AUSTRALIAN BIBLE CHURCH
Easter Sunday 2011
Continuing the work of the Australian
Presbyterian Union (1901),
following the Lord Jesus Christ without Compromise
and the Bible without Qualification, by Faith
Immortality to Light!
To Death: Abolition!
To Life: Light
II Timothy 1:9-10
has saved us, and called us with a holy calling,
Not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace,
Which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began,
But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ,
who hath abolished death,
and has brought life and immortality to light
through the gospel
In looking at this, on this occasion we start at the end, the last to lines, and then proceed in the second part, with the middle, and end with the first two lines. This enables us to concentrate at the outset on that long desired, often discussed but here practically presented fulfilment of our lives, already donated by creation, into the realm, not only outside judgment, but of immortality itself. The method was vast in conception, enormous in responsibility to the Messiah, and trying to the uttermost; but God did it. Nor is it a museum piece, but a contemporary availability, like air, but far more necessary; for if that went, life before God could be made to continue; but if life itself is finally lost in ignorant rebellion, all is lost.
Immeasurable Death, without Doctoring
has brought life and immortality to light
through the gospel
Let us start at the end, the conclusion of the matter. Why does life and immortality have to be brought to light ? It can only be because without this salvation through the appearing our Saviour, Christ Jesus, it needed light. People were in darkness without it. Certainly, eternal life had been clear as in the Psalms 16, 22, 146, and the way into it in Isaiah 50-55, Hosea 13:14 and many more, but the action, dramatic, practical, in payment for the cause of death, simply to remove it, not to deplore it but to delete it, this had yet to be taken. Its news to the world had yet to impact like a violent explosion of goodness.
Death reigned over successive generations of mankind, dark in spirit, dead at heart, undelivered, victims of mortality, some seeking light, some sweltering in darkness, some loving it, devils delighting to exploit it. Amid it all, God saved Noah and the world missed extinction of life by a narrow margin. Then God called Abraham and the covenant of God to man took renewal in one giant step; He also called Moses and the power of God to deliver from slavery and earthly power was shown once for all. In both these cases, sacrifice for sin substituted for submission to death, and before, during and past the lives of those on earth, the way to salvation from ignorant darkness was proclaimed.
Then Jesus Christ came and the darkness sought to skewer Him out of life, but the bodily resurrection dismissed its dire hopes, for it is a lively darkness, lusting always to kill morals, vitality, reality. It could not even digest Him, whom death could not hold (Acts 2:24).
As God had raised up Abraham and Moses to lead and to teach, to found and to institute His ways in a marred earth, so He raised up Jesus even from the dead, the living example that though darkness cannot comprehend life, it cannot squash it, quash it, crush it; and this not because of genes or genius, but because of God who made it, even when sin crushed it, brought it back from the dead; and He arose victorious in Person, as Jesus Christ, guarantee of immortality of life, to faith in Him. Thus in His vast excursion into this world of sin, pleasing itself, He, not pleasing Himself, took the worst sin could contrive and overcoming, rose from the dead, unavailable for triumphant crowing by His enemies, saying, un-paradable, indissoluble:
My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see,
for a Spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have," Luke 24:39.
As to His betrayer, it would have been better for him if he had never been born (Mark 14:21). Much the same applies to those who being born, cannot bear the cross and follow Him.
That was said of Judas as they were preparing for the Lord's Supper. Shortly, the unfaithful man went out, having been quietly identified as the devil in question (John 6:70). He went out into the night, so joining millions who have done the same, going out into the darkness which does not comprehend, because this they comprehend, that life is not for them, but past every barrier, the death of preferring darkness, which denies the Maker. They close the eyes! Many love to start inanely the arrival of all things with nothing, which is self-contradiction; and they even want to gain empowered laws out of it; others want to start with everything prepared in potential, with time and space thrown in from nowhere, power from nowhere, and by explosion make order, by meaningless force without source, make what controls it.
Thus they dabble in witchcraft, forgetting God who made time and space and force and the power to comprehend it, inspire it with controls, and give to man the responsibility to worship Him, with the necessity to find the way out of darkness into light. But the nations mill and mull and fight and war with God and each other. These wordlings desire the impossible, the self-contradictory, and ignore what we ourselves do all the time, create, being so marked by our Creator. We don't make things out of nothing, but create them because we are creative and we are there first of all to do it. Logic shrivels any other thought, and truth requires an adequate beginning to anything as to everything. What then ?
If the light which is in you be darkness, HOW GREAT is that darkness! said Christ (Matthew 6:23). It is so great that it has mind reading matter and finding reason there, and fearing to think where that came from, man living in darkness where there is no address, and failing to address God, who has already addressed Himself to man IN PERSON (John 1, 14).
To this darkness, as to the bottomless pit, there is no measure. It is immeasurable. It took life itself, who as source is personal, not only to show itself, its personal Source, but to deliver from darkness. This God did by bringing life and immortality to light in Christ, the light of the world (John 9:4-5, 8:12). "I must work," Christ declared, "for the night is coming when no one can work." Let no one imagine that this time is not impending (Luke 21:24ff.).
Yes for man, there is a case to answer, and Jesus is that answer. No other key fits the case. Moreover He is the barrister to present it, on behalf of the faith which takes it, life and immortality thus brought to light.
How is it done ?
It is through the abolition of death.
How is it received ?
It is received by the accepting presence of faith following repentance
(Luke 13:1-3, Acts 2:38ff.).
How is this conveyed ? It is through the Gospel.
His saving gift has been given us in Christ Jesus,
even before the world began,
But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ
Darkness appeared, and the light is shining in its midst. But as to this darkness, its comprehending brow furrowed with unbelief, its foolish mind is hypnotised with unreason, sourcing all in no source, and making all come for no reason from no place. Yet man goes to his place, and everlasting shame is the lot of the riot of unreason (Daniel 12, Romans 1:17ff.), dispirited fragments of faithlessness masquerading as man, like Judas, who in such ways and vagrancies is merely undone, unmade, leaving a maddened riot of nations absent from God, and perplexed individuals, worried at the developments derived from waywardness, the woes from lack of wisdom, found in being absentees from the Maker.
Just as it was done, the creation, through the power of God, so and likewise, it was done, the salvation through the power of God (II Timothy 1:8). Without power, you have no light; without light, your power moulders.
Man's perplexed pursuit of life, to seize it, to enjoy it, to cling to it, to boss other people for his own life, to dominate instead of being led, shows itself with an incomparable hostility to holiness, an unworkable profaneness, murder the matter of a moment, even for millions (call it clinging to power if you like), while the devil shows his very real existence in the madness of man who cannot now even find his way. Instead, man now moves in the midst of an increasingly revolting environment, which he mutilates as if obsessed, while others want to worship it.
Past all this, squashing of spirituality and rejection of rationality, God has acted, pouring life into the darkness, and immortality into the subsiding, repenting and now pardoned soul, wherever it is like Noah, to be found, setting a foundation for it (Isaiah 28:16): His own power and life, which nothing can quell or quash, the basis, Christ's redemption the valour. If you lack light, then TRUST in Him who has it, and if you lack foundation, settle on the Rock of life rather than letting it fall on you (Matthew 7:15ff., I Corinthians 10:1ff., Matthew 21:44). Do as God says in Isaiah 50:10, and look for the light, not for the sparks from fricative man. Trust in the name of the name Lord, and rely on your God!
Realise that death is a monster, a judgment, fit for those who will not fit; and life is a marvel, made for those who use it. Unwilling to choose arrogant misuse, it is they who so find place in the source of Life, eternal life, in Christ whose it is (I John 1:1-4). Since now eternal life has been brought to light; walk in that light of life. With the abolition of death through the substitution of Christ for the guilty who repent and receive Him, an offer to all in thrall who admit it and in Him find life, there is no end to the illimitable wonder of life, whether in this world, or the next, before these heavens, or in the new heavens and earth (II Peter 3, Isaiah 65).
The Call and the Causeway
Christ has saved us, and called us with a holy calling,
Not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace
Like all great things, this is specific, not mere romance or poetry.
Firstly, the way back to life has a causeway. There is a cause for it and a path to it. That path is Christ, death-destroyer, guilt payor, immortality exhibit, sacrifice and Saviour. There is the general call of all men to repent (Acts 17:31, Luke 13:1-3, Matthew 11:28-30); this however is particular. God knows His own and has known them before time began, as our text instructs us.
The Maker of time and space did not have to wait for a particular time when He designed destiny and prepared man for it. He foreknew His own, desiring all, but finding some, being no dictator or tyrant, but lover who finds His own people in all sincerity and integrity; and the beautiful thing is this: IF you feel left out, then come in! Read Proverbs 1! Act.
The condemnation is most clear in the Bible: THIS is the condemnation that light has come into the world, and men have preferred darkness to light. It is not so with you ? and yet you do not know Him ? then repent and seek the Lord and take Christ's sacrifice for yourself, and enter into immortality through His death for you and resurrection, that exhibit of that to come, and rejoice in His peace. No more war on Him, through idle contempt, indolence or indifference. Indifference ? indifference to life is war on it, to death is submission to it.
What then of those who have come to Christ Jesus the Lord ? what of those who have come to rest in WHAT HE DID, as in HIM who did it, and hence to a free faith which depends not at all on our works, but one from which fit works follow ? for as a man believes in his heart, so he is (Proverbs 23:7). What then of the believing, receiving people of God ? What do we read in II Timothy 1:9! He has in fact called us in His own special way, and it is in such cases, a holy calling. It is NOT based on what we do in terms of works, but this calling is "according to His own purpose and grace."
So does the apostle declare. Indeed, as seen already, this purpose and grace was given, made clear, applied in mind and prepared as a datum for each soul to be saved, before time was. It was a work in CHRIST before time began. It is a work of grace that leads us to Christ, now that time has come and is well on its way; and everyone who is His, will come to Him (John 6:37,65). Each such one is called "according to His own purpose and grace." There is a purpose for each one of us who believe, each one for example, approaching by faith, the communion table today or any day.
There is a gift for each to enable proper service in the body of Christ (Romans 12), under the head (Ephesians 2 and 4:15). There is a commission of service (Romans 12:1-2), for Christ, as living sacrifices, living to, for and in Him. There is a place for His purpose in particular for each one of us, as in the general provision of life and immortality. Seen from eternity, we live in time; and let us then make the best of it in time; for time passes and the form of things present, of this world, is passing away (I Corinthians 7:31).
God has chosen us who believe, then, according to His own purpose and grace. That purpose it is for you and for me to find and complete, each one, as saved for service, sent for savour, seasoned with salt, commissioned like a vessel launched from its building place. It was found by Peter, though he was tempest-tossed for a time, by Paul, though he could scarcely have been further from it before it came, by Mark, though he seemed infirm of purpose at the start, and we all must realise the nature of His call in grace, for grace, and live in His grace, seeking His face (Psalm 27:8) with confidence always.
Moreover, it is a calling not only according to His own purpose, but according to grace. You are saved, in the first place, through faith by grace (Ephesians 2:5-8). That is the basis, not your performance, so the Christian can never be lost: it is not for your works you get there, but because of His, both in the atonement for sin and the activation for service.
You are saved, in the second place, for grace, to be gracious, to show the grace He showed in saving you, by walking in the light of it. This is not timidity or inarticulate surrender, but perfectly compatible with, indeed requiring both boldness and courage, clear speech and accurate testimony concerning Christ Jesus and His salvation. In Him, it is this which has brought life and immortality to light, and abolished death, now a mere passing snap-shot in time, leading to glory, the victory over it accomplished by Him. Not only did He beat death, as man's innate and final destiny, but He gave reason for this, meeting its just demands on sin. He prevented its career of rotting in His own case, gloriously alive, and gave immunity from its last blast, subduing it for those who in Him and His salvation, have put their case, by faith.
His is the causeway; and the vast seas of His loveliness are on both sides of it as we walk. Let us walk then by faith, through grace, with grace, not exacting but exact, not pugnacious, but fearless, not deterred but determined, not trusting in ourselves but in Him, who having made us, "has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began. Let us publish the Gospel in life and word, and delight in Him whose it is, who paid to make it free, even Christ Jesus. Amen