Category Archives: The Gospel

The Joyful Sound And The Shining Face

The last few days I have been making melody in my heart to the Lord with the words of an old song that I first heard many years ago at Brother Graham’s little Faith Tabernacle in Calgary.

Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound.
They shall walk, walk O Lord, in the light of Thy countenance.
Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound!

The words are from Psalm 89:15.

Now, what is the joyful sound?  The Hebrew word is teruwah, which means shout of joy or triumph, or the sound of a trumpet blast, whether of jubilee or alarm of war.  In this song it is obviously the shout of joy and triumph, for Psalm 89 is about the eternal Throne of David, and is prophetic of Christ the Son of David ascending to the throne of Heaven.  (What a triumph that is!)  We find the same word in Psalm 47.5:  “God is gone up (has ascended) with a shout, the LORD with the sound of a trumpet.”  It is also used of the great shout the people made when the ark came into the camp (1 Sam. 4.5) and later when David and all Israel brought the ark home to Zion (2 Sam. 6.15).

All this, of course, is prophetic.  For you and I in new-covenant days, the joyful sound can only be the shout of triumph that accompanies the Glad Tidings of great joy—that the Son of David, the Lord Jesus Christ, has triumphed over all His enemies and ours, and is seated on the highest throne in the universe with all power in heaven and earth.  There’s a lot of bad news out there these days, but beloved, have we heard these tidings—this Good News?  Do we know that Salvation has come—the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, who has triumphed over the reign of sin and death in the family of man?

Wonderful—astounding—news!  Oh, the Gospel that we have!  It truly is the joyful sound!  It is truly cause to shout and leap for joy!  For, on the Cross of Calvary our Saviour the Lord Jesus Christ stopped—yes, stopped—the invasion of sin and death into the family of man.

You say it doesn’t appear to be true?  And that sin and death are on the rampage like never before?  Then family of God (we who know the joyful sound) let us walk in the light of His shining countenance so that from our own faces there may be a shining forth of the truth of the Gospel in this dark world of ours!

For, that Jesus saved us from our sins, and from death the wages of sin, is only the beginning of the Glad Tidings.  Our Salvation is not only salvation from something.  He is salvation to something as well.  Yes of course, you say, now we’ll go to Heaven when we die.  True, but don’t sell yourself short.  It is much more than that!

Saved by His Life?

For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life (Rom. 5.10).

What is this—saved by His life?  Yes, it is wonderful that our Saviour’s death justifies us and reconciles us to God.  But His resurrection and ascension and the gift of His Spirit makes us a new creation now.  Jesus told the disciples He would send them the Spirit when He went away, enjoining them to His own eternal life.  “Because I live,” He promised, “ye shall live also,” (Jn. 14.19).  Do we grasp this?  He is alive with eternal life!  “Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over Him” (Rom. 6.9).  Wonderful for Him, right?  Yes, and wonderful for you and me also!  For He says, “Because I live ye shall live also.”  This is the power of His ascension life!  And He is not talking about mere unending existence; He is talking about the Life over which sin and death have no dominion.  Meaning that there is provision for us right here on earth to walk step by step in the Pathway of Life Himself… right through the valley of the shadow of death.  It is a walk in the Spirit that is an outshining of the truth that, right here in this present evil world, sin and death no longer reign in those who are saved.  The sorry picture is that all too often there is no apparent difference between those who are saved and those who are still captives to the law of sin and death.  Why are we not more jealous for what is our own?

Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into death that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life (Rom. 6.4).

Newness of life!  It is a walk in the light of His countenance—His face!  It is new-covenant light; we are not governed by rule and regulation, statute and precept and ordinance, but by a Law of life.  Meaning (let us understand this) those who walk in this light are no longer subject to the law of sin and death.  They walk in the light of life.  They are rebels, you might say: they refuse to obey the law of sin and death any more.  They have heard and know the joyful sound; they have a different ruler now, and they walk in the light of His countenance…

…And therefore in their own faces they manifest His own Shining Face of victory, shining in the darkness of this world the light of life and love and joy and peace and hope and righteousness.

More next time.

The Blessing Of Abraham–The Gospel Of Christ

In my reading this morning these words arrested me:

And I am sure that when I come unto you, I shall come in the fullness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ (Rom. 15.29).

This is Paul writing to the Romans about a trip their way he hoped to make.  And he knows he will come to them “in the fullness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ.”

The blessing—this is the promise God gave Abraham.

And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed (Gen. 22.18).

Paul with Holy-Spirit illumination points out that the seed of Abraham is Christ.

He saith not, And to thy seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ (Gal. 3.16).

Christ—and those in Christ—this is the seed of Abraham (Gal. 3.29).  And so here is Paul, a man in Christ, coming to those among the nations to bless them with the blessing of Abraham.

What is the blessing of Abraham?

Shortly after the Spirit had fallen at Pentecost Peter was speaking to the people in a portico of the temple.  He reminded them that they were “the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham: And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed” (Acts 3.25).

What is this blessing?  Peter continued:

Unto you first God, having raised up His Son Jesus, sent Him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities (Acts 3.26).

“Unto you first…” He was speaking to those who were Jews by nature.  Before long this blessing would go forth to the Gentiles too—God’s promise of old to Abraham now being fulfilled.

But does not our breath catch in our throat when we discover the reach of this blessing?  Not only how wide its reach—that those who embrace Jesus Christ, whether Jew or Gentile, are a people blessed with the blessing of Abraham—but the depth of its reach as well, and its height.  All too often we Christians view God’s blessings within the narrow confines of earthly prosperity—something even the most wicked of men can enjoy.  Here Peter says that the blessing of Abraham consists in God’s Son Jesus turning men and women from their iniquities.

This is a profound statement.  These ones are blessed in that sin no longer has dominion over them.  They are free from the bondage of sin.  This is the blessing of Abraham!  And there is a fullness to this blessing… so great a fullness, and with such staggering implications (just read prayerfully through Romans 5.12-21), that one can scarcely take it in.

Sin has wrought utter havoc in the family of Adam, and terrible sorrow.  But there is Good News.  Exceedingly good news!  We need not be subjects of the domain of sin and death!  One has come who brought into being a totally different domain—the domain of the blessed, of those who are now free from sin and all its ruin.  This is what “the blessing of the Gospel” is all about.

No more let sin and sorrow grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground.
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found.

The blessing of the Gospel is not a message in word only.  It is not mere theory.

For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance… (1 Thes. 1.5).

The Gospel is a message in the power of the Holy Spirit that proves, that demonstrates, the reality of the victory of Jesus Christ over the whole realm of the law of sin and death.  We really ought to be beside ourselves with joy for this, and I suspect that the reason we often are not is that we just don’t see the powerful far-reaching implications of this Gospel… and have not been impacted by it all that much.  There is a Gospel that stops the workings of the law of sin and death in its tracks.  There is a Gospel that in the fullness of its blessing means the dominion of grace and righteousness and eternal life.

It’s the blessing of Abraham—which in another place is revealed as the promise of the Spirit of God.

Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:
That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. (Gal. 3.14).

How does Jesus Christ turn people from their iniquities?  Yes, first by dying upon a Cross to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.

But then He ascends to the right hand of the Father in order to receive for us the Promise from the Father—the Holy Spirit of promise—and comes again in the power of the Spirit, that you and I might live the blessed life that is free from sin, victorious over all.

Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He hath shed forth this which ye now see and hear (Acts 2.33).

Brothers and sisters, let us not settle for less than this Gospel.  Theory will not cut it in this hour.  Paul could say, “I’ve got the goods.”  He was sure that when he arrived in Rome it would be with “the fullness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ.”  Let us earnestly seek God in this hour for this same Blessing, the Blessing of the Gospel—the kind of Gospel Paul had—a Gospel not in word but in power.  For we too, like Paul, are called to be emissaries of this Blessing… “far as the curse is found.”

Is God Home?

Years ago I saw a cartoon in a religious magazine that showed a small boy standing on the doorstep of a large church.  Apparently he has just knocked on the ornate door, for the door stands open and a clergyman with his hand on the doorknob is looking down at him.  The little boy, neck craned upward, asks, “Is God home?”

How cute, eh.  Who but a child would expect God to actually be at home in the house of God?  But, out of the mouth of babes…

So let me ask a question.  Why did God save you and me?  Most likely we answer that He saved us because we needed salvation; we realized we were bound in sin and about to get our wages (death).

And that’s true.  But let me ask another question.  Why did God save Israel out of Egypt?  We need to know this, because the story of the children of Israel coming out of Egypt and entering into the Promised Land is one of the Bible’s great building blocks.  It’s this prophetic story by which God builds our understanding of His great plan of eternal salvation in Christ.  There are other building blocks, but as we read our New Testament we discover that this one is certainly a major one.  Paul tells us that “Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us” (1 Cor. 5.7), and this is of course a reference to the night Israel was delivered from Egypt by the Passover lamb.  Peter has the same event in mind when he tells us we have been “redeemed… with the precious blood of Christ as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Pt. 1.19).

Then on one occasion in the wilderness when the people were bitten by poisonous serpents, God directed Moses to set up a serpent of brass on a pole.  Whoever looked up at the brazen serpent was delivered from the poison at work in his system.  One moment they were on their way to the land of the dead; the next they were in the land of the living.  Jesus Christ selects this event to open our eyes to Himself, telling us that “even so must the Son of man be lifted up (on the Cross of Calvary), that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life” (Jn. 3.15).

And so with Israel’s salvation story, God opens our eyes to our own salvation story.

Which is why I asked those questions.  Why did God save you and me?  But why did He save them?  Once we discover the answer to why He brought them out of Egyptian bondage we will have a better understanding of His objective in our own salvation.

So let’s read what God had in mind by delivering Israel from Egyptian bondage.  Here are three verses in which we have God’s reasons from His own mouth.

I am the LORD your God, which brought you forth out of the land of Egypt, that ye should not be their bondmen; and I have broken the bands of your yoke, and made you go upright (Lev. 26.13).

This is the reason that most usually comes to mind when we think of why God brought them out of Egypt.  The Israelites in Egypt were under the grievous yoke of slavery.  They cried to God in their bondage and He sent a deliverer to set them free.  By the blood of the Passover lamb He redeemed them from “the house of bondmen” (Dt. 7.8), and they were happily on their way to the Promised Land.  This was their gospel—their good news.  And here we have a close parallel to our own Gospel, the Good News of our redemption in Christ Jesus, our salvation from the bondage of sin by the blood of Christ our Passover.  We have been redeemed, we are free!  But free to do what?  Here’s another verse:

For I am the LORD that bringeth you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God: ye shall therefore be holy, for I am holy (Lev. 11.45).

This second verse tells us that God brought them out of Egypt to be their God.  What did He mean by this?  Wasn’t He their God in Egypt?  Yes, but bowed down in the yoke of bondage they were not free to worship Him.  He wanted to be their God… and He explained what being their God implies.  If God is to be their God, they must be holy—separated unto Him.  This they could not be while serving Pharaoh in the iron furnace.  God liberated them to the intent that they could worship and serve Him unhindered.  And since He is a holy God, this would mean holiness on their part, something that the New Testament writers enjoin on us as well.  Peter calls us to holiness, quoting the same words God commanded Israel when they came out of Egypt.

Be ye holy, for I am holy (1 Pt. 1.16, Lev. 11.44).

This brings us to another verse.  And to get the impact of it let’s put ourselves back there in Egypt.  We have known nothing but grinding slavery all our lives, and it would take an absolute miracle to be free.  But one day there is good news making the rounds among the slaves.  And suddenly the impossible miracle is actually happening!  Oh, what a Name this mighty God is making for Himself!  He judges Egypt and brings us out of Egypt and parts the Red Sea and brings us through and utterly destroys our enemies… and we are on our way to the Promised Land rejoicing!

And we come to Sinai, and… what is Moses asking?  During the time of the giving of the law at Sinai God tells Moses we are now to bring Him an offering—gold, silver, bronze, blue, purple, scarlet, fine linen, rams skins dyes red… oil, spices, onyx stones….  What’s this all about?  We are on our way to our Canaan inheritance, but what does this great God who has delivered us have in mind?

And let them make Me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them (Ex. 25.8).

Do we see open mouths and wonder on the faces of those around us?  I am sure this would have been a real jaw dropper back then.  These people had a long history with God.  He was the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob.  But now what’s this?  He wants to dwell in their very midst?  This is something utterly unheard of.  Never before had this great God of their fathers mentioned anything like this.

But this, He says, is why He brought them out of Egypt.

And they shall know that I am the LORD their God, that brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, that I may dwell among them; I am the LORD their God (Ex. 29.46).

What a wonder.  Here they are, the Red Sea behind them, hearts full of expectation about the promised inheritance before them.  And how wonderful to think that the God of their fathers who just made for Himself an everlasting Name by bringing them out of Egypt would bring them into the promised inheritance.  What more could they ask?

But this was not enough for God.  He wanted to dwell in their midst on the way there.  He wanted a Sanctuary—a Holy Place—so that He the Holy God could dwell in their midst.

Fellow Christian, let us lay this to heart.  The great God who accomplished for us so great a salvation in Calvary’s cross is not content to just save us so we can live out our lives and then go happily to Heaven.

He wants to dwell in our midst on the way there.

So I can’t help asking one more question, and I wish more were asking it.  Oh, how thankful we are for the salvation we have in Christ Jesus our Lord.  But…  is God getting the desire of His heart among the saved these days?  Is God finding His Sanctuary, His Dwelling Place in our churches?  Is God actually home?

Master, The Tempest Is Raging

I’ve been reading through the Gospel of Mark, which some say is likely Peter’s first-hand account of the life of Jesus as he related it to Mark.  Mark’s gospel is action packed, and you find yourself drawn right into the action.  He moves quickly from one thing to the next.  In fact his favourite word is straightway, that is, immediately,  Another thing– he continually writes of these long-ago things in the present tense.  It is as though he is reporting “live.”

And so after explaining to His disciples the parable of the sower Jesus says to them, “Let us pass over unto the other side” (Mk. 4.35).

As I understand it, He was already in a boat from which He had been speaking to the multitude, so His disciples just took Him as He was, and headed for the opposite shore.  Jesus, apparently, took advantage of the time to get some much-needed rest, and fell asleep on the pillow (or seat cushion) in the boat’s stern.  Things went quietly for a bit, but before long a great storm of wind arose.  The waves were so high they were beating into the boat.  I won’t be the first to point out that Jesus had not said, “Let us go out into the deep and be drowned.”  But the disciples were sure they were all about to go to the bottom.  Jesus must have been completely worn out from the intense ministry of the last few days, for, while the disciples are bailing water for all they’re worth, at the same time wet to the bone and hanging on for dear life lest at any moment they be pitched overboard… He, of all things, is sleeping like a rock.  The storm is raging and they are losing the battle and are filled with fear; they know they are going to go under any moment now.  And He?  When they dare take their eyes off the storm they cast incredulous (and maybe resentful) glances at their sleeping Master.  How can He be so completely oblivious to what we are going through?

Finally they can take no more.  They wake Him, almost chiding Him for His apparent indifference to their peril.  “Master, is it of no concern to you that we are perishing?”

And He opens His eyes, and arises, and looks around.  And He rebukes the wind, “Be silent!” and speaks to the sea, “Hush.”  And the wind completely collapses, “and there was a great calm.”  (I like the differentiation here—that to the winds of the heavens He delivers a stern rebuke, but to the water these winds have stirred up, He speaks a quieting word.)

Then He looks around on His wondering disciples, and says (and I see Him smiling in love and shaking His head reproachfully):

Why are ye so fearful?  How is it that ye have no faith?

…But if the storm had made them fearful, now they are filled with an entirely different kind of fear.

And they feared exceedingly and said to one another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?

That’s how the King James Version has this verse.  More accurately it says, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?”  In other words, someone who could do what this One just did… they weren’t even sure He was human.

But He was human, beloved.  And still is.  And yes, what a wonder that He can speak to the wind and the waves, and they obey Him, and suddenly the storm is past.

To me it’s an even greater wonder that in the midst of the storm this man could sleep so soundly, so trustingly.  I tell you, in my own life I long for this more than to see the storm gone.  This Man was as human as you and I.  The writer of Hebrews, among the verses he quotes to verify the certainty that Jesus was as much flesh and blood as you and I, quoted this verse to clinch it.

I will put my trust in Him (Heb. 2.13).

He is speaking of Jesus.  He put His trust in God.  In other words, when the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, He lived as One who put His trust in God.

And the fruit of this trust—oh, the beauty of the peace and rest He enjoyed as a result of this trust in God His Father.

Do we envy Him that relationship, meanwhile reconciling ourselves to something less?  But what was the whole purpose of His coming?

Howbeit, when He the Spirit of truth is come, He will guide you into all the truth… He shall glorify Me, for He shall receive of Mine, and shew it unto you (Jn. 16.13,14).

He will lead you into this same relationship, will bring you into the same loving trust.  “He shall receive of Mine, and declare it to you.”  That is, He will impart to you what is Mine so that it is yours also.

Yes, this same loving relationship between Father and Son, this same trust.  It is the new-covenant ministry of the Holy Spirit to bring us into this, to perfect this in you and me.

Do we pursue the high things of God?  But I wonder if coming into this trust isn’t the greatest of all spiritual attainments.  I wonder if it isn’t the deepest work of God in our lives to simply bring us to the place where we trust Him.  That is, trust Him when we are in the midst of the raging storms of life, trust Him so deeply that we aren’t moved in times of turmoil, but rather know a deep and abiding peace.  Maybe the problems are still there, and the perplexities.  And the troubles.  But in the midst of it all we are asleep on the pillow… knowing that we were invited not to go under, but to go over to the other side.

God’s Righteousness—My Friend

In 1513 Augustinian monk Martin Luther agonized day and night over the condition of his heart.  His conscience tormented him; he knew he was a sinful man, and that God was a holy and righteous God, and he was terrified.

One day Luther was preparing a course of lectures on the Psalms for a class he was teaching at the University of Wittenberg where he was Professor of Sacred Theology.  He came to Psalm 31 and read:

In Thee, O LORD, do I put my trust; let me never be ashamed: deliver me in Thy righteousness (Ps. 31.1).

Deliver me in Thy righteousness?  Luther was arrested by the words.  How could God’s righteousness deliver him?  God’s righteousness was his greatest problem; sinner that he was, God’s righteousness must surely condemn him.

Then Luther began thinking of Paul’s words to the Romans.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth…
For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, the just shall live by faith (Rom. 1.16,17).

Suddenly the light went on.  Here are Luther’s own words about what happened.

I had greatly longed to understand Paul’s epistle to the Romans, and nothing stood in the way but that one expression, “the righteousness of God,” because I took it to mean that righteousness whereby God is righteous and acts righteously in punishing the unrighteous…. Night and day I pondered until… I grasped the truth that the righteousness of God is that righteousness whereby, through grace and sheer mercy, He justifies us by faith.  Thereupon I felt myself to be reborn and to have gone through open doors into paradise.  The whole of Scripture took on a new meaning, and whereas before “the righteousness of God” had filled me with hate, now it became to me inexpressibly sweet in greater love.  This passage of Paul became to me a gateway into heaven.

The rest is history.  The Reformation (though terribly contaminated by the hand of man in his attempt to accomplish the works of God) was a significant milestone in the unfolding purposes of God.

But justification by faith is only the beginning of the Christian walk.  It is tremendous world-shaking truth, but God never intended that we should receive His gift of righteousness only to satisfy ourselves that we are now fit for Heaven.  Paul does not lay the foundation of justification by faith in the first four chapters of Romans to stop there, but to build thereon.  The righteousness of God is not just something that is put to our account by our faith in Jesus.  As we read Romans Five to Eight we see that the righteousness of God by which we were justified becomes the principle of life pulsing within us—and the outer garment we wear for all the world to see.

We have not yet seen the full outworking of this second part—the saints of God walking in no lesser righteousness than the righteousness of Christ Himself.  But when we do we will discover this to be more world shaking than the rediscovery of justification by faith.

It is wonderful truth that Christ died for us.  But wonder of wonders, my friend Righteousness not only died for me, He lives for me.

Paul says:

For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more being reconciled we shall be saved by His life (Rom. 5.10).

Meaning?  Not just that when God looks upon the believer He sees us justified through the blood of Christ.  Much more than this, the same eternal life and righteousness of the Ascended One is in me by His Spirit.  And so, “Because I live,” He says, “ye shall live also” (Jn. 14.19).  And He is speaking here of the coming of the Comforter, the Holy Spirit.  By His Spirit He lives in me the life that is otherwise impossible for a man to live, saving me in all things day after day after day.

And so we have this from Romans Eight:

There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit.
For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.
For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God, sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh
That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit (Rom. 8.1-4).

How little we Christians have entered upon this powerful truth.  Like Luther we still think of righteousness as that outward set of rules that is against us.  What about the Gospel—the good news—the righteousness of God that becomes the inner empowering law at the spring of our being and life?

The word condemnation in the above passage is often taken to mean the guilty feeling we have as a result of sin.  We feel “under condemnation,” that is, “guilty.”  The word actually means there is no “sentence against” those in Christ Jesus.  There can be no charge whatsoever against those who are in Christ Jesus, “who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit.”

Mark those last words.  My friend Righteousness who first gave me a hand up out of the pit of sin and death continues to walk with me by His Spirit, thus enabling me to walk in righteousness—His own righteousness—all my days.

I love the old hymn by Nicholas von Zinzendorf (translated by John Wesley):

Jesus thy blood and righteousness
My beauty are, my glorious dress;
‘Midst flaming worlds in these arrayed
With Joy I shall lift up my head.

My beauty are, my glorious dress!  Not just my legal standing before God, but the robe of righteousness I live in and wear, covering me from head to foot with the beauty of Christ.  And so “‘midst flaming worlds” when all around me is going up in smoke, I am not one of those hanging my head in fear and shame; I lift my head high with the greatest joy!

Here’s the whole hymn… but be forewarned:  it’s not in the genre of some of our modern light chaffy entertainy type Christian music.  I doubt you can take this one in without your heart being on its face.

What World Do You Walk In?

Habakkuk the prophet spoke of a time when he could find nothing but desolation all around him.  The fig tree had not blossomed, nor seemed likely to blossom.  There was no fruit in the vine.  The labour of the olive had failed.  The fields had yielded no food.  The flock was cut off from the fold, and there was no herd in the stalls (Hab. 3.17).

This was a spiritual scene Habakkuk was prophesying about—signs of a frightening spiritual crop failure, and therefore severe famine at the door.  Yet what was Habakkuk’s reaction?

Yet will I rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.
The LORD God is my strength, and He will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and He will make me to walk upon my high places (Hab. 3.19).

Joy?  Rejoicing?  How can it be possible to be in the midst of such grievous circumstance and yet tap into a source of joy?

Let me tell you of one high place higher than all others—the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, who is seated at the right hand of God in heavenly places “far above all principality and power and might and dominion and every name that is named not only in this age but also in that which is to come” (Eph. 1.21).

And we are called to walk in Him there.

As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him, rooted and built up in Him, and established in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving (Col. 1.7).

Fellow Christian with the hinds’ feet of the Holy Spirit, though we live in an evil world of trouble and great darkness, it is our heritage to be living and walking in the high places of an entirely different world.  In Christ we have the opportunity—and the provision by the Holy Spirit—to walk no longer dependent on this world for our peace and wellbeing and happiness and security.  Those who walk in this world, when evil circumstance—trouble or affliction—comes upon them, their peace and wellbeing evaporates like the morning cloud in the heat of the sun.

I know this happens to you and me too at times.  But it need not.  There is another realm in which we can walk.  Those who have received Christ Jesus the Lord, we can walk in Him.  Regardless of present evil circumstance or affliction, JESUS CHRIST IS LORD, and so, rooted and built up in Him, and established in the faith, we can be living and walking in One who is seated upon the Throne of God in a kingdom and dominion that transcends and rules over all.

Let us consider this earnestly, and meditate upon it, and sow to it.  It is quite the thing that there are people on this troubled planet who are actually rooted and living in a different world.  They are not subject to the vagaries and transience of earthly things. There may be some deeply galling circumstance in our life, or deep affliction, something from which, like a prison, there seems no escape.  But right there we can be living in another realm.

Consider the apostle Paul when he was a prisoner (Phil. 1.13)… and not quite sure how things would go for him (2.23).  How long would he be in this prison?  Perhaps he might even be executed?  And yet he is filled to overflowing with joy.  Read his letter to the Philippians remembering he is in prison while he writes this.  Yet he is filled with joy, so much so that his joy just spills over to those he is writing to.  You have to read the whole letter in one sweep to get the feel of it, but here are two or three verses.

…Christ is preached, and therein do I rejoice, yea, and will rejoice (Phil. 1.18).

Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all.
For the same cause also do ye joy, and rejoice with me (Phil. 2.17,18).

Paul expects it could well be that his days here on earth are over, but he is filled with joy, and seeks to infect his friends and brethren with the same joy.  Like Habakkuk, he is rejoicing in the midst of the worst possible circumstances.

Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord (Phil. 3.1).

These are Habakkuk’s words, aren’t they.  And it appears Paul is about to sign off.  “Finally, my brethren…”  But the joy continues to well up, and now something else comes on his heart,  and it is not till he has given us one of the most precious chapters in the whole of the Bible (Philippians Ch. 3) that he picks up his benediction again:

Rejoice in the Lord alway, and again I say, rejoice (Ch. 4.4).

How can he be so full of joy considering his circumstances?  It’s simply because he is rooted in a heavenly Ground that transcends his present evil circumstance.  He knows that the Gospel of Christ in him is a power that rules over all; whatever comes it is not possible for him to be disappointed.

…According to my earnest expectation and my hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life or by death.
For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain (Ch. 1.20).

We find this same confidence in Paul’s second letter to Timothy written when he is again in prison.  This time he is chained like a common criminal—and this time he knows for certain his end is at hand.  (He was executed under the Roman emperor Nero, likely in 67 AD just after writing this letter.)

And note what we glean from this letter; it’s enough to sink anyone in despair.  All in the province of Asia where Paul has laboured so earnestly have now deserted him (2 Tim. 1.15).  That in itself is enough to take the heart out of anyone—to see their life’s work disintegrate before their very eyes.  The flock, it seems, has been cut off from the fold; Paul’s labour of the olive has failed… or so it seemed.  And it appears it’s a rare thing that anyone comes to visit lonely Paul in prison; he makes special mention of a certain Onesiphorus who came from Ephesus and searched hard to find him and came often and refreshed him, “and was not ashamed of my chain” (2 Tim. 1.16).

What is more, Paul tells Timothy that the first time he stood before Nero no one showed up to stand by him and defend him (2 Tim. 4.16).  My.  One would think the Lord Himself had abandoned Paul… until we continue reading.

Nevertheless the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me… and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion.
And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto His heavenly kingdom, to whom be glory forever and ever, Amen (2 Tim. 4.18).

And so we see in Paul an unshakable faith and confidence that springs from a source other than this present evil world.  Paul is rooted in another world, a heavenly world—actually in Christ Himself, who never ever forsakes him.  He is being built up in Him, for he is established, grounded, in the faith, abounding therein with thanksgiving.  His letter is filled with words of encouragement for Timothy, whom he knows to be somewhat timid of nature, and vulnerable to fear and anxiety.  Paul reminds him it is for the Gospel that he is suffering these things, and regardless of the present scene, he is confident in the triumph of the Gospel—to be revealed in a certain Day.  And so he rejoices in the Lord, in the God of his salvation.

For which cause I suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed to Him against that Day (2 Tim. 1.12).

Beloved Christian, there is a Day coming.  There is coming a Day.  But this does not mean that the Gospel is not triumphant even now in our present troubles—for the one who with hinds’ feet walks in Christ in the high places of a different world… while we confidently await the Day when that triumph will be openly manifested.

The Gospel Of Eternal Life

Three times in his letters the apostle Paul refers to something he calls “my gospel” (Rom. 2.16, 16.25 and 2 Tim. 2.8).  There is of course only one Gospel—the Good News of our salvation.  But Paul was able to call this Gospel his own.  How so?  It’s because the gospel of God was not just hearsay to him; it was operative in his own life.

And what is the Gospel?  I realize many of us are very familiar with this, but I think we do well to look into the nature of the Gospel of Paul, lest the Gospel we’re so familiar with turn out to be a Gospel other than—or maybe less than—the one that lived and burned like fire in Paul.  So let’s look at this.

Paul, a bondslave of Jesus Christ, a called apostle, separated unto the gospel of God
Which He had promised afore by His prophets in holy scriptures… (Rom. 1.1,2).

This gospel is laid out in great detail in Paul’s letter to the Romans, but we will go to his second letter to Timothy, where it is encapsuled.  It is a very powerful gospel—very great glad tidings.

Paul is writing to Timothy from a Roman prison where Nero has cast him, intending shortly to execute him.  As we read later in the letter, Paul himself anticipates his end is at hand.  But he doesn’t call it an execution.  He calls it an offering unto God.  He is “ready to be offered,” he tells Timothy.  He has “fought a good fight,” he has “finished his course,” he has “kept the faith.”  He looks forward to the crown of righteousness which is laid up for him, “which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me in that day, and not to me only but unto all them also that love His appearing” (2 Tim. 4.6-8).

Paul begins his last letter with these words:

Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, according to the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus…

These words remind us of his letter to Titus.

Paul, a bondslave of Jesus Christ according to (in accordance with) the faith of God’s elect, and the knowledge of the truth which is after (accords with) godliness;
In hope of eternal life, which God that cannot lie promised before the ages of time…

Paul told the Romans that God promised the Gospel “by His prophets in holy scriptures.”  Here he says God promised it “before the ages of time.”  So this Gospel is a very great thing in the eternal purposes of God.  We highlight the words, “in hope of eternal life, which God that cannot lie promised…”  They echo the introductory words to Timothy we quoted above: Paul says he is an apostle of Jesus Christ “according to the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus.”  And so what has God promised?  Life.  And what life has God promised?  Eternal life.  Before the ages of time God promised that out from a whole race bound under the law sin and death He would bring a new man into a new dimension of life—eternal life.

But what does this eternal life involve?  Dying and going to Heaven and living forever?  Let’s read Paul’s letter to Timothy a little further.  We’ll discover the astonishing gospel unto which Paul had been separated.

First, he calls Timothy to boldness.  He is not to be ashamed of what he is involved in.

Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but suffer evil along with the gospel according to the power of God…

The testimony of our Lord is the witness to the truth to which Christ was faithful in His own life and walk, and which we too are equipped to give by His Spirit.  We note in passing that Paul gives no credit whatsoever to the reprobate Roman ruler Nero for his imprisonment; he is a prisoner not of Nero but of Jesus Christ.  For, Nero may purpose to shut the Gospel down, but Paul knows it is actually for the furtherance of the Gospel that he has been jailed.  His sufferings and imprisonment will result in the Gospel not being shut down but actually growing.  And so he seeks to encourage Timothy with the same realization.  This Gospel is attended with much shame and suffering as far as this world is concerned; many there are who will not bear the shame and afflictions of the Gospel.  But Paul assures Timothy that God has all the power necessary to equip him to bear up under it all, and suffer the evils the gospel suffers in its way of triumph.

Now Paul lays out for Timothy (and for all of us) the staggering dimensions of this awesome gospel of God.  Let’s read it carefully.

…Suffer evil along with the gospel according to the power of God,
Who hath saved us, and called us with a holy calling, nor according to our works but according to His own purpose and grace which was given us in Christ Jesus before the ages of time,
But is now made manifest by the appearing of Jesus Christ, who hath abolished (annulled) death, and hath brought life and immortality (incorruption) to light through the gospel;
Whereunto I am appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles” (2 Tim. 1.8-11).

This is such a powerful passage of Scripture.  Paul says that Jesus Christ has “abolished death.”  That is, He has made death impotent, he has made it “of no effect.”  He has made death so that it “doesn’t work” anymore, as the word literally means.  It has no power.  This is what God accomplished in the cross of Jesus Christ.

But that is not all.  In what Paul is saying here he has his opening words in mind, “the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus.”  He returns to them now, saying that the God who has made death of no effect has “brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”  We too easily miss the import of these powerful words.  Paul is not talking about a gospel that merely informs us that God has brought life and incorruption to light; he is talking about the gospel that is an actual demonstration of the truth that Christ has annulled death.

This is what the Gospel is all about—and nothing less.  The Gospel is a bringing to light, a manifestation, a shining forth… of a life that is dominion over death.

And what is death?  Paul is not talking solely about the death that terminates our mortal existence.  Yes, in due time that too is vanquished.  But primarily Paul is talking about the death that reigns over the whole family of Adam all their days.  Death is not merely an event that ends our life here on earth.  It is a domain in which all men have been bound since the day Adam sinned in the Garden.  All, that is, except those who have been liberated from that bondage by the Gospel.  The Gospel of God is a gospel that brings men into the kind of Life over which sin and death has no dominion.

Paul wrote to the Romans, “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death” (Rom. 8.2).  He wrote, “For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one, much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5.17).

Christian, is this the gospel—the glad tidings—unto which you and I too are separated?  Are we walking in a Life that reigns over all—over sin, over the domain of death?  Over the flesh, over the world, over the Devil?  And this not only in our own lives but in the lives of those around us?

This is why He saved us.

But it doesn’t end with our own salvation:  “He saved us, and called us with a holy calling…”  What is the calling?  It is the calling to walk in eternal life and make eternal life manifest in a world bound under the law of sin and death.  What does Paul urge us to, then?

Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life whereunto thou art called and hast confessed a good confession before many witnesses (1 Tim. 6.12).

Let us lay hold on this eternal life, Christian.  This is our calling.  It is unto this that we, like Timothy, have been called on behalf of all men.  It’s the Gospel of God, the Gospel of eternal life.  Let us never settle for a gospel less than this!  It is good news—very good news indeed!

Look And Live (Part 2)

Last time I published an excerpt from The Better Covenant, by Ron Bailey.  A few of my own thoughts now.

The famous John 3:16 quote must be read in context, as Ron Bailey emphasizes.  Christ has just drawn attention to Moses lifting up the serpent in the wilderness, adding that “even so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whosever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (Jn. 3:14,15).

That is the context of John 3:16.  “For God so loved the world…”  That is, it is thus, in this manner (referring back to the previous two verses), that God loved the world.  Just as He gave the people in the wilderness the serpent on the pole, “He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

The people in the wilderness bitten by the fiery serpents were dying, and they knew it.  Looking upon the brazen serpent on the pole was a matter of life and death.  It wasn’t optional; there was no other remedy.

How desperately we need the kind of Gospel that in its going forth causes men to know the sting of death is at work in them.  They have been bitten by a Serpent; the sting of his venom—sin—is coursing through their system.  Eve, deceived by the Serpent, bit into the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; Adam subsequently bit into it as well—an act of deliberate disobedience—and ever since, all born in Adam have been “bitten” by the Serpent; they are infected with his own nature; the poison of sin and disobedience courses through our systems.  We are dying; others we love are dying.

But there is a remedy.

The same Gospel that reveals the desperate state of all men also reveals there is a remedy—and no other remedy—looking upon, believing on, the Crucified One.  To look upon the serpent on the pole is the antidote for the poisonous sting.  We may not comprehend why this works any more than the people back there in the wilderness understood why looking at the brazen serpent on the pole suddenly caused the poison in their systems to stop its deadly working.  But it is God’s directive; to believe is enough.  In due course He will give the understanding—that when the Lord Jesus Christ was lifted up on the cross of Calvary He judged, condemned, the Serpent, and bore in Himself the judgment of the man bitten by that Serpent, and thus became his salvation.  Those bitten ought to have died; He died instead.

“As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness even so must the Son of man be lifted up…”  It’s hard for us to comprehend, and we don’t try to press beyond the boundaries of reverence and holiness.  Christ likens Himself lifted up, crucified, to the serpent of brass on the pole. We find that likeness revolting; it doesn’t seem right; it’s horrible imagery—our beautiful Lord Jesus Christ being likened to a serpent.  But it just shows you how far the love of God was prepared to go to save the creature He had ordained for His own image and likeness—and who had become contaminated with the serpent’s nature.  If it’s imagery that we find repugnant, should we feel any less revulsion for sin?

In fact Paul tells us the Lord Jesus Christ became sin for us, He who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him (2 Cor. 5:21).

Rotherham in his Emphasized Bible points out that in Hebrew the words for sin offering (he prefers sin bearer) and sin are the same (chattath); the words for guilt offering and guilt are also the same (asham)—“the victim being called by the name of the offence which it bears and for which it dies.”  Here is the scenario.  Someone brings his sin offering to the priest and puts his hands on the head of that offering, thus identifying himself with the sin offering, and transferring his sin to the sin bearer.  The priest then leads it away to be slaughtered and sacrificed to God.  “The ancient usage was intensely dramatic,” says Rotherham. “It led the offerer, as he viewed his substitute, to exclaim, ‘There goes—there dies—my sin.’”

Just as the Hebrew text uses chattah for both sin and sin offering, the Greek translation of the Old Testament (the Septuagint) uses hamartias for both.  The apostle Paul was very familiar with the Septuagint as well as the Hebrew text, so it is not surprising to see the same usage in his writings, which were originally in Greek.  For, we read in Romans that God sent His Son “in the likeness of sinful (hamartias) flesh, and for sin (hamartias, that is, for a sin offering), condemned sin (hamartias) in the flesh” (Rom. 8:3).  Jesus Christ fulfilled that old-covenant type, becoming the sin offering who became our sin… and died.  We too may well say—that is, we who look on Him—“There goes—there dies—my sin.  Good-bye forever.”

This is the significance of believing in Him—on looking upon the serpent on the pole.  This is what believing implies.  Believing is not just mental assent to certain points of doctrine; it is looking upon Him and seeing Him, once for all, as the one and only remedy for a Serpent’s bite that means we are dying, are perishing.

Now, think of that ancient scenario in the wilderness as Ron Bailey described the Harold Copping print in his old Bible.  The poisonous snakes are making their way through the camp of Israel biting everyone in their path.  Some are dying; some are already dead.  Everybody is in panic mode; all they can think about is the deadly snakes.  They are not just listening to a nice sermon about accepting Jesus; they know they are dead if they don’t get help.  How we need this kind of evangelism, this kind of preaching—the sharp sword of the Spirit that pierces all defence and confronts people with their true state!  They have been bitten by a Serpent and they are dying!

But there must come a moment when we are no longer crying out because of the serpents that have bitten us.  There is no profit in continually pointing to this person or that—my father’s temperament or my great-grandfather’s addiction, or something my co-worker said the other day or the sin that dwelleth in me… or whatever.  That gets me nowhere.  And further, there is no use continually dwelling on the poison that’s at work in my system as a result of the bite.  Forever labouring under sin and guilt is futile.  We must look away from all that!  God has provided a remedy!  And it works!

We must look to the Serpent upon the pole.

And we must lead others to look to the Serpent upon the pole.  We must take them to Calvary where their sin (offering) died.

There’s often an emphasis on our need to see Jesus.  It’s important; it’s true—we need so deeply to see Him.  But what about our need to see Him as that Serpent lifted up on the pole?  The gospel the Galatian churches received was so graphic that they saw Christ crucified before their very eyes (Gal. 3:1).  Only the Holy Spirit can present this kind of gospel.  Only ministry in the power of the Holy Spirit can reveal before the eyes of sinners the Saviour lifted up on the pole.

Only ministry in the power of the Holy Spirit can open blind eyes to see that He who died for their sins also rose from the dead that we might live.

I recall George Warnock telling a story of a woman blind in one eye who suddenly one day saw the Lord on the cross, and He was blind in one eye.  Instantly she was healed.  How we need to see Him… as our sin—your sin, my sin—judged and sentenced and condemned… and dead.  What, do you suppose, would be the fruit of such seeing?

Spurgeon as a young man saw this lifted-up One.  He was on his way to church when suddenly a rainstorm came up.  He rushed into a little church nearby for shelter.  The service was in progress, and Spurgeon sat down at the back to listen.  The minister was preaching from Isaiah, “Look unto Me and be saved all ye ends of the earth, for I am God and none else” (Isa. 45:22).  Suddenly the preacher looked steadfastly at the young man who had just come in and said to him (and it was a living word), “Young man, look… and live.” Spurgeon would tell the story often, and say, “I looked, and I lived.”

How deeply we need this kind of Gospel—the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth.  Not the wishy-washy Gospel so common in our day, a gospel in word only, and often contaminated with gimmicks with no power to save.  But the Gospel that, because it is infused with the power of the grace of Christ… men see Him lifted up on their behalf!

Look… And Live

The following is an excerpt from The Better Covenant, by Ron Bailey (available on Amazon).  I found this very moving and wanted to share it with A Mending Feast readers.

Here’s the passage (which will take up this complete blog entry):

For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life (Jn. 3.16 NKJV).

This is probably the best loved text in the Bible but even the best texts can become dangerous if detached from their context.  For example, this single verse speaks of “believing,” but the kind of believing that it has in mind can only be discovered by reading the preceding verses. “Believing” here does not mean agreeing with facts as is usually the case in contemporary counselling patterns.  The kind of believing that John has in mind is the kind experienced by people in a unique situation.

And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life (Jn. 3.14,15 NKJV).

In other words, the kind of believing John has in mind is the kind found in Numbers 21.

The nation of Israel had sinned and the consequence of their sin was a plague of fiery venomous snakes.   The context is so important that I will give the whole section here.

And Jehovah sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died.   And the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, because we have spoken against Jehovah, and against thee; pray unto Jehovah that he take away the serpents from us.  And Moses prayed for the people.  And Jehovah said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a standard: and it shall come to pass that every one that is bitten, when he seeth it, shall live.  And Moses made a serpent of brass, and set in upon the standard.  And it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he looked unto the serpent of brass, he lived (Num. 21.6-9 ASV).

These people are not just sick or inconvenienced, they are dying and they know it.  They also know why they are dying.  “We have sinned.”  Conviction of sin is a work of God’s Spirit.  They had not been persuaded of the facts of the case by an evangelist; they knew it.  In fact, they took the initiative, they came to Moses.  This is much more like New Testament evangelism where the appeal comes from the congregation rather than the preacher.   They are desperate in their plea; this sounds much more like those old “after meetings” too.

They are also narrowed down to a single solution.  “Pray unto Jehovah that he take away the serpents from us.”  They know that there are not various options but only one possible solution: God must intervene.  This is also much more like those old “after meetings.”  They are seeking a salvation that only God can provide.  If God does not move on  their behalf they are dead men.  Currently their focus is on the snakes: “Take away the serpents from us.”  That must change.

Moses does as they ask and God commands him to make a fiery snake of brass and to erect it on a standard/pole.  There is to be only one brass snake and it must be “lifted up” on a standard so that it was in sight of everyone who had been bitten.  What a vivid picture this represents.  I have a beautiful colour print by Harold Copping in an old Bible.  I can’t look at it without weeping but let me see if I can describe it to you.

The tents of Israel spread out into the hazy distance.  The scene is chaotic, people rushing out of their tents, some running, some standing.  As in any panic it is difficult to make out quite what is happening.  Or it would be if it were not for a tent in the foreground that is much closer and has its own tragedy unfolding.  In the doorway of the tent there is a young man face down in the sand; a snake is wriggling over his arm and on its way to the next victim.  There is an old man in the doorway with white hair and beard, his attention is not on any of the chaos around him but is fixed on the horizon where a man holds a wooden stake with a single crosspiece; it has a brass snake coiled around it.

There are others in the doorway of the tent; a man and his wife are frantically trying to rouse a young man who looks to be the brother of the snake’s earlier victim.  The mother is cradling her teenage son in her arms, his eyes are closed; her face is pale with grief.  The father is fear crazed; his eyes show white as he tries desperately to rouse his young son from his coma.  His face strains to see any signs of life in his son, and his left hand points backwards to the horizon where the brass snake coils around the stake.  There are no words, but I know what he is saying:  “Look and live… look and live.”

Young’s Literal Translation does well to catch the sense of the verbs.  “And Moses maketh a serpent of brass, and setteth it on the ensign, and it hath been, if the serpent hath bitten any man, and he hath looked expectingly unto the serpent of brass—he hath lived” (Num. 21.9 YLT).  A paraphrase might say, “Any man looking away from everything else and putting his whole trust in the snake on the pole lived.”  This is not just a wonderful story, this is a definition of believing as used by John in John 3.16.  God so loved the world that He gave His only Son so that any man, looking away from everything else and putting his trust in a Man upon a cross should not perish but have everlasting life.  This is John’s desperate cry to all who have been bitten, and that is the whole race: “Look and live… look and live.”

It is delivered to men and women who know that we have sinned and that there is no other remedy unless God takes away the snakes.  I said earlier that men’s focus must not remain upon their own condition or even its cause: not the bite and not the poison eating its way through their lives, but upon the one “lifted up.”

That’s the passage from The Better Covenant by Ron Bailey.  Isn’t that rich?  I’ll just leave it there.  Next time, hopefully, I’ll give a few of my own thoughts on it.

The Ark Convicts Of Righteousness

The writer of Hebrews says it was Noah’s building the ark that justified God in bringing the flood on the world of the ungodly.

By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith (Heb. 11.7).

Now, when God destroyed the old world with that devastating flood He was not being mean to a bunch of nice people.  We are told that “the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6.5).  In other words the sin of Adam had come to a fullness.  And we are told that Noah was “a preacher of righteousness” (2 Pt. 2.5), and that it was those who “were disobedient” who suffered the consequences of their own disobedience (1 Pt. 4.20).  God is just in all His ways.  He had called for repentance.  He had made provision for salvation.  It was rejected.

And it was Noah’s building the ark that condemned the world.  Every board he fitted, every nail he pounded, passed sentence upon a guilty world.  Noah in building the ark was working out his own salvation, you might say.  But at the same time he was passing sentence on the world.  For, his building the ark demonstrated that God had provision for salvation in a wicked world.  It demonstrated that a man could be righteous in God’s sight—with the righteousness of faith.  Noah had heard from God.  He responded to what He was hearing.  God gave him clear instructions on how he was to build the ark.  He built it by faith.  Thus he became heir of the righteousness that is by faith.  The ark became a testimony, then, that condemned the world.  It provided God with just cause to bring in the flood.  Noah’s building the ark demonstrated that God had provided a way for sinners to be saved.

Just as the Atonement does—the cross and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.  As we saw last time, the flood of Noah’s day, and the ark of his salvation through it all, speaks of the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

We usually view what happened at Calvary from the salvation side of it, and rightly so.  But Christ’s life and death also became God’s condemnation of an evil world.  Notice what Jesus said as a result of His perfectly pure walk on earth:

If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloak for their sin.
He that hateth Me hateth My Father also.
If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both Me and My Father (Jn. 15.22-24).

The thing that was unique about Jesus’ words and works was that it was actually the Father who was being revealed in all He said and did.  No one could pretend they loved Jehovah when at the same time they hated Jehovah’s Son.  And so the way people reacted toward Jesus stripped them of their cloak.  His righteousness was the revelation of the righteousness of the Father, and therefore became the thing that condemned those who hated the Son.

Just as Noah’s preaching convicted the unbelieving world, so Christ’s testimony convicted those who hated Him.  He too, like Noah, was a Preacher of righteousness.  It was not He they hated, but His righteous Father.  He convicted them of the sin that had been hidden in their hearts.  This is what He accomplished in His life and walk.

Further, He “prepared an ark” of salvation through His death and resurrection.  Christ on Calvary was preparing an Ark to the saving of His house—the household of faith.  The cross of Christ provided salvation for the world.  All who enter this Ark enjoy this salvation.  At the same time the cross condemned the world.  For God has provided a Way now for man to escape from the clutches of sin and the wrath of God that is reserved for the disobedient.  He has dealt with the sin of man and provided a way for us all to be righteous.

And so just as Noah’s building the ark condemned the world, when Christ was crucified at Calvary God was pronouncing judgment upon the whole world.  It was the end of the world as far as God was concerned, the end of the world of sinful man and all he has built up—all his works, all his institutions, everything he has brought forth in order to build a world that centres upon himself and leaves God out.  For, Christ became an “ark” of salvation, a way of salvation, a way of escape from sin and its consequent judgment, to all who receive Him.

Nevertheless—and this is important—it is not till the Gospel of this salvation goes forth that God is just in bringing judgment.  God calls men to enter His Ark of salvation.  This is what hearing the Gospel is all about.  You wonder, then, to what extent this is presently taking place.  To what extent does the world around us hear the clear Gospel of Jesus Christ these days?

To what extent do they see it?  This is the thing that has gripped me for many years.  Hearing the Gospel is one thing.  What about seeing the Gospel?  “And all flesh shall see the salvation of God” (Lk. 3.6).  This, I believe, is what God is preparing in this hour.  I believe God is preparing to reveal the Ark of His salvation in this hour.  How?  By building that Ark of salvation into the lives of His people!  Only then is God finally justified in bringing His judgments forth.  God would not be just in judging the world if there were not clear proof before their very eyes of His provision to escape sin and judgment.  He must bring upon people the conviction of sin that Jesus spoke of—and the conviction of righteousness He spoke of, and the conviction of judgment.  Before God can judge, people are going to have to look at Christians and be convicted that God has wrought righteousness– the very righteousness of Christ– in those who were former sinners.

This is the work of the Comforter—the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit.  Jesus said that “when He is come He will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” (Jn. 16.8).  Not only concerning sin, but concerning righteousness.  The Paraclete—that One whose Presence means Christ Himself has been called alongside you and I—will convict the world of righteousness!  He will demonstrate before the eyes of the world that these ones in whom He dwells are righteous with the Righteous One who has gone to the Father—and is yet still with us.  They will see our Righteousness before their very eyes, and be convicted.

And they will realize they are totally without excuse.  Now they will have no cloak for their sin.  For right before their eyes God has revealed that there is provision to walk before Him in perfect righteousness totally free of sin.  Those who see this will either repent… or be filled with a fearful forboding of judgment.  This is what Paul told the Philippians.  He said their adversaries, when they saw the Gospel peace and security the Philippians enjoyed—they had no fear in the midst of their persecutions—this was an evident token of their own perdition.

And in nothing terrified by your adversaries: which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God (Phil. 1.28).

Yes, it was all accomplished at Calvary.  But it is when the work of Calvary is fulfilled in the saints by the Holy Spirit that God is justified in releasing His judgments.

Even now every believer in Jesus is a testimony of a condemned world.  For, Christ at Calvary in saving sinners out of the world condemned the world.   Every believer who believes in Jesus is making a statement—that the Cross of Jesus Christ condemned this world—that this is a world under a sentence that was written at Calvary… but has not yet been fully carried out.

This “statement” is going to get louder and louder as the work of the Holy Spirit grows more pronounced in the lives of believers, and the holiness and righteousness of Christ is revealed in us.  Noah’s building the ark condemned the world and brought in the flood.   Our own walk can hasten the coming of the day of God.  And the sentence of Calvary will be carried out.

Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation (conduct) and godliness,
Looking for and hasting unto (that is, expecting and hastening) the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? (2 Pt. 3.12,13).

God has prepared a Day in which He will deal with all evil, all wickedness and sin and iniquity and rebellion.  We can hasten that Day, beloved.  The implication is that we can cause its delay.  Let us not be the cause of its delay.  Have we not seen enough of the pain and suffering that wickedness has caused in this troubled little planet we live in?

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