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“Having a form of Godliness, but denying the power thereof.”–2 Tim., iii. 5.

MCILVAINE-Charles-P_1I. “THE POWER OF GODLINESS”–What is it?

We answer, it is the substance, or reality of godliness, as distinguished from all its forms. And godliness here is a term for that inward and spiritual grace which is the life and being of all genuine piety before God. Its only abiding place is the heart, which we are therefore exhorted to keep with all diligence, because out of it are the issues which make the visible life of righteousness. Just as prayer in the Spirit is essential to all reality of prayer, in distinction from the words of prayer; just as the inward grace of Baptism, signified in the sacramental “sign or form,” namely: “death unto sin, and a new birth unto righteousness,” is the reality of the true Baptism, in distinction from its outward administration; just as when one comes to the Lord’s Table, without “a true penitent heart, and lively faith,” he receives the outward part or sign in the Lord’s Supper, without the grace it signifies, and thus the form, without the power of that godliness which lives by faith upon the sacrifice and mediation of Christ; while another, approaching the same holy table, with the sacrifice of a contrite heart, and drawing near with faith, is a partaker not merely of the sacrament of the death of the Saviour, but of that death itself, in all the benefits of His passion, to his soul’s health. And so, in the whole life of a true believer, of which in its essential being and sustenance, the two sacraments are the concentrated expression, the power or reality of godliness is none other than, as St. Peter expressed it, “the hidden man of the heart,” in distinction from all visible ways and works of its manifestations before men.

“I am the life,” saith the Lord. “He that abideth in me, and [10/11] I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit.” The fruit is the effect of the life, and its evidence–notthe life.

“Your life, (saith the Scripture) is hid with Christ, in God.” [* Col. III. 3.] As branches of that “true vine,” his people abide in Him by a hidden communication of spiritual life, wherein they receive of His Spirit, just as the natural vine-branch abides in its vine, only as it is in communion with its hidden current of life. The Apostle has it thus: “The law of the Spirit of life, in Christ Jesus, hath made me free from the law of sin and death.” [* Romans, VIII: 2.] That blessed Spirit of life, shedding abroad in the heart, the love of God, creating in us the faith by which we are justified in the righteousness of Christ, and the holiness which makes us meet for his presence and glory, carrying on the hidden work of grace, into more and more conformity to the mind of Christ, till it become perfect in his likeness–such is godliness in its reality and power. Until it enters and takes possession within us, we are “dead in sin.” As soon as it so enters, we are “alive unto God.” As its essential being is in that new and inward life, its only beginning is in a new and inward birth. “Born again by the Holy Ghost,” “transformed by the renewing of the mind,” having “a new heart,” in place of the old; such, according to the Scriptures, are they to whom the Gospel has come “not in word only, but in power and the Holy Ghost.”

The inward depth of that great transformation, its thorough reality as a work of internal renewal, or new creation, is given by Saint Paul, when he says to the Christians at Ephesus, that if they had “been taught as the truth is in Jesus,” they had “put off the old man which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and were renewed in the spirit of their mind, and had put on the new man, which after God, is created in righteousness and true holiness.” [* Ephes. IV: 21-24.]

Such is godliness in the power, whether abiding in a heart [11/12] just now made new by the Spirit of God, or in a believer almost full grown in grace; whether time may not have been allowed, to make itself visible in the fruits of holiness, or whether it be already full clothed therein.

We must be careful not to confound “the hidden man of the heart” with the manifested man in the outward walks and deeds of righteousness. The child of God, is “God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, unto good works.” [Ephes. II: 10.] Good works do not constitute him that new creature, they follow upon a workmanship of grace, of which they are the essential fruit and evidence.

Now such godliness is power, just because it is life. It is the power of a faith which purifies the heart, and gets victory over this evil world. In some of God’s children, it is more a power than in others, according as some are riper in grace than others; precisely as this natural life, essentially active and a power, varies in powerfulness as men differ in the maturity and activity of their faculties.

True godliness cannot be a mere inoperative seed or unconscious germ of spiritual being. It is a leaven that must leaven. The godliness is itself the power. And the new creature, in Christ Jesus, living by faith and working by love, is the godliness. It is just the image of God, lost in the first Adam, renewed in the second Adam, “the Lord from heaven.” Without it, you can no more attain to fruits of righteousness, than you can raise a tree to fruitfulness, while the root is dead. All works are “dead works,” before God, that come not of that new heart. Paint them, dress them as you may, to give them the aspect of life, they are not written among the living.

And just what that hidden life is to the individual christian, it is to the whole Church, which cannot have any true godliness but as its several members are children of that new heart. All the ability of the Church for its real, living work in this world, all its existence as a living Church, depends on that. [12/13] It is written: “Whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world.” And the Church overcomes the world for Christ, in the war and victory of his Gospel, only as it contains those who being so born of God, do in their personal striving so overcome. Be not deceived. There may be much outward aspect of life and growth, and none in truth. Church edifices may be built on every side, and adorned with all the magnificence that wealth and art can give. Our borders of sacramental communion may be greatly extended. Signs of flourishing increase and vigorous activity may stand in bright array before eyes that look only on the outward appearance; while to that which looketh on the heart, and finds the heart of the Church only in the hearts of its several members, that whole appearance, and all beneath it, may be only what St. Paul said he would be, “though he should give all his goods to feed the poor, and his body to be burned–and have not charity,” the love of God in his heart–“NOTHING.”

These teachings, I know, are old things, said over and over again by faithful Ministers of Christ, as they ought to be. They are too much the very marrow of the teaching of the old Bible and the old Apostles, who “spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost,” and of the old Church, to be else than old wherever the preacher keeps to “the old paths” in which the feet of Jesus led. I rejoice to believe that they are old, and loved because so old, in this congregation. Very sad will it be for you, Brethren, if ever the old Manna of this pilgrimage, that spiritual meat of which your fathers ate and never wanted other, shall become so distasteful, that you will hunger for something new instead of it, something more progressive, something, in other words, less of inspired teaching, more of the carnal mind.

Many years ago, and during all the years when it was my happiness to be the pastor of that beloved flock from which this has grown, and in that dear Old Church, where so many dear ones, now gone to their Lord, were “begotten again by [13/14] the word of God,” and the power of His Spirit, and where it pleased Him to give most precious fruits of grace to the seed of his truth–there, my constant teaching was, as it has been (I bless God) ever since, those same old things, of grace and faith, of the new heart and the new man, “justified by faith,” and so “having peace with God, through Jesus Christ.” And thus it must be, till I put off this tabernacle, the Lord being my helper. They are just the great truths which there is a continual and dangerous tendency among professing christians to get away from, to lose sight of their transcendant importance, to put something less vital in their place, to mix them up confusedly in a crowd of inferior matters, and thus very easily and sadly to confound the outside of godliness with its reality, and satisfy themselves with a name to live, while they are spiritually dead. It is exactly here that “the god of this world” labors to blind the minds of men, “lest the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ should shine unto them.”

Read it all.

jc_ryle“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. This is the bread which came down from heaven–not as your father ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever.” (John 6:53-58)

 

Few passages of Scripture have been so painfully distorted and perverted as that which we have now read. The Jews are not the only people who have striven about its meaning. A sense has been put upon it which it was never intended to bear. Fallen man, in interpreting the Bible, has an unhappy aptitude for turning food into poison. The things that were written for his benefit, he often makes an occasion for falling.

Let us first consider carefully what these verses do not mean. The “eating and drinking” of which Christ speaks do not mean any literal eating and drinking. Above all, the words were not spoken with any reference to the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. We may eat the Lord’s Supper, and yet not eat and drink Christ’s body and blood. We may eat and drink Christ’s body and blood, and yet not eat the Lord’s Supper. Let this never be forgotten.

The opinion here expressed may startle some who have not looked closely into the subject. But it is an opinion which is supported by three weighty reasons. For one thing, a literal “eating and drinking” of Christ’s body and blood would have been an idea utterly revolting to all Jews, and one flatly contradictory to an often repeated precept of their law.

For another thing, to take a literal view of “eating and drinking” is to interpose a bodily act between the soul of man and salvation. For this there is no precedent in Scripture. It cuts off from eternal life all who do not receive the communion: all who die in infancy and childhood, all who die of full age without coming to the communion, and also the penitent thief. It was to avoid this painful conclusion that many early Christians in Cyprian’s time held the doctrine of infant communion.

To take a literal view of “eating and drinking” opens wide a door to formalism and superstition. It would admit to heaven thousands of ignorant, godless communicants in the present day who would wish nothing better than to hear, “He that eats my flesh and drinks my blood (that is, eats the sacramental bread and drinks the sacramental wine) has eternal life.” Here is precisely what the heart of natural man likes! He likes to go to heaven by formally using ordinances. He literally eats and drinks, no doubt! But he has no eternal life and will not be raised to glory at the last day.

The plain truth is that there is a morbid anxiety in fallen man to put a carnal sense on Scriptural expressions wherever he possibly can. He struggles hard to make religion a matter of forms and ceremonies–of doing and performing, of sacraments and ordinances, of sense and of sight. He secretly dislikes that system of Christianity which makes the state of the heart the principal thing, and labors to keep sacraments and ordinances in the second place. Happy is that Christian who remembers these things and stands on his guard! Baptism and the Lord’s supper, no doubt, are holy sacraments and mighty blessings, when rightly used. But it is worse than useless to drag them in everywhere, and to see them everywhere in God’s Word.

Let us next consider carefully what these verses do mean. The expressions they contain are very remarkable. Let us try to get some clear notion of their meaning . . .

Read it all.

packerIf we recognize the covenantal character of the sacrament of Baptism, and follow the teaching of Articles 25 and 27, and go in principle with the first of view of baptismal regeneration that was set out above, we shall see the rite as given by God to focus and confirm faith in Jesus Christ and the gospel, and in the reality of the new covenant that binds God and ourselves to each other. We shall see Baptism as given to symbolize and pictorialize God’s bestowal of the key 7 promised blessings of the gospel (union with Christ in resurrection life in his body, the church; forgiveness of sins, through the cross; and adoption as God’s sons and heirs; as Article 27 states); and to assure believers that these blessings are theirs now. But then, what was said earlier about infant Baptism might seem to need revisiting. Can it really be appropriate, after all, to baptize babies who are not yet capable of faith, and to pray for them as regenerate persons once they have been baptized, as has been standard Anglican practice historically?

Read it all.

edwardsI intend to show how we may definitely conclude that God is at work. I want to show the signs which Scripture says are clear evidence that God is at work. We will then be able to use these signs to judge any work without fear of being misled.

I propose to look only at those signs given in 1 John 4. That is because this chapter deals with this question plainly and more completely than any other part of the Bible. So let us look at the signs in the order they are given in the chapter.

1. When esteem for the true Jesus is raised

If a persons esteem of the true Jesus is raised, it is a sure sign that the Spirit of God is at work. By the true Jesus, I mean this: that Jesus was born of a virgin and crucified outside the gates of Jerusalem; that He is the Son of God and the Savior of men as the gospel declares.

This sign is given by the apostle in 1 John 4:2-3: “This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God.” This implies acknowledging more than that there was such a person as Jesus who appeared in Palestine and did those things that the Bible says. It implies acknowledging that He was the Christ, the Son of God, chosen to be Lord and Savior.

This word acknowledge is important. In the New Testament it means much more than merely admitting.” It implies knowing something and being willing to declare it in praise and love. For example, Matthew 10:32 says, “Whoever acknowledges Me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven.” People may praise their own false Christ while having no respect at all for the true, historical Jesus. Indeed, they are led away from Him. But no spirit can give testimony to the true Jesus, or lead men to Him, except the Spirit of God.

Why is this the case? It is because the devil has a bitter and unchanging hatred for the real Jesus, especially as Savior. He passionately hates the story and the doctrine of redemption. Satan would never work in men to produce honorable thoughts of Jesus, nor cause them to value His commands. The Spirit that turns men’s hearts to Christ is not the spirit of the serpent that has such an unchanging hatred toward Him.

When we look at anything that is happening in the religious world, and need to pass judgment, the first question we must ask is, “Are these people coming to love, honor, and esteem the real Lord Jesus more than ever?” If people are being convinced of their need of Christ and led to Him; if their belief that Christ appeared in history is strengthened; if they are more convinced than ever that He is the Son of God sent to save sinners; if they acknowledge that He is the only Savior and they need Him desperately; if they appreciate Him more than they did, and love Him too, then we may be quite sure that it is the Holy Spirit who is at work!

2. When Satan’s kingdom is attacked

The Spirit of God must be at work if the interests of Satan’s kingdom are opposed. This is a sure sign. Satan’s kingdom encourages sin and encourages men to cherish worldly lusts. The Holy Spirit does not.

This sign is given in 1 John 4:4-5: “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them.” The apostle is here comparing those who are influenced by two opposite kinds of spirits. One spirit is true, and the other is false.

John shows the difference like this: one spirit is from God and so overcomes the spirit of the world. The other spirit speaks about and relishes the things of the world. Here, the spirit of the devil is called the one who is in the world. This is the difference between Christ and the devil. Christ says, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36), but Satan is called, “the god of this age” (2 Cor. 4:4).

We know what the apostle means by “the world” or “the things that are of the world” from his own words in 1 John 2:15-16: ““Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world–the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does–comes not from the Father but from the world.”” Clearly, he means everything to do with sin and includes all men’s corruptions and lusts–everything they look to for satisfaction.

So, from what the apostle says here, we may safely conclude that if a people:

have their love of ordinary, worldly pleasure, profits, and honors lowered;

are weaned from eagerly chasing such things;

have a deep concern about eternity and the eternal happiness that comes through the gospel;

earnestly begin to seek God’s kingdom and righteousness; and

are convicted of the ugliness and guilt of sin, as well as the misery to which it leads, then the Spirit of God must be at work.

We cannot believe that Satan would convict men of sin and awaken the conscience. The conscience is God’s representative in the soul. It can do Satan no good to make its light shine brighter. It is always in his interest to keep the conscience quiet and asleep. When conscience is awake, everything that Satan wants to accomplish is hindered.

When he is out to lead men further into sin, would the devil first open their eyes to see its ugliness? Would he make them afraid of sin? Would he make them mourn over past sins? Would he show them that they need to be delivered from sin’s guilt? Would he make them more careful about everything they do, to ensure there is no sin in it? Would the devil lead them to avoid future sins and make them more careful to avoid his own temptations? If a man thinks the devil acts like this, I wonder what he uses for brains!
But some may argue that the devil may even awaken a man’s conscience in order to deceive him–that is, to make him think he has been saved while he is still in his sin. To argue like this is futile. It is to argue that Christ was making a mistake when He told the Pharisees that Satan would not cast out Satan (Matt. 12:25-26). Remember, the Pharisees believed that the spirit at work in Christ’s ministry was the devil.

A man with an awakened conscience is the hardest man in the world to fool! The more awake a sinner’s conscience is, the harder it is to quiet it down until it is really delivered from sin. The more a conscience is aware of the greatness of man’s guilt, the less likely he is to be satisfied with his own righteousness. Once a man is thoroughly frightened by a sight of his own danger, he will not believe himself truly safe without good grounds. Awakening a conscience in this way is not likely to confirm a man in his sin. On the contrary, it is likely to lead to sin and Satan being driven out.

So, whenever we see people made aware of:

the ugliness of sin;

God’s anger against sin;

their own natural lostness because of sin;

their own need of eternal salvation;

their need of God’s mercy and help; and

their need to do what God has commanded in seeking salvation, we may certainly conclude that it is the Spirit of God at work!

Yes, even if their bodies are affected and they cry out or scream or faint. Yes, even if they go into fits or are affected in other dramatic ways. Those things do not count at all.

3. When people come to love the Scriptures more

When men are persuaded to love the holy Scriptures more, and to trust their truth and divine origin more, it is certainly the Spirit of God at work. This is the sign the apostle gives us in 1 John 4:6: ““We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us.” This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.”

When he says, “We are from God,” he means, “We are the apostles God has sent to teach the world His doctrines and commands.” This argument extends to all those God has appointed to deliver to His church its rules of faith and practice. That is to say, it covers all those apostles and prophets that God has inspired to write the Scriptures.
The devil would never try to produce such a respect for God’s Scriptures. A spirit of delusion will not persuade men to listen to God for direction. The devil does not say, as Abraham did, “They have Moses and the prophets; let them listen to them” (Luke 16:29). Nor will he say the words that came from heaven about Christ, “Listen to him” (9:35).

Would the spirit of error, wanting to deceive men, turn them to God’s infallible Scriptures? Would he lead them to get to know those Scriptures well? Would the prince of darkness lead men to the light of the Sun in order to promote his kingdom of darkness? The devil has always shown how much he hates the Bible. He has always done all he can to put out its light and lead men away from it. He knows that this is the light that will overthrow his dark kingdom.

He has had much experience of the power of Scripture to defeat his purposes and thwart his designs. It is a constant plague to him. It is the main weapon that Michael uses in his war with Satan (Jude 9). It is the sword of the Spirit that pierces him and conquers him (Eph. 6:17). It is the sharp sword that we read about that comes from the mouth of the One on the horse with which He smites His enemies (Rev. 19:15).

Every text of the Bible is a torment to the old serpent. He has felt its stinging smart thousands of times. He is therefore at war with the Bible and hates every word in it. We may be quite sure he will never try to persuade men to love it or value it.

It has often happened in history that many sects of enthusiasts have undervalued the written Word of God. They set up some other authority that is over the Scripture. That still happens today. But when men come to value the Scriptures more, not less, then the Spirit of God is certainly at work.

Read the last two signs of true revival.

 

Sam Storms is the St. Andrew’s New Wine speaker this August 25th – 27th.  Great teacher.  Good man.  Sign up, you will be blessed.

Here’s a recent sermon he preached on the topic, Jesus the Healer (notes available here).

Text: James 5.13-18; Matthew 21.12-17

Preached: February 7, 2016

Location: Bridgeway Church, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Sam Storms is lead pastor for preaching and vision at Bridgeway Church in Oklahoma City. He is a TGC Council member and the author of many books, including Packer on the Christian Life and Pleasures Evermore. He serves as president-elect of the Evangelical Theological Society.

“The love of Christ constraineth us.” 2 Corinthians V. 14.

Twelfth Sunday after Trinity, 1876.

LightfootWHO is this Paul that writes these strange words? Who is this Christ to whom he ascribes such marvellous power? What had been their past connexion? What were their present relations? How can we explain this tyrannous influence, this complete absorption of self in another, to which the writer confesses? Is he speaking of some devoted parent, to whose fostering care and patient self-denial he feels that he owed everything? Or of some loved brother, with whom all his fondest memories of life— in infancy, in childhood, in youth, in manhood—are bound up? Or of some friend, who has been more to him than a brother, from whose large heart and commanding intellect he has learnt lessons that were more precious than life itself, in whose purity, in whose nobleness, in whose entire self-forgetfulness, he has seen a standing protest against all that was base and mean in himself? Nay; he was none of these. He was not a parent, not a brother, not a friend, as men count friendship. He was an entire stranger, whom Paul had probably never seen on earth, whom certainly he had never cared for, never loved. And he was dead too; had been dead now more than a quarter of a century. So that there was nothing, absolutely nothing, in their human relationships to account for this strange, this extravagant, this passionate language.

And the more we examine the facts of their past history, the more hopelessly bewildering do we find them, as tested by the ordinary standard of human occurrences and human motives.

It is now the year 57 or 58 of our era, when S. Paul writes these words. Place yourself in imagination some twenty-five or thirty years earlier than this date. What do you see then? Here is a Jew of humble rank, a carpenter’s son, sentenced to suffer as a criminal, executed by a most ignominious death, put out of the world with the emphatic approval of all classes, the haughty Pharisees, the scornful Romans, the mocking soldiery, the hooting populace What was there to attract, to subdue, to dominate, in this most painful, most repulsive of all scenes? And yet this is the Christ—this humble peasant, this despised outcast, this hated criminal—whose constraining power the writer confesses to be absolute over all his thoughts and feelings and actions.

And next, what does past history tell us about the writer himself? Is there any key here which will unlock the secret? Place yourself again in imagination a few years later—some twenty years before the words were written. What do you find then? Why, just what the previous scene would lead you to expect. This Paul, the writer, is devoting all the energies of his sincere and passionate nature to the extermination of an infatuated sect that has gathered round the name of this dead man, this criminal whom all classes alike had agreed to execrate. He spares no pains; he shrinks from no severities. Men and women, young and old, falling into his hands, are treated alike. Imprisonment, torture, death—such is the fate that awaits his victims. No sincerity, no innocence, no patience or meekness in the sufferers touches his heart. Even the spotless purity and the transparent holiness of a Stephen only adds fuel to his indignation. The name of Christ is an abomination to him. The followers of Christ are outside the pale of our common humanity.

I have asked you to turn yourselves back in imagination some twenty-five years, and again some twenty years before these words were written. It is not a wide space of time for the memory to range over. About the same interval separates us from the Crimean War and from the Indian Mutiny. And yet it seems to us who were grown up at the time, as if these things had happened only the other day. How vividly do we picture to ourselves the struggles, the perils, the triumphs of Alma and of Inkerman! With what painful distinctness do we recall the horrors and the suspenses of Delhi and Lucknovv and Cawnpore! And can we suppose that S. Paul remembered less distinctly the incidents in his own personal career, so striking, so unique, so fraught with the most acute pain and the intensest ecstasy? Nay, we may be assured that each momentous crisis, each signal event, stood out in his recollection with a sharpness of outline and a fulness of detail, which would shame the average memory of the average man. For he was after all the same Paul, who had hounded oh the savage executioners to the stoning of Stephen; the same Paul who ‘breathed out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of theLord;’ the same Paul who (it is his own metaphor) had harried and devastated the Church of God. His step is not quite so elastic; his face is not quite so free from furrows; his spirits are not quite so buoyant. But there is the same fire, the same zeal, the same intensity of passion and of action now as then.

The same, and yet how changed! ‘The love of Christ constraineth me.’ The love of Christ! What did he know then of the love of Christ? Had he not loathed and execrated the very name of Christ, hated it with all the hatred of which his intense nature was capable ?’ I can do all things through Christ that strengtheneth me.’ ‘All things through Christ’? Nay, surely, ‘in spite of Christ, against Christ.’ Had he not ‘thought that’ he ‘ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth’? And he had acted upon this conviction with a persecuting energy which has rarely been surpassed before or after. But now—he was changed, shall we say? Nay rather, let us use his own language; he was ‘born again,’ he was ‘created anew,’ he was called into being from not being. Hitherto he was not, and now he is. In Jesus Christ he is a new creature, a new creation. In Jesus Christ old things have passed away—for ever away. All things, yes, all things have become new. In Jesus Christ the prophetic anticipation is already realised. There is a new heaven overhead; there is a new earth beneath his feet. All things human and divine are changed to him now. The objects, on which his eye rests, though still the same, are not the same. They are invested with a new power and meaning. The external world has undergone a change corresponding to the inward man. His thoughts are new; his associations are new; his hopes and aspirations are new; his motive is new.

Yes, his motive is new. This is the grand central fact, the prime secret of the change. There is a new mainspring to the machinery of his moral and spiritual being. Hitherto he had acted from various considerations and impulses. He had been influenced by self-assertion or self-indulgence; he had been led by party spirit; he had been the slave of convention or of habit; he had been impelled by a desire of popularity or of fame; he had been stimulated by rivalry; he had been driven forward by fear, or held back by shame; he had been moved by higher motives than these, though not by the highest, by a spirit of patriotism, by a fire of orthodoxy, by an enthusiasm of religion, a zeal of God, though not according to knowledge. But now all these lower motives were neutralised, were crushed, were transformed, were absorbed, were glorified, in the one transcendent, overwhelming, all-pervading thought of the constraining love of Christ .

The love of Christ. The Apostle does not mean, as at a first glance we might suppose, his own affection for Christ, his own devotion to Christ. This affection, this devotion, was indeed a constraining power. But it was only second in the chain of causes and consequences. It was not the source and origin of his energy. The source must be sought farther back than this. The source must be sought outside himself. The source must be found in God, not in man. Not his love for Christ, but Christ’s love for him, for others, for all mankind, for a world steeped in ignorance and sin and misery—this was the prime cause of all his moral activity, the paramount motive which started and directed all the energies of this most magnificent of all magnificent lives. His own love for Christ was only the response, only the sequel—as he himself would have confessed, the necessary, the inevitable sequel—to Christ’s love for him once impressed upon his being. Christ first loved him, and he (how could he help himself?) was fain to love Christ. It was not he, Paul, that lived any longer; it was Christ that lived in him. It was not he, Paul, that planned, that felt, that toiled, that suffered for Christ, that traversed the world with his life in his hand for Christ, that was instant in season and out of season for Christ, that died daily for Christ; but it was Christ’s own love, fermenting like leaven in his inmost being, stirring and animating his sluggishness. This unspeakable love rises up before him, as the one great fact, which will not be thrust aside, the one clear voice which will not be silenced. It haunts him sleeping and waking. It occupies the whole background of his thoughts. Forget it? How can he forget it? Others may forget, but he can never forget.

For what had this love of Christ been to him, Paul, individually? Could he forget that he had been the chief of sinners, because the chief of rebels; that his ingratitude had far exceeded the ingratitude of that excited Jewish mob, of that flippant Roman soldiery, because he had persecuted intelligently, deliberately, persistently; giving his whole mind, as well as his whole heart, to the work? And yet Christ singled out him of all men; rebuked him, caressed him, subdued him, won him; held him up to an astonished world as a signal token of God’s long-suffering and mercy. Can we wonder that in his own emphatic language it ‘constrained’ him, that is, held him tight in its grip; that it bound him hand and foot; carried him whither it would and stayed him when it would; that it fettered all his movements and forced all his actions? Aye, he was more than a conqueror through Christ, but he was less than a captive through Christ. He was Christ’s freedman, but he was Christ’s very slave also. It was this love of Christ, this stern, imperious, relentless master, which dragged him from city to city; which exposed him to heat and cold, to famine and nakedness, to perils on all sides; which drove him to prison and to death.

Read it all.

It is somewhat singular, but just as they say fish go bad at the head first, so modern divines generally go bad first upon the head and main doctrine of the substitutionary work of Christ. Nearly all our modern errors, I might say all of them, begin with mistakes about Christ. Men do not like to be always preaching the same thing., There are Athenians in the pulpit as well as in the pew who spend their time in nothing but hearing some new thing. They are not content to tell over and over again the simple message, “He that believeth in the Lord Jesus Christ hath everlasting life.” So they borrow novelties from literature, and garnish the Word of God with the words which man’s wisdom teacheth. The doctrine of atonement they mystify. Reconciliation by the precious blood of Jesus ceases to be the corner-stone of their ministry. To shape the gospel to the diseased wishes and tastes of men enters far more deeply into their purpose, than to re-mould the mind and renew the heart of men that they receive the gospel as it is. There is no telling where they will go who once go back from following the Lord with a true and undivided heart, from deep to deep descending, the blackness of darkness will receive them unless grace prevent. Only this you may take for a certainty.

“They cannot be right in the rest,
Unless they speak rightly of Him.”

If they are not sound about the purpose of the cross, they are rotten everywhere. “Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” On this rock there is security. We may be mistaken on any other points with more impunity than this. They who are builded on the rock, though they build wood, and hay, and stubble, thereupon to their sore confusion, for what they build shall be burned, themselves shall be saved yet so as by fire. Now that grand doctrine which we take to be the keystone of the evangelical system, they very corner-stone of the gospel, that grand doctrine of the atonement of Christ we would tell to you again, and then, without attempting to prove it, for that we have done hundreds of times, we shall try to draw some lessons of instruction from that truth which is surely believed among us. Man having sinned, God’s righteousness demanded that the penalty should be fulfilled. He had said, “The soul that sinneth shall die;” and unless God can be false, the sinner must die. Moreover, God’s holiness demanded it, for the penalty was based on justice. It was just that the sinner should die. God had not appended a more heavy penalty than he should have done. Punishment is the just result of offending. God, then, must either cease to be holy, or the sinner must be punished. Truth and holiness imperiously demanded that God should lift his hand and smite the man who had broken his law and offended his majesty. Christ Jesus, the second Adam, the federal head of the chosen ones, interposed. He offered himself to bear the penalty which they ought to bear; to fulfil and honour the law which they had broken and dishonoured. He offered to be their day’s-man, a surety, a substitute, standing in their room, place, and stead. Christ became the vicar of his people; vicariously suffering in their stead; vicariously doing in their stead that which they were not strong enough to do by reason of the weakness of the flesh through the fall. This which Christ proposed to do was accepted of God. In due time Christ actually died, and fulfilled what he promised to do. He took every sin of all his people, and suffered every stroke of the rod on account of those sins. He had compounded into one awful draught the punishment of the sins of all the elect. He took the cup; he put it to his lips; he sweat as it were great drops of blood while he tasted the first sip thereof, but he never desisted, but drank on, on, on, till he had exhausted the very dregs, and turning the vessel upside down he said, “It is finished!” and at one tremendous draught of love the Lord God of salvation had drained destruction dry. Not a dreg, not the slightest reside was left; he had suffered all that ought to have been suffered; had finished transgression, and made an end of sin. Moreover, he obeyed his Father’s law to the utmost extent of it; he fulfilled that will of which he had said of old—”Lo, I come to do thy will, O God: thy law is my delight;” and having offered both an atonement for sin and a complete fulfillment of the law, he ascended up on high, took his seat on the right hand of the Majesty in heaven, from henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool, and interceding for those whom be bought with blood that they may be with him where he is. The doctrine of the atonement is very simple. It just consists in the substitution of Christ in the place of the sinner; Christ being treated as if he were the sinner, and then the transgressors being treated as if he were the righteous one. It is a change of persons; Christ becomes sinner; he stands in the sinner’s place and stead; he was numbered with the transgressors; the sinner becomes righteous; he stands in Christ’s place and stead, and is numbered with the righteous ones. Christ has no sin of his own, but he takes human guilt, and is punished for human folly. We have no righteousness of our own, but we take the divine righteousness; we are rewarded for it, and stand accepted before God as though that righteousness had been wrought out by ourselves. “In due time Christ died for the ungodly,” that he might take away their sins.

Read it all.

“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 III. 16.

jc_ryleLook at the well-known text which heads this page. Its words are probably familiar to your ears. You have very likely heard them, or read them, or quoted them, a hundred times. But have you ever considered what a vast amount of divinity this text contains? No wonder that Luther called it “the Bible in miniature!” -and have you ever considered what an immensely solemn question arises out of this text? The Lord Jesus says, “Whosoever believeth shall not perish.” Now, reader, DO YOU BELIEVE?

Questions about religion are seldom popular. They frighten people. They oblige them to look within and to think. The insolvent tradesman does not like his books to be searched. The faithless steward does not like his accounts to be examined. And the unconverted Christian does not like to be asked home-questions about his soul.

But questions about religion are very useful. The Lord Jesus Christ asked many questions during His ministry on earth. The servant of Christ ought not to be ashamed to do likewise. Questions about things necessary to salvation,-questions which probe the conscience, and bring men face to face with God,-such questions often bring life and health to souls. I know few questions more important than the one before you today. DO YOU BELIEVE?

Reader, the question before you is no easy one to answer. Think not to thrust it aside by the off-hand answer, “Of course I believe.” I tell you this day that true belief is no such “matter of course” as you suppose. I tell you that myriads of Protestants and Roman Catholics are constantly saying on Sundays, “I believe,” who know nothing whatever of believing. They cannot explain what they mean. They neither know what, nor in whom, they believe. They can give no account of their faith. Reader, a belief of this kind is utterly useless. It can neither satisfy, nor sanctify, nor save.

I invite you in all affection to consider the question which heads this tract. I ask you to give me your attention while I try to place it before you in its full proportions. In order to see clearly the importance of “believing,” you should ponder well the words of Christ to which I have already referred. It is by the unfolding of these words, that I shall hope to make you feel the weight of the question, “Do you believe?”

There are four things which I wish to show you, and to impress upon your mind.

I. God’s mind towards the world – He “loved” it.

II. God’s gift to the world – “He gave His only begotten Son.”

III. The only way to obtain the benefit of God’s gift – “Whosoever believeth on Him shall not perish.”

IV. The marks by which true belief may be known.

Read it all.

I. “Look to see:

edwards1) That the influence be upon the will or heart, not on the imagination, nor on the speculative understanding or thought processes of the mind, even if these processes sweep the emotions along with them as a consequence. That the disturbance in their thinking not be excessive, in that their thinking is [actually] bothered by those things it has reason to be disturbed about; and that the troubling of their minds seems to function in such a way, with the kind of troubling and exercising of the mind that is thoughtful: meaning that it is based on reasonable, solid consideration; a solid perception and conviction of truth, that is, of things as they really are.

2) That it is because their state appears terrifying on account of those things, because their state is indeed a dreadful one; and that their concern over their state be of a substantial quality, not so much characterized by pangs of conscience and sudden changes of emotion, abnormal and frightened behavior, and a capriciousness of mind.

3) That according to their expressed opinion, their state really is one of sin; that they are convinced of their guilt which consists in offending and insulting so great a God: One who hates sin and has set himself against it to punish it, etc.

4) That they are convinced of sins, both inward and outward: that their outward show of the sense of sin in the heart is not apart from a reflection on their wicked lifestyle; and also that they are not only convicted of sin in their lifestyle, but of sin in their heart. And in both, that what is disturbing them are those things in which their sinfulness is the real cause.

5) That they are convicted of sins of the spirit, which find their origin in their spiritual defects, such as living without love for God, without accepting Christ, without thankfulness to Him, etc.

6) That the opinions that they hold concerning the insufficiency and uselessness of their own doing, are not simply from some imaginative wandering of their thoughts brought on by bad behavior, but are rather from a conviction that they did their duties in a defective way, that it, not being done from a right motivation; with the conclusion that it is not some good mixed with the bad, but that they are entirely corrupt.

7) That it is truly a conviction of sin that convinces them that God would be just in their eternal condemnation, in rejecting their prayers, in paying no attention to their sorry state along with all their desires and attempts to find deliverance [from it], etc. and is not simply an imagination or pang of conscience, and cooling of emotion through some real or supposed sign of Divine Goodness.

8) That they are so convinced of sin that in their inward thoughts and reasonings they do not make excuses, and implicate through a quarrel with God that they are in some way unable: for instance, they do not make excuses for ignoring Christ, for lack of love for Him, on the basis that they are not able to honor and love him.

9) That they do not introspectively consider their conviction as being so important, and that they are humble now [in God’s sight]. That which is chiefly their focus of attention is the Gospel. If this conviction [of sin] is genuine, we will not need to insist on it, otherwise it will become obvious that it was purely out of works, having nothing to do with grace.

So with regard to conviction and humbling, look to see if the mind is really convinced of these things, even while looking for that which many theologians insist we look for, things that are actually only outward works. But also look for convictions that seem to be deep and fixed, that have a powerful controlling influence on the character of their thinking, with a direct relationship to lifestyle.

II. Look to see:

1) That they have not only a appearance of conviction of sin; but a fitting sorrow for sin. That is, that sin is a burden to them, and their hearts are tender and sensitized to how they relate to it — as the object of concern and anxiety.

2) That God Himself and spiritual things are to be admired on account of the beauty of their inherent goodness.

3) That it can be discerned in their perception of the sufficiency of Christ, a sense of that divine, supreme and spiritual superiority of Christ; and that their understanding of this inherent superiority is the real foundation of their satisfaction that He [alone] is sufficient.

4) That their deeply held view of the truth of the things of God is discerned [by others] to be in actuality in some way or other primarily based on a perception of their spiritual superiority.

5) That their ideas, enlightened thoughts, and experiences in general, are not superficial pangs of conscience, flashes of spirituality, imagination, or unusual occurrences, but solid, substantial, deep, and worked into the very fiber and character of their souls, and found to be directly related to a [changed] lifestyle.

6) That they desire to be holy, and that all their experiences increase this longing. Ask them about their attitude and willingness to bear the Cross, giving up everything for Christ, choosing instead to wait for their possessions till heaven, etc. — that is, whether their spiritual experience has a direct relationship to their lifestyle in these ways.

7) That their behavior at present seems to agree with such experiences — meaning, whether this experience inclines them to think much of how they are living now, and even more of how wrong their past lifestyle was. Is there an attitude of digust toward past evil practice? Is there a longing for a complete freedom from sin, and a longing for those things that are holy, along with determined and strong resolutions, combined with fear and a jealous guarding of their own hearts.

[Finally,] whether, when relating these experiences, they put on an air expecting to be admired or applauded, and would be disappointed if they do not see something of that admiration in you; but are shocked and displeased if you do admire them. Inquire whether their joy truly and in a proper way is joy in God and in Christ, joy in His Divine Goodness; or whether their joy is completely directed to themselves, joy in their own superiority or privileges, in their experiences; what God has done for them, or what He has promised He will do for them; and whether they are not taken with their own ideas and feelings.”

updated language version by Bill Lowry

martyn-lloyd-jones. . . He [Jesus] tells us His kingdom is not like earthly kingdoms. In what way?

First of all, it is not a visible kingdom. It is not an external kingdom. He said Himself that “the kingdom of God cometh not with observation” (Luke 17.20). You can see an earthly kingdom, the kingdom of Great Britain, for instance. It is visible, it is obvious, it has its limits and it can be defined. We know all about it; it can be seen. It cometh with observation, it can be observed and examined. His kingdom is not like that; it is quite different. That is where they went wrong. They would persist in estimating what He said in terms of their visible, external kingdoms and because His did not correspond, they said, “This is no kingdom at all.”

I the same way, His kingdom is not great in an earthly sense. There is no pomp and show with respect to it. He put this very plainly to His own disciples who were muddled on this point: “But Jesus called them unto him, and said, ‘Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercised dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon the. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20.25-28).

That is the trouble. With an earthly kingdom, there is a great prince on his throne and every one is standing at attention, he remains there, they bring him everything, he does nothing, everything is done for him, they minister unto him. But Jesus says, “My kingdom isn’t like that. And I myself have not come to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give my life as a ransom for many.” And just before He went to the cross, beholding the king of glory, the everlasting kind, He took up a towel and He washed their feet and He wiped them with the towel. Is this a king? Is this a kingdom? “It’s all wrong!” they said. “It’s baffling, it’s bewildering.”

They had not listened to what He said: “My kingdom is not of this world.” It does not belong in the same category. You can drop your old way of thinking for this is new in every sense. We can also put it like this: because it is different, there are no armies in this kingdom. He has no great officials. There is no great hierarchy of officers. There is no great pomp and show and ceremony. Alas, my friends, the church herself has forgotten this, at times, has she not? She has become so much like earthly kingdoms, with great pomp and show and her dressing up and all her ceremonies and all her hierarchies. I tell you, it is not in the New Testament.

But, alas, it has come into the church, this very great confusion against which He warns people (and here warns Pilate). He puts it quite simply, He says, “You know, if my kingdom were an earthy kingdom, I wouldn’t be arrested as I am now and the high priest wouldn’t have sent me to you. I would have had soldiers and they would have protected me and defended me against the Jews. And the Jews would never have been allowed to arrest me. But,” he says, “My kingdom is not like these other kingdoms, it doesn’t’ look like them, it’s not like them in any respect.”

His kingdom is unlike earthly kingdoms in that it is not concerned with the types of things that earthly kingdoms are concerned about. Now, this is the very essence of the modern difficulty. The Jews always wanted our Lord to deliver them from the Roman Empire. Before our Lord came into this world, the Roman Empire had conquered Palestine and the Jews; that was why Pilate was there, he was a representative of the Roman Emperor and the Roman power. The Jews, of course, did not like that. They had a nationalistic spirit and they thought that when the great Messiah cam that He would come as a great warrior, form a great army and lead them against the Romans, and, with His power, He would conquer the Romans and dismiss them from the country and then He would elevate the Jews to the highest positions and lead them as a great world conqueror.

When Jesus began to preach and call Himself the Messiah and the King and when He began to say that He was going to found a kingdom, they said, “Now, when are you going to do this?” Their ideas were political and they were military and they were always waiting for Him to speak in that way, but He would not do it. Remember earlier in John 6, they tried to take Him by force to make Him a king and He fled away from them up on top of a mountain!

Do you remember how often they tried to get Him to speak about these things? Do you remember how one afternoon the Herodians and others came to Him and they pulled a coin out of their pockets and they said, “now, we’ve got a question to put to you: Is it lawful to pay a tribute unto Caesar or not?” It was a very clever question. They wanted Him to commit Himself on the political issue. But He saw it and Hew was not to be drawn in. He said, “Let me see that coin.” He took it in His had nans said, “Whose is this image and superscription?” They said, “Caesar’s.” “Very well,” He said, “and at this point He did not begin to give a political oration and say, “It’s a shame we have ever been conquered! It’s time we rose up and delivered ourselves out of this!” He did not suddenly turn into a politician. No, this is what He said: “Very well, render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s, whose image is on you. You’re interested in the coin, what about yourself? I’m concerned about you – not coins, but souls! Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and render unto God the things that are God’s.”

Even John the Baptist seems to have stumbled at this point. He sent his two disciples to ask the famous question: “Art Thou He that should come or do we look for another?” (Matthew 11.3). “I thought you were He,” John says, as it were, “but I am beginning to doubt it. You’re spending your time up there in Galilee with just a handful of common people and preaching your sermons and doing your miracles. When are you coming to Jerusalem? When are you going to do the big thing.” But our Lord never spoke politics. He never touched them. He never had anything to say about the contemporary political situation. As He said to His father and mother in Luke 2.49: “Wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?” Read your four gospels and try to see Him dealing with contemporary political or social events. He never touches them and neither do His apostles. Read through the Act of the Apostles, read the Epistles. You cannot find it there! If He were here today He would not be talking about the problem in South Africa, He would not be dealing with these political questions, and yet we are being told that Christianity comes right into politics and that the tragedy of the world it that the church is not preaching politics! It’s a lie, I say, a travesty of the New Testament gospel!

“But wait a minute,” says someone. “Didn’t your Old Testament prophets deal with these matters?” Of course they did, not because there were politicians but because the nation of Israel was the church at the same time. The nation of Israel was a theocracy. She was the church; she was God’s people and so the prophets spoke to the people of Israel as God’s people. They do not speak to them as they would speak to any other nation, they are not interested in the other nations, they are speaking to God about His own people and the business of Christianity is still to do the same thing. In the first instance, the gospel has nothing to say to man except that he is lost and damned and in need of salvation.

Listen to the entire sermon.