Precious Jesus

"Afresh, precious, precious Jesus, I resign this body to You, for doing or suffering, for living or dying. Will You accept it? Will You use me for Your glory more than heretofore, that You may have some little return for all the benefits You have done to me? Oh, do grant this request; my heart longs for it, my spirit pleads for it; and "if You will, You can." You know the hot temptation of which I am the subject. Bring Your glory out of it, and keep me from the evil, and it shall be well." - Ruth Bryan

Friday, May 30, 2014

The mind and heart of the Godman


John 17:1-5

The following is an Analysis of the first section of John 17:
1. The Son praying, verse 1.
2. His desire for the Father’s glory, verse 1.
3. His own glory subsidiary, verse 1.
4. The consequences of His glorification, verse 2.
5. The way to and means of eternal life, verse 3.
6. The Son rendering an account of His stewardship, verse 4.
7. His reward, verse 5.
The seventeenth of John contains the longest recorded prayer which our Lord offered during His public ministry on earth, and has been justly designated His High Priestly Prayer. It was offered in the presence of His apostles, after the institution and celebration of the Lord’s Supper, and immediately following the Paschal discourse recorded in 14 to 16. It has been appropriately said, "The most remarkable prayer followed the most full and consoling discourse ever uttered on earth" (Matthew Henry). It differs from the prayer which Christ "taught his disciples," for in that there are petitions which the Savior could not offer for Himself, while in this there are petitions which none else but Christ could present. In this wonderful prayer there is a solemnity and elevation of thought, a condensed power of expression, and a comprehensiveness of meaning, which have affected the minds and drawn out the hearts of the most devoted of God’s children to a degree that few portions of Scripture have done.
In John 17 the veil is drawn aside, and we are admitted with our great High Priest into "the holiest of all." Here we approach the secret place of the tabernacle of the Most High, therefore it behoves us to put off our shoes from off our feet, listening with humble, reverent and prepared hearts, for the place whereon we now stand is indeed holy ground. We give below a few brief impressions of other writers.
"This is truly, beyond measure, a warm and hearty prayer. He opens the depths of His heart, both in reference to us and to His Father, and He pours them all out. It sounds so honest, so simple; it is so deep, so rich, so wide, no one can fathom it" (Martin Luther).
Melanchthon, another of the Reformers, when giving his last lecture before his death, said on John 17: "There is no voice which has ever been heard, either in heaven or in earth, more exalted, more holy, more fruitful, more sublime, than the prayer offered up by the Son to God Himself."
The eminent Scottish Reformer, John Knox, had this chapter read to him every day during his last illness, and in the closing scene, the verses that were read from it consoled and animated him in the final conflict.
"The seventeenth chapter of the Gospel by John, is, without doubt, the most remarkable portion of the most remarkable book in the world. The Scripture of truth, given by inspiration of God, contains many wonderful passages, but none more wonderful than this—none so wonderful. It is the utterance of the mind and heart of the Godman, in the very crisis of His great undertaking, in the immediate prospect of completing, by the sacrifice of Himself, the work which had been given Him to do, and for the accomplishment of which He had become incarnate. It is the utterance of these to the Father who had sent Him. What a concentration of thought and affection is there in these few sentences! How ‘full of grace,’ how ‘full of truth.’ How condensed, and yet how clear the thoughts,—how deep, yet how calm, the feelings which are here, so far as the capabilities of human language permit, worthily expressed! All is natural and simple in thought and expression—nothing intricate or elaborate, but there is a width in the conceptions which the human understanding cannot measure—a depth which it cannot fathom. There is no bringing out of these plain words all that is seen and felt to be in them" (Mr. John Brown).
"The chapter we have now begun is the most remarkable in the Bible. It stands alone, and there is nothing like it" (Bishop Ryle).
Even Mr. W. Kelly with his caution and conservatism writes, "Next follows a chapter which one may perhaps characterise truly as unequalled for depth and scope in all the Scriptures."
This prayer of our Lord is wonderful as a specimen of the communications which constantly passed between the Son and His Father while He was here on earth. Vocal prayer seems to have been habitual with our Savior. While being baptised He was engaged in prayer (Luke 3:21). Immediately on the commencement of His public ministry we find that, after a short repose, following a day of unremitting labor, "He rose up a great while before day, and went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed" (Mark 1:35). On the eve of selecting the twelve apostles He "went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God" (Luke 6:12). It was while engaged in the act of prayer that He was transfigured (Luke 9:29). And it was while praying that He ceased to breathe (Luke 23:46). Only the briefest mention is made as to the substance of these prayers—in most instances none at all. But here in John 17, the Holy Spirit has been pleased to record at length His prayer in the upper room. How thankful we should be for this!
Perhaps the most interesting way to view this prayer is as a model of His high priestly intercession for us, which He continually makes in the immediate presence of God, on the ground of His completed and accepted sacrifice. The first intimation of this is found in the fact that the Lord Jesus here prayed audibly in the presence of His disciples. He prayed that their interests might be secured, but He prayed audibly that they should be aware of this, that they might know what a wondrous place they had in His affections, that they might be assured that all His influence with the Father would be employed for their advantage. More plainly still is this intimated in John 17:13: "And now come I to thee and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves"—q.d. "These are intercessions which in heaven I will never cease to make before God; but I make them now in the world, in your hearing that you may more distinctly understand how I am there to be employed in promoting your welfare, so that you may be made in large measure, partakers of My happiness." "The petitions for Himself are much briefer than those which He presents for His people—the former being only two, or, rather, but one, variously expressed; while the latter are quite a number, earnestly urged with a variety of pleas. This arrangement and division of the matter of the prayer justifies the view which has not unfrequently been taken of it: that it was throughout intercessory and the substance and model of that intercession which He constantly makes in heaven as our great High Priest" (Mr. T. Houston).
It is in His mediatorial character that the Savior here prays: as the eternal Son, now in the form of a Servant. The office of a mediator or day’s-man is "to lay his hand upon both" (Job 9:33); to treat with each party, in the previous chapters we have beheld Christ dealing with believers in the name of the Father, opening His counsels to them; now we find Him dealing with the Father on behalf of believers, presenting their cause to Him, just as Moses, the typical mediator, spoke to God (Ex. 19:19) and from God (Ex. 20:19), so did our blessed Savior speak from God and to God. And He is still performing the same office and work: speaking to us in the Word, speaking for us in His intercession on High.
The prayer that we are now about to meditate upon is a standing monument of Christ’s affection for the Church. In it we are permitted to hear the desires of His heart as He spreads them before the Father, seeking the temporal, spiritual and eternal welfare of those who are His own. This prayer did not pass away as soon as its words were uttered, or when Christ ascended to heaven, but retains a perpetual efficacy. "Just as the words of creation hath retained their vigor these six thousand years: ‘Increase and multiply: Let the earth bring forth after its kind,’ so this prayer of Christ’s retains its force, as if but newly spoken" (Mr. T. Manton). Let us remember our Lord’s words, "Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. And I knew that thou hearest me always" (John 11:41, 42) as we ponder this prayer together.
"These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven" (John 17:1). The first four words look backwards and their meaning is fixed by the opening clause in John 16:33. They refer to the whole consolatory discourse recorded in the three preceding chapters. Having completed His address to the disciples, He now lifted up His eyes and heart to the Father. The connection is emphasized by the Spirit: "These words spoke Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said." What an example for all of His servants! He had said everything to the apostles which a wise kindness could dictate in order to sustain them in the supremely trying circumstances in which they were about to be placed, and as the hour was at hand when they were to be separated from Him, He employs the few moments now remaining in commending them to the care of the Father—His Father and their Father. From preaching He passed to prayer! Thereby He teaches us that after we have done all we can to promote the holiness and comfort of those with whom we are connected, we should in prayer and supplication beseech Him, who is the author of all good, to bless the objects of our care and the means which we have employed for their welfare. "Doctrine has no power, unless efficacy is imparted to it from above. Christ holds out an example to teach them, not to employ themselves only in sowing the Word, but by mingling prayers with it, to implore the assistance of God, that His blessing may render their labors fruitful" (John Calvin).
"And lifted up his eyes to heaven." While delivering the discourse recorded in the previous chapters His eyes, no doubt, had been fixed with tender solicitude’ upon His disciples. But now as a token that He was about to engage in prayer, He lifts up His eyes toward heaven. "This shows that bodily gestures in prayer and worship of God are not altogether to be overlooked as unmeaning" (Bishop Ryle). The gesture naturally expresses withdrawal of the thoughts and the affections from earthly things, deep veneration, and holy confidence. It denoted the elevation of His heart to God. Said David, "Unto thee O Lord, do I lift up my soul" (Ps. 25:1). In true prayer the affections go out to God. Our Lord’s action also teaches us the spiritual reverence which is due God: the heaven of heavens is His dwelling-place, and the turning of the eyes toward His Throne expresses a recognition of God’s majesty and excellence. "Unto thee lift I up mine eyes, O thou that dwellest in the heavens" (Ps. 123:1). Again, such a posture signifies confidence in God. There can be no real prayer until there is a turning away from all creature dependencies: "I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills. From whence cometh my help? My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth" (Ps. 121:1, 2) The believer looks around, and finds no ground for help; his relief must come from God above.
"And said, Father." The Mediator here addresses God as Father. He was His "Father" in a threefold sense. First, by virtue of His human nature, miraculously produced. His body was "prepared" for Him by God (Heb. 10:5). Just as in the human realm the begetter of the child is its father, so the One who made the body of Christ, became the Father of His human nature: "And the angel answered and said unto her [Mary], the Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God" (Luke 1:35). The man Christ Jesus is thus in a peculiar sense, the Son of God. In like manner, Adam, who was created by God in His own image and likeness, is called "the son of God" (Luke 3:38). Second, God stands in the relation of "Father" to our Lord as the Head and Representative of the holy family redeemed from among men. He is thus "The first born among many brethren" (Rom. 8:29). To this the apostle seems to refer when he applies to the Lord Jesus that Old Testament word "I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son" (Heb. 1:5). Third, the appellation "Father" given to the first person of the Trinity by our Savior, primarily, and usually refers to that essential relation which subsisted between the first and second persons of the God head from all eternity. Identity of nature is the chief idea suggested by the term. In Romans 8:32, Christ is spoken of as God’s "own Son," intimating that He is a Son in a sense absolutely peculiar to Himself.
"And said, Father." Two things were expressed. First, relationship: the relationship of sonship. This was His claim to be heard. It was as though He had said, "O thou with whom I have existed in unity of essence, perfection, and enjoyment from the unbegun eternity, and by whose will and operation I have been clothed miraculously with human nature and constituted the Head of all appointed unto salvation—I now come to thy throne of grace." Second, it indicated affection. It expressed love, veneration, confidence, submission. In whom should a son trust if not in his father? It was as though He had said, "I trust Thy power, Thy wisdom, Thy benignity, Thy faithfulness. Into Thy hands I commend Myself. I know that Thou wilt hear My prayer for Thou art My Father!" Previously Christ had commanded prayer: here, by His own blessed example He commends to us this holy exercise.
"The hour is come." This is the seventh and last time that the Lord Jesus refers to this most momentous "hour"—see our remarks on John 2:4. This was the greatest "hour" of all—because most critical and pregnant with eternal issues—since hours began to be numbered. It was the hour when the Son of God was to terminate the labors of His important life by a death still more important and illustrious. It was the hour when the Lord of glory was to be made sin for His people, and bear the holy wrath of a sin-hating God. It was the hour for fulfilling and accomplishing many prophecies, types and symbols which for hundreds and thousands of years had pointed forward to it. It was the hour when events took place which the history of the entire universe can supply no parallel: when the Serpent was Permitted to bruise the heel of the woman’s Seed; when the sword of Divine justice smote Jehovah’s Fellow; when the sun refused to shine; when the earth rocked on its axis; but when the elect company were redeemed, when Heaven was gladdened, and which brought, and shall bring to all eternity, "glory to God in the highest."
But why did the Savior begin His prayer by referring to this "hour"? As a plea to support the petitions that He was about to present. "In our Lord’s prayer for Himself there is pleading as well as petition. Prayer is the expression of desire for benefit by one who needs it, to one who, in his estimation, is able and disposed to confer it. Request or petition is therefore its leading element; but in the expression of desire by one intelligent being to another, it is natural that the reasons why the desire is cherished, and the request presented, should be stated, and the grounds unfolded, on which the hope is founded, that the desire should be granted. Petitions and pleading are thus connected in prayer from man to man; and they are so, likewise, in prayer from men to God. Whoever reads carefully the prayers uttered by holy men, influenced and guided by the Spirit of God, recorded in Scripture, will be struck with the union of petition and pleading, by which they are distinguished. When they are brought ‘near to God’—when they, as Job says, ‘find him and come even to his seat,’ how do ‘they order their cause before him, and fill their mouths with arguments’ (Job 23:3-4)2 They ‘plead’ with Him, as Jeremiah expresses it" (John 12:1). (Mr. John Brown).
Christ’s first plea was the intimate and endearing relation in which He stood to the object of worship: "Father... glorify thy Son." There is a powerful plea in each of these words. His second plea was "the hour is come"—the time appointed for granting this petition had arrived. Like so many of His words in these closing chapters, "the hour" here seems to have a double significance: referring not only to His sufferings, but also looking forward to the resurrection—side of the Cross—compare our remarks on John 13:31. "This is the appointed period for the remarkable glorification of the Son by the Father in His sufferings, by His sufferings, for His sufferings under them, after them. ‘The time, yea, the set time, is come,’ and if the time be come shall not the event take place? It is a matter of Divine purpose, and when was a Divine purpose falsified! It is a matter of Divine promise, and when was a Divine promise frustrated!" (Mr. John Brown).
"Glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee" (John 17:1). This is so closely connected with what follows in the next two verses that it is difficult to treat of it separately. In John 17:2 and 3 Christ describes the particular mode of glorifying the Father on which His heart was set, and the aspect of the glorification of Himself which He here prays for, namely, to have power over all flesh and to give eternal life to as many as the Father had given Him. There was a double object of desire, a double subject of prayer; the glorification of the Father in the bestowal of eternal life upon the elect, and the glorification of the Son as subsidiary to this as the necessary and effectual means of accomplishing it. Thus we see the perfect disinterestedness of Christ. He prayed to be "glorified" not for His own sake, but that the Father might be glorified in our salvation! Here again we see Him loving us "unto the end!"
"Glorify thy Son." This was the Savior requesting the Father to support Him on the Cross, afterwards to bring Him out of the grave and set Him at His own right hand, so as to bring to a triumphant completion the work given Him to do; and this in order that the glorious attributes of the Father—His justice, holiness, mercy and faithfulness—might be exhibited and magnified, for God is most "glorified" when the excellencies of His character are manifested to and acknowledged by His creatures. The glorification of the Son, in accord with the double meaning of the "hour" here, would mean Glorify Me in My sufferings, and glorify Me after My sufferings. In both of these aspects was His prayer answered. The angel sent to strengthen Him in the Garden, the testimony of Pilate—"I find no fault in him,"—the drawing of the dying thief to the Savior while He hung upon the Cross, the rending of the temple veil, the confession of the centurion, "Truly, this was the Son of God," were all so many responses of the Father to this petition. His resurrection and exaltation to the highest seat in Heaven, was His glorification following His sufferings.
There is much for us to learn here. First, mark the connection: "the hour is come, glorify thy Son." "The true remedy of tribulation is to look to the succeeding glory, and to counterbalance future dangers with present hopes. This was comfort against that sad hour. So it must be our course: not to look at things which are seen, but to things which are not seen (2 Cor. 4:17); to defeat sense by faith. When the mind is in heaven it is fortified against the pains which the body feeleth on earth" (Mr. Thos. Manton-Puritan). Second, observe what Christ sought: to be "glorified" by the Father—not to be enriched by men, not to be honored by the world. This should be our desire too. Christ rebuked those who received honor one from another instead of seeking the honor that cometh from God (John 5:44), and because they loved the praise of men, more than the praise of God (John 12:43). We should not only seek for grace, but glory. Third, note that Christ asked for what He knew would be given Him. The Father had said "I have both glorified, and will glorify again" (John 12:28). Neither promises nor providence render prayer meaningless or useless. Fourth, Christ prayed for this glory in order that He might glorify the Father. Here too, He has left us an example. Whatsoever we do is to be done to the glory of God, and nothing should be asked from Him save for His glory.
"As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him" (John 17:2). "The Father is first of all to be glorified in the humanity of the God-man, who presents Himself to that end; then, through Him in His disciples, so that in this first word concerning the mutual glorification, that is already involved and included which follows in John 17:10. In John 17:2 we have a more specific development and explanation of the sense in which this glorification of the Father to and in fallen humanity is meant" (Stier). We regard the connecting "as" or "according as" as having a double force, supplying a reason for and describing the manner of the Father’s glorification of Christ. Let us examine the verse in this order of thought.
Verse 2 contains the third plea which the Savior presented to the Father: to glorify the Son was in accord with the place which the Father had destined Him to fill, and the work which He had appointed Him to perform: the glorification of the Son was necessary to His filling that place and executing that work. The place which God had destined Him to occupy was that of rightful authority over the whole human race, with complete control of all events in connection with them (see John 5:22; Ephesians 1:19-21, etc.). The work appointed Him was to give eternal life to all the elect. But in order to the accomplishment of this purpose the Son must be glorified in and by and for His sufferings. He must be glorified by expiating sin upon the Cross, by being raised from the dead, and by being set at God’s right hand so as to be put into actual possession of this authority and power. How cogent then was His plea! Unless the Father glorified Him, He could not accomplish the ends of His mediatorial office.
The Father, in His eternal counsels, had appointed the Son to save a portion of the human race; to conduct to glory many sons, who, like their brethren in the flesh, were going to destruction. These had been given Christ to save. By nature they were "dead in trespasses and sins": guilty, depraved, destitute of spiritual life, incapable of thinking, feeling, choosing, acting, or enjoying; communion with the all-holy, ever-blessed One. If ever they were to be saved they must have eternal life bestowed upon them by the Savior, and for Him to impart this inestimable boon, He must be exalted to the place of supreme dominion. This, then, was the Savior’s "argument" or plea here: the Father’s glory being the end in view.
Verse 2 also describes the manner of the Father’s glorification in and by the Son: let Thy Son glorify Thee by saving souls "according as" Thou hast appointed Him so to do. "As thou hast given" obviously means promised to give—see such scriptures as Psalm 89:27; Daniel 7:14, etc. The fact that this "power" or authority over all flesh is given to Christ, at once shows the character in which He here appears, namely, as Mediator. That Christ receives this "gift" shows us that free grace is no dis-honorable tenure. Why should haughty sinners disdain Divine charity, when the God-man was willing to accept a gift from the Father! "Power over all flesh" means, first, dominion over the whole human race. But it also means, most probably, authority over all creatures, for Christ "is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him" (1 Pet. 3:22). "All power in heaven and earth" has been given to Him (Matthew 28:18). Not only is He the "head of every man" (1 Cor. 11:3), but the "head of all principality and power" (Col. 2:10).
"As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him." We must distinguish between Christ’s universal authority and His narrower charge. Authority has been given Him over all; but out of this "all" is an elect company, committed to Him as a charge. This was typified by Joseph of old; authority over all Egypt was conveyed to him by the king, but his brethren had a special claim upon his affections. "The keys of heaven are in the hands of Christ; the salvation of every human soul is at His disposal" (Bishop Ryle). How blessed to rest upon this double truth—the universal dominion of Christ, His affection for His own. All has been put into the hands of our Savior, therefore the Devil himself cannot move except so far as Christ allows. This universal dominion has been bestowed upon Christ "that" (in order that) He may give eternal life to God’s elect. The elect were given to Christ by way of reward (Isa. 53:10-12), and by way of charge (John 6:37; 18:9).
"And this is life eternal that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent" (John 17:3). There has been considerable difference of opinion as to what is meant by "this is eternal life." We shall not canvass the various interpretations that have been given, rather shall we seek to indicate what we believe was our Lord’s meaning here. "This is life eternal," more literally, "this is the eternal life—that," etc. A parallel form of speech is found in John 3:19: "And this is the condemnation—that," etc. In the words that follow in John 3:19 the ground and way of condemnation are stated—"light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil." This helps us to arrive at the first meaning here: "This is the eternal life—that they might know thee," etc.—this is the way to it. Again, in John 12:50 we read, "His commandment is—life everlasting" that is, the outward means of it. Once more, in 1 John 5:20, we read, "This is the true God and eternal life"—Christ is the Author of it. Taken by themselves the words of this verse might be understood as speaking of the characteristics and manifestations of "eternal life," but the context would forbid this. Christ is here amplifying the plea of the previous verse. Thus: unless I am glorified, I cannot bestow eternal life; without My ascension the Holy Spirit will not come, and without Him there can be no knowledge of the Father and His Son, and so by consequence, no eternal life, for "knowing God" and "eternal life" are inseparable. Therefore "this is eternal life—that they might know thee" etc., obviously signifies, This is the way to, the means of eternal life, namely, by the knowledge of God imparted by Jesus Christ.
"This is the eternal life, that they know thee" (literal rendering). The knowledge spoken of here is not speculative but practical, not theoretical but experimental, not intellectual but spiritual, not inactive but saving. That it is a saving knowledge, which is here in view is clear from the double object—God and Christ. He that knoweth God in Christ knoweth Him as His reconciled Father, and so resteth on and in Him. "And they that know thy name will put their trust in thee" (Ps. 9:10). The knowledge here spoken of presupposes a walk in harmony with it, produced by it: "Hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments" (1 John 2:3). How this strengthened the plea of the Savior here scarcely needs pointing out. What would bring more "glory" to the Father than that He should be known (trusted, loved, served) by those to whom the Son gave eternal life! "Eternal life" contains the essence of all blessing: "This is the promise that he hath promised us—eternal life" (1 John 2:25). Spiritual or eternal life consists in knowing, living on, having communion with, and enjoying endless satisfaction in the Triune God through the one Mediator.
"Know thee, the only true God." Appeal is made to this by Unitarians in their horrible efforts to disprove the Godhead of the second and third persons of the Trinity. That Christ cannot be here denying the Deity of Himself and of the Spirit we well know from many other passages, but what did He mean by affirming that the Father is "the only true God"? We believe the answer is twofold:—
First, Christ was here excluding the idols of the Gentiles—false gods, el., 1 Thessalonians 1:9:—to denote that that Godhead is only true that is in the Father. The Son and the Spirit are not excluded because they are of the same essence with the Father. The Son and the Spirit are "true God," not without, but in the Father. "I and the Father are one" (John 10:30); "the Father is in me, and I in him" (John 10:38): not divided in essence, but distinguished in personality. In 1 John 5:20 the Son Himself is called "the only true God!" Which no more excludes the Father than John 17:3 excludes the Son. Many such exclusive statements are to be found in Scripture, that must be expounded by the analogy of faith. For example: "No one knoweth the Father, but the Son, and none knoweth the Son, but the Father" (Matthew 11:27); but this excludes not the Spirit, for He "searcheth the depths of God" (1 Cor. 2:10). One person of the Trinity does not exclude the others. When Scripture insists there is no God but one, it simply denies that all others who are "called gods" are such.
Second, Christ was here speaking in view of the order and economy of salvation, for He had just mentioned the giving of "eternal life." In the economy of salvation the Father is ever represented as Supreme, the One in whom the sovereign majesty of Deity resideth. The Son sustains the office of Mediator, and in this character He could rightly say, "My Father is greater than I" (John 14:28) In like manner, during the present dispensation, the Holy Spirit is the Servant of the Godhead (see Luke 4:17-23 and cf. John 16:13 and our remarks thereon). In the order of redemption the Father is the principal party representing the whole Godhead, because He is the Originator and Fountain of it.
"And Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent." The connecting "and" gives plain warning that the Father, "the only true God" cannot be "known" apart from "Jesus Christ"! Just as the "only true God" is opposed to the vanities of the Gentiles, so is "Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent" to the blindness of the Jews! "Sent" has a threefold intimation and signification. It points to His Deity: "We believe that thou camest forth from God" (John 16:30). It refers to His incarnation: "When the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son made of a woman" (Gal. 4:4). It also signified His office of Mediator and Redeemer. For this reason He is called "The apostle and high priest of our profession" (Heb. 3:1), and apostle means the sent one. Jesus Christ is the great Ambassador to treat with us from God.
It is worthy of note that this is the only place in the New Testament where our Lord called Himself "Jesus Christ." In so doing He affirmed that He, Jesus the Son of man, and Son of God was the only true Christ (Messiah): thereby He repudiated every false notion of the Messiah, as in the previous clause He had excluded every false god. It is very striking to observe how that in 1 John 5:1 we are told, Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God," while in 1 John 5:5 we read, "Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?" Do you, dear reader, know the Father and the Son—the Father as revealed in and by Jesus Christ! If you do not, you have not eternal life.
"I have glorified thee on the earth" (John 17:4). Here is the next plea of the Savior: I have glorified Thee, do Thou now glorify Me. God has been glorified in creation (Ps. 19:1) and by His providences (Ex. 15:6-7, etc.); but to a superlative degree, in an altogether unique way, He had been glorified by the Son. Christ has glorified the Father in His person (Heb. 1:3). He glorified Him by His miracles (Matthew 9:8, etc.). He glorified Him by His words, constantly ascribing all praise to Him (Matthew 11:25, etc.). But above all He had glorified Him by His holy life. The Savior was sent into the world as the Representative of His people, to render obedience to that law which they had violated (Gal. 4:4); and perfectly bad He in thought and word and deed discharged this duty. In Him—full of grace and truth—the disciples had beheld a moral glory possessed by none save Him who abode in the bosom of the Father. "I have glorified thee on the earth"—in the place where He had been so grievously dishonored.
In view of having glorified the Father on earth, the Son said "glorify thou me." "The more we examine the Gospel of John, the more we shall see One who speaks and acts as a Divine Person—one with the Father—alone could do, but yet always as One who has taken the place of a servant, and takes nothing to Himself but receives all from His Father. ‘I have glorified thee: now glorify me.’ What language of equality of nature and love! But He does not say, ‘And now I will glorify myself.’ He has taken the place of man to receive all, though it be a glory He had with the Father before the world was. This is of exquisite beauty. I add, it was out of this the enemy sought to seduce Him, in vain, in the wilderness" (Mr. Darby).
"I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do" (John 17:4). Here is the final plea of the Savior for His glorification. When He entered this world, He affirmed, "Lo, I come to do thy will, O God" (Heb. 10:7). At the age of twelve, He said, "Wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?" (Luke 2:49). In John 4:34 He declared, "My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work." Now He says, "I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do." He anticipated by a few hours His cry from the Cross, "It is finished" (John 19:30). The Savior referred to His work on earth as though He had been already exalted to heaven. How evident it is all through His prayer that His heavenly mediation is in view—"Now I am no more in the world" (John 17:11)!
"I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do." As the eternal Son He had, in the character of the faithful Servant, done what none other could do. He had performed the Father’s will: He had delivered His message: He had not only taught but perfectly exemplified the truth. He had "finished transgression and brought in everlasting righteousness " (Dan. 9:24). He had put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. He had "restored that which He took not away" (Ps. 69:4). Thus had He glorified the Father upon earth and finished the work given Him to do. There was every reason then why He should be "glorified." Every moral attribute of Deity required it. Having endured the Cross, He was fully entitled to enter "the joy set before Him." Having poured out His soul unto death, it was but meet that the Father should "divide him a portion with the great" (Isa. 53:12). Having glorified Him on earth, it was fitting that the Savior should be glorified in heaven.
"And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self, with the glory which I had with thee before the world was" (John 17:5). Having presented the various pleas suited to His glorification, the Son now returns to His petition. The verse before us conducts us to a height which we have no means of scaling. All that we can do is to humbly ponder its words in the light of the context and parallel scriptures. When the Savior says, "glorify thou me" He speaks as the Mediator, as "Jesus Christ" (John 17:3). As Jesus Christ He had been humiliated; now, as Jesus Christ, He was to be glorified. The Father’s answer to this is seen in Acts 2: "This Jesus hath God raised up... let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ" (verses 32, 36)—compare also Philippians 2:9-11. But the glorification here must not be confined to His humanity, as the remainder of the verse shows. As the eternal Son He has humbled Himself (Phil. 2:6), and as the Son He has been exalted and magnified see Psalm 21:1-6; 110:1; Ephesians 1:17-23; Revelation 5:11-14.
That Christ asked to be "glorified," demonstrated His perfections: not even as risen did He glorify Himself. In addition to the fact that His glorification had been promised and earned by Him, three reasons may be given why He asked for it. First, for the comfort of His apostles who were troubled over His humiliation. Second, for our instruction: to teach us that suffering for God is the highway to glory. Third, for the benefit of His Church: Christ must be glorified before it could prosper. The example of the Savior here teaches that we should pray that the Father may be pleased to honor us by fitting and using us to lead men to a knowledge of the only true God through Jesus Christ, and to enable us, in our creature measure, to glorify Him on earth and to finish the work which He has given us to do.

A.W. Pink

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Prayer sighs

The exercises of soul and pangs of heart find expression in sighs and sobs, in moans and groans, yet such as mere nature never produced. The word "sigh" has a much stronger force in its Scriptural usage than in our ordinary conversation, or we should say, in more modern speech, for three hundred years ago it signified a lament rather than a mark of peevishness. "And the children of Israel sighed by reason of the bondage" (Ex. 2:23), the meaning of which is explained in the next verse: "And God heard their groaning." Their "sighing" expressed their suffering and sorrow under the oppression of their Egyptian taskmasters. So again, we read that the sorely afflicted Job declared "For my sighing cometh before my meat, and my roarings are poured out like the waters" (Job 3:24). So by prayer sighs we intend those agitations and breathings of soul which are virtually synonymous with groans.

A "sigh" is an inarticulate declaration, and indistinct cry for deliverance. The saints are sometimes so opposed and troubled that they cannot find language suited to their emotions: where words fail them, the thoughts and feelings of their hearts find expression in sighs and cries. The workings of a Christian's heart under the pressure of indwelling sin, the temptations of Satan, the opposition of the ungodly, the burden of uncongenial society, the wickedness of the world, the low state of the Cause of Christ on earth, are variously described in Scripture. Sometimes he is said to be "in heaviness" (1 Pet. 1:6), to "cry out of the depths" (Psa. 130:1), to "roar" (Psa. 38:8), to be "overwhelmed" (Psa. 61:2), to be "distracted" (Psa. 88:13). The tossings and anguish of his soul are depicted as "groanings" (Rom. 8:23). The groanings of the believer are not only expressive of sorrow, but also of hope, of the intensity of his spiritual desires, of his panting after God, and his yearning for the bliss which awaits him on high (2 Cor. 5:2,4). Such exercises of soul are peculiar to the regenerate, and by them the Christian may identify himself. If the reader now be the subject of sorrows and sighs to which he was a total stranger while in a state of nature, then he may be assured he is no longer dead in sins. If he finds himself groaning over the infection of his heart and those workings of inward corruption which prevent his perfectly loving and uninterruptedly serving God as he longs to do, that is proof that a principle of holiness has been communicated to his soul. If he mourns over the lustings of his flesh against that principle of holiness, then he must be alive unto God.

The worldling will groan over the common troubles of life, such as financial loss, pain of body, the death of a loved one, but that is only the voice of nature. But the worldling never weeps in secret over the coldness of his heart or the workings of unbelief. "Groans" or "sighs" are the evidences of spiritual life, the pantings of holiness, hungering and thirsting after righteousness. They are, as Mr. Winslow expressed it, "The ruled chimings of Heaven." They are the sure pledges of deliverance (2 Cor. 5:4). They are the marks of the Christian's union with Him who was "The Man of Sorrows." Before Christ healed the deaf man, we read that "He sighed" (Mark 7:34), which expressed His deep sympathy with the sufferer, as one "touched with the feeling of our infirmities." And again, when the Pharisees came to Him, "tempting Him" by asking a sign from heaven, we are told that Christ "sighed deeply in His spirit" (Mark 8:11,12), which denoted His holy indignation at their sin, godly sorrow for their persons, and grief within His own soul, for He "suffered" when He was "tempted" (Heb. 2:18). His holiness felt contact with evil. "The nearer anyone is to heaven, the more he desires to be there. Because Christ is there. For the more frequent and steady are our views of Him by faith, the more do we long and groan for the removal of all obstructions and hindrances. Groaning is a vehement desire, mixed with sorrow, for the present want of what is desired'' (John Owen).

Now the spiritual sighs and groanings of the Christian are interpreted by God as prayers! Those sacrifices which are acceptable to Him are "a broken and a contrite heart" (Psa. 51:7). Sobbings of soul are of great price in His sight (Psa. 61:8). The believer's moans are intelligible language to heaven: "the Lord hath heard the voice of my weeping" (Psa. 6:8): that "weeping" possesses an appeal unto Him which the eloquence of professional praying does not. "Lord, all my desire is before Thee, and my groaning is not hid from Thee" (Psa. 38:9).

Our tears speak to Him of godly sorrow, our moans as the breathings of a contrite spirit. "From heaven did the Lord behold the earth: to hear the groaning of the prisoner" (Psa. 102:20). Here then is consolation: God is privy to our secret sighs, Christ is touched with them (Heb. 4:15), they ascend as petitions to heaven, and are the sure pledges of deliverance.

Studies in the Scriptures - 1947 by A. W. Pink

Thou hatest wickedness

“Thou hatest wickedness.”
- Psa_45:7

“Be ye angry, and sin not.” There can hardly be goodness in a man if he be not angry at sin; he who loves truth must hate every false way. How our Lord Jesus hated it when the temptation came! Thrice it assailed him in different forms, but ever he met it with, “Get thee behind me, Satan.” He hated it in others; none the less fervently because he showed his hate oftener in tears of pity than in words of rebuke; yet what language could be more stern, more Elijah-like, than the words, “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer.” He hated wickedness, so much that he bled to wound it to the heart; he died that it might die; he was buried that he might bury it in his tomb; and he rose that he might for ever trample it beneath his feet. Christ is in the Gospel, and that Gospel is opposed to wickedness in every shape. Wickedness arrays itself in fair garments, and imitates the language of holiness; but the precepts of Jesus, like his famous scourge of small cords, chase it out of the temple, and will not tolerate it in the Church. So, too, in the heart where Jesus reigns, what war there is between Christ and Belial! And when our Redeemer shall come to be our Judge, those thundering words, “Depart, ye cursed” which are, indeed, but a prolongation of his life-teaching concerning sin, shall manifest his abhorrence of iniquity. As warm as is his love to sinners, so hot is his hatred of sin; as perfect as is his righteousness, so complete shall be the destruction of every form of wickedness. O thou glorious champion of right, and destroyer of wrong, for this cause hath God, even thy God, anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Taught of the Spirit

"But the Comforter, which is the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He shall teach you all things" (John 14:26). Those words received their first fulfillment in the men to whom they were immediately addressed—the Apostles were so filled and controlled by the Holy Spirit that their proclamation of the Gospel was without flaw, and their writings without error. Those original ambassadors of Christ were so taught by the Third Person in the Trinity that what they delivered was the very mind of God. The second fulfillment of the Savior’s promise has been in those men whom He called to preach His Gospel throughout the Christian era. No new revelations have been made to them, but they were, and are, according to their varied measure, and the particular work assigned to them, so enlightened by the Spirit that the Truth of God has been faithfully preached by them. The third and widest application of our Lord’s words are unto the entire Household of Faith, and it is in this sense we shall now consider them.
It is written, "And all Thy children shall be taught of the LORD" (Isa. 54:13 and cf. John 6:45). This is one of the great distinguishing marks of the regenerate: all of them are "taught of the LORD." There are multitudes of unregenerate religionists who are taught, numbers of them well taught, in the letter of the Scriptures. They are thoroughly versed in the historical facts and doctrines of Christianity; but their instruction came only from human media—parents, Sunday School teachers, or through reading religious books. Their intellectual knowledge of spiritual things is considerable, sound, and clear; yet is it unaccompanied by any heavenly unction, saving power, or transforming effects. In like manner, there are thousands of preachers who abhor the errors of "Modernists" and who contend earnestly for the Faith. They were taught in Bible Institutes, and theological schools, yet it is to be feared that many of them are total strangers to a miracle of grace being wrought in the heart. How it behooves each of us to test ourselves rigidly at this point!
It is a common fact of observation—which anyone may test for himself—that a very large percentage of those who constitute the membership of evangelical denominations were first taken there in childhood by their parents. The great majority in the Presbyterian churches today had a father or mother who was a Presbyterian and who instructed the offspring in their beliefs. The same is true of Baptists, the Methodists, and those who are in fellowship at the Brethren assemblies. The present generation has been brought up to believe in the doctrines and religious customs of their ancestors. Now we are far from saying that because a man who is a Presbyterian today had parents and grandparents that were Presbyterians and who taught him the Westminster Catechism, that therefore all the knowledge he possesses of Divine things is but traditional and theoretical. No indeed. Yet we do say that such a training in the letter of the Truth makes it more difficult, and calls for a more careful self-examination, to ascertain whether or not he has been taught of the Lord.
Though we do not believe that Grace runs in the blood, yet we are convinced that, as a general rule, (having many individual exceptions), God does place His elect in families where at least one of the parents loves and seeks to serve Him, and where that elect soul will be nurtured in the fear and admonition of the Lord. At least three-fourths of those Christians whom the writer has met and had opportunity to question, had a praying and Scripture-reading father or mother. Yet, on the other hand, we are obliged to acknowledge that three-fourths of the empty professors we have encountered also had religious parents, who sent them to Sunday School and sought to have them trained in their beliefs: and these now rest upon their intellectual knowledge of the Truth, and mistake it for a saving experience of the same. And it is this class which it is the hardest to reach: it is much more difficult to persuade such to examine themselves as to whether or not they have been taught of God, than it is those who make no profession at all.
Let it not be concluded from what has been pointed out that, where the Holy Spirit teaches a soul, He dispenses with all human instrumentality. Not so. It is true the Spirit is sovereign and therefore works where He pleases and when He pleases. It is also a fact that He is Almighty, tied down to no means, and therefore works as He pleases and how He pleases. Nevertheless, He frequently condescends to employ means, and to use very feeble instruments. In fact, this seems to generally characterize His operations: that He works through men and women, and sometimes through little children. Yet, let it be said emphatically, that no preaching, catechizing or reading produces any vital and spiritual results unless God the Spirit is pleased to bless and apply the same unto the heart of the individual. Thus there are many who have passed from death unto life and been brought to love the Truth under the Spirit’s application of a pious parent’s or Sunday School teacher’s instruction—while there are some who never enjoyed such privileges yet have been truly and deeply taught by God.
Tests for the Spirit’s Teaching
From all that has been said above a very pertinent question arises, How may I know whether or not my teaching has been by the Holy Spirit? The simple but sufficient answer is, By the effects produced. First, that spiritual knowledge which the teaching of the Holy Spirit imparts is an operative knowledge. It is not merely a piece of information which adds to our mental store, but is a species of inspiration which stirs the soul into action. "For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Cor. 4:6). The light which the Spirit imparts reaches the heart. It warms the heart, and sets it on fire for God. It masters the heart, and brings it into allegiance to God. It molds the heart, and stamps upon it the image of God. Here, then, is a sure test: how far does the teaching you have received, the knowledge of Divine things you possess, affect your heart?
Second, that knowledge which the teaching of the Spirit imparts is a soul-humbling knowledge. "Knowledge puffeth up" (1 Cor. 8:1), that is a notional, theoretical, intellectual knowledge which is merely received from men or books in a natural way. But that spiritual knowledge which comes from God reveals to a man his empty conceits, his ignorance and worthlessness, and abases him. The teaching of the Spirit reveals our sinfulness and vileness, our lack of conformity to Christ, our unholiness; and makes a man little in his own eyes. Among those born of women was not a greater than John the Baptist: wondrous were the privileges granted him, abundant the light he was favored with. What effect had it on him? "He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose" (John 1:27). Who was granted such an insight into heavenly things as Paul! Did he herald himself as "The greatest Bible teacher of the age"? No. "Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints" (Eph. 3:8). Here, then, is a sure test: how far does the teaching you have received humble you?
Third, that knowledge which the teaching of the Holy Spirit imparts is a world-despising knowledge. It makes a man have poor, low, mean thoughts of those things which his unregenerate fellows (and which he himself, formerly) so highly esteem. It opens his eyes to see the transitoriness and comparative worthlessness of earthly honors, riches and fame. It makes him perceive that all under the sun is but vanity and vexation of spirit. It brings him to realize that the world is a flatterer, a deceiver, a liar, and a murderer which has fatally deceived the hearts of millions. Where the Spirit reveals eternal things, temporal things are scorned. Those things which once were gain to him, he now counts as loss; yea, as dross and dung (Phil. 3:4-9). The teaching of the Spirit raises the heart high above this poor perishing world. Here is a sure test: does your knowledge of spiritual things cause you to hold temporal things with a light hand, and despise those baubles which others hunt so eagerly?
Fourth, the knowledge which the teaching of the Spirit imparts is a transforming knowledge. The light of God shows how far, far short we come of the standard Holy Writ reveals, and stirs us unto holy endeavors to lay aside every hindering weight, and run with patience the race set before us. The teaching of the Spirit causes us to "deny ungodliness and worldly lusts," and to "live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world" (Titus 2:12). "We all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord" (2 Cor. 3:18). Here, then, is a sure test: how far does my knowledge of spiritual things influence my heart, govern my will, and regulate my life? Does increasing light lead to a more tender conscience, more Christlike character and conduct? If not, it is vain, worthless, and will only add to my condemnation.
The Spirit Applies Knowledge to the Heart
"But the Comforter, which is the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He shall teach you all things" (John 14:26). How urgently we need a Divine Teacher! A natural and notional knowledge of Divine things may be obtained through men, but a spiritual and experimental knowledge of them can only be communicated by God Himself. I may devote myself to the study of the Scriptures in the same ways as I would to the study of some science or the mastering of a foreign language. By diligent application, persevering effort, and consulting works of reference (commentators, etc.), I may steadily acquire a comprehensive and accurate acquaintance with the letter of God’s Word, and become an able expositor thereof. But I cannot obtain a heart-affecting, a heart-purifying, and a heart-molding knowledge thereof. None but the Spirit of truth can write God’s Law on my heart, stamp God’s image upon my soul, and sanctify me by the Truth.
Conscience informs me that I am a sinner; the preacher may convince me that without Christ I am eternally lost; but neither the one nor the other is sufficient to move me to receive Him as my Lord and Savior. One man may lead a horse to the water, but no 10 men can make him drink when he is unwilling to do so. The Lord Jesus Himself was "anointed to preach the Gospel" (Luke 4:18), and did so with a zeal for God’s glory and a compassion for souls such as none other ever had; yet He had to say to His hearers, "Ye will not come to Me, that ye might have life" (John 5:40). What a proof is that, that something more is required above and beyond the outward presentation of the Truth. There must be the inward application of it to the heart with Divine power if the will is to be moved. And that is what the teaching of the Spirit consists of: it is an effectual communication of the Word which works powerfully within the soul.
Why is it that so many professing Christians change their view so easily and quickly? What is the reason there are so many thousands of unstable souls who are "tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive" (Eph. 4:14)? Why is it that this year they sit under a man who preaches the Truth and claim to believe and enjoy his messages; while next year they attend the ministry of a man of error and heartily embrace his opinions? It must be because they were never taught of the Spirit. "I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be forever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it" (Eccl. 3:14). What the Spirit writes on the heart remains: "The anointing which ye have received of Him abideth in you" (1 John 2:27), and neither man nor devil can efface it.
Why is it that so many professing Christians are unfruitful? Month after month, year after year, they attend upon the means of grace, and yet remain unchanged. Their store of religious information is greatly increased, their intellectual knowledge of the Truth is much advanced, but their lives are not transformed. There is no denying of self, taking up their cross, and following a despised Christ along the narrow way of personal holiness. There is no humble self-abasement, no mourning over indwelling sin, no mortification of the same. There is no deepening love for Christ, evidenced by a running in the way of His commandments. Such people are "ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth" (2 Tim. 3:7), i.e. that "knowledge" which is vital, experimental, affecting, and transforming. They are not taught of the Spirit.
Why is it in times of temptation and death that so many despair? Because their house is not built upon the Rock. Hence, as the Lord Jesus declared, "the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and itself’ (Matthew 7:27). It could not endure the testing: when trouble and trial, temptation and tribulation came, its insecure foundation was exposed. And note the particular character Christ there depicted: "Everyone that heareth these sayings of Mine, (His precepts in the much-despised "Sermon on the Mount") and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand" (v. 26). Men may go on in worldly courses, evil practices, sinful habits, trusting in a head-knowledge of Christ to save them; but when they reach "the swelling of Jordan" (Jer. 12:5) they will prove the insufficiency of it.
Ah, dear reader, a saving knowledge is not a knowledge of Divine things, but is a Divinely-imparted knowledge. It not only has God for its Object, but God for its Author. There must be not only a knowledge of spiritual things, but a spiritual knowledge of the same. The light which we have of them must be answerable to the things themselves: we must see them by their own light. As the things themselves are spiritual, they must be imparted and opened to us by the Holy Spirit. Where there is a knowledge of the Truth which has been wrought in the heart by the Spirit, there is an experimental knowledge of the same, a sensible consciousness, a persuasive and comforting perception of their reality, an assurance which nothing can shake. The Truth then possesses a sweetness, a preciousness, which no inducement can cause the soul to part with it.
What the Spirit Teaches
Now as to what it is which the Spirit teaches us, we have intimated, more or less, in previous chapters. First, He reveals to the soul "the exceeding sinfulness of sin" (Rom. 7:13), so that it is filled with horror and anguish at its baseness, its excuselessness, its turpitude. It is one thing to read of the excruciating pain which the gout or gall stones will produce, but it is quite another thing for me to experience the well-nigh unbearable suffering of the same. In like manner, it is one thing to hear others talking of the Spirit convicting of sin, but it is quite another for Him to teach me that I am a rebel against God, and give me a taste of His wrath burning in my conscience. The difference is as great as looking at a painted fire, and being thrust into a real one.
Second, the Spirit reveals to the soul the utter futility of all efforts to save itself. The first effect of conviction in an awakened conscience is to attempt the rectification of all that now appears wrong in the conduct. A diligent effort is put forth to make amends for past offenses, painful penances are readily submitted to, and the outward duties of religion are given earnest attendance. But by the teaching of the Spirit the heart is drawn off from resting in works of righteousness which we have done (Titus 3:5), and this, by His giving increasing light, so that the convicted soul now perceives he is a mass of corruption within, that his very prayers are polluted by selfish motives, and that unless God will save him, his case is beyond all hope.
Third, the Spirit reveals to the soul the suitability and sufficiency of Christ to meet its desperate needs. It is an important branch of the Spirit’s teaching to open the Gospel to those whom He has quickened, enlightened, and convicted—and to open their understanding and affections to take in the precious contents of the Gospel. "He shall glorify Me" said the Savior, "for He shall receive of Mine, and shall show it unto you" (John 16:14). This is His prime function: to magnify Christ in the esteem of "His own." The Spirit teaches the believer many things, but His supreme subject is Christ: to emphasize His claims, to exalt His Person, to reveal His perfections, to make Him superlatively attractive. Many things in Nature are very beautiful, but when the sun shines upon them, we appreciate their splendor all the more. Thus it is when we are enabled to view Christ in the light of the Spirit’s teaching.
The Spirit continues to teach the regenerate throughout the remainder of their lives. He gives them a fuller and deeper realization of their own native depravity, convincing them that in the flesh there dwells no good thing, and gradually weaning them from all expectation of improving the same. He reveals to them "the beauty of holiness," and causes them to pant after and strive for an increasing measure of the same. He teaches them the supreme importance of inward piety.

A.W. Pink

Monday, May 26, 2014

Does He think on me?

"Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." Luke 23:34

Jesus of Nazareth, the sinless Son of God, was hated without cause, arrested, beaten, mocked, laughed at, reviled, ridiculed, spat upon, shamed, stripped naked, crowned with thorns, publicly humiliated, nailed to a cross, and left to die!

What is the first thing He says while hanging upon the cruel tree? Does He ask His Father to send a legion of angels to destroy His persecutors? Does He condemn His unjust executioners? Does He call for fire and brimstone to fall on these wicked devils?

That's what we would do, is it not? But He is not like us. He is holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners. His ways are not our ways, and His thoughts are not our thoughts; for as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are His ways higher than our ways, and His thoughts than our thoughts!

Instead of fire--we see forgiveness. 
Instead of words of wrath--we hear words of mercy.
Oh what grace! His lips are like lilies, dropping sweet smelling myrrh. 
Christ prays, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do."

"I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those You have given Me, for they are Yours!" John 17:9. He prayed, "Father forgive them (My people); for they know not what they do." 

Child of God, be of good comfort--you were on the heart of Christ as He hung upon the cross! You may ask yourself, Does Christ think on me? Does He notice me? Does He love me? Oh you of little faith! You are always on His heart! You were on His heart in eternity past, in Gethsemane, on the cross--and you are on His heart now in glory! As He died in agony and blood under the wrath of God, He was thinking of you: "Father, forgive the sin of My poor, ignorant, rebellious child; for he knows not what he does!"


“Continue in the faith.”
- Acts 14:22
Perseverance is the badge of true saints. The Christian life is not a beginning only in the ways of God, but also a continuance in the same as long as life lasts. It is with a Christian as it was with the great Napoleon: he said, “Conquest has made me what I am, and conquest must maintain me.” So, under God, dear brother in the Lord, conquest has made you what you are, and conquest must sustain you. Your motto must be, “Excelsior.” He only is a true conqueror, and shall be crowned at the last, who continueth till war’s trumpet is blown no more. Perseverance is, therefore, the target of all our spiritual enemies. The world does not object to your being a Christian for a time, if she can but tempt you to cease your pilgrimage, and settle down to buy and sell with her in Vanity Fair. The flesh will seek to ensnare you, and to prevent your pressing on to glory. “It is weary work being a pilgrim; come, give it up. Am I always to be mortified? Am I never to be indulged? Give me at least a furlough from this constant warfare.” Satan will make many a fierce attack on your perseverance; it will be the mark for all his arrows. He will strive to hinder you in service: he will insinuate that you are doing no good; and that you want rest. He will endeavour to make you weary of suffering, he will whisper, “Curse God, and die.” Or he will attack your steadfastness: “What is the good of being so zealous? Be quiet like the rest; sleep as do others, and let your lamp go out as the other virgins do.” Or he will assail your doctrinal sentiments: “Why do you hold to these denominational creeds? Sensible men are getting more liberal; they are removing the old landmarks: fall in with the times.” Wear your shield, Christian, therefore, close upon your armour, and cry mightily unto God, that by his Spirit you may endure to the end.   C.H. Spurgeon

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Robbing the Holy Spirit

Of course if men are only partly depraved (which is really the 
belief today of the vast majority of preachers and their hearers, 
never having been experimentally taught by God their own 
depravity), if deep down in their hearts all men really love God, if 
they are so good-natured as to be easily persuaded to become 
Christians, then there is no need for the Holy Spirit to put forth His 
Almighty power and do for them what they are altogether incapable 
of doing for themselves. And again: if “being saved” consists 
merely in believing I am a lost sinner and on my way to Hell, and 
by simply believing that God loves me, that Christ died for me, and 
that He will save me now on the one condition that I “accept Him as 
my personal Savior” and “rest upon His finished work,” then no 
supernatural operations of the Holy Spirit are required to induce and 
enable me to fulfill that condition—self-interest moves me to, and a 
decision of my will is all that is required.

But if, on the other hand, all men hate God (Joh 15:23, 25), and 
have minds which are “enmity against Him” (Rom 8:7), so that 
“there is none that seeketh after God” (Rom 3:11), preferring and 
determining to follow their own inclinations and pleasures; if 
instead of being disposed unto that which is good, “the heart of the 
sons of men is fully set in them to do evil” (Ecc 8:11); and if when 
the overtures of God’s mercy are made known to them and they are 
freely invited to avail themselves of the same, they “all with one 
consent begin to make excuse” (Luk 14:18)—then it is very evident 
that the invincible power and transforming operations of the Spirit 
are indispensably required if the heart of a sinner is thoroughly 
changed, so that rebellion gives place to submission, and hatred to 
love. This is why Christ said, “No man can come to Me, except the 
Father (by the Spirit) which hath sent Me draw him” (Joh 6:44). 
Again—if the Lord Jesus Christ came here to uphold and enforce 
the high claims of God, rather than to lower or set them aside; if He 
declared that “strait is the gate and narrow is the way that leadeth 
unto Life, and few there be that find it,” rather than pointing to a 
smooth and broad road which anyone would find it easy to tread; if 
the salvation which He has provided is a deliverance from sin and 
self-pleasing, from worldliness and indulging the lusts of the flesh 
(Gal 5:24, 6:14; Col 2:20), and the bestowing of a nature which 
desires and determines to live for God’s glory and please Him in all 
the details of our present lives—then it is clear beyond dispute that 
none but the Spirit of God can impart a genuine desire for such a 
salvation. And if instead of “accepting Christ” and “resting upon 
His finished work” be the sole condition of salvation,He demands 
that the sinner throw down the weapons of his defiance, abandon 
every idol, unreservedly surrender himself and his life, and receive 
Him as His only Lord and Master, then nothing but a miracle of 
grace can enable any captive of Satan’s to meet such 

Against what has been said above it may be objected that no 
such hatred of God as we have affirmed exists in the hearts of the 
great majority of our fellow-creatures—that while there may be a 
few degenerates, who have sold themselves to the Devil and are 
thoroughly hardened in sin, yet the remainder of mankind are 
friendly disposed to God, as is evident by the countless millions 
who have some form or other of religion. To such an objector we 
reply, The fact is, dear friend, that those to whom you refer are 
almost entirely ignorant of the God of Scripture: they have heard 
that He loves everybody, is benevolently inclined toward all His 
creatures, and is so easy-going that in return for their religious 
performances will wink at their sins. Of course, they have no hatred 
for such a “god” as this! But tell them something of the character of 
the true God: that He hates “all the workers of iniquity” (Psa 5:5), 
that He is inexorably just and ineffably holy, that He is an 
uncontrollable Sovereign, who “hath mercy on whom He will have 
mercy, and whom He will He hardeneth” (Rom 9:18), and their 
enmity against Him will soon be manifested—an enmity which 
none but the Holy Spirit can overcome. 

It may be objected again that so far from the gloomy picture 
which we have sketched above being accurate, the great majority of 
people do desire to be saved (from having to suffer a penalty for 
their sin), and they make more or less endeavor after their salvation. 
This is readily granted. There is in every human heart a desire for 
deliverance from misery and a longing after happiness and security, 
and those who come under the sound of God’s Word are naturally 
disposed to be delivered from the wrath to come and wish to be 
assured that Heaven will be their eternal dwelling-place—who 
wants to endure the everlasting burnings? But that desire and 
disposition is quite compatible and consistent with the greatest love 
to sin and most entire opposition of heart to that holiness without 
which no man shall see the Lord (Heb 12:14). But what the objector 
here refers to is a vastly different thing from desiring Heaven upon 
God’s terms, and being willing to tread the only path which leads 

The instinct of self-preservation is sufficiently strong to move 
multitudes to undertake many performances and penances in the 
hope that thereby they shall escape Hell. The stronger men’s belief 
of the truth of Divine revelation, the more firmly they become 
convinced that there is a Day of Judgment, when they must appear 
before their Maker, and render an account of all their desires, 
thoughts, words and deeds, the most serious and sober will be their 
minds. Let conscience convict them of their misspent lives, and 
they are ready to turn over a new leaf; let them be persuaded that 
Christ stands ready as a “Fire-escape” and is willing to rescue them, 
though the world still claims their hearts, and thousands are ready 
to “believe in Him.” Yes, this is done by multitudes who still hate  
the true character of the Savior, and reject with all their hearts the 
salvation which He has. Far, far different is this from an 
unregenerate person longing for deliverance from self and sin,and 
the impartation of that holiness which Christ purchased for His 

All around us are those willing to receive Christ as their Savior, 
who are altogether unwilling to surrender to Him as their Lord. 
They would like His peace, but they refuse His “yoke,” without 
which His peace cannot be found (Mat 11:29). They admire His 
promises, but have no heart for His precepts. They will rest upon 
His priestly work, but will not be subject to His kingly scepter. 
They will believe in a “Christ” who is suited to their own corrupt 
tastes or sentimental dreams, but they despise and reject the Christ 
of God. Like the multitudes of old, they want His loaves and fishes, 
but for His heart-searching, flesh-withering, sin-condemning 
teaching, they have no appetite. They approve of Him as the Healer 
of their bodies, but as the Healer of their depraved souls they desire 
Him not. And nothing but the miracle-working power of the Holy 
Spirit, can change this bias and bent in any soul. 

It is just because modern Christendom has such an inadequate 
estimate of the fearful and universal effects which the Fall has 
wrought, that the imperative need for the supernatural power of the 
Holy Spirit is now so little realized. It is because such false 
conceptions of human depravity so widely prevail that, in most 
places, it is supposed all which is needed to save half of the 
community is to hire some popular evangelist and attractive singer. 
And the reason why so few are aware of the awful depths of human 
depravity, the terrible enmity of the carnal mind against God and 
the heart’s inbred and inveterate hatred of Him, is because His 
character is now so rarely declared from the pulpit. If the preachers 
would deliver the same type of messages as did Jeremiah in his 
degenerate age, or even as John the Baptist did, they would soon 
discover how their hearers were really affected toward God; and 
then they would perceive that unless the power of the Spirit 
attended their preaching they might as well be silent. 

Monday, May 19, 2014

Fear God

"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (Prov. 1:7). Happy the soul that has been awed by a view of God's majesty, that has had a vision of God's awful greatness, His ineffable holiness, His perfect righteousness, His irresistible power, His sovereign grace. Does someone say, "But it is only the unsaved, those outside of Christ, who need to fear God"? Then the sufficient answer is that the saved, those who are in Christ, are admonished to work out their own salvation with "fear and trembling." Time was when it was the general custom to speak of a believer as a "God-fearing man." That such an appellation has become nearly extinct only serves to show whither we have drifted. Nevertheless, it still stands written, "Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him" (Psalm 103:13).

When we speak of godly fear, of course we do not mean a servile fear, such as prevails among the heathen in connection with their gods. No, we mean that spirit which Jehovah is pledged to bless, that spirit to which the prophet referred when he said, "To this man will I (the Lord) look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word" (Isa. 66:2). It was this the apostle had in view when he wrote, "Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king" (I Pet: 2:17). And nothing will foster this godly fear like a recognition of the Sovereign Majesty of God.  

A. W. Pink

The work of the Lord

Our present design is twofold: to censure a misuse, and to explain the meaning of the following verse: "Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord; forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord" (1 Cor. 15:58). In the heedless hurry of this slipshod age not a few have taken those words as though they read, "Work for the Lord," and have used them as a slogan for what is now styled "Christian service," most of which is quite unscriptural—the energy of the flesh finding an outlet in certain forms of religious activities. In this day of pride and presumption it has been quite general to speak of engaging in work for the Lord, and to entertain the idea that He is beholden to such people for the same, that were their labours to cease, His cause would not prosper. To such an extent has this conceit been fostered that it is now a common thing to hear and read of our being "co-workers with God" and "co-operators" with Him. It is but another manifestation of the self-complacent and egotistical spirit of Laodicea (Rev. 3:17) and which has become so rife.
But it is likely to be asked, Does not Scripture itself speak of the saints, or at least ministers of the Gospel, being "co-workers with God"? The emphatic answer is No, certainly not. Two passages have been appealed to in support of this carnal and blatant notion, but neither of them when rightly rendered teach any such thing. The first is 1 Corinthians 3:9, which in the Authorized Version is strangely translated "For we are laborers together with God." Literally the Greek reads, "For God’s we are: fellow-workers; God’s husbandry, God’s building, ye are." The apostle had just rebuked the Corinthians (3:1-3), particularly for exalting some of the servants of God above others (verse 4). He reminded them, first, that the apostles were but ministers or "servants," mere instruments who were nothings unless God blessed their labours and "gave the increase" (verses 6, 7). Then, he pointed out that one instrument ought not to be esteemed above another, for "he that planteth" and "he that watereth are one (verse 8) and shall each "receive his own reward." While in verse 9 he sums up by saying those instruments are "God’s"—of His appointing and equipping; "fellow-workers," partners in the Gospel field.
The second passage appealed to lends still less color to the conceit we are here rebutting: "We then as workers together with Him beseech you" (2 Cor. 6:1), for the words "with Him" are in italics, which means they are not contained in the original, but have been supplied by the translators. This verse simply means that the instruments God employed in the ministry of the Gospel were joint-laborers in beseeching sinners not to receive His grace in vain. There is no thought whatever of "co-operating" with God. Why should there be? What assistance does the Almighty need! Nor does He ever voluntarily receive any (Job 22:2, 3; Luke 17:10). What an absurdity to suppose the finite could be of any help to the Infinite! At most, we can but concur with His appointments, and humbly present ourselves before Him as empty vessels to be filled by Him. It is wondrous condescension on His part if He designs to employ us as His agents; the honour is ours, we confer no favour on Him. The Lord is the sole Operator; His servants the channels through which He often—though by no means always—operates. Ministers are not coordinates with God, but subordinates to Him.
There is something particularly repulsive to a spiritual mind in the concept of worms of the earth "cooperating" with the Most High, for it is a virtual deifying of the creature, a placing of him on a par with the Creator. Surely it is enough simply to point out that fact for all humble and Spirit-taught souls to reject with abhorrence such a grotesque fiction. Different far was the spirit which possessed the chief of the apostles. Said he "I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me" (1 Cor. 15:10). When the Twelve responded to their Master’s commission we are told that "they went forth and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them" (Mark 16:20)—otherwise their labours had yielded naught. Paul placed the honour where it rightfully belonged when he declared "I will not dare to speak of those things which Christ hath not wrought by me" (Rom. 15:18). How different was that from regarding himself as a "co-operator" with Him! It is just such creature boasting which has driven the Lord outside the churches.
In view of what has been pointed out above, it is scarcely surprising that those possessed of more zeal than knowledge should eagerly lay hold of a clause in 1 Corinthians 15:58, and adopt it as their motto. Such activities as holding Gospel services in the streets, engaging in what is called "personal work," taking part in meetings where young people are led to believe they are "giving their testimony for Christ," and other enterprises for which there is no warrant whatever in the Epistles (where church members are more directly instructed and exhorted), are termed "working for the Lord" or "serving Christ." Very different indeed is the task which He has assigned His followers: a task far more difficult to perform, and one which is much less palatable to the flesh. Namely to keep their hearts with all diligence: mortifying their lusts, and developing their graces (Col. 3:5, 12), to cleanse themselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit and perfect holiness in the fear of God (2 Cor. 7:1), to witness for Christ by their lives, "showing forth His praises" (1 Pet. 2:9).
There is therefore a real need for the inquiry, Exactly what is meant by "the work of the Lord" in 1 Corinthians 15:58? It should at once be apparent that we do not have to go outside the verse itself for proof that the popular understanding which now obtains of it is thoroughly unwarrantable. First, it is not one which specially concerns ministers of the Gospel nor "Christian workers," but instead, pertains to all the saints, for it is addressed to the "beloved brethren" at large. Second, the work of the Lord which it enjoins calls for us to be "steadfast and immovable," which are scarcely the qualities to be associated with what the churches term "Christian service"—had that been in view such adjectives as "zealous and untiring" had been far more pertinent. Third, the duty here exhorted unto is one which allows of no intermission, as the "always abounding in" expressly states—even the most enthusiastic "personal workers" would scarcely affirm that! Finally, the "knowing [not praying or hoping] that your labour is not in vain in the Lord" makes it clear that the well-meant but misguided efforts of the religious world today are not in view.
Grammatically "the work of the Lord" may import either that work which He performs, or that which He requires from His people. The fact that it is one unto which He calls them, obliges us to understand it in the second sense. When Christ was asked "What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?" John 6:28) it should be obvious that they meant, What are those works which God requires of us? Our Lord answered: "This is the work of God: that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent": that is what He has commanded (1 John 3:23) and that is what will be acceptable unto Him. The same inquiry should proceed from the Christian: What is the all-inclusive work which God has assigned us? The summarized answer is given in 1 Corinthians 15:58: the "work of the Lord," in which the saints are to be always abounding, is a general designation of the whole of Christian duty. As "the way of the Lord" (Genesis 18:19) signifies the path of conduct which He has marked out for us, so "the work of the Lord" connotes that task He has prescribed us.
As is generally the case with erroneous interpretations, our moderns have taken this verse Out of its setting and ignored its controlling context, paying no attention to its opening "Therefore." 1 Corinthians 15 is the great resurrection chapter, and may be outlined thus. First, the resurrection of Christ Himself (verses 1-1 1). Second, His rising from the dead secures the "resurrection of life" to all His people (verses 20-28). Third, the nature of their resurrection bodies (verses 42-54). In between those divisions, denials of the resurrection are refuted and objections thereto answered. Further indication is this, that to terminate the chapter with an injunction to engage in what is termed "Christian service would be totally foreign to what precedes. Instead, the apostle closes his teaching on resurrection with a triumphant thanksgiving (verses 55-57) and an ethical inference drawn from the same. Therein is illustrated a fundamental characteristic of the Scriptures: that doctrinal declaration and moral exhortation are never to be severed, the former being the ground upon which the latter is based: first a statement of the Christian’s privileges, and then pointing out the corresponding obligation.
In the context the Holy Spirit has set before us something of the glorious future awaiting the redeemed of Christ: in verses 55-58 He makes practical application of the whole to the immediate present. Doctrine and duty are never to be divorced. Neither in the promise nor the precept is "the life that now is" separated from "that which is to come." All truth is designed to have a sanctifying effect upon our daily walk. Something more than a mere head belief of the contents of Scripture is required of us, namely an incorporating of them in the character and conduct. Truth so blessed as that set forth in verses 42-54 should fill the hearts of believers with joy (verses 55-57), and move them to the utmost diligence and endeavour to please and glorify the Lord (verse 58). The "But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (verse 57) is the language of faith, for faith gives a present subsistence to things which are yet future. The final verse announces the transforming effect which such a revelation and a hope so elevating should have upon us; or, stating it in other words, this injunction makes known the corresponding obligation which such a prospect entails. What that transforming effect should be, what that obligation consists of, we shall now seek to state.
"Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord." An analysis of this verse shows that it consists of two things: an exhortation and motives to enforce the same. The exhortation includes a threefold task: to be "steadfast" in the faith, in our convictions of the Truth; to be "unmovable" in our affections, in our expectations of the things promised; to be "always abounding in the work of the Lord," in doing His will, in performing those good works which He has foreordained we should walk in. The "work of the Lord" may be regarded first as a general expression, comprehending all that He requires from us in the way of duty: in the exercise of every grace and the practice of every virtue. "Always abounding in the work of the Lord" signifies ever engaged in obeying His Word, seeking His glory, aiming at the advance of His kingdom. More specifically, it imports that lifelong task which He has set before us, and which may be summed up in two words—mortification and sanctification: the denying of self and putting to death of our lusts; the developing of our graces and bringing forth the fruits of holiness.
Strictly speaking, it is "the work of the Lord" to which we are here called, and the steadfastness and immovability are prerequisites to our "always abounding" therein. But we shall consider them as separate duties. First, "be ye steadfast" in the faith and profession of the Gospel, and not "tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine" (Eph. 4:14). Be firmly fixed in your convictions: having bought the Truth, sell it not. "Prove all things, hold fast that which is good." That by no means precludes further progress of attainment, for we are to press forward unto those things which are still before; yet in order thereto there must be stability and resolution, a "holding fast the faithful Word" (Titus 1:9), an eschewing of all false doctrine.
Second, "unmovable," which is a word implying testing and opposition. Suffer not the allurements of the world nor the baits of Satan to unsettle you. Be not shaken by the trials of this life. Be patient and persevering whatever your lot. Seek grace to say of all troubles and afflictions, what Paul said of bonds and imprisonments—"none of these things move me." And why should they? None of them impugn God’s faithfulness. Moreover, they work for us "a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory while we look not at the things which are seen." Then be unwavering in your expectations and "be not moved away from the hope of the Gospel," no matter what opposition you encounter. Notwithstanding your discouraging failures, the backslidings of fellow Christians, the hypocrisy of graceless professors, "hold fast the confidence and rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end" (Heb. 3:6).
Third, "always abounding in the work of the Lord": constantly occupied in doing those good works which honour God. More specifically: "Whether therefore ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God" (1 Cor. 10:31). "Giving all diligence, add to your faith, virtue, and to virtue, knowledge; and to knowledge, temperance; and to temperance, patience; and to patience, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love; for if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ . . . for if ye do these things ye shall never fall: for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ" (2 Pet. 1:5-11). That is "the work of the Lord," that the task assigned us. Then let not the difficulty of such duties nor the imperfections of your performances dishearten you; suffer not the hatred of your enemies nor the severity of their opposition to deter you. "Let us not be weary in well doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not" (Gal. 6:9).
"Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord" (1 Cor. 15:58). In the first portion of this discourse we did little more than give a topical treatment of this verse: let us now furnish a contextual exposition of it. In verses 55 and 56 the apostle asked, "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?" to which he replied, "The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law." Then he exultantly cried: "But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (verse 57). The tense of the verb should be closely observed: it is not "hath given" nor "will give," but "giveth us the victory." It is also to be carefully noted that the "victory" here referred to is one over death and the grave viewed in connection with sin and the Law, and that it is shared by all saints and is not some peculiar experience which only a few fully consecrated souls enter into. Obviously, that victory will only be fully and historically realized on the resurrection morning; yet even now it is apprehended by faith and enjoyed by hope, and, in proportion as it really is so, will the believer know practically something of "the power of Christ’s resurrection."
"Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" is the language of joyful faith, in response to the revelation given in the previous fifty-six verses. Christ’s triumph over death as the wages of sin and the penalty of the Law ensures the resurrection of all His sleeping saints, for it was as their federal Head (verses 20-22) that He suffered for their sins and bore the Law’s curse, as it was that as "the last Adam" (verse 45) He was victorious over the tomb. As faith lays hold of that blessed truth and its possessor appropriates a personal interest therein, he realizes that he himself has (judicially) passed from death to life, that sin cannot slay nor the Law curse him, that he is justified by God "from all things" (Acts 13:39). Such a realization cannot but move him to exclaim "Thanks be to God." By virtue of his union with Christ, for him death’s sting has been extracted, and therefore it has been robbed of all terror. It is sin which gives power and horror to death, but since Christ has made full atonement for the believer’s sin and obtained remission for him, death can no more harm him than could a wasp whose venomous sting had been removed—though it might still buzz and hiss and attempt to disturb him.
"The strength of sin is the Law": its power to condemn was supplied by the transgressing of it. But since Christ was made a curse for us we are released therefrom. The entire threatening and penalty of the Law was executed upon the Surety, and therefore those in whose stead He bore it are exempted from the same. But more: because in Eden sin violated the holy commandment of the Lawgiver, the Law received a commanding power over the sinner, making sin to rage and reign in him, compelling him to serve it as a slave. That was but just. Since man preferred the exercise of self-will to submission to the authority of his Maker, the Law was given both a condemning and commanding power over him. In other words, the enthralling power or strength which sin exerts over its subjects is an intrinsic part of the Law’s curse. The Law commands holiness, but by reason of man’s depravity its very precepts exasperate his corruptions—as the sun shining on a dung-heap stirs up its filthy vapors. God punishes sin with sin: since the commission of sin was man’s choice, the strength of sin shall be his doom. But Christ has not only delivered His people from the penalty of sin, but from its reigning power too, so that His promise is "Sin shall not have dominion over you" (Rom. 6:14).
"Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord": let that be your response to mercies so great. Manifestly, the apostle is here drawing a conclusion from all that precedes, particularly from what is said in verses 56 and 57. Divine grace, through the death and resurrection of Christ, has judicially delivered the believer from both the guilt and dominion of sin, and from the whole curse of the Law. How then shall he answer to such blessings? Why, by seeing to it that those mercies are now made good by him in a practical way. And how is he to set about the same? First, by complying with Romans 6:11: "Likewise, reckon ye also yourselves to have died indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord"; which in the light of the previous verse signifies: By the exercise of faith in what the Word declares, regard yourselves as having legally passed from death to life in the person of your Surety. Second, by heeding Romans 6:12: "Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof"; which means: Suffer not indwelling sin to lord it over you. Since you be absolved from all you did in the past, yield obedience to God and not to your corruptions.
We cannot rightly interpret 1 Corinthians 15:58, unless its connection with verses 56 and 57 be duly noted. Its opening "Therefore" is as logical and necessary as the one in Romans 6:12, and what follows that passage enables us to understand our present one. "Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin; but yield yourselves unto God as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God": that is, conduct yourselves practically in harmony with what is true of you (in Christ) legally. Another parallel passage is, "Forasmuch as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind" (1 Pet. 4:1), where the doctrinal fact is first stated, and then the practical duty enjoined. Legally, "victory" is ours now, as our justification by God demonstrates. Experientially, we have been freed from the dominion of sin, and are delivered, in measure, from its enticing power, for there is now that in us which hates and opposes it. At death, sin is completely eradicated from the soul; and at resurrection its last trace will have disappeared from the body. From his exposition of the grand truth of resurrection the apostle made practical application, exhorting the saints to walk in newness of life.
In view of our participation in Christ’s victory, we are here informed of the particular duty which is incumbent upon us, namely to strive against sin, resist temptation, overcome Satan by the blood of the Lamb, and bring forth the fruits of holiness to Him. But, in order thereto, we must be "steadfast" in the conviction of our oneness with Christ in His death and resurrection, and "unmovable" in our love and gratitude to Him. The Greek for "always abounding in the work of the Lord" conveys the idea of quality more than quantity, progressive improvement rather than multiplicity of works—"continually making advance in true piety" (Matt. Henry). Excel in it is the thought: rest not satisfied with present progress and attainments, but each fresh day endeavour to perform your duty better than on the previous one. This lifelong task of mortification and sanctification is called "the work of the Lord" because it is the one which He has assigned us, because it can be performed only in His strength, and because it is that which is peculiarly well pleasing in His sight.
That duty can only be discharged in a right spirit as faith apprehends the Christian’s union with Christ, and then thankfully acts accordingly. There cannot be any Gospel holiness without such a realization. There can be no evangelical obedience until the heart is really assured that Christ has removed death’s "sting" for us and has taken away from the Law the "strength of sin. Only then can the believer serve God in "newness of spirit": that is, in loving gratitude, and not from dread or to earn something. Only then will he truly realize that as in the Lord he has "righteousness" for his justification, so in Him he has "strength" (Isaiah 45:22) for his walk and warfare. Thus the opening "Therefore" of our verse not only draws a conclusion which states the obligation entailed by the inestimable blessings enumerated in the context, but also supplies a power motive for the performance of that obligation—a performance which is to be regarded as a great privilege. Since "Christ died for our sins (verse 3), since He be "risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept" (verse 20), since we shall be "raised in glory" and "bear the image of the heavenly," let our gratitude be expressed in a life of practical holiness.
A second motive to inspire the performance of this duty is contained in the closing clause of our verse: "forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord." He will be no man’s Debtor: every sincere effort of gratitude—however faulty its execution—is valued by Him and shall be recompensed. "God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love which ye have showed toward His name" (Heb. 6:10). The Christian should be fully assured that a genuine endeavour to do God’s will and promote His glory will receive His smile, produce peace of conscience and joy of heart here, and His "well done" hereafter. "In the keeping of His commandments there is great reward." This was the motive which animated Moses in his great renunciation (Heb. 11:24-26): "he had respect unto the recompense of the reward."
"Forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord." "Labour" is a stronger word than "work," signifying effort to the point of fatigue. "In the Lord" means in union with and dependence upon Him. Such labour shall not be strength spent for naught. Yet that is exactly what it appears to be to the Christian. To him it seems his efforts to mortify his lusts and develop his graces are utterly futile. He feels that his best endeavors to resist sin and bring forth the fruits of holiness are a total failure. That is because he judges by sight and sense! God, who looks at the heart and accepts the sincere will for the deed, reckons otherwise. "Ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord": such an assurance is ours in exact proportion to the measure of faith. The more confident our hope of reward, the more determined will be our efforts to mortify sin and practice holiness—the only "labour" God has assured us "is not in vain"!