Brief Thoughts on 1 Timothy 1:15 and 2 Timothy 4:6-8: Part 1

 •  6 min. read  •  grade level: 10
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In these scriptures are the two termini of the Christian course here below. At the starting point the chief of sinners receives salvation, accepting that worthy saying; and at the end the same man anticipates a crown of righteousness, which he is assured is laid up for him. And let us mark well that He, Who gives salvation at the beginning as the Savior, gives the crown at the end as the righteous Judge to all that loved and do love His appearing.
If we did not know the converting power accompanying the grace that bringeth salvation, we might wonder how he who calls himself the chief of sinners, when he speaks of the beginning of his course, can at the close look forward to a crown. It was not self-confidence; for while the righteousness spoken of in the above scriptures is the practical righteousness of a saint, yet it is the language of one who rejoices in Christ, Who alone gives the assurance of salvation. And that blessed assurance is not because of the saint's own faithfulness, but through faith in Him Who has accomplished eternal redemption, Who thereby delivers the believer from all fear. For His perfect love casts out fear, and sets him free to devote himself with all his energy to the service of the Lord, that when he is arrived at the finishing of his course he may be able to say, I have fought the good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness.
This righteousness is not that which every believer is made. Believing in Christ he is made the righteousness of God in Christ (2 Cor. 5), and also his faith is imputed to him for righteousness (Rom. 5). But it is the practical righteousness of a faithful believer. Every believer may rejoice in the perfect righteousness with which he is clothed and in which he stands before God, even the righteousness of faith in Christ; but not every one can say, I have fought the good fight. It is well, by the sustaining and persevering grace of God Who never leaves him, if he may say, I have kept the faith, that is, if grace keeps him in the faith. Paul could say both.
Redemption, even the forgiveness of sins, through His blood we have, but conversion or change, turning from darkness to light, is the work of the Spirit of God, Who dwells in us because we are redeemed by the blood of Christ. The work of the Holy Spirit, important and indispensable as it is, in no way redeems us, or adds any value to the precious blood of Christ. This alone reconciles. Man thinks to add his own imperfect works to the infinite worth of His blood. Even God does not add the perfect and necessary work of the Holy Spirit as increasing the value and efficacy of His (Christ's) redeeming (and this eternally) death on the cross; but the Spirit dwells wherever that blood is applied. He convicts the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment. but works savingly on every soul that Christ's faithful saying. We are forgiven for Christ's sake, but that is not the being turned from darkness to light, from idols to serve the living and true God; if we are in Christ, we are a new creation.
Conversion and redemption are indissolubly joined in the grace that brings God's salvation to us; for he who is saved is converted, and he who is converted is also redeemed, and we so speak and understand. Nevertheless conversion and redemption are two things distinct from each other, inasmuch as redemption is done for us, a work outside of us, on the cross, but the work of the Holy Spirit precedes and follows within us. The Spirit of God works in all believers because the blood of Christ has washed away all their sins, to be molded and fashioned according to the will and purpose of God. There is no difference in the relative standing of every believer before God, all are redeemed, all forgiven, all made the sons of God through faith in Christ. But in the actual condition, seen even in the sons, what lack of faith! What failure! What worldliness among those who profess separation from the world! But thanks be to God, the blood abides, and in spite of failures and hardness of heart, the Holy Spirit in us works till all is judged morally and we transformed according to the mind of God.
To receive the crown is not the special privilege of an apostle. There is a crown laid up for every believer to be given at the appearing. The word of God places it in view now, as an incentive to endurance and perseverance whatever may be the roughness and sorrow in the way between the two termini, and with it as an encircling scroll—let no man take it. For while the Lord Jesus as Savior gives salvation to the chief of sinners at the beginning of the course, He holds the crown, as the righteous Judge to be given in due time, and this in connection with the saint's responsibility.
But the saint, the believer, is converted and redeemed before his new responsibility. There is the responsibility of the unconverted man (a fearful account he will have to render), yet that is not here, but the believer's, now that he is a new creature. For the grace of God appears first bringing salvation to the lost and dead; then when alive again by the quickening voice of the Son of God, that grace teaches the believer to deny all ungodliness, and to live soberly, righteously and godly, and to look for the appearing of His glory (Titus 2). To deny all ungodliness, to live soberly and righteously, is with many the sum-total of Christianity, reducing it to the level of duty. Not so. For here godliness is added, and no law or commandment ever made a man godly. It might make him apparently righteous (provided that temptation was not too strong) but never godly, and this is joined to the looking for (i e. waiting) His glorious appearing, that is, the appearing of His glory; when that comes, righteous retribution and judgment also come, There can be no completeness without looking for the appearing. This is not possible but for him who loves it—unless as a criminal condemned looks for the execution. To live godly, and in heart to love His appearing is the normal condition of every believer—to love it and live in the light of it. Is this our condition? Are we pressing onward with undeviating step, amidst sorrows and trials, hastening (as Peter says) the coming of the day of God?
(To be continued.)