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THE ULTIMATE CHRISTMAS PRESENT
From Shame to His Name
From Power to Dower
From Death to Life Eternal
From Ageing Time to Living Eternity with God
Photo Matthew Donaldson
As man muddles in the mud of misconception, borne on the downdraft of deterioration and the slide of subtle synthesis of sin and truth, ignoring evidence and esteeming fiction as fact with grave countenance and skipping heels in sin in other mode and mood, creating his own illusory creation by a creativity of thought which brings more credit to Him who made innovation possible than to those who make it derelict by desire, there is that which remains. It is the word of this same living God, its Gospel for man, alas so far now from being man-kind, more and more inveterately seeming man-cruel. It provides a clear and simple way, like E=MC2 in its mathematical simplicity, but greater in depth than what led to the discernment of that. There is what comes from the intractable truth and intransigent reality of God, from the utterance of His word, the delight of His heart, the purity of His thought and the love of His life.
Einstein's famed mathematical formula provides a facet appearing to feature in the nature of matter; this however, is the word of the God who in making matter, did not pause but proceeded to make man in His own image. Here in the word of His mind, declared to man (Amos 4:13) is a feature found in the focus of spirit, for which matter is mere subservience and a basis for action (cf. Repent or Perish Ch. 7). Here is balm for the bucolic, truth for the betrayed and deliverance to the damned.
It is therefore time that we turned to these affairs of the spirit, in the Bible, to find the simple marvel of the beauty of holiness, and the profundity behind this simplicity, lest bemused with the commotion of mere error, we do not sharply enough focus the findings of that grace which the Bible, demonstrably the word of God as attested in earlier chapters of this book, depicts with such depth and simplicity alike.
Impelling us now is the requirement of evidencing and attesting the way that works, the truth that tells, like the tolling of bells across the vale on a Sunday morning, clear amid mist, calling to the One who speaks to the one who blathers, or who bathes in mud, who is blighted or plighted to impurity, as if to make filthy is to make clean. Now we come to Him whose word has the beauty of Autumn foliage and the power of grace alike.
It is not abstruse, so that one may not read it clearly; it is not simplistic, like the nonrmal pollutions of philosophy, but facing all thing squarely, evinces and attests the complete answer to man AS man, and for him whose programs can be so piggish, whose mind so pig-headed and whose trotters so befouled in his pen.
We turn then to Romans 1:16-17, and consider and ramify on its realities, the more so in view of what follows in Romans 1:18-32, perhaps the greatest indictment of the human race ever found from the lips of an apostle, but one parallel to what in the mercy of God is revealed, as a doctor may reveal a cancer, not in order to condemn the life, but to rescue it from what is destroying it.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "The just shall live by faith."
I FREEDOM FROM SHAME
A) Shame’s Norm
The point of shame is the name of God. You can be shown imperfect love by man, or hatred; but from God is love with that discipline which brings reality home. Part of this is the truth, which always hurts at first, since man is a sinner. Thus it is shameful to abuse the available equipment that one has, bodily, mental or spiritual, by misuse of any of these features, and not least, by assigning life directing force to partial things, with inordinate desire, or consigning life to tedium, without hope. It is even worse, to congratulate oneself in pride on one’s attainments, moral or otherwise as you see in Luke 18:9ff., in the case of the self-righteous Pharisee.
In one sense ALL are self-righteous who judge themselves on their own standards, rather than those of God. HIS standards are perfection (Romans 10:5), whether in law or ultra-legal expectation, for He IS perfection and without it, one chafes with Him … Otherwise one needs to be PARDONED, and thus have peace! (Romans3:22-24).
It is then, when this is done, through the divinely appointed means of the Cross of Christ, that peace is perfect (Philippians 4:1-6, Isaiah 26:1-4): for though the waters rage, yet the boat is sure and its Controller is peace!
This divine action by the Lord, when not received in faith, puts to an OPEN shame the sin which man descends into, whether voluntarily or not, for it is then not merely endemic, but desired. It moreover shows the sin in its dire nature, before bringing on the salvation through His atonement by His own blood, which is able to cover it. It shows no less the beautiful nature of life redeemed, when sin cannot grin, and grace in glorious solemnity, achieves its gift.
Thus there is NO SHAME for this Gospel. It is the new focus and Christ the new centre. NOTHING is wrong with HIM, so that I AM NOT ASHAMED OF THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST! In Him, sin is covered and shame is exposed, so that all things brought to the light, one can walk in the light.
B) Enormities – those of Shame and Of His Salvation
Shame however is not mere lack of perfection. Just imagine a child brought up for years and yet never even seriously enquiring who were these parents who paid for his food, provided shelter and schooling and concern. This is the case for everyone who, faced with the open Bible and the Gospel in it, does not check it out to find the source of life and the responsibilities and rules attached.
This is an enormity, and even where the Bible is not known (increasingly hard to find as missionary work proceeds with more means over more centuries, now intensifying greatly in outreach), there is still the startling irrationality of every other religion than that of the Bible and of Jesus Christ. For Him, there are simply no competitors in evidence, performance and purity. Imaginary salvation will never pass muster. The power of God to salvation must be found, like water, where it is!
Romans 2 makes it clear that some who have NOT heard the Gospel do better than some who reject it, because in them there is the unwritten but impelling law of original creation, so that there is some kind of seeking in these, as shame and hope contend, and ideals are sought. Yet even the best of these must meet the standards of God, in order to live with Him, and these are perfection. This alone prevents chafing and confusion, except there be pardon; and where in the end, that is granted and received, then there is a resurrection into that loveliness which does not fade, where neither curse nor sorrow remain, amid the spirits of just men made perfect (Hebrews 12:23).
Even those who have sought for goodness and God must ultimately be faced with the loss of self-service (whether the moral or some other self), and the necessity to be crucified with Christ, so that the lust of the will is replaced by the Lord of life and His composure of life (Galatians 5:24). It is gold found that makes rich, not gold hoped for. One must, in all truth, go where it is, and not try to bend it to one's own will! In this, the Gospel is an ultimate, final, finished, the will of God.
Indeed, Paul makes it clear that in predestination, logically preceded by foreknowledge, not of our ‘good’ but of ourselves and the Gospel impact, God has already chosen His own (Ephesians 1:4), and that though He would have ALL reconciled to Himself (Colossians 1:19ff.), and this with great passion, yet He forces none as Christ shows so clearly (John 6:65). While He yearns for all (Matthew 23:37ff.) and even laments their loss, truth does not move and none enters in deceit, or is excluded by unfortunate omission!
Many of the most self-contained varieties of mankind are too self-absorbed, even if it be with their self-appointed showers of morals, to find the escape root from shame to God, or to value it, and this is the great enormity. They judge themselves by themselves, and not being God, err profoundly!
Matching shame in grace, there is on the other side, the enormity of love which is not satisfied with divine words such as are strewn like flowers on the path of time since about 1500 B.C. till now, then gathered up into one vast floral panorama in the Bible, composed in beauty and filled with fragrance. This love of God does more: it even acts; and not content with acting, it acts to cover sin, and even then, not replete with a mere cover in the abstract, it builds that cover in the Person of His everlasting Word (John 1:1, Micah 5:3), the incarnate Jesus Christ whom many celebrate for His coming, at Christmas (an option - Romans 14:5), and all Christians worship (Revelation 5:11, John 20:28). This cover makes one discover the love of God, for He became sin for us, He who knew no sin, that we might receive the very righteousness of God as a gift, and a valiant one! (Romans 5:17, 8:1-11).
Thus the enormity of sin and that of grace are parallel, and it is only at their intersection in the incarnate Christ and in the central Cross of pardoning power, that the one overrules and brings blessing to the sinner who thus becomes a child of God (I John 3:1-3), soon to share the resurrection of Christ in his or her own!
C) Its Burden
Great therefore is the burden of shame, but for the Gospel and in it, there is no shame. It is not that man becomes shameless or sinless, but with sin no more having dominion over him (John 8:30-31, Romans 6:8-14), and pardon having its wings spread over him, he has peace in the one who bore the shame and killed its content on the Cross (II Corinthians 5:17-21). The shame is no more his own; it is Christ's, who being immune to shame in Himself, as sinless, and discerning of all things, as God, removes it from interplay in His own death, and imbues His own people with His Spirit in His own resurrected life (Romans 8), so that in His name the beauty of holiness, untrammelled with carnal control, might manifest itself (II Corinthians 3:17-18).
Thus the plant is given a systemic aid towards immunity to sin's molestations which, though they strain to control, are severed as they seek. Sin shall NOT have dominion over the people of the Lord (Romans 6), though the disciplines may be severe and the excavations deep! (Hebrews 12).
It may seek as a Hitler to invade, but despite its bombings, it is repelled; and if it find a place, this becomes a site for victory (I John 1:7ff., 5:1ff), in the name of Him whose is the imprint.
It is this imprint to which Paul is referring in Romans 2, in terms of the thoughts of the more moral among men, as outside revelation, they seek for goodness. Many do; they are idealists, Marcus Aurelius' kind of tribe. It is a feature which is inscribed within (Romans 2:14-15), without the Gospel, but it is never liberated to share the power and place of God while the salvation of Christ has not restored the broken shafts and rubbled structures of truth in life.
As to this imprint which has desire, which seeks and probes for good: It is defiled, but it insists. It is harrowed, but it remains. There is that yearning which makes man vulnerable to every kind of malice from the molester, the devil, the adversary, and yet superior to the endeavours of that dark fountain of evil, and dissatisfied with his vices, advices and viciousness. It may be misdirected into the follies of programs of cultural conception, as empty in heart as in head; and in this, there may be millions slaughtered as efforts are made to secure control of the race by the adversative dynamics of devastation. This now all but rules this world.
The imprint may be distorted past recognition or squashed as if in a black hole; but it is there. In many, there is the upward search direct.
Such people do not by their desires, whether misdirected or merely nullified by lack of opening and entrance to God, because they know no Gospel and find no way, become superior and ready for acceptance by God. Such stirrings from the very nature of the imprint of the image of God in their creation are desirable; but men often desire without deliverance, being misdirected. Nevertheless, if in the day of the exposure of the fruits of the Gospel, some such are to be found, having been predestinated by the God who foreknowing all, misses none, it will not be because of their yearnings, however sublime in feeling, that they are to be found, but because in the sight of the all-wise God, the Gospel of grace has been seen to belong to them, and they are realised as those who receive where, past all sin and all dysfunction, before God they are seen as His own who foreknew them (Romans 8:30ff.).
This is neither by travesty of grace, as if God did NOT desire all to receive Him (contrary to Colossians 1:19ff.), and merely took what He wanted, nor by exaltation of human will (contrary to Romans 9:16, John 1:12), as if some discerned the better in their mere selves, and so were saved. Where sin does not make derelict, in the sight of the God who knows beyond pathology, there is no superiority or inferiority, but truth. Will being the cited ground of exclusion (John 3:19), despite the desire for inclusion by God, becomes thus relevant to God but not operative in this, by man, who is here aspirant but not effectual; for it is God who effects.
God knows, He foreknows; yet in the meantime, to our point at issue, it is this imprint of the image of God which makes man restless and yearning as he walks on the polluted earth amidst its cultural follies and petty programs; and the burden of sin which failure requires, or of unexpressed defeat, which mere aspiration can communicate in its deepest recesses, remains until Christ through the sacrifice of His own life in His own body, makes the spirit of man free once more. Nor is this enough for individual release as an historical act; it needs ultimately translation into reception, just as does a blank cheque which, though if entered will work well, is a piece of paper until registered, and no more. The DEED is done but the DELIVERANCE requires application of that deed. The deed is adequate, Calvary and resurrection in tandem, but its result is both individual and personal, applied by the living God without fault or failure to His people.
Ah but when those who have sought find, then is their rejoicing in heaven more than for myriads, for love has found its release in releasing what was bound, blinded but desiring, seeking but without light except from the embers of the image of God, still burning in the heart. Now is the imprint alive, and now is the grace endowed; for when the power of God in the Gospel of grace sublime works in a man, then imprint becomes imprimatur, and hope fact, regeneration restorative and election complete.
As to this imprint of God, it is like the depiction of beavers found in Lars Wilsson's 'My Beaver Colony'. It was found that when domestic arrangements were made for young beavers, in his own home, or in similar circumstances, that there was an IMPRINT. One beaver whom he especially loved became convinced, he felt sure, that he was the family portrait, the parent picture, the KIND emblem. It had, it seemed, more urge for fellowship with him than with its own kind. He had taken the place of parents and this was the orientation stamp which controlled its thoughts in certain regards of affection, affiliation and fellowship function.
Just so is it with God, but more also. Thus our imprint is not merely one of earliest nearness, it is one of creation. With the availability of ontological resources, the structure and function of being, of the soul, of the life, of the spirit of man, there comes a yearning, an aspiration which, squash and squelch it, carnally manipulate or manoeuvre it as you may, despise or regret it though you might, comes like wood to the surface of the ocean, to float despite the waves, and to arise from the sudden depths to which salient currents may temporarily assign it.
It is this which leads to what Paul describes in Romans 2, where Gentiles without the law may be yearning and burning and even in measure turning towards what is good and hopeful and eternal, though they do not have the map to direct their thoughts to the door into that divine reality where the basis and the outcome for such things might be found.
It is in the day when God "will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my Gospel," as Paul declares, that all will be revealed and complete, the entire work in the Gospel of grace by the God who foreknows, who gains children of grace without the restraints of flesh, and beyond the mind of man, but not beyond the truth. Love is not selfish, but it is selective, and this selection is not on merit but despite demerit, not for reward of attainment but to enable its fulfilment, not to dictate but to grant and its exclusion as before God, past the mind and blight of man, is where before God the ultimate infernal preference for darkness dissipates in the light and the Lord finds His own.
It is not knowledge but receipt which matters; though without knowledge, no door can be found, though its outline may variously be discerned as may specks on the oceanic horizon.
Indeed, the inveterate seekers, though for the time without knowledge where the Gospel has not yet come, are the more vigorous a ground of condemnation to those, as Paul declares in Romans 2, who regarding themselves as teachers of babes, repositories of knowledge, yet do not take to heart the divine counsel, but merely conform in formalism, and have hearts unchanged. Though they are near in mouth, Christ declared, far are they in heart. It is the heart which matters (Matthew 15:8-14).
These diversifications being clear, however, we return to the fact that the Gospel, when received, brings the shame of sin to the name of the Saviour with expiatory perfection, and grace abounds for His people who, through His grace and place, find acceptance in the beloved. It is that same Beloved who built the vineyard (Isaiah 5) for Israel, and provides peace in pardon for the world, as many as receive Him, born not of flesh or culture or blood, or of the will, but of God. Alas for the burden of this world, many are those who want to be born of their wills, as if the imprint of godliness in their very creation enabled them to act despite the paralytic impact of sin in this field, but it is not so. ONLY GOD can deliver, or effectually call man, as you see so dramatically with Paul (Acts 9, Romans 9:16). Yet this is not to abort the relevance of will, merely to decline from its operational power; for it is as unable here as is a broken gear.
Very present, it is also very useless for this purpose until it is healed. It is God who both knows His own people to save them, and desires all people to reconcile them to Himself; but it is also God who loves, and love does not marshall by force or ignore the heart, but knows it - when it is the love of God. Rejoice therefore if you come to Him, and to not repine if you have not done so, but receive Him; for it is He who liberates, and trust Him, for He never fails who made, and who recreates by the power of the Gospel.
D) Its Target
Shame therefore has its target, for law has its place in our brilliantly constructed bodies, minds and spirits; but the new target is Christ (Isaiah 53:6), who became one by first entering this world (John 3:16) in and for a love which enshrines mercy and provides peace; and for Him, shame has no place, except vicariously, as He bears it for those others who find rest in His redemption, by His own blood. In death, He blotted out such shame; in life, as resurrected, alive for evermore (Revelation 1:18), He keeps His people (John 10:27-28) and keeps them clean (I John 1:7ff.).
E) It Misses its New Target
Thus shame cannot contact the New Target, Jesus Christ. He has tapped its force and swallowed it up. To Christians who have received the report and thus are ‘healed’, we find in Isaiah 53, He is the new Target for sin, since on HIM was laid the iniquity of us all. When then shame seeks a new place amidst a pardoned people, it seeks out the Christ who covers it, and cannot find a nook, since in His sinless perfection there is no cranny, crevice or speck to pick.
Ashamed of the Gospel of Christ ? Never. It alone brings life to fallen man, whose forsaken follies make even of the Christmas season a commercial picking rather than a reminder of salvation, as many seek the fruits of Christ without the function as Saviour and Lord. Hence the world wallows, but we who believe are not ashamed of their forsaken path to peace, as they war to virtual extinction, and wallow in folly. We prize the Gospel which is the power of God to salvation, though this world makes of it a butt for spurning.
II EXPOSURE TO THE POWER OF GOD
In the Gospel in particular, there is exposure of the very power of GOD! His power is very great and who can limit it! With God NOTHING shall be impossible (Luke 1:51). His resolution becomes reality.
This power of God is the basis for the energy stored even in matter, fragments of which may be used to make atomic bombs devastating on the release of just a small part of it, as no less for the vitality of life and the beauty of flower and cloud, lake and stream, and for the gift of eternal life, an even more exacting task which required the very blood of God incarnate (John 8:58, 6:50ff., Acts 20:28). His power, like His grace, is beyond measure, for God is without limit, as is His understanding (Psalm 147:5) and love (Ephesians 3:14-21). For Him and from Him, yes and to Him are all things, even the day of judgment as the way of salvation (Acts 17:31, Romans 11:36) is found or rejected (John 15:21-23, 3:36).
In the Gospel, you meet this very power of God, neat and direct. It is like visiting some huge atomic reactor powering scores of cities, and marvelling at the concentration of dynamic; but here, there is a limitless provision, and there is nothing, no nothing at all, too much for the power of God.
III ARRIVAL OF SALVATION
GIFT WITH GRACE TO ALL WHO BELIEVE and RECEIVE HIM
Here, apt for man, is that power directed to the attainment of salvation for man; for it has already laid down the foundation for it from God (I Corinthians 3:11), irrevocable and eternal (cf. Galatians 1:6-9); and it is the visit to THESE precious premises that can bring eternal life, and on entry, a place permanent within them (cf. I Peter 1:3-8). It is this Christ as Saviour, by this Gospel, who is by His Spirit, a source of exceeding joy and full of glory.
It is He by this grace who is the gift that the tidings of Christmas bring when they are UNWRAPPED! The power of God moving to salvation is this marvel, and as you see in II Timothy 1:8-9, this is what is predestined to every Christian, for he or she does not come by chance or the will of the flesh, as John is careful to note (John 1:12), but by the power of God and the foreknowledge and predestination of God.
This, let us be careful, is not a gift that breaches man’s image of God in his individuality, but it IS a gift which man in his sin CANNOT receive, except God Himself act to perform the work. God who knows all, KNOWS who are His and takes them (II Timothy 2:19).
If then you are one who has received His salvation, then it is the very power of God which keeps you to a salvation that does not fade away or become corrupted, but is reserved in heaven itself for you (I Peter 1:4-5); and it is by the POWER of God you are kept to this, says the Lord. Never allow sin to bring doubt to your mind, for this result is as sure as Christ is; but make sure that your faith is ENTIRELY in Christ, and NOT AT ALL in yourself, for man’s part in securing salvation is reduced to zero (Ephesians 2:1-8).
THAT is why it is sure, for who could contain so precious a thing and what power but that of God is adequate! Rest in that power and rejoice therefore, for the Gospel is the power of God to salvation. Moreover, act in that power, for it can banish the lordship of sin just as the cool wind removes the scorching heat of the day. Act whether Jew, whose nation slew the Saviour, or Gentile whose nations slay Him in mind increasingly. Neither culture nor race, philosophy nor imagination will save you: it is the Gospel which in kindness is sent to humankind. It is the power of God unto salvation for every one who believes. It is not a suggestion, thought or culture: it is more real than electricity, more impactive than lightning, and when you have it, you know it for you know Him whose it is (John 17:1-3).
This certainty of salvation is found in II Timothy 1:8-10 as in Romans 8:29ff.: once you are in that circuit at ANY point, you place at EVERY point is brought to light. If you are ever justified, assuredly (as in Romans 8:17,30) you will be called and glorified. It is like the tip of an ice-berg. If this tip ever shows, then the depth beneath is assured, and the formation conditions likewise, or it would not be there, tip or base! So in Timothy, the Gospel is statedly by the power of God.
How gloriously does the Bible have what one has called resonance of parts, so that where one sound is emitted on a theme, other ones are to be found with a similar, parallel, supportive and coherent impact, the sign of one mind working in its intimacy of correlation, the persistence of perspective and the delightful way in which each part supports (as in Paul's image of the human body in Ephesians 4:15-16), relates to and co-operates, each formed into one total functionality, with the other.
This is the very essence of design, the intimacy, the correlation, the
co-operation, the co-ordination, the integrality of the result and the similar
coding or comprehensibility of all, each indicator and index not only to the
other, but to the outcome, all allied as instruments of purpose, both in the
design and in the resolutions of what, in the human case, is the person who
It works in and as one, as a farmer with his cows or an agriculturalist his fields amid hills and streams, under the moistening skies and the brightening sunshine. He seeks to put by intelligence all this together, using what is created creatively; but in salvation as in the human body, it is already put together in the same formulae of interaction and integrality, composition and purpose; and in the Bible, the same mind is seen in the same sort of way in words unifying themes, co-ordinating ideas and indicating impacts in the most personal of ways, to man, person that he is.
With the body by observation, and with the Bible by reading with mind what mind conveys, there is a parallel of design. With the Bible, this feature is also a beautiful means, a merciful one and a gloriously apt and subtle didactic one, for immediate instruction, for here it may be utilised as an instructor, set for millions of readers, as the body was set for millions of persons. In one way, this feature of the Bible reminds of the old-fashioned concept of the beauty of the athlete, not as a person - he or she may be more or less attractive in personality - but as an instrument of purpose, a streamlining of power, an action kit of aptitude, and often, an expression of grace of motion and courage of heart.
Thus in II Timothy 1, when we compare it with Romans 8:29ff., we find more of this case of all things working together for those who love God, those called according to His purpose, who being foreknown, are predestinated, called and glorified. Here in Timothy, we find a complementarity of concept to that in Romans. Where predestination followed from foreknowledge on the part of deity Himself as set forth in Romans, in Timothy we find that the Christian is ALREADY saved (1:8), and this itself in terms surpassing antiquity of action by God. Indeed, these ones, those NOW saved, have received the necessary grace in terms of the divine purpose, a thing wrought before TIME BEGAN. This we learn, in intimate parallel with the message of Romans 8.
This salvation is not therefore subject to the vicissitudes of time at all. In fact, sys Paul in this same verse 8 of II Timothy 1, the grant of salvation from such divine arenas of action prior to our time altogether, has with it a HOLY CALLING. That in turn has its own characteristics. What are these ?
It is NOT according to works. You CANNOT break this, though you were assailed by an army (cf. Psalm 27), so that fear is excluded in any devastating sense. The sure result is as in Psalm 17, that we I awake, I shall be satisfied with Thy likeness.
Though the mountains be moved into the midst of the sea (Psalm 19), the outcome is not in any doubt. It does not depend, says Paul here, on your works. If you flunk a test, you remain Christ's student. This salvation and holy calling not merely is negatived regarding works as a condition, basis and rule of life for acceptance in status but it is affirmed as to its actual nature.
It IS NOT according to works. That is alien, foreign, antagonistic, outré. It IS according to His own purpose. This is explicitly annexed to grace and grace to it, so that all that being done before time began, it endures after time raises its bar and enters into the history of the thing. It is written before it is indicted into history. It is written as a holy calling. That is written by the medium of grace. It is excluded from any kind of intimation of works. THIS is how salvation works, is accorded, is to be found. Something else is anything else; it is not this!
The entirety of this salvation is in turn attested by the appearance of Jesus Christ into history (II Timothy 1:10), Him who is our Saviour; and just as He abolishes doubt by showing the depth of the ice-berg below the tip, the ultra-temporal decisions which brought about this salvation for anyone, so He has abolished death. Indeed, He has not stopped there; for He has brought immortality to light. This is the principle with power; the salvation is both with application. The result is embraced by this action of divine power.
It is just as in Ephesians 2: we are having been saved persons, literally we find, by grace through faith, and that, the whole thing (the grammar requires this), it is the gift of God. So here in II Timothy 1, the whole thing, the work attested as to its nature, its inclusions and its exclusions, it is based on a work as categorical in kind as in the result in character. Death is past. It is available, but its day is done; the work is completed for its dismantling for soul by soul, those of the saved persons. Not only so, the positive side is amplified: Immortality it is, incapacity to die, and this is brought into the light. This word echoes, it resonates, each statement with the other, as indeed both with John 5:24 and 6:50-54. Resurrection by and then of Christ is the basis; predestination is the result; salvation is the gift. Immortality, that desire of the hear that would fire its rockets to the beyond, to find the mind that matches its desire, this is no more a thing of hope; it is a thing of gift by grace.
No more is it the province of this or that philosopher; it is brought into the bright illumination of clear day. This is the tip in principle. Here is death. He raised the dead, healed the sick, showed the divine power to HANDLE life and IMPEL divine conditions on human mortality. Healings were matters of moments or minutes, not hours or days, and appear normally instantaneous. On the other hand, as with Lazarus, as if a Houdini immersed in liquid to make the escape the more impressive, Christ could delay a healing on purpose, and did so, just before His long planned and often noted vicarious death as a sacrifice soon to come. This showed the power of God, the dimensions of deliverance, and the power to overcome the dissolutions that time is allowed to impose.
What was that PURPOSE, in the delay of Lazarus however ? It was so that the glory of God could be shown (John 11). In what way would and could it be shown ? How most clearly would Jesus Christ, by delaying a divine intervention that would remove the impact of mortality, show the power of God, so that men and women might believe the Gospel and so show themselves among the saved ones (as in Ephesians 2:8, the 'having been saved ones')! It was in this way.
If Lazarus, a dear friend of Christ's as we see on His reception by the dead man's sisters when He arrived too late to stop the impending death from eating him up, if he could with such confidence be left to die and suffer the normal impact of mortality for days, a matter obviously increasing, by many powers of times, the difficulty of resurrection, then this attests the EXTENT of the power God is prepared, was prepared and will be prepared in principle to utilise. Here is an example of time's incapacity to stop Him; for He made it.
A divine power adequate for restoring the dead more generally, this is the indication. That comes into the territory of the hope for those already dead over the years, that of the divine direction of history with a meaning which includes resurrection; and thus of judgment, and acquittal for those who are His and covered by His blood, the long-term means of deliverance by pardon, and saved by His word who lives to apply it!
This makes of Lazarus a preliminary exercise in the whole arena of the faith, of mankind and deity, of the eternal hope and the eternal grant. When therefore Christ wept, it showed that He was not a mere geometrician rather than an architect, or a means rather than a participant. The purpose had its emotions. Thus in predestination's realms it was the same Christ (Hebrews 13:8) with the same heart and the same purposes as the One who incarnate, appeared on earth. There is no mystery about it, for God was manifest in the flesh, so that the one who had seen Christ had seen the Father (John 14). This seeing, this realisation of who He is and believing in Him (John 6:40) leads on to salvation; for the Father Himself does the revelation (Matthew 16), and it is the 'trees' planted by the Father which are not 'rooted up' (Matthew 15:13). This is an action of God.
The love of God is not limited (Ephesians 3, Colossians 1:19ff., I Timothy 2); but it does not push and impinge as if a dictator, and disparagement can at last leave the victim of delusion subject to the fires of truth which nothing can diminish (Hebrews 10). Where it has its effect and finds it target, however, where foreknowledge is operative on the part of Him who wept for Jerusalem, lamenting that it did not realise the day of its visitation (Luke 19:41ff.), when this marvellous grace is accorded, then only one result arrives. It is then as with Lazarus, this time exhibited in visible flesh before the eyes of man, and that even to resurrection, that marvellous events construed before time, come into line in their due time.
Thus for the Christian, who believes in the sacrificially slain Christ and His investment with power to raise the dead and to be raised in His trinitarian splendour, cheating liars and frauds of their prey by His own resurrection, just as He deprived death of its prey in Lazarus days later, there is a certain result.
The holy calling issued for the Christian before time began, comes into view; and its issuance is this, that the ones so called are already saved, their reference point being before history: and just as to the grace given was found then, and the holy calling was then deployed, so it is now effected. It has nothing whatever to do with works as a basis or means of the provision, but rather these result from its flow. Such is the apostolic word in II Timothy 1.
Trees do not plant themselves by means of fruit; fruit shows itself because of planting. God Himself does the planting as in Matthew 15:13, 16:17, John 6:65. It is not a chance phenomenon, dependent on systems at work which have who knows what impact on a human life. It is a divine disposition, wrought outside such constraints, and able to resist their uttermost impact!
NOT our works (which thus being IN THIS REGARD IRRELEVANT, do not discount the result of salvation just as they do not account for its arrival), but HIS HOLY CALLING is the investment of God in each Christian. It is this which ensures the indiviaul's arrival at destination in glory; and salvation is to be understood only in these terms.
When this is translated into practical exhortation for the Christian, what follows ?
Trust Him, and put NO trust in your own works any more than you would trust in a flea for skin comfort (Galatians 5); and so your liberty in love will replace your fear of death in self-effort and self-affirmation (Hebrews 2, Matthew 16:24-27). It is not self-esteem which is needed, but self-crucifixion in Christ (Galatians 5:24, 2:20); and not self-trust but trust in the Lord which is rational, real and transforming WHEN you KNOW Him, whom to know is eternal life (John 17:1-3). It is not an episode, but forever. The power is not limited, but unlimited; and the trust is not in what is fallible, but infallible (Zephaniah 3:5, Hebrews 7:25, 6:19). It is in Him who has spoken, has come, has shown the way, has consigned it, has promised.
He has even CHARACTERISED the nature, the means, the ultra-chronological grandeur of this salvation, and shown to the Christian what John rejoices to relate in I John 3: "Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God. Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him... We shall be like Him." This is a purifying conception moreover, as John declares; for in realising our spiritual setting and destiny, we must make hasten to express it in life, not in trepidation which paralyses, but in trust which realises, and working with the power of God, finds its contentment in Him. If we "rejoice with trembling" (Psalm 2, cf. Hebrews 12), it is in the delight of anticipation and the awe of His power and glory, with love desiring not to grieve Him in anything, but rather to please in all things (Colossians 1:9-10). Perfect love casts out craven fear; but it does not annul relish of His majesty and awesome impact from His glorious wonder.
But let us return to our text in Romans 1:17.
"For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, 'The just shall live by faith.' "
This is the solemn reality. The writers of the word of God through faith received the transmission of His words (as in I Corinthians 2:9ff.). The readers receive, where they are saved, these words by faith. The one set of persons, those who wrote, gain these words by faith, and the other set, those receiving, take them by faith. So they come from faith to faith.
Indeed, it is operative in the realm of faith, that is of reliance on the explicit gift of the living God; for it is more certain than the entire earth, which in fact is decaying (Isaiah 51:6) as the Second Law of Thermodynamics shows (Hawking even applies this to black holes!), and Isaiah had long noted. The grace of God does not however decay. The platform for performance and faith, it goes. The One in whom, advisedly, faith is set, He remains (Zechariah 9:7). Similarly, the peace which comes to those who by faith receive the Saviour as HE IS, and not another (II Corinthians 11), this does not go; no, nor does the joy (John 16:22), though sorrow may test for a time (I Peter 1:5-6).
Thus the just, those justified by faith (Romans 5:1), live by faith. Limitless is their credit through the gift of divine righteousness (Romans 5:17, 8:29ff.). Limitless is their time of inheritance from the living God. They live by God, which is by faith.
As you see in the scripture in Habakkuk 2-3, the whole world of wealth and evil may do what it may, but there is to be a result: the Lord will indeed come to the earth, judgment will result.
The appearance is that of a conflict, and heavily so in Habakkuk 3, and so it is, but it does not displace God, rather testing the truth in the hearts of those who affect to have it, whether or not it be there. As Habakkuk shows in 3:12ff., the Messiah had to come, and as Christ indicated in Matthew 21:44 and David in Psalm 2, in the end, when the trial is over, the outcome involves action. Those who assail Him will sail no more on the seas on conflict. No more will the waters uphold their warring craft. Knowing this end, bearing all things, working in faith by love, the people of God LIVE BY FAITH. It is their spiritual air. It is their health.
What then of pathology in its fire and ire ? You attack the disease, not the doctor; but if you insist on the latter, in the end, mercy ceases. Such is the way of unbelief.
That is the analogy. Christ is the great physician, and though now for a time, if need be, we have vast tests that may seem to move into the very recesses of reality, yet these purge and show the reality of faith, which being vested in the living God, has all His power back of of them, to sustain His people.
You LIVE by faith.
One of the outcomes is in the juridical realm. It is your credit rating before God, if you are a Christian, a believer in Him according to His word (and not in some idol fashioned by man and impudently put forward to displace the Christ of the Bible). On the other side of the ledger, there is your debit rating. The latter is expunged and the former imputed (Hebrews 8:12, II Cor. 5:17ff., Romans 8:1-11, Colossians 2:14).
IV THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD MOVES FROM FAITH TO FAITH
In this way, it is the righteousness of God Himself, transferred by and in His own power, which you receive with Christ, who became sin for us that we in Him might become the righteousness of God (II Corinthians 5:21): that is, it is accorded to us, surrounds and encompasses us (Isaiah 61:10), so that we are covered by it, and walk in it, through the profound mercies of His action. That, it was in coming in the first place AS a man, and then dying in the second place FOR man, as many as received Him, and not some other, that Christ who is the Lord’s Christ, immune to manipulation and eternally the same (Luke 2:26 cf. Hebrews 13:8).
All this wonder, faith receives, and being justified by faith which embraces all that God has to give in the form He gives it and the Person who makes it free (Romans 3:23ff., 5:1ff.), the Christian lives in liberty (II Corinthians 3:17), loving the Lord, beautified with salvation.
In Him, therefore rest, and there you find the very power of God to salvation, for which may His name be blessed for ever and ever.
THE ARCHITECTURAL UNITY OF THE CHRISTIAN FAITH
IN THE WORD OF GOD
So does the Bible make its glorious grant to man, imbued by the Holy Spirit with integrality as in a design, practicality as in a house, functionality as in living limbs, mentality and comprehensibility as in their head, hierarchical revelation (as in biology as Denton attests of the basis of classification, in his famous work, Evolution: A Theory in Crisis), where the MEANING is to be found not in bits and pieces imagined as disjointed, but in consignments for comprehension. These relate to one another in language, as does the DNA in that ONE language which propels the format of living objects, and the significations are mutual and correlative in their workings. In the end, Christ the Word, the Sacrifice, the Saviour, the Lord, the Executive, the Fabricator of Creation, the First and the Last, the definitive expression of deity (Hebrews 1), the Eternal (John 8:58), the Unchangeable (Hebrews 138), the Exponent, it is He who provides the basis of integration, the power for understanding and the heights for all depths.
Thus God has resolved, we find in Ephesians 1:10, to sum up and contain all things in terms of Jesus Christ. From eternity, not only is salvation fixed, but the will, power and determination of God; yet it is not without heart, but that heart might the more surely be found, that it is so worked by Him who works all things after the counsel of His own will (Ephesians 1:11).
This working we find in His word, the intimate correlativity of which, within itself, element to element and point to point, as with design, expresses itself continually. This is the design for our salvation, its handbook. Christ is the eternal word of God made flesh, who dwelt among us. Our salvation is the ultimate ground for that action, and that He might manifest truth before all, for all time, in His own time, dying for sin at the appointed time (Highway of Holiness Ch. 4), as Creator and Saviour. Working as one with His Father as Messiah, sending forth the Holy Spirit to apply His works (as in John 15:26, 16:13-16): here is the Beloved, for God IS love (I John 4, Isaiah 5), who makes His vineyard and looks for fruit. What is wild, does not bear. What is His does it naturally, not to be planted, but out of love. It simply attests what is real; and is in no way the criterion of salvation.
Thus you find, to revert to the word of God written in words for the mind (and not only in directions and commands for the construction of a new generation in the body - though its beauty is that in both cases it comes comprehensibly in language), that there is this commission of coherence. The words in Romans and Timothy, in Habakkuk and Isaiah, in John in Corinthians, they court each other, they even give court to each other and pay court to each other. Each co-operates in providing both overall understanding and at times, even shock in order to awaken from possible slowness and drowsiness of heart, lest one fail to understand some point, or glean it too superficially. We saw an excellent example of this in James as expounded in SMR pp. 525-532. as also in Deliverance from Disorientation Ch. 5.
Life is for the living, and it is not constructed for the dead. Live therefore in His life, who knows what He is doing, and with relish and rest, cease to relate to garbage collection, the wild offspring of a sound plant.
Rather rejoice in the Lord, and realise that sleep is inappropriate in times of crisis, such as now face this world. Is it crisis ? alas yes (cf. SMR Ch. 8). Yet it is crucial that one walks in peace, redeeming the time; for as surely and as sudden as was the arrival of the Messiah from heaven in His day so long predicted, so sudden is His arrival after some millenia, to judge what must be judged, and to the delight of His people, to abstract them at long last from the turmoil and boiling hatred, seething unspirituality and grandiose godlessness of this world.