The Gospel of the Glory of Christ: Part 2

 •  20 min. read  •  grade level: 6
CHRIST did with the apostle just what He did on earth with the woman of Syrophcenicia. She also had to bear a temporary hindrance. “He answered not a word” (Matt. 15:2323But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us. (Matthew 15:23)): an unusual thing on His part. But why in hers? Because she came on wrong ground. She concluded to herself from Jews who appealed to him as Son of David. But she had no right to any such appeal, because she was a Canaanite and not of Israel, not of David's people, but rather of the enemy. When the Son of man comes by-and-by, there will not be a Canaanite in the land. The evil stock will all have come under the solemn judgment pronounced at the beginning— “Cursed is Canaan.” But for all that He is the God of grace. He is righteous in vindicating His injured name on him who despises Himself, and who has dealings with everything that is hateful to God; but He delights to take up even the worst of sinners on the spot, only He will have the sinner to know the truth of his sins. Where the soul realizes that he is lost, he will find God in the fullness of His grace. Now the Syrophenician woman came with a title right for a Jew, and the Lord would bring her to feel that she had no such title to His favor. And He helped her by explaining to the disciples that He was not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Next she cried “Lord, help me.” Then He answered “It is not meet to take the children's bread and cast it to dogs.” This cleared her way, and she said, “Truth, Lord, yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table.” With faith thus enlightened and strengthened, the woman readily saw that even the dogs, the little dogs, eat of the crumbs that fall from their masters' table. Indeed the grace of God so works that the crumbs which fall to the poor dogs turn out richer food than all that was on the table. Such was Christ's wonderful way with the woman now blessed more than any other one hears of, as He testified of her faith.
But what about you, my friends? Can a poor sinner, you ask, receive perfect rest from Him that is in heavenly glory? What link can there be between the glorified Savior and any wretched guilty one on the earth? Let me ask you, How did Christ enter into that glory? Was it not after He bore our sins in His own body on the tree? He came down, the Son, the Only-begotten Son of God, and, in infinite love, became a man; and, yet more and more wondrous love still, He who knew no sin was made sin on the cross; and the sacrifice was accepted. He bowed under the weight of sins that He might deliver those who were ruined by them; and God raised Him up from the dead, and not this merely, but set Him in the very highest place in the heavenly glory, and set Him there as Savior, as well as Head of the church which is His body. Oh, how wondrous that glory for Him who was humbled to the uttermost!
And God now sends the gospel, the glad news, to the needy and the lost, Jew or Gentile, not at all to persons who deserve it. In point of fact, the word of His mercy never was really to such, but now it is conspicuously for sinners; now it is expressly to the lost. You cannot really be worse than lost. To be lost is the extreme, but lot of all, not merely for the life that now is, but forever. Nevertheless, while here, though you may feel in your conscience the awful brand of “lost one,” “lost,” “lost,” it is just the occasion for the Savior to save you. He is the Savior of the lost. He is the Savior not merely of people in danger of being lost, but of the lost.
Here is the mistake in a vast deal of the preaching of the day. They do not believe man to be really lost; consequently also they as little believe that man believing is perfectly saved. It is a shilly-shally doctrine about the bad state of man, and still more so about the salvation of believers. The apostle writes of an eternal salvation, leaving us only to enjoy His love, to do His will, and serve Him. It is not merely your sins all blotted out and forgotten, and yourselves accounted righteous instead of ungodly, but perfected forever, made children of God with the Holy Spirit enabling you to cry, Abba, Father, and waiting to be with Christ and like Him.
But the question of interest and importance may be asked, What becomes of inward evil or indwelling sin? For remember that we carry with us an evil nature, even when forgiven our iniquities. Thank God, the Lord Jesus has provided for that. It was part of His great work on the cross, as it is written in Rom. 8:33For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: (Romans 8:3). The whole case is there summed up, as the conclusion drawn from the preceding chapters— “There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus.” It is not only in the face of our sins, but of “sin in the flesh,” or indwelling sin. Now there is nothing that troubles a believer more than this; for such a one when brought to God expects a path of brightness, not perhaps the absence of sorrow or pain, but of shame and failure. Who then looks for inward evil till he finds himself as weak as water spilled upon the ground?
Now, the old man is still there; and it is well to know it. It would not be salvation according to God if we had no sense of our utter weakness, which is true. It is part of what entails continual dependence on the Lord who died and is risen for us. If we were endowed with strength in ourselves, such as some think is given in a moment, it would nullify our constant need of Christ's priesthood. But His grace is sufficient for us; for His strength is made perfect in weakness. We are only strong as we lean on the Savior. And those who otherwise boast only deceive themselves. Satan deceives the world, but should be unable to do more than accuse the saints. Why should they trust their own emotions, instead of the word of the living God?
Not for so uncertain a result was wrought the work by our Lord Jesus. “There is therefore no condemnation” for those that are in Him. “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.” Such is emancipation from the law of sin and death, not merely from our sins. Sin and death are no longer a law to me. No doubt present dependence is called for. If I look to the Lord, I shall be kept from sin. If death come, its sting is gone, and hades is spoiled of victory, which is given to the believer through our Lord Jesus Christ. But more, even now the Spirit of life in Him “hath delivered me from the law of sin and death.” This is far beyond pardon or justification, if the Christian does not easily enter into it all at once.
For three days, we are told, Saul was blinded by the excessive light. He believed in Jesus as the Son of God as truly as he ever did; but he reviewed himself in that light of grace and glory with increasing depth, and could only say “Wretched man that I am,” as well as hate the religious illusion which made him the enemy of Christ and His own. It was the grace of God that thus gave him deliverance. It was a humbling work that went on thoroughly in his soul, but there was no need of some new work for Christ to do. It was to make his own experimentally what Christ had already done for the root of sin which distressed him. And so he explains in Rom. 8:33For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: (Romans 8:3), “For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God, sending His own Son in likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh.”
Such is the way God gives us also deliverance. We have already seen by faith the blood that washes all our sins away. Here it is the condemnation that God has already executed on the principle and nature of sin—on “sin in the flesh.” Christ had nothing of the sort; He had not sin any more than sins. Yet He suffered not only for our sins, but for sin. He went through the whole question, and finished it to God's glory. The blessed result of His entire work is given to the believer. And you are called to believe it. You are entitled by God to take it in all its fullness, but with all humility. And be assured that the truest of all humility is to bow to God and to what He has wrought in Christ, not to think of yourself at all. Many imagine that talking badly of ourselves is the ideal of humility; whereas the simplest and most real humility is to feel unaffectedly that we are too bad to be worth talking about. Only One is worthy of all our thoughts and words and ways, even the Lord Jesus. Him you can think of and serve wherever you may be—in the shop, kitchen, office, or out of doors, on sea or land.
He is our Lord, and the Lord of all; and you are set free from the bondage of sin to serve Him in whom you believe.
Then only, we may add from verse 4, is the righteous import of the law “fulfilled in us that walk not according to flesh but according to the Spirit.” You are a Christian if you believe in Him who for you died and rose; and to be serving the Lord is not only due to His name but the simplest guard against indulging the flesh and loving the world or its things. Satan used them to crucify the Master. Hence the need of watchfulness. Our criterion is the word of God. Hence the importance of reading the word of God day by day; only it is better to read a little well then to hastily read more. So to read is disrespectful to God, and a mere form; such forms are apt to be dangerous in the long run.
How bright then, my friends, is the light of the gospel for the sinner, which the Savior displays in the glory of God For that glory, into which Christ has gone, is the measure of God's approbation of His Son whom man slew, and of His Son's work for our salvation. Is it not beyond all things wonderful? Christ's resurrection from among the dead was the first proof. Man put Him to death, and God raised Him up. God was clearly opposed to the world and its judgment. The people who had the law, the priesthood, and the temple; the empire that had its power ordained of God—all were blinded by the god of this age to crucify the Lord of glory. And what can we say of all the disciples? Even they had most imperfect views about the Lord. But God made all clear to faith, in setting Christ on His right hand.
There sits the Son of God, the man Christ Jesus, with all the angels of God worshipping Him. I call on you to believe on Him, whatever may be your state. Put it not off; all delays are dangerous; and there is none so dangerous as about your soul, your sins, and the Savior above all. You may never be so moved in conscience as now by the truth: God grant it may be so; but it must be in the owning of your sins before Him. If your sins be not as scarlet in your conscience, you will keep away from Him, you will sin more and get more hardened, and perhaps never hear again the gall of God's grace through His own Son.
But why should you not be saved even now, young as many of you are? Look at Josiah who, lived when Judah was in an evil day and judgment near. At eight years of age he was a decidedly pious child. What will make you so? Nothing but Christ. You are in your sins, it is true; but the very name of Jesus means that He was to save from sins. Whatever be your guilt as you are, look to Him as the Savior God exalted with His right hand to give repentance and forgiveness of sins. It is just as guilty and lost ones you are now called by the gospel to believe on Him; and, if you believe, each to say, By God's grace I am saved. Salvation does not depend in any way on the desert of the saved, but on the grace of the Savior. Indeed, it is now a declared part of God's righteousness to justify him that believes in Jesus.
Do you know the meaning of that righteousness? The righteousness of God in the Epistles of Paul means what God owes Christ because of His work on the cross. With this God is acting consistently, both to believers and to unbelievers, that all may hear the gospel, and that believers may reap its fruit. This perhaps may put it in a plain manner to many. It does not mean Christ doing what is right to make up for our wrong doing. This may be tradition, Protestant or Romanist; but tradition is apt to be shallow and unbelieving, because it is human. The truth of God is always incomparably deeper and nobler and better. And the righteousness of God is seen in His raising up Christ and setting Him on His right hand, as well as in His blotting out your sins; and your evil nature is so completely condemned, that having died (i.e. with Christ) you are justified from sin. There is no deliverance so effectual as Christ's death declared in resurrection. It is the death of Christ that has established this great victory for the believer. If I believe in Him who died for my sins, I am also entitled to add that I died with Him to sin (Rom. 6). If I had been a Jew, death with Him gives me death to the law (Rom. 7). In any case the Christian is delivered now in Christ's death, not by his own death, nor at the day of judgment. Further, as we are begotten again by the word, so are we purified by the word in practice while here below. All our need is answered in every way by the grace of God through faith.
This deliverance I press on your souls. It is what God has wrought in the cross of Christ, and declared in Him risen from the dead, that you may have its reality in your souls, besides the forgiveness of your sins. Emotions, or even prayer, will not give it. God forbid that I should slight the value of prayer, or deny the heart's affections when purified by faith, any more than Christian experience. But prayer must be founded on faith and experience, growing out of it, or it is altogether worthless and unsafe. What God proposes in His gospel is to bring the soul out of the bondage, as well as the guilt, of sin. Anything short of this scarcely deserves to be called His salvation. If out of sins, but not out of sin, it would dishonor the work of the Lord Jesus. If He accomplished all, it is no better than unbelief to say, I am forgiven my sins; but as to the old man of sin, it must reign; and I can only cry, “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me?”
It is right that you should go through that state (which is not unlike the small-pox—a good thing to have it over); but it is delusion to suppose that the believer must go on all his life crying, “Who shall deliver me?” The very next verse refutes this: “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” It is not that the flesh is changed or vanishes, but that deliverance is given by God in Christ, as the next chapter fully explains. Assuredly I am not bringing in any novelty of man more than old tradition, but calling you to behold the light of the knowledge of God's glory in His face. It is, indeed, “light from heaven above the brightness of the sun;” and we, who believe, see it in the best possible way now by faith. One need not hesitate to say that Paul saw far better by faith what he saw miraculously the day he was converted. The sight of faith being divinely given is clear, calm, and fixed. The miraculous vision, however real and momentous for its object, was as overwhelming as transient. The sight of faith is steady, and grows brighter day by day.
The chapter before my text (2 Cor. 3) says, that “we all, with open (or, unveiled) face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even by the Lord the Spirit.” Such is the position of the Christian. As there is no veil now between the holiest and the worshipper, there is none on the face of the Christian any more than of Christ, still less on the heart. The veil is on the Jew's heart, till turned to the Lord, when it will be taken away. The privilege of the Christian is with unveiled face “beholding, as in a glass, the glory of the Lord.” This is not the cross, though it could not be without the work there wrought for God and the sinner. It is the glory of Christ on high after land in virtue of that work. On Him you are invited to gaze, and with rich spiritual blessing meanwhile in forming us accordingly.
What a contrast with that which abounds throughout Christendom! Compare the week's preparation, and the very look of those that approach the sacrament (so called). Why is it so? Because they are full of anxiety between righteousness on the one hand, and unworthiness on the other. How many unbelieving believers there are! Even the Psalmist could anticipatively sing, “Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.” How much more the Christian! Beware of the notions about higher life, and by some act of faith some higher holiness. They are, more or less, a revival of a fair show in the flesh. “We all,” surely puts to flight all these reveries which limit the blessing to “some” of Christ's flock. They spring from ignorance of the full gospel, which never stops short of complete deliverance, and the gift of the Holy Spirit to enjoy it. Those referred to are anxious from time to time, and call for excitement to encourage them. But visions, frames, feelings, efforts, can none of them give solid rest before God, or strengthen the weak to face a hostile world. Nothing effects this but Christ received in all the fullness of His work and glory. Look at the result here— “We all with unveiled face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord [that is, as He is now] are changed into the same image.” There is a progressive work, but it is not making us more meet for heaven than when we were first brought to receive Christ Jesus the Lord. In His work our title is sure; our blessed meetness to partake of the inheritance of the saints in light is really that which God gave us when we believed the gospel (Col. 1:1212Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: (Colossians 1:12)). But it is a true and great privilege to be fruitful, and also to grow, as the same chapter points out in verse 10. A believing child might be taken to heaven as surely as the oldest saint; but if left here for a while, there ought to be growth through the knowledge of God in all the practical ways of the Lord.
May the Lord in His grace bring home what has been set before you, that, the unconverted may be roused to the danger of neglecting so great salvation, and that the converted may know how much greater is their portion in the Savior than they have realized hitherto. Faith is the way in which the blessing us, but all the worth is in Christ and His work alone. It is, therefore, all the grace of God. What does grace mean? The pure favor of God, “wherein we stand,” says the apostle. What, even though I fail or sin Do you love your child when it is naughty, and in spite of faults? If even you do, is God not to love His? I remember a Christian who owned he could not whip a naughty child unless when heated; but I also knew a mother who never whipped her naughty boy till he went to bed, when it became a serious thing, to him as well as to her. This, I cannot but think, was thoroughly wise and right, and according to God. Was it not love too?, So it certainly is with the Father of spirits, who, loving us perfectly, yet chastises unfailingly.
Take courage then, my friends, along the narrow way, and beware of doubts. There is no Scripture to warrant a doubt. Every Scripture is given to strengthen faith, love, and withal self-judgment. When you are conscious of wrong done against the Lord, or any one else, go to Him yourself at once, and humble yourself before Him. Confess the fault, but doubt not His abiding grace towards you. We are brought into the family of God who loves us too well to make light of our faults. He chastises us that we may be partakers of His holiness. Over the world hangs God's sentence of condemnation, because, when He came in love, it hated and rejected Christ; and it still refuses to believe in Him. Therefore it is no question of chastising, but of condemnation when Christ appears in glory. But God chastises us when it is needed, because He has delivered us from All condemnation. The world is borne with meanwhile but will be condemned, and yet more shall be all who falsely profess the name of the Lord.
Therefore, my friends, be real. There is no full blessing without thoroughness. May, the Lord grant you never to compromise His name in any way. Everything around is disposed to compromise and to take things easily here below; but this reverses what the Christian is called to May the Lord by His word to-night encourage His own, and win those who may have been enemies like Saul of Tarsus, to their everlasting salvation, with joy and peace that will never end.
W. K.
(Concluded from p. 218)
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