Archive for the ‘The Gospel’ Category
He preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection . . . And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent: because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead. (Acts 17:18, 30-31)
Apart from the great fact of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead, we would have no Gospel to preach. By “resurrection,” we do not mean that our Lord’s spirit continued to live after His body died but that He was actually raised from the dead by the glory of the Father and came forth from the tomb in the very same body that had been impaled on Calvary’s cross. In that body, now glorified, He sits at God’s right hand, and in that same body, He is coming again as the Judge of both living and dead—the saved and lost. This is what is emphasized for us in the seventeenth chapter of the Acts of the apostles.
The entire passage, beginning with verse 16, is of tremendous interest, but I have no thought of attempting to explain it all, though I hope you will read it carefully at your leisure, if you are not thoroughly familiar with it, for it is undoubtedly one of the finest examples of a preacher’s eloquence that we have anywhere in the Bible.
Paul appears here at his best, from the human standpoint, but he also speaks as a divinely inspired servant of Christ. Of Apollos, we read elsewhere that he was an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures, and it is very evident from this sample sermon that Paul was a man of the same stamp; although on the other hand, he did not particularly cultivate what was simply rhetorical, lest the Cross of Christ should be made of none effect.
But it was quite in keeping with his principle of being” made all things to all men,” that when he stood on Mars’ Hill, the very center of culture of the Greek world, he should meet those philosophers on their own ground.
PROUD, ATTIC PHILOSOPHERS
So far as culture was concerned, he was every whit their equal, combining a thorough acquaintance with their literature, history, and customs, with a deep knowledge of the Word of God to which they were strangers. Thus he gave them that day a new and arresting message such as they had never heard before, and possibly many were destined never to hear again.
Notice some of the circumstances. Paul was waiting in Athens for several of his fellow servants, who had returned to Thessalonica to find out how the newborn Christians there were getting along. As he wandered about the city, his spirit was deeply stirred, for he saw everywhere the evidences of idolatry. They worshipped everything in Athens; in fact an ancient philosopher once said, “In Athens it is easier to find a god than a man.” There were images on every street corner, over every doorway, in every courtyard, found in every store, and every dwelling house. Turn where you would, you were confronted by them.
SIGNS OF PAGAN DARKNESS
Paul, as he walked those streets, knew that the things the Gentiles sacrificed were sacrificed to demons and not to God; he knew he was probably the only man in that city who had a knowledge of the true and living God and of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ; and yet for the time being he saw no opportunity to give his message in a public way.
A Jewish synagogue, however, attracted his attention, and entering it, he claimed his right as a recognized teacher to speak, and there he presented the Gospel, disputing with the adherents of Judaism, and with proselytes who were doubtless weary of the unsatisfactory character of idolatrous rites and ceremonies, and had sought out this place of instruction in the law of Moses.
In the market place also he addressed himself to individuals, and sometimes little groups would gather about him to whom he proclaimed the wondrous story of God’s grace in Christ Jesus to a lost world. Little by little he drew the attention of the people, who were always interested in that which seemed new and strange. So we need not be surprised that at last certain philosophers of the Epicureans and the Stoics became interested in him and his teaching.
THE EPICUREANS AND THE STOICS
These believed that man’s supreme good is found in trying to please himself, that there is no use denying one’s self; make the best of life by getting all the pleasure out of it you can, for you are going to be dead for a long time. We can hear the echo of this in the philosophy of so-called self-expression of our day.
The Stoics took the opposite view of life. They said: we are in the hands of a remorseless fate; we had nothing to say about coming into the world, and there is no telling what will happen when we leave it. Just grit your teeth, don’t show the white feather, make up your mind that “what cannot be cured must be endured.” Stoicism has come down through the ages as the synonym for patient endurance.
Some of these philosophers asked, “What will this babbler say?” To them he seemed to be setting forth new gods. New gods in Athens! They had searched the world to find all of them. They had shrines for the gods of Babylon, Phoenicia, Greece, Egypt, and Rome. They worshipped them all, and yet this man seemed to know something about some new ones, because Paul preached “Jesus and the resurrection.” They thought that Anastasis (resurrection) was yet another god! They had the god of peace, the god of victory, the god of justice, the god of love — all these different deified human attributes; and now they thought, “This man seems to have two new gods, one called Jesus and the other, Resurrection. We would like to hear more about them.” And they took him up to Mars’ Hill, or the Areopagus. This overlooked Athens, and was where the philosophers met for discussion. So they invited Paul to come up there and expound his new doctrines. Led by them, he wended his way to the meeting -place above, and at once began to proclaim the message that he had been yearning to give them for so long.
He took his text from an inscription he had seen on one of their altars, and said, as it were, “I see you are a very religious people. You seem to worship every god known to the Greeks and all other nations, and as I walked about I noticed an altar with an unusual inscription.”
“TO THE UNKNOWN GOD!”
It was evident that these Athenians feared lest they might be neglecting some god whose name had not been communicated to them, and so they set up the altar that had attracted Paul’s attention.
What a splendid text it made! And so Paul said, “Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.” In other words, “I am here to tell you who the unknown God is.” How can anyone make known the unknown? God has made Himself known in the person of His blessed Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul was there, indeed, to present Jesus and the resurrection, and let me say that no man preaches the Gospel unless he does preach Jesus and the resurrection.
There is no Gospel for guilty sinners apart from Christ, for the Gospel is God’s message about His blessed Son. The Gospel is not good advice to be obeyed; it is good news to be believed. And that good news concerns the Lord Jesus Christ, Who came from the glory that He had with the Father from all eternity down to the sorrow and anguish of the cross of Calvary where He bared His breast that the sword of divine justice might be sheathed in His heart. He took our place and endured what we deserved. But that alone would not be the Gospel; there is something more needed.
Paul preached: JESUS, AND—And what? “And the resurrection.” Wherever the disciples went, they preached that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures. The essence of their message was that He “was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification” (Romans 4:25).
So Paul preached Jesus and the resurrection, and we today proclaim the same, and we tell you in His Name, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:9-10).
THE CREATOR AND THE CREATED
Notice how Paul prepared the ground for his message. First of all, they were reminded that the Creator must be greater than that which is created, and Paul directed their attention to the visible universe. It was very evident that the God Who made all things could not be confined in one of their temples. He says, “God that made the world and all things therein, seeing he is Lord of Heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things.” He is not the God of one nation, but of all nations, and we are really one people, for He “hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and bounds of their habitation.” He has put upon men the responsibility to know Him, for He is not far from any one of us.
There is no man anywhere who will dare say in the day of judgment, “I wanted to find God and could not,” for
“Closer is He than breathing, Nearer than hands and feet.” He is so close that if men will feel after Him, will stretch up empty hands towards Him, they will find His great strong hands reaching down to lay hold of them. God will never permit it to be said that any man honestly sought the way of life and failed to find it, that any man really wanted to be saved, and cried to God unheard.
This answers a question that troubles a good many people. I am often asked: WHAT ABOUT THE HEATHEN?
They have never heard the Gospel. What of them? Are they going to be damned because they have never heard? No matter where a heathen man may be today, if he wants to know God and honestly reaches out after Him, God will make Himself responsible to give that man light enough to be saved, for He is not far from any one of us. God has commanded men “that they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him.”
This is the only place in the New Testament where we get the word “feel.” I have often urged people to trust the Lord Jesus and have told them how He died for them, bore their sins on the cross, and that if they will believe on Him, He has given His own Word that “whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” And then they say, “Well, I do believe, but I don’t feel any different.” That has nothing to do with it. The word feel is not a Christian word at all. The only place it occurs in the New Testament is here where Paul is speaking of the heathen. But you have an open Bible; you do not need to feel after God. What you need to do is to believe the testimony that He has given, and then you will be saved. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house” (Acts 16:31). This is the word of the living GOD given through His servants of old.
“FEEL” AND “FEELING”
I said that the word feel is found only once in the New Testament, but the word feeling is found twice: once in Ephesians 4:19, where it speaks of certain Gentiles, and says, “Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness”; and again in Hebrews 4:15, “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities.” Apart from these three instances we do not find the words feeling or feel used in the New Testament. The moment you believe in the Lord Jesus, the moment you trust in Him you pass out of death into life, out of condemnation into justification before the throne of God.
In John 5:24, Jesus says, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.”
THE FIVE DIVISIONS OF JOHN 5:24
1.”HE THAT HEARETH MY WORD.” Face this: be honest with your own heart. Have you heard the Word of the Son of GOD? Have you heard Him speaking to you through this blessed Book?
2.”AND BELIEVETH HIM THAT SENT ME.” Do you in your heart believe that GOD sent the Lord Jesus Christ to be the sinner’s Savior, to die for you on the cross, to rise from the dead for your justification?
3.”HATH EVERLASTING LIFE.” When do you get it? When you die? No, you get it now, from the moment you believe, from the moment you hear the Word of the Son of God, and receive and confess Him as the One whom the Father sent into the world to be the sinner’s Saviour. The trouble today is that people are stumbling over its very simplicity.
I heard of a man who wanted to be saved, and he was told to do penance for sin by putting hard dried peas in his shoes and walking on them so many hours a day. This poor man did this and limped around the streets, trying to make atonement. It would have done him just as much good if he had boiled the peas first.
But people are willing to do all kinds of hard things. They are like Naaman who, when the prophet commanded, “Go and wash in Jordan seven times,” said, “That is too easy a way.” But he had a wise old servant who suggest, “If the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it?” Why, of course he would. “How much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean?” If you had to give a great deal of money, say a great many prayers, make long pilgrimages, do vast numbers of charitable deeds in order to get life eternal, how many of you would be willing to do these things? How much more when He saith to thee, “Believe and live!”
4. “SHALL NOT COME INTO CONDEMNATION.” Think of it! Is that not good news? Not a word about purgatory, not a word about confession to a priest, not a word about sacramental observances, not a word about penance; but here and now, the moment you put your trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, your sins are gone and you will never come into judgment, but you have everlasting life. It is all for you. That is the Gospel which Paul preached. And notice the next point:
5. “IS PASSED FROM DEATH UNTO LIFE.” It is a settled, complete salvation, giving a new standing before God to the believing sinner. Observe the threefold link with resurrection:
a. Resurrection and Repentance
But what if men do not accept it? Then there is the judgment. He says that God has been very gracious with the heathen: “The times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent.” Repent means to change your mind completely, to have a new attitude. You had an idea that you could save yourself by your good works, but you change your mind and now admit that you cannot do a thing to save yourself, but that Christ must do it all. That is repentance— a change of attitude toward God. Instead of trying to do anything to save yourself, let the Lord Jesus do it all.
God “commandeth all men everywhere to repent: because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained.” God is going to judge the world in righteousness, but your case can be settled out of court, and settled today, so that you need never think of coming into judgment. But if you reject Christ, some day you must give account before His judgment throne.
b. Resurrection and Assurance
“Whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.” The resurrection of the body of our Lord Jesus Christ is the ground of our assurance that we shall live again in our resurrected bodies. He says, “Because I live, ye shall live also.” We are told that “As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” This does not mean that all men will be saved, but that the bodies of all men will be raised from the dead. Thus God has given assurance to all men of a life after death in that He raised the body of Christ from the grave. In the second place, He has given assurance unto all men that the sin question is settled in the death of Christ, by raising His body from the dead.
Here is an innocent man who has gone to prison for the crime of another. He knew the other man was guilty, but he knew, too, that in order to prove his own innocence he would have to expose his friend; and so he hears the sentence of the judge, sending him to prison for one year. What must be the feeling of the other man outside? He says, “I have sent that man there; I deserved to go, but he is there in my place.” Perhaps he goes to see him and the man says, “I took your place voluntarily, and I am quite content; you let me endure it.” The other roams the streets and says, “I wonder how long he will be content to remain there; I wonder how long before he tells the whole story.” But by and by a year has passed, and walking down the street one day, he sees the one who went to prison for him. He rushes up and says, “What does this mean?”
“It means,” is the reply, “that you have nothing to fear now. The sentence has been endured.”
So our blessed Lord bore on the Tree the sentence for us, and now we who were once guilty sinners are free. ” Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more.” The resurrection is the proof that the sin question has been settled, that God is satisfied. “He hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.”
c. Resurrection and Reckoning
In the third place, we have assurance in the resurrection of Jesus Christ that some day all men are going to give account to Him. This will be when He sits upon the great white throne. Think of giving account of your sins to Him after all He has done to save you from them!
Notice the threefold response from Paul’s message had that day. “When they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter . . . . Howbeit certain men clave unto him, and believed.” I wonder if there are not people manifesting these three different attitudes toward the message today!
THREE RESPONSES TO THE GOSPEL
Some mock, some ridicule, some say, “Oh, we cannot believe this message about Jesus and the resurrection; we cannot accept it. We do not see how He could die for sinners and rise again, and how men can be saved through believing on Him.” God pity you if you are turning this message down. Some day He will turn you down, for He says in His Word, “Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; but ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof: I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh” (Proverbs 1:24- 26). God grant that you may not at last be exposed to such a doom. Do not turn it down, do not go away with a cold, careless sneer and say, “It is nothing to me.”
The second class said, “We will hear thee again of this matter.” They are the procrastinators. You may not be mocking; possibly you would not sneer at the Gospel message; you fully intend to be saved some day, but you are saying, “I will hear you again; I am not ready to close with Christ today. There is so much to occupy my heart and mind these days; some other time. Let me alone for the present. Sometime I will give attention to these things.”
Remember the old saying, “Procrastination is the thief of time.” There is a Spanish proverb which says, “The road of by and by leads to the town of never.” How many have taken that road, have said, “By and by, some other day,” and have gone on and on, until at last they have reached the other world, hopelessly lost, and that forever!
The third class, ” Howbeit certain men clave unto him, and believed.” What a blessed testimony! God has recorded the names of two of them, one man and one woman, Dionysius and Damaris, who accepted the message proclaimed that day.
Men have an idea that what sinners need is more culture, more refinement; but if polite culture could have saved the world, Greece would have been saved long ago. But Greece went all to pieces in spite of its culture. It was the Gospel of the grace of God that saved the ancient world from ruin. And it is the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ that saves men today. I bring before you these two examples, Dionysius and Damaris, and I beg you to follow them as they followed Christ; believe the message, and go on rejoicing in Him, who was raised from the dead, never to die again. Hear what He says in Revelation 1:18—”I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore.”
By Mike Oppenheimer
Let Us Reason Ministries
Psalm 22 is known as the Psalm of the crucifixion, written nearly 1,000 years before Jesus cries, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?.” David prophesies of the Crucified One’s words in vs. 6: “But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people.” The word worm is not just describing any worm. Here it is tola,1 an insect that was crushed to get the die color of red/scarlet and used to color the robes of royalty.
Strong’s Concordance says: OT:8144 shaniy (shaw-nee’); of uncertain derivation; crimson, properly, the insect or its color, also stuff dyed with it.” Brown-Driver-Briggs’ Definition of tola: (1) worm, scarlet stuff, crimson = (a) worm – the female ‘coccus ilicis’ (b) scarlet stuff, crimson, scarlet, the dye made from the dried body of the female of the worm “coccus ilicis.”
There are two Hebrew words for scarlet or crimson that speak of a color and a creature from which the color is made. The two words can be translated two ways: “scarlet” or “worm.” In Old Testament times when people wanted to dye something scarlet, they would dip the material in the crushed dye of this insect, and the material would take on a scarlet color. These two Hebrew words occur juxtaposed in many of the passages in Exodus (26 times it is referred to). The dye was highly valued (Lamentations 4:5) as it was used to color the cloth in the tabernacle. Scarlet was woven into the fine linen of the screen for the doorway (Exodus 26:36); there was one way into the Tabernacle. This picture was fulfilled by Jesus’ words, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).
Creationist Henry Morris gives further insight:
When the female of the scarlet worm species was ready to give birth to her young, she would attach her body to the trunk of a tree, fixing herself so firmly and permanently that she would never leave again. The eggs deposited beneath her body were thus protected until the larvae were hatched and able to enter their own life cycle. As the mother died, the crimson fluid stained her body and the surrounding wood. From the dead bodies of such female scarlet worms, the commercial scarlet dyes of antiquity were extracted. (Biblical Basis for Modern Science, p.73 1985, Morris)
The blood-red scarlet material seen throughout the Old Testament in various pictures and illustrations foreshadowed the Messiah’s work of redemption on the Cross. Scarlet was used in the veil that separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies (Exodus 26:31); and when our Lord was crucified (His flesh rent), the veil was torn in two from top to bottom. Jesus became our “merciful and faithful high priest” (Hebrews 2:17). He cried with a loud voice, yielding up His Spirit, and the veil of the temple tore from top to bottom, opening “a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh” (Matthew 27:50-51, Hebrews 10:19-20). The use of animal sacrifices would no longer be used as the means to approach God.
This insect attaches itself to the tree (as Christ did for us). Peter’s favorite saying was Christ was crucified on the tree. Jesus, at His crucifixion, invoking the image of a worm, is not meant to convey his human status, but rather the color of blood. He is describing the red-stained tree of His Crucifixion. The same word is sometimes translated as “scarlet” or “crimson.”
In order to produce the dye for these robes the worm had to be crushed. After the worm was crushed, it was no longer recognizable. Christ was crushed for our sin.
He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities. (Isaiah 53:5)
What a picture this gives of Christ, the King of the Jews, the king all Kings dying on the tree, shedding His precious blood for those who reject God (Isaiah53:3). Adam and Eve ate the fruit of the forbidden tree. Two thousand years ago, a bloody man hung on a tree (a Roman cross). It may not have looked beautiful to men, but it was acceptable to God (Isaiah 53:10).
It is here the scarlet thread of redemption is completed (Hebrews 7:27; 9:12; 10:10).
It was there under the wrath of God that He shed His blood for the sins of mankind. It is that crimson flow of His blood that makes it possible for us to be clothed in the robes of His righteousness.
(source: Let Us Reason)
LTRP Note: Please pray for Roger this week. This week he entered India where he will be speaking to pastors and also deciding if the Bryce Home project will open up in India. Pray for his safety and health and also that the pastors he is speaking to will receive the messages he brings to them. You can listen to his first India report here, which was recorded a few hours before he entered India. It is interesting that just shortly after his long-time friend and co-laborer Caryl Matrisciana passes away, Roger is in the land where she was raised.
“Certain Men Crept In”
By Roger Oakland
(From his latest release, The Good Shepherd Calls: An Urgent Message to the Last-Days Church)
Jude was called by God to send a message to the church. It is clear he was warning the church because the simple Gospel of Jesus Christ was being compromised. Apparently “certain men had crept in” and were the cause of great concern. He began by making an emphatic statement:
Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. (Jude 1:3; emphasis added)
Why earnestly? He explains:
For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. (Jude 1: 4)
The word earnest means “Ardent in the pursuit of an object; eager to obtain; having a longing desire; warmly engaged or incited.”1 We must ask ourselves, are we eager to obtain, and do we have a longing desire to contend for the faith?
Now, imagine if you were a member of a church that had received a letter from Jude. He was the half-brother of Jesus Christ. His message certainly must have carried some weight. His letter opened by stating that although he had intended to write and share about the wonderful salvation accomplished through the finished work of the Cross, his mind was somehow changed. Instead, he felt it imperative to deal with a major problem that had developed.
Apparently “certain men” had “crept in unawares” and had become enemies of the simple Gospel. Rather than being messengers of the Gospel, these impostors had become stealth deceivers who needed to be exposed before more innocent followers of Jesus were led astray. What had happened was the very thing Paul had previously warned the church at Corinth about when he had written to them and stated his concern for them in receiving “another Jesus,” “another spirit,” and “another gospel” (2 Corinthians 11:3-4).
Paul had already warned the church at Corinth about one of Satan’s most effective plans to deceive the brethren. Further, in the Book of Acts, Paul prophetically warned what would occur after his departure from the scene. He wrote:
For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. (Acts 20:29-30)
Paul saw Satan’s plan clearly and warned what was coming. Jude saw it happening in his day. Further, these warnings which are included in the inspired Word of God are timeless and are for the church right now.
What would Paul and Jude write to the church if they were here today? Would their message have changed in any way? Based on current trends that dilute the Gospel of Jesus and make it into a social-humanistic-psychological-what’s-in-it-for-me gospel, definitely not!
Let these same warnings be a wake-up call for us today!
NEW BOOKLET: Substitution—He Took Our Place! by Harry Ironside is our newest Lighthouse Trails Booklet. The Booklet is 10 pages long and sells for $1.95 for single copies. Quantity discounts are as much as 50% off retail. Our Booklets are designed to give away to others or for your own personal use. Below is the content of the booklet. To order copies of Substitution—He Took Our Place!, click here.
By Harry Ironside
Although the word substitution is not in the Bible, it stands for a great truth that runs through the Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation. That is the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ, in infinite grace, took the place of poor, lost, guilty sinners, and made it possible for a holy God to reach out in mercy and save all who would come to Him in the name of His beloved Son.
I do not have one particular text in mind, but I have been thinking of five different passages in the New Testament where we get the same expression—He “gave himself”; and I want you to think with me of these Scriptures. The One who gave Himself was our Lord Jesus Christ, and I should like you to notice what it was for which He gave Himself.
HE GAVE HIMSELF FOR ME
In the Epistle to the Galatians, the apostle Paul writes:
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. (Galatians 2:20; emphasis added)
Note the individuality of it. Paul, who had been a bitter persecutor of the people of God, who had been an enemy of the Cross of Christ, one day had his eyes opened, and he suddenly realized that the One who had died on that Cross went there for him, that He had taken his place, that it was love that led Him to go to that shameful death. From that moment the heart of Saul of Tarsus went out in adoration gratitude to our Lord Jesus Christ; and until the very end of his days, he found his greatest joy in trying to give some evidence, by a life of service, of his love for the One who had thus loved him.
THE WORD IS NOT IN THE BIBLE—BUT THE DOCTRINE IS
Notice how Paul speaks of Him: “The Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” There you have the very heart of the Gospel—“Himself for me.” That is substitution. Some people tell us, because we do not find the actual word “substitution” in the Bible, that the truth of it, the fact of it, is not there. And so they talk of atonement by other means than by substitution—atonement by example or atonement by reconciling love, that leads men to turn to God adoringly, simply because of the goodness that He showed in seeking them out in the person of His Son. But no, the Word of God makes it very definite. The work that took place on Calvary was a substitutionary transaction. It was the Lord Jesus Christ, God’s own blessed, eternal Son, who became man for our redemption, giving Himself on our behalf.
“The Son of God who loved me, and gave himself for me.” That is the language of faith. When a poor, needy sinner looks at that Cross and sees, as it were, the blessed Savior hanging there, he says, “He was there for me; it was my sins that put Him there; it was in order that I might be fitted for the presence of God that He went into the darkness and endured the judgment of God. He is my Substitute. The Son of God loved me, and gave Himself for me.”
HE GAVE HIMSELF FOR US
But it is not only for me, it is also for us. In the Epistle to the Ephesians, we read:
And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour. (Ephesians 5:2; emphasis added)
I am so thankful that in my thinking I do not have to limit the gift of God’s grace in the person of His Son to just some little group, as though it were just for a small elect company that Jesus died. “He gave Himself for us.” I can look out over the whole wide world, whether men are saved or unsaved, and say to them on the authority of the Word of God that “He gave himself for us”—for everyone of us. Whether you be Jew or Gentile, whether you be very religious or have no time for religion, I would say to you, “ The Son of God gave himself for us.” He saw us in our lost condition, and He went to Calvary’s Cross in order to redeem us. That is how the prophet Isaiah puts it. He looked on down through the centuries, and by faith he saw the very scene of Calvary, and he cried out, “[H]e 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” (Isaiah 53:5).
THE GOSPEL FOUND IN THE OLD TESTAMENT: ALSO, “YOU KNOW THE GOSPEL, DON’T YOU?”
I remember a number of years ago, I went over to a town in Minnesota to hold some meetings. My wife and our eldest son, just a little child at the time, went with me. When we got there, a big, burly highland Scotsman met us. He said, “Now you come along with me; I am going to take you to my house. We are going to sleep you there, and then across the way at the McKenzies, they will eat you.” Of course, I new he didn’t mean anything cannibalistic, and I was glad to accept the provision made. We went to his house and settled ourselves and then went over to the McKenzies for our meal.
I remember one Sunday we left to go down to the meeting in the afternoon, and it happened that there was one daughter in the family who had not yet received the Lord Jesus Christ as her Savior. The mother said, “Will you pray for Jean? She knows the way, but somehow she doesn’t seem to want to come. She says she is young yet, and she wants to have her fling before she settles down.” Well, we did pray for her, and some way or other as I preached that afternoon in the big tent, I couldn’t help seeing Jean way in the back, eagerly listening to the message. When it was over, I thought she might be one who would move to the front when the invitation was given, but instead of that, I saw her get up and hurry away, and I felt a little bit disappointed. When I finished speaking, I felt a little bit disappointed again.
When I finished talking with those who had come forward, I went on home, and when I got there, I found, as I opened the front door, my wife was sitting with an open Bible and Jean beside her. My wife turned to me and said, “Come and join us. I am trying to show Jean that Christ died in our place, but someway or other she can’t seem to grasp it.” So I sat down with them and said something like this: “Jean, you know the Gospel, don’t you?”
“Yes,” she said, “I think I do.”
“What is the Gospel?”
“Well, it is that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.”
My wife said, “I have been showing her Isaiah 53.”
The Bible was open at that chapter so I said, “Look, you have it right here, ‘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.’ Don’t you see, Jean? Christ died for you, He took your place, He bore God’s judgment against your sins.”
“I see what is written there,” she replied, “but somehow I can’t get hold of it for myself. It doesn’t seem to mean anything to me.”
So we got down on our knees and prayed that the Spirit of God Himself might make the great truth of the substitutionary work of the Cross real to her; and then I said to her, “Jean, while we are here on our knees, I want you to read the words for yourself, and we will pray that the Holy Spirit will open them up to you.”
And so she read them: “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.” Then she said, “Yes, I see it, but I don’t seem to be able to make it my own.”
CAN YOU SEE YOURSELF IN THE GOSPEL?
“Perhaps it would be different now if you will just read it again and change the pronoun, putting it into the first person singular. Read it like this: ‘He was wounded for my transgressions’; because you see, Jean, it really means that. He was wounded for the transgressions of all of us, yours and mine. Read it that way.”
She started to read, “He was wounded for my transgressions.” She stopped as the tears began to flow. She wiped them away and read on, “He was bruised for my iniquities,” and again she stopped; and then she read, “The chastisement of my peace was upon Him,” and then she fairly shouted, “Oh, I see it! With His stripes, I am healed.” And in a moment, the light had shone into her darkened heart. She saw that the Lord Jesus was her substitute; He had taken her place. We gave thanks, and then she said she must go and tell her mother. She didn’t know that all the while her mother had been standing outside the window and had heard the whole thing. Out the front door she went and down the garden path and around to the side, and she ran right into that mother’s arms, “Oh Mother, Mother, I’m saved; by His stripes I am healed.” What joy that brought to the mother’s heart, and what a happy time of rejoicing we all had then!
You see, that is substitution. That is the very pith and marrow of the Gospel. He gave Himself for our sins.
HE GAVE HIMSELF FOR THE CHURCH
Next we do have a special group mentioned for whom He gave Himself. In the last part of the fifth chapter of Ephesians, we read:
Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it. (Ephesians 5:25; emphasis added)
When we get home to Glory, when we who have been redeemed to God by His precious blood are presented faultless in the presence of our heavenly Bridegroom, we shall look up into His face, and we shall be able to say, “The Son of God loved the Church, and gave Himself for it.”
You remember the story that is told of one of the generals of Cyrus the Great, king of Persia, and the one who overthrew, in God’s providence, the mighty Babylonian Empire. One of his generals came home from a campaign and was shocked to find that in his absence his own wife had been arrested and was languishing in prison, charged with treachery against her country, and the trial was to be held that very day. The general hastened to the court of Cyrus, and the guards brought in his own beloved wife. She, poor woman, pale and anxious, tried to answer the charges brought against her, but all to no avail. Her husband, standing near, heard the stern voice of the Persian ruler pronounce the death sentence. In a moment, as they were about to drag her away to behead her, he ran forward and threw himself down at the feet of the Emperor. “Oh sire,” he cried, “not she, but me. Let me give my life for hers. Put me to death, but spare my wife.” And as Cyrus looked down upon him, he was so touched by his deep devotion and his love for his wife that his heart was softened. He remembered, too, how faithful this servant had been, and he gave command that the wife should go free. She was fully pardoned. As her husband led her out of the room, he said to her, “Did you notice the kind look in the eyes of the Emperor as he pronounced the word of pardon?”
She said, “I did not see the face of the Emperor. The only face I could see was that of the man who was willing to die for me.”
Oh, when we get home, when we see the face of the Man who did die for us, how our hearts will praise Him! How we will rejoice in His presence as we say, “The Son of God loved me, and gave Himself for me.”
HE GAVE HIMSELF FOR OUR SINS
We need to realize that He died not only to deliver us from the judgment due to our sins, but He died for us in order that we might be delivered from the power and pollution of sins right here and now in this life. In Galatians 1:4, we have these words:
Our Lord Jesus Christ, Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father. (emphasis added)
He gave Himself for our sins, not simply that we might have our past sins forgiven, nor that we might stand justified before Him as to the future, but in order that the power of sin might be broken in our lives, that we might no longer be subject to Satan’s authority, that we might be free men and women, living here to the glory of the Lord Jesus.
This is one of those truths I do want to press upon you who have but recently been brought to a saving knowledge of Christ. Dear young Christian, do not be satisfied to know that you are saved from Hell, blessed as that is, but oh, go on day by day to a fuller walk with God, that you may be saved from sin, and that your whole life may be lived to His glory.
HE GAVE HIMSELF FOR ALL
Somebody might raise the question, “Well, it is perfectly true that it says He gave Himself for us, and He gave Himself for the church, and He gave Himself for our sins; but are you really sure that it applies to everybody? May He not, after all, have had just some particular elect company in view when He thus gave Himself, and if we do not belong to that company, what right have we to come to Him at all and to expect Him to do anything for us?” For the answer, will you look at the first Epistle to Timothy, chapter 2, verses 5 and 6:
For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time. (emphasis added)
Oh, dear friends, do not allow anything to narrow down your conception of the inclusiveness of the work of our Lord Jesus Christ. “[He] gave Himself a ransom for all.” Do not try to read into that what it does not say. Some people say, “Well, of course, you know we must understand the words ‘the elect’ to come in there. He gave Himself a ransom for all the elect.” Oh no, God does not need you and me to help Him out. He knows what to say, and He means what He says. When He writes, “He gave Himself a ransom for all,” He means us to understand the words exactly as they are written.
They used to tell a story about a certain professor of theology at Princeton Seminary in the days when Princeton was pretty rigid as to what they called “a limited atonement.” One day, one of the students looked up and said, “Professor, just what is our stand in this seminary on the atonement?”
The teacher replied, “Well, we stand with Dr. _____; we preach the theology of Dr. _____, and he taught a limited atonement—that Christ died only for the elect.”
Then said the student, “And over at New Haven, Connecticut (At that time New Haven was a very sound seminary), what do they teach there? What is Dr. Taylor’s theology?” The professor said, “Over there they teach that God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
“Oh,” said the student, “well, I’ll accept that because that is what the Bible says. That is not just Dr. Taylor’s theology nor New Haven doctrine; that is the Word of God.”
And so we say to you, whoever you may be, the Lord Jesus gave Himself a ransom for all. On Calvary’s Cross, He put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. In other words, when He presented Himself there as a substitute for guilty humanity, He finished the work that satisfied every righteous demand of the throne of God and met all the claims of His holy nature, so that on the basis of it, any poor sinner in all the world who comes to Christ and puts in his claim will be saved on the basis of the substitutionary work of our Lord Jesus Christ. That is the doctrine of the atonement as we have it in the Bible. There is no other in this blessed Book, and so we put the question to you: have you put in your claim? There are a lot of people who know all about it, but they have never believed and acted upon it.
THE TRAGEDY OF FAILING TO CASH IN GOD’S PROMISES
There is a story of a veteran of the Civil War who was found living in wretched poverty. The city authorities found him in such a deplorable state that they thought all they could do was to take him to the county poor farm. One of them happened to notice something on the wall. It wasn’t exactly a picture; it looked more like a document of some kind. He took it down and looked at it, then he asked, “What is this, my friend?”
The poor old man replied, “That was sent to me by Abraham Lincoln himself, and I kept it because it has his signature on it.” It turned out to be a check. I forget the amount of money, but it was really a pension check signed by the President and sent to this man years ago. Instead of cashing it, the poor man had kept it all the time and had framed it and hung it there on the wall. In the meantime, he got poorer and poorer, until he was a candidate for the county farm. They found that the government at Washington would still honor the check, although it was years old, and so they had enough to take care of the man comfortably until he died.
Oh, do not be content just to have the statement of the substitutionary work of the Lord Jesus, but come to Him for yourself, trust Him as your own Savior. Cash in on it. He gave Himself a ransom for all.
To order copies of Substitution—He Took Our Place!, click here.
By Egerton Ryerson Young
Written in the late 1800s
(author of Stories from Indian Wigwams and Northern Campfires)
I was interrupted one day while sitting in my study by the quiet entrance of a stalwart Indian whom I had not seen for a year. I had met him the previous summer in his own wigwam on the banks of a beautiful lake a couple of hundred miles north. After a few words of kindly greeting I asked about his family, when, to my surprise, he exclaimed, almost passionately, “Missionary, my heart is sad, and I have come to ask you to get me a wife from one of the Christian families of your village.”
Somewhat annoyed, I said: “Do you not know that I do not believe in a man having two wives at the same time? When I visited your wigwam and had religious services among your people last summer I thought you had a very good wife and a pretty babe, and that you were very fond of them.”
“Yes,” he said, passionately; “all true, missionary!” and then his spirit broke, and he wailed out, “Non pimatissit!” which means, “Not among the living.”
This is the pagan Cree Indian way of referring to the death of friends. Having none of the consolation which Christianity gives in reference to death, the very word itself is to them one of such terror that they seldom utter it. When obliged to speak of those that are gone they use the Cree phrase non pimatissit— not among the living. Shocked at this sad news, and pitying the poor fellow, we made him sit down with us to tea, and then after a while we got him to tell us his sad story. He said:
“Missionary, a short time after you left us I started from the place where you had met our people on the Burntwood River to go far away to my own hunting-grounds to catch beaver. I pitched my wigwam on the bank of a fine large lake in which there were plenty of fish, and there I left my wife and babe and my wife’s mother. They had every thing they needed to make them comfortable. There were fish in the lake and rabbits in the woods. With plenty of food in the wigwam I left them light of heart, for I was glad to see them so well. The last thing I saw of them was the baby laughing in the hammock and my wife sitting beside him and busy making the new white fish net for the fall fishing. I went up the lake for some miles until I reached a large stream that flowed down into the lake. As I had seen before this time plenty of signs of beaver up this creek I went up it a few miles and there set my traps. I hunted around for a few days and did very well. Then I packed up my furs and beavermeat, and started on my trip home. My load, which I carried on my back, supported by the carrying-strap from my forehead, was heavy, but my heart was light, for I had been successful as a hunter, and then I was also on my way to see my wife and baby boy. I hurried along on the side of the stream until it entered into the lake, and then I turned to walk along the shore. I had not gone very far before I was surprised to find lying in the water at the edge of the lake the body of a large dead reindeer. I examined him to see if he had been shot, but instead of any bullet marks I found that he had been badly cut about his head with an ax. As he was not fit for food I left him there for the wild beasts to eat and hurried on toward my wigwam. I had not gone very far before I found on the shore one of my canoes badly broken. This very much surprised me, and so I hurried on faster than before, for my heart began to feel strange and heavy; and there was reason for it, missionary, for I had not gone on much farther before I found at the shore in the water the bodies of my wife, babe, and wife’s mother. They were cold and dead, although there were no wounds on their bodies. They had been drowned all drowned.”
The poor fellow had been able to control himself fairly well up to this point while in his simple yet eloquent manner he had told his pathetic story. But here even the Indian’s stoical nature was overcome, and his heart was stirred to its depths by the memory of his great loss. So for a time in a hushed silence my sympathetic wife and I sat with him until he had mastered his emotions and could proceed with his narrative. He said:
“I carried the bodies home to my empty wigwam, and as they lay there so still I could but think of how different when I left them a few days before. I hurried away to the wigwams of some of my people miles away, and they came to see me in my sorrow and helped me to bury my dead.”
In answer to our questions as to his impressions or ideas as to the manner in which his loved ones had met their death he said nobody had seen how it happened, as all the people were in other places, hunting or fishing, but he and his relatives had talked it over, and they had all come to one mind about it. And this was how they thought it happened: The women in the tent must have seen that large reindeer swimming in the lake, and, being anxious to kill him, they had launched the canoe to go after him. As there were sometimes gray wolves or other wild animals prowling about they were afraid to leave the baby behind, and so they took him with them in the canoe. They only took with them their paddles and a couple of axes.
The reindeer has good lungs, and so he can swim high in the water, and sometimes he will make a desperate fight, even in the water, for his life. So it seemed in this case that, while the women succeeded in so striking him in the head with their axes as to mortally wound him, he succeeded in breaking the canoe, perhaps with his hind feet, for they are able to kick very savagely, even when swimming. The result was, the boat sank, and the women becoming entangled with their clothing, and perhaps trying to save the baby, all were drowned together.
We listened to the recital of this sad story, and would not have been human if we had not been moved by it and also by the simple, pathetic way in which he tried to tell us how he felt when he reached his wigwam and found the fire out, the hammock empty, and the wooden needle still dangling in the last mesh of the net which his wife had been weaving ere she had doubtless hurried out to try and show how bravely she and her mother could kill the deer. We kept the poor fellow all night, and in the morning were better prepared to sympathize with him in his desire to obtain a wife than when he had in such a strange way referred to the matter the previous evening at the beginning of our interview.
“Why,” I said to him, “have you come hundreds of miles for a wife? Why did you not go to Nelson River, or to some other place nearer to your home?”
His prompt answer was: “Because I want a Christian wife. I am convinced that what you told me is true. I am trying to believe in your religion and know more about the true God and his Son, and as you can only come once or twice a year to teach us and preach to us I thought a good Christian wife might help me along in the good Christian way.”
Still anxious to draw him out, for I saw that I had here a man of more than usual character and thoughtfulness, I said: “But I cannot forget that although I manage to get down once or twice a year by canoe or dog-train to visit your people, and they have always received me kindly and listened very attentively to what I say, yet it is only a very short time since they began to hear about the true way, and many of them are still pagans; so you see there might be a good deal of fear that if a Christian young woman went to live there they would persuade her to return to the old Indian way.”
“No, no!” he said very earnestly. “We have all lost faith in the old way, and she would be able to help us to be good Christians all the sooner.”
So, after my good, judicious wife and I had listened to the story and talked the matter over, we thought of a family where there were several marriageable daughters dependent on a sickly father, one of whom we thought would make this fine-looking fellow a good wife and help him to be a Christian. Soon after, I escorted the suitor over and introduced him to the family, and had him tell his story and plead his loneliness and make his promise of how good and true he would be. As it did not take Rebekah long to make up her mind, in the ancient primitive times, to consent to be the wife of Isaac, and to start off on a long journey, so it was here. A few days after there was quiet marriage in our little church and a happy wedding-feast. Then the bride and the bridegroom embarked in their birch canoe for their far-distant home. With machine-like precision their paddles rose and fell together as they rapidly propelled their beautiful craft along. We could not help but breathe the prayer that their lives might move along in equal unison. If so, they were assured of many days of sunshine.
I visited them years after. They are consistent Christians, as well as the majority of the Indians in that section of that vast country.
(From Stories from Indian Wigwams and Northern Campfires, pp. 302-306, Lighthouse Trails)
By Harry Ironside
It is important for us to have God’s Word. If you do not remember a thing I say, if you will only get what is written here into heart and mind, it will be well worth while. For after all, as David says: “The entrance of Thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple,” and Paul tells us that we are cleansed by the washing of water by the Word. The Epistle to the Ephesians, as you doubtless well know, carries us up to the very highest peak of Christian privilege. It is the letter that pictures believers as having been raised up together and seated together in Christ in the heavenly places. You could not get any higher, as long as you are here on earth, than Ephesians carries you, but, on the other hand, this letter is just as intensely practical as it is deeply doctrinal.
The first three chapters are largely doctrinal, being mainly occupied with our place, our position, and our privileges in Christ. They contemplate us as members of that new creation of which our risen glorified Lord is the Head. But the last three chapters are perhaps as intensely practical as any portion of the Word of God. Unfortunately, very often in our study of this Epistle, we stop at the end of the third chapter. We delight to read of our privileges in Christ. We glory in the fact that we have been made accepted in the Beloved, that God has linked us up eternally with His Blessed Son, but we are inclined to forget that privileges such as these imply tremendous responsibilities. So if we delight in the first three chapters, we, should be glad to let the last three search us to the very depths of our being. You will notice in this Letter there is a great deal about the Christian’s walk. Seven times we have the word “walk,” and once the word “walked.” Twice the reference is to our walk in our unconverted days, the way we behaved before we were saved, and the other six references have to do with the walk of the new creation, that which should characterize us now as redeemed men and women.
Both appear in the 17th verse: “This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind.” That is the way we used to walk, when we were unsaved. We walked in the vanity of our minds, just chasing after the vain empty things of this world, and we never found any satisfaction. Yet men and women all around us are living like that. Solomon tried it to the full and then gave his verdict: “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity and vexation of spirit,” or, as it might be rendered, “Emptiness of emptinesses, all is emptiness, and a chasing after the wind.” That is what the men of the world are doing. That is what we were once doing, we who are now saved; we walked after the vanity of our minds, until God, in infinite grace, awakened us and gave us a sight of His Beloved Son. What a wonderful event that was! What a marvelous thing, when we were brought to see something of our lost, ruined, undone condition, as poor, guilty sinners going on to judgment, and then God turned our eyes to the blessed Lord Jesus Christ, and trusting in Him, our souls were saved!
“I once was far away from God,
On ruin’s dark and fatal road,
And little dreamed I’d see the day
When I should tread the narrow way.
“But while from God I wandered far,
And with His holy will made war,
My Saviour met me far astray,
And beckoned me to come away.
“He said on Calvary’s Cross He died;
A sacrifice for sin was made.
And all because He loved me so,
Then how could I do else than go?”
So that ended one chapter in my life; that ended the times past, when I walked in the ways of the Gentiles. You know what that means, don’t you? Let me plead with you, whoever you may be, if you are out of Christ today, don’t think to find satisfaction in a world that has never satisfied anybody. It has disappointed everybody whoever sought satisfaction in it, during all these vast millenniums, and you can depend upon it, it is going to disappoint you. But oh, that even today, you might turn to One Who never disappoints, to our blessed Lord Jesus, and find in Him everlasting salvation! Then you may be able to sing:
“I tried the broken cisterns, Lord,
But ah! the waters failed!
E’en as I stooped to drink they’d fled,
And mocked me as I wailed.
“The pleasures lost I sadly mourned,
But never wept for Thee,
Till grace the sightless eyes received,
Thy loveliness to see.
!‘Now none but Christ can satisfy,
None other name for me;
There’s love, and life, and lasting joy,
Lord Jesus, found in Thee.”
The apostle Paul to the Ephesians is addressing people who have found Christ and been found of Him, and yet he has some very serious things to say to them, because the remarkable fact is that salvation does not necessarily imply that one enters immediately upon full holiness of life. Salvation is the start, it is the entrance into a new life, and then we shall know, if we follow on to know the Lord and to walk in His ways. So the command comes: “This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk.” You are not to be like the world: you are not to go on in the way you once did, “in the vanity of their mind, having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, through the ignorance that is in them because of the blindness of their hearts.” We who have trusted Christ have received divine life, and with that there come new cravings and new longings, and, thank God, new possibilities! Our outward ways are expected to be different because of the light that we have received. He is our Lamp, and will lighten our darkness.
A great many people make the mistake of trying to live the life before they receive the life. The hardest thing I know is to try to live the Christian life when you do not have it to live. There must be a Christian life first, before you can exemplify and manifest it. To try to live a Christian life when you have never been born again is just as hopeless as for a chimpanzee to try and live a human life. I have seen some chimpanzees that could copy things people do in a remarkable way. At a Zoo in Philadelphia, they once said to me, “Come along and see a couple of your ancestors!” I went along; there were two trained chimpanzees who had learned to mimic human beings to a remarkable degree. They wore clothes, sat at a table, ate and drank, and in a clumsy way handled a knife and fork. When they got all through, they settled back, and put cigarettes in their mouths, and a keeper lit them, and they looked to me exactly like a lot of our own people do when smoking cigarettes. I never was in such difficulty in assuring myself that there is no truth in Evolution! But although they could do all those things, they did not know anything about real human life. They did not know anything of the principles controlling men and women. They were simply imitators.
Many people imitate Christians, and try to behave like them. They do not know anything of the power of the Christian life. They have never been born again. “Except a man be born again he cannot see the Kingdom of Cod.” Some people are seeking holiness of life when they need to be born again. They have joined the Church, they have observed certain ordinances. They hear people talk of a deeper, more wonderful life, and they say, “That is what I want: I must go on and get into this richer, more blessed life.” They try and try, and never get anywhere, because they have never begun right. They did not get in by the wicket gate. You remember in Bunyan’s immortal Allegory how Christian is going along a road, and a couple of fellows come jumping over the wall. “Who are you, and where do you come from?” he asked.
“We come from the town of Carnal Security,” they say to him. “We are going to the Celestial City.”
“Well, you didn’t get in where I did,” says Christian in surprise, “I got in at the wicket
“Oh, that is the old-fashioned way!” they reply, “we have a short cut over the wall. After we are over the wall, what difference does it make? You are in the way and we are in the way, and we are all headed for the same place. You’ll see we will come out just as well as you.” But they didn’t have the seal on their forehead. They had never been to the Cross; they did not have the robe of righteousness. You remember one fell over the cliff, and the other was lost in the forest. They never made their way to the Celestial City.
A lot of people get over the wall and not in by the wicket gate; never born again, they go striving for holiness, purity, and higher life, but it will be all in vain until they confess their sins in the presence of God, and trust the Saviour for themselves. They must give up all hope of righteousness in themselves, of being able to do anything to retrieve their condition, casting themselves wholly on Divine mercy. Then they are in the way, and can grow in grace.
The apostle talks to people in the way; be careful, don’t allow the spirit of the world to control you. In the world, you find people in ignorance, blindness, past feeling. The word “feeling” (v. 19 – it is a peculiar thing) this is one of the only two places where it is found in the New Testament. A lot of Christians talk so much about feelings that you would think it was to be found in every third chapter. Certain heathen here are “past feeling.”
The other place is in the Epistle to the Hebrews. “We have not an High Priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities.” The word “feel” only occurs once in the New Testament. Paul was talking to the Athenians and said that God is not far from any one of us, “if haply they might feel after Him and find Him,” as “An infant crying in the night, An infant crying for the light, With no language but a cry.”
What are our words? “Trust,” “believe,” “receive.” When we believe God, there follows the happy, joyous emotion; no question about that, as we walk in fellowship with Him. The thing we are to be concerned about is not feeling, but trusting. Someone said: “Believing is the root, and feeling is the fruit.” So when we believe first, the joy comes. These outsiders are “past feeling, and have given themselves over to lasciviousness to work all uncleanness with greediness,” but you who are saved, “ye have not so learned Christ.” You have been linked up with a Risen Christ at God’s right hand, and He is the Holy One, the High Priest holy and undefiled. He says, as it were, Do not dishonor Him by linking any kind of impurity with His Holy Name. “Ye have not so learned Christ. If so be that ye have heard Him, and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus.”
Why does he say “Christ” in the one place and “Jesus” in the other? You see, you and I became acquainted with Him in the glory. “God hath made that same Jesus whom ye have crucified to be Lord and Christ,” and He is there, the Anointed One in the Glory. That is where we became acquainted with Him. We did not know Him down here on earth as Jesus. We never had that privilege. We know Him up there in His glory. He, the glorified One, undertakes to show you and me how we ought to live. He undertakes to show us the truth as to holy living. Do you know that He does? He points us back to the life Jesus lived on earth. There is the truth as to holy living, fully manifested. There is the truth in Jesus. The Risen Christ says: Go back now and see the path I took through this world, if you want to find out how you should walk in the world. I have left you an example, follow in My steps.
What a searching thing this is! I can hear all kinds of stirring sermons, perhaps, and they may deal seriously with sin and all the rest of it, but I can bow the head and let it roll over, and say, “I do hope those folk behind are taking it.” But bring me face to face with Jesus, solely Jesus. Occupy my mind with the life He lived when He walked in this scene, and I begin to shrivel up. I say “Oh, dear, is that what a man should be for God? Is that the divine ideal? Is that what I ought to be as a Christian?” I see the truth in Jesus, and while it does shrivel me up, and while it does humble me, it stirs within my soul an earnest desire to become increasingly like Him. I want to walk as He walked. I want to be before God as He was when He was in this scene. So the risen Christ is teaching us the truth in Jesus.
(An excerpt of Harry Ironside’s book, Changed by Beholding – in public domain)
NEW BOOKLET TRACT: Dear Pastor and Christian Leader: Have You Grown Careless About the Gospel? by David Dombrowski is our newest Lighthouse Trails Booklet Tract. The Booklet Tract is 10 pages long and sells for $1.95 for single copies. Quantity discounts are as much as 50% off retail. Our Booklet Tracts are designed to give away to others or for your own personal use. Below is the content of the booklet. To order copies of Dear Pastor and Christian Leader: Have You Grown Careless About the Gospel?, click here.
Dear Pastor and Christian Leader: Have You Grown Careless About the Gospel?
From the onset of Lighthouse Trails in 2002, we have always endeavored to be connected with the body of believers scattered throughout the world who are very concerned, as we are, with the state of the church today. Many of our readers have told us they feel very alone and even ostracized in witnessing the apostasy in the churches today prior to their finding our website and realizing there were other Christians who saw what they did.
We know firsthand how it feels to be labeled troublemakers for having legitimate concerns about what is happening in the church today. We too have felt disillusioned as we have witnessed a gradual departure in the churches from the Word of God. Pulpits throughout the land, many of which formerly proclaimed the biblical Gospel of God’s saving grace through the sacrifice on the Cross now espouse an assortment of pseudo-gospel, pop-psychology, seeker-friendly, Purpose-Driven, emerging, progressive, New Age, mystical/contemplative spirituality that may be chicken soup for the soul but what God calls an abomination (Deuteronomy 18:10-12). It is no wonder that God, in referring to the lukewarm, warns that He is ready to “spew thee” out of His mouth” (Revelation 3:16). How much better it would have been if churches and their pastors had stuck with John 3:16!
Out of this frog’s slow-cooking kettle, some emerged only to witness that a great many were staying in the pot. Many discerning believers now find they have become watchmen for the Lord, compelled by God to sound out a clear warning of the impending doom of the church. In fact, it appears that God is presently calling out believers from various denominations to stand up and be counted among those who refuse to comply with the compromised experience-driven Christianity of today. Yes, God is calling out His own.
If you love Jesus Christ and His Word and if you really want to serve Him, now is the time to be fully surrendered to the Lord without reservation. Whatever the cost. We are invited to the wedding feast, ready to meet our Savior, with wicks trimmed and lamps burning. Now is the time to make ready.
Nearly on a daily basis now, we witness our very earth in what seems like birth pangs— be it nuclear threat, terrorism, hurricanes, earthquakes, or tornadoes—or violence, wars and rumors of war—while most people seem almost oblivious to what is happening (or may see something is amiss but do not turn to Scripture and Bible prophecy to understand the meaning). Again, God is sounding out a warning to make ready.
Even now, while the reality of the Antichrist and a one-world global religion is looming closer and closer all the time, preachers and teachers are sitting at their desks inking out sermons that discredit Bible prophecy.
LIVING INSIDE A BUBBLE
If you are a pastor, or a church leader, remember that you have a great responsibility. When we first began Lighthouse Trails Publishing, we contacted our pastor at that time, trying to encourage him to warn his congregation of the apostasy that was beginning to creep into the church back then. His reply was that he lives inside a bubble and consequently sees no need to warn his congregation about anything as long as he keeps expounding the Word to them. Our reply to him was “you may be in a bubble, but your congregation is not.” The question is this: if it is not the pastor’s job to warn his congregation of impending spiritual danger, whose job is it? In the Old Testament, the prophets referred to individuals with this kind of responsibility as watchmen or shepherds. The prophet Zechariah, for example, has much to say about the responsibilities of a shepherd in chapters 10 and 11. In referring to the spiritual condition of his day, he said:
For the idols have spoken vanity, and the diviners have seen a lie, and have told false dreams; they comfort in vain: therefore they went their way as a flock, they were troubled, because there was no shepherd. (Zechariah 10:2)
Nothing could speak more succinctly of the condition of the church today. We never dreamed in all our years as Christians that there would ever be such blatant heresy as we see in the organized Christian church today. Years ago, we would never have imagined that anyone would be given the green light to stand in front of a congregation and deny the atonement of Jesus Christ. Yet this is exactly what is happening in the emerging/progressive/contemplative “church” as well as in some of our Bible colleges and seminaries. Many have fallen from a great height, and we should be mourning as God surely must be mourning.
If you are a pastor who feels it is not your calling to warn your congregation, let us remind you that the closest New Testament equivalent to the Old Testament watchmen or shepherds is the position of a pastor. There is a time for speaking uplifting encouraging words of peace and comfort—but when ravenous wolves are about, is it not wiser to “reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Timothy 4:2)?
WHAT IS THE TEST?
Sometimes we are asked, what is the criteria for deciding whether or not a doctrine or practice is biblical or validates criticism? Over the years, a number of pastors, elders, and youth pastors have contacted us and told us we have no business in doing what we are doing. We have often thought after hearing this that what we would like to say in reply is, “If you pastors were doing it, people like us wouldn’t have to.” It has not been a pleasant task, but the church needs to be warned of the impending danger. If you have read our books, then you understand what we are talking about.
But getting back to the question, what is the test for deciding if a particular teaching or practice validates criticism? There is but one test that we have used consistently from the inception of Lighthouse Trails. The Book of Proverbs says: “A false balance is abomination to the Lord: but a just weight is his delight (Proverbs 11:1).
And again from Proverbs: “Divers weights are an abomination unto the Lord; and a false balance is not good (Proverbs 20:23).
It is interesting that Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, placed such emphasis on accurate scales. It is even more amazing that God would call false scales an abomination—amazing only until we realize that God is speaking of the spiritual—not just physical scales here.
So what we are looking for is a spiritual balancing scale—something that will reappear throughout the Bible—through the Old and New Testaments. There is such a scale, a consistent theme, which John refers to in his first epistle:
Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world. (1 John 4:1-3)
Some Bible commentators have believed that John was referring here to a particular sect who denied that Jesus Christ actually came in a human body. If that is all John meant, then this passage is of little relevance to us today, because you will scarcely find anyone who does not believe that Jesus as a historical figure was a man who walked the earth. But the name Jesus Christ in this passage is not a historical term; it is a name loaded with meaning —referring to Jesus as the Messiah, God come in the flesh, our Savior and Redeemer, who atoned for our sins. If we look at the context of 1 John 4, we can verify that this is what John is talking about because in it he says, “And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world” (1 John 4:14). In other words, John is saying here, I am referring to the Jesus I wrote about in my gospel— the Word made flesh who in the beginning was with God and was God (see John chapter 1).
This is the balancing scale we have been looking for. Just as all human history and our blessed hope hinges on what Jesus did on the Cross, so too we can weigh a doctrine or practice by whether or not it agrees with the fact that we are justified by faith alone through the atoning, redemptive work of Christ on the Cross. The question then is, does a particular doctrine or teaching agree with the Gospel the apostles all preached?
With this discerning tool in hand, if you stop to measure all of the world’s religions and systems, you will find that all of these are opposed to the Gospel. The natural man will not acknowledge the need for a Savior, consequently all of the world’s belief systems (except biblical Christianity) are works based—believing it is possible to earn our way into Heaven or to become “Christ-like” through mysticism and “spiritual disciplines.” But the Gospel says it is not possible. John knew all too well the contrariness of the natural man and the world’s belief systems. That is why in the same chapter of his epistle, he offers another test:
[H]e that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error. (1 John 4:6)
In other words, John is saying that when the world rejects you for sharing the Gospel, it is because the Spirit of truth is not in them.
Whichever way you look at it, the Gospel is the fulcrum of our balance in discerning truth from error. When Lighthouse Trails Publishing began, this became, and has always been, our standard of truth and also the deciding factor as to whether something is significant enough to bring to the attention of our readers. We are careful not to get involved in issues in the church where the Gospel is not attacked or compromised; but when it is, we are compelled to speak up—because as believers in Christ, we are called to defend the Gospel; and is that not the calling of pastors and Christian leaders especially?
The Gospel is the most precious thing on God’s heart, and it is worthy of our defense and protection. Wouldn’t you, as a Christian leader, like to be remembered as a man (or woman) after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13: 14)? If so, then defend the Gospel.
A CREEPING EFFECT
The church of today is very much astir. Everywhere we turn, embellishments are being added to Christianity as if to improve it. The old ways do not seem to satisfy anymore. A great influx of new teachings and practices have exchanged the God of old as depicted in the pages of the Bible with a deity much more palatable to the post-modern mind.
Brennan Manning illustrates this when he states in one of his books “the god who exacts the last drop of blood from His Son, so that His just anger, evoked by sin, may be appeased is not the God revealed by and in Jesus Christ. And if he is not the God of Jesus, he does not exist.”1 This “progressive” contemplative/emerging church has gone so far as to place in pulpits men who blaspheme God and who deny the atonement. But let us step back for a moment to see how emerging thought has developed. Such a statement did not come out of the blue, but as Ray Yungen suggests, a “creeping” effect made it all possible.2
Over the years, Christian leaders and pastors have stopped defending the faith and have exchanged the Word of God for things that outwardly appear very spiritual and promise a “quantum leap” into a “new spirituality.” Though we have always witnessed those who deny Christ’s substitutionary death on the Cross, most of this kind of thought and teaching has been kept out of the evangelical/Protestant church. But as the walls of biblical truth were gradually torn down, it is no longer unusual to hear this kind of teaching in Christian colleges and seminaries. Much of what we see today began with men who pioneered the way to apostasy, then as a domino effect these ideas caught on and accelerated to the unbiblical thoughts and teachings we are witnessing in so many Christian circles today.
You may be saying to yourself right now—”I’ve never heard a pastor or Christian leader deny the atonement.” Let’s remember that Satan is the father of deception, and it is his goal to make deception look very much like the real thing. For example, a term often used in describing Jesus in many Christian circles today is “servant leader.” Sounds innocent enough, right? But when Jesus is referred to as the perfect “servant leader,” what this means is that Jesus was the perfect role model or example of someone who knew how to lay down his life for others. This is true, of course—He continually laid down His life for others; however, the emerging progressive church takes it a step further by saying that it is wrong to say that Jesus’ death on the Cross was actually a substitute for sin—yes, he was an example of being a servant as seen in his going to the Cross, but that is all. That is what Brennan Manning was referring to when he said that God would not require blood from His son to pay for the sins of others.
What is interesting about Manning’s quote on the previous page, taken from his 2003 book, Above All, is that it is nearly a word for word rendering of several lines from New Age sympathizer and mystic William Shannon’s 1995 book Silence on Fire.3 This book is the biography of Thomas Merton who possibly had more to do than anyone else in giving mysticism (namely contemplative prayer) that initial push whereby it has now avalanched into the mainline evangelical/Protestant churches. But it all began as a creeping or rippling effect with the initial momentum almost imperceptibly slow.
Over the last couple of decades, countless pastors and religious leaders across North America have pulled out for their evening reading books written by mystics like Henri Nouwen, hoping to glean something to carry them to the next level of spirituality. Unfortunately, that quantum leap ends in the web of apostasy. As you may know, Henri Nouwen (also a great admirer of Thomas Merton) wrote in a provocative intellectual style that has intrigued many pastors, but what happened when these pastors stumbled upon these words?:
Today I personally believe that while Jesus came to open the door to God’s house, all human beings can walk through that door, whether they know about Jesus or not. Today I see it as my call to help every person claim his or her own way to God.4
Nouwen said these words toward the end of his life after spending years involved with mysticism. And yet, pastors, leaders, and professors are enamored with Nouwen. And on goes that seemingly subtle creeping in of deception slowly but surely.
IT’S NOT TOO LATE
Pastors of North America, it’s not too late, but the North American church is on borrowed time. We have become weak and spoiled, and it is time to change course, return to a no-compromise faith, the kind many of us had when we first became Christians. To straddle the fence, as has been the case for way too long, has cost the church dearly and could mean a steady erosion of biblical faith and a fall into the mire of full-blown apostasy.
While the mystics and emergents attempt to strip Jesus of who He is and what He came for, we should never forget that in Him we have a priceless treasure. Isaiah said of Him, “his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). Most importantly, Jesus came to redeem us from our sins:
In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace. (Ephesians 1:7)
When Jesus spoke of the kingdom of heaven, he used a number of illustrations, one of which should have special significance in our churches today:
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field. (Matthew 13:44)
While the emerging, purpose-driven, seeker-friendly, contemplative “progressives” of today are casting accurate biblical doctrine on the dung heap more than ever, we should be holding on to it as something truly sacred, for it is biblical doctrine that defines our faith and gives to us living water. Hebrews 4:12 tells us:
For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
No wonder the devil wants to undermine and get rid of the Word of God; and he is attempting to do it through many who call themselves Christians.
Contending for the faith may cost us everything we have, but it is worth it, a jewel far above any price. This life will soon be over, but eternity will last a very long time. Shouldn’t we be putting our treasures in heaven no matter what it may cost us now?
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it. (Matthew 13:45-46)
CARELESS ABOUT THE GOSPEL?
You may recall that in the Old Testament the Israelites took great pains in transporting the Ark of the Covenant. According to the instructions given by God to Moses (Exodus 25:13-15), the Ark was to be carried by staves (poles) on the shoulders of the children of the Levites (1 Chronicles 15:15). However, in 1 Chronicles 13:7-10, contrary to Moses’ specific instructions, they put the Ark on a cart to be pulled by oxen. But the unexpected happened. When “Uzza put forth his hand to hold the ark; for the oxen stumbled . . . the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzza, and he smote him” (1 Chronicles 13:9-10). The Levites, who were the “pastors” of that day, were careless about following Moses’ instructions; and it ended up costing a life. The Ark of the Covenant was a type and foreshadowing of the Gospel. It was sprinkled with blood to symbolize Christ’s death on the Cross. Today, similar to back then, so many pastors and Christian leaders have become careless about the Gospel. If you are one who has grown careless with the Gospel, isn’t it time to make some changes and return to following the instructions of the Lord?
To order copies of Dear Pastor and Christian Leader: Have You Grown Careless About the Gospel?, click here.
1. Brennan Manning, Above All, pp. 58-59 as quoted from Roger Oakland in Faith Undone, p. 195. (2003)
2. Ray Yungen, A Time of Departing (Eureka, MT: Lighthouse Trails Publishing, 2nd ed. 2006), p. 94.
3. William Shannon, Silence on Fire (New York, NY: The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1995 edition), pp. 109-110.
4. Henri Nouwen, Sabbatical Journey (New York, NY: The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1998 Hardcover edition), p. 51.
To order copies of Dear Pastor and Christian Leader: Have You Grown Careless About the Gospel?, click here.
Other Booklets by David Dombrowski
Setting Aside the Power of the Gospel for a Powerless Substitute
The Peace of God versus the P.E.A.C.E. of Man
Preparing for Perilous Times and Finding God’s Peace in the Midst of Them
My Journey Out of Catholicism
For a complete list of the Lighthouse Trails booklets, books, and DVDs, visit our website at www.lighthousetrails.com. For articles, research material, and news stories, visit www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com. You may also write or e-mail to request a catalog (see contact information at front of this booklet.)