in delivering the captive.

But He anticipates the cross in the deliverance of this man, as, also in other cases, having come in blessed grace into the circumstances which made miracles necessary. He wept and groaned at the grave of Lazarus; sighed, as He opened the eyes of the blind man. His visage was so marred more than any man’s, and His form more than the sons of men. He entered into the awful condition of things under which man had brought himself.

But deliverance from the devil’s power must be by other means than in the type. How did He calm the waters of Galilee? With a word of power! “He arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still! And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.” Was it in this way He calmed the storm of death? No! If He would save others, He must Himself go through the waves and billows of death. “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same; that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Heb. 2:14, 16).

The Covenanter, who wrote the following lines on the wall of his cell, on the morning of his execution, had by faith gripped this:—

“My last sun is risen,

It is far on its way;

My soul quits her prison

Ere the close of the day.

Farewell, hours of sorrow,

I shall know you no more,

Ere day dawn tomorrow

Our union is o’er.

“A bright ray is glowing

O’er the river of death;

I fear not its flowing,

With that light for my path;

Blest beam of His tracing,

O’er the gloom of that river,

Who, its horrors embracing,

Has calmed it for ever.”

That is how Jesus calmed the river of death. He bore the stroke of divine vengeance; He opened His bosom to receive it; He was made sin, and upon His devoted head was poured out the judgment due to man as a sinner.

Thus has death been deprived of its horrors so that it becomes the servant of the Christian.

Reader! He has been here and borne this, whether you believe it or not. The work has been done, and nothing in heaven or earth can alter the value of it. The only thing unbelief can do, is to keep you from the blessing of it. If you accept it you will be then and there delivered.

MAN AS BLESSED BY THE SON OF GOD.

The Lord Jesus found the demoniac dwelling among the tombs, wearing no clothes, untamed and untameable. Then the Lord’ commanded the demons to come out of the man. They sought his permission to enter into the swine, an unclean animal according to the Jewish economy. The swine under their influence ran down a steep place, and perished in the sea. Then they that kept the swine fled and told it in the city and in the country. They were afraid of this conflict between spiritual powers.

Then the people went out to see what was done, and they that had seen it told them how it befell to him that was possessed of the devils, and also concerning the swine. “And they come to Jesus, and see him that was possessed with the devil, and had the legion, sitting and clothed and in his right mind: and they were afraid” (v. 15).

There is the contrast! The man as Christ found him was possessed of a legion of unclean devils, in the place of death, having no rest, no clothes (righteousness), and of unsound mind. He was now in the place of life at Jesus’ feet, sitting there at rest, clothed, that is having righteousness, and in his right mind.

The first thing here is, the man is

IN THE PLACE OF LIFE.

He is sitting at the feet of Jesus. The entrance of the word of the Lord had not only dispossessed him of the demons, but had communicated life to him. He who, energised by Satan, besought the Lord to depart from him, now sat at Jesus’ feet like Mary and heard His word, that word which had been to him the word of life. He could say with Peter, “Lord to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (John 6:68-69). A wonderful place!

In Christ was life, and the life was the light of men. It had shone in the darkness, and the darkness had not comprehended it. The world His hands had made did not know Him; His own people would not receive Him; but this man had now received Him, believing in His name, and was born of God. This is what is figured here! The blessed Lord’s word of power had made the difference in this wretched creature! By the incorruptible seed of the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever, he had been born again.

The darkness of death in the devil’s seat, the world, is dissipated, and the light of divine life illuminates the spirit at the feet of Jesus—a place where none can die. A poor woman once said, “I’ll throw myself at the feet of Jesus, and, if I perish, I’ll perish there!” Happy woman! None ever perished there; it is the place of life. And though amid apparent defeat where the body may die, death may say to the Christian—

“Let losers talk, yet thou shalt die;

These arms shall crush thee.”

The Christian can make answer—

“Scare not, do thy worst.

I shall be one day better than before;

Thou so much worse, that thou shalt be no more.”

Here in this place of life and light the man finds

REST.

He is sitting—the posture of rest. The people who came out to see what had happened, saw him sitting at the feet of Jesus. Had he been at rest before? No! he abode in no house but always night and day he was in the mountains and in the tombs, crying and cutting himself with stones; the poor creature had no rest in a scene of sin and death. Satan leads man on in an ideal state of things. “Man walketh in a vain show.” He is looking for rest, but there is none here, nothing to satisfy. Each one must find it so, even the youngest.

The only real thing here is the unrest of sin, with the sorrow of it; but when Christ comes in, what a change! Rest is found in Him, at the feet of Jesus alone. It is offered to every soul. See the change in this man, once so restless, now sitting at the feet of Jesus. Is not that enough?

Let me ask, dear reader, Have you found rest there? In this fair land of Australia many have thought to find rest, but this is part of the same world where sin and death and unrest reign. True, some have succeeded in getting into easy circumstances, but that has not brought rest even on earth. He heapeth up riches, and cannot tell who shall gather them. The cupidity of his fellows would deprive him even of these, and rest of conscience they can never bring him.

Only at the feet of Jesus can we find rest of conscience, followed by rest as to circumstances, and both only preliminary to the rest of God, which remaineth for His people. The next thing indicated in our picture is

RIGHTEOUSNESS.

The man is clothed; that is a figure of righteousness. Before, he was a shame to himself and his neighbours; now he is clothed with that which sets forth God’s righteousness. He, who had delivered him, had also clothed him. The one who under the devil’s power besought Christ to leave him, now cornea and sits in the presence of the God whom his own lips had recognised, and is at peace there. Mark! he is in the presence of God without fear, for righteousness gives boldness. Love gives confidence; righteousness, boldness.

The righteousness of God with which the believer is invested gives boldness in God’s presence. It is a status of righteousness with which a believer is invested, which can never be exhausted while Christ is upon the throne of God, and no power can pluck Him thence.

It is not a certain amount of righteousness paid to a sinner’s credit, against which he may after all heap up sins that exhaust it. Righteousness “imputed” (Rom. 4:22) to us should read “reckoned”; the truth is more clearly shown in the passage, “By the obedience of One shall many be constituted [N.T.] righteous” (Rom. 5:19).

Christ is made unto us righteousness, as well as all else. The wedding garment, and the best robe, are figures of Christ.

Oh! the joy of sitting at the feet of Jesus, in the confidence of love, at rest, and with holy boldness before God, because clad in His righteousness!

There is yet another point of contrast; this man is in his

RIGHT MIND.

He is intelligently enjoying all the blessings that have been brought to him. He has nothing to boast of as to how he overcame the devil and escaped his toils, but his boast is in Christ. He came in grace, He grappled with the foe; He bowed His own blessed head in death and conquered the enemy in his last stronghold; He annulled his power there, and rose again triumphant. All glory be to Jesus, the risen, victorious, ascended Lord!

Reader! Will you be offended if you are asked, Are you in your right mind? Intelligent enough no doubt as to earthly things, but if unsaved, scripture does not accredit such as in their right mind. To reject Christ as your Saviour, is that to be in your right mind? To be accounting some paltry trifle here of more value than the rich treasure of His love, is this to be in your right mind? Ah the wealth of God’s love is laid at our feet in the Son of His bosom! What folly to leave this for the evanescent pleasures of this world. “Man’s life is as the grass.”

Note the points of contrast through the word of Christ, life, rest, righteousness, and a right mind. Are they yours?

The hope of all, who are thus delivered, is to be

FOR EVER WITH THE LORD.

No wonder this man besought Him that he might be with Him; that is a sign of life. The heart of the believer goes up with a bound to Him; it only wants to be with Him. To reach Him “were a well-spent journey, though seven deaths lay between,” as Samuel Rutherford says.

But the Lord says, “Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things God hath done for thee” (v. 19). And immediately he departed declaring what great things Jesus had done for Him. To him now Jesus is God! The God of love!

True God He was in Bethlehem’s manger, on Calvary’s cross, and at every stage of manifest weakness that lay between. He is God of glory now, and the hope of His people is to be for ever with Him there. His promise is, “I will come again and receive you unto Myself; that where I am there ye may be also” (John 14:3).

“With Him” is the goal; whether to depart and be “with Him,” or to be changed and caught up to be “for ever with the Lord.” “With Him” satisfies the heart! This was the desire of the man in our chapter. This satisfied the heart of the thief on the cross. The heart of the great apostle counted to depart and be “with Christ,” far better; absent from the body was to be present “with the Lord.” It is, however, good to be here till He bid us come that we may tell our friends how great things He has done for us, and can do for them.

In the swine and the demons, we have a picture showing that finally

THE WILFULLY UNCLEAN AND DEVIL-POSSESSED PERISH!

It is an awfully solemn warning to all, for it is what befell Israel and is what awaits Christendom. The demons besought Him that He would not command them to go out into the deep (see Luke 8:31). The word for “deep” here, means “the bottomless pit.” They feared the lake of fire! They further besought Him that He would suffer them to enter into the swine and He suffered them. What then became of the swine? The whole herd ran violently down into the lake, and were choked in the waters. Seeing this the people besought Jesus that He would depart out of their coasts. Just what the man had done at the first. They valued their swine more than the deliverance of their fellows from the devil! How true this will be found of many a rejector of the truth, and of Christendom at the last!

For such nothing remains but the lake of fire for ever with the devil and his angels. And as with the swine, judgment is, alas! expedited by themselves! Many a soul will then say, There was a time when God was offering me salvation, but for the sake of illegal gain I rejected Christ, and I never had another opportunity. Christendom too, for its rejection of Christ, and for its illegal traffic in even the “bodies [marginal reading] and souls of men” (Rev. 18:13), will be judged, and find its portion with the devil, who deceived her. Christendom will say, “Depart from us; for we desire not the knowledge of Thy ways” (Job 21:14). He will take them at their word, and departing from them, will leave them alone. Fatal word!

Reader! Will you have deliverance at the hands of Christ? Or damnation with the devil from those same pierced hands? Your life’s blood is ebbing; there is no time to lose. Let me beseech you, receive salvation NOW!

G.J.Stewart

The Gospel Messenger 1915, p. 267, 297






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