Foundation Truths of the Gospel
by John Ritchie
“Regeneration”, or the new birth, is the initial act of true Christian life. Apart from this, there is no Christianity according to God Yet this vital and fundamental truth is sadly obscured in popular theology, and frittered away alike by Rationalism and Ritualism. Nevertheless, it abides as that great operation of Divine power, by which fallen man is created anew in the image of God,” and brought from death in sin to life in Christ. There is in the Word of God the fullest, clearest testimony given to this great foundation truth.
The doctrine was spoken of first by the Master Himself to Nicodemus, the Jewish ruler, in that midnight interview recorded in the third chapter of John’s Gospel. Nicodemus was a religious as well as an educated man. He came to the Lord acknowledging Him as a Teacher sent from God, but in His reply the Lord would not acknowledge him as a subject of God’s Kingdom. It was not education but regeneration that Nicodemus needed. It was not reformation but a new birth. Had the Lord acknowledged this teacher of Israel as a subject of the Kingdom, and proceeded to instruct him, he would have been flattered, but when the Lord struck at the root of the tree by saying “Ye must be born again,” he was perplexed, and had to take his place as a sinner in the presence of the Saviour.
THE NECESSITY OF REGENERATION
“Ye must be born again” (John 3:7). “Neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation” (Gal. 6:15). “That which is born of the flesh is flesh” (John 3:6), and can neither be improved nor got rid of, “The flesh profiteth nothing”; it is corrupt, unclean, and insubject to God (Rom. 7:7). Man’s nature—not only his acts—is contrary to God. He is part of a fallen race (Rom. 5:12). “Born like a wild ass’s colt” (Job 11:12). “All as an unclean thing” (Isa. 64:6). By nature a child of wrath (Eph. 2:3). “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? Not one” (Job 14:4). Not reformation, not religiousness, not morality. “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God” (John 2:3). This is the great necessity.
Nothing short of a birth from Heaven meets man’s need. Apart from this, man remains outside God’s family and Kingdom, no matter what his knowledge or creed may be. The religion of ungenerate men is dead works. A corrupt tree cannot bring forth good fruit; its production must be according to its nature. We do not expect to gather grapes from thistles, or to find roses on a nettle. No more can good works, or holiness, or the fruits of the Spirit, be found on one whose nature is enmity against God. Man’s religion may reform, but it cannot regenerate. Philanthropy may cleanse from outward vice, but it cannot renew. Reformation may change the current of the stream, but it cannot cleanse the source.
THE NATURE OF REGENERATION
What is this new birth? It is a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17); the workmanship of God (Eph. 2:10). It is the germ of a new existence; the possession of a new life. At regeneration a new nature is implanted (2 Pet. 1:4); a new man is formed in the image of God (Eph 4:24, with Col. 3:10). It is not the old improved, but the new begotten, leaving the born-again one a complex being, possessed of two natures, perfectly distinct, and entirely different in origin and character. The result of this is incessant conflict (Gal. 5:17).
It is of the utmost importance to understand what regeneration really is. By some it is supposed to mean a change of creed, with others a change of conduct, but in Scripture it means re-creation, a heavenly birth, the beginning of a new life. In nature the sinner is “alienated from the life of God” (Eph 4:18); he is dead in trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1). At regeneration the believer becomes a possessor of Divine life, a partaker of Divine nature (2 Pet. 1:4). The old is still there, but sin is no longer the law of his being. He is able to say, “I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me” (Gal. 2:20). Christ becomes the object of his soul; he is able henceforth to say, “For me to live is Christ.” The flesh is not eradicated, it is not changed, but it no longer reigns. Like Nebuchadnezzar, who was deposed from his throne and driven from his palace, but was yet permitted to live within the borders of that land over which he once held sway, so the flesh is in the believer, but not in dominion over him.
HOW REGENERATION IS EFFECTED
“Born of the Spirit” (John 3:8). “It is the Spirit that quickeneth” (John 6:63). “The Spirit giveth life” (2 Cor. 3:6). “The renewing of the Holy Spirit” (Tit. 3:5). The SPIRIT is the operator; the WORD is the instrument. “Of His own will, begat He us with the Word of truth” (Jas. 1:18). “Born again . . by the Word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever” (1 Pet. 1:23).
“Not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of than,” that is, not by natural descent nor as baptismal regeneration would have it, “but of God.” Born of God, born of the Spirit born through the Word of God. The believer is created anew, regenerated. He is not merely re-formed without, but a new nature is implanted within. This is effected instrumentally through the Word. It is not by “Sacraments,” or prayers, or what men may call the “means of grace.” There is no value or virtue in these to regenerate a sinner. “Of His own will begat He us with the Word of truth,” is the testimony of the Spirit. “He that beareth My Word, and believeth on Him that sent Me hath everlasting life,” are the words of the Lord Jesus. As of old, in the first creation, “He spake and it was done,” so, it is in the new creation. “Thy Word hath quickened me.”
HOW THE NEW LIFE IS RECEIVED
“Ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:26). “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God” (1 John 5:1). “Whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:15). It is not by prayer, or repentance, or penance, but by faith.
Faith receives God’s testimony; faith believes God. The object of faith is Christ. It does not look within for evidences, it does not look without for signs: it looks to Christ and, looking, lives. As the serpent-bitten Israelite looked from himself and his wounds to the Divine remedy, the uplifted serpent on the pole, so the sinner looks from himself, from his sins and his religiousness alike, right away from sinful or righteous self, to Christ. He commits himself to Another; he casts himself on Christ. He receives God’s testimony concerning His Son. He believes what the Word says about Christ, and then, instead of examining himself for evidences whether he has become God’s child or not, he again receives the testimony of the Word, which says, “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God.” To seek assurance of this new birth by examining one’s frame and feelings is no wiser than for a sailor to cast his anchor into the hold of his ship. Good anchorage is to be found without. The foothold of faith is the eternal Word of the eternal God. This abideth for ever.
THE FRUITS OF REGENERATION
“Whosoever is begotten of God doeth no sin” (that is, practiseth no sin) (1 John 3:9, R.V.). “Ye have your fruit unto holiness” (Rom. 6:22). “In this the children of God are manifest” (1 John 3:10).
The new life implanted at regeneration has for its present vessel “the mortal body” of the believer (2 Cor. 4:10), and through the deeds of the body it is made manifest. The members, once the servants of sin, are henceforth to be controlled by the new life, and used as instruments of righteousness unto God.
“Whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God” (1 John 3:10), no matter what he may profess. Of the believer as of his Lord the word will be fulfilled, “the life was manifest, and we have seen it.”
THE COUNTERFEITS OF REGENERATION
Here then we have the testimony of God regarding this great foundation truth of the Gospel and of Christianity. “Baptismal regeneration” virtually denies all this. It says that regeneration takes place by passing an unconscious infant through a form for which there is neither Scripture command nor example, but which was first instituted by an apostate Church when it had given up the very fundamental doctrines of the Gospel and supplanted God’s Word by its own traditions. How any man can practise this deception of the devil, and yet believe the Bible, is a mystery. No less, how one, said to be regenerated by water in infancy and become “an inheritor of the Kingdom of Heaven,” needs to be told in later years “Ye must be born again.” Is it any wonder that honest, thoughtful men, seeing the inconsistency of this prevailing sham, turn from it with disgust and abhorrence? Would to God that men would turn to the Word of Truth to seek their light and guidance in all things spiritual and eternal there, but, alas! infidelity receives its largest contribution of admirers, from the ranks of those who were at one time camp-followers in the ranks of traditional religion.
Q.—Is it necessary for a believer to be able to give day and date of his second birth?
A.—It is not essential to his salvation, or even to his knowledge of it, to be able to tell the exact hour when he began to live. One thing is certain, that in the history of every true child of God there was a moment in which he as truly began his spiritual existence as a child of God as he did his natural existence as a child of Adam. That was the moment of his regeneration, or new birth. To say that one must know that moment and be able to point to the day and date on the calendar, would be going far beyond the Scriptures. But it is necessary, and increasingly so, in a day of sham religion and slipshod profession of Christianity to insist, that there must be a new and heavenly birth, the genesis of a new being, and not a gradual transition from the old to the new. Neither in the natural or the spiritual world is there evolution, but creation. Evolution is the dream of men; creation is the work of God.
Q.—What is the “water” spoken of in John 3:5. Is it baptism?
A.—No. Baptism has nothing whatever to do with the new birth. Nicodemus, the “teacher of Israel,” was no doubt well acquainted with the promise made by God to His ancient people, “I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you” (Ezek. 36:25-26), words which speak of the cleansing of Israel and their conversions through the Word in days to come. “Water,” in both Old and New Testaments, is used as a figure of the Word. “By what means shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto according to Thy Word” (Ps. 119:9). “Now ye are clean through the Word” (John 15:3). “Sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word” (Eph. 5:25).
“How solemn are the words,
And yet to faith how plain,
Which Jesus uttered while on earth—
‘Ye must be born again.’
“‘Ye must be born again,’
And life in Christ must have;
In vain the soul may elsewhere go—
’Tis He alone can save.
“‘Ye must be born again,’
Or never enter Heaven:
’Tis only blood-washed ones go there,
The ransomed and forgiven.”
Conversion, as the word is used in the Scriptures, means—“a turning to God.” Regeneration is a change of nature; the implanting of a new and heavenly life within. Conversion is the outward and manifest turning of that person to God, and, as a consequence, from sin and Satan. In every ease of genuine conversion, there is a positive and a negative side: the man is turned round to God, to Christ, to holiness; he is turned from the world, from Satan, and from sin.
THE NECESSITY OF CONVERSION
The words of the Lord Jesus are “Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matt. 17:3). The Apostles of the Lord preached “Repent ye therefore and be converted” (Acts 3:19). This change is necessary now, as then. Man’s face is naturally turned from God. His path is away from God and Heaven: it tends to death and hell. “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way” (Isa. 53:6) is a confession of the common course of men. “They have turned their back on Me, and not their face” (Jer. 2:27) is Jehovah’s complaint concerning His ancient people, and the charge is universally true. There are no exceptions. It is to man thus living, with his face set for death and destruction, that the voice of the Lord is heard calling, “Turn ye, turn ye from your evil way, for why will ye die?”
WHAT CONVERSION IS NOT
It is to be feared that, in the thoughts of many, conversion is little more than a change of creed. They join a new church, or become adherents of a new theology. To pass from Romanism to Protestantism, from being a Churchman to become a Dissenter, from Calvinism to Armenianism, these and others of a similar kind, are frequently spoken of as being “conversions.“ But they are not so, in the sense of which the Scripture speaks. All these may be known apart from a Divine work within, and without the man being turned to God. Nor is reformation to be confounded with conversion. A man may change his ways, and leave off his sinful habits, yea, he may even assume a religious life, and do religious work, apart from true conversion to God. There may be a “new leaf turned,” a “fresh start” made, a “new vow” taken, a “good resolution” formed, and all this may for a time, give indication of a changed life. But, sooner or later, it will come to nought, if the heart has not been reached, and the springs of life turned to God. Experiences, impressions, and flushes of religious feelings are often mistaken for conversion, especially during seasons of Revival and Gospel work, but these being without foundation or root, through time, lapse into the former, or into a worse condition. To such the word in 2 Peter 2:22, applies—“The dog is turned (the same word as converted) to his vomit again.”
WHAT CONVERSION IS
Conversion, as the word implies, is a turning to God. “Ye turned to God from idols” (1 Thess. 1:9). “Ye are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls” (1 Pet. 2:24). The heart once closed against God’s love, is now opened to receive it, as the petals of the flower turned toward the sun receive and absorb its rays. The ear once closed against God’s Voice, is now open, in the spirit of a child, to hear His Word, and to do His will. The secret springs of life, which before were supplied by motive power from sin and Satan, are now actuated by the power of grace and the Spirit of God. The man is brought “from the power of Satan unto God” (Acts 26:18) and God henceforth becomes His joy and His trust. The time of his lawlessness, his choosing of his own way is now past: he has “returned“ unto the Shepherd and Bishop of his soul, to own His claim as Lord, to bow beneath His rule, to be fed, and led by Him along the right way to Heaven and home. It is to be feared that in a day of counterfeit and hypocrisy such as the present is, the standard of conversion has been sadly lowered, and anyone making a slipshod “profession” has too oft been counted as a “convert.” Sensational and pointless preaching, abounding with sentiment and senseless story, often accompanied with music and non-Gospel singing, and destitute of ploughshare and hammer, to break up the fallow conscience, and strike hard the stony heart, can hardly be expected to produce conviction, or result in conversion according to God. Man’s conversion may be manufactured by man’s methods, in man’s own power, but the real article—that which bears the heavenly brand—is as of old, by the Word of God alone.
HOW CONVERSION IS PRODUCED
It is not in man’s nature to turn to God. His thoughts and his desires are all against God. Religion cannot change the current of his inner life; the most it can do is to dress up in another fashion that which is without. In order to have new fruit, there must be a new tree, for “a corrupt tree cannot bring forth good fruit.”
This new life and nature is implanted at regeneration. There is a new creation. The regenerated man stands up in the power of a new life, and in that life he turns to God and serves Him.
An illustration may help us here. There are certain creatures, such as the gad-fly, whose early existence is in the mud and in stagnant pools. They are able to move from place to place in the mud, but not to rise above it. They feed on that which is on their level; they cannot reach to do anything higher. Presently a new force is developed within them, and immediately then, they rise to the surface of the water, above and beyond the region of mud. Then wings are given them, and soon they rise up into the air, to bask in the warm rays of the sun, to find their food, and to spend their brief life in other spheres, and never more to return to the muddy pool, or to find their subsistence there. Thus it was with some at Thessalonica of ancient days. They were idolaters, absorbed and engrossed with earthly things. They had no desire for things beyond, nor had they power or will to rise to higher spheres.
By-and-bye the Gospel reached them. They heard the Word of life in power, and much assurance, from men who walked with God, and held the Gospel as a sacred trust from Him. They received the message, they believed the truth. The immediate result is recorded in the glowing words, “Ye turned to God from idols, to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from Heaven” (1 Thess. 1:9-10).
The power of idols was broken by the power of God. The Living Christ, believed and received, expelled the enemy. They were able to say, like one of old—“I have seen Him, and observed Him: what have I to do any more with idols?” (Hos. 14:8), and thus the saint can sing—
“Idols once, they more than charmed thee,
Lovely things of time and sense;
Gilded, thus does sin disarm thee,
Honey’d lest thou turn thee hence.
What has stript the seeming beauty
From the idols of the earth?
Not the sense of right or duty:
But the sight of peerless worth.
Not the crushing of those idols,
With its bitter void and smart,
But the beaming of His beauty,
The unveiling of His Heart.”
The testimony is the same throughout. The Grecians who heard from the men of Cyprus and Cyrene of the Lord Jesus, “believed, and turned unto the Lord” (Acts 11:21). Believing on the Son of God gives life, (see John 3:36), and that life is at once made manifest by the possessor of it turning to, or being converted unto the Lord. Such were the conversions of early days, and such are God’s conversions still. Christ received to the heart, changes the whole current of the life. Old things pass away: former habits drop off like leaves in autumn: the new man stands forth in a new character, with new aspirations and new hopes filling his mind and spirit: His feet tread in new paths, and his hands are filled with new employments. The old lose their charm and their power, and are left behind. “The expulsive power of a new affection,” as one has named it, has accomplished this transformation: this “new affection” is the love of Christ now indwelling the heart, and nothing short of this can effect it.
HINDRANCES TO CONVERSION
We need not wonder if the craft and power of Satan are combined to hinder this Divine work of conversion from taking place He blinds the mind, he closes the eye, he seals the ear, lest men “should be converted” (Acts 28:27). He fears the Gospel of God, and so he sends his emissaries with “another gospel” (Gal. 1:6-9) in its stead which has no Divine power behind it, and no Divine conversion resulting from it Let those who know the Gospel of God, and have confidence in its efficacy, sound it forth, in all its simplicity, freshness, and power, and God will own it in the conversion of souls to Himself.
As Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses of old, and sought to hinder the deliverance of Israel, by imitating the work of God so we are told shall the servants of Satan seek to turn away the ears of those who would hear the truth and be converted by it, into “fables.” These “ fables” now abound on every side. The world’s religion is permeated by them, as the leaven hid in the meal leavened the whole mass in which it worked. Need we wonder that gospels of Evolution, non-atoning death of Christ, non-eternal punishment, denial of Christ’s Divinity and man’s ruin produce no genuine conversions followed by holy, Christ-like lives. It would be a greater wonder if they did. God’s Gospel, preached in God’s power, by God’s servants, will bear its fruit, and that fruit will remain.
Q.—What did the Lord mean by saying to Peter, “When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren”? (Luke 22:32). Was Peter not converted before?
A.—Yes, clearly he was, otherwise the Lord’s words to him in Matthew 16:17 would have no meaning. But Peter was about to backslide, and it was with his restoration in view, that the Lord spoke these words. We can only once be regenerated; we may often require to be converted in the sense in which Peter was.
“Life passing aimlessly seeking for joys,
Building bright hopes upon frail earthly toys;
Satan gilt time for us, as it slipped by,
Little we thought of God, then, you and I.
“Pleasure an opiate, making us deem
Hell but an idle threat; Heaven a dream:
Caught in his world web, like any fly,
Satan had hold of us, then, you and I.
“Not all our carelessness, not all our sin,
Kept Him from calling us, who died to win;
In love unspeakable, Jesus drew nigh,
And He has saved our souls now, you and I.
“He woke us up to find that we were lost;
He gave us hearts to feel what pardon cost,
He gave us eyes to see why He did die:
We know and trust in Him, now, you and I.”
The great bulwark of the Reformation was the doctrine of justification. Luther and his coadjutors fully preached justification through faith in Christ alone, apart from merit in him whose faith laid hold on Christ, or works done by him, or for him by others like himself. It was this truth proclaimed in the power of God, that set thousands free from the chains of Romanism with its miserable counterfeits of God’s truth. The same truth still needs to be made known in its simplicity, among those who call themselves Protestants. Many who bear that name, have quite departed from the Gospel of God, and expect salvation partly through Sacraments, partly by prayers, and partly through the merits of Christ. A right knowledge of man’s relation to God and of God’s way of justifying sinners, will clear away the mists of human traditions and show the true foundation on which the believer stands.
MAN’S STATE BEFORE GOD
Man is without righteousness in the sight of God. The Divine verdict is, “There is none righteous, no, not one” (Rom. 3:10). If any man think he has earned for himself a righteousness by his rectitude or religion, God dispels the illusion by the words, “All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags” (Isa. 64:6). Human righteousness may be used by Satan to deceive its possessor and inflate him with pride, so that he refuses to submit himself unto “the righteousness of God” (Rom. 10:3), but he can never thereby be declared “just” before the Court of Heaven.
“How then can man be justified with God?” (Job 25:4) is the great question. Mark, it is not merely how he can be pardoned, but “justified” and not justified before men, but “with God!” A guilty criminal lying in his cell might be pardoned by the King or by his Government, but he could not be justified. To justify means to “reckon righteous,” and if a criminal who had been proved “guilty” at the bar of justice was to be reckoned righteous, whoever did it would be morally a partaker of his crime. How then can man be made righteous with God? Clearly not in his own personal righteousness, for, as we have already seen of this he has none. Neither can he reclaim himself by keeping fragments of a broken law. Yet, strange to say, many are thus seeking to earn a righteousness in which they hope God will accept them, and in some way, not very clearly defined, make up what they lack, by His mercy, or by Christ’s obedience for them, thrown into the balance. There is no such way of righteousness as this: it is a delusion. God, as a holy Judge, presiding in His courts, has declared the sinner “guilty.” The sentence upon his guilt is death.
And sin’s penalty has thus been borne. By whom? The answer is, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son” (John 3:16). “ Not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). The gift of Christ is the proof that “God is love”; the death of Christ is the witness that God is just.
THE JUST DIES FOR THE UNJUST
“Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the Just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God” (1 Pet. 3:18). It was not the innocent dying for the guilty, as is sometimes said, but the Just One charged with the sins of the unjust. When God imputed sin to Christ He stood so completely identified with it, that, as it is written, “He made Him to be sin for us.” And when God imputes righteousness to the believing sinner, he stands so completely identified with it that the Word of God declares he is made “the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21). Personally, Christ had no sin, yet He was reckoned “to be sin”; personally, the believer has no righteousness, yet he is reckoned righteous “in Him.” That is what the Apostle refers to, when he speaks of the man to whom “God imputeth righteousness without works” (Rom. 4:6).
GOD THE JUSTIFIER
“It is God that justifieth” (Rom. 8:33). This is the first great link in the chain. The Gospel is the “Gospel of God” (Rom. 1:1). The righteousness that it reveals, is “the righteousness of God” (Rom. 1:17). Man has had his day: he has been under trial, only to prove how unable he is to meet the demands made upon him. The law claimed righteousness; he rendered transgression, so that by the deeds of the law no flesh can be justified in God’s sight (Rom. 3:20). Now God Himself comes forth to declare His own righteousness. This he does in the Cross of Christ. By the work of the Cross, God can be just, and yet the Justifier of the believing sinner. His righteousness in remitting the sins of men of faith in ages past who lived and died before the Cross (Rom. 3:25), and in justifying the ungodly who now believe (Rom. 4:5), is fully declared. The just Judge is the Justifier! The righteous Cod proclaims the sinner just!
JUSTIFIED BY GRACE
“Being justified freely by his grace” (Rom. 3:24). It is without cause, in spite of what the sinner is. He does not require to find some merit as his title, else grace would be no more grace. He is not asked to bring himself up to a certain condition of rectitude or goodness, or to reach certain stages of contrition and repentance, before he can come within the circle of its efficacy. God justifies the “ungodly” (Rom. 4:5). The language of the sinner coming to the God of grace for justification is “Just as I am.”
JUSTIFIED BY BLOOD
“Being now justified by His blood” (Rom. 5:9). The death of Christ is the procuring cause of the sinner’s justification. The blood of Christ is the witness that God’s claims have all been met. Sin must be atoned for by blood, else it must stand a barrier between the sinner and his God. Righteousness must be satisfied before grace can flow. In the Cross this has been done. There “mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other” (Ps. 85:10). “Grace reigns,” but not only so, but “through righteousness” (Rom. 5:21). God will fill His holy Heaven with those who had been “unrighteous” and “unjust” on earth, and yet His throne will be established in righteousness. The once slain Lamb in “the midst of that throne” is at once the vindication of God’s righteousness and the sinners’ title to be there.
JUSTIFIED BY RESURRECTION
“Raised again for our justification.” (Rom. 4:25). The resurrection of Christ is the witness that His death met in full the demands of Divine justice. It is God’s seal of acceptance upon the work of the Cross. To the believer, it is the sign of his discharge in full. Had there been one atom unfinished, one mite unpaid, our Surety could not have gone free. But free He is. As we sing—
“And God released our Surety
To show the work was done;
And Jesus’ resurrection
Declared the victory won.”
“Being justified by faith, we have peace with God” (Rom. 5:1). If the work of the Cross was for all, if grace reigns toward all, if the Gospel’s message is unto “every creature,” how, it may be asked, is justification limited to certain and not possessed by all? The answer is, “All that believe are justified” (Acts 13:39). But all do not believe. Some receive the Saviour, others reject Him. Some believe the testimony of God, and some “believe not” (Acts 28:24). It is unto all, but only “upon all them that believe” (Rom. 3:22). If the unbeliever turns his back on the provision made for him and rejects it, then he must “perish” (Acts 13:41). If he does perish, the fault will be his own, not God’s.
JUSTIFIED FROM SIN
“He that is dead is freed (margin, justified) from sin” (Rom. 6:7). Sin is here personified. The sinner is a slave, sin is his master. The slave dies—judicially, of course, in the person of his Substitute and through death he is set free from sin’s slavery. A slave-owner can claim service from his slave up to the hour of death, but not beyond it. Thus the believer righteously escapes from sin’s dominion and passes from its service. In the power of a new life received from Christ risen, he yields himself to the service of God and his members as instruments of righteousness.
JUSTIFICATION OF LIFE
“Unto justification of life” (Rom. 5:18). Discharged from sin’s penalty by Christ’s death, the believer becomes a sharer with Christ in life beyond the grave. A new life is imparted to him; a new man is created in him. In this new life he serves God, as in the old he served sin. The new man is “created in righteousness and true holiness” (Eph. 4:24). It is the germ of his new spiritual being yet to be manifested in glory in the image of the Lord. Meanwhile here on earth, the new life is manifested in his mortal body, and the new man is displayed in a walk of practical righteousness and holiness.
JUSTIFIED BY WORKS
“By works a man is justified, and not by faith only” (Jas 2:24). There is no contradiction here of what the Epistle to the Romans teaches. Paul and James are not opponents. “Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness,” is Paul’s statement. “Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he offered up his son upon the altar?” is James’ question. He does not suggest that Paul had erred. On the contrary, he adds, “And so the Scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness” (Jas. 2:23). Justification by works is the manward side; justification by faith the Godward. Men cannot see each other’s faith: they can only see that which is outward. Works are the outward manifestation of faith. Justified by faith before God; justified by works before men. Works are the evidence that faith is present. God alone knows the heart. He knows whether or not man has “with the heart believed unto righteousness” (Rom. 10:10). We must look for the evidence of faith which is to be seen in works. Thus the Apostle James’ statement is the safeguard against the false profession of such as might “say” that they had faith. They must “show” it by their works. And thus the grace that saves the sinner becomes the teacher of the saint, and his first lessons are, “that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world” (Tit. 2:12). Such practical righteousness should be looked for and expected, in all who bear the name of Christ. Especially is this necessary in a day of easy-going profession like ours.
Q.—If the believer is justified from all things, what does “If we confess our sins” (1 John 1:9) imply?
A.—The sinner is justified once for all. That act is never repeated. He stands before God accounted righteous in His courts. Justification is a legal term, and has to do with God in His character as Judge. But God is the father of His children. The believer knows Him in this relation. He addresses Him as “Abba, Father.” If, as a child, he fails in obedience, his communion will be broken with God as a Father, and the only way of restoration is by confession. A Father’s forgiveness is then known, and restoration to the fellowship of a Father’s heart enjoyed. It is no question of judicial righteousness, but of communion between a Parent and His child. An illustration will perhaps make this clear. Suppose the presiding judge in a court of justice, after having disposed of all the criminal cases in the dock, returns to his home to find that his eldest child has been wilful and disobedient during the day. He does not assume the place of a judge, or “try” the case by the rule of the criminal law. He has another “code” for the home: that of parental authority. He deals with the offending child under that “law,” and not as a judge on the bench, administering the law’s sentence to a criminal. God is the Judge of the world: He is the Father of His own people.
Redemption is the “act of buying back.” It has also in it the thought of taking possession of that which has been thus bought. There is a redemption by purchase, and also a redemption by power, spoken of in the Scriptures. There is a redemption which the believer has now, and there is a redemption that he hopes for, by-and-bye. It is needful to distinguish between these.
MAN’S NEED OF REDEMPTION
Man is the slave of sin and Satan. In his fall, he surrendered himself into Satan’s hand. His inheritance was lost with him. The world is claimed by Satan, and he rules it. He is the “prince of this world” (John 12:31). Man is a subject of his power (Acts 26:18) and must remain so, until delivered by the power of God. He cannot redeem or deliver himself. Nor can his fellow. “None of them can, by any means, redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him” (Ps. 49:7). If deliverance comes, it must be from above. This is what the Gospel reveals. “Deliver him from going down to the pit: I have found a ransom” (Job 33:24) is the Word of the God of redemption. “He sent redemption unto His people” (Ps. 111:9). This redemption comes through Christ, as we read—“Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption” (1 Cor. 1:30) He obtained “eternal redemption” for His people.
REDEMPTION BY BLOOD, AND BY POWER
The language of the Word concerning the believer is, “In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Eph. 1:7). Then, looking onward to the day of coming glory, when redemptive power shall be extended to his mortal body, and to creation, the word is —“In whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance, until the redemption of the purchased possession” (Eph. 1:13-14). Then again, “Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption” (Eph. 5:30). Redemption by blood was effected at the Cross. There the Lord Jesus “purchased with His own blood” (Acts 20:28) His people. Yea, more; He bought the field—the world, in which the “treasure” lay (see Matt. 13:44), and will yet take possession of it, set it in order, and rule it for God. But the time for this display of His redemptive power in the world has not yet come. He is now engaged in gathering His purchased treasure out of it. This He is doing by the Gospel. When a sinner believes the Gospel, his sins are forgiven, he is sealed by the Holy Spirit, and he waits for the day of full and final redemption.
Like a farmer who goes to the market to buy a flock of sheep, He purchases them, pays for them, and sets His mark upon them as His property. By-and-bye He returns, and takes the sheep that bear His mark out from the rest, and appropriates them to Himself.
These two aspects of redemption by blood and by power had their foreshadowing in the redemption of Israel. First, they were redeemed by the blood of the lamb from judgment, next by the arm of the Lord from Pharaoh. He “redeemed them from the hand of the enemy” (Ps. 106:10) to be unto Himself a peculiar treasure above all people: a people among whom He might dwell, and rule by His Word.
KINSMAN, REDEEMER, AVENGE
Under the law, a kinsman had a right to redeem (Lev. 25:25; Ruth 4:6-7). He might also avenge his brother’s blood (Josh. 20:5). The Hebrew word for Redeemer is also translated—“Kinsman” and “Avenger”; it has in it the threefold significance of Kinsman, Redeemer, Avenger. We have in the Lord Jesus, all these three characters sustained. He is at once our Kinsman, Redeemer, and Avenger. He became our Kinsman by His incarnation. So we read, “Since then the children are sharers in flesh and blood, He also Himself partook of the same” (Heb. 2:14, R.V.). “Being made in the likeness of men” (Phil. 2:7, R.V.), His humanity was sinless, He had no share in man’s fallen nature, He was not at distance from God as others were by nature. We must jealously guard against the thought that such things were associated with His manhood. But in all respects—sin excepted—He was a Man. Thus He became our kinsman. But this of itself did not deliver. It is a fundamental error to say—as some have said—that in becoming man, Christ linked Himself with our race, and thus elevated and dignified man as such. The Scriptures teach the reverse. Man’s nature has not been elevated since the day of his fall, nor will it ever be. He murdered Christ. He can only enter God’s Kingdom by being born again. The Lord became Kinsman in order that He might become Redeemer. He took flesh and blood, in order that He might enter into man’s responsibilities, and discharge them by death. By death redemption was secured. The redemption of His people and the redemption of His inheritance, were both secured by the Cross. By death He also became the Avenger. He destroyed the power of Satan, He bruised the serpent’s head, and, in virtue of His triumph over the enemy there, His people shall yet, in a day to come, see Satan bruised beneath their feet also (Rom. 16:20). These three aspects of the work of Christ are all given in Hebrews 2:14-15. Redemption by blood is past at the Cross: it never will be repeated; but redemption by power will go on until all that Christ purchased shall be possessed and restored to God.
REDEMPTION FROM THE CURSE
“Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us” (Gal. 3:13). The curse is the penalty of sin: it must have come upon us; but One was found who willingly died in our stead. Now all who believe are free. As we sing—
“Believing, we rejoice
To see the curse removed;
We bless the Lamb with cheerful voice,
And sing redeeming love.”
REDEEMED FROM ALL INIQUITY
“Who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works” (Tit. 2:14). This is redemption from sin’s power. The people of the Lord are a purchased and purified people. They are redeemed from lawlessness and set apart to God, to be of service to Him and for Him among men.
Not long ago a Christian farmer was showing me over his fields waving with yellow grain. Not many years before, that same ground was over-run with whin, and yielded nothing. It passed into other hands, and the new owner began at once to reclaim his possession. Skill and labour were brought to bear on the wild, uncared-for soil; it was first “purified,” then sown, and now it yields a good return to its owner. The redeemed on earth “are God’s husbandry” (1 Cor. 3:9).
On them He is bestowing His grace, His discipline, and His care, with the object of having them a people zealous of good works, such as He has ordained for them to walk in (Eph. 2:11).
REDEMPTION OF THE BODY
There is a redemption yet to come. “Waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body” (Rom. 8:23). The body has not yet been delivered from that condition into which the fall has brought it. It has changed owners (see 1 Cor. 6:20), its members are no longer the weapons of sin, but now instruments of righteousness unto God (Rom. 6:13). It is still “the body of our humiliation” (Phil. 3:20, R.V.), and must either be “dissolved”—as it is in those who have fallen asleep—or “changed” as it will be in those who are “alive and remain” unto the coming of the Lord. In both, the body shall be fashioned anew, like unto the body of His glory (Phil 3:20, R.V.) in that day when redemptive power shall be put forth on the bodies of the saints. For this we wait.
There is also the “redemption of the purchased possession” (Eph. 1:14). Creation has long been subject to the bondage of corruption. The ground has been under the curse for man’s sake. It has long groaned and travailed in pain under its burden, but a day will come when it too shall be delivered and become a sharer of the “liberty of the glory of the children of God.” Then a new Heaven and a new earth, wherein righteousness dwells, shall shine forth, and all trace of sin and its fruit shall be done away. Everything in that new creation shall stand in the power of redemption, and not like the first creation, in the goodness of the creature. Thus God shall receive back unto Himself, through Christ and His redemption, the glory lost by sin, and fill His Heaven with a ransomed throng, who, looking on the Redeeming Lamb “in the midst of the throne,” shall ascribe to Him the honour and the praise. “Thou art worthy . . . . for Thou was slain, and hast redeemed us to God by Thy blood” (Rev. 5: 9).
Q.—Is it Scriptural to speak of all men as being redeemed?
A.—No! Scripture does not say so. The death of Christ was for all—men and things—(2 Cor. 5:14; Heb. 2:9), but redemption includes deliverance, which the unconverted have not. The “redeemed” of the Lord are His people only. Those who reject the Redeemer and despise the Gospel, die in their sins.
Q.—Is it right to say that our bodies are redeemed now?
A.—As to ownership they are. Sin once held them as his slaves, their members were his instruments or tools, used in doing his work. They are his no longer. “Now being made free from sin, and become servants to God” (Rom. 6:22), are words that tell how truly they have been redeemed. Yet the “full redemption” of the body, awaits the day of His coming.
“My Reedemer! Oh, what beauties
In that lovely name appear;
None but Jesus, in His glories,
Shall the honoured title wear.
Thou hast my salvation wrought.
“Sunk in ruin, sin, and mis’ry,
Bound by Satan’s captive chain,
Guided by his artful treachery,
Hurrying on to endless pain,
Plucked me as a brand from hell.
“Mine by covenant, mine for ever,
Mine by oath and mine by blood,
Mine—nor time the bond shall sever;
Mine an unchanging God.
Oh, how sweet to call Thee mine!
“When in Heaven I see Thy glory,
When before Thy throne I bow,
Perfected I shall be like Thee,
Fully Thy redemption know.
Then shall hear me shout His praise.”
The salvation of God is threefold—past, present, and future. The following Scriptures give the testimony of God on this great subject in various aspects:—
Salvation: Past (Rom. 1:16; Acts 28:28; Acts 16:31; Rom. 10:10; Mark 16:16; John 10:9; Isa. 45:22; Luke 7:50; 1 Cor. 1:18; 15:2; 2 Tim. 1:9; Tit. 3:5).
Salvation: Present (Heb. 7:25; Rom. 5:9; Jas. 1:21; 1 Tim. 4:6; Prov. 20:22; Ps. 119:94; 37:39; Phil. 2:12; 1 Pet. 2:2).
Salvation: Future (Rom. 13:11; Heb. 9:28; Phil. 3:20; 1 Thess. 5:8).
“He that is our God, is the God of salvation” (Ps. 68:20). “The salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles” (Acts 28:28) in this day of Gospel Grace. “Salvation is of the Lord” (Jon. 2:9). The work of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Originated by God the Father, wrought out through Christ the Son, applied by the Holy Spirit. To Jesus, and to Him alone, has the name of “Saviour” been given. “ Neither is there salvation in any other” (Acts 4:12).
MAN IN NEED OF A SAVIOUR
Man by nature is lost to God. He is “without strength” (Rom. 5:6); he cannot save himself. Neither religion nor philanthropy can save him.
The Church has no power to save; neither priest nor parson can bring the sinner nigh to God. It cannot be done by works, or prayer, or penance. “Salvation belongeth unto the Lord” (Ps. 3:8). “Beside Me, there is no Saviour” (Isa. 43:11).
Man as a sinner has no claim upon God; he is under condemnation, ready to perish. Righteousness can only seal his sentence: if salvation come to him, it must be by grace.
SALVATION BY GRACE ALONE
“The grace of God hath appeared, bringing salvation to all men” (Tit. 2:11, R.V.). “By grace have ye been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God: not of works lest any man should boast” (Eph. 2:8-9, R.V.).
Yet that grace flows through righteousness (Rom. 5:21). God has not ignored His own justice, or set aside His own righteousness, in saving lost and guilty sinners. The Cross of Christ is the witness of God’s justice as well as the expression of His love. Love gave the Son; righteousness demanded that He should die. That death has opened a way whereby grace can go forth to the sinner and deal with him, Hence the death of Jesus Christ is always mentioned as the procuring cause of man’s salvation: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Tim. 1:15). “The Son of Man is come to save that which was lost” (Matt. 18:11).
THE GOSPEL OF SALVATION
The “glad tidings” sent from God among “all nations” (Rom. 16:26) and to “every creature” (Mark 15:15) is the Gospel of a present salvation (Eph. 1:13) and “the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth” (Rom. 1:16). There is no restriction. God has provided salvation for all men, yet only such as welcome the message will be saved. The alternative is damnation. “He that believeth and is baptised shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16).
THE WAY OF SALVATION
The damsel at Philippi said concerning Paul and Silas, “These men are the servants of the Most High God, which show unto us the way of salvation” (Acts 16:17). There are no diverse ways: God has one way, and that way is so plain that he may run that readeth. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31), was the Divine reply to the anxious sinner’s question, “What must I do to be saved?” It remains the same. To look to Christ is to be saved (Isa. 45:22). To enter in by Him, the only door, is to be a possessor of salvation (John 10:9). There is no other way to God: all other ways lead to hell.
THE SALVATION WHICH IS PAST
The believer can look back to the day and hour when by faith he laid hold of Jesus as his personal Saviour, as the time of his salvation. “Who hath saved us” (2 Tim. 1:8-9), “Who are saved” (1 Cor. 1:18) are God’s words concerning believers. They are not hoping, or waiting, or praying to be saved. They have the “knowledge of salvation” (Luke 1:77) by believing the Word of God: assurance comes by believing God, the “joy of salvation” follows (Isa. 12:2-3).
THE SALVATION WHICH IS PRESENT
“He is able also to save them to the uttermost” (or to the very end) “that come unto God by Him” (Heb. 7:25). “Much more being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life” (Rom. 5:10). This salvation goes on from day to day. It is carried on by the Lord Jesus in resurrection, as our Advocate (1 John 2:2) and High Priest (Heb. 4:15-16) at God’s right hand. He saveth those who trust in him (Ps. 37:40), who wait on Him (Prov. 20:22). There are snares and sins and temptations which the believer has to meet as he passes along the heavenward way, from which he needs a daily Saviour. And that Saviour he has in the Risen Christ at God’s right hand. Instrumentally, it comes to him through the Word as at first. Hence we read, “As new-born babes, desire the sincere milk of the Word, that ye may grow thereby unto salvation” (1 Pet. 2:2, R.V.). By receiving and abiding in the Word of God the believer is saved from evil doctrine and backsliding (1 Tim. 4:6; Jas. 1:21). Many of the prayers of Scripture, notably in the Psalms, refer to this present aspect of salvation, and not, as they are often applied, to the salvation of the sinner. For example, “I am Thine, save me” (Ps. 119:94). “Save us, O God of our salvation” (1 Chr. 16:35). In this connection believers are exhorted. “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God that worketh in you” (Phil. 2:12-13).
THE SALVATION WHICH IS FUTURE
“Now is our salvation nearer than when we believed” (Rom. 13:11). “We look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus” (Phil. 3:20). “He shall appear the second time without sin, unto SALVATION” (Heb. 10:27). Salvation is here viewed in its future aspect, when, at the coming of the Lord from Heaven, believers on earth who are “alive and remain,” together with those that sleep in Jesus, shall be glorified together with Christ, and thus in spirit, soul and body, shall become sharers of the salvation of the Lord. Looking forward to that day we are “saved in hope” (Rom. 8:2), and the helmet worn upon our heads, enabling us to look the enemy and accuser full in the face, is “the hope of salvation” (1 Thess. 5:8). Not that vague, uncertain hope cherished by the formalist and the hypocrite, that one day somehow hell will be escaped and Heaven gained, but the “abounding hope” (Rom. 15:4) of those who already rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory, and who are able triumphantly to sing, “Behold, God is my salvation: I will trust, and not be afraid” (Isa. 12:2). “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear” (Ps. 27:1).
Believers are therefore able to say—we are saved we are being saved; we shall be saved. Their salvation from sin’s penalty is PAST. Salvation from sin’s power is PRESENT. Salvation from sin’s presence is FUTURE. By the death of Jesus on the Cross, sin’s penalty has been borne; by His life upon the throne its power has been broken; and soon by His return its presence, so far as the believer is concerned, will be gone.
Glorious salvation of the Lord, purchased at infinite cost! Well may he sing with heart and voice, “I will joy in the God of my salvation.” To the unbeliever the solemn question comes, “How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?” (Heb. 2:3).
Q.—Is it right to say “The work of salvation is a finished work?”
A.—No; there is no such expression in the Scriptures. The words, “It is finished,” uttered by the Lord Jesus on the Cross, do not refer to salvation, but the work that the Father had given Him to do. The work of atonement was finished when, through the Eternal Spirit, He offered Himself without spot to God, but the salvation of an individual sinner is not begun until he hears and believes the Gospel; then it goes on until the Lord comes, when it will be completed.
Q.—To what salvation does 1 Peter 1:5 refer?
A.—Evidently to that salvation yet future (see also Rom. 13:11; Phil. 3:20).
Q.—Is it possible for a believer to lose his reward?
A.—Yes, quite possible. One whose works are burned (1 Cor. 3:14) shall suffer loss, the loss of a reward, yet he himself shall be saved. Lot’s person was saved out of Sodom, but his property, his work and the long life he spent there, were lost.
Q.—What does the text, “He that endureth unto the end the same shall be saved,” mean?
A.—It has reference to a special people who will be on earth during the period of “the great tribulation.” The “end” is not the close of earthly life; nor is “salvation” the salvation of a sinner from sin and hell. It is the earthly deliverance of an earthly people. The text is often quoted by the advocates of “falling away,” but it has no application whatever. John 10:28 settles whether a believer will endure or not. God’s salvation is “eternal salvation” (see Heb. 5:6).
“Jesus is my Saviour, by His precious blood,
Freed from condemnation, brought to God;
In Himself accepted, all my sins forgiven,
I am on the way to Heaven.
“Jesus my Saviour—Jesus is mine,
O what a treasure—precious, Divine;
If you only trust Him, you will prove His power,
Saving thee this very hour.”
The Scriptures bearing on Assurance may, for the sake of simplicity and clearness, be divided into sections, viz.:—The Position, Possessions, and Prospects of Believers; or, in other words, the assurance of what we are, of what we have, of what we know, and of what we shall be. Concerning all who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, the following facts are true, as recorded in the Word of God.
Saved (1 Cor. 1:18)
Redemption (Eph. 1:7)
Forgiven (1 John 2:12)
Peace (Rom. 5:1)
Washed (1 Cor. 6:11)
Eternal Life (John 3:14)
Sanctified (1 Cor. 6:11)
The Spirit (1 Cor. 2:12)
Justified (1 Cor. 6:11)
The Word (John 17:14)
Sons (1 John 3:1)
A High Priest (Heb. 8:1)
Complete (Col. 2:1)
An Advocate (1 John 2:2)
WE SHALL BE:
We are of God (1 John 5:19)
Raised (1 Thess. 4:16)
Have passed from death (1 John 3:14)
Changed (1 Cor. 15:52)
We are of the truth (1 John 3:19)
Caught up (1 Thess. 4:17)
We are in Him (1 John 2:5)
See Him (1 John 3:2)
He abideth in us (1 John 3:24)
Be like Him (1 John 3:2)
We have eternal life (1 John 5:11).
Be with Him (1 Thess. 4:17)
We have a Home (2 Cor. 5:1)
Satisfied (Ps. 17:15)
THE GOSPEL PROCLAIMS ASSURANCE
Our Gospel came unto you not in word only, but in power, and in the Holy Ghost and in much assurance” (1 Thess. 1:5).
To have the assurance of salvation, and to rejoice therein, is the normal state of every believer in Christ. To lack this assurance is the result of unbelief of God’s testimony (1 John 5:10) or of traditional teaching (Gal. 3:1; 4:9), or of backsliding (2 Pet. 1:9).
HOW ASSURANCE IS OBTAINED
The assurance of salvation is not obtained by certain inward evidences. It is not the result of attaining to a certain degree of sanctity, or Christian attainment. It is not dependent on the experiences of God’s people. The finished work of Christ is the ground of the believer’s salvation; the testimony of God’s Word gives the assurance of it. Both are outside of himself, and in no wise dependent on him. The perfectness of Christ’s work and the immutability of God’s Word are the two great pillars on which salvation and its assurance rests. God says, “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life” (John 3:36). “All that believe are justified from all things” (Acts 13:39). To believe God because He speaks, is faith; to doubt Him is unbelief. To ask evidence or signs, either external or internal, is equivalent to saying, “I cannot take God’s bare Word for it, and believe that I am saved, because He says it. “Unbelief asks signs; Faith trusts God without them, unbelief wants to “understand” all about it, to reason it out, in order to “believe.” Faith accepts God’s testimony. “By faith we understand” (Heb. 11:1). Unbelief wants to “see” in order to believe (see John 20:25). Faith “believes” to see (Ps. 27:13).
OLD TESTAMENT PICTURES OF ASSURANCE
Such was the faith of Noah. He believed God about a coming flood, while as yet he saw no cloud on the horizon. He had the “assurance” of the deluge one hundred and twenty years before it came. He knew it, and preached it, because he believed God. “Abraham believed God” when He promised to give him a son. “Evidences” were against it, but “he staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief,” although its magnitude might well have made him stagger—“but was strong in faith, being fully persuaded that what He had promised He was able also to perform” (Rom. 4:21). He had the “assurance” of receiving a son, long before Isaac was born, through faith. The Israelites were safe under the shelter of the blood on the lintel and doorposts; they had the assurance of their safety (2 Tim. 3:21) in the Word—“I will pass over you” (Ex. 12:13).
Their security depended on the faithfulness of God, but their assurance of that depended on their confidence in His Word. If they believed that Word simply as He gave it, then they could say—“We are safe, God has said it.” If they consulted their frames and feelings, instead of taking God at His Word, their assurance might go and come. In like manner, many now, instead of receiving God’s testimony and resting on it for the assurance of their salvation, look within themselves, seeking for evidences of assurance there. Of course they are disappointed. There can be no assurance of anything, apart from faith in God. But here comes the difficulty. How can I know if I have faith, and if it be of the right kind? The same kind of faith which accepts God’s testimony that there was a flood in Noah’s days, and implicitly believes it, without further proof, is just the kind of faith that believes God, when He says He has given me eternal life (1 John 5:11). In each case it is taking God at His Word, without further evidence, than that He says it. This is how people get the assurance of salvation.
People want to “feel,” to “realise,” to “enjoy,” before they believe, but this cannot be. God must be believed; His Word must be honoured. “He that hath received His testimony, hath set to his seal that God is true” (John 3:33).
To have the “knowledge of salvation” (Luke 1:77) and “much assurance” (1 Thess. 1:5) was the common property of the saints of early times.
HOW ASSURANCE IS LOST
To encourage doubt and fear, was no part of the teaching of the Lord or His Apostles. “Doubting Castle” had its foundations laid in the dark days, when God’s Book was deposed from the place of authority, and when man’s traditions and human creeds were put in its place. Legality, ritualism, sacramentalism, and purgatory itself were all brought in after, and found easy access among those who had been taught that no assurance of salvation or of Heaven could be gained in this life. Blessed be God, assurance is within reach of all who believe the Gospel of God. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved” are words leaving no room for doubt. “He that hath the Son hath life” (1 John 5:11) is sufficient for a simple soul who can believe God. Such will at once assert their claim to that possession, and joyfully confess, “We know that we have passed from death unto life” (1 John 3:16). And if they be charged with “presumption” for so doing, they may call in the witnesses of earlier times who rejoiced in the same blessedness. Of these, the following may be named:—
Job had assurance (Job 19:25), so had David (Ps. 103:12); Isaiah possessed it (Isa. 6:7); so did Paul (2 Cor. 5:1); John (1 John 3:12); Timothy (2 Tim. 1:9); Peter (1 Pet. 5:1), all the believers at Ephesus (Eph. 1:7); Colosse (Col. 1:12-14), and other Churches. It was the normal condition of believers to know that they were saved and possessors of eternal life. If any lack this now, it must be the result of backsliding (2 Pet. 1:9), or of bad teaching (Gal. 3:1).
There are preachers, some of them of high rank, in the professing Church, who openly vow their opinion that no assurance of salvation is possible in this life; others admit that a favoured few—either those unquestionably elect, or of high degree in Christian virtue—may attain to it, but that the ordinary rank and file of believers must “hope” and “wait” till the revelations of the great day. All this, tested in the clear light of God’s open Bible, is simply nonsense, and the wonder is, that any should be misled and deceived by it. O that men would go to the Book of God, and read it for themselves, in words so plain that the wayfaring man, though a fool, need not err therein. While the wise and the great are blinded and stumble, the simple believer sings—
“The Gospel of the grace of God,
Unchangably the same,
‘Forgiveness’ speaks through Jesus’ blood,
‘Salvation’ in His name.
“‘Eternal life’ for ever sure,
To all who do believe;
‘Eternal glory’ kept secure,
For those who Christ receive.
“Nor height, nor depth, nor earth, nor hell,
Shall ever them remove,
Who in the heart of Jesus dwell,
Who know and trust His love.”
Q.—Is it possible for one to be a believer, and yet to lack the assurance of salvation?
A.—The Scriptures clearly testify that all who believe on the Son of God have everlasting life. This Divine fact cannot be altered or annulled. The possession of eternal life does not depend on the measure of a believer’s intelligence, although the enjoyment of it greatly does. Some have life who have little light and no liberty. They have been taught that doubts and fears are certain “marks” of grace, and that they must be for ever examining themselves to find “evidences” of their Christianity. No doubt many such have life, yet lack the full assurance of it. And there are others (hypocrites) who have lots of assurance, and no Christ.
Q.—Had Paul assurance when he wrote Romans 7:24?
A.—Clearly he had, of his salvation (see verses 4-6). This chapter reveals the struggle between the new life and the old man, and the utter depravity of the flesh in a believer. In verse 25, we have the Deliverer, and in chapter 8:2-13, the power for victory.
Q.—Was Paul afraid of being lost in Corinthians 9:27?
A.—Salvation is not the subject here, but service and its reward. Paul was “always confident” regarding his salvation, because that was in the Lord’s hands; but the ministry or service that the Lord had committed to him was in his own. Like a runner in the games, he might miss the prize. The running, fighting, and self-discipline here mentioned, were to obtain a crown—not salvation. Life is the gift of God (Rom. 6:23); “the crown of life” (Rev. 2:10) is a reward for service here.
Q.—Do the words of Hebrews 6:4-7 apply to believers?
A.—We believe not. That no true believer can “fall away” and “perish” is clearly established by John 10:28. But it must be remembered that there are professors who are not possessors of Christ. A sinner may be “enlightened” and all the rest that we have here, and yet never have been “born again.” The reference is specially concerning those Hebrews who had passed through Pentecostal times, when the “powers of the age to come” were manifestly present, when miracles were wrought and signs given. To turn their back upon all that they had heard and seen was apostasy, for which there is no remedy. No “born again” person ever did that.
Judgment as revealed in the Sacred Scriptures is in several aspects. By confusing these, the Gospel, the believer’s present position, and the sinner’s final doom are alike obscured. There is:
1.—THE JUDGMENT OF THE BELIEVER AS A SINNER.— Past, Rom. 5:8; 1 Pet. 2:24; Gal. 2:20; John 5:24.
2.—THE JUDGMENT OF THE BELIEVER AS A SON.— Present, Heb. 12:6-9; 1 Pet. 4:17; Heb. 12:10; Jas. 5:11; 1 Cor. 5; 11:32.
3.—THE JUDGMENT OF THE BELIEVER AS A SERVANT.— Future, 2 Cor. 5:10; Rev. 22:12; Col. 3:24-25; 1 Cor. 3:13-15; 1 Cor. 4:1-5. THE TIME.—Rev. 22:12; 1 Cor. 4:5; 2 Tim. 4:1; Matt. 25:14-19; Luke 19:15. THE PLACE.—John 14:3; 17:24; Matt. 10:32-34; Rev. 3:5. THE PURPOSE.—2 Cor. 5:10; 2 Tim. 4:9; Rev. 3:21. THE REWARDS.— 1 Cor. 9:25; Rev. 2:10; 1 Thess. 2:19; 1 Pet. 5:4; 2 Tim. 4:8.
The theory of a general judgment of saints and sinners at the end of time, although widely spread and commonly believed, has no foundation in the Scriptures. The present condition of the sinner is that of condemnation (John 3:18). His probation is past. That the unbeliever will be judged in the future, the Scriptures do teach. The Judge (Acts 17:31), the throne (Rev. 20:11), the judgment (John 5:30) and the destiny (Rev. 20:14-15), are all foretold with a precision calculated to arrest the attention of the most indifferent. To the sinner the future is black with clouds of coming judgment, which must, sooner or later, burst upon his unprotected head, and although men are doing their utmost to fritter away these solemn utterances of the Holy and Almighty God, they will surely come to pass, as surely as He is God who uttered them.
THE JUDGMENT OF BELIEVERS AS SINNERS
To the believer in Christ, the future has no terrors His judgment as a sinner is already past. It fell upon his spotless Surety when he stood in his place bearing his sins upon Golgotha. In Christ’s death, God reckons the believer to have died. His judgment has been borne by his Substitute and he, reckoning according to God exclaims, “I have been crucified with Christ” (Gal. 2:20, R.V.). He is therefore judicially dead already. Judgment has been executed, it cannot be repeated. The One who will Himself be the Judge of the sinner has said to the believer—“He that heareth My Word, and believeth Him that sent Me hath eternal life, and cometh not into judgment, but hath passed out of death into life” (John 5:24, R.V.). These words clearly tell of the believer’s complete deliverance from judgment to come, no matter when that judgment may be. There will be judgments great and many—judgments of the living and of the dead; some in time (Matt. 25:31), some in eternity (Rev. 20:11); but in view of all of them, the word concerning the believer is, that he cometh not into judgment.”
THE JUDGMENT OF BELIEVERS AS SONS
The believer no longer stands as a sinner before God awaiting judgment: he is now (1 John 3:2) a child within the Father’s house. He is therefore a subject of its rule, and of the present discipline, exercised by the Father in the circle of His children (Heb. 12:6-9; 4:17) and of Christ as Lord in the Church. This is neither past nor future, but PRESENT. The judgment of God is at present limited to His own: in the future it will be toward the world. Now, all the children of God are continually sharing it. God as a Father has a claim on His children’s obedience (1 Pet. 1:14) and their subjection to His authority (Heb. 12:9). Obedient children receive the Father’s approval (Heb. 11:6) and His companionship (John 14:23), disobedient ones, His corrective Word (John 15:4) and rod (Heb. 12:5). If the believer sin, communion with the Father is broken. If he confesses his sin, and forsakes it, communion is restored (1 John 1:9, Prov. 27:13). If sin remains unconfessed, the Father’s discipline comes in. But all is of grace, and for our profit (Heb. 12:10). Into the circle of the children, judgment unto damnation cometh not. The severest forms of the judgment of the Lord among His own, have as their ultimate object salvation, and not condemnation (see 1 Cor. 5:5, 11:32)
THE JUDGMENT OF BELIEVERS AS SERVANTS
But the believer is not only a son in the family of God: he is also a servant of the Lord Jesus. He has been entrusted with his Master’s goods (see Matt. 25:14), and left on earth as His steward to use them for Him (1 Pet. 4:10). He has been called to a life of service and warfare in the Kingdom and House of his absent Lord and Master (Mark 12:34, 2 Tim 3:3-4), and the reward and recompense of that service is not for the present made known. It will be, in the future, at the judgment seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5:10) There the servants of the Lord will be gathered to receive their Master’s verdict on their service and warfare here. The Greek word “beema,” translated “judgment seat,” means “an elevated place where one may stand”—such as was used by the umpire in the Grecian games to stand upon and watch the progress of the race, and from which the winners received their laurels. The race (Heb. 12:2), the contest (1 Cor. 9:24-27), and the warfare (2 Tim. 2:3-4), are at present going on, and the Lord Jesus from His exalted place is watching the ways (Rev. 2:2), the works (1 Cor. 3:14), and the motives (1 Cor. 4:5) of His people. He will review, declare, and reward what has pleased Him “in that day” (2 Tim. 4:8), when His saints shall be “made manifest before the judgment seat” (2 Cor. 5:10, R.V.).
THE TIME.—After the Lord comes to the air for His people (1 Thess. 4:16) and before He returns with them to the earth (Col. 3:3, Rev. 19:11-14). “The resurrection of the just” is mentioned as the time of recompense (Luke 14:14); the coming of the Lord as the time of reward (Rev. 22:12); and “that day” as the time when the “laid up” crowns will be given (2 Tim 4:8). When the Lord Jesus comes for His saints, He will halt in the air, and from thence “shout” (1 Thess. 4:16). “Unto Him” the saints caught up will be gathered (2 Thess. 2:1), there He will “receive them” unto Himself (John 14:3) and conduct them to “the Father’s house” (as Isaac came forth to the field to meet his bride, received her, and conducted her to his mother’s tent) (Gen. 24), to the place prepared for them, there to be presented faultless “before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy” (Jude 24), and to behold the glory which the Father has given Him (John. 17:24). This is the common portion of the saints, the result of sovereign grace alone. But the saints have been their Master’s stewards and His servants on the earth (1 Pet. 4:11; 1 Cor. 4:1); they have had their Master’s goods and His work entrusted to their care, and in this they have served Him with various degrees of faithfulness (see Luke 19:15-19). The judgment-seat will be the public avowal by Christ of the appreciation with which He has marked the obedience (1 Tim 2:5), the faithfulness (Matt. 24:21), and the devotedness of His own (Matt. 10:42) After David had received the throne and the kingdom of Israel, it was one of his first acts to gather together those who had served him and companied with him in the day of his rejection, and reward them according to their faithfulness, by appointing them places of honour in his kingdom (2 Sam 23). In like manner will the Lord Jesus reward His faithful servants and the sufferers for His Name, in that day.
The rewards will differ according to the measure of the individual faithfulness of the servant (see Luke 19), and the character of the work done or the testimony borne. There will be the “crown of life” (Rev. 2:10), the “crown of righteousness” (2 Tim 4:8), and the “crown of glory” (1 Pet. 5:4). These, unlike the fading wreaths of the earthly victor, are all incorruptible they are honours for eternity. Grace gives us our place in the Father’s house, the measure of our faithfulness to Christ our place in the kingdom.
Some will suffer loss (1 Cor. 3:13). Their work had been abundant in quantity—very busy saints were they—but being sadly deficient in quality, it does not stand the test. Others will be there who have striven hard zealously, but “not lawfully” (2 Tim 2:5), that is, not according to commandments of the Lord. They failed to test the modes and manner of their service by the written Word, they also are “uncrowned” And some who began well but halted in the race, fought well and earnestly for a time, but gave up the contest, ceasing to earnestly contend for the faith and “hold fast” that which they had, will see another “take their crown” (Rev. 2:12).
Q.—Will the sins of believers be dealt with at the judgment seat of Christ?
A.—No. They were dealt with judicially in Christ when He died upon the cross (1 Pet. 2:24). When confessed by the believer, they are forgiven (1 John 1:9). If not confessed but persisted in, the believer becomes a subject of the Lord’s present judgment (1 Cor. 11:31-32). He “will suffer loss“ at the judgment-seat for these, the time spent out of communion with God being lost. Thus he receives “for” or rather “in regard to” the wrong which he hath done (Col. 3:25), not punishment, but loss. If the Lord’s present dealings with His people for their profit “exercised” (Heb. 12:11) the saints more, there would be less haze about the matters to be dealt with at the judgment seat.
Q.—In what sense can a Christian eat and drink damnation, as we read in 1 Corinthians 11:29?
A.—The word “damnation” in the Authorised Version is “krima,“ commonly translated “judgment,“ and it is thus given in the Revised Version. It does not necessarily imply that the person suffers eternal condemnation. The context here shows that the “judgment” is the present dealings of the Lord toward His own people, owing to their continuance in known sin, and their unwillingness to judge themselves. It took the form of sickness, weakness, and even death, but even in this, its severest form, it did not go beyond the present. It was judgment within “the house of God” (1 Pet. 4:17), and not “Condemnation with the world” (1 Cor. 11:32).
He is coming—Oh! how solemn
When the Judge’s voice is heard,
And in His own light He shows us
Every thought, and act, and word!
Deeds of merit, as we thought them,
He will show us were but sin;
Little acts we had forgotten
He will tell us were for Him.
Oh! what joy when He imputeth
Righteousness instead of sin;
Sweet to take the linen garments,
All a gift, and all from Him.
He is coming as the Bridegroom,
Coming to unfold at last
The great secret of His purpose,
Mystery of ages past.
And the Bride, to her is granted
In His beauty now to shine,
As in rapture she exclaimeth,
‘I am His and He is mine.’
Oh! what joy that marriage union,
Mystery of love Divine;
Sweet to sing in all its fulness
‘I am His, and He is mine,’”
There are various aspects of Sanctification mentioned in the Scriptures.
1.—The Sanctification of Christ (John 10:36; John 17:19); His setting apart as the Servant and the Sacrifice.
2.—The Sanctification of believers unto God (1 Cor. 1:2; Thess. 2:13).
The sanctification of believers is twofold, viz.—That which is wrought for them, and that which is wrought in them. First, that which is effected for them, once and for ever (see 1 Cor. 1:2; 6:11; Acts 20:32; 26:18, R.V.); the work of God, the Father (Jude 2); and Christ the Son (Heb. 2:11; Eph. 5:26). This may be called the positional side of Sanctification. It pertains to all believers, and, being the work of God, it is perfect and inviolable. Second, that which is continuous and practical. This is effected in the believer by the Spirit (1 Thess. 5:23), through the Word (John 17:17).
Sanctification is one of the many truths that tradition has sadly obscured. The popular thought in connection with sanctification is that it is a process by which a bad person is made good and a vile person made holy; that, inch by inch, that which is evil in him is changed into that which is good, the evil being either absorbed or eradicated. Some have even gone the length of saying that until this process is complete, the believer is not meet for Heaven; when it is, then he is “fully ripe,” and too good to remain longer on earth. All this is so erroneous, that it disturbs the very foundations of the Gospel. This is not what the Word of God teaches about Sanctification at all. The testimony of that Book is that the flesh is bad, only bad, always bad. It cannot be converted into holiness; it cannot be renewed. The “new man” in the believer does not expel it, nor absorb it; the two remain distinct.
THE MEANING OF THE WORD
Let us look first at the meaning of the word. The word “sanctify” means simply to “set apart.” It is used in the Old Testament in connection with the Sabbath, which God “sanctified” (Gen. 2:3), that is, He set it apart. It remained a day, the same in duration as other days, but it was “set apart” by God for a special purpose. The “first-born” of men and beasts was sanctified (Ex. 13:2). The Brazen Altar of the Tabernacle (Ex. 29:44) and the garments of the priests (Ex. 28:2) were sanctified. The gold put info the temple and the “gift” put on the altar were “sanctified” (Matt. 23:19), yet they were exactly the same intrinsically as they had been before. The gold was not more refined, but it had become God’s property. Once it was the giver’s own, now it was God’s. It was set apart for His service alone. The Mount on which the Lord was transfigured is called “The Holy Mount” (2 Pet. 1:18). It was not changed in its substance or locality, but, by reason of the Divine glory, and the heavenly light that shone upon it, it was for the time “sanctified.” It is written of the Lord Jesus Himself, that He was the sanctified One. “The Father” sanctified the “Son” (John 10:36); and the Son Himself says, “I sanctify Myself” (John 17:10). Clearly this cannot mean that He was made holier or better, but that He was “set apart” to be the Sacrifice for and the Saviour of sinners. To sanctify is therefore “to set apart” to God, or to some holy purpose. Sanctification is that act, or that condition into which the “set apart” ones are introduced.
SANCTIFICATION: PAST AND PRESENT
There are two aspects of sanctification presented in the Scriptures, of which all believers have been and are the subjects.
First.—That which is past and perfect, being the work of God, it cannot be undone. Of this aspect of Sanctification the following Scriptures speak:—“To them that are (or have been) sanctified” (1 Cor. 1:2). “Ye were sanctified” (1 Cor. 6:11 R.V.); also Acts 20:32; 26:18. This is said to be done by “God the Father” (Jude 2), and “whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever; nothing can be put to it, nor anything taken from it” (Eccl. 3:14). By the “blood” of Christ (Heb. 12:12). By the one offering of the body of Christ (Heb. 10:10). By union with Christ the “Sanctifier,” and the “sanctified” are “all of one” (Heb. 2:11). “I ascend to my Father, and your Father, to my God, and your God” (John 20:17). The word “saint” means “holy one,” and this term is applied to all believers. They are “called saints,” or “saints by calling” (Rom. 1:7), not by attainment. We have the same right to say “Saint” Mary Magdalene, and “Saint” Dorcas, as to say “Saint” Peter and “Saint” Paul.
Again we read—“Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, sanctification, and redemption” (1 Cor. 1:30). Here the believer’s sanctification as well as his righteousness is found in Christ. Apart from Christ he could neither be justified nor sanctified, in Christ he is both. Happy it is when he is able to say—
“Just as Thou art, Thou Lamb Divine,
Life, Light, and Holiness are Thine,
THYSELF their endless source I see,
And they the life of God in me.“
Instrumentally he receives this by faith. Hence we read of receiving “forgiveness of sins, and an inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in Me” (Acts 26:18). Faith receives the testimony of God; it reckons with Him, and takes the place that grace gives it. “Justified by blood,” the believing sinner can lift up his head to a righteous God in the courts of His justice without fear of condemnation.
“Sanctified” by blood, he can raise his spirit in worship to a holy God in His temple, assured that the sacrifice of his praise is acceptable (Heb. 13:13). By the same work—the work of the Cross, he is perfectly justified and perfectly sanctified.
SANCTIFICATION: EXPERIMENTAL AND PRACTICAL
But all this has a practical and experimental side. The words “The very God of peace sanctify you wholly” (1 Thess. 5:23), and the ever-memorable prayer of the Master, “Sanctify them through Thy truth; Thy Word is truth” (John 17:17) refer to this aspect of sanctification.
The priests of old washed their hands and feet at the layer in the court, to maintain them in a clean condition, in which they might exercise the functions of the priesthood. So the Christian must daily cleanse his ways by the Word (Ps. 119:9), and separate from him all that would unfit him morally for the presence and service of his God. He is to live as “becometh a saint” (Eph. 5:2), and to purge himself “from all filthiness of flesh and spirit” (2 Cor. 7:2), from unequal yokes and unholy alliances (2 Cor. 6:14-17), and from the holders and teachers of evil doctrine. Only thus shall he be “a vessel sanctified,” meet for the Master’s use.
The believer may fail to give this practical side of the truth its place. The Corinthian saints were “sanctified in Christ Jesus” (1 Cor. 1:2), positionally, at the time the first epistle was addressed to them. But practically, they were failing to live as “becometh saints.” Unjudged sin was among them. They dishonoured their holy calling. In arousing them to a sense of their fallen condition, the Apostle does not suggest that they had, by their failure, forfeited their “sanctified” position. On the contrary, the call to put away the evil from among them is based upon it. The measure of our subjection to Christ as the Lord, and of obedience to His Word, will mark the measure of our practical sanctification.
The believer is therefore regarded as being sanctified, as well as justified perfectly. Once for all, He stands in a changed relationship to God, not only as a Judge in His courts, but as the Holy One of His sanctuary. The believer stands before His throne accepted in the work of Another. He is no longer of the world; he is crucified, dead to it by the Cross. His standing is now in Christ. He is one of the “holy brethren, partakes of a heavenly calling” (Heb. 3:1), and just because he is so placed in a position of nearness to God, a worshipper in His temple, a servant in His courts, He eschews and stands clear of all that is contrary to the place into which grace has brought him.
Q.—Are the expressions, “Complete Sanctification” and “The Higher Life,’” so often heard and seen in print, according to Scripture?
A.—Neither of these terms is to be found in Scripture, and we think both are misleading. The sanctification of every believer, as the work of God and Christ, is certainly “complete”—nothing can make it more so. But this is not what the advocates of “complete sanctification (?)” contend for. Theirs is an experimental thing, said to be attained by an act of faith—by some in a moment, by others after a process of crucifixion of the flesh, or penance. This is absolute nonsense. Call it by whatever name they may, it may not be called “sanctification,” as Scripture uses the word. “The Higher Life” is akin to this, in so far as it is said to be a something (what that something is is a little hazy) attained after conversion, and by an act of faith or consecration. Conferences and meetings are convened for the purpose of bringing believers into this “state,” and many profess to “get it” in a moment, as sinners get life in Christ by believing. That they get another “life” is impossible; for if they have been “born again” they have Christ-life already (1 John 5:11-12; Col. 3:3), and there is nothing “higher” than that. If they had not this before, then what happened was simply this—that they were “born again”—a necessary thing for many an actively religious person. Or, again, some who had been the children of God before and who had life but little “light,” and perhaps no “liberty,” were delivered from the fetters of traditional religion, and set free by the truth of a full Gospel into the enjoyment of God’s salvation. No doubt this was a great deliverance, in some cases, in so far as the experience of it goes, greater than what they received when they were born again. But then it should be called by its right name, and that would simply be Liberty. As it is written, “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). All this is nothing more than what God’s Gospel brings to every sinner who hears and believes it, in its simplicity and fulness at the time of his conversion, and what hundreds received at once when they passed from death unto life. We have noticed that those who get this second experience are chiefly persons who have all their days been fettered by ritualism and legality, and who have either been sitting under a “dead” preacher, who has kept them in bondage, or one who has not known the liberty of God, and who will soon put them back into their former state if they “sit under” his teaching after they have been delivered.
“What is the foulest thing on earth?
Bethink thee now and tell:
It is a soul by sin defiled,
’Tis only fit for hell;
It is the loathsome earthly den,
Where evil spirits dwell.
“And what’s the purest thing on earth?
Come, tell me if you know;
’Tis that same soul by Jesus cleansed,
Washed whiter far than snow;
There’s nought more pure above the sky,
And nought else pure below.
“God’s eye of flame that searches all,
And finds e’en heaven unclean,
Rests on that soul in full delight,
For not a spot is seen.
Cleansed every whit in Jesus’ blood,
Whate’er its guilt has been.
“He sees no sin, but sees the BLOOD,
That covers all the sin;
’Tis Christ upon the soul without,
’Tis Christ He sees within,
To judge it foul, were just to judge
God’s Christ Himself unclean.
“Thou Lamb of God! Thy wondrous grace
This great redemption wrought;
Not only snatched from yawning hell,
But to God’s bosom brought;
And raised the ruined wrecks of sin
Above created thought!”
Perfection, as applied to believers here on earth, is a term at which many have stumbled. The world naturally looks upon any approach to this as hypocrisy, and many true believers regard the word as “dangerous.” The word is used by the Spirit of God, nevertheless, to describe that which belongs to Christians, while yet on earth in mortal flesh, and we ought to dismiss prejudice and suspicion from our minds, and seek to learn what God would teach us by the frequent use of this Word.
Perfection is viewed in a variety of aspects in the Holy Scriptures. By confounding these, obscurity and error regarding this truth largely prevails.
PERFECTION, NOT SINLESSNESS
In no single instance is perfection the correlative of sinlessness, as applied to men. “Sinless perfection,” so far as regenerate man in this life is concerned, is a dangerous error and a delusion, as the lives of many of those who are its advocates plainly show. Regenerated, converted, and indwelt by the Holy Spirit, the believer yet has “the flesh” within him. It is no longer his master (Rom. 6:7) or the law of his being (Rom. 8:2), as in unregenerate days, yet it requires to be restrained and left “provisionless” (Rom. 13:14), and always treated with “no confidence” (Phil. 3:3).
PERFECTION, IN VARIOUS ASPECTS
The English words “perfection” and “perfect,” in our Authorised Version, represent several words in Greek, having different meanings. For example:—
1. Teleois is the word rendered “perfect” in Matthew 5:48, as to God; His will (Rom. 12:2); and His love (1 John 4:17). It signifies “accomplished,” “complete.” It is rendered “full age” in Hebrews 5:14; and “full-grown men” and in the Revised Version.
2. Pleeroo—rendered “perfect” in Revelation 3:2; “complete” (Col. 2:10); and “full” (1 John 1:4). It means literally “filled full.”
3. Katartizo—translated—“Be perfect” (2 Cor. 13:11); “perfectly joined together” (1 Cor. 1:10); “restore” (Gal. 6:1). It means “thoroughly adjusted,” as in the “mending of nets” (see Mark 1:19).
The words “perfect” or “perfection” are sometimes used absolutely, as in regard to God (Job 37:16); sometimes relatively, as in regard to men (see Job 1:8, Ps. 37:37).
Perfection, when it is used in connection with GOD, is absolute. He is perfect in Himself (Matt. 5:48), in His will (Rom. 12:2), His way (2 Sam. 22:31), and His work (Deut. 32:4).
The Lord Jesus was absolutely the Perfect One. He was perfect in His Person (Heb. 2:10; 5:9), His path (Heb. 12:2) (for “Finisher,” read “Perfecter,” see Revised Version), His sacrifice (Heb. 10:11-14), and His priesthood (Heb. 7:28, R.V.). Absolute perfectness belongs to God and Christ alone. It would be blasphemy to speak of the creature in words which are only true of the Creator, or to apply to man attributes which belong to God and Christ alone.
THE PERFECT SACRIFICE OF CHRIST
The blood of the sacrifices offered upon Jewish altars could not atone for sin. They pointed onward to a “better sacrifice.” Their frequent repetition, confessed their weakness.
“The law made nothing perfect” (Heb. 7:19); its imperfect sacrifices, offered year by year, could not in perpetuity make the offerer perfect. The tabernacle, the sacrifice, and the priest, were only “shadows of coming good things” (Heb. 10:1). But “Christ being come” changes all. Whatever He touches He perfects; hence we have in Him a “perfect tabernacle” (Heb. 9:11); a “perfect sacrifice” (Heb. 10:12); and by His “one offering He hath perfected for ever (to perpetuity) those who are being sanctified” (Heb. 10:14, R.V.). By His perfect sacrifice, believers receive a perfectly-purged conscience (Heb. 10:2), in His person they have a perfect standing in grace before God (Rom. 5:2). This is the positional side of perfection, secured for all the saints in and by Christ Jesus: the same to the “babe” as to the “father” in Christ, shared alike by the young believer of yesterday and the “full-grown man in Christ”, who has known Him for years.
PERFECTION OF BELIEVERS
This is a sense in which Scripture speaks of perfection as applicable to believers. This is not innate; it does not belong to them as men; if they possess it at all, it must be derived. It must come to them from Another, either by imputation or impartation. The Scripture teaches that believers are “reckoned righteous” because of the work of Christ, although they are in themselves unjust and unworthy. They are accounted holy, or sanctified, because of their association with Him who is the Holy One. In Him they are reckoned to have died and risen. In like manner are they accounted perfect.
All that He was in life and in death, is reckoned to them. They stand before God, graced with all the beauty of their Redeemer. They are accepted in the Beloved (Eph. 1:6). All that God sees and knows Him to be, is counted theirs. And thus they can say, “As He is, so are we in this world” (1 John 4:17). No holy living or growth in Christian life can add to the perfect standing of the believer; he stands already accepted in all the excellency of the Son of God, “the same yesterday, and today, and for ever” (Heb. 13:8).
The words “clean every whit” (John 13:10), and “for ever” (Heb. 1:14) are true of all believers—always, and in all conditions. They are so by virtue of the perfect sacrifice once offered on their behalf, under the shelter of which they stand for ever before God. They are able to lift up their heads in the presence of God without fear, because they know He looks upon them as one with Christ. “Perfect love” believed has cast out fear (1 John 4:18). “Perfect peace” possesses them, because they trust in Him (Isa. 26:3). “Perfect strength” is supplied to them in weakness (2 Cor. 12:9). All this is their inviolable portion “in Christ Jesus.”
By virtue of their union with Christ, believers are “complete in Him” (Col. 2:10). (The same word is rendered “perfect” in Revelation 3:2, and means literally “filled full.”) In this positional perfectness all believers alike share, seeing all are “in Christ” (Rom. 8:1).
PERFECTION IN PRACTICE
Perfection in practice has only been seen on earth in Christ. He perfectly revealed the Father. He perfectly obeyed the will of God. He perfectly fulfilled all that the Father had given Him to do. He stands alone. Beside Jesus Christ, there is no equal. His faithful followers, apostles, and martyrs have no place with Him. “In all things” He must have the pre-eminence. “Fairer than the children of men”; “Chiefest among ten thousand” is He. We must zealously guard against putting angels or saints on a level with Him. In absolute perfectness He stands alone. In the coming day of glory, when His saints shall bear His image, they shall be like Him. They shall be presented holy, unblameable, and unreproveable in God’s sight (Col. 1:22). Yet the believer is called to perfectness. “Be ye perfect as your Father which is in Heaven is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). This means that the Christian here on earth is to act toward his enemies as God now acts toward His. He is to manifest toward men the character of his God, acting in grace and with compassion—a lesson constantly needed by believers. Saints are also exhorted to “be perfect” (2 Cor. 13:11) in their relations toward each other. The word here means to be “perfectly joined together” (as in 1 Cor. 1:10), and is the opposite of that jangling and agreeing to differ, so common among those who bear the Christian name. They are not simply to endeavour to get on, one with another, but to be of the “same mind in the Lord.” They are also called to be “perfect as full-grown men,” and not always “babes” (Heb. 5:14; 1 Cor. 3:1). There is room for growth in the Christian life. By feeding on the Word (1 Pet. 2:2) and walking in the ways of the Lord, the believer goes from strength to strength. He sees much land still to possess, and he presses on, not as though he had “already attained, either were already perfect” (Phil. 3:15).
It is no question here of sinless perfection, but of growth and attainment in Christian stature. Absolute perfection, freedom from sin, is not to be attained here. Some have gone as far as to say that sin has been eradicated from them altogether, and that this is possible to the saints. This is an error and a delusion. It comes up periodically under different names, such as “purity of heart”, holiness of faith, “perfect love,” differing slightly in mode of expression and measure of perversion of the truth, but agreed in this, that the roots of sin may be extracted from the nature of men, or the flesh rendered inoperative, as if it were dead. This takes away all need for watchfulness, for if the flesh has been removed, or rendered incapable of acting, there is only one nature. But what saith Scripture, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8).
Through grace, sin may be “bridled.” Abiding in Christ, victory will be gained over it; but at no time and in no condition can it be said that the believer is “without sin,” until the day of final deliverance, when he shall be set free from sin’s presence, as he now is from its penalty and its power.
Q.—Are we warranted in using such expressions as “the perfect life,” “the holy life,” and “the life of faith” to describe certain stages of Christian growth?
A.—The “life” in every believer is the same; it is Christ-life—divine and eternal. There can be no more to “perfect life” than this, and of this life every believer is made possessor at the moment of his faith in Christ, as it is written, “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life” (John 3:36). There may be varied degrees of its manifestation, as in the “child,” the “young man,” and “the father” (1 John 2:16), and these distinctions are acknowledged in Scripture. So are the “carnal” and the “spiritual” (1 Cor. 3:1); but the terms mentioned (although in common use) are anti-Scriptural and misleading.
Q.—How would you treat a person who says that he has attained to perfection?
A.—With the greatest suspicion. Some of this class may be ignorant or weak, yet sincere; but the greater number have proved themselves to be knaves and hypocrites.
Q.—Is “perfectness” or “full growth” attained by an act of faith, or is it a gradual development of spiritual life?
A.—Spiritual growth, according to God, is as the growth of nature—“First the blade, then the ear, then the full corn” (Mark 4:28). “He shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon” (Ps. 92:12); “as the lily” (Hos. 14:5); not by fits and starts, but steadily gaining stature, strength, and beauty.
“Just as Thou art—how wondrous fair,
Lord Jesus, all Thy members are!
A life divine to them is given—
A long inheritance in Heaven.
“Just as I was I came to Thee,
An heir of wrath and misery;
Just as Thou art before the throne,
I stand in righteousness Thine own.
“Just as Thou art—how wondrous free!
Loosed by the sorrows of the tree:
Jesus! the curse, the wrath were Thine,
To give Thy saints this life divine.
“Just as Thou art—nor doubt, nor fear
Can with Thy spotlessness appear;
O timeless love; as Thee, I’m seen
The righteousness of God in Him.
“Just as Thou art—Thou Lamb Divine;
Life, light, and holiness are Thine!
Thyself their endless source I see,
And they, the life of God, in me,”
Man’s natural state is one of spiritual death. He exists, but he is without “life.” “Dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1). “Alienated from the life of God” (Eph. 4:18). “Dead while she liveth” (1 Tim. 5:6). “Ye have no life in you” (John 6:53). Such are the words used to describe the condition of the unconverted on earth. In eternity the unbeliever will still exist, but he “shall not see life” (John 3:36). “He that hath not the Son of God hath not life” (1 John 5:12).
Life—as used in these Scriptures—is more than mere existence. The paper of this book exists, but it has no life. The lost will exist in endless woe, yet they “shall not see life.” Endless existence belongs to saved and unsaved alike; eternal life is the portion of those who are in Christ alone. Wherever we read “hath eternal life,” it has reference to a condition of spiritual blessedness; wherever the lack of it is recorded, it involves separation from God and conscious misery. There is a natural life and there is a spiritual life, so likewise there is a natural death and there is a spiritual death. All the time that the prodigal was away from his father’s house, he was regarded by his father as “dead,” yet terribly alive in sin. His return and restoration is described as being made “alive again” (Luke 15:32). Spiritual death is the state of all the unregenerate: they are “alienated from the life of God” (Eph. 4:18). They “abide in death” (1 John 3:14) at enmity with God. At conversion, the believer passes “from death unto life” (John 5:24), “from the power of Satan unto God” (Acts 26:18).
THE SOURCE OF LIFE
“The living God” (1 Tim. 4:10). “With Thee is the fountain of life” (Ps. 36:9). “The Father hath life in Himelf” (John 5:26). The fountain was there, but no stream had had yet come forth. “No man hath seen God at any time, the only begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father He hath declared Him” (John 1:18). It remained for the Son to come forth and “show unto us that eternal life which was with the Father” (1 John 1:2)
ETERNAL LIFE MANIFESTED
“The life was manifested and we have seen it” (1 John 1:2). “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men” (John 1:4). “God was manifest in the flesh” (1 Tim. 3:16). From the manger of Bethlehem to the Cross of Calvary, “the life” was manifested in all spheres, among friends and foes the life Divine shone forth, and at the close of that wondrous pathway the living One laid down His life for the sheep (John 10:15). “This is the true God and eternal life” (1 John 5:20).
Jesus was the “Prince of life.” He took flesh and blood: He “became in the likeness of men,” yet He was different from all. “In Him there was no sin.” He was not in that state of death, or separation from God, in which sin had placed all Adam’s posterity. “As the Father hath life in Himself, so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself“ (John 5:26). Yet He could not share that life with others apart from death. His own words are, “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground it abideth alone, but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit” (John 12:24). Let those who make great pretensions to be admirers of the life of Jesus of Nazareth, but who reject His atoning death, or regard it as unnecessary, remember this: Like as the rock in the desert of old had to be smitten ere the stream could flow to quench the thirst of the needy host of Israel, so Christ must be “stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted”: He must die the sinner’s death before He could make him a sharer of eternal life now, and eternal glory hereafter.
ETERNAL LIFE IMPARTED
“I am come that they might have life” (John 10:10). “The Son quickeneth whom He will” (John 5:21). “Believing ye might have life through His name” (John 20:31). The gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom 6:23 R.V.). When the sinner believes on Christ, he receives everlasting life (John 3:15). When the Gospel is “put away” by the unbeliever, he judges himself unworthy of everlasting life (Acts 13:46), and abides in death. Although the full manifestation of that life awaits a future day, its present possession is the portion of all believers. The “babe” and the “father” in Christ alike share it. There may be varied stages of growth, but the life is essentially the same in all. It is eternal life: it cannot be lost: it will not perish. It is received by faith. “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life” (John 3:36). It is not communicated through sacraments; neither baptism nor the Lord’s Supper have anything whatever to do with the communication of life. They are for the living, not for the dead. The way of life is plain and clear. The Lord Jesus says, “He that heareth My Word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life” (John 5:24). “They that hear shall live” (John 5:25). He, and He only, is the Life-giver; He does not delegate this to priest or parson. To Him, therefore, the sinner must go; there is “life” in no other. His Word to the unbeliever is, “Ye will not come to Me, that ye might have life” (John 5:40). Many go to “Church” and “Sacrament” who have never been to Christ.
ETERNAL LIFE POSSESSED
“He that hath the Son hath life” (1 John 5:12). “I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish” (John 10:28). “These things have I written unto you, that ye may know that ye have eternal life who believe on the name of the Son of God” (1 John 5:13, R.V.). These Scriptures, and many others, give definite testimony that the believer is already in possession of eternal life, and at no future period will he be without it, otherwise it would not be “eternal.” God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is “in His Son” (1 John 5:1). “Your life is hid with Christ in God” (Col. 3:3). It cannot be touched by men or demons: its source is beyond their reach. The unscriptural theory that a saint may lose eternal life and finally perish, can have no place where this is received as the truth of God. To make life dependent on the believer, is to dishonour the Life-giver, and to make man his own preserver.
ETERNAL LIFE EXHIBITED
As to its manifestation, this life is in the believer. He is called to manifest the “life of Jesus” in his mortal body (2 Cor. 4:10), and no longer the “old man.” No more I that live, “but Christ liveth in me” (Gal. 2:20), ought to be practically, as it is judicially, the expression of the believer’s experience. The treasure is yet in an “earthen vessel”—not as it yet shall be, in a glorified body—but this need not hinder it from being manifest. Men looking on may take knowledge that a new power dominates the man, although his place and surroundings among them remain unchanged. The body is the same. The members are as they formerly were, but a new power rules them. They are no longer the tools of sin, but the instruments of righteousness unto God. The “spirit” that formerly energised them, when they were “children of disobedience” (Eph. 2:2), ceases to have control. It has been superseded by the “Spirit of God” who now indwells the bodies of saints. An illustration may help us here. There was in time past a certain house of rather questionable repute in a public part of this city. By-and-bye it changed owners. The new proprietor had the place gutted out and thoroughly cleaned, and in a few days we saw a large placard fixed in the window with the words—“WILL BE OPENED, UNDER ENTIRELY NEW MANAGEMENT.” The old place stood outwardly as before, but a new kind of business, under a new manager, was henceforth carried on there. The body of the converted man is as it was in former days. His earthly calling, his home and surroundings may be the same, but he is now under new management. Divine life in his mortal body, and the Spirit of God now guides and controls him.
ETERNAL LIFE IN PROSPECT
“The end eternal life” (Rom. 6:22, R.V.). “In hope of eternal life” (Tit. 1:2). “Looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life” (Jude 21). These passages view eternal life in its finality. In resurrection, the believer will enter upon life in a new sphere, in a body fitted for its full enjoyment. Here it dwells in mortal flesh, groaning for deliverance; there it will be at home in a “spiritual body,” a vessel suited to its full and perfect manifestation, in that glory to which its possessor is even now called (1 Pet. 5:10). The “life” will be the same then as now, but in the resurrection state it will be in other surroundings. There will be nothing to hinder it there as there is here. The saints will “reign in life” with Christ, and instead of sin and death, and the unceasing groan of a burdened creation, there will be the “all things new,” “the river of the water of life,” unceasingly flowing the “tree of life” continuously bearing its fruits, and “no more death” in that “land of the living.”
“The charms that woo the senses
Shall be as pure as fair;
And all while stealing o’er us
Shall tell of Jesus there.”
Q.—What is the difference between “eternal life” and “immortality”?
A.—“Eternal life” is the present possession of believers. Those who are alive and remain unto the the coming of the Lord will receive “immortality” (1 Cor. 15:53 54). “Immortality” is not used to describe a condition of the soul as separate from the body, but of the entire man. The living saints will put on “immortality”; the sleeping saints will put on “incorruption” at the coming of the Lord. Both sleeping and waking saints were possessors of “eternal life” before.
Q.—Is the “immortality of the soul” a right phrase? Preachers often say to their hearers—“You have an immortal soul which will live for ever.” Is that correct?
A.—The statement is not according to Scripture. Annihilationists and propounders of “conditional immortality,” as they call it, are constantly offering “rewards” of five and fifty pounds for a text to prove that the soul is immortal. We at once admit that there is no such text, and that the expression is not the language of Scripture, although the meaning is perfectly correct. Man as such, converted or unconverted, is composed of “spirit, soul, and body.” At death the body is laid in the grave; not so the soul. It cannot be “killed” (see Matt. 11:28). At the resurrection these parts are re-knit. There is a resurrection of “the unjust” as well as of the saints (Acts 24:15), a “resurrection of judgment” as well as of life (John 5:29, R.V.). This clearly shows that the lost do not cease to exist. Their existence and their torment will be “for ever and ever.”
“The love of God is righteous love,
Inscribed upon Golgotha’s tree,
Love that exacts the sinner’s debt;
Yet, in exacting, sets him free.
“Love that condemns the sinner’s sin,
Yet in condemning, pardon seals;
That saves from righteous wrath, and yet,
In saving, righteousness reveals.
“No, not the love without the blood;
That were to me no love at all;
It could not reach my sinful soul,
Nor hush the fears that me appal.
“I need the love, I need the blood,
I need the grace, the cross, the grave;
I need the resurrection power,
A soul like mine to purge and save.”
Separation is pre-eminently the Work of God. To separate from sin and sinners is part of the purpose of God in sending forth His Gospel and His Word among men. In the ways of God, separation comes before unity. There must be a severance from what is opposed to God and His Word before there can be a unity according to the mind of God. God’s way is to sever from Satan, from sin, from the world; then to unite to Christ and to Christ’s. Faith reckons with God. The first great act of separation known by the sinner who believes the Gospel of God is...
SEPARATION FROM SINS
It was said concerning the promised Saviour, “Thou shalt call His Name Jesus, for it is He that shall save His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21, R.V.). In keeping with this is the great Gospel charter as given in the words of inspiration in 1 Corinthians 15:1, “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.” When the sinner believes the Gospel, he is able to take up the words of the song, “Unto Him who loveth us, and loosed us from our sins in His own blood” (Rev. 1:5, R.V.). The penalty of sin is gone, but this is not all: the power of sin is broken. He is “loosed” from his sins. They no longer hold him captive. He is severed, cut off, separated from them, in the blood of the Lamb.
SEPARATION FROM THE WORLD
The believer is also separated from the world. The world is the empire of Satan. He is the “prince of this world” (John 14:30); “the god of this age” (2 Cor. 4:4, R.V.). He is the ruler of the darkness of this world. Since the day that he goaded it on to Calvary, there to reject and crucify the Son of God, the world has been at variance with God. It has made its choice, it has cast off its allegiance to Heaven, and for this it is under judgment. For a time grace delays the execution of the sentence, until a people has been gathered out of it for Christ but its doom is sure. Meanwhile it “lieth in the evil one” (1 John 5:19, R.V.). All that is in it is “not of the Father” (1 John 2:16, R.V.). This makes separation from it a necessity. As of old, when the Lord said—“Let there be light,” and light was, He next “divided the light from the darkness” (Gen. 1:3-4); so, when God creates anew, when He speaks the life-giving Word, which brings the sinner out of death into life. He next delivers the saved one—His own workmanship, as the light was of old—from that which is opposed to it. Saints are “children of the light”; they are “light in the Lord.” Sinners are “darkness,” and they abide under the power of darkness, in the kingdom of Satan (see Eph. 5:8; Col. 1:13). Therefore, there must be a separation, for “what communion hath light with darkness?” This separation is the will and work of God. In His intercessory prayer, the Lord Jesus speaks to the Father of “the men whom Thou gavest Me out of the world” (John 17:6). By the Cross of Christ, the believer is crucified to the world (Gal. 6:14) and all its belongings. He is “not of the world,” even as Christ is not of the world. The measure of the Lord’s separation is the measure of ours, for “as He is, so are we in this world” (1 John 4:17). As the Red Sea rolled between the people of Israel and Egypt, separating them from their old associations, their old occupations, and their old religion, so the Cross of Christ stands between the believer and the world. His separation from it, so far as the purpose of God and the work of Christ are concerned, is complete. But there is to be a practical response to all this; a manifest separation of the “born again” one from the unconverted. “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers” (2 Cor. 6:14); “Be not conformed to this world”; “Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness” (Eph. 5:11), are the plain commandments of the Lord to His people today. They are not to be frittered away; they mean exactly what they say. To go “hand and glove” with the world is to go against God. “Know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God.” “Whoever therefore would be the friend of the world maketh himself an ENEMY of God” (Jas. 4:4, R.V.). This is plain enough. There need be no mistake about it. Yet, strange to say, God’s people are to be found in almost every circle of worldliness, social, political, commercial, and religious, unequally yoked with the ungodly, sharing their amusements, enjoyments, and pursuits, virtually saying, as Jehoshaphat did to Ahab, the ungodly king of old, “I am as thou art.” What a stumbling-block such people are to the world! What a dishonour to God, and what a disgrace to Christ and Christianity! The devil hates separation; he seeks by force and guile to oppose it at every step, as Pharaoh sought first by persecution, and next by concessions, to hinder the complete separation of Israel from Egypt, and thus blight their testimony as the people of Jehovah. Moses, with the claims of Jehovah in his heart and in his hand, yielding nothing, claiming everything for God, and demanding that every “hoof” shall cross the Red Sea into the wilderness, the place of separation, is here the type of the believer who has learned God’s claims, and will allow nothing to hinder full obedience to all that He has commanded.
SEPARATION FROM FALSE PROFESSORS
Not only does the Lord command His people to be separate from the world, but from all who bear the Christian name, whose words and ways and works too plainly tell that they are professors, but not possessors of Christ. “Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof, from such turn away” (2 Tim. 3:5). Under the name of Christianity, darker deeds are done than in heathendom. Under the shelter of a Christian profession, almost every form of vice and scandal has been perpetrated. It is no guarantee that a man is born of God that he says, “Our Father which art in Heaven,” and speaks of Jesus as his Saviour and Lord. “Why call ye Me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” was the word of Christ during His ministry to mere professors, and since then their numbers have enormously increased. It is respectable now to be called a Christian. There is no Cross in being a member of the world’s churches. The people who go to worship go to dance, and it would be easy to find those who had been at what they call “the Lord’s Table” on Sunday, around the drunkard’s cup or in the gambler’s den on Monday. The Christian, the truly born again one, is called to be separate from all this abominable iniquity, on which the judgment of God must shortly fall. His place is to go forth “without the camp,” unto Christ, “bearing His reproach” (Heb. 13:12-13), and have no fellowship, no companionship, no intercourse, with those who are the “enemies of the Cross of Christ.”
SEPARATION FROM HOLDERS OF EVIL DOCTRINE
The commandments of the Lord concerning the entire separation of His people from such as hold and teach erroneous doctrine, subversive of the truth of God, are often neglected or lightly esteemed. Evil practice is often an open shame, and for their own sakes believers are not apt to associate with the drunkard or the unclean, even if they once bore the Christian name. But among those who hold and teach erroneous doctrine, overthrowing the faith of God’s people (2 Tim. 2:18), many are personally very amiable and lovable persons. That is just where their power for evil lies, and God, who knows them and the leavening character of their words and devices, commands His people to be separate from them (see 1 Tim. 6:5; 2 Tim. 2:16-17). If such a person comes to their house, they are not to receive him or bid him “God-speed,” because to “greet him” would be, in the reckoning of God, to become “partaker in his evil works” (2 John 10, R.V.). Hence the need of separation. In a day of increasing corruptness and departure from the faith, it becomes the people of God to ponder this solemn message of the Lord, and not allow their fleshy love of acquaintance, or kindred, to hinder them from yielding to God that full obedience which He seeks in His people, in their absolute separation from men, whatever their gifts or graces, who preach and teach that which is subversive of the faith and opposed to the truth of God.
SEPARATION FROM ECCLESIASTICAL EVIL
Not the least in importance—yet, alas! one of the last to be regarded—is the Lord’s call to His people who are found in unholy associations, and alliances, to “come out from among them, and be ye separate” (2 Cor. 6:17). This applies very specially to religious associations and church fellowships, where the ungodly are admitted, and where doctrines and practices are tolerated and defended which are opposed to God and His Word (see 2 Tim. 2:18-21). Any circle in which the Word of God is disregarded, its authority set aside, and its power to deal with evils and evil doers rendered inoperative, is clearly no place for one who fears God and desires to obey Christ as Lord. At whatever cost, he must be separate from all that would hinder him from yielding himself up to God as His servant, and from obeying all that the Lord has commanded.
PRACTICAL SEPARATION UNTO GOD
Like any other truth of Holy Scripture, this truth of separation may be held and spoken of in theory, apart from the living manifestation of it in the life and ways. To make much of separation from evil doctrine and ecclesiastical evil, and yet to live in other forms of worldliness, is virtually to deny in the life, what is taught by the lips. The truly separated one will live as becometh a “saint” at all times and in all circles. His person, his dress, his walk, his home, his business, will all bear the stamp of practical holiness, or separation to God.
Q.—Have we any Scripture command to separate ourselves from fellow-believers?
A.—Not as such. But some who profess to be believers, and it may be are, for the time are defiled by doctrines and practices which render companionship dangerous. Sin, like disease, is contagious; it can be transmitted. We would not be found embracing our own kindred perchance they became subjects of some virulent disease until they had been cleansed from it. So God bids His saints “turn away” from one “called a brother” who for the present is out of communion with Him, and expelled from His church by reason of defilement (1 Cor. 5). In a less degree, separation is commanded from one who is a disorderly walker (2 Thess. 3:6). He is not a fit “companion” for one who walks with God and in His truth.
Q.—Is there not a danger of separating too far from the world and losing all influence with it?
A.—The path is clearly marked out in the Word. If saints walk there, there is no danger of going “too far.” Of course that path will be “too far” for many who suppose they gain influence by going down to the world and becoming like it.
Whether had Abraham or Lot most influence for Sodom? The man who walked in separation with God and prayed for it (Gen. 18), or the man who sat in its gate, and became a stumbling-block to it? (see Gen. 11:10).
“Farewell to this world’s fleeting joys,
My home is not below;
There was no home for Jesus there,
And ’tis to Him I go.
“Th’ accursed tree was the reward
Which this sad world did give
To Him who gave His precious life
That this lost world might live.
“And has this world a charm for me,
When Jesus suffered thus?
No! I have died to all its charms
Through Jesus’ wondrous cross.
“The cross on which my Lord expired
Has won the crown for me,
All hail! then fellowship with Him!
Whose death has set me free.
“Nor—free alone—He vanquished him
Who held me by his chains—
But more than this, He shares with me
The fruit of all His pains.
“To all His ransom’d ones He’ll give—
To me amongst the rest—
With Him to dwell, with Him to reign,
With Him for ever blest.”
“The Sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow” (1 Pet. 1:11), had been the theme of prophets and Psalmists long ago, before the Saviour came. His “sufferings” are now past: His glory is yet to come. The “Lamb” has already filled the altar; He shall yet fill the throne. In His “sufferings” as the appointed sacrifice He was alone, but His “glory” He will share with His ransomed people.
CHRIST’S PERSONAL GLORIES
There are glories which belong to the Lord Jesus alone. “The glory as the only Begotten of the Father” (John 1:14); His own essential glory as God the Son, none can ever share with Him. The glory which He had with the Father before the world was, before sin had marred the fair creation of God, that glory is His own by right and title alone. His saints will behold it, and worship; His enemies will wither up at His glance; all in Heaven, on earth, and under the earth will confess that Jesus is Lord.
CHRIST’S ACQUIRED GLORY
But there are glories which He will share with His people. It was of these glories that the Lord spake in His intercessory prayer to the Father, the words of which, we have been admitted into the inner circle of favour and intimacy, to hear. “The glory which Thou gavest Me, I have given them” (John 17:20). He had glorified God on earth, He had finished the work which the Father had given Him to do. Then, at the Cross, He had vindicated God’s righteousness and satisfied all His claims. The righteous answer to all this is recorded in the words, “Therefore God also hath highly exalted Him and given unto Him the Name, which is above every name” (Phil. 2:9, R.V.). He is now “crowned with glory and honour” (Heb. 2:9). The world as yet disowns His claim, but Heaven has crowned Him. As we sing—
“Heaven’s royal Diadem adorns
The mighty Victor’s brow.”
The time of his glory has not yet come. He is hid in God. There within the heavens, by faith His people see Him. They are linked in life and position with Him there. They are partakers of an heavenly calling. On earth “strangers and pilgrims,” they will not reign as kings where He their Lord has been cast out. They wait for the glory which is soon to be revealed.
GLIMPSES OF THE COMING GLORY
During our Lord’s life on earth He manifested His moral glory. He did not often display His majesty and power as the Mighty God. To His own disciples He gave glimpses of His glory and of His coming kingdom. In the Gospel according to John, chapters 11 and 12, we have one of these exquisite glimpses of the coming glories of Christ and His people. The first unfolding of this is seen in the resurrection of Lazarus from the dead, and his sitting at the table with Christ and his two sisters, who had tasted sorrow, but not death. This is followed by “much people of the Jews” believing on Him, and by the multitude going forth with palm branches to welcome Him as their King. Later still, the Greeks, representing the Gentile nations, desire to see Him and honour Him. All this will have its full answer in the glory to come. The dead in Christ will be raised, the living will be changed, and both will be glorified together with Christ. Israel, God’s earthly people, will be converted and own Messiah as their King, and the Gentiles will come to Him and own His sceptre.
Another glimpse of the coming glory was given to the three disciples on the Mount of Transfiguration. Peter tells us that when they were with Him in “the holy mount” they were “eye-witnesses of His majesty,” and His power and coming was there made known unto them. In other words, the scene on the Mount was a representation of the coming kingdom, the millennial glory of the Lord and His people. High above all, in “the excellent glory,” there was the Father speaking. The Lord Jesus, transfigured, His garments white as the light, His face shining as the sun, with Moses and Elias “talking” with Him present the heavenly department of the coming kingdom, in which the glorified Christ, with His sleeping saints raised and His living saints changed, shall be in the centre. Lower down, within sight of the heavenly glory, basking in its beams, Peter, James, and John represent the saved and gathered earthly people walking in the light and glory of the heavenly city.
THE HOPE OF GLORY
The personal advent of the Lord Jesus to receive unto Himself His own is the hope of the Christian and of the Church. This event will introduce the saints to the promised glory. The dead in Christ will rise in bodies of glory, fashioned like unto their Lord. The living saints will be changed into His image in a moment. They will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air, to be for ever with Him. He shall be “glorified in His saints,” and “admired in all them that believe in that day.” The days of His people’s suffering will then be over. The badger skin covering shall be rolled off, and He shall present unto Himself a glorious Church without spot or wrinkle.
THE GLORY WITHIN THE HEAVENS
The first of the glories to which the Risen Lord will conduct His risen saints, after they have been gathered around Himself, will be that referred to in the memorable words of John 14:2-3. “The Father’s House” is more the place of love and intimacy, than of manifested glory, and there the saints are welcomed first. Before the throne of glory comes the circle of love. They will first be made to feel perfectly at home in the innermost circle of Divine favour, and from that place of eternal love and Divine affection they will be led on from stage to stage along the pathway of glory. The judgment-seat of Christ will manifest the glories and rewards of faithful service. The marriage of the Lamb will show the glories of Christ and His Bride before all Heaven.
THE APPEARING IN GLORY OF CHRIST AND HIS PEOPLE
The world, the place of Christ’s rejection and of His people’s tribulation, will yet behold the glory of the Lord and of His people with Him. “They shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory” (Matt. 24:30). “Ye also shall appear with Him in glory” (Col. 3:4). This will be “the day of manifestation of the sons of God” (Rom. 8:19), when the world will see what it does not now believe—the saints, no longer downtrodden, persecuted, and accounted as the filth and offscouring of all things, but appearing in the royal train of their conquering Lord as “the armies of Heaven” (Rev. 19:14). Earth’s grandest pageantry fades into nothingness before the Heavenly Victor and His train. The great ones and mighty ones of earth flee before Him, and call on rocks to hide them from His face. The Antichrist and his confederate hosts shall be destroyed by the brightness of His glory, and His enemies shall lick the dust beneath His feet.
THE GLORY OF THE MILLENNIAL KINGDOM
The thousand years of Christ’s manifested glory, generally spoken of as “the Millennium” or thousand years (Rev. 20:4-9), will also be the time of the manifested glory of His saints. Of them it is written, “They shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.” Under the peaceful and benign reign of Christ and His glorified saints, the groan of earth shall cease. Jerusalem, the earthly city, will then be the metropolis of the world, the centre of Christ’s earthly glory (see Ps. 47:1-3; 77:3), the temple rebuilt and filled with glory (Ezek. 47:35), will be there, and thither the nations shall go up to worship (Rev. 19:16). “The law shall go forth to Zion, and the Word of the Lord from Jerusalem” (Mic. 4:2). In all this glory the saints shall share with Christ.
THE ETERNAL GLORY
“The God of all grace who has called us unto His eternal glory by Christ Jesus” (1 Pet. 5:10). Beyond the glory of the thousand years, in the calm of the eternity beyond, the saints will still share the glory of Christ. The Holy City, the New Jerusalem, is seen descending out of Heaven from God, “having the glory of God.” After her reigning time is past, she is still the vessel for the display of the Divine glory. And then to all eternity, in the new Heaven and the new earth, where righteousness shall find its dwelling-place, and glory its abiding home, the saints shall dwell, and “God Himself shall be with them and be their God.”
“The glory shines before me!
I cannot linger here!
Though clouds may darken o’er me,
My Father’s house is near.
If through this barren desert
A little while I roam,
The glory shines before me,
I am not far from home!
“Beyond the storms I’m going,
Beyond this vale of tears,
“Beyond the floods o’erflowing,
Beyond the changing years,
I’m going to the better land,
By faith long since possess’d,
The glory shines before me,
For this is not my rest.
“The Lamb is there the glory!
The Lamb is there the light!
Affliction’s grasp but tore me
From phantoms of the night.
The voice of Jesus calls me,
My race will soon be run:
The glory shines before me,
The prize will soon be won!
“The glory shines before me
I know that all is well!
My Father’s care is o’er me,
His praises I would tell.
The love of Christ constrains me,
His blood hath washed me white,
Where Jesus is the glory—
’Tis home! and love! and light!”