Christ and His Righteousness
Part 3 of 3
Acceptance With God
Many people hesitate to make a start to serve the Lord, because they fear that God will not accept them, and thousands who have been professed followers of Christ for years are still doubting their acceptance with God. For the benefit of such I write, and I would not bewilder their minds with speculations, but will endeavor to give them the simple assurances of God’s word.
Will the Lord receive me? I reply by another question: Will a man receive that which he has bought? If you go to the store and make a purchase, will you receive the goods when they are delivered? Of course you will; there is no room for any question about it. The fact that you bought the goods and paid your money for them is sufficient proof, not only that you are willing, but that you are anxious, to receive them. If you did not want them, you would not have bought them. Moreover, the more you paid for them the more anxious you are to receive them. If the price that you paid was great and you had almost given your life to earn it, then there can be no question but that you will accept the purchase when it is delivered. Your great anxiety is lest there should be some failure to deliver it.
Now let us apply this simple, natural illustration to the case of the sinner coming to Christ. In the first place, He has bought us. What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price. 1 Cor. 6:19, 20.
The price that was paid for us was His own blood–His life. Paul said to the elders of Ephesus: Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which He hath purchased with His own blood. Acts 20:28. For as much as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation [manner of life] received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. 1 Peter 1:18, 19. He gave himself for us. Titus 2:14. He gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father. Gal. 1:4.
He bought not a certain class, but the whole world of sinners. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son. John 3:16. Jesus said, The bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. John 6:51. For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Rom. 5:6, 8.
The price paid was infinite, therefore, we know that He very much desired that which He bought. He had His heart set on obtaining it. He could not be satisfied without it. See Phil. 2:6-8; Heb 12:2; Isa. 53:11.
But I am not worthy. That means that you are not worth the price paid and therefore you fear to come lest Christ will repudiate the purchase. Now you might have some fear on that score if the bargain were not sealed and the price were not already paid. If He should refuse to accept you on the ground that you are not worth the price, He would not only lose you but also the amount paid. Even though the goods for which you have paid are not worth what you gave for them, you yourself would not be so foolish as to throw them away. You would rather get some return for your money than get nothing.
But, further, you have nothing to do with the question of worth. When Christ was on earth in the interest of the purchase, He needed not that any should testify of man; for he knew what was in man. John 2:25. He made the purchase with his eyes open, and He knew the exact value of that which He bought. He is not at all disappointed when you come to Him and He finds that you are worthless. You have not to worry over the question of worth. If He, with His perfect knowledge of the case, was satisfied to make the bargain, you should be the last one to complain.
For, most wonderful truth of all, He bought you for the very reason that you were not worthy. His practiced eye saw in you great possibilities, and He bought you, not for what you were then or are now worth, but for what He could make of you. He says, I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake. Isa. 43:25. We have no righteousness, therefore He bought us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. Says Paul, For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power. Col. 2:9, 10. Here is the whole process:
We all…were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ (by grace ye are saved), and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus; that in the ages to come he might show us the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
We are to be to the praise of the glory of his grace. This we could not be if we were originally worth all He paid for us. There would in that case be no glory to Him in the transaction. He could not, in the ages to come, show in us the riches of His grace. But when He takes us, worth nothing, and at the last presents us faultless before the throne, it will be to His everlasting glory. And then there will not be any to ascribe worthiness to themselves. Throughout eternity, the sanctified hosts will unite in saying to Christ, Thou art worthy…for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; and hast made us unto our God kings and priests. Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing. Rev. 5:9, 10, 12.
Surely all doubt as to acceptance with God ought to be set at rest. But it is not. The evil heart of unbelief still suggests doubts. I believe all this, but–.’ There, stop right there. If you believed you wouldn’t say but. When people add but to the statement that they believe, they really mean, I believe, but I don’t believe. But you continue, Perhaps you are right, but hear me out. What I was going to say is, I believe the Scripture statements that you have quoted, but the Bible says that if we are children of God we shall have the witness of the Spirit and will have the witness in ourselves, and I don’t feel any such witness. Therefore, I can’t believe that I am Christ’s. I believe His word, but I haven’t the witness. I understand your difficulty. Let me see if it cannot be removed.
As to your being Christ’s, you yourself can settle that. You have seen what He gave for you. Now the question is, have you delivered yourself to Him? If you have, you may be sure that He has accepted you. If you are not His, it is solely because you have refused to deliver to Him that which He has bought. You are defrauding Him. He says, All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people. Rom. 10:21. He begs you to give Him that which He has bought and paid for, yet you refuse and charge Him with not being willing to receive you. But if from the heart you have yielded yourself to Him to be His child, you may be assured that He has received you. Now as to your believing His words, yet doubting if He accepts you, because you don’t feel the witness in your heart, I still insist that you don’t believe. If you did, you would have the witness. Listen to His word, He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself; he that believeth not God hath made him a liar, because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son. 1 John 5:10. To believe in the Son is simply to believe His word and the record concerning Him.
And he that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself. You can’t have the witness until you believe, and as soon as you do believe, you have the witness. How is that? Because your belief in God’s word is the witness. God says so.
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Heb 11:1.
If you should hear God say with an audible voice that you are His child, you would consider that sufficient witness. Well, when God speaks in His word, it is the same as though He spoke with an audible voice, and your faith is the evidence that you hear and believe.
This is so important a matter that it is worth careful consideration. Let us read a little more of the record. First, we read that we are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. Gal. 3:26. This is a positive confirmation of what I said concerning our unbelief in the witness. Our faith makes us children of God. But how do we obtain this faith? Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Rom. 10:17. But how can we obtain faith in God’s word? Just believe that God cannot lie. You would hardly call God a liar to His face, but that is just what you do if you don’t believe His word. All you have to do to believe is to believe. The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart; that is, the word of faith, which we preach; that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on Him shall not be ashamed. Rom. 10:8-11.
All this is in harmony with the record given through Paul. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God; and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ. Rom. 8:16, 17. This Spirit which witnesses with our spirit is the Comforter that Jesus promised. John 14:16. And we know that Its witness is true, for It is the Spirit of truth. Now how does It bear witness? By bringing to our remembrance the Word which has been recorded. It inspired those words (1 Cor. 2:13; 2 Peter 1:21), and, therefore, when It brings them to our remembrance, it is the same as though It were speaking them directly to us. It presents to our mind the record, a part of which we have quoted. We know that the record is true, for God cannot lie. We bid Satan be gone with his false witness against God, and we believe that record, but if we believe the record, we know that we are children of God, and we cry, Abba, Father. And then the glorious truth breaks more fully upon the soul. The repetition of the words makes it a reality to us. He is our Father; we are His children. What joy the thought gives! So we see that the witness which we have in ourselves is not a simple impression or an emotion. God does not ask us to trust so unreliable a witness as our feeling. He who trusts his own heart is a fool, the Scripture says. But the witness that we are to trust is the unchangeable word of God, and this witness we may have through the Spirit, in our own hearts. Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift.
This assurance does not warrant us in relaxing our diligence and settling down contentedly, as though we had gained perfection. We must remember that Christ accepts us not for our sake but for His own sake, not because we are perfect but that in Him we may go on unto perfection. He blesses us not because we have been so good that we have deserved a blessing but in order that in the strength of the blessing we may turn away from our iniquities. Acts 3:26. To everyone that believes in Christ, the power–right or privilege–is given to become the sons of God. John 1:12, margin. It is by the exceeding great and precious promises of God through Christ that we are made partakers of the Divine nature. 2 Peter 1:4.
Let us consider briefly the practical application of some of these scriptures.
The Victory of Faith
The Bible says that the just shall live by faith. The righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith. Rom. 1:17. Nothing can better illustrate the working of faith than some of the examples that are recorded for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope. Rom. 15:4. We will take, first, a notable event recorded in the twentieth chapter of 2 Chronicles. Let the reader follow the running comment with his Bible.
It came to pass after this, also, that the children of Moab and the children of Ammon and with them other beside the Ammonites, came against Jehoshaphat to battle. Then there came some that told Jehoshaphat, saying, There cometh a great multitude against thee from beyond the sea on this side Syria; and, behold, they be in Hazazontamar, which is Engedi. Verses 1, 2.
This great host caused the king and the people to fear, but they took the wise course of gathering together, to ask help of the Lord; even out of all the cities of Judah they came to seek the Lord. Verses 3, 4. Then follows the prayer of Jehoshaphat, as leader of the congregation, and it is worth special study, since it was a prayer of faith and contained within itself the beginning of victory:
And Jehoshaphat stood in the congregation of Judah and Jerusalem, in the house of the Lord, before the new court, and said, O Lord God of our fathers, art not thou God in heaven? and rulest thou not over all the kingdoms of the heathen? and in thine hand is there not power and might, so that none is able to withstand thee? Verses 5, 6.
That was an excellent beginning of a prayer. It starts with a recognition of God in heaven. So the model prayer begins, Our Father who art in heaven. What does this signify? That God, as God in heaven, is Creator. It carries with it the recognition of His power over all the kingdoms of the world and of the powers of darkness; the fact that He is in heaven, the Creator, show that in His hand there is power and might, so that none is able to withstand Him. Why, the man who can begin his prayer in the hour of need with such a recognition of God’s power, has victory already on his side. For, notice, Jehoshaphat not only declared his faith in God’s wondrous power, but he claimed God’s strength as his own, saying, Art not thou our God? He fulfilled the Scripture requirement, He that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
Jehoshaphat then proceeded to recount how the Lord had established them in that land, and how, although He had not suffered them to invade Moab and Ammon, those nations had come to cast them out of their God- given inheritance. Verses 7-11. And then he concluded, O our God, wilt thou not judge them? for we have no might against this great company that cometh against us; neither know we what to do; but our eyes are upon thee. Verse 12. It is nothing with the Lord to help, whether with many or with them that have no power (2 Chron. 14:11), and since the eyes of the Lord run to and from throughout the earth to show Himself strong in the behalf of those whose heart is entire towards Him (2 Chron. 16:9), it well becomes those who are in need to trust Him alone. This position of Jehoshaphat and his people was in keeping with the apostolic injunction, Looking unto Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith. Heb 12:2. He is the beginning and the end, and all power in heaven and earth is in His hands.
Now what was the result? the prophet of the Lord came in the power of the Holy Spirit, and he said, Hearken ye, all Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem, and thou King Jehoshaphat, Thus saith the Lord unto you, Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God’s. Verse 15.
And then came the command to go forth in the morning to meet the enemy, and they should see the salvation of the Lord, for He would be with them. Now comes the most important part:
And they rose early in the morning, and went forth into the wilderness of Tekoa; and as they went forth, Jehoshaphat stood and said, Hear me, O Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem: Believe in the Lord your God, so shall ye be established; believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper. And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed singers unto the Lord, and that should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army, and to say, Praise the Lord; for his mercy endureth forever. Verses 20, 21.
Surely, this was a strange way to go out to battle. Few armies have ever gone to battle with such a vanguard. But what was the result?
And when they began to sing and to praise, the Lord set ambushments against the children of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, which were come against Judah; and they were smitten. For the children of Ammon and Moab stood up against the inhabitants of Mount Seir, utterly to slay and destroy them; and when they had made an end of the inhabitants of Seir, everyone helped to destroy another. And when Judah came toward the watch-tower in the wilderness, they looked unto the multitude, and, behold, they were dead bodies fallen to the earth, and none escaped. Verses 22- 24.
If there have been few armies that have gone to battle with such a vanguard as did the army of Jehoshaphat, it is equally certain that few armies have been rewarded by such a signal victory. And it may not be amiss to study a little into the philosophy of the victory of faith, as illustrated in this instance. When the enemy, who had been confident in their superior numbers, heard the Israelites coming out that morning, singing and shouting, what must they have concluded? Nothing else but that the Israelites had received reinforcements and were so strengthened that it would be useless to try to oppose them. Also a panic seized them, and each one looked upon his neighbor as an enemy.
And were they not correct in their conclusion, that Israel had received reinforcements? Indeed they were, for the record says, When they began to sing and to praise, the Lord set ambushments against the children of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir. The host of the Lord, in whom Jehoshaphat and his people trusted, fought for them. They had reinforcements and doubtless if their eyes could have been opened to see them, they would have seen, as did the servant ot Elisha on one occasion, that they that were with them were more in number than the enemy.
But the point which should be specially noticed is that it was when Israel began to sing and to praise that the Lord set ambushments against the enemy. What does that signify? It signifies that their faith was real. The promise of God was considered as good as the actual accomplishment. So they believed in the Lord, or, more literally, they built upon the Lord, and thus they were established, or built up. Thus they proved the truth of the words, This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. 1 John 5:4.
Let us now apply this illustration in a case of conflict against sin. Here comes a strong temptation to do a thing known to be wrong. We have often proved to our sorrow the strength of the temptation, because it has vanquished us, so that we know that we have no might against it. But now our eyes are upon the Lord, who has told us to come with boldness to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. So we begin to pray to God for help. And we pray to the God that is revealed to us in the Bible as the Creator of heaven and earth. We begin, not with a mournful statement of our weakness, but with a joyful acknowledgment of God’s mighty power. That being settled, we can venture to state our difficulty and our weakness. If we state our weakness first and our discouraging situation, we are placing ourselves before God. In that case Satan will magnify the difficulty and throw his darkness around us so that we can see nothing else but our weakness, and so, although our cries and pleading may be fervent and agonizing, they will be in vain, because they will lack the essential element of believing that God is and that He is all that He has revealed Himself to be. But when we start with a recognition of God’s power, then we can safely state our weakness, for then we are simply placing our weakness by the side of His power, and the contrast tends to beget courage.
Then, as we pray, the promise of God comes to our mind, brought there by the Holy Spirit. It may be that we can think of no special promise that exactly fits the case, but we can remember that this is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ came into the world to save sinners (1 Tim. 1:15), and that He gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present world, according to the will of God and our Father (Gal. 1:4), and we may know that this carried with it every promise, for He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? Rom. 8:32.
Then we remember that God can speak of those things that are not as though they were. That is, if God gives a promise, it is as good as fulfilled already. And so, knowing that our deliverance from evil is according to the will of God (Gal. 1:4), we count the victory as already ours and begin to thank God for His exceeding great and precious promises. As our faith grasps these promises and makes them real, we cannot help praising God for His wonderful love, and while we are doing this, our minds are wholly taken from evil and the victory is ours. The Lord Jesus sets ambushments against the enemy. Our ascription of praise shows to Satan that we have obtained reinforcements, and as he has tested the power of the help that is granted to us, he knows that he can do nothing on that occasion, and so he leaves us. This illustrates the force of the apostle’s injunction: Be careful for nothing [that is, do not worry about anything]; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. Phil. 4:6.
Bond Servants and Freemen
The power of faith in bringing victory may be shown by another line of Scripture texts, which are exceedingly practical. In the first place, let it be understood that the sinner is a slave. Christ said, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. John 8:34. Paul also says, putting himself in the place of an unrenewed man, For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. Rom. 7:14. A man who is sold is a slave; therefore, the man who is sold under sin is the slave of sin. Peter brings to view the same fact, when, speaking of corrupt, false teachers, he says, While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption, for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage. 2 Peter 2:19.
The prominent characteristic of the slave is that he cannot do as he pleases, but is bound to perform the will of another, no matter how irksome it may be. Paul thus proves the truth of his saying that he, as a carnal man, was the slave of sin. For that which I do I allow not; for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing; for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I do. Rom. 7:15, 17-19.
The fact that sin controls proves that a man is a slave, and although everyone that committeth sin is the bond-servant of sin, the slavery becomes unendurable when the sinner has had a glimpse of freedom and longs for it, yet cannot break the chains which bind him to sin. The impossibility for the unrenewed man to do even the good that he would like to do has been shown already from Rom. 8:7, 8 and Gal. 5:17.
How many people have in their own experience proved the truth of these scriptures. How many have resolved and resolved again and yet their sincerest resolutions have proved in the face of temptation as weak as water. They had no might, and they did not know what to do, and, unfortunately, their eyes were not upon God so much as upon themselves and the enemy. Their experience was one of constant struggle against sin, it is true, but of constant defeat as well.
Call you this a true Christian experience? There are some who imagine that it is. Why, then, did the apostle, in the anguish of his soul, cry out, O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? Rom. 7:24. Is a true Christian experiencing a body of death so terrible that the soul is constrained to cry for deliverance? Nay, verily.
Again, who is it that, in answer to this earnest appeal, reveals himself as a deliverer? Says the apostle, I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. In another place he says of Christ:
Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their life-time subject to bondage. Heb. 2:14, 15.
Again,Christthus proclaims His own mission: The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound. Isa. 61:1.
What this bondage and captivity are has already been shown. It is the bondage of sin–the slavery of being compelled to sin, even against the will, by the power of inherited and acquired evil propensities and habits. Does Christ deliver from a true Christian experience? No, indeed. Then the bondage of sin, of which the apostle complains in the seventh of Romans, is not the experience of a child of God, but of the servant of sin. It is to deliver men from this captivity that Christ came, not to deliver us, during this life, from warfare and struggles, but from defeat; to enable us to be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might, so that we could give thanks unto the Father who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son, through whose blood we have redemption.
How is this deliverance effected? By the Son of God. Says Christ, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed, and ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed. John 8:31, 32, 36. This freedom comes to everyone that believeth, for to them that believe on His name, He gives the power to become the sons of God. The freedom from condemnation comes to them who are in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:1), and we put on Christ by faith (Gal. 3:26, 27). It is by faith that Christ dwells in our hearts.
Practical Illustrations of Deliverance From Bondage
Now let us take some illustrations of the power of faith to deliver from bondage. We will quote Luke 13:10-17:
And he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. And, behold, there was a woman which had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bowed together, and could in nowise lift up herself. And when Jesus saw her, he called her to him, and said unto her, Woman, thou art loosed from thine infirmity. And he laid his hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God. And the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because that Jesus had healed on the Sabbath-day, and said unto the people, There are six days in which men ought to work; in them therefore come and be healed, and not on the Sabbath-day. The Lord then answered him, and said, Thou hypocrite, doth not each one of you on the Sabbath loose his ox or his ass from the stall, and lead him away to watering? and ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day? And when he had said these things, all his adversaries were ashamed; and all the people rejoiced for all the glorious things that were done by him.
We may pass by the carping of the hypocritical ruler, to consider the miracle. The woman was bound; we, through fear of death, have been all our life-time subject to bondage. Satan had bound the woman; Satan has also set snares for our feet and has brought us into captivity. She could in nowise lift up herself; our iniquities have taken hold of us, so that we are not able to look up. Ps. 40:12. With a word and a touch Jesus set the woman free from her infirmities; we have the same merciful High Priest now in the heavens, who is touched with the feeling of our infirmities, and the same word will deliver us from evil.
For what purpose were the miracles of healing recorded, which were performed by Jesus? John tells us. It was not simply to show that He can heal disease but to show His power over sin. See Matt. 9:2-8. But John says:
And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name. John 20:30, 31.
So we see that they are recorded simply as object lessons of Christ’s love, of His willingness to relieve, and of His power over the works of Satan, no matter whether in the body or in the soul. One more miracle must suffice in this connection. It is the one recorded in the third chapter of Acts. I shall not quote the entire account but ask the reader to follow it carefully with his Bible.
Peter and John saw at the gate of the temple a man over forty years old, who had been lame from his birth. He had never walked. He was begging, and Peter felt prompted by the Spirit to give him something better than silver or gold. Said he, In the name of Jesus of Nazareth rise up and walk. And he took him by the right hand and lifted him up, and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. And he leaping up stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God. Verses 6-8.
This notable miracle on one whom all had seen caused a wonderful excitement among the people, and when Peter saw their astonishment, he proceeded to tell how the wonder had been performed, saying:
Ye men of Israel, why marvel ye at this? or why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk? The God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified his son Jesus; whom ye delivered up,…and killed the Prince of Life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses. And his name through faith in his name hath made this man strong, whom ye see and know; yea, the faith which is by him hath given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all. Verses 12-16.
Now make the application. The man was lame from his mother’s womb, unable to help himself. He would gladly have walked, but he could not. We likewise can all say, with David, Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin dido him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 1 Cor. we cannot do the things that we would. As each year of the man’s life increased his inability to walk by increasing the weight of his body, while his limbs grew no stronger, so the repeated practice of sin, as we grow older, strengthens its power over us. It was an utter impossibility for that man to walk; yet the name of Christ, through faith in it, gave him perfect soundness and freedom from his infirmity. So we, through the faith which is by Him, may be made whole and enabled to do the thing which hitherto has been impossible. For the things which are impossible with man are possible with God. He is the Creator. To them that have no might he increaseth strength. One of the wonders of faith, as shown in the cases of the ancient worthies, is that they out of weakness were made strong.
By these instances we have seen how God delivers from bondage those who trust in Him. Now let us consider the knowledge of how freedom is maintained.
We have seen that we by nature are all servants of sin and Satan, and that as soon as we submit to Christ, we become loosed from Satan’s power. Says Paul, Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey, whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? Rom. 6:16. So then, as soon as we become free from the bondage of sin, we become the servants of Christ. Indeed, the very act of loosing us from the power of sin, in answer to our faith, proves God’s acceptance of us as His servants. We become, indeed, the bond- servants of Christ; but he who is the Lord’s servant is a free man, for we are called unto liberty (Gal. 5:13), and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty (2 Cor. 3:17).
And now comes the conflict again. Satan is not disposed to give up his slave so readily. He comes, armed with the lash of fierce temptation, to drive us again to his service. We know by sad experience that he is more powerful than we are, and that unaided we cannot resist him. But we dread his power and cry for help. Then we call to mind that we are not Satan’s servants any longer. We have submitted ourselves to God, and therefore He accepted us as His servants. So we can say with the Psalmist, O Lord, truly I am Thy servant; I am thy servant, and the son of thine handmaid; thou hast loosed my bonds. Ps. 116:16. But the fact that God has loosed the bonds that Satan had thrown around us–and He has done this if we believe that He has–is evidence that God will protect us, for He cares for His own, and we have the assurance that He that has begun a good work in us will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ. Phil. 1:6. And in this confidence we are strong to resist.
Again, if we have yielded ourselves to be servants of God, we are His servants, or, in other words, are instruments of righteousness in His hands. Read Rom. 6:13-16. We are not inert, lifeless, senseless instruments, such as the agriculturist uses, which have no voice as to how they shall be used, but living, intelligent instruments, who are permitted to choose their occupation. Nevertheless, the term instrument signifies a tool– something that is entirely under the control of the artisan. The difference between us and the tools of the mechanic is that we can choose who shall use us and at what kind of service we shall be employed, but having made the choice and yielded ourselves into the hands of the workman, we are to be as completely in his hands as is the tool that has no voice as to how it shall be used. When we yield to God, we are to be in His hands as clay in the hands of the potter, that He may do with us as He pleases. Our volition lies in choosing whether or not we will let Him work in us that which is good.
This idea of being instruments in the hands of God is a wonderful aid to the victory of faith when it is once fully grasped. For, notice, what an instrument will do depends entirely upon the person in whose hands it is. Here, for instance, is a die. It is innocent enough in itself, yet it may be used for the basest purposes, as well as for that which is useful. If it be in the hands of a bad character, it may be used in making counterfeit coin. It certainly will not be used for any good purpose. But if it be in the hands of an upright, virtuous man, it cannot possibly do any harm. Likewise, when we were the servants of Satan, we did no good (Rom. 6:20), but now that we have yielded ourselves into the hands of God, we know that there is no unrighteousness in Him, and so an instrument in His hands cannot be used for an evil purpose. The yielding to God must be as complete as it was formerly to Satan, for the apostle says:
I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh; for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness. Rom. 6:19.
The whole secret of overcoming, then, lies in first wholly yielding to God with a sincere desire to do His will; next, in knowing that in our yielding He accepts us as His servants; and then, in retaining that submission to Him and leaving ourselves in His hands. Often victory can be gained only by repeating again and again, O Lord, truly I am thy servant; I am thy servant, and the son of thine handmaid; thou hast loosed my bonds. This is simply an emphatic way of saying, O Lord, I have yielded myself into Thy hands as an instrument of righteousness; let Thy will be done, and not the dictates of the flesh. But when we can realize the force of that scripture and feel indeed that we are servants of God, immediately will come the thought, Well, if I am indeed an instrument in the hands of God, He cannot use me to do evil with, nor can he permit me to do evil as long as I remain in His hands. He must keep me if I am kept from evil, because I cannot keep myself. But He wants to keep me from evil, for He has shown His desire, and also His power to fulfill His desire in giving Himself for me. Therefore I shall be kept from this evil. All these thoughts may pass through the mind instantly, and then with them must necessarily come a feeling of gladness that we shall be kept from the dreaded evil. That gladness naturally finds expression in thanksgiving to God, and while we are thanking God the enemy retires with his temptation, and the peace of God fills the heart. Then we find that the joy in believing far outweighs all the joy that comes from indulgence in sin.
All this is a demonstration of Paul’s words, Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid; yea, we establish the law. Rom. 3:31. To make void the law is not to abolish it, for no man can abolish the law of God, yet the Psalmist says that it has been made void. Ps. 119:126. To make void the law of God is something more than to claim that it is of no consequence; it is to show by the life that it is considered of no consequence. A man makes the law of God void when he allows it to have no power in his life. In short, to make void the law of God is to break it; but the law itself remains the same whether it is kept or not. Making it void affects only the individual.
Therefore, when the apostle says that we do not make void the law of God by faith, but that, on the contrary, we establish it, he means that faith does not lead to violation of the law but to obedience. No, we should not say that faith leads to obedience, but that faith itself obeys. Faith establishes the law in the heart. Faith is the substance of things hoped for. If the thing hoped for be righteousness, faith establishes it. Instead of faith leading to antinomianism, it is the only thing that is contrary to antinomianism. It matters not how much a person boasts in the law of God; if he rejects or ignores implicit faith in Christ, he is in no better state than the man who directly assails the law. The man of faith is the only one who truly honors the law of God. Without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6); with it, all things are possible (Mark 9:23).
Yes, faith does the impossible, and it is just that which God requires us to do. When Joshua said to Israel, Ye cannot serve the Lord, he told the truth, yet it was a fact that God required them to serve Him. It is not within any man’s power to do righteousness, even though he wants to (Gal. 5:17); therefore, it is a mistake to say that all God wants is for us to do the best we can. He who does no better than that will not do the works of God. No. He must do better than he can do. He must do that which only the power of God working through him can do. It is impossible for a man to walk on water, yet Peter did it when he exercised faith in Jesus.
Since all power in heaven and in earth is in the hands of Christ and this power is at our disposal, even Christ Himself coming to dwell in the heart by faith, there is no room for finding fault with God for requiring us to do the impossible; for the things which are impossible with men are possible with God. Luke 18:27. Therefore we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me. Heb. 13:6.
Then who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness or peril, or sword? Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. Rom. 8:35, 37. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
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