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Sin as a Fact

Sin as a Fact

“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23, ESV)

The Gospel of Christ may be described as a glorious remedy for a disease fatal and otherwise incurable, with which our whole race is tainted. And the first step in treating of the Gospel must ever be to lay open, and make us sensible of, that disease. For one of its most dangerous symptoms is, that it makes men insensible to its own presence: so that the worse a man is afflicted with it, the less he knows that he has it at all. And, seeing that the remedy is not one which can be simply taken once and then all will be well, but one which requires long and painful and self-denying application, a man must be very thoroughly persuaded that he has the disease, and that he is likely to perish from it, before he will take the necessary trouble to be cured of it. Now this disease we call sin. And in consequence of what has been said you will see, that in beginning a course of sermons on Christian doctrine, I must deal first with this fact which lies at the bottom of all Christian doctrine, that all men are sinners. I may be at once met with the question, Who does not know that? Who does not confess himself to be a sinner? Doubtless, all do this by profession and with the lips. But, my brethren, there is as much difference between confessing with the lips and feeling intensely in the depth of the heart, as there is between confessing and not confessing at all. "Miserable sinners:" "Have mercy upon us miserable sinners." But what do we mean by sinners?

Let us try and lay hold of this—let us try to-day and see what sin means—what "all having sinned" means.

When any of us looks out upon mankind, or looks within himself, with ever so little attention, one thing can hardly fail to strike him. It is, the presence of Evil. We at once see that there is a something in the world, and within us, rebellious, destructive, altogether unwelcome, and which we would gladly be rid of. We want harmony among men, harmony in ourselves, for all purposes of human improvement, for all purposes of our own progress and enlightening. But instead of harmony, we find discord every where. From the first, man’s history has been a history of going wrong and doing wrong: from the first, our own personal history has been a history of interrupted good and interfering bad. Now observe, I am not at this moment speaking as a minister of the Gospel: I am speaking merely as man,—as a citizen of the world, as one of you, or one of any band of men gathered out of any age and any place upon earth. I am dwelling upon what is matter of universal observation. Who can deny this presence and this working of an unwelcome and a hostile element in all human matters? What deceit will ever enable a man to hide from himself this dark shadow which falls upon the fairest prospects and purest courses in life? What mind looking into itself is not found to confess that there is this night side of its thoughts and ways?

Now it is not my purpose, at all events not at present, to say a word about the reason why this evil ever came into God’s universe. I am concerned to-day with the fact, and the importance of knowing and acknowledging the fact, that it has come into it and is every where present. Some may say—some have said, conceal the fact, and you will get rid of it. Don’t tell people that there is evil in the world; forget that there is evil about and in yourself; and you and they will become good. It may be true, they continue, that there is such a dark spot in nature; that there are these black shadows amidst the shining of the Face of the universal Father: but gazing upon them is painful and useless: look at the bright side of every thing: believe things to be innocent and right, and infinitely more good will be done than by dwelling on the gloom and so increasing it. This, my brethren, not only has been the published advice of a whole school of writers,—it is also the view taken by many loose and shallow thinkers in every place at our own time. But let me ask you, do you suppose that the unquestioned evil in universal nature, and in our nature, can be thus got rid of? "Believe the world to be good, and it will become good," says one of these writers: "Believe yourself to be good, and you will become good." I answer, Try it. Try it for a day, for an hour. Then go into your chamber, and take strict unsparing account. And if it is urged that more time is wanted, try it for a year: shut your eyes to all that is bad in the world—to all that is bad in you: refuse to believe, refuse to entertain any suspicion of evil in yourself, or in others, for that time: then retire and trace your path during the time. Does not every man see what would be the result? Do not we all know, that it would be simply the tale of the silly ostrich over again, which imagines itself safe from the hunter by shutting its eyes, and by hiding him from its own sight? Do we not see, that such a person would only be delivered up far more and far more helplessly into the power of evil?

No, my brethren: a man who wants to get rid of evil in himself must open his eyes to the evil, not hide it: must not shrink from any pain which the sight may give him, if it also gives him the knowledge, what the danger is, and how to meet it. And he who wants to overcome evil in others, must not shrink from the gloomy and unwelcome task of speaking of it, exposing it, probing its extent and measuring its strength, that so they may be the more deeply and earnestly convinced of its existence, and the more active in combating it.

There is then this evil all about us and in us: and we must make up our minds to see it, to recognize it, to stand face to face with it, and conquer it. Now here come in two most important remarks. This evil is not the only disagreeable thing in life. There are bodily pain, discomfort, misery, common to us and all mankind—nay, common to us and the lower animals. And there is this circumstance about all these, worthy of our present notice. If we can manage to forget them, to flee away from them, to hide them from us, we thereby get rid of them. We need not look at them, nor study their nature. A man who wants to avoid breaking a limb, need not be always gazing on or describing broken limbs: he has but to avoid those risks which might occasion the mischief. A man who would avoid death will follow the ordinary instinct of self-preservation: he would not be for ever studying all the possible ways of dying. Such knowledge is not necessary; nay, it would be an incumbrance and a nuisance. But the man who wishes to avoid evil in this world, must be awake and alive to the forms and accesses of evil. He cannot do without such knowledge: his very safety consists in it. Therefore—and mark the inference as an important one in our progress to-day—evil is a matter of a totally different kind from bodily pain, misery, or death.

Again: evil is not by any means our only inward source of annoyance and hindrance. You have—I have—every one has—defects, infirmities, in his or her mind and disposition: things of which we would willingly be rid if we could: bars to our progress and hindrances to our perfection. But none of these do we look upon as we look upon evil. Let it be shewn that we are dull, or feeble, or inferior to some others, we put up with it, we excuse it, we make ourselves as comfortable as we may under the knowledge of it: but let it be once shewn, by others or by our own conscience that we have wished, said, done, that which is evil, and we know at once that there is no excuse for it. We may try to shew that we did it inadvertently, or by force of circumstances; or in some way to lessen our own share in it: but the very labor to construct an excuse shews that we hold the evil itself, as evil, to be inexcusable. Evil itself no one attempts to excuse: all take for granted that it is a loathsome thing, all desire that their character and their conscience should stand free from it.

So far then this evil is something which our nature itself teaches us to revolt from and abhor. We do not, we cannot excuse it; we cannot contentedly put up with it, we cannot be happy under its influence. Now do not mistake me. Many a man, as we have seen, excuses his share in evil, excuses his evil deed as not being evil, plays the self-deceiver and hides the evil of his ways from himself, abandons his helm and lets himself drift into evil, and so is contented, and fancies himself happy, under evil. But again, and for all this, the thing itself is simply a deadly enemy to us, whenever and wherever detected, and exposed as being what it is. No son of man ever said or could say, from his inmost heart, what the great poet sublimely represents Satan as saying, "Evil, be thou my good." It requires more than man ever to say this.

Well now, my brethren, what does all this shew? Does it not testify to there being a law within us, implanted in our nature, by which evil is avoided, and by consequence good sought and desired? And observe that this is true, quite independently of and previous to all circumstances in which a man is placed, all interests in which he is involved. Our abhorrence of evil as evil does not spring from our finding it to be hurtful to us: we know that it is hurtful to us, the moment we know any thing. The little child for the first time detected in evil, is as much ashamed of it as the experienced and mature man. Now this is exceedingly important: all-important, in our present enquiry. A law within us tells us what is good, tells us that we ought to be good, to say good, to do good. Mind I only assert this fact. That this law is broken in upon, that it is not always distinctly or properly or effectively asserted, is nothing to my present purpose. I know all this, and shall have to use it by and by. But I only care now for this great fact, that there is this law: that we all know it, all judge by it, all act upon it as a familiar and confessed thing. All our enacted laws, all our public opinion, even all our ways of thinking and speaking in words, are founded on there being such a law within man, sanctioning good, prohibiting evil.

Now then it is time for us to ask, when man becomes, says, acts evil, what sort of a thing does he do? For that such is the case, is but too plain. Evil thoughts, evil words, evil acts, are but too often to be found in the course of all of us; evil men unhappily abound in every place and society. How are we to look upon such evil thoughts, words, acts, and men? Are they necessary? In plain words, is it a condition of our lives that we must enter into compact with evil, as it is that we must eat and sleep? Certainly not. This is clear from what has already been said. Every protest against evil, every resistance to evil, every victory over evil, proves that evil is not necessary to our being; that He who made us has made us capable of existing without evil, and all the better for existing without evil. But now let us listen to what follows. True as this is, we must always remember, that this great and blessed state of our being, the freedom from and victory over evil, is not that after which all men are striving. There are all kinds of lower forms of our being, which satisfy men, and in some cases constitute their chief good. One man seeks the gratification of his bodily appetites and lusts: another, the heaping up of wealth: a third, the gaining of power: a fourth, the rising in the esteem of those about him: another again, several, or all of these together: and so, not man’s brightest aim, to be good and pure and calm and wise, but an aim very far below this, is followed by the worse part of mankind always,—by even the best of mankind sometimes.

Now, my brethren, every one of these lower and unworthy objects, if followed as an object, does necessarily bring a man into contact and compromise with evil. To be bent on gratifying lust, is of itself evil: to amass selfishly, is evil: to promote our own influence and push for precedence, is evil. Greed, intemperance, injustice to others, unkindness, overweening opinion of self, and a hundred other evil things beset every one of such courses of life; every one of such thoughts, words, actions.

Now we have advanced, I think, close to our point. When a man lives such a course, when any one of us gives way to such thoughts or words, or commits such deeds, he is disobeying that great first law of our being by which, as I shewed you, we choose the good and abhor the evil. How it is that men got the wish so to go wrong and so to disobey the law of their being, it is not my present object to enquire. But though it is not, I must simply remind you that we Christian believers know how this was; and more than this,—that our Bibles give us the only satisfactory account that ever was given of it. We know that it was by a taint at the root and spring of our race; by our first parents using that freedom in which their Creator made them, not to please Him by remaining in good, but to please themselves by entering into a compromise with evil. But I say no more, as to enlarge on this is beyond our subject to-day. Men are (there is no doubt of this) liable, every man is liable, thus to enter into compact with his worst enemy, evil, in order to serve his present lower purposes. We all do this continually.

Now whenever we do this, we sin. "All sin," says St. John, "is transgression of law." Where there is no law, there is no sin; wherever there is a law, there he who disobeys that law commits sin. And we have seen that this inward law which teaches us to abhor evil and choose good is broken and set at nought by us all. We do not choose the good which we know we ought to choose: we do choose the evil which we very well know we ought not to choose. The propensity to do this, the entertaining the temptation to do it, the doing it, all these are sin. Now sin is not, like evil, a mere general quality: it is committed against a person. And there is, properly speaking, but one Person, against whom sin is, or can be committed. There is One who is the source and fountain of all law, all right, all purity, all goodness. And this law of good and evil of which we have been speaking, this above and before all others, springs from that Holy and Just one who hath made us and to whom we are accountable. All sin is against Him: is a violation of His law, is a thwarting, by His mysterious permission, of His holy and blessed purposes with regard to man.

All have sinned. And in dwelling on this, the fact, that all men have inherited the disposition to sin, necessarily comes first. And this is no fiction: this is not, as the unbeliever of our day would try to persuade you, an exploded fallacy of a gone-by system; but it is sober and fearful truth. It is moreover agreeable to the analogy of all God’s works in nature and in spirit: a truth, as matter of experience, undeniable by any who is aware of even the most common phænomena of our nature. And, inheriting this disposition, but with it inheriting also the great inward law of conscience warning us against evil, we have again and again followed, not the good law, but the evil propensity: in wayward childhood this has been so: in passionate youth: in calm deliberate manhood. We have not chosen evil; we have hated evil by our very nature; but we have followed evil, fallen into sin, by reason of our lusts and our passions blinding us, dragging us onward and downward, and delivering us tied and bound into the power of the enemy whom we naturally shun and detest. We have done this,—we are doing it, continually: we shall ever be doing it more or less, in our manifold weaknesses, our besetting dangers, our abounding temptations.

Now then, this being so, what follows? Can sin be safe? Can a sinner be happy? Can a sinful man be gaining the ends of his being? The full answer to this question does not belong to our subject to-day; but I cannot and ought not to conclude without slightly anticipating it.

Sin is and must be the ruin of man, body and soul, here and hereafter. The born sinner—the tainted child of a tainted stock, living under that taint, with it working and spreading in him and through him,—how shall he be safe? how shall he be happy? how shall he ever grow on to good and to a blessed eternity? Without going any further into the matter to-day, do you not see that this cannot be so? Whoever sins, goes wrong: lays up grief, shame, all that is dreadful, for himself, by thwarting the gracious ends for which God created him, viz. to love, obey, and imitate Himself, that he may become like Him, and one day see Him as He is.

No more then at present but this. Every man’s work in life, sinners as we all are, is this: to find out his sins, to confess his sins to God, to struggle with God’s help against his sins, year by year and day by day to gain victories over his sins through Him who overcame sin for us; to believe in, and live in the reality of, the Atonement which His Blood has made for all and every sin. All the glorious process of that which He hath accomplished for us, will come before us as we proceed.

But now in this season of Advent, when we are to cast away the works of darkness, I must detain you some Sundays longer on our own need of Him for whose coming we are to prepare; and shall therefore, by God’s help, speak to you on the next two Sundays on the manifold nature of sin, and on its guilt and consequences.

Now to Him who hath loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, to the Son of God, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, be honor and glory for ever. Amen.

Alford, H. (1862). Sermons on Christian Doctrine. London: Rivingtons. (Public Domain)

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Psalm 3

Psalm 3

“A Psalm of David, when he fled from Absalom his son. O Lord, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me; many are saying of my soul, “There is no salvation for him in God.” Selah But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. I cried aloud to the Lord, and he answered me from his holy hill. Selah I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the Lord sustained me. I will not be afraid of many thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around. Arise, O Lord! Save me, O my God! For you strike all my enemies on the cheek; you break the teeth of the wicked. Salvation belongs to the Lord; your blessing be on your people! Selah” (Psalm 3, ESV)

This Psalm contains a strong description of the enemies and dangers by which the writer was surrounded, and an equally strong expression of confidence that God would extricate him from them, with particular reference to former deliverances of the same kind. Its place in the collection does not seem to be fortuitous or arbitrary. It was probably among the first of David’s lyrical compositions, the two which now precede it having been afterwards prefixed to the collection. In these three psalms there is a sensible gradation or progressive development of one great idea. The general contrast, which the first exhibits, of the righteous and the wicked, is reproduced, in the second, as a war against the Lord and his Anointed. In the third it is still further individualized as a conflict between David, the great historical type of the Messiah, and his enemies. At the same time, the expressions are so chosen as to make the psalm appropriate to its main design, that of furnishing a vehicle of pious feeling to the church at large, and to its individual members in their own emergencies. The structure of the psalm is regular, consisting of four double verses, besides the title.

1. A Psalm of David, literally (belonging) to David, i.e. as the author. This is not a mere inscription, but a part of the text and inseparable from it, so far as we can trace its history. It was an ancient usage, both among classical and oriental writers, for the author to introduce his own name into the first sentence of his composition. The titles of the psalms ought, therefore, not to have been printed in a different type, or as something added to the text, which has led some editors to omit them altogether. In all Hebrew manuscripts they bear the same relation to the body of the psalm, that the inscriptions in the prophet’s or in Paul’s epistles bear to the substance of the composition. In the case before us, as in every other, the inscription is in perfect keeping with the psalm itself, as well as with the parallel history. Besides the author’s name, it here states the historical occasion of the composition. A Psalm of David, in his fleeing, when he fled, from the face, from the presence, or before, Absalom, his son (see 2 Sam. 15:14, 17, 30). Such a psalm might well be conceived, and even composed, if not actually written, in the midst of the dangers and distresses which occasioned it. There is no need therefore of supposing the reference to be merely retrospective. That the terms used are so general, is because the psalm, though first suggested by the writer’s personal experience, was intended for more general use.

2 (1). O Lord, Jehovah, the name of God as self-existent and eternal, and also as the covenant God of Israel, how many, or how multiplied, are my foes, my oppressors or tormentors! This is not a question, but an exclamation of surprise and grief. Many rising up against me. The sentence may either be completed thus: many (are they) that rise up against me; or the construction of the other clause may be continued. (How) many (are there) rising up against me! The same periphrasis for enemies is used by Moses, Deut. 28:7. What is here said of the multitude of enemies agrees well with the historical statement in 2 Sam. 15:13, 16:18.

3 (2). (There are) many saying, or, (how) many (are there) saying to my soul, i.e. so as to affect my heart, though really said of him, not directly addressed to him. (Compare Ps. 35:3; Isa. 51:23.) There is no salvation, deliverance from evil, whether temporal, spiritual, or eternal. There is no salvation for him, the sufferer, and primarily the psalmist himself, in God, i.e. in his power, or his purpose, implying either that God does not concern himself about such things, Ps. 10:11, or that he has cast the sufferer off, Ps. 42:4, 11 (3, 10), 71:11, 22:8, 9 (7, 8); Matt. 27:43. This is the language, not of despondent friends, but of malignant enemies, and is really the worst that even such could say of him. For, as Luther well says, all the temptations in the world, and in hell too, melted together into one, are nothing when compared with the temptation to despair of God’s mercy. The first stanza, or double verse, closes, like the second and fourth, with the word Selah. This term occurs seventy-three times in the psalms, and three times in the prophecy of Habakkuk. It corresponds to rest, either as a noun or verb, and like it is properly a musical term, but generally indicates a pause in the sense as well as the performance. See below, on Ps. 9:17 (16). Like the titles, it invariably forms part of the text, and its omission by some editors and translators is a mutilation of the word of God. In the case before us, it serves as a kind of pious ejaculation to express the writer’s feelings, and, at the same time, warns the reader to reflect on what he reads, just as our Savior was accustomed to say: He that hath ears to hear let him hear.

4 (3). From his earthly enemies and dangers he looks up to God, the source of his honors and his tried protector. The connection is similar to that between the fifth and sixth verses of the second psalm. The and (not but) has reference to a tacit comparison or contrast. This is my treatment at the hands of men, and thou, on the other hand, O Lord, Jehovah, (art) a shield about me, or around me, i.e. covering my whole body, not merely a part of it, as ordinary shields do. This is a favorite metaphor with David; see Ps. 7:11 (10), 18:3 (2), 28:7. It occurs, however, more than once in the Pentateuch; see Gen. 15:1; Deut. 33:29. My honor, i.e. the source of the honors I enjoy, with particular reference, no doubt, to his royal dignity, not as a secular distinction merely, but in connection with the honor put upon him as a type and representative of Christ. The honor thus bestowed by God he might well be expected to protect. My honor, and the (one) raising my head, i.e. making me look up from my despondency. The whole verse is an appeal to the psalmist’s previous experience of God’s goodness as a ground for the confidence afterwards expressed.

5 (4). (With) my voice to the Lord, Jehovah, I will call, or cry. The future form of the verb is probably intended to express continued or habitual action, as in Ps. 1:2. I cry and will cry still. And he hears me, or, then he hears me, i.e. when I call. The original construction shews, in a peculiar manner, the dependence of the last verb on the first, which can hardly be conveyed by an exact translation. The second verb is not the usual verb to hear, but one especially appropriated to the gracious hearing or answering of prayer. And he hears (or answers) me from his hill of holiness, or holy hill. This, as we learn from Ps. 2:6, is Zion, the seat and center of the old theocracy, the place where God visibly dwelt among his people. This designation of a certain spot as the earthly residence of God, was superseded by the incarnation of his Son, whose person thenceforth took the place of the old sanctuary. It was, therefore, no play upon words or fanciful allusion, when our Savior "spake of the temple of his body" (John 2:21), but a disclosure of the true sense of the sanctuary under the old system, as designed to teach the doctrine of God’s dwelling with his people. The same confidence with which the Christian now looks to God in Christ the old believer felt towards the holy hill of Zion. Here again the strophe ends with a devout and meditative pause, denoted as before by Selah.

6 (5). I, even I, whose case you regarded as so desperate, have lain down, and slept, (and) awaked, notwithstanding all these dangers, for the Lord, Jehovah, will sustain me, and I therefore have no fears to rob me of my sleep. This last clause is not a reason for the safety he enjoys, which would require the past tense, but for his freedom from anxiety, in reference to which the future is entirely appropriate. This construction, the only one which gives the Hebrew words their strict and full sense, forbids the supposition that the psalm before us was an evening song, composed on the night of David’s flight from Jerusalem. If any such distinctions be admissible or necessary, it may be regarded as a morning rather than an evening hymn.

7 (6). The fearlessness implied in the preceding verse is here expressed. I will not be afraid of myriads, or multitudes, the Hebrew word being used both in a definite and vague sense. It also contains an allusion to the first verb in ver. 2 (1), of which it is a derivative. I will not be afraid of myriads of people, either in the sense of persons, men, or by a poetic license for the people, i.e. Israel, the great mass of whom had now revolted. Whom they, my enemies, have set, or posted, round about against me. This is a simpler and more accurate construction than the reflexive one, who have set (themselves) against me round about, although the essential meaning still remains the same. The sum of the whole verse is, that the same courage which enabled him to sleep without disturbance in the midst of enemies and dangers, still sustained him when those enemies and dangers were presented to his waking senses.

8 (7). That this courage was not founded upon self-reliance, he now shews by asking God for that which he before expressed his sure hope of obtaining. Arise, O Lord, Jehovah! This is a common scriptural mode of calling upon God to manifest his presence and his power, either in wrath or favor. By a natural anthropomorphism, it describes the intervals of such manifestations as periods of inaction or of slumber, out of which he is besought to rouse himself. Save me, even me, of whom they say there is no help for him in God. See above, ver. 3 (2). Save me, O my God, mine by covenant and mutual engagement, to whom I therefore have a right to look for deliverance and protection. This confidence is warranted, moreover, by experience. For thou hast, in former exigencies, smitten all my enemies, without exception, (on the) cheek or jaw, an act at once violent and insulting. See 1 Kings 22:24; Micah 4:14; 5:1; Lam. 3:30. The teeth of the wicked, here identified with his enemies, because he was the champion and representative of God’s cause, thou hast broken, and thus rendered harmless. The image present to his mind seems to be that of wild beasts eager to devour him, under which form his enemies are represented in Ps. 27:2.

9 (8). To the Lord, Jehovah, the salvation, which I need and hope for, is or belongs, as to its only author and dispenser. To him, therefore, he appeals for the bestowment of it, not on himself alone, but on the church of which he was the visible and temporary head. On thy people (be) thy blessing! This earnest and disinterested intercession for God’s people forms a noble close or winding up of the whole psalm, and is therefore preferable to the version, on thy people (is) thy blessing, which, though equally grammatical, is less significant, and indeed little more than a repetition of the fact asserted in the first clause, whereas this is really an importunate petition founded on it. The whole closes, like the first and second stanzas, with a solemn and devout pause. Selah.

Alexander, J. A. (1864). The Psalms Translated and Explained. Edinburgh: Andrew Elliot; James Thin. (Public Domain)

Suffering With Christ

True Evangelism:  Suffering With Christ

IT should not be concluded from what has gone before that there is no other God-appointed human service in behalf of the lost than the prayer of intercession. It is claimed, however, that intercessory prayer is the first and all-important service according to Scripture. The Divine order is to talk to God about men, until the door is definitely open to talk to men about God. Any service which He may appoint after believing prayer has been offered will be wonderfully blessed by Him. But to intrude upon strangers, unless positively led to do so, or to implore unwilling and unprepared men, is to display a zeal without knowledge, and is fraught with peril to immortal souls. Such boldness is often urged and commended as being a high form of Christian service; yet no Spirit-filled person can rush ahead of the movements of God without a deep sense of protest from the Spirit Who indwells him. It is not altogether due to personal diffidence that true believers often find it difficult to speak to the unsaved about their need of Christ. There is a restraint upon such service; for if the unsaved are not prepared by the Spirit, any attempt to force a decision will be a violation of the Divine order.

If space could be given here to incidents illustrating the necessity of waiting on God and for God as the first effort to be made for the salvation of any person, it would be apparent that the preparation of one soul may require many years, or this preparation may be accomplished in another in as many hours; but in no case has it ever been advantageous to press the decision until some evidence is given that the preparation is complete. Such quiet waiting will always be rewarded; for, as in the days of the Acts of the Apostles, there will be some clear indication from the illuminated person that the heart is prepared which will perfectly open the way for any necessary word to be spoken that will direct that heart to its acceptance of Christ. Coaxing and pleading will be found to be unnecessary, for the soul will be thirsting for the Water of Life.

The precious service of leading the enlightened person to a decision is often appointed to the one who has first suffered for that person in intercession. This is the real place of so-called "personal work," and too much cannot be said of the value of the careful preparation and instruction of every believer for this particular service, for there is need of great clearness and skill in explaining the exact terms of the Gospel to the one upon whom the Spirit is moving in conviction and illumination. A distinction should be made, however, between directing a convicted and burdened soul to Christ, and forcing an issue upon one who is unprepared by the Spirit.

The burden of heart that can find no peace because of the lost condition of some individual is the highest form of human suffering, and is several times referred to in Scripture. There this burden for the lost is seen, not only to form a part of human suffering, but to be a normal experience in the life of every saved person. That it is not a common experience among Christians to-day can be explained only by the fact that there are abnormal conditions in many Christian lives.

The reality of human suffering and its place in a Christian’s life is so vital a part of true evangelism, and occupies so conspicuous a place in the New Testament, that it should be considered sufficiently at length to distinguish that particular part of suffering which has to do with salvation of the lost from its other aspects.

The believer may suffer much for Christ. This form of suffering may include the involuntary sacrifice of the loss of friends, property, reputation, or health, and the voluntary sacrifice or separation from loved ones, gifts, humiliation and faithful service, even unto death. It is stated in Phil. 1:29 that such suffering is a gift to the believer: "Unto you it is given in behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake." Unto you it is given to be parted from loved ones in the worldwide ministry of the Gospel, to become poor that others may become rich, to suffer separation or privation as a sacrifice for Him.

This form of suffering was experienced by the Lord of Glory, and to those who are in the midst of these afflictions it is said: "The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us"; and "Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more and exceeding weight of glory."

The suffering of a Christian according to the Scriptures is primarily suffering with Christ. This is attested by various passages (1 Pet. 4:13; Rom. 8:17; Col. 1:24; Phil. 2:5–9; and 2 Tim. 2:12). The important word used in connection with the believer’s relation to Christian suffering is "with," and that word emphasizes the necessary distinction that much of the suffering in the world is alien to fellowship with Christ. On the other hand, this word suggests a vital union and Divine co-partnership between the suffering believer and His suffering Lord.

In suffering with Christ the Christian may either suffer from man the reproaches of Christ, or he may come to experience with Christ a Divinely wrought burden and sorrow for the lost. Beyond this it is impossible for any believer to go in the mystery of the sufferings of Christ; for what He suffered from God in becoming Himself an offering for sin could not be shared by any other, though one might greatly desire a similar ministry. See Rom. 9:1–3.

Suffering with Christ is a natural phase of a Christian’s life and experience. He is sojourning in an enemy’s land, is called to be a witness against its sin, and is summoned to labor that souls may be saved from its evil and darkness. "If the world hate you, ye know that it hated Me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own; but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you" (John 15:18, 19). To those who did not believe on Him He said: "The world cannot hate you; but Me it hateth, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil" (John 7:7). "It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household?" (Matt. 10:25). "As thou hast sent Me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world" (John 17:18). "Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you; but rejoice, inasmuch as you are partakers in Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad with exceeding joy" (1 Pet. 4:12, 13).

So also, as is seen by these passages, suffering with Christ here is the only possible path into the reward of being glorified together with Him over there. This is not salvation, for salvation cannot be gained by any degree of human suffering. It is rather the glorious crown and reward to be given to the faithful in their co-partnership with Christ. This truth is emphasized in the following passage: "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God; but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of man: and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross. Wherefore God hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Phil. 2:5–11).

Here it is inferred that the believer is to allow the mind of Christ to be reproduced in him by the power of God (Phil. 2:13), and these seven successive steps in the path of Christ, from His native place in the glory to the felon’s death on the cross, are reviewed in this Scripture only that such steps may be admitted in the Christian’s life, who is to be "as his Lord" even in this world. It is also inferred in this passage that, through this relation to Jesus in suffering, there is to be an identity with Him in His glory. "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; if so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of the present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us" (Rom. 8:16–18). "It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with Him, we shall also live with Him: if we suffer, we shall also reign with Him: if we deny Him, He also will deny us" (2 Tim. 2:11, 12).

Suffering was the ministry to which Paul was appointed by the Lord through the disciple Ananias when the Lord commanded Ananias: "Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto Me, to bear My name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: for I will shew him how great things he must suffer for My Name’s sake" (Acts 9:15, 16).

Thus it may be concluded that, while all the mystery of suffering is not explained, and probably cannot be, it is an essential part of the Christian’s life and union with Christ in this world, and of identification with Him in His glory.

Of that suffering which is from man and because of the believer’s relation and loyalty to Christ it is said: "Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that when His glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or a thief, or as an evil doer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf" (1 Pet. 4:12–16).

It is, however, sympathetic suffering that enters most directly into the movements of the power of God in evangelism. As a mother’s face may reflect more pain than the face of her suffering child, so there is an unlimited realm of possible suffering in sympathy and burden for another. This highest and deepest suffering is born of two parents, which are love and appreciation. The brute may love its offspring, but cannot appreciate its sufferings; while a savage may appreciate pain, but cares nothing for the suffering one. To the one who both knows and feels there is revealed a degree of the mystery of suffering in sympathy.

When the sufferings of Christ are contemplated in the light of this simple fact, it will be seen that back of the Cross is, first, the infinite wisdom, vision and power to appreciate on the part of God. He comprehended man’s sin, his eternal ruin, and necessary banishment from His presence. And second, He loved the world of men enough to act mightily in their behalf. That He loved them is the reason for His effort for them. That He appreciated their terrible need was the warrant for the particular thing He did. The measure of His appreciation and love is unbounded; for "He bore our sins in His own body on the tree," which reveals the reality of our sins as viewed by an infinite God. He became the propitiation for the sins of the whole world.

It was not the love of God alone that was revealed in the Cross, His eternal wisdom and Godhead are seen as well by the particular thing which He did for man’s redemption. In the Cross He also disclosed His estimate of man’s need. So the Cross is, in the mind and heart of the Infinite, both a warning of doom and a wooing of love; and it is no credit to finite man that he denies the voice of the Infinite, rejects His verdict of human hopelessness, and misinterprets the value and vision of the death of Christ.

The dominant motive that prompted the sufferings of Christ was revealed in one of His prayers at the Cross. Had His suffering been physical alone, His prayer might have been, Father, they are causing Me physical pain; or had His sufferings been His personal sacrifice alone, He might have prayed, Father, they are taking My life from Me: in reality He prayed, "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do." And while the sufferings of His body and the sacrifice of His life constituted an offering for sin, "once for all," these were prompted by the Divine vision of human need and His yearning compassion for lost and ruined men; for He prayed not for Himself, but for them. In that mysterious suffering for the sin of the world no human can suffer with Christ. That suffering was final and complete. It can only be believed in and appropriated by the one who has come to realize his own share in it.

When a soul has come under the shadow, and received the redemption of the Cross, that one is then privileged to suffer with Christ in a compassion for the lost; being also prompted, in some measure, by the same Divine vision and love, through the presence and power of the indwelling Spirit.

This is illustrated by the testimony of the Apostle Paul in Rom. 9:1–3: "I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, that I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh."

Much is said in the preceding context of the power and blessing of the Spirit indwelling the Christian. In this passage, however, He is seen lifting the Apostle Paul to the same view-point that Christ occupied, when He was willing to be accursed that lost men might be saved, and which He experienced when He cried, "My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?" From this point of Divine vision Paul longs, too, with an unutterable longing to make some sufficient sacrifice, even an impossible and terrible separation from Christ his Lord, if only his brethren, his kinsmen after the flesh, might be saved. This attitude of agonized suffering for the salvation of his brethren was not an element of the human nature of Saul, who found his delight in the condemnation and execution of his brethren when they were found to be followers of Jesus; nor is this Divine touch found in any unregenerate life. It is "The love of God shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us," or in reality, the very love of God reaching out for the lost through the believer. This experience of Paul’s is possible to others. By the Indwelling One, the believer may come both to appreciate the lost estate of men and to experience a Divine compassion for them.

Suffering with Christ, then, in its deepest meaning, is to come to experience by the Spirit an unutterable agony for men out of Christ, and from that vision and love to be willing to offer personal sacrifice or endure physical pain, if need be, that they may be saved. This is as near to "a cross" as the Christian can come in experience; for he can make no atonement, nor is human atonement needed. As his eyes are opened and his heart is made sensitive to the indescribable need of any soul out of Christ, he has, to that extent, experienced the Divine compassion "shed abroad in his heart." Such suffering with Christ is the heritage of every regenerate soul.

One has but to recall the spiritual agony of soul, like the physical pain of a woman in travail, that has borne down upon believers in the great ingatherings of history in connection with the birth of souls to understand the reality of Divinely wrought suffering with Christ, which is granted to the believer, and is the sure warrant of identification with Him in His glory. So, whenever a believer is prepared to receive this great gift of suffering with Christ, it will be granted unto him to such a degree, and at such times as he is able to bear it. All pity for those Christians who, through want of adjustment to the mind and purpose of God, are never so privileged!

There is a great lost world of individuals surrounding every believer, and if his heart is attuned to the Spirit that indwells him, he cannot but suffer at times with Christ in an agony of soul that they may be saved. That soul-anguish in a believer may find its expression only in "groanings that cannot be uttered." In this extremity, he will be driven into the holiest place, and he will find no relief except in the priestly prayer of intercession.

Through such intercession the Spirit is covenanted to go forward to deal with unregenerate men, and by His mighty Sword strike the blindness from their eyes, and bring them face to face with the salvation that is in Jesus Christ.

Here it will be observed that this Divine burden for the lost is a very uncommon experience among believers to-day; and the solution of this problem is found in the last step that marks the movements of the "power of God unto salvation." The difficulty lies with the defilement of the priests before God who do not and cannot, because of their own unfitness, experience the love of God for others, or prevail with God in the holy place.

True Evangelism:  Lewis Sperry Chafer, 1911, Public Domain

The Cleansing of the Priests

True Evangelism:  The Cleansing of the Priests

THE various conditions on which the answer to prayer depends, as set forth in the New Testament, require an experience in the supplicant of common vision and sympathy with the mind and will of God. "If ye abide in Me and My words abide in you," is a condition which demands a relation to God on the part of the individual, wherein both the present leading of God is realized and His written will is known. To abide in Christ is to keep His commandments (John 15:10), and to be in close fellowship with Him. To have His Word abiding in us is to be instructed in the Scriptures; and to one who has thus been brought into full sympathy with the purpose of God, it can safely be said, "Ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you." This promise of prayer, then, is not unlimited, as is sometimes supposed, but is qualified by a required adjustment to the will of God of the mind and heart of the one who prays. So, also, the oft-repeated condition, "In My name" admits of only such themes in prayer as can reasonably be coupled with the glory of Christ and the projects of His unfinished work in the world.

Another condition of prayer is given in Mark 11:24: "Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them." This condition does not include every subject of prayer; for it would be impossible to believe that God would grant anything inconsistent with His own purpose or Being. Yet with all this nearness to the mind of God there will be many legitimate objects of prayer, concerning the wisdom of which the believer must ever be in doubt; for all requests in prayer naturally fall into two classes at the point of the known will of God. When there is no revelation, the supplicator can never pass the boundary of the qualifying words, "Thy will, not mine, be done." But when there is a revelation of the will of God, this boundary is done away; and to be uncertain of the will of God, when His will is clearly revealed, is but to doubt the Word through which He has made it manifest.

The priestly intercession of the believer, which is a necessary element in true evangelism, falls in the realm of this latter phase of prayer. This prayer is nothing less than the mighty movings of the "power of God unto salvation," since the Spirit indites the intercession. It is a glorious human co-partnership with the Divine Shepherd in His solicitude and effort to seek the lost.

Every possible question as to the Divine will in the salvation, sanctification and glorification of men has been wholly answered in the revelation of the heart of God through the sacrifice of the Cross. "His eternal power and Godhead" were revealed in the things created; "For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world were clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead" (Rom. 1:20). His soul-saving compassion and desire for helpless men was revealed in the Cross of Christ; as it is written: "No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him" (John 1:18). "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). "For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come into the knowledge of the truth" (1 Tim. 2:3, 4). "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself" (2 Cor. 5:19).

From the foregoing Scriptures it may be seen that there has been a completion of all the grounds of salvation, and a sufficient revelation of the purpose and will of God for the redemption of all men through the Cross of Christ; and since His covenant-promises, relating to prayer, are still in force, it is clear that all hindrances to the movements of God in salvation must be due to some failure on the human side. Either the believers do not meet their high privilege in the holy place, or the unsaved, when convicted, reject the vision that is given unto them. Since there is little evidence of any new vision received, or rejected, on the part of the unregenerate, the solution of the question as to why there is not more saving power among believers to-day must be sought for in the realm of the believer’s ministry of intercession.

It has already been pointed out that, while there may be little demand for purification in the exercise of gifts, where the service is only between man and man, there can be no entering into the holy place without the laving or removal of defilement, which God alone may see. This cleansing has been typified by the laver that stood at the entrance to the "Holy of holies" in the tabernacle of old. The necessity of that special cleansing of the priest before he approached the presence of Jehovah "in the tent of meeting" was emphasized by the penalty of death if the cleansing was neglected. The passage in Ex. 30:17–21 is here given:

"And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Thou shalt also make a laver of brass, and his foot also of brass, to wash withal: and thou shalt put it between the tabernacle of the congregation and the altar, and thou shalt put water therein. For Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet thereat: when they go into the tabernacle of the congregation, they shall wash with water, that they die not; or when they come near to the altar to minister, to burn offerings made by fire unto the Lord: so they shall wash their hands and their feet, that they die not: and it shall be a statute for ever to them, even to him and his seed throughout their generations."

The restatement of the same truth is found in several passages in the New Testament in which the cleansing and refitting of the believer-priest is set forth. In John 13:3–11, Jesus speaks of the first tense of salvation as the whole bath ("He that is bathed"); and, in contrast to this, He also speaks of His own work in removing the believer’s defilement that may have been received through contact with the world. This cleansing of the believer is typified by the bathing of the feet. This is most suggestive when compared with the one preparatory whole bath of the Aaronic priest which was required when he entered the priestly office (Ex. 29:4), and the necessary repeated laving before each entrance into the holy place in the course of his priestly ministry.

John 13:3–11, which teaches the possible cleansing of the believer-priest, is as follows: "Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He was come from God, and went to God, He riseth from supper, and laid aside His garments; and took a towel, and girded Himself. After that He poureth water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith He was girded. Then cometh He to Simon Peter: and Peter said unto Him, Lord, dost Thou wash my feet? Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter. Peter said unto Him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with Me. Simon Peter saith unto Him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head. Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all. For He knew who should betray Him; therefore said He, Ye are not all clean."

Upon this passage, Dr. C. I. Scofield gives the following note in the "Scofield Reference Bible": "The underlying imagery is of an oriental returning from the public bath to his home. His feet would contract defilement and require cleansing, but not his body. So the believer is cleansed as before the law from all sin ‘once for all’ (Heb. 10:1–12), but needs ever to bring his daily sins to the Father in confession, that he may abide in unbroken fellowship with the Father and with the Son (1 John 1:1–10). The blood of Christ answers for ever to all the law could say as to the believer’s guilt, but he needs constant cleansing from the defilement of sin. See Eph. 5:25–27; 1 John 5:6. Typically, the order of approach to the presence of God was, first, the brazen altar of sacrifice, and then the laver of cleansing (Ex. 40:6, 7). See, also, the order in Ex. 30:17–21: Christ cannot have communion with a defiled saint, but He can and will cleanse him."

Other passages on the cleansing of the New Testament priest should be quoted also: "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church, and gave Himself for it; that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish" (Eph. 5:25–27). "If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: but if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:6–9). "Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, the Lord knoweth them that are His. And, let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity. But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour and some to dishonour. If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the Master’s use, and prepared unto every good work" (2 Tim. 2:19–21).

The Aaronic priest met the penalty of instant death if he attempted to enter the Holy of holies without the laving that was prescribed by the law, and while that penalty is not continued under grace, it is evident that God has safeguarded His holy Presence by closing the door of the believer’s priestly ministry so long as his sin and defilement is not put away. As the priest of the Old Testament failed in his office through unfitness before God, so the priest of the New Testament, from the same cause, may sacrifice much of his privilege in holy service and communion with Christ. His priestly ministry of sacrifice, in which he presents his body, his praise and his benevolence, may go on in their outward forms, he being under grace; yet it cannot be effectual when, because of sin, it is a ministry that is not acceptable to God. So also his priestly ministry of intercession may become of no avail through defilement.

Here, as in the ministry of sacrifice, the loss is immeasurable. Not only are all his possible services to God and blessings to men hindered, which might be realized through his ministry in the holiest place, but he is without the joy and peace of fellowship with Christ. It is of great importance for the believer to realize that through his defilement, not only his priestly ministry is hindered, but his own fellowship with Christ is sacrificed as well. "If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: but if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin" (1 John 1:6, 7). "These things (about abiding in Christ) have I spoken unto you, that My joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full" (John 15:11). "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in My name, He will give it you. Hitherto ye have asked nothing in My name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full" (John 16:23, 24). "And now I come to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have My joy fulfilled in themselves" (John 17:13). "That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full" (1 John 1:3, 4).

It may then be concluded that defilement in the believer hinders every phase of his priestly office, makes fellowship with Christ impossible, and robs him of his personal joy and blessing.

The limitation that is placed upon the priestly prayer of intercession through undealt-with sin in the believer’s life is the only aspect of this truth that is directly related to the subject of evangelism.

The following Scriptures warrant the conclusion that sin directly hinders prevailing prayer:

"If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me" (Psa. 66:18). "Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither His ear heavy that He cannot hear: but your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you, that He will not hear" (Isa. 59:1, 2). "Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way: first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift" (Matt. 5:23, 24). "If ye abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you" (John 15:7). "I will therefore that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting" (1 Tim. 2:8). "Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts" (James 4:2, 3). "Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much" (James 5:16). "Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered" (1 Pet. 3:7).

There is no point more strategic for the subtle attack of Satan against the plan and work of God in saving men than the one where God offers to meet the Christian for cleansing; for, if cleansing can be hindered, very much of human co-operation with God in "seeking the lost" is hindered also. This satanic influence is seen first in the fact that the Christians are almost universally ignorant of the God-provided way by which they may be cleansed from their defilement; and second, this satanic influence is seen in the tendency of the flesh to resist the necessary requirements of God, even when they are understood.

The definite offer to the unregenerate person of the forgiveness of his sins is conditioned upon his receiving Christ as his personal Saviour, and there is equally as definite an offer to the Christian for the forgiveness of his sin and defilement. The condition which is imposed upon the believer is that he confess his sins. "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9).

The offer of forgiveness to the unsaved and the offer of forgiveness to the saved should never be confused. While both are made possible by the blood of Christ, the sin question with the unsaved is dealt with as a part of the whole first tense of salvation, which cannot be divided, and is likened by Christ to the whole bath: while the sin question with the saved person stands alone, since no other aspect of his glorious salvation is disturbed by his sin. Hence the removal of his defilement is all that is called for; and that is likened by Christ to the bathing of the feet of one who is returning from the whole bath.

The Prodigal Son presents an illustration of the way in which a Christian may return to fellowship and blessing. There is no record that the prodigal was any less a son "in the far country" than he was in his own home; nor is it recorded of him that he returned to his father’s house on the basis of sacrifice or atonement: but it is stated that he returned on the basis of confession; for it is said that he arose and came to his father, and said unto him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am not worthy to be called thy son."

In this same connection it may be seen that confession is the only requirement that can reasonably be demanded of a sinning saint; for the basis of any true fellowship is a symphonizing of thought and purpose. Hence any defilement in a believer of necessity interrupts his fellowship (though not his salvation) with a holy God. When fellowship with God is broken by sin, it can be re-established only by a frank admission of guilt and failure on the part of the sinning one. To refuse a confession is to contend that right is wrong, and wrong is right, which would be a contradiction of the very nature and character of God.

Confession re-opens the way for fellowship with God and of access to God, but it does not in any way atone for sin. Propitiation for sin was perfectly accomplished at the Cross. Since His ascension, Christ has been continually pleading the efficacy of His own sacrificial death for sin in behalf of believers (Rom. 8:33, 34; Heb. 7:25). Therefore, it is said to the Christian: "If we confess our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." The sin of the saved one is not forgiven on the grounds of an immediate act of mercy, but is forgiven on the grounds of the sacrifice made "once for all" at the Cross. So it is said that God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, rather than that He is tender and merciful to forgive us our sins.

The importance of confession of sin and of self-judgment is mentioned also in 1 Cor. 11:31, 32. "For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world." In considering this important passage, it may be noted:

I. This Scripture, like that relating to confession of sin, is addressed only to believers.

II. The believer is first given the opportunity to judge himself before God, and if he fails in voluntary self-judgment, God will judge him by chastisement.

III. And the chastisement of God is given that His child may not be condemned with the world. In this connection it should be remembered that God is in covenant with His children to the effect that they "shall not be brought into condemnation." "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth My words, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life" (John 5:24). So again, "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 8:1).

The whole relation between the believer and his God is one of eternal sonship, which cannot be broken; hence all the judgments of God upon His own are for correction, while His judgments of the unsaved are unto condemnation. "He that believeth on Him is not condemned; but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed on the name of the only begotten Son of God" (John 3:18).

The same family relationship of the father to his son is carried through both the Old and the New Testaments. "I will be His father, and He shall be My son. If He commit iniquity, I will chasten Him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men: but My mercy shall not depart away from Him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away before thee" (2 Sam. 7:14, 15). "And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the Lord. And Nathan said unto David, The Lord also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die. Howbeit, because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, the child also that is born of thee shall surely die" (2 Sam. 12:13, 14). "To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus" (1 Cor. 5:5). "For consider Him that endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself, lest ye be weary and faint in your minds. Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin. And ye have forgotten the exhortation, which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of Him: for whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the Father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence; shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but He for our profit that we might be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterwards it yieldeth the peaceable fruits of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby. Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; and make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed. Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled" (Heb. 12:3–15). "Every branch in me that beareth not fruit He taketh it away; and every branch that beareth fruit, He purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit" (John 15:2).

From this extensive body of Scripture it may be seen that the Christian is privileged to "walk in the light, as He is in the light," which does not necessarily mean a sinless life: but it does mean the humble confession of all the fruits of a sinful nature, and an attitude of willingness to meet every demand of God for the putting away of sin. If the confession of sin and the judgment of self is not willingly entered into, there must be a chastisement from God, lest the believer be condemned with the world. The execution of this chastisement, it would seem, is sometimes committed to Satan (1 Cor. 5:5; 1 Tim. 1:20). If fruit is not borne after chastisement, then God taketh the branch away (John 15:2). This is not a loss of salvation, but is an entire removal from this life and service.

There are two practical questions which arise in connection with the confession of sin on the part of the believer. First, How may he know what to confess? and second, To whom should he confess?

In answer to the question—How may he know what to confess?—it may be stated that there are at least three ways by which a Christian may come to know his unlikeness to the mind and character of God. These are:

I. The written Word of God, the teachings of which he may have neglected or transgressed. "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works" (2 Tim. 3:16, 17).

II. The faithful admonition of the fellow-members of the body of Christ. "Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or more that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it to the church: but if he shall neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican" (Matt, 18:15–17). "Take heed to yourselves: if thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent, thou shalt forgive him" (Luke 17:3, 4). "Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted" (Gal. 6:1).

III. The grieved Spirit who indwells him. The grieving of the Spirit will be to the Christian as an inner consciousness of wrong, which he must carefully and prayerfully heed. "And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption" (Eph. 4:30).

The child of God will learn to distinguish between the ever-present unlikeness to Christ and the grosser sins that are mentioned in the Bible. "Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like" (Gal. 5:19–21). In this passage it will be seen that the sins of hatred, wrath, envy, variance, emulations and strife are mentioned in the same list with adultery, murder and drunkenness.

If a Christian really purposes to get right with God at any cost, he may well pray the prayer recorded in Psa. 139:23, 24: "Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." There is assurance that every unholy thing will be revealed to the one who thus prays. "Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in anything ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you" (Phil. 3:15).

In answer to this prayer for light upon the hidden sins in the life, there may be but one sin revealed at a time, and further revelations may be made to depend both upon an honest dealing with the revelation already given and upon a repetition of the same supplication. There is no other way for a Christian to deal with his sin-hindered life.

The voice of the unseen enemy must also be detected. He is ever present to dissuade the believer from taking the necessary step that leads him back into fellowship with God, and into the power and blessing of service. Satan’s method is to seek to minimize the hindering sin, to justify the unholy act or position, and to appeal to the personal pride of the Christian, or suggest that a confession of sin would hinder the believer’s influence for his Lord.

The answer to the second question: "To whom should a Christian confess?" is more simple:

I. Confession of sin should always be to God; for He is wronged by the sin of a Christian more than any mortal. The Scripture examples of confession are clear on this point. "Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight" (Psa. 51:4). "I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto Him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before Thee, and am no more worthy to be called Thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants" (Luke 15:18, 19).

II. Confession should be made to the person or persons who have been in any way wronged by the sin. Here, it may be added, confession does not in any way involve the wrong attitude of others, nor does it demand that the responsibility for sin shall be assumed by a person who is in no way at fault. If there has been an enmity between a Christian and some other person, the Christian is asked to consider and confess only his own wrong state of heart or sinful acts. This may not solve the misunderstanding between the two parties, but it will open the way for the cleansing of the Christian who confesses his sins.

Again, confession of sin should always be limited to those who have been wronged, whether the sin has been committed against the community, the church or an individual.

III. Confession should be made to any who have known of the sin; for they, in a measure, have also been wronged. "And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed. Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled (Heb. 12:13–15). "Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumbling-block or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way" (Rom. 14:13; see also Luke 17:1, 2; 1 Cor. 8:7–13).

The fifty-first Psalm is the record of David’s repentance and return to fellowship with God after his great sin, and is an exact statement of the necessary steps to be taken by a Christian in returning to his place of joy and power in service. The Psalm opens with a complete confession of sin; claims the cleansing that is promised; and ends with the restoration to joy, service, and whole fellowship with God.

If there is no fruit borne to the glory of God, no fellowship with God, and no joy in the life of a believer, it is evidence that there is need of adjustment in that life to the mind and will of God. Such adjustments are the common experience of those who know what it is to walk with God; for there is no other way to keep that priceless fellowship and blessing. The secret of abiding in such a walk with God is instant confession of every known sin, rather than a delay in, or an entire neglect of the performance of that duty.

Let it be restated that the believer may not realize a state of sinless perfection; but he can and must maintain an attitude of willing and instant confession of every known wrong, if he would walk in fellowship with his Lord and minister in the priestly office.

When the heart is searched before God, and all sin is put away, the believer will "walk in the light as He is in the light"; for that is the normal, if not the usual, Christian experience. In this relationship there will be fellowship with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ, a running over with peace and joy, and unhindered outflow of the love of God through the life.

Of this outflow of love it may be stated that, as the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Spirit which is given unto us, the normal experience of every believer should be a Divine sense of the lost condition of unsaved people, which will prompt any necessary sacrifice or effort to win them. The particular person or persons for whom a Christian may be burdened, and the extent of that burden, will be indicated and governed by the sovereign movings of the Spirit of God; while a sense of the burden, made possible through a cleansing of the life, is the one responsibility of the believer.

Where the believer-priest is cleansed and is in communion with God, the love of God shed abroad in his heart will create in him a Divine longing for the salvation of the lost and this will be brought about by the Spirit "which is given unto him." He will then, from time to time, be driven to intercession and prayer through his suffering with Christ for the lost. Like Paul he will say: "My heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved," and this prayer will be an intercession by the Spirit; "For we know not what to pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered." And since that prayer is indicted by the Spirit, Who knows the mind of God, that prayer will be answered by the going forth of the Spirit in power, wielding His mighty sword to convict of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment. Then where this Divinely wrought vision is received and acted upon by a depositing of all hope and trust in the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world, there will be, by the same Spirit, a marvellous transformation of the whole estate from the power and darkness of Satan into the light, liberty and blessing of the sons of God.

Thus when the believer-priest is cleansed and in a normal relation to God, the Spirit is free to take every necessary step in the "power of God unto salvation," and the believer will be led in perfect co-operation with Christ in His great unfinished work of seeking the lost. The work is all accomplished by the Spirit; for it is the Spirit Who inspires the prayer which is the only relief for the one who is suffering with Christ through the Divinely given burden for the lost; it is the Spirit Who convinces of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment in answer to prayer which He inspires; and it is the Spirit Who meets the willing soul with the power of God in salvation.

True evangelism begins, then, with a cleansed priest, and while the human instrument may co-operate in much of the subsequent work in seeking the lost, "It is not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit saith the Lord."

True Evangelism:  Lewis Sperry Chafer, 1911, Public Domain

The Prayer of Intercession

True Evangelism:  The Prayer of Intercession

IN this attempt to consider the successive aspects of the movements of the "power of God unto salvation," it has already been seen that true evangelism must face the humanly impossible task of lifting the satanic veil that rests upon all unregenerate minds in connection with the one subject of "the Gospel." This blinding of Satan having been imposed at this one point for the sufficient reason that "the Gospel" is the revelation of the only way of escape for sinful man from the power of Satan unto God—by this blindness both the "good news" of the finished work upon the Cross and the glory of the living Christ, in His present position as Intercessor and Advocate, have been obscured. On the other hand, it has been seen that there is a Divinely provided illumination by the Spirit which causes the same "good news" of the finished work and the present glory of Christ to become a reality to the hitherto blinded mind.

The unveiling of the Gospel by the Spirit is necessary and reasonable. For the conditions of saving faith are no less than a deposit of the whole being into the saving power of Christ; and, while superficial decisions may be secured through mere human influence and power, there will be no complete repose of faith until the way is made plain by the enlightenment of the Spirit.

It is true that no man can know the Father, in soul rest, save the Son, and He to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him (Matt. 11:27, 28). This is the basis of all fellowship with God. It is equally true of the unsaved that no man can come to Christ as Saviour except the Father draw him (John 6:44). Again, "It is written in the prophets, And they shall all be taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me" (John 6:45).

In view of the appalling absence of personal concern on the part of the multitude of unsaved, in spite of the ever-increasing ministry of preaching and exhortation, every serious soul-winner will, sooner or later, raise the question: "What, then, hinders the Spirit from performing His office work of convincing the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment"? The answer to this central question in modern evangelism is found in that subject which is the next step in the successive aspects of the power of God unto salvation, as they are here being considered in their reverse order. That subject is the Prayer of Intercession.

There are but three possible ways in which the believer can fulfil the God-appointed human part in seeking the lost. These are: prayer, personal effort or influence, and giving. Both the first and the last are world-wide in their scope, while the other is limited to the locality and opportunity of the individual. There can never be a question as to the relative value of these various lines of service, for the ministry of prayer is continually open to every believer, and is only limited in its possibilities by the feeble faith of man. There is much in Scripture that emphasizes the importance of preaching the Word as a means unto salvation, and this ministry has sometimes been thought to be the greatest human service in evangelism; but it is evident that there must be more than the human statement of the truth. The Spirit must wield His mighty Sword and that work of the Spirit, to a large extent, is subject to believing prayer.

A Christian, as has been mentioned in a previous chapter, is, from the moment of his salvation, constituted a Royal Priest unto God. The meaning and scope of his position can be better understood by referring to the Aaronic Priesthood under the law, for the Old Testament priesthood is a type of the royal priesthood under grace.

That there is a royal priesthood under grace is revealed in the following Scriptures: "But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises (virtues) of Him Who hath called you out of darkness into His marvellous light" (1 Pet. 2:9). "Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ" (1 Pet. 2:5). "And he made us to be kings and priests unto God and His Father; to Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever" (Rev. 1:6). "Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And He that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because He maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God" (Rom. 8:26, 27).

The essential truth concerning the priesthood under grace is suggested in these passages. Here it is seen as composed of the members of the body of Christ, which is His church. A "chosen generation" speaks of their position by the new birth; a "royal priesthood" and "kings and priests" of their office; a "holy nation" and a "holy priesthood" of their necessary cleansing; and a "peculiar people" of their essential heavenly character, as distinguished from the people of the world. So again, "lively stones" speaks of their individual responsibility and service; "offer spiritual sacrifices" and the "intercession by the Spirit" speak of their ministry; while the words "acceptable to God by Jesus Christ" speak of the rent veil, their access to God, and of their "boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which He hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, His flesh" (Heb. 10:19, 20).

Returning to these important teachings to consider them in the same order, and more at length, it will be seen:

I. A "Chosen Generation"

Like the Aaronic priest under the law, the New Testament priest is born to his position. He is constituted a priest unto God as a part of the salvation that is in Jesus Christ. His position and his privileges, therefore, begin with his new birth into the nature and family of God. It is most important to emphasize the truth that every believer is a priest unto God, though he may never intelligently exercise his glorious privilege. The full realization of this position, so far as it affects prayer, is one of the greatest needs among believers to-day. It is more than a belief in the general efficacy of prayer. It is to be able to say "I know God will do His greatest works solely in answer to my prayer."

II. A "Royal Priesthood" and "Kings and Priests"

The New Testament priesthood is an office. This is in marked contrast to the believer’s gifts for service. The contrast is seen in the fact that those things which constitute the ministry of the priest are the privilege and duty of all believers alike: while the gifts for service are bestowed by the Spirit "as He will" (Rom. 12:3–8; 1 Cor. 12:4–11). Not all believers have the same gift for service: but all are privileged to minister in the priestly office. Not all have the gift of teaching, or of healing; but all have access in prayer.

III. A "Holy Nation" and a "Holy Priesthood"

The importance of cleansing for the exercise of the priestly office under grace is seen through the words "a holy priesthood." It is seen both as it is foreshadowed in the demands for laving and purification of the Old Testament priest, and in the fact that the ministry of the New Testament priest is also in the holiest place, and is directed unto God. In that holy place the least taint of sin or defilement cannot be allowed, though a degree of unfitness might not hinder the exercise of gifts where the service is only to men.

IV. A "Peculiar People"

No greater evidence of the mighty transformation that is wrought by salvation can be found than the fact that the privilege is granted to him who is saved of entering the holiest place where Christ is already entered in, and is there making intercession for His own who are in the world. Only those who have partaken of the Divine nature by regeneration and have come, by grace, to be heavenly in being and destiny could be so favoured.

V. "Lively Stones"

As the ministry of gifts in the church is individual, even world-wide evangelism being committed to each believer, rather than to the church as a body, so there is no present service for the New Testament priests as a whole; but their service is individual, as their cleansing and fitness must be.

VI. To "Offer Spiritual Sacrifices" and the "Intercession by the Spirit"

The Old Testament priest was sanctified and cleansed that he might offer sacrifices and enter the "Holy of holies" to intercede for others; so the New Testament priest is appointed to offer sacrifices in three particulars: (a) His own body: "I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship" (Rom. 12:1, r.v., with margin. See also Phil. 2:17; 2 Tim. 4:6; James 1:27). (b) His worship: "By Him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name" (Heb. 13:15). (c) His substance: "But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifice God is well pleased" (Heb. 13:16); "But I have all and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well pleasing to God" (Phil. 4:18).

The New Testament priest is also an intercessor, which, as the word implies, differs from a supplicator who may pray wholly for himself. The intercessor bears the burden and need of others before God, and intercedes in their behalf. No human wisdom is sufficient for this ministry in the holiest place; for "we know not what to pray for as we ought"; but God has anticipated our inability and provided the energizing Spirit Who "maketh intercession for us," and "according to the will of God" (Rom. 8:26, 27).

VII. "Acceptable unto God by Jesus Christ"

How much is required in those searching words, "acceptable to God"! Yet how perfect is the believer’s fitting "by Jesus Christ"! Only some personal defilement uncleansed, or sin unconfessed can hinder the exercise of the priestly office by the least of all believers. "By Jesus Christ" he has been made "acceptable to God," and only personal pollution can now hinder the realization of those precious privileges in the presence of God.

All evangelism must begin with prayer. And no human service, or device, can take the place of the intercession of a priest who is cleansed, and "acceptable to God," even in the holiest place "by Jesus Christ."

While the believer-priest may intercede in behalf of his fellow-members of the body of Christ, he, too, may intercede for the lost; and the answer to that prayer will be the going forth of the Spirit to convince them of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment.

The importance of preaching and teaching the truth is in no way lessened by this emphasis upon priestly prayer. It must only be borne in mind that prevailing prayer necessarily precedes all other ministry; for it alone commands the power of God, and secures the needed illumination of the mind toward the Word that may be preached. Without prayer there can be little understanding and vision of the Gospel, even though faithfully presented.

The reason for human intercession in the Divine plan has not been wholly revealed. The repeated statements of Scripture that it is a necessary link in the chain that carries the Divine energy into the impotent souls of men, in addition to its actual achievement as seen in the world, must be the sufficient evidence of the imperative need of the prayer in connection with the purpose of God. Thus in Scripture and in experience it is revealed that God has honoured man with an exalted place of co-operation and partnership with Himself in His great projects of human transformation.

Among the many direct and positive promises wherein the activity of the Divine power is conditioned on human faithfulness in prayer but one will here be quoted and considered.

In John 14:14, it is written: "If ye shall ask anything in My name, I will do it" (see also John 15:7; 16:23, 24; and Luke 11:9). In this Scripture the assignment of both the Divine and the human part in the work is clearly seen; for the mere outline of this passage is, "If ye shall ask, … I will do." Thus God reserves to Himself the undertaking and accomplishment of every object of human intercession, and assigns to man the service of prayer. This is quite reasonable; for it is evident that the accomplishment of any spiritual transformation must ever be His to do, since its consummation is possible to Divine strength alone. Thus, though man cannot do the important task, he is permitted, through intercession, to co-operate with God in its accomplishment, and to fulfil, according to revelation, a necessary part in the Divine programme.

It should be noted that, under these conditions and relationships, every true prayer is not only an acknowledgment of God as the only sufficient One, but it demands an attitude of entire expectation from Him on the part of the supplicant. This is essential if normal relations are to exist between God and man. The answer to prayer, when the expectation is not wholly toward God, would but divert the confidence of man, and foster a false trust in his mind. It is necessary for man, therefore, in the interests of his own understanding of God and truth, to come directly to God, acknowledging His Omnipotence, and looking to Him as alone sufficient to do the thing for which he may be praying.

Again, it may be seen from this promise that God, to some extent, has seen fit to condition His action upon the believer’s prayer; for the Scripture says: "If ye shall ask anything in My name, I will do it"; and this is the secret of all true evangelism.

There is another promise bearing directly on this point: "If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it" (1 John 5:16).

It is, then, the teaching of Scripture that the mighty doing power of God in convicting and illuminating the unsaved is also, in a large measure, dependent upon the priestly intercession of the believer. This, too, is a conspicuous fact in experience as revealed in history. Where believing prayer has been offered with expectation toward God alone, there has always been evidence of the power of God unto salvation, according to His covenant promises. These periods of refreshing have been called "revivals." The immediate blessing resulting from the adjustment of believers to the programme of God is natural; but the sure return to an attitude of indifference, on the human side, has made that brief season of blessing seem to be some special visitation from heaven when God was thought to have been "on the giving hand." It may have been impossible, in such a case, for the extra meetings and methods to have continued; but the blessing was in no way conditioned on the meetings or methods. Intercessory prayer, the real basis of the blessing, could and should have continued. The marvellous, and so little experienced movings of the Spirit upon the unsaved are at the command of the least of God’s children, if that one be cleansed; for such a believer is a priest unto God, and there is no condition in Scripture upon his intercession of times and seasons.

How little the stupendous fact of this individual power in prayer is realized by Christians to-day! The present failure to enter the holy place in intercession according to the appointment of God, on the part of Christians, is sufficient to account for the present lack of Holy Ghost conviction and conversion in the church.

The neglect and ignorance of the facts regarding the believer’s privileges in prayer, when those facts are so clearly stated in the Scriptures, can be explained only in the light of the revealed satanic opposition to the purpose of God; for intercessory prayer is a strategic point for the attack of this arch enemy, inasmuch as the mighty movements of the Spirit for salvation are, for the present time, awaiting this human co-operation.

If there are exceptions in the history of "revivals" where there have been what seemed to be unprayed-for out-pourings of the Spirit, in no case can it be proved that prayer was not offered. In every case where the Spirit seemed to descend upon the church with sovereign power, there has been either an appalling spiritual death in the church, or a new emphasis has been needed upon some neglected truth in evangelism. Such seasons have been so rare in the history of the church that they can be counted only as exceptions, and should in no way be used to qualify the revealed plan of God, which He has blessed throughout the years.

Not only are the priceless results of the saving power of God hindered, but the individual believer has suffered unmeasured loss in his possible reward, when the prayer of intercession has for any reason ceased; for prayer presents the greatest opportunity for soul-winning, and there is precious reward promised to those who bring souls to Christ, and are found to be suffering with Him in His burden for the lost.

True Evangelism:  Lewis Sperry Chafer, 1911, Public Domain

The Convicting of the Spirit

True Evangelism:  The Convicting of the Spirit

EVERY soul-winner becomes aware, sooner or later, of the fact that the vast company of unsaved people do not realize the seriousness of their lost estate; nor do they become alarmed even when the most direct warning and appeal is given to them. They may be normally intelligent and keen to comprehend any opportunity for personal advancement in material or intellectual things; yet there is over them a spell of indifference and neglect toward the things that would secure for them any right relation to God. All the provisions of grace with the present and future blessedness of the redeemed are listened to by these people without a reasonable response. They are, perhaps, sympathetic, warm-hearted and kind; they are full of tenderness toward all human suffering and need; but their sinfulness before God and their imperative need of a Saviour are strangely neglected. They lie down to sleep without fear and awaken to a life that is free from thought or obligation toward God. The faithful minister soon learns, to his sorrow, that his most careful presentation of truth and earnest appeal produces no effect upon them, and the question naturally arises: "How, then, can these people be reached with the Gospel?"

The answer to that question lies in a right understanding of the cause of their indifference, and in an adjustment of methods in work so that there may be co-operation with the Spirit in following the Divine programme in soul-winning.

One of the greatest foes to modern evangelism, which has been treated far too lightly, is described in the following passage: "And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled in them that are perishing: in whom the God of this age hath blinded the thoughts of the unbelieving, that the illumination of the gospel of the glory of Christ, Who is the image of God, should not dawn upon them" (2 Cor. 4:3, 4, r.v. with margin).

This passage scarcely needs comment beyond a slight reference to the exact meaning of the word "gospel" as that word is here used.

That body of truth which Paul received as a special revelation (Gal. 1:12), and afterwards called "my gospel," "the gospel of Christ" and "the gospel of God" (Rom. 2:16; Phil. 1:27; 1 Thes. 2:2), is a far more limited theme than the life story of Jesus, as recorded in the Four Gospels of the New Testament. It is rather the exact grounds of salvation by the Cross of Christ and through the grace of God. It is the whole revelation of the Divine propitiation for sin. While this Gospel had a larger mission than the Jew could anticipate, in that it was to be a new revelation from God, and was to be extended to the Gentiles also, it is the Divine offer of all of God’s provisions for man’s salvation in this age; and by it life and immortality were brought to light (2 Tim. 1:10). It is simply the offer of redemption and the statement of those conditions under grace, by which a soul may "turn from darkness unto light and from the power of Satan unto God" (Acts 26:18); and being the point of deliverance "from the power of Satan unto God," it is veiled by Satan and is opposed by all satanic wisdom and strength.

It is clear from Scripture that the Gospel of the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ is the only possible ground of salvation and escape from "the power of Satan unto God." It is therefore suggestive that Satan is imposing his blindness upon the unregenerate mind only at this one point. The demons in the days of Christ’s earthly ministry bore faithful testimony to His Deity as the Son of God; just so Satan is now directly witnessing to the value of the only offers of salvation by thus centralizing all his blinding power upon the way of the Cross.

In addition to the exercise of his own power in directly blinding the unsaved to the value of the cross, Satan is increasingly active, through his ministers, in attempting to expel this central truth from the Christian faith. To do this he is now, as predicted, forcing great counterfeit religious systems and restatements of doctrine upon the world. It is also suggestive that in all these the only revealed basis of salvation is carefully omitted.

The blinding or veiling of the mind, mentioned in 2 Cor. 4:3, 4, is then a universal incapacity to comprehend the way of salvation, and is imposed upon unregenerate man by the arch enemy of God in his attempts to hinder the purpose of God in redemption. It is a condition of mind against which man can have no power. Yet God has provided a means whereby this satanic veil may be lifted, the eyes opened (Acts 26:18), the eyes of the heart enlightened (Eph. 1:18, r.v.), and the soul come into the illumination of the Gospel of the glory of Christ. Then, after this "opening of the eyes" is accomplished, the way of life, which is the Gospel, will seem, to the enlightened person, to be both desirable and of transcendent import. This great work is accomplished by Divine energy, and is one of the mightiest movements of the "power of God unto salvation." It is spoken of in Scripture as the drawing of God and the convicting of the Spirit: "No man can come unto Me, except the Father which hath sent Me draw him" (John 6:44). "And when He (the Spirit) is come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment" (John 16:8).

This individual and particular drawing and convicting should be distinguished from the universal drawing and illuminating of all men that is mentioned in other passages: "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me" (John 12:32), and "That was the true Light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world" (or, "That was the true Light which coming into the world, shineth for every man")—John 1:9. The former passages refer to a special Divine work to be accomplished in each individual, and they present the only sufficient means by which a Satan-ruled soul (Eph. 2:2) may be inclined unto God, and by which, Satan-blinded eyes may receive a new vision of the Gospel of Grace.

This Divine unveiling of the individual mind and heart to the Gospel is spoken of at length in Heb. 6:4–9. While this passage is Jewish in its character, it is an important statement of a phase of the truth under present consideration. The passage is as follows: "For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put Him to an open shame. For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God: but that which beareth thorns and briars is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned. But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak."

It would seem impossible that so much could be accomplished in any person as is here described, and yet that person remain unsaved, were it not for the phase of truth which is under consideration; for the passage states that those described have been "once enlightened," "have tasted of the heavenly gift," and have been made "partakers of the Holy Ghost." They have "tasted the good word of God" and the "powers of the world to come"; yet this is all true of unregenerate persons who have been "drawn" and "convicted" by Divine power in preparation for salvation.

When the passage has been interpreted as being a description of regenerate people, it has been used as a proof text to substantiate that unscriptural and God-dishonouring theory that a saved person can "fall away" and find it impossible to renew his repentance. That the passage does not describe a true child of God is evident, for the description is wholly inadequate for a Christian. All that is here said is, in a sense, true of a believer; but very much more is true of him also. The believer has received, not "tasted," the heavenly gift; he has been "sealed by the Holy Spirit," which is more than to have "partaken" of the Spirit in conviction or illumination. The "tasting of the Word of God" is a poor substitute for the believer’s "washing of regeneration by the Word"; and "tasting" of the powers of the world to come is insignificant compared with the power of God in salvation.

But again, it is clearly stated in the closing verse of this passage that this is not a description of the "better things" that "accompany salvation." It is therefore a description of the condition into which a soul is brought when Divinely prepared for an intelligent choice of Christ as Saviour. This condition is, to some extent, a sphere of probation (which is never the relation of a true believer to God); for, as the life-giving rain waters the earth and causes it to yield herbs or thorns, so that soul that has been so favoured with the vision of life and salvation in preparation for yielding to the saving power of Christ, may "bear thorns and briars" by continually resisting the vision, and finally "fall away" and find no place for repentance; seeing he crucified to himself the Son of God afresh and put him to an open shame. Thus the doom of such a person is said to be final; for he has rejected God’s best gift and his only hope. There remains, therefore, no more "a place of repentance." He must then return to a complete and hopeless satanic blindness. "If therefore, the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness."

A very similar, and equally important statement of the same truth is given in Heb. 10:26–29: "For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more a sacrifice for sins; but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who has trodden underfoot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith He was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite to the Spirit of grace"?

The importance of this truth will warrant a reference to three other brief passages. In each of these this Divine drawing, or calling, may be seen in its true place and order among the other aspects of "the power of God unto salvation." In these passages, this phase of truth is mentioned by the words, "to open their eyes," "called me by His grace," and "called."

"To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them that are sanctified by faith that is in me" (Acts 26:18). "But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by His grace, to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood" (Gal. 1:15, 16). "Moreover, whom He did predestinate, them He also called: and whom He called, them He also justified; and whom He justified, them He also glorified" (Rom. 8:30).

Other passages which emphasize the necessary illumination of the Spirit should also be quoted: "No man can come unto Me, except the Father which hath sent Me draw him; and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto Me" (John 6:44, 45). "Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed; and that no man can say that Jesus is Lord, but by the Holy Ghost" (1 Cor. 12:3). "Jesus said unto them: But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but My Father which is in heaven" (Matt. 16:15–17).

This special aspect of the Divine work, which has been seen in these passages already quoted, is more particularly dwelt upon in John 16:8–11. The whole context of this passage (16:8–15) announces, in addition to the three-fold work of the Spirit for the unsaved, or "world," a special instructive and illuminative work of the Spirit for the saved, here addressed as "you." As these two classes have had to be distinguished in connection with a previously quoted Scripture, their difference should be noted here also. In this connection it will be seen that the saved are to be led into "all truth"; while the unsaved are to be instructed along but one particular line. To the saved the "all things" of Christ and of God are to be shown; while the unsaved are to see only that which first concerns them, which is the way of life in Christ Jesus. This passage referring to the work of the Spirit for the unsaved is as follows: "Nevertheless I tell you the truth; it is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you. And when He is come, He will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they believe not on Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father, and ye see Me no more; of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged."

In considering this passage it may first be noted that the word "reprove" (r.v. "convict") is not limited, as is usually supposed, to the first word "sin," but applies to the words "righteousness" and "judgment" as well. This suggests a much larger meaning to the word than an acute mental agony for sin, though that may be included. These three words, it will be seen, state three aspects of the work of reproving, and are never separated in the work of the Spirit.

A careful study of, in all, about sixteen passages where the original of the word "reprove" is used, will reveal that it is usually descriptive of a condition of mind resulting from the impartation of truth; and so this convicting work of the Spirit for the world is identical with the enlightenment by the Spirit already considered.

Much depends at this point upon an adequate understanding of the whole scope of the action of the Spirit as suggested by the three words, "sin," "righteousness" and "judgment."

"Of Sin, because they believe not on Me." "Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3). "But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him; neither can He know them, because they are spiritually discerned" (1 Cor. 2:14).

It is just this incapacity and blindness of the unregenerate mind which is stated in these passages that demands the illuminating work of the Spirit in "convincing of sin." It is evident from the words "because they believe not on Me" that they do not comprehend the way of life in Christ Jesus, nor has the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ dawned on them.

The Gospel demands a special revelation for its understanding; since it announces a perfect freedom to all humanity from the penalty of sin, and also presents the corresponding fact that there can be but one reason for condemnation; and that, the rejection of the Saviour, Who bore the sin. Man’s relation to God on the question of sin, in the light of the Cross, is so unnatural to the unregenerate mind, and is so much the object of satanic blinding that there can be no understanding of this truth apart from a direct and personal illumination by the Spirit.

The work of the Spirit, then, is to distinctly reveal the cure of sin as already accomplished, and to warn against the only remaining possible condemnation that must follow the rejection of the Cross. Though the unsaved and "natural man" may be educated, gentle, refined, or gifted, he has no vision of salvation, and thus it is obvious that there can be no adequate conception of the one condemning sin of rejecting Christ as Saviour, until the Christ and His saving work as sin-bearer are made real. This the Spirit accomplishes by convincing of righteousness and judgment; for both the conviction of righteousness and of judgment are but revelations of the Christ and His salvation.

"Of Righteousness, because I go to My Father and ye see Me no more." "But ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you; and killed the Prince of life, Whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses" (Acts 3:14, 15). "Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification" (Rom. 4:25).

In the vision of the Righteous One Who died upon the Cross it will be revealed to the unsaved by the Spirit that "God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself," and that He, the Righteous One, bore the curse of the sinner’s unrighteousness "in His own body on the tree." That it was the Righteous One Who died is for ever assured by His resurrection and present place in glory. This is the all-important vision; for the Righteous One upon the Cross is the sinner’s only point of contact with the saving power of God. So, also, as the ground of salvation is revealed, by the conviction of the Spirit to be the death of the Righteous One, so the enjoyment of all present blessing in fellowship and security must depend upon as direct and personal a revelation, by the Spirit of the present living Christ.

Hence, in convincing of righteousness, the vision is created in the unregenerate mind of the Righteous One Who died on the Cross as a personal Saviour, Who is now raised from the dead, and seated in glory with all His atoning work accepted before God, and Who is able to "guard that which is committed unto Him against that day."

On the Cross Christ judged all sin and secured a perfect salvation for all who believe. So in heaven He saves those who have believed from every challenge of a broken law.

"Of Judgment, because the prince of this world is judged." "Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out" (John 12:31). "And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath He quickened together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses; blotting out the handwritings of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to His Cross; and having spoiled principalities and powers he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it" (Col. 2:13–15).

In convicting of judgment, the Spirit reveals to the unregenerate mind that, through a judgment now past, the power and domination of Satan has been broken for every man; and with this "spoiling of principalities and powers," all the handwritings and ordinances that were against us, that were contrary to us, have been taken out of the way and nailed to the Cross.

The claim which Satan held upon man, before the Cross, was the very fact of man’s sin and unlikeness to God. That claim was wholly broken by the Cross, and the curse of sin was lifted for all. Since the Cross it has been Satan’s one advantage to blind those in his power as to the fact of the universal atonement for sin, and to secure an attitude of misunderstanding and rejection of this atonement that will keep man under the last and only condemnation: "that they believe not on Me."

Thus all "principalities and powers" were "spoiled" and "triumphed over" in the Divine judgment of sin. Now the way of redemption is open to all who will come by the Cross. But it is this very value of the death of Christ that is the object of Satan’s blinding, and the Spirit alone can unveil the blinded unregenerate mind. This He does by convincing of the judgment of the Cross.

It cannot be too strongly emphasized that the phase of the Gospel which Satan has veiled from "those that are perishing" is the way of life through the death of Christ, and that it is the same central truth which the Spirit would make real to "those that are perishing," by convincing them "of sin, of righteousness and of judgment."

It is not claimed in this connection that an unsaved person must come to know every phase of truth about the atonement of Christ before he is Divinely prepared for salvation; but it is claimed that the Spirit proposes to make the meaning of the Cross sufficiently clear to that person to enable him to abandon all hope of self-works, and to turn to the finished work of Christ alone in intelligent saving faith. The vision of redemptive truth was revealed to Paul directly from God, and there is a very real sense in which that truth must be directly revealed to every individual, that he may himself choose it as the only basis of his hope. The atoning sacrificial death of Christ as a distinct and sufficient foundation for salvation must become a reality before it can become a finality in saving faith. And in convincing the world of sin, righteousness, and of judgment that truth is made real by the Spirit.

What human argument or influence can convince Satan-blinded minds that to fail to believe on Jesus Christ is the all-condemning sin? Surely that sin will not be seen in all its magnitude until the mind has been enlightened in regard to the Person of Christ and His atoning work. Thus only by the Spirit can any conception be had of all that is being rejected when they "believe not on Me."

It is quite clear, then, that the sin of rejecting Christ is committed, in its most terrible form, by those who have a special vision, or realization, of Christ and His salvation. It is after having seen the Divinely wrought vision that the soul may "draw back unto perdition."

No understanding of the illuminating work of the Spirit on the minds of the unsaved will be complete until the important agency or means used by the Spirit in that work is recognized.

"The Word of God, which is the sword of the Spirit." Another sharp distinction must be made at this point, as in the enlightening and teaching work of the Spirit, between the whole Divine work for the saved and that small part of the same work that may be done for the unsaved as a preparation for salvation. The riches of the work for the saved can only be suggested here.

To the saved the Word of God is a cleansing, sanctifying and reflecting power (John 13:10, 11; 15:3; Eph. 5:25, 26; John 17:17; and 2 Cor. 3:18).

To the unsaved, the Word of God is the "sword of the Spirit" (Eph. 6:17).

As has been seen, the convicting work of the Spirit involves a radical change in the deepest part of man’s being, where his motives and desires are first formed; so that both an entirely new conception of the God-provided grounds of redemption and a vision of the glorious Person of Christ are created. As both the Person and the work of Christ are presented in the Scriptures, it is only necessary for the Spirit to vitalize His own Word, either upon the printed page, or through the lips of His messenger, to bring a new light and possibility into the hitherto blinded mind. It is, therefore, said of the Word of God: "For the word of God is quick, and powerful (living and active, r.v.), and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart" (Heb. 4:12). The Word itself is however but the sword, and must be wielded by the Spirit to be effective.

The fact that the Word of God, in the hands of the Spirit, is living and operative is the only warrant for any appeal to the unsaved; and is a warning as well that the message, to be effective, must be in accord with the whole truth of God, that it may be used by the Spirit. It is a conspicuous fact that every successful soul-winner has been a fearless defender of every essential doctrine of the Scriptures.

The skill of the evangelist or the pastor who would do the work of an evangelist, is seen in the ability to present the limited body of redemptive truth repeatedly, yet with freshness and variety.

The evangelist is limited to that evangel which unfolds the cure of sin and the way of life by the substitutionary death of the Cross, since that is the only message which the Spirit can use, as His Sword in unveiling those eyes which are blinded to that particular truth. How helpless, then, in true soul-saving co-operation with God, is that person who has a heart of unbelief toward the blood of the Cross, or whose message has been beguiled away from the way of life by Christ Jesus, to an appeal for morality, or religious ceremonials, which are the result of human energy and expediencies!

Jesus has commanded His own that are in the world to preach the Gospel of redemptive truth to every creature: yet their preaching is of no avail, save as it is accompanied with the convincing and illuminating work of the Spirit, and this work of the Spirit is dependent upon a ministry of the believer that is more important than preaching. This is the prayer of intercession.

Thus it may be concluded on the question of the use of the Word in true evangelism that it is the work of the Spirit to present the sacrificial judgment of the Cross and the living glorious Person of Christ to the unsaved through the preaching of the Word. And where an individual would evade either the message of the Cross, or the essential Deity of Christ, there has been, and can be, no co-operation of the Spirit in convincing power, though every element of literary merit and human eloquence may be supplied.

It is not a mere arbitrary caprice with God that there must be an intelligent appropriation of the work of Christ as the grounds of redemption: "For there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). On no other grounds can the mercy and grace of God be exercised in righteousness and justice. It follows, therefore, that the grounds of redemption must be sufficiently clear to each individual to elicit a repose of faith, and a willing deposit of all eternal interests into the saving power of Christ. No human argument or teaching can dispel the satanic darkness that hinders saving faith, or create the new vision that is required. It is quite possible for a blinded soul to be religious, or even to pose as a minister of the Gospel; yet, having never comprehended the way of life, to be "tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine," and, though sincere, and possessing every other degree of human knowledge, to be in his blindness no more than the minister of Satan (2 Cor. 11:13–15).

The wide difference of appreciation of the Gospel that exists between people of equal mental attainments cannot be explained on the grounds of personal temperament or training, else their various attitudes would be more or less permanent, when in reality the attitude of indifference is often suddenly changed to a glowing fire. It need hardly be pointed out that unsaved men do not weigh the evidence of testimony and fact as accurately in matters relating to salvation as they do in any other sphere of investigation. In matters between men in the world the sworn testimony of two reliable witnesses demands a corresponding conclusion; yet the obvious fact of regeneration and the willing testimony of multitudes, "whereas I was blind, now I see," creates no impression on others who are yet in their blindness.

There is a reality in satanic blindness. But, blessed be God, there is a reality in Divine illumination!

It should be observed that, apart from Divine power, superficial decisions can easily be secured, and apparently great results accomplished; for some minds are so dependent upon the opinions of others that the earnest dominating appeal of the evangelist, with the obvious value of a religious life, are sufficient to move them to follow almost any plan that is made to appear to be expedient. They may be urged to act on the vision of the way of life which the evangelist possesses, when they have received no sufficient vision for themselves. The experience of thousands of churches has proved that such decisions have not met the conditions of grace in "believing with the heart"; for the multitude of advertised converts have often failed, and these churches have had to face the problem of dealing with a class of disinterested people who possess no new dynamic, nor any of the blessings of the truly regenerate life.

It is possible to reverently repeat the most pious phrases and assume devotional attitudes and yet have the inner life in no way correspondingly moved. All such exercise, though producing apparent results, is of no avail in real salvation; for the Spirit has not wrought in such a mind to the end that the utterance of those words become the expression of the greatest crisis of the inner life, and the only adequate relief for that soul’s sense of utter helplessness and burning thirst for the water of life.

A few genuine decisions may occur among the many, and these have always justified the wholesale evangelizing method. There is, however, a very grave harm done to those who are thus superficially effected, and this harm may sometimes outweigh the good that is done. In reply to this it is argued that nothing can outweigh the value of one soul that is saved; yet when the harm of a false decision is analysed, it will be seen that the after-state of bewilderment and discouragement which results in an attitude that is almost unapproachable and hopeless, has its unmeasured results as well.

The Gospel will always prove, in this age, "a savour of death unto death" as well as of "life unto life"; for some, even upon whom the Spirit has wrought in conviction, will reject the way of life. But there is no expectation in the evangelism of Scripture, that souls are to be hurried into unrealities and be misguided in their blindness. God has faithfully provided the one all-sufficient preparation for a full and intelligent decision in the ministry of the Spirit who came to convict the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment.

The examples of soul-winning in the New Testament present a conspicuous contrast to the usual evangelism of to-day. Then there seemed to be no urging or coaxing, nor was any person dealt with individually who had not first given evidence of a Divinely-wrought sense of need. It is recorded that Peter directed the converts at Pentecost in the way of life after they were "pricked in their hearts, and said unto Peter and the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?" So also there is no record that Paul and Silas made themselves obnoxious to the Philippian jailor by urging him to become a Christian before he had any such desire; but rather, after a great change had taken place in his whole attitude which compelled him to fall tremblingly before them and say: "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" did they personally direct him to "believe on the Lord Jesus Christ." Peter does not send for Cornelius: Cornelius reaches out for Peter. And Saul is led into the light almost without human aid or direction.

In view of this all-important Divine preparation for salvation, it is clear that all evangelism, be it public ministry or personal work, which does not wait for the movings of the Spirit in the hearts of the unsaved is insomuch removed from true co-operation with God, and is in danger of hindering more souls than it blesses.

Such a waiting on God and for God as is necessary for true co-operation with the Spirit, although it may shatter the evangelist’s claim to large numbers of converts, will tend to wean the church away from her dependence upon spasmodic periods of concern for the lost into a true and more constant attitude of fruit-bearing.

The Scriptures furnish us with examples of true evangelism, the results of which were reported many centuries ago when it was said: "And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved" (Acts 2:47). This blessed condition will always result when believers depend upon the Lord to add to the church and they "continue steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship and in breaking of bread and in prayers" (Acts 2:42).

True Evangelism: Lewis Sperry Chafer, 1911, Public Domain

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Psalm 2

Psalm 2

“Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying, “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.” He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.” I will tell of the decree: The Lord said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.” (Psalm 2:1–12, ESV)

A sublime vision of the nations in revolt against Jehovah and his Anointed, with a declaration of the divine purpose to maintain his King’s authority, and a warning to the world that it must bow to him or perish. The structure of this psalm is extremely regular. It naturally falls into four stanzas of three verses each. In the first, the conduct of the rebellious nations is described. In the second, God replies to them by word and deed. In the third, the Messiah or Anointed One declares the divine decree in relation to himself. In the fourth, the Psalmist exhorts the rulers of the nations to submission, with a threatening of divine wrath to the disobedient, and a closing benediction on believers. The several sentences are also very regular in form, exhibiting parallelisms of great uniformity. Little as this psalm may, at first sight, seem to resemble that before it, there is really a very strong affinity between them. Even in form they are related to each other. The number of verses and of stanzas is just double in the second, which moreover begins, as the first ends, with a threatening, and ends, as the first begins, with a beatitude. There is also a resemblance in their subject and contents. The contrast indicated in the first is carried out and rendered more distinct in the second. The first is in fact an introduction to the second, and the second to what follows. And as the psalms which follow bear the name of David, there is the strongest reason to believe that these two are his likewise, a conclusion confirmed by the authority of Acts 4:25, as well as by the internal character of the psalm itself. The imagery of the scene presented is evidently borrowed from the warlike and eventful times of David. He cannot, however, be himself the subject of the composition, the terms of which are wholly inappropriate to any king but the Messiah, to whom they are applied by the oldest Jewish writers, and again and again in the New Testament. This is the first of those prophetic psalms, in which the promise made to David, with respect to the Messiah (2 Sam. 7:16, 1 Chron. 17:11–14), is wrought into the lyrical devotions of the ancient church. The supposition of a double reference to David, or some one of his successors, and to Christ, is not only needless and gratuitous, but hurtful to the sense by the confusion which it introduces, and forbidden by the utter inappropriateness of some of the expressions used to any lower subject. The style of this psalm, although not less pure and simple, is livelier than that of the first, a difference arising partly from the nature of the subject, but still more from the dramatic structure of the composition.

1. This psalm opens, like the first, with an exclamation, here expressive of astonishment and indignation at the wickedness and folly of the scene presented to the psalmist’s view. Why do nations make a noise, tumultuate, or rage? The Hebrew verb is not expressive of an internal feeling, but of the outward agitation which denotes it. There may be an allusion to the rolling and roaring of the sea, often used as an emblem of popular commotion, both in the Scriptures and the classics. The past tense of this verb (why have they raged?) refers to the commotion as already begun, while the future in the next clause expresses its continuance. And peoples, not people, in the collective sense of persons, but in the proper plural sense of nations, races, will imagine, i.e. are imagining and will continue to imagine, vanity, a vain thing, something hopeless and impossible. The interrogation in this verse implies that no rational solution of the strange sight could be given, for reasons assigned in the remainder of the psalm. This implied charge of irrationality is equally well founded in all cases where the same kind of opposition exists, though secretly, and on the smallest scale.

2. The confused scene presented in the first verse now becomes more distinct, by a nearer view of the contending parties. (Why will) the kings of earth set themselves, or, without repeating the interrogation, the kings of earth will set themselves, or take their stand, and rulers consult together, literally sit together, but with special reference to taking counsel, as in Ps. 31:14 (13), against Jehovah and against his Anointed, or Messiah, which is only a modified form of the Hebrew word here used, as Christ is a like modification of the corresponding term in Greek. External unction or anointing is a sign, in the Old Testament, of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and especially of those conferred on prophets, priests, and kings, as ministers of the theocracy, and representatives of Christ himself. To kings particularly, as the highest and most comprehensive order, and peculiar types of Christ in his supremacy as Head of the church, the sacred history applies the title of the Lord’s Anointed. The rite of unction is explicitly recorded in the case of Saul, David, and Solomon, and was probably repeated at the coronation of their successors. From the verse before us, and from Dan. 9:26, the name Messiah had, before the Advent, come into use among the Jews as a common designation of the great Deliverer and King whom they expected. (Compare John 1:41 with ver. 49 of the same chapter, and with Mark 15:32.) The intimate relation of the Anointed One to God himself is indicated even here by making them the common object of attack, or rather of revolt. In Acts 4:25–27, this description is applied to the combination of Herod and Pilate, Jews and Gentiles, against Jesus Christ, not as the sole event predicted, but as that in which the gradual fulfilment reached its culmination. From that quotation, and indeed from the terms of the prophecy itself, we learn that nations here does not mean Gentiles or heathen, as opposed to Jews, but whole communities or masses of mankind, as distinguished from mere personal or insulated cases of resistance and rebellion.

3. Having described the conduct of the disaffected nations and their chiefs, he now introduces them as speaking. In the preceding verse they were seen, as it were, at a distance, taking counsel. Here they are brought so near to us, or we to them, that we can overhear their consultations. Let us break their bands, i.e. the bands of the Lord and his Anointed, the restraints imposed by their authority. The form of the Hebrew verb may be expressive either of a proposition or of a fixed determination. We will break their bands, we are resolved to do it. This is, in fact, involved in the other version, where let us break must not be understood as a faint or dubious suggestion, but as a summons to the execution of a formed and settled purpose. The same idea is expressed, with a slight modification, in the other clause. And we will cast, or let us cast away from us their cords, twisted ropes, a stronger term than bands. The verb, too, while it really implies the act of breaking, suggests the additional idea of contemptuous facility, as if they had said, Let us fling away from us with scorn these feeble bands by which we have been hitherto confined. The application of this passage to the revolt of the Ammonites and other conquered nations against David, or to any similar rebellion against any of the later Jewish kings, as the principal subject of this grand description, makes it quite ridiculous, if not profane, and cannot therefore be consistent with the principles of sound interpretation. The utmost that can be conceded is that David borrowed the scenery of this dramatic exhibition from the wars and insurrections of his own eventful reign. The language of the rebels in the verse before us is a genuine expression of the feelings entertained, not only in the hearts of individual sinners, but by the masses of mankind, so far as they have been brought into collision with the sovereignty of God and Christ, not only at the time of his appearance upon earth, but in the ages both before and after that event, in which the prophecy, as we have seen, attained its height, but was not finally exhausted or fulfilled, since the same rash and hopeless opposition to the Lord and his anointed still continues, and is likely to continue until the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ (Rev. 11:15), an expression borrowed from this very passage.

4. As the first strophe or stanza of three verses is descriptive of the conduct of the rebels, so the next describes the corresponding action of their sovereign, in precisely the same order, telling first what he does (in ver. 4, 5), and then what he says (in ver. 6), so that these two stanzas are not only regular in their internal structure, but exactly fitted to each other. This symmetrical adjustment is entitled to attention, as that feature of the Hebrew poetry which fills the place of rhythm and meter in the poetry of other nations. At the same time, it facilitates interpretation, when allowed to speak for itself without artificial or unnatural straining, by exhibiting the salient points of the passage in their true relation. The transition here is a sublime one, from the noise and agitation of earth to the safety and tranquility of heaven. No shifting of the scene could be more dramatic in effect or form. While the nations and their kings exhort each other to cast off their allegiance to Jehovah, and thereby virtually to dethrone him, he reposes far above them, and beyond their reach. Sitting in the heavens, i.e. resident and reigning there, he laughs, or will laugh. This figure, strong and almost startling as it is, cannot possibly be misunderstood by any reader, as a vivid expression of contemptuous security on God’s part, and of impotent folly on the part of men. At them may be supplied from Ps. 37:13, and 59:9 (8); but it is not necessary, and the picture is perhaps more perfect, if we understand the laughter here to be simply expressive of contempt, and the idea of directly laughing at them to be first suggested in the other clause. The Lord, not Jehovah, as in ver. 2, but Adhonai, the Hebrew word properly denoting Lord or Sovereign as a divine title, the Lord shall mock them, or mock at them, as the strongest possible expression of contempt. This verse conveys in the most vivid manner, one indeed that would be inadmissible in any uninspired writer, the fatuity of all rebellious opposition to God’s will. That such is often suffered to proceed long with impunity is only, in the figurative language of this passage, because God first laughs at human folly, and then smites it. "Who thought," says Luther, "when Christ suffered, and the Jews triumphed, that God was laughing all the time?" Beneath this bold anthropomorphism there is hidden a profound truth, namely, that to all superior beings, and above all, to God himself, there is something in sin not only odious but absurd, something which cannot possibly escape the contempt of higher, much less of the highest, intelligence.

5. This contemptuous repose and seeming indifference shall not last for ever. Then, after having thus derided them, then, as the next stage in this fearful process, he will speak to them, as they, after rising up against him, spoke to one another in ver. 3. And in his heat, i.e. his hot displeasure, the wrath to which the laughter of ver. 4 was but a prelude, he will agitate them, terrify them, make them quake with fear, not as a separate act from that described in the first clause, but by the very act of speaking to them in his anger, the words spoken being given in the following verse.

6. The divine address begins, as it were, in the middle of a sentence; but the clause suppressed is easily supplied, being tacitly involved in what precedes. As if he had said, you renounce your allegiance and assert your independence, and I, on my part, the pronoun when expressed in Hebrew being commonly emphatic, and here in strong antithesis to those who are addressed. You pursue your course and I mine. The translation yet, though inexact and arbitrary, brings out the antithesis correctly in a different form from that of the original. And I have constituted, or created, with allusion in the Hebrew to the casting of an image, or as some less probably suppose to unction, I have constituted my King, not simply a king, nor even the king, neither of which expressions would be adequate, but my king, one who is to reign for me and in indissoluble union with me, so that his reigning is identical with mine. This brings out still more clearly the intimate relation of the Anointed to Jehovah, which had been indicated less distinctly in ver. 2, and thus prepares us for the full disclosure of their mutual relation in ver. 7. And I have constituted my King upon Zion, my hill of holiness, or holy hill, i.e. consecrated, set apart, distinguished from all other hills and other places, as the seat of the theocracy, the royal residence, the capital city, of the Lord and of his Christ, from the time that David took up his abode, and deposited the ark there. The translation over Zion would convey the false idea, that Zion was itself the kingdom over which this sovereign was to reign, whereas it was only the visible and temporary center of a kingdom coextensive with the earth, as we expressly read it, ver. 8, below. This shews that the application of the verse before us to David himself, although intrinsically possible, is utterly at variance with the context and the whole scope of the composition.

7. We have here another of those changes which impart to this whole psalm a highly dramatic character. A third personage is introduced as speaking without any formal intimation in the text. As the first stanza (ver. 1–3) closes with the words of the insurgents, and the second (ver. 4–6) with the words of the Lord, so the third (ver. 7–9) contains the language of the king described in the preceding verse, announcing with his own lips the law or constitution of his kingdom. I will declare, or let me declare, the same form of the verb as in ver. 3, the decree, the statute, the organic law or constitution of my kingdom. The Hebrew verb is followed by a preposition, which may be expressed in English, without any change of sense, by rendering the clause, I will declare, or make a declaration, i.e. a public, formal announcement (as) to the law or constitution of my kingdom. This announcement is then made in a historical form, by reciting what had been said to the king at his inauguration or induction into office. Jehovah said to me, My son (art) thou, this day have I begotten thee. Whether this be regarded as a part of the decree or law itself, or as a mere preamble to it, the relation here described is evidently one which carried with it universal dominion as a necessary consequence, as well as one which justifies the use of the expression my King in ver. 6. It must be something more, then, than a figure for intense love or peculiar favor, something more than the filial relation which the theocratic kings, and Israel as a nation, bore to God. (Exod. 4:22; Deut. 14:1, 2, 32:6; Isa. 63:16; Hos. 11:1; Mal. 1:6; Rom 9:4.) Nor will any explanation of the terms fully meet the requisitions of the context except one which supposes the relation here described as manifest in time to rest on one essential and eternal. This alone accounts for the identification of the persons as possessing a common interest, and reigning with and in each other. This profound sense of the passage is no more excluded by the phrase this day, implying something recent, than the universality of Christ’s dominion is excluded by the local reference to Zion. The point of time, like the point of space, is the finite center of an infinite circle. Besides, the mere form of the declaration is a part of the dramatic scenery or costume with which the truth is here invested. The ideas of a king, a coronation, a hereditary succession, are all drawn from human and temporal associations. This day have I begotten thee may be considered, therefore, as referring only to the coronation of Messiah, which is an ideal one. The essential meaning of the phrase I have begotten thee is simply this, I am thy father. The antithesis is perfectly identical with that in 2 Sam. 7:14, "I will be his father, and he shall be my son." Had the same form of expression been used here, this day am I thy father, no reader would have understood this day as limiting the mutual relation of the parties, however it might limit to a certain point of time the formal recognition of it. It must also be observed, that even if this day be referred to the inception of the filial relation, it is thrown indefinitely back by the form of reminiscence or narration in the first clause of the verse. Jehovah said to me, but when? If understood to mean from everlasting or eternity, the form of expression would be perfectly in keeping with the other figurative forms by which the Scriptures represent things really ineffable in human language. The opinion that this passage is applied by Paul, in Acts 13:33, to Christ’s resurrection, rests upon a misapprehension of the verb raised up, which has this specific meaning only when determined by the context or the addition of the words from the dead, as in the next verse of the same chapter, which is so far from requiring the more general expressions of the preceding verse to be taken in the same sense, that it rather forbids such a construction, and shews that the two verses speak of different stages in the same great process: first, the raising up of Jesus in the same sense in which God is said to have raised him up in Acts 2:30, 3:22, 26, 7:36, i.e. bringing him into being as a man; and then the raising up from the dead, which the apostle himself introduces as another topic in Acts 13:34. There is nothing, therefore, inconsistent with the statement that the psalmist here speaks of eternal sonship, either in the passage just referred to, or in Heb. 5:5, where the words are only cited to prove the solemn recognition of Christ’s sonship, and his consequent authority, by God himself. This recognition was repeated, and, as it were, realized at our Savior's baptism and transfiguration (Mat. 3:17, 17:5), when a voice from heaven said, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, hear ye him!"

8. The recital of Jehovah’s declaration to his Son is still continued. Ask of me, and I will give nations (as) thy heritage, i.e. thy portion as my Son, and (as) thy (permanent) possession, from a verb denoting to hold fast, the ends of the earth, a common Old Testament expression for the whole earth, the remotest bounds and all that lies between them. The phrase is never applied to a particular country, and cannot therefore be explained of Palestine or David’s conquests, without violently changing the sublime to the ridiculous. The only subject, who can be assumed and carried through without absurdity, is the Messiah, who, as the Son and heir of God, had a right to ask this vast inheritance. That he had asked it and received it, is implied in the dominion claimed for him in ver. 2 and 3, where the nations are represented in revolt against him as their rightful sovereign. It was to justify this claim that the divine decree is here recited, the constitution of Messiah’s kingdom, in which its limits are defined as co-extensive with the earth.

9. This extensive grant had been accompanied by that of power adequate to hold it. That power was to be exercised in wrath as well as mercy. The former is here rendered prominent, because the previous context has respect to audacious rebels, over whom Messiah is invested with the necessary power of punishment, and even of destruction. Thou shalt break them with a rod (or scepter) of iron, as the hardest metal, and therefore the best suited to the use in question. By a slight change of pointing in the Hebrew, it may be made to mean, thou shalt feed them (as a shepherd) with a rod of iron, which is the sense expressed in several of the ancient versions, and to which there may be an ironical allusion, as the figure is a common one to represent the exercise of regal power. (See for example 2 Sam. 7:7, and Micah 7:14.) Like a potter’s vessel thou shalt shiver them, or dash them in pieces, which last, however, weakens the expression by multiplying the words. The idea suggested by the last comparison is that of easy and immediate destruction, perhaps with an implication of worthlessness in the object. This view of the Messiah as a destroyer is in perfect keeping with the New Testament doctrine, that those who reject Christ will incur an aggravated doom, and that Christ himself is in some sense the destroyer of those who will not let him be their Savior, or, to borrow terms from one of his own parables, in strict agreement with the scene presented by the psalm before us, "those mine enemies which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither and slay them before me" (Luke 19:27). That false view of the divine nature which regards God as delighting in the death of the sinner, is more revolting, but not more dangerous than that which looks upon his justice as extinguished by his mercy, and supposes that the death of Christ has rendered perdition impossible, even to those who will not believe in him. The terms of this verse are repeatedly applied to Christ in the Book of Revelation (2:27, 12:5, 19:15).

10. The description having reached its height in the preceding verse, there is here a sudden change of manner, a transition to the tone of earnest admonition, still addressed, however, to the characters originally brought upon the scene. And now (O) kings, after all that you have seen and heard, after this demonstration that you cannot escape from the dominion of Messiah, and that if you persist in your rebellion he will certainly destroy you, be wise, act wisely; be warned, be admonished of your danger and your duty, (O) judges of the earth! A specific function of the regal office is here used as an equivalent or parallel to kings in the first clause, just as rulers is employed for the same purpose in ver. 2. The change of tone in this last strophe shews that the previous exhibition of Messiah as invested with destroying power was, as it usually is in Scripture, only introductory to another aspect of the same great object, which becomes more clear and bright to the conclusion of the psalm. At the same time the original dramatic structure is maintained; for the speaker, in this closing stanza, is the Psalmist himself.

11. Serve the Lord, Jehovah, in the way that he requires, by acknowledging his Anointed as your rightful sovereign. Serve the Lord with fear, religious awe, not only on account of his tremendous majesty, but also in view of his vindicatory justice and destroying power. And shout, as a customary recognition of a present sovereign, with trembling, an external sign of fear, employed as an equivalent or parallel to fear itself. The word translated shout may also mean rejoice, as joy is often publicly expressed by acclamation. The sense will then be, and rejoice with trembling, i.e. exercise those mingled feelings which are suited to your present situation, in full view of God’s wrath on one side, and his mercy on the other. This explanation agrees well with the transition, in these verses, from the tone of terrible denunciation to that of friendly admonition and encouragement.

12. Lest the exhortation in the preceding verse should seem to have respect to Jehovah as an absolute sovereign, without reference to any other person, the attention is again called to his King, his Anointed, and his Son, as the sovereign to whom homage must be paid, in order to escape destruction. Kiss the Son, an ancient mode of doing homage or allegiance to a king (1 Sam. 10:1), sometimes applied to the dress, and sometimes to the person, either of the sovereign or the subject himself. Even in modern European courts the kissing of the hand has this significance. In the case before us there may possibly be an allusion to the kiss as a religious act among the heathen (1 Kings 19:18; Hos. 13:2; Job 31:27). Kiss the Son, the Son of God, the Messiah, so called by the Jews in Christ’s time (John 1:50; Matt. 26:63; Mark 14:61; Luke 22:70): do him homage, own him as your sovereign, lest he be angry, and ye lose the way, i.e. the way to happiness and heaven, as in Ps. 1:6, or perish from the way, which is the same thing in another form, or perish by the way, i.e. before you reach your destination. All these ideas are suggested by the Hebrew phrase, which is unusual. The necessity of prompt as well as humble submission is then urged. For his wrath will soon burn, or be kindled. The translation, "when his wrath is kindled but a little," does not yield so good a meaning, and requires two of the original expressions to be taken in a doubtful and unusual sense. The same view of the Messiah as a judge and an avenger, which appeared in ver. 9, is again presented here, but only for a moment, and as a prelude to the closing beatitude or benediction. Blessed (are) all, oh the felicities of all, those trusting him, believing on him, and confiding in him. This delightful contrast of salvation and perdition, at one and the same view, is characteristic of the Scriptures, and should teach us not to look ourselves, and not to turn the eyes of others, towards either of these objects without due regard to the other also. The resemblance in the language of this verse to that of Ps. 1:1 and 6, brings the two into connection, as parts of one harmonious composition, or at least as kindred and contemporaneous products of a single mind, under the influence of one and the same Spirit.

Alexander, J. A. (1864). The Psalms Translated and Explained. Edinburgh: Andrew Elliot; James Thin. (Public Domain)

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Psalm 1

Psalm 1

“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.” (Psalm 1:1–6, ESV)

The book opens with an exquisite picture of the truly Happy Man, as seen from the highest ground of the old dispensation. He is described both literally and figuratively, positively and negatively, directly and by contrast, with respect both to his character and his condition, here and hereafter. The compression of all this into so short a composition, without confusion or obscurity, and with a high degree of graphic vividness, shews what the psalm is in a rhetorical or literary point of view, apart from its religious import and divine authority. Its moral design is both didactic and consolatory. There is no trace of any particular historical occasion or allusion. The terms employed are general, and admit of an easy application to all times and places where the word of God is known. The psalm indeed contains a summary of the doctrine taught in this book and in the Scriptures generally, as to the connection between happiness and goodness. It is well placed, therefore, as an introduction to the whole collection, and although anonymous, was probably composed by David. It is altogether worthy of this origin, and corresponds, in form and substance, to the next psalm, which is certainly by David. The two seem indeed to form a pair or double psalm, of which arrangement there are several other instances. The structure of the first psalm is symmetrical but simple, and the style removed from that of elevated prose by nothing but the use of strong and lively figures.

1. The Happy Man is first described in literal but negative expressions, i.e. by stating what he does not habitually do. The description opens with a kind of admiring exclamation. (Oh) the blessedness of the man! The plural form of the original (felicities or happinesses), if anything more than a grammatical idiom like ashes, means, &c., in our language, may denote fulness and variety of happiness, as if he had said, How completely happy is the man! The negative description follows. Happy the man who has not walked, a common figure for the course of life or the habitual conduct, which is furthermore suggested by the use of the past tense, but without excluding the present, who has not walked and does not walk, in the counsel, i.e. live after the manner, on the principles, or according to the plans, of wicked (men), and in the way of sinners has not stood. The word translated sinners properly denotes those who fall short of the standard of duty, as the word translated wicked denotes those who positively violate a rule by disorderly conduct. Together they express the whole idea of ungodly or unrighteous men. And in the seat, not the chair, but the company, or the place where men convene and sit together, of scorners, scoffers, those who treat religion with contempt, has not sat. The three verbs denote the three acts or postures of a waking man, namely, walking, standing, sitting, and are therefore well adapted to express the whole course of life or conduct. It is also possible that a climax was intended, so that walking, standing, and sitting in the company of sinners will denote successive stages of deterioration, first occasional conformity, then fixed association, then established residence among the wicked, not as a mere spectator or companion, but as one of themselves. The same kind of negative description reappears in Psalm 26:4, 5, and in Jer. 15:17. It is of course implied that no one, of whom any of these things can be affirmed, is entitled to the character of a Happy Man.

2. A positive trait is now added to the picture. Having shewn what the truly happy man does not, the Psalmist shews us what he does. But, on the contrary, in contrast with the previous description, in the law of Jehovah, i.e. the written revelation of his will, and more especially the Pentateuch or Law of Moses, which lay at the foundation of the Hebrew Scriptures, (is) his delight, not merely his employment, or his trust, but his pleasure, his happiness. And in his law he will meditate, i.e. he does so and will do so still, not merely as a theme of speculation or study, but as a cherished object of affection, a favorite subject of the thoughts, day and night, i.e. at all times, in every interval of other duties, nay in the midst of other duties, this is the theme to which his mind spontaneously reverts. The cordial attachment to an unfinished revelation, here implicitly enjoined, shews clearly what is due to the completed word of God which we possess.

3. The literal description of the Happy Man, both in its negative and positive form, is followed by a beautiful comparison, expressive of his character and his condition. And he is, or he shall be; the present and the future insensibly run into each other, so as to suggest the idea of continuous or permanent condition, like the past and present in the first verse. And he is, or shall be, like a tree, a lively emblem of vitality and fruitfulness. He is not, however, like a tree growing wild, but like a tree planted, in the most favorable situation, on or over, i.e. overhanging, streams of water. The original words properly denote canals or channels, as customary means of artificial irrigation. Hence the single tree is said to overhang more than one, because surrounded by them. The image presented is that of a highly cultivated spot, and implies security and care, such as could not be enjoyed in the most luxuriant wilderness or forest. The divine culture thus experienced is the cause of the effect represented by the rest of the comparison. Which (tree) will give, or yield, its fruit in its season, and its leaf shall not wither; it shall lose neither its utility nor beauty. This is then expressed in a more positive and prosaic form. And all, or every thing, which he, the man represented by the verdant fruitful tree, shall do, he shall make to prosper, or do prosperously, with good success. This pleasing image is in perfect keeping with the scope of the psalm, which is not to describe the righteous man, as such, but the truly happy man, with whom the righteous man is afterwards identified. The neglect of this peculiar feature of the composition impairs its moral as well as its rhetorical effect, by making it an austere declaration of what will be expected from a good man, rather than a joyous exhibition of his happy lot. That the common experience, even of the best men, falls short of this description, is because their character and life fall short of that presented in the two preceding verses. The whole description is not so much a picture drawn from real life, as an ideal standard or model, by striving to attain which our aims and our attainments will be elevated, though imperfect after all.

4. Not so the wicked. The direct description of the Happy Man is heightened and completed by comparison with others. Not so the wicked, i.e. neither in condition nor in character. The dependence of the one upon the other is suggested by describing them as wicked, rather than unhappy. Not so, i.e. not thus happy, (are) the wicked, because they are wicked, and are therefore destitute of all that constitutes the happiness before described. The immediate reference, in the phrase not so, is to the beautiful, well-watered, green, and thriving tree of the preceding verse. To this delightful emblem of a healthful happy state the Psalmist now opposes one drawn likewise from the vegetable world, but as totally unlike the first as possible. The wicked are not represented by a tree, not even by a barren tree, a dead tree, a prostrate tree, a shrub, a weed, all which are figures not unfrequent in the Scriptures. But all these are more or less associated with the natural condition of a living plant, and therefore insufficient to present the necessary contrast. This is finely done by a comparison with chaff, which, though a vegetable substance, and connected in its origin with one of the most valuable products of the earth, is itself neither living, fruitful, nor nutritious, but only fit to be removed and scattered by the wind, in the ancient and oriental mode of winnowing. There is a double fitness in the emblem here presented, as suggesting the idea of intrinsic worthlessness, and at the same time that of contrast with the useful grain, with which it came into existence, and from which it shall be separated only to be blown away or burned. Not so the wicked, but like the chaff, which the wind drives away. The same comparison is used in Psalm 35:5, Isa. 17:13, 29:5, Hos. 13:3, Zeph. 2:2, Job 21:18, and by John the Baptist in Mat. 3:12, with obvious allusion to this psalm, but with a new figure, that of burning, which seems to be intended to denote final and complete destruction, while in all the other cases, the idea suggested by the chaff being blown away is that of violent and rapid disappearance.

5. Therefore, because they are unlike a living tree, and like the worthless chaff, fit only to be scattered by the wind, wicked (men) shall not stand, i.e. stand their ground or be able to sustain themselves, in the judgment, i.e. at the bar of God. This includes two ideas, that of God’s unerring estimation of all creatures at their real value, and that of his corresponding action towards them. The wicked shall neither be approved by God, nor, as a necessary consequence, continue to enjoy his favor, even in appearance. Whatever providential inequalities may now exist will all be rectified hereafter. The wicked shall not always be confounded with their betters. They shall not stand in the judgment, either present intermediate judgments, or the final judgment of the great day. And sinners, the same persons under another name, as in ver. 1 (shall not stand) in the congregation, or assembly, of righteous (men). They shall not continue intermingled with them in society as now, and, what is more important, they shall not for ever seem to form part of the church or chosen people, to which the word translated congregation is constantly applied in the Old Testament. Whatever doubt may now exist, the time is coming when the wicked are to take their proper place and to be seen in their true character, as totally unlike the righteous.

6. The certainty of this event is secured by God’s omniscience, from which his power and his justice are inseparable. However men may be deceived in their prognostications, he is not. The Lord, Jehovah, the God of Revelation, the covenant God of Israel, knows, literally (is) knowing, i.e. habitually knows, or knows from the beginning to the end, the way of righteous (men), i.e. the tendency and issue of their character and conduct. As if he had said, the Lord knows whither they are going and where they will arrive at last. This is a clear though indirect assertion of their safety, here and hereafter. The figure of a way is often used to express the character and conduct itself; but this idea is here implied or comprehended in that of destiny, as determined by the character and conduct. There is no need, therefore, of taking the verb know in any other than its usual and proper sense. The verse is an appeal to divine omniscience for the truth of the implied assertion, that the righteous are safe and will be happy, as well as for that of the express assertion, with which the whole psalm closes. The way of wicked (men), in the same sense as before, shall perish, i.e. end in ruin. The apparent solecism of making a way perish only brings out in more prominent relief the truth really asserted, namely, the perdition of those who travel it. This completes the contrast, and sums up the description of the truly Happy Man, as one whose delight is in the law and his happiness in the favor of Jehovah, and whose strongest negative characteristic is his total want of moral likeness here to those from whom he is to dwell apart hereafter.

Alexander, J. A. (1864). The Psalms Translated and Explained. Edinburgh: Andrew Elliot; James Thin (Public Domain)

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The God Who Made the World

The God Who Made the World

“The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.” (Acts 17:24–25, ESV)

God that made the world. The main object of this discourse of Paul is to convince them of the folly of idolatry (ver. 29), and thus to lead them to repentance. For this purpose he commences with a statement of the true doctrine respecting God as the Creator of all things. We may observe here, (1) That he speaks here of God as the Creator of the world, thus opposing indirectly their opinions that there were many gods. (2) He speaks of him as the Creator of the world, and thus opposes the opinion that matter was eternal; that all things were controlled by Fate; and that God could be confined to temples. The Epicureans held that matter was eternal, and that the world was formed by a fortuitous concourse of atoms. To this opinion Paul opposed the doctrine that all things were made by one God. Comp. ch. 14:15.

Seeing that, &c. Greek, "He being Lord of heaven and earth."

Lord of heaven and earth. Proprietor and Ruler of heaven and earth. It is highly absurd, therefore, to suppose that he who is present in heaven and in earth at the same time, and who rules over all, should be confined to a temple of an earthly structure, or dependent on man for anything.

Neither is worshipped with men’s hands. The word here rendered worshipped (θεραπέυεται) denotes to serve; to wait upon; and then to render religious service or homage. There is reference here, undoubtedly, to a notion prevalent among the heathen, that the gods were fed or nourished by the offerings made to them. The idea is prevalent among the Hindoos that the sacrifices which are made, and which are offered in the temples, are consumed by the gods themselves. Perhaps, also, Paul had reference to the fact that so many persons were employed in their temples in serving them with their hands; that is, in preparing sacrifices and feasts in their honor. Paul affirms that the great Creator of all things cannot be thus dependent on his creatures for happiness, and consequently, that mode of worship must be highly absurd. The same idea occurs in Ps. 50:10–12:

For every beast of the forest is mine;

And the cattle upon a thousand hills.

I know all the fowls of the mountain;

And the wild beasts of the field are mine.

If I were hungry, I would not tell thee;

For the world is mine, and the fulness thereof.

Seeing he giveth. Greek, he having given to all, &c.

Life. He is the source of life, and therefore he cannot be dependent on that life which he has himself imparted.

And breath. The power of breathing, by which life is sustained. He not only originally gave life, but he gives it at each moment; he gives the power of drawing each breath by which life is supported. It is possible that the phrase "life and breath" may be the figure hendyades, by which one thing is expressed by two words. It is highly probable that Paul here had reference to Ge. 2:7: "And the Lord God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life." The same idea occurs in Job 12:10:

In whose hand is the life (margin) of every living thing;

And the breath of all mankind.

And all things. All things necessary to sustain life. We may see here how dependent man is on God. There can be no more absolute dependence than that for every breath. How easy it would be for God to suspend our breathing! How incessant the care, how unceasing the providence, by which, whether we sleep or wake—whether we remember or forget him, he heaves our chest, fills our lungs, restores the vitality of our blood, and infuses vigor into our frame!  (Barnes, A. (1884–1885). Notes on the New Testament: Acts. (R. Frew, Ed.). London: Blackie & Son. Public Domain)

When Jonathan Edwards was older, he set forth in a formal manner that "True Knowledge" was not an abstract correspondence of our thinking with reality.  But rather "True Knowledge" was, "the consistency and agreement of our ideas with the ideas of God."  Because it is the Creator who created the things that people studied and who made it possible for humankind to understand something of the creation.  Edwards believed that "all the arts and sciences, the more they are perfected, the more they issue in divinity, and coincide with it, and appear to be as parts of it."  (Dr. Mark Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind)  paraphrase mine.

The Epicureans believed that the world was created by a fortuitous concourse of atoms (I'll bet you thought the "Big Bang" was a new idea).  None of us were there in the beginning.  Therefore, the how remains elusive.  I find it sometimes laughable when those with many letters after their name strain to find explanations of the how.  I remember watching one such astronomer make the assertion (ex cathedra) that all the water on earth came from comets.  I guess he never saw Meteor Crater near Winslow Arizona.  I am always humbled that by Grace alone am I able to know (noeo, ginosko, oida) the glory of Christ displayed throughout His creation.  I certainly do not know the how!  But I am more than blessed to know the Who!

 

Salvation, The Objective in Evangelism

True Evangelism:  Salvation, The Objective of Evangelism

ALL evangelism finds its consummation in one phase of the great Scriptural word, "Salvation." A word which covers more than the objective of evangelism, in that it includes, beyond the deliverance from the penalty and condemnation of sin both the deliverance from the present power of sin and the final unfolding and development of the saved one into the image of Christ. The word, then, includes a whole series of other great doctrines and revelations in which the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are seen working toward the transformation of the individual, body, soul, and spirit, into a celestial being and a partaker with Christ of the heavenly glory. This is the mighty working of the Triune God toward the heavenly perfection of every one for whom Christ died. Blessed indeed are they who learn to yield themselves wholly to His saving power!

Because of the universal satanic blindness upon the minds of unregenerate people (2 Cor. 4:3, 4) the scope of the transforming work of salvation is not always understood, even where such knowledge is boldly assumed, and many religious leaders, through this blindness, have ignorantly turned away from the real Gospel and have sincerely espoused "another gospel" of social reform, ethical culture, humanitarianism or morality. In turning to these good but subordinate things they have revealed, both by their careless rejection of the one Gospel of Grace and by their unbounded enthusiasm for these unworthy substitutes, that the riches of the "glorious Gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, has not dawned on them."

This unconscious ignorance of the central truth of the Word of God is one of the mightiest hindrances to evangelism to-day; for not only are the blinded unable to take a part in real soul-saving work, but they have pleaded for, and to some extent secured, an attitude of tolerance toward their doctrines from many who should be resisting them in defense of the truth.

The spirit of tolerance toward the preaching of "another gospel," instead of the Gospel of Christ, is usually justified by the assuring statement that the Word of God needs no defense, and therefore any controversy with these perverters of the truth would be a needless and aimless warfare. To this it may be replied: No defense of the whole truth is ever made from a fear that man will destroy the eternal Word itself, but that defense is made from a God-given compassion for the multitude who are being beguiled away from all hope by the sophistries of these teachings; for any true burden for the lost will extend to the misguided as much as to the unguided.

With the many pious substitutes for the one Gospel of Grace to-day, and the ecclesiastical influence and blind enthusiasm of their promoters, evangelism has new enemies to face, and her glorious work can never be accomplished by waving the white flag of tolerance before these foes.

Since much depends, in true evangelism, on a clear understanding of all that is included in "the power of God unto salvation," it is important to dwell at some length on the various aspects of that great word. This is undertaken with a deep consciousness that the heart-comprehension of the glorious riches of salvation must depend upon a Divine illumination, or, as it is stated in the Scriptures: "That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him: the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of His calling, and what the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints" (Eph. 1:17, 18).

In 1 Cor. 1:30, Christ is set forth as having been made unto the believer, "Righteousness, Sanctification, and Redemption." These three words, to some extent, suggest the three tenses—past, present, and future—of salvation; for the believer was saved from condemnation into righteousness and life when he believed; he is being saved from the habit and power of sin through sanctification; and he will be saved from the presence of sin when he, with his glorious body, is wholly redeemed and complete in the presence of his Lord at His Coming.

The present and future tenses of salvation, though in no way a part of evangelism, should be carefully distinguished from the past tense, which is its true objective.

To the believer who has come into the first great tense of salvation, the body of truth mentioned above which sets forth "Sanctification," and "the second tense of salvation" is of greatest import; for it presents to him the only solution of all the problems gathering about his responsibility to walk worthy of the vocation wherewith he is called, and to show forth the virtues of Him Who hath called him from darkness into His marvelous light. The believer’s high position of sonship with God, co-partnership with Christ, and communion and fellowship with the Spirit of Holiness Who indwells him, demands nothing short of a God-wrought salvation from the habit and power of sin, which is independent of all human energy and strength; for human nature, at its best, has no capacity to produce the smallest part of a true God-honoring life.

It may further be stated in this connection that no intelligent Christian can contemplate the threefold fact of his own high calling in Christ Jesus, his sinful nature, and the overpowering strength of his adversary Satan, and not welcome the God-provided victory and salvation by the Spirit from the control and domination of evil. It is, however, often difficult for the child of God to abandon his own resources and tendency to self-help as a means to victory, and to rest in faith and expectation toward God that He will work in him both to will and to do of His good pleasure; yet the victory over evil is never gained by any other plan than a complete dependence upon the saving power of God through Jesus Christ. "He that hath begun a good work in you will perform it unto the day of Jesus Christ" (Phil. 1:6).

So it is revealed that the last tense of salvation, even that faultless presentation before the presence of His glory, is a work that is accomplished independent of all human energy and strength.

In each revealed purpose of God for man in the ages past some responsibility has fallen upon the faithfulness of man; but in this age of grace, wherein God is calling out a heavenly people, it is as though He would not allow the glorious result to be marred by one human touch, so perfectly has He reserved to Himself every necessary step in the great work of man’s salvation.

Returning to the first tense of salvation, or that which is the real objective in true evangelism, it will be seen that this part of the saving work of God includes the greatest issues that can come into a human life. Some of the more important aspects of the first tense of salvation will here be considered separately:

I.—The penalty of sin and the condemnation of an offended law are wholly set aside through justification, and on the grounds of the substitutionary sacrificial death of Christ. As it is recorded in Eph. 1:7: "In Whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace," and so complete has been this atoning work that God, in perfect justice and righteousness, can not only forgive and cancel all sin, but He can also receive the forgiven sinner as covered with all the worthiness of Christ. The same passage records: "Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ unto Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the beloved" (Eph. 1:5, 6).

This is an atonement based upon substitution. It is the only meaning given in the New Testament to the death of Christ, and it is the only value foreseen in that death in the types and prophecies of the Old Testament. In Isa. 53:5, 6, it is written: "But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all." To reject this repeated and only revelation of the purpose of God in the Cross is but to set sail upon a shoreless sea of uncertainty, to abandon the only cure for sin which the world can ever know, and to forsake the one and only foundation upon which every hope for humanity is made to rest, according to God’s revelation to man.

This fact, namely, that the Divine compassion fulfilled all the demands of righteousness in behalf of sinful and unrighteous man, stands alone without any worthy comparison or illustration in the range of human experience. Nevertheless there are interpreters of the meaning of the death of Christ who claim that they find a line of analogy to this great revelation in the things of this world. They claim that such sacrifice is to be seen in the dying of one generation of flowers for the enrichment of future generations of flowers; and the suffering of a mother for her child is, in principle, akin to the suffering of the Cross. The failure of all such comparisons may be seen in the fact that the dying of one generation of flowers does not save any future generations from death; nor does the suffering of a mother substitute, or in any way relieve, the pain and sufferings of the child.

Christ did not die to show us how to die: He died that we might not die. Apart from this central distinction, there may be maintained a "form of religion"; but there can be no power in salvation. There may be a carefully selected use of Scripture; but there can be no reasonable interpretation of the whole testimony of God.

The sin question was met and perfectly dealt with by God, Himself being the sole mediator, and the result is a perfect lifting of all penalty and condemnation for sin. All humanity was included in this mediation; for it is written, "He is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world," and "He tasted death for every man that cometh into the world," and again, "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son." Hence it is revealed that the condemnation of the unsaved is not now the sins which Christ bore in His body on the tree; but the condemnation rests in the fact of the rejection of the Sin-bearer. Thus it is written: "He that believeth on the Son is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed on the name of the only begotten Son of God." Even so, the Spirit convinces a world that rejects its propitiation of but one great sin: "Of sin, because they believe not on Me."

The believer, in contrast to the unsaved, has consented to the atonement as the basis of his salvation, and has thus appropriated by faith the propitiation made for him.

The exact position of the believer in relation to the condemnation justly due to him for his sins may be illustrated by the relation which an executed criminal bears to the law which has already condemned and put him to death. He has been drawn into court, judged and sentenced to death for his sins, and the death penalty has been perfectly executed. His execution has, however, been borne for him, in substitution, by the very Judge Whose righteousness condemned him. For it must ever be remembered that it was the Judge Who pronounced the death sentence—"The soul that sinneth, it shall die," and "The wages of sin is death"—Who also in His great love bowed the heavens and came down from that throne, making bare His Own bosom and receiving into His Own breast the very death blow He had in righteousness imposed. It was God that "was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them."

The believer, thus standing beyond his own perfect execution, is in a position which is not under law; for the last demand of the law has been satisfied. He is in a position, therefore, wherein God is free to work out every desire of His Own love without a possible challenge of His perfect righteousness and true holiness. Since all the demands of righteousness have been so fully satisfied, it is written that God can remain just, and still be the justifier of him that believeth. When God is thus free to act He will accomplish by His Own power His Own eternal purpose, and the believer will finally be presented faultless before the presence of His glory, and will be conformed to the image of His Son.

Wonderful indeed are the figures used in Scripture to set forth the complete removal of sin and condemnation from the one who counts God’s provided sacrifice in the Cross to be his only hope. In Micah 7:19 it is said of Israel: "And thou wilt cast all their sins into the depth of the sea"; so also, in Psa. 103:12: "As far as the east is from the west, so far hath He removed our transgressions from us," "And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more" (Heb. 10:17). And again, the strong figure of "blotting out" is frequently used: "I, even I, am He that blotteth out thy transgressions for My Own sake, and I will not remember thy sins" (Isa. 43:25). "I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins: return unto Me; for I have redeemed thee" (Isa. 44:22). "But those things which God hath before showed by the mouth of all His prophets, that Christ should suffer, He hath so fulfilled. Repent ye, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out" (Acts. 3:19).

So again, this forgiveness of sin, as in the passage just quoted, is said to be made possible only in the blood of the Cross. In Col. 2:13–14: "And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath He quickened together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses; blotting out the handwritings of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to His Cross."

II.—Not only is sin and condemnation removed in the first tense of salvation, but the believer is said to be "clothed with the righteousness of God" in place of the "filthy rags" of self-righteousness, as the following Scriptures describe: "But we are as an unclean thing, and our righteousnesses are as filthy rags" (Isa. 64:6). "I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for He hath clothed me with the garments of His salvation, He hath covered me with the robe of righteousness" (Isa. 61:10). "Let thy priests be clothed with righteousness; and thy saints shout for joy" (Psa. 132:9).

So, also, many other passages reveal that this imputed righteousness is possible only on the grounds of faith in Christ as personal Savior through His sacrificial death: "Unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord make coats of skins, and clothed them" (Gen. 3:21). A striking type of Christ made our righteousness through the shedding of blood. "But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifest, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe" (Rom. 3:21, 22). "What shall we say that Abraham our father as pertaining to the flesh hath found? For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the Scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works" (Rom. 4:1–6). "For they, being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth" (Rom. 10:3, 4). "That I may win Christ, and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith" (Phil. 3:8, 9). "And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints" (Rev. 19:8). "But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, Who of God was made unto us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption" (1 Cor. 1:30, r.v.). "For He hath made Him to be sin for us, Who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Cor. 5:21)

Space has been given to these many passages that imputed righteousness may be seen to be, as it is, an important theme in both the Old and New Testaments, and a necessary thing as well, if sinful man is ever to appear before Jehovah God. So also this "imputed" righteousness is said in these Scriptures to be Christ Himself "made … our righteousness" by an act of God; for according to the last passage quoted, the believer is made the righteousness of God in Christ as perfectly as Christ was made sin for him. His position is said to be "in Christ" and he is "accepted in the beloved."

There is also a position of perfect justification through the work of the Sin-bearer. "He hath become the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth" (Rom. 10:4). Under these "riches of grace" righteousness is not required; but is rather bestowed as the basis of acceptance before God, and righteousness is fulfilled in, rather than by the believer.

The revelation that the righteousness of God is "unto all and upon all that believe" has always seemed an impossible and unreasonable thing from the view-point of the "wisdom of this world"; but it is not impossible or unreasonable in the light of the Cross.

III.—Also there is in salvation an impartation of a new life; and that which alone can bring relief to one who is "dead in trespasses and sins." It is a new creation and regeneration by the power of God on the grounds of the blood of the Cross. It, too, is bestowed at the beginning of salvation.

The following passages, selected from over eighty New Testament references on this theme, will give some conception of the whole doctrine and revelation:

(a) It is in no way the present possession of the unsaved. "Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again (from above), he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3). "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you" (John 6:53). "Because strait is the gate, and narrow the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it" (Matt. 7:14).

(b) Eternal life is the present possession of the believer. "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth My words, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life" (John 5:24). "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him" (John 3:36). "These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life" (1 John 5:13).

While eternal life is a present possession of the believer and now secure (John 5:24; 10:28), it is, like salvation, referred to a few times in its future aspect: "Be thou faithful unto death and I will give thee the crown of life" (Rev. 2:10). "For godliness is profitable unto all things, having the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come" (1 Tim. 4:8).

(c) Eternal life is from Christ. "In Him was life; and the life was the light of men" (John 1:4). "Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me" (John 14:6). "But ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you; and killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses" (Acts 3:14, 15). "This is the record, that God hath given unto us eternal life, and the life is in His Son" (1 John 5:11).

(d) Eternal life is the indwelling Christ (also spoken of as a "new nature" 2 Pet. 1:4; and the "new man," Col. 3:10). "Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you; Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth My flesh, and drinketh My blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is meat indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He that eateth My flesh and drinketh My blood, dwelleth in Me, and I in him. As the living Father hath sent Me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth Me, even he shall live by Me" (John 6:53–57). "To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Col. 1:27). "When Christ, Who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory" (Col. 3:4). "I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, Who loved me, and gave Himself for me" (Gal. 2:20). "Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates" (2 Cor. 13:5)? "Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body" (2 Cor. 4:10).

(e) Eternal life is conditioned on faith in Christ as Savior. "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 20:31). "But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the Sons of God, even to them that believe on His name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man. but of God" (John 1:12, 13). "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom. 6:23).

Thus regeneration is set forth in the Scriptures as a most important part of the work of salvation; and since all its aspects are outside human limitation, it is wholly omitted from the religions of men; and since it is the only gateway through which a soul can be delivered from the power of darkness and translated into the kingdom of God’s dear Son (Col. 1:14), it, too, is carefully omitted from the creeds of Satan, and from the teachings of his apostles (2 Cor. 2:13–15). Yet, if this revelation is rejected, what other interpretation can be given to this great body of truth? Or what other dynamic can be substituted that will enable the soul to rise to the present and future estate of the Christian, as that estate is described in the Word of God?

IV.—The Gift of the Spirit. The God-honoring quality of life in the believer has suffered untold failure through the almost universal confusion and neglect of the truth in regard to the work of the Spirit in and upon the believer. This misunderstanding begins even with that part of the Spirit’s work in which He prepares a soul for salvation.

In the relation of the Spirit to the believer it is, perhaps, most important to recognize that the Spirit takes His permanent abode in the believer at the moment he is saved. Receiving the Spirit is not, then, a "second blessing" bestowed upon especially consecrated Christians in answer to believing prayer; for, since the day of Pentecost, and since the Gospel was given to the Gentiles as recorded in Acts 10, the Spirit has taken His place in the believer at the moment he has passed from death unto life.

In this connection it need only be remembered that in Rom. 5:1–11, where some immediate results of justification by faith are enumerated, it is stated in the fifth verse that "the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us." Also Paul, while correcting the Corinthian Christians for unmentionable sins, based his whole appeal to them on the fact that they were the temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19). So, also, in Rom. 8:9: "But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His." And Gal. 4:6: "And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father."

It is possible and necessary to be "filled with the Spirit" anew for every time of need (Eph. 5:18); but that should never be confused with receiving the Spirit, which is one of the aspects of the first tense of salvation.

By this new relation with the Spirit, the believer becomes enabled at once to meet all the demands of his new life; both as to its victory over the "old man" with the desires and habits of the flesh, and as to the new undertakings for God of the "new man" in all holy living and service which are so infinitely beyond all human power and might. The fact that he comes instantly into possession of sufficient power by the Spirit to live wholly unto God is in marked contrast to the world’s ideal of "character-building," which demands years of painful defeat and failure. The believer has but to learn to yield himself wholly to the power of the indwelling Spirit to find that he is delivered from all the "works of the flesh" which are these: "Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like"; and in the place of these, the Spirit Who indwells the believer will bear in him "the fruit of the Spirit"; which is "love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance" (Gal. 5:19–24).

Thus the believer, having received the Spirit at the moment he was saved, and being wholly yielded to Him, is enabled from that moment to realize victory over the "old nature," the flesh, and his enemy, Satan. He is able, also, to experience a holy life in fellowship with God; and to find his individual gift of the Spirit for service (Rom. 12:3–8; 1 Cor. 12:4–31); and while there is much sanctifying and teaching work of the Spirit yet to be accomplished in him he may, from the first, fill to the full all the present will of God for him.

V.—The Baptism of the Spirit. Any understanding of this aspect of salvation must depend, in a large measure, upon a clear conception of the various meanings of the word "church" as it is used in the Bible. While that word often refers to a local organization of professing Christians, the word is more often used to designate the whole company of regenerate people who have been, or will be saved during this age of grace. This body of people, or organism, is the true church of the Scriptures. It is sometimes mentioned directly, and sometimes in types and figures, which suggest the perfect union that exists between Christ and the believers, and between believers themselves. The Shepherd and the sheep (John 10); the Vine and the branches (John 15); the Corner Stone and all the stones of the building (Eph. 2:19–22); the Bridegroom and the bride (Eph. 5:29; 2 Cor, 11:2; Rev. 6:9, with many Old Testament types); the Living Head and the one body with its many members (1 Cor. 12:12–31; Eph. 1:22, 23, etc.). The gathering out of this company is the purpose of the present age (Acts 15:13–18); for they are the heavenly people whose purpose and glory will be manifest in all the ages to come.

It is into this body of glorious heavenly people that the believer is organically placed by the baptism of the Spirit at the moment he is saved. This baptism, by which he is united to his Lord and to his fellow-members in the same body, surpasses all human understanding, and is a union that is closer than any human relationship. The husband and wife are, in the purpose of God, "one flesh"; while it is said of this mystic union of the church with its "Living Head" that they are "one spirit": "For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jew or Gentile, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit" (1 Cor. 12:13). "He that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit" (1 Cor. 6:17).

So great a relationship must produce some personal experience in the believer, even though this doctrine is wholly unknown by him; hence the test is given for all professing Christians, "We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother (Christian) abideth in death" (1 John 3:14).

The believer’s union in the body, as has been stated, is perfect and complete from the very beginning of his saved life; and, while it imposes no demands in personal service beyond his individual responsibility as a believer, it opens before him the blessed certainty of going with that body to meet the Lord when He comes to receive His own (1 Thes. 4:13–18); and to be of the bride, in the bosom of the Bridegroom, in the palace of the King.

VI.—The Christian Priest. The believer is also constituted a priest unto God when he enters the saved life; he is one of the whole company of priests, which is the true church; and he has access, through the blood of the Cross, into the holiest place, where Christ, the High Priest, is now entered in. The believer, as a priest in the holiest place, is privileged, like the priest of old, to offer his sacrifice and praise unto God, and to intercede before God for his fellowmen.

VII.—The Intercession and Advocacy of Christ. Three times over in the Epistles it is recorded that Jesus now lives to make intercession for believers (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25, 9–24). In addition to this, Christ said in His High Priestly prayer: "I pray for them, I pray not for the world, but for them which Thou hast given me; for they are Thine" (John 17:9). Thus the unregenerate, when they believe, come instantly into the place of privilege wherein Jesus becomes their Intercessor. This is a vital factor in the safety and security of the one who is resting in Christ by faith; for it is in this connection that these references to the intercession of Jesus occur. Following the question, "Who can lay anything to the charge of God’s elect?" and "Who is he that condemneth?" is the assuring answer: "It is Christ that died, yea, rather, that is risen again, Who is even at the right hand of God, Who also maketh intercession for us" (Rom. 8:33, 34). And again: "Wherefore He is able to save them to the uttermost (evermore) that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them" (Heb. 7:25).

Thus Christ, as Intercessor, stands between the weakness and helplessness of the saint and the whole requirement of God.

As Advocate, He meets the transgressions and failure of the believer, on the ground of His all-sufficient sacrifice for sin. It is written: "My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the righteous. And He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world" (1 John 2:1, 2). So, to the believer, it is said: "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). With the Advocate pleading His own sufficient atonement for the sins of the saved one, the removal of transgression is no longer of present mercy; for God is said to be "faithful and just to forgive us our sins."

Thus Christ has become both the Intercessor and Advocate for the believer; providing him with all cleansing from the defilement of sin and becoming his assurance of security, in spite of his weakness and unworthiness; and all this from the moment he comes "unto God by him."

Any attempt to describe this salvation must prove inadequate; for the half has never been told of the riches of grace in Christ Jesus. Yet enough has been stated to show that the first work in salvation, which is offered to the unregenerate on the grounds of the merit and sacrifice of Christ, is a stupendous and instantaneous transformation of the whole estate of man from the power of darkness and the condemnation of sin, into the glorious light, liberty and security of the sons of God. It is the unmeasured power, wisdom and love of God working, at His own infinite cost, to create a new humanity, redeemed and heavenly in being. Before such an objective the humanitarian substitutes, offered by Satan or man, pale into insignificance and fade away.

This salvation is in no way the product of human thought or invention: but it has rather "appeared" as a "revelation" from God to man (Tit. 3:4, and Gal. 1:11, 12). The awe-inspiring words, "scholars have agreed" is the final evidence offered in defense of other so called "gospels" of to-day: but of the one true Gospel of Grace it may be said "all Scripture has agreed," for it is the central message of the Bible from its beginning to its end.

This great salvation is offered to man as a perfect whole and therefore cannot be divided; for there are no Divine provisions whereby any portion of this mighty work can be accepted apart from the whole. He who would accept the forgiveness of sin, or a place with the redeemed in glory, can do so only as he accepts the Lord Christ; and with Him, all that God in His infinite love would bestow. And when he is thus saved he will but little comprehend the extent of that redeeming work; yet his limited understanding, while it may deprive him of much joy and blessing, does not change one fact of his new and glorious estate. It remains true, in spite of his ignorance, that God has "given him all things richly to enjoy."

It is also clear that the transcendent undertaking of salvation is wholly a work of God, since its every phase depends upon a power that surpasses the whole range of human strength. Because of this, the condition of salvation is reasonable, which demands only an attitude of expectation toward God. In preparation for this, the blinded and self-sufficient person must not only be so wrought upon that he will want to be saved; but he must see his utter helplessness apart from the power of God and the sacrifice of the Cross, and this, in spite of the blinding and opposition of Satan who energizes him (Eph. 2:2).

Who is sufficient for these things? Surely not the eloquent preacher or the pleading evangelist! God alone is sufficient; and He has fully provided for the necessary preparation of mind and heart in the all-important conviction of the Spirit.

True Evangelism:  Lewis Sperry Chafer, 1911, Public Domain


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