Posts Tagged ‘great words of the gospel’

Ironside: What Does it Mean to Be Justified Before God?

Open Law Book With A Judges GavelBy Harry A. Ironside

Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: and by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses. (Acts 13:38-39)

Justification! It is a big word, and very often people miss its true meaning. What is it to be justified? It is to be cleared of all blame, to be freed from every charge. It is the sentence of the court in favor of the prisoner. The prisoner stands there, charged with certain things; the evidence is all heart, and the jury brings in a verdict of “Not guilty.” The man is justified.

Notice a most remarkable thing in these two verses. We have two things here, which God does for the believing sinner that no man could do for anyone else. You could not both forgive a man and justify him at the same time. If you forgive him, he cannot be justified. He must be guilty, and therefore there is something to forgive. On the other hand, if you justify him, then you do not need to forgive him. Suppose, for instance, one had been charged with a certain crime, and after everything had been heard, the jury says, “Not guilty,” and the judge pronounces him free. As that man comes out of the courtroom, a friend says to him, “It was kind of the judge to forgive you, wasn’t it?”

The man replies, “He did not forgive me; I did not require his forgiveness. I was justified; I was proven not guilty and did not need to be forgiven.”

OUR RIGHTEOUS GOD IS INCAPABLE OF ERROR
Of course, human judges may sometimes make a mistake. You have heard the story of the man who was arrested, charged with stealing a gold watch and chain. After all the evidence of the complaining witness had been heard, the judge looked down at the prison and announced, “The sentence of this court is acquittal.”

The man leaned forward and said, “What was that you said, judge?”

“I said, the sentence of the court is acquittal.”

The man looked puzzled and said to the judge, “Judge, I just don’t understand what that means.”

“Well,” the judge explained, “I mean you are acquitted.”

“Well, judge, does that mean I gotta give the watch back?”

You see, the man was guilty, and the judge himself had been deceived.

But God will never be deceived. Nobody can ever put anything over on Him. He knows every sin that you and I have ever been guilty of — sins in thought, sins in word, and sins in deed; and then in addition to all of these, sins of omission. Failure to do the things that we know we ought to do is just as truly sin as to commit overt acts of evil. And God knows all about it, and “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” “There is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not.”

But God undertakes both to forgive the sin and to justify the sinner; to clear him of every charge, when he puts his trust in His blessed Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. You could not do that for anyone, but God can and He does it because the Lord Jesus Christ in infinite grace condescended to take our place, to bear the judgment that our sins deserved, so that when we come to God confessing our sins, over against all that sin and over against all that wickedness stands the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ. And on the basis of that, God says, “I forgive this man, and accept him before My presence as though he had never sinned at all. I count him as righteous, and justify him fully and completely.” That is the meaning of justification.

JUSTIFICATION OFFERS A NEW STANDING
You who have just recently come to trust the Savior, I wonder if you have entered into that. I wonder if you realize that the moment you trusted the Savior, that instant God gave you a new standing before Him. You stand before Him now as if you had never sinned at all. You say, “Well, I can’t forget my sins. They come up before me when I lie down at night; they come before me when I kneel to pray; and they are before me even in the daytime. There are so many things that I wish had never happened, and I sometimes wonder, since they come crowding in upon my mind as they do, whether they are really forgiven.”

Let me assure you, if you have really trusted Christ, they are not only forgiven, but forgotten. God says, “Your sins and iniquities will I remember no more,” and if God has forgotten them, then you and I may well say, “I too will seek to forget, and say with Paul, ‘Forgetting those things which are behind, . . . I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus’.”

God Himself is the author of our justification. We read in the Epistle to the Romans, chapter 8, and really in one sense I am beginning at the wrong end; I am beginning where God leaves off here in the Epistle to the Romans, but I am beginning where I think you and I as sinners need to begin. In Romans 8, we read that it is God Himself who justifies. Take verse 33:

Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth.

We are justified by God, the source of it. It is He who has taken up this question, who has gone into it fully and completely, and He says, “Now I am satisfied to acknowledge as righteous the man who trusts My blessed Son.”

A TRULY WICKED AND VILE SINNER
Some years ago a friend of mine was preaching in a certain place, and somebody came to him one day and said, “Could you come and see a woman who is very sick? We are afraid she is dying. She is troubled about her soul and doesn’t seem to understand the way.” Of course he gladly went, as any of us would under such circumstances. As he entered the room and sat down beside the bed, the woman said, “Tell me what is necessary in order that my soul may be saved and my sins forgiven.” He told her the old, old story, the story of the Cross. He told her how God commendeth His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. He told her how, hanging on that cross in those awful hours of darkness, our blessed Lord Jesus as the substitute for sinners, drank the cup of wrath that we deserved, and made full satisfaction for iniquity; and now God can justify everyone that believes in Him, whom He raised from the dead.

When he finished, she said, “Oh yes, I know, I understand all that, but I don’t see how I can know that my sins are forgiven.” So again, very patiently, he went over the same story, but tried to present it in a little different light. He told her that the Lord Jesus was the one great sacrifice for sin, that He offered Himself for our sins; that He was made sin for us, He who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. And when he finished, she said, “Yes, I understand that, but is that all that is required?”

The evangelist sprang from his seat. He was a very fiery man by nature, and sometimes the fire came out even after he became a Christian. He said in a tone that shook the room, “You wicked woman!”

And she, lying there so sick, was almost terrified, and said to him, “Oh, sir, why do you talk to me like that?”

“You wicked woman, you vile woman! You ask me what is necessary in order that you may be saved. I tell you how God has bankrupted Heaven to save your guilty soul. I tell you how He has sent His own blessed Son to give His life for you. I tell you how He was forsaken of God upon that Tree, and you have the insolence to look up into the very face of God and say, ‘Is that all?’ What more would you want? It is all that God Himself could do.”

She burst into tears and exclaimed, “Oh, sir, I understand. I did not realize what I was saying. Oh, I thank God for what He has done. It is enough! If it is enough for God, it surely is enough for me!”

EVEN THE WICKED MAY BE JUSTIFIED
Oh, that is it! The Lord Jesus Christ gave Himself.” He loved me, and gave Himself for me.”

God sent Him. God saw you and me in our deep, deep need, and He sent Him to die for us, and now it is God that justifies the ungodly. God justifies the godly, the good, the pure, the true, and the noble! No, God justifies poor, lost, guilty sinners when they “believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification” (Romans 4:24-25). It is our faith in the Word of God and the work of Christ that is counted for righteousness. Read Romans 4:5, “But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” The basis of it all is given in Romans 5:9, where we read, beginning with verse 8: “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.”

We who believe are now justified. It is not that we may, as some people put it, have a good hope of salvation, that we may hope that we shall be justified at last, that we may hope that in the day of judgment everything will be all right; but we are now justified—every believer in Christ.

Oh, so many of our hymns were written by people who hadn’t full assurance of salvation, and they express so often the desire that they may be cleansed and justified. How many real believers sing, “Wash me and I shall be whiter than snow!” And yet everyone who has truly trusted the Lord Jesus Christ is already washed, made white by the blood of the Lord Jesus, justified by God.

WHAT IS THE BASIS FOR JUSTIFICATION?
His blood! It is because of what He did. It is because of the blood He shed — the shedding of His precious blood; it is the giving up of His life. It is His life for ours; His holy, spotless life over against our sinful, wicked lives. The Son of God loved me, and gave Himself for me.

Somebody might say, “Well, I just do not understand what you mean. You talk about being justified by blood. In what sense could one be justified or cleansed by blood?” Let me give you an illustration. Out in the state of Washington, at the time of the first World War, four or five convicts in some way or another got over the wall of the penitentiary and escaped. After several weeks they were all captured, except one who was never located, at least not until the circumstances which I am going to mention.

He was able to get away, and eventually under an assumed name he joined the army. After a period of training, he was sent across to France. One day, however, some other soldiers were added to the number, and one of them looked at this man and said, “I remember him. I knew him back in the state of Washington years ago. That’s so-and-so. He is not going by his right name. I remember when he was condemned to the penitentiary for burglary.”

He went to the officer in charge and told him what he knew about the man. The officer in turn wrote to the War department and asked, “What am I to do with this man? He is an escaped convict.” Washington sent word back to arrest him and return him to America as a prisoner. But in the meantime something had happened which made that impossible.

THE VALUE OF A MAN’S BLOOD
One night a number of men were wanted for a very, very dangerous duty, and the Captain said, “I am not going to ask any man to do the thing that I am going to tell you about, but I hope that some of you will volunteer. I want some men to crawl out in the dark across No Man’s Land and find out what the foe is planning to do. It is a very dangerous undertaking—you may not get back—so I am not going to appoint anyone, but will ask for volunteers.”

Four men stepped right out, and among them was this convict. Under cover of darkness, they crawled out over No Man’s Land. There were shells falling all around them, but three of them got through safely. The fourth man, the convict, apparently had got clear through to the enemy and secured the information and was coming back, when a shell fell and burst so near him that he was killed. They brought his mangled body in and when the officer received the word from Washington to return that man a prisoner to this country, the officer wrote back, “He has washed out his crimes in his own blood.” He had given himself, he had given his life, and the giving of his life had washed out his crime against the government, though of course this did not touch the question of his sin against God.

JUSTIFICATION IS FREELY GIVEN
The Lord Jesus Christ was absolutely without offense. He was the holy Son of God, but He looked upon us poor sinners in our deep need and He took our place in judgment. He went to the Cross and He bore what our sins deserved. He poured out His life in the shedding of His precious blood, and when we receive Him, we can say that He has washed out our sins in His precious blood. He had no sins of His own for which to die. He was there for our sins.

Oh, why was He there as the Bearer of sin,
If on Jesus thy guilt was not laid?
Oh, why from His side flowed the sin-cleansing blood,
If His dying thy debt has not paid?

He took your place. Have you trusted Him? Do you believe God’s sure promise? If you have, you are justified by His blood.

“Well,” you say, “on what principle does God thus justify? The Epistle to the Romans, chapter 3 and verse 24, tells us:

Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.

God justifies men by grace, not because of merit. You and I had no merit. Everything was against us. Demerit was ours, and no merit did we have to plead. But now God says in grace, “I am ready to take up that man and save him, if he will but receive and confess My Son as his Lord.” It is so hard for people to understand this. Men always seem to get the idea that they must do something in order to merit God’s favor. It would not be grace if it were merited. Grace is unmerited favor, and it is favor to those who have merited the very opposite. That is grace.

GRACE TO THE UNDESERVING
Suppose, just to use a very hackneyed illustration, that my sons were still school boys and there is a rowdy, a regular bully in the neighborhood, and he falls upon one or the other of them and knocks him down and steals his books and his lunch basket, and then when I go out to talk to him, this bully turns on me and strikes me and stones my house, breaking my best plate-glass window. I have every reason to be thoroughly provoked with him. I would have a perfect right, you know, to go to the police and have him arrested and charged with assault and battery, and one thing or another. But suppose instead of that I wait, and on some cold winter day, I happen to see that young rowdy, and, as I am watching, I see him fall in the snow, and I run out after him. I learn that he has had no one to care for him. He is an orphan, and has no father or mother to look after him, and I find he staggered and fell because of lack of food, he was so weak. When he sees me coming, he staggers to his feet and tries to run away. But he cannot get away because I have hold of his arm. He looks up at me and pleads, “I’ll never do it again, if you will let me go.”

But I say, “You won’t get away.” I bring him into my own home, warm him up, feed him, and give him a suit of clothes belonging to one of my sons. I take care of him and show him every kindness. He can’t understand it, but his heart is won. This is grace. He merited the very opposite, did he not?

Grace is favor shown to the undeserving. If people deserved it, it would not be favor; and so you cannot deserve God’s salvation. Often when I say to somebody, “I hope you are on your way to Heaven,” I receive the reply, “Well, I am doing my best to get there.” It is not a question of doing your best. It is a question of receiving the grace of God as manifested in Christ Jesus.

HOW GOOD DOES A MAN HAVE TO BE TO GET TO HEAVEN?
I was very much struck by an incident, which I heard our friend Dr. Chafer relate. He was riding in a train going down from Kansas City to Dallas, and they were getting near to Fort Worth when he realized that he had not spoken a word to the porter about his soul. He always tries to be conscientious about speaking to those who serve him and wait upon him in restaurants, hotels, and trains. So he went to look for the porter and found him just finishing up the last of the shoes he had to shine. He sat down there beside him and said, “May I ask you a question?”

“Yes sir,” replied the porter, “what’s your question?”

So Dr. Chafer asked him, “How good does a man have to be to get to Heaven?”

“Well, I can’t tell you just how good a man has to be, but I know he has to be mighty good,” he replied.

“Well, do you ever expect to get to Heaven?”

“I don’t know. I’ve just about given up tryin’. I’ve tried and tried for a long time but it don’t seem to do no good, and I’m afraid I’ll never make it.”

Then Dr. Chafer asked the porter, “Where do you check in? at Kansas City or Forth Worth?”

“I have to check in at the Pullman office at Fort Worth half hour after the train pulls in.”

“Oh, I see,” said Dr. Chafer. “This train is due at Fort Worth at eight o’clock, and you should check in by eight -thirty. Well, we’re late now; we’ll never make it to Fort Worth by eight o’clock. Aren’t you afraid that you are going to be pretty late this morning? Don’t you think that you’d better get off at the next stop and start running for Fort Worth?”

The porter looked at him and said, “Why sir, what you talkin’ about? You trying t’ make a fool out of me? I never could make Fort Worth running for it as quick as I can make it by staying right on this train. I just trust the man who runs the train to get me there.”

And Dr. Chafer said, “My dear fellow, that is exactly how I am going to Heaven. ‘It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy.’ and I am trusting the One who runs the Gospel train, the Lord Jesus Christ, and He is going to get me there. I never could get there through any goodness of my own.”

The porter looked at him in amazement and said, “Tell me a little more about this. I never heard anything like this before.” Dr. Chafer explained the way of salvation to him, and then left a little booklet and a Gospel with him.

About six months later Dr. Chafer was again riding from Kansas City to Dallas, and again the thought came to him that he must speak to the porter. When he found him, he asked him the same question: “How good does a man have to be to get to Heaven?”

The porter looked at him and grinned, “You’re not going to catch me twice on that. You’re the man that asked me that question about six months ago. Well, I looked up all those Scriptures you showed to me and I’ll tell you, sir, I just found there wasn’t anything I could ever do to get to Heaven, no matter how good I tried to be, so I am trusting Him who love me and died for me, and I’m telling others about Him, and I know my soul is saved.” Well, that’s it—”Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”

BUT HOW DO YOU MAKE IT YOUR OWN?
In what way is salvation applied to you individually? We read in Romans 5:1, “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Justified by faith!

Faith is believing God and asking no questions. It is taking God at His word. God says, “I am satisfied with the work which My Son has done. Because of that work, I raised Him from the dead and now offer to justify any poor sinner who comes to Me in My Son’s name and trusts in Him.” If you have come, you have a right to say: “Being justified by faith, I have peace with God [everything settled between me and God] through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Have you said it? If not, say it now. “The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach” (Romans 10:8).

The resurrection of Christ, you know, is the declaration, the seal of it all. In the previous verses, at the end of the fourth chapter of Romans, we read, beginning with verse 22: “And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness.” That is, when Abraham believed God, it [his faith] was imputed to him for righteousness. And then we read:

Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; but for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification. (Romans 4:23-25)

That is justification by His resurrection. Why? Because His resurrection tells of God’s satisfaction in the work that His Son has done. When He hung upon that Cross He was bearing our sins, He was taking our place, dying there in the sinner’s stead. Now, if He had never come out of that tomb, it would show that redemption was never accomplished. If that tomb remained sealed and the body of Jesus remained in it, then it would show that it was all a farce, and I would not dare to trust Him as my Savior at all. But see, it is the third day, and His resurrection is the divine declaration that all who believe on Him and rely on Him are justified from all things.

ISN’T THERE ANOTHER SIDE OF ALL THIS?
But I know that some of you have been saying in your hearts, or thinking subconsciously at least, “Yes, but there is another side to it. Doesn’t the Bible say somewhere that faith without works is dead?” Yes, it does, for we read, “Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.”

“Well,” someone asks, “does not that contradict what you have been telling us?”

Not at all. You need to see exactly what it is that various writers of the Epistles are dwelling on. The apostle Paul, and practically all of our references have been from his writings, is telling how poor sinners may be justified before God. But now we turn over to the Epistle of James to find out how we who have professed to believe in Christ may be justified before men.

Suppose I say to my companions in the world, “I have just come to Christ, and I am justified from all things.” They have a right to look at me, at my life, to see for themselves whether there is any change in my life. You see, in order to be justified before them, in order to be justified before men, I have to manifest by my good works the fact that I have received a new and a divine nature. Let me read it to you.

What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? (James 2:14)

That is, what kind of faith? a faith that has no works? Where there is real faith in Christ one’s work will be different. His life will never again be what it used to be. Everything will be changed.

If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. (James 2:15-17)

REAL FAITH IS MANIFESTED BY YOUR WORKS

Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. (Jam. 2:18)

I cannot show my faith without works, but I can show my faith by my works. If I put my faith in Christ and have trusted Him as my Savior, I have been justified before God, justified freely, justified for nothing, justified without cost, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.

Now as I live for the One who has justified me, as I devote my redeemed life to the glory of the One who has saved me, my confession is justified before men. Men who get to know me will say, “That man is real; that man is genuine; he lives what he professes.” Do they say that of you? Does your life testify to the reality of the faith that you profess? If you have trusted Christ, you are complete in Him, you are justified freely by His grace. Now by a life devoted to His interests you are to prove to those around you the reality of that faith of which you speak.

(This article is taken from Dr. Ironside’s book Great Words of the Gospel, chapter 4 – in the public domain.)

RESURRECTION

By Harry A. Ironside
(Preacher and author of Great Words of the Gospel)

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 that 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 marketplace, 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 worshiped 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.” Every sermon that he ever preached was an Easter sermon; every sermon that the early apostles preached was an Easter sermon, for wherever they 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 Savior. 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. emptytombObserve 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.”

*Harry A. Ironside’s writings are in the public domain and can be used freely.


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