The Completeness, Sufficiency and Scope
of Spiritual Comradeship in Christ
Where Grace is Greater, Place is Pure
In our last Chapter, we noticed that the Man from Space has already come. He is not to be searched for in distant stars, dynamic dumpings or strange feelie messages from astronomical sources.
BEING UNINTELLIGENT ABOUT INTELLIGENCE
Not from IQ deficiency, but Spiritual Lust*1A
It is a profound comment on our current cultural epoch, that people strain with billions of dollars to add to the lustre of the effort, to distinguish just one, just some little message, however garbled or odd, which might, just might suggest intelligence at work outside our pastured globe in the cosmos, while they ignore as if their soul’s life depended on it, the elegantly, lustrously, indeed magnificently intelligent coded messages in our own DNA which come with every baby, indeed help to form the baby. As to that, it is not merely a word of enlightenment, or sociality, but a building constructor code actively at work in making the equipment which we all use, so that we CAN use it.
A half garbled sentence ‘from space’ would set this current world aglow. Yet millions of sentences already programmed into executive action to form our bodies and brains, and enable their construction, maintenance and functionality, make for but jaded talk and lack-lustre or even dismal indifference AT THE SPIRITUAL LEVEL!*1A
Again, a cheery ‘Hullo!’ from ‘space’ would make this world explode with curiosity, delight and bring a rain of fascination, perhaps even a reign of it. Yet an entire book of hundreds of thousands of the most coherent, intellectually proficient, predictively lustrous, majestically grand, peaceably effective, illuminatively comprehensive words brought into our planet over a period well in excess of three millennia, all with one message, one analysis, from many sources, many places, composed indeed over some 1500 years and centring on the most amazingly powerful, pure and loving person ever known, whose claim to BE GOD has been verified in EVERY dimension despite myriads of attacks, this is regarded with disdain, contempt, negative passion or a carefully cultivated indifference by billions on this planet.
IT IS NOT HIDDEN
(cf. Isaiah 45:18-19)
It is a sickness, even to death. But let us for a moment consider the spiritual dimensions of the gift which this book records, like a physician’s notebook, for those to whom it is written, who ACT on it. Before we do so, one word of preface: acting on it in this case, is first and foremost a matter of two simple things. It requires ADMISSION of guilt before God, and FAITH in His provision in Jesus Christ.
that, you are not alone, for the Spirit of God (we have spirits – cf. It
Bubbles… Ch. 9, Little Things Ch. 5, SMR pp. 348
The idea of ‘convict’ is to help you find the truth of something, when that something includes a sense of shame, error or wrong-doing, or even when it involves a sharpened awareness of something which you had not (adequately) taken into account.
Thus the ‘convicting’ of sin means that you do not believe in this colossus of beauty, this skyscraper of grace, this testimony of majesty, this explanation of all things which has no equal or near equal, or ever has had (cf.SMR Chs. 1-9, esp. Ch. 5), and reject summarily the Person whom it propounds as your personal Physician of the Spirit. His name: Jesus Christ.
The term ‘Christ’ is simply from the Greek for the Hebrew ‘Messiah’ for whom the people of Israel waited some 1450 years as He was announced by many writers in this book of the Lord (Isaiah 34:16 cf,. 8:20, Matthew 5:17ff.), before being killed by them. This occurred, as did the way it happened, with the devices to be used, as also announced in this book some 1000 years before it happened, the date itself for it being likewise included in that book of the Lord, some 600 years before (cf. Highway of Holiness Ch. 4).
It means this, that this Person who has come, is not from space, a mere upward extension in the time-space domain, in which we dwell. As to that, it is dependent entirely on the Creator’s allocations of resources, no less than is man in space is dependent on his ground control’s allocations of resources, as the recent calamity with Columbia so well illustrates, the Russians coming to provide what NASA temporarily does not. Rather, this Person, the Messiah, has come from the God who made space and time, those struts of a temporary universe in which we are placed in highly testing conditions, and as His very name and associated predictions imply, He has come as ANOINTED and APPOINTED for our good.
CONVICTION IS NOT ONLY FOUND IN LAW-COURTS
In rejecting this message and of course this Person, this world and those in it who follow its cultural sovereignty - man for himself by himself with himself, and give me no instructions – man is convicted, says the book, of SIN. He is unwilling to receive grace. It does not interest him to find his position in the scheme of things ? yes for this concerns the way of his God.
Of what else then is man to be convicted ? It is of righteousness, we read in John 16.
Why ? why is this clear intimation crisply brought home to his mind, and impressed upon his spirit ? The reason for this also is given. It is because the appointed, anointed Person, Jesus, who came to bring life, was murdered after what He first completed and consummated, and in view of His identity. He was murdered, resurrected and bringing His mission to culmination over a period of 40 days thereafter, left this earth. It was thus that He went to His Father: it is this very fact which brings, or is used to bring, conviction of righteousness.
Why again? It is because HE did it all. The world still tries vainly to bypass this in its midst, as if to avoid its own natural heart. HE died as prescribed, to bear sin as prescribed, for all who receive Him as prescribed (cf. Isaiah 53, where those who are ‘healed’ are those whose sin He bore); and before that He lived in purity, as prescribed (necessary for a sin-offering), did many miracles as prescribed, tenderly brought deliverance from warped thinking, living and ways, as prescribed, produced words which none could answer as prescribed, and in love died as He undertook (Psalm 40 cf. Joyful Jottings 22) to provide the path for man which would endure until He returned (as prescribed cf. Acts 1, Zechariah 14, Psalm 2).
WHY is anyone convicted because He has GONE ? It is naturally enough because of
the WAY He went after all that He did, and
in view of His identity.
As to the former, He was murdered with impassioned brutality, injustice and travesty of all justice. As to the latter, in the supernaturally obvious grandeur of God, He had a purpose which no one COULD prevent, even though man is so constructed that he may, as an option, REJECT the results of this purpose. Yet in the profound wisdom of God, this divine purpose USED man’s hatred in killing Him, to provide a sacrifice for sin.
It was very remarkable really. It meant that in LOVE and with GRACE (undeserved kindness), He came and being both manhandled (as He foresaw and described in detail as in Psalm 22 – cf. Joyful Jottings 25), and murdered with unspeakable agony and a malice not so incredible as you watch the last century’s dealings from man to man – He made use of man’s guile, power hunger and hatred so that those who killed him really in one way, in another way at the same time, acted as priests. In what way then ?
It was this. What does a priest do, in the old domain ? He offers sacrifices for sin upon an altar with a view to meeting the requirements of justice against the sinners who render the work apposite (cf. Leviticus 4, 16-17, Psalm 51, Romans 3:23ff., Hebrews 7-10). For whom are these useless or even worse ? It is so, for those who reject God or the provision. Where is this found in the Old Testament ? It is found in Deuteronomy 29:14-21. The crucial issue is a matter of what is going on in the HEART (29:19).
Someone not regarding the point and purpose of these provisions gains no benefit, but merely becomes outré, rejected, a spiritual casualty. It is rather like NOT receiving antibiotics. It does not matter whether you were in the surgery, whether you made an appointment, whether you ‘saw’ the doctor, had the prescription, went to the chemist. If you do not take the stuff, then it is all purposeless, and perhaps deceptive as well, if you give an opposite impression!
At that, however, Christ did not fail to lament for Jerusalem for its obdurate insouciance, as it went to the soon to come doom; nor did He not find the outreach of love even to the rich young ruler who found, to put it in modern terms, his religious rites in his cheque book, despite an ardent desire, without this impediment, for life that is eternal! (Mark 10:17ff.). Christ loved, but the way he did not follow, and so left the Lord, mourning.
Yet consider the beauty of the planning, for good with grace!
who OFFERED Christ on the ALTAR of the Cross at
Those who most despised Him, thus most served in this work, by offering Him. Naturally it was not a good thing that they did, but it WAS most emphatically a good thing that it was done! Their guilt is not reduced, in this morbid misuse of the spirit of man by man, because they performed a most useful task. We answer IN SPIRIT for the motives and thoughts of our very amply endowed minds and hearts. God however is very deep. In this way, the terrible irony of man’s littleness and vaunting pride is brought out like a spotlighted feature on the face of an actor on the stage in some play.
Even when man is MOST asserting himself, God has so arranged things that at that very moment and in that very WAY, there would be effected the PRIOR and previously PRECISELY PREDICTED will of God. Who would do to precise specifications ? Those who hated Him. What makes it the more ‘convicting’ is this, that in God’s purpose, despite His foreknowledge and prophesied coverage of all these things, despite His acute awareness of all that man would do, He still loved, and He still showed grace.
He still did it!
Put all these things and many more like them together, and what do you find ? It is occasion for CONVICTION OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, because Christ, the sacrifice, has gone back to His Father, and while the world whirls without His personal, healing, words of truth and holy presence, it harbours all sorts of fraud, political, religious and social (as predicted (Matthew 24, II Timothy 3, II Peter 2). It is this which goes on while God continues to enable this space station to continue on its path, and the ‘play’ proceeds.
is being bruised; but it continues yet a little while (cf. Matthew 24:21-22).
This, the, in John 16:9-11, is therefore cumulative. They are convicted of sin, in this entire milieu, because they (still) do not believe in Him and should do so. They are convicted or righteousness, because HE DID HIS PART in entirety, and has returned to His place, so that man is left with the Gospel (as also predicted cf. SMR pp. 763ff., just as HE was predicted cf. SMR pp. 765ff.). That is the first and second of the trio of convictions as found in John 16.
Now we arrive duly at the THIRD. This is a conviction, an awareness of the propriety and fittingness of JUDGMENT, which will come. Why ? It is statedly this: it is because “the ruler of this world is judged.” What does this mean ? It is that you are in a mundane environment not ruled for the glory of God. There is a prince of this world, a cultural clime, a leading edge, a perspective and a power which does NOT, emphatically does not want to follow its Creator, its Maker, the Maker of its DNA, or to receive ANY, repeat any messages from ANY authority, except of course itself. It has had many dummies ? or let us perhaps more advisedly call them leaders, like
Roman Emperors aplenty, some hard to distinguish from being literally insane, and so on.
Some may repent, but in the interim, they fill this world’s stage with their aspirations and deployments of unlovely dominion.
There has been, over the ruptured ruins of history, and scattered in its scenarios, a power lust, a social imperiousness, a reign in the mind, in the State or in the Empire, which has frequently been gross, vile and devastating. Ultimately, when the thing is seen in perspective spiritually (for man is a being WITH spirit and to ignore this is merely to deny your own capacity to rove discursively and wisely over our current material cf. Little Things Ch. 5, Joyful Jottings 5), it is worthy of judgment.
This whole species of spiritual disaster is not really as autonomous as it looks and often claims to be. The sometimes ironic point is simply that the more you RUIN what you have been allocated (like an adolescent slowly learning that he/she has one body, not two, one mind to burn, not two, one personality to mould or become mouldy, not two, during a period of reflection in some kind of rehabilitation), the less you are free. In the analogy, the mind is no longer able to concentrate as it did, your motivation is not as sharp and clear as it was and so on. In the principal reality, the more you kick the graces given, the more bruised is your receptor.
In the end, the book of the Lord refers to some having consciences SEARED or scorched, as with a hot iron (I Timothy 4:2, cf. II Timothy 4:3). In fact, as the natural tendency towards truth is left behind for various and often specious reasons, the whole structure of the personality, in its spirit and movement, changes. It is like bruising, except in this case, as indeed in the body, cumulative disregard can have accelerating consequences.
Thus you come under a control which is not open at all, but relates to various powers and persons who are interested in garbage, which of course is the ultimate result when the Producer and His Methods of Maintenance is obstructively and obdurately disregarded. A short point of clarification fits here.
It is not that man is not a sinner from the first, in the sense that he does not naturally any more know God, and so has to find Him, and while he does not find Him, he remains out of place entirely (and even when he does find Him, this is not the same as instant perfection, but rather total imbuing with the Spirit of the Lord, in GRACE that is magnificent). This is the sadly apposite and scriptural reality.
It is merely to point out that, this being granted, man can IN ADDITION so act that he is more and more completely taken over by a SPIRIT which is adverse to truth, alienated from God, and a LEADER in his life. You see it on countless seeming occasions when a barrier, a spirit, a spree of active disinclination prevents even rational discussion of Christ, in those who FOLLOW THEIR so very different LEADER. As to this, read in John 14:30 and you find that the Prince of this World, or its Ruler, is displacing Christ as He leaves. It is his innings, certainly with limited scope; but it is so in all matches!
In what sense displacing ? In this: that when Christ was present, He exposed and explosively dealt with all the devices, subtle, dynamic and crippling, of the devil, and with his followers, whether they were dressed up as priests or not. When He left, it was not to donate a world of IMPERIAL SPLENDOUR, before His return, but one for the spreading of the Gospel, the good news concerning Him until that time as He expressly stated (Matthew 24:12-14, 28:19-20). For that the power of the Holy Spirit was given, just as in His own coming, the power of the Son of God was observable!
What however of this other spirit, that of this world ?
This RULER it is who is JUDGED (John 16:11). He is judged not merely because, in the ultimate control seeking panel, it is the devil (cf. Revelation 19:20ff.., I John 2:12-14). For that matter, the devil is characterisable and bears the name because of the deeds! It is this, we read in this book of the Lord, the fact that the ruler of this world is judged, which brings CONVICTION OF JUDGMENT.
His whole way and day is wrong; and that is not a matter of complete indifference, any more than was the killing of Christ as a sacrifice. It is all planned, and in testimony of that fact, it is all written in advance, and most of it has already happened (cf. News 87, … Immovable Faith Ch. 6). Incidentally, avoid the mere confusion of imagining that things wrought before time, are capricious or arbitrary: quite the contrary. Undelimited, they are the work of principle and person, reality and truth undivided and unhastened!
But what of this world ?
simply immerse themselves in this or that phase and facet of this mundane,
secular, and –the devil is indubitably technically very clever - often
religiously confusing and miscreant activities, to what do they drift, like
wood on Niagara River above the Falls ? Rejecting the CHRIST APPOINTED AND
ANOINTED, verified and confirmed in all ways from logic to history (cf. SMR, TMR),
are thus to be found a sort of an army.
They are in this or that squad, amidst the rebellious forces. Hence they look forward to judgment. Hence when the Spirit of God convicts, this is that phase: conviction is of judgment because the ruler of this world is judged. It is, in mere analogy, like being in some of the genocidal forces in Biafra, or the former Yugoslavia, and becoming from time to time aware, that there will be a day of accounting; but here, it is not with mere man, that the dealing is to come, but with his Maker.
Now another point of clarification is in place. This judgment to come, it is not some kind of knee-jerk reaction as with Communist party bosses, trying to ‘rehabilitate’ those who still want to think discursively, or to indoctrinate as if they were latter-day popes of some kind, those who do not follow their reductionist follies (cf. Repent or Perish Ch. 7, SMR pp. 925., Highway to Hell). It is in no sense a use of force to secure words that are insincere, or allegiance that is to merely power oriented. Nor is it a harsh use of majesty to prevent difficulties or to ensure the continued place in the palace of rule, of those who desire establishment. It is in truth, about truth: truth is the term of reference. Mercy then is rejected, love is demeaned, the good news is dismissed, the dispensing of the word of wisdom is neglected and God is avoided where He is to be found (cf. Isaiah 55:5ff.).
This however is the last Post. There are many which are before it. It is all the more because of this tender and multifarious mercy, that the sense of judgment is augmented. In the interim, and it is a very long interim, God has wrought so much in so many ways, and in such an eminent way with the highest of all Persons in His Kingdom, His eternal word, that the sense of judgment must be realised in the midst of what makes it so aweful. It is the PREFERENCE for darkness which is its kernel (John ), not these or those deeds. Let us now consider more acutely and actively what ARE those divine deeds which so excite admiration.
GREATER GRACE THAN THIS WORLD
HAS EVER SEEN
OR COULD*1 SEE,
COMES FROM ITS KING
He COULD have removed the earth (and will – Isaiah 51:6, Matthew , but not before the entire gamut of His plan of mercy and kindness is complete – Titus 2:11ff., 3:4-7), at the Fall of man. In that case, for man, failure was ruin.
He COULD have PLANNED to remove the earth as part of the entire strategy from the first, when He CHOSE who would be His (Ephesians 1:4, Romans 8:29ff.), at some early stage, without the patient prodigy of procedure which led to the Messiah and His costly remedy.
He COULD have chosen on the basis of simple preference in order to fulfil His wishes, say the bravest or most choice people, and made this part of His plan. He did not.
He chose many who are low in intellect – some mighty, to be sure (I Corinthians -31*2), and many who had performed incredible misdeeds, like the Apostle Paul, in the days before that role and calling, when he was just Saul the persecutor-with-violence (Galatians 1, Acts 22:1ff.).
He chose many who had been mere swellings, as far as could be seen, in the river and currents of selfish life, like Zacchaeus (Luke 19). Indeed,
He COULD have been remorseless and merciless WITH His people, even after they received Him, but He was not, forgiving Peter in magnificent style, with tenderness, grace and goodness.
Just watch the method as Christ deals with fallen Peter. First there is a LOOK, quite simply, nothing more (as in Luke 22:61), after Peter’s impetuous betrayal of Him. The Lord turned and looked on Peter, as He went from trial to trial: on the way!
Of course, to be fair to Peter, he HAD tried to defend Christ with a sword from His betrayers, first of all, but apparently confused with the rebuke to put away his sword, he fled, and then in the multitude of commotions, found himself declaring THREE times that he did not so much as know Christ, and that in the very palace of the High Priest!
a breach of friendship
a disloyalty of the most extreme degree and
susceptible to the charge of nervous fear, whether or not this was the actual case.
Christ, then, gave Peter a mere look as He was being led to judgment: He did not shout or take derisory action. Then He SAW Peter on the first day of the resurrection (I Corinthians 15:5), and again as in John 21, days later when Peter, rich in repentance and desire, discerned Him on the shore, after the miraculous catch such as had occurred at the beginning of his time with Christ; and it was then that he rushed to meet Him. We do not know, to be sure, what was said between them on that first day after the resurrection, but we do know what happened on this last occasion.
Three times Christ asked Peter, using the word for friendship as well as religious love, whether he loved Him. This covered the three denials! It was serenely parallel. What grace and gentility was here.
Thus we see that while Christ could be vigorous in denunciation to false shepherds (as in Matthew 23! for there few more scorching words have adorned the earth – yet scorching because their scathing exposures were just), this is a Shepherd’s natural fire! Thus, we are not surprised when we find the gracious Martin Luther strong in denunciation of those who caused countless heart-aches among the German people (of which Luther was one). How did they do this ? It was, as Luther began to point out, by twisting the truth and masquerading their system with a pope as if he sat in the very chair and seat of Christ, when He had expressly forbidden having any human masters (Matthew 23:8-10). How was this shepherding folly performed then ? It was by the use of a system of such severity and indeed forcible violence as would make Peter’s thought of using the sword, a mere trifle by comparison (in the Inquisition, over its centuries of moral cess). Tender to a point, Luther was most truculent and even denunciatory to those who caused such human torment.
Did not God Himself state that He would come down and DO IT HIMSELF, while castigating the neglect, selfishness, soulless heartlessness and ruinous neglect of priests in Ezekiel’s day, relative to the people. You can read it in detail in Ezekiel 34 from which an excerpt is here given:
“Son of man, prophesy
against the shepherds of
‘Thus says the Lord God to the shepherds:
“Woe to the shepherds of
“So they were scattered because there was no shepherd; and they became food for all the beasts of the field when they were scattered. My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and on every high hill; yes, My flock was scattered over the whole face of the earth, and no one was seeking or searching for them.”
‘Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord:
“As I live,” says the Lord God, “surely because My flock became a prey, and My flock became food for every beast of the field, because there was no shepherd, nor did My shepherds search for My flock, but the shepherds fed themselves and did not feed My flock— therefore, O shepherds, hear the word of the Lord! Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will require My flock at their hand; I will cause them to cease feeding the sheep, and the shepherds shall feed themselves no more; for I will deliver My flock from their mouths, that they may no longer be food for them.”
“For thus says the Lord God:
“Indeed I Myself will
search for My sheep and seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock on the
day he is among his scattered sheep, so will I seek out My sheep and deliver
them from all the places where they were scattered on a cloudy and dark day.
And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries,
and will bring them to their own land; I will feed them on the mountains of
“I will feed them in good
pasture, and their fold shall be on the high mountains of
“I will seek what was lost and bring back what was driven away, bind up the broken and strengthen what was sick; but I will destroy the fat and the strong, and feed them in judgment.
“And as for you, O My flock,’ thus says the Lord God: Behold, I shall judge between sheep and sheep, between rams and goats. Is it too little for you to have eaten up the good pasture, that you must tread down with your feet the residue of your pasture—and to have drunk of the clear waters, that you must foul the residue with your feet?” ’ ”
You see the love and compassion, the outrage at its abuse by those supposedly caring but in fact caring largely for themselves. As here, so in Christ, the incarnate Word of God.
Tender to a point, like an exquisite doctor with patients, He could caress the very hearts of his people, and with sympathy excel; yet when they were mauled by false words and false shepherds, did He not react like any shepherd.
Do you not find something of this in Luther in his caressing strength towards the afflicted Germans of his day, in the churches, and his scornful exposure, even with satire, though he did not at first rush into it, of the recalcitrance of the unholy squanderers of the divine testimony.
What would you expect ? That Luther would call wolves ‘different sheep’, with all the finagling and wangling wrangling of the WCC ? or that their teeth he would smile at!
So and much more was the compassion of Christ, who was tender where truth was revered, and could even understand, with finesse and beauty of holiness, the movements of the heart of man: He was denunciatory of the fakes and frauds who acted to take over His sheep in His name by their own methods and self-glorifying and money-hoarding methods as if personally addressing a spiritual plague! He did all this full well knowing from the prophecies, that it would assuredly lead to His death in an agony and anguish vastly more intense, because as for Him, God as man, sin was wholly alien to His own nature!
Thus God did not resent and remove the world because of its treatment of His Son. He was sent on a purpose and a mission which, fulfilling, enabled the proclamation of the Gospel, that VERY Gospel which Isaiah had, for one, so abundantly clearly forecast and preached 700 years before. In His immovable mercy, as in His intractable truth, God proceeded to provide for our race all that could possibly without folly, be desired. If you want to be God, it is literally impossible; you are too late. If you want to have heaven fail so that hell won’t seem so bad, you are too unjust, for the condemnation of hell is precisely this, that it is evacuated of light and filled with dark preferences which despoil the nature of man, defile truth and despise lasting peace.
We should be clear here: since God knows all things in advance, this being like a book to an author, but one equipped with free characters, who though dimmed and diminished by sin, are yet able to rebel with the hearts and spirits which HE made free, He COULD have planned to resent it, what they did to Christ. He COULD indeed have decided to have some other plan, and to have nothing to resent. To go further, He COULD have decided that it wasn’t worth it, and this in either of two ways.
God could have decided in His own counsel that it was not worth sending His eternal Word as His Son via a virgin, equipping Him with a visible life that was beautiful and distinctive of the wonder of deity, though such a plan undoubtedly is what He pursued. He NEED not; there was no force.
It could have seemed disproportionate, even gross, to allow such human grossness, with tormented and twisted with lies and folly for thousands of years, to visit itself on His Son, made vulnerable as a sacrifice to bear the very sin of which these evils were examples only!
The Almighty could have resolved, instead, and even more drastically, that it was not worth while to MAKE MAN AT ALL, thus removing “the problem” altogether. In this latter case, there would have been no human heart with which to love, no capacity for divine friendship, no eternal life in which to dwell delightedly for ever, no fascinated admiration of the intriguing works of His hands, no provision for creativity among man: for there would be not one of them, no, not one.
This, quite astonishingly, He did not do.
Instead, He made man, if so inclined, able to swank with grandiose misconceptions of his own worth, and this the more as his worth, through rebellious meddling with what did not concern him, grew the less. He made mankind, with persons able to persecute and even torture and kill those who love God, as man has done for centuries and more, just as indeed Christ predicted; and He even gave to man such liberty that he could, if he wished, KILL people in CHRIST’s name, as Romanism has done, asserting that this was to the glory of God, with a mendacity and a profanity that must reach to the very depths of the pit (John 16:2). Further, He knew all this and foretold the scenario; but He pursued the eternal purpose (cf. Ephesians 1:4, Revelation 14:3) without stinting in His own sacrifice, and allowing those who would follow Him, to do so, even indeed ensuring that through no error, no misconception, no ruse, would anything ever separate any one of His own people from His love. These things may be pursued in their beauty further in Predestination and Freewill, and Tender Times for Timely Truths Ch. 11.
For all that might have been thought and said, in fact, God did NOT resolve not to make man, or even to make him instead with only programmable functions, which would satisfy some, but give no scope for love or the knowledge of truth, or the infinitely delightful comradeship of man with God (cf. A Spiritual Potpourri Ch. 16 – Flashing Falls of Freedom). Instead, God made man, equipping him duly with a constructed marvel of magnificent facility, his body and brain, and with his spirit.
What a wonder and a glorying in the Lord this permitted, for many! What a maestro of muddle and confusion, pride and vainglory, vanity and idiocy, brilliant folly and fallacious frenzy many of the race nevertheless have elected to become.
ALL have sinned, and adding to this, many proceed by ignoring, twisting or denying God’s word, and their conceptions of His being, though in His book, it is very clear, valid, verified and minutely left standing after all attack on it and assault is finished. It is the same with the Son whom God sent.
Yet the cost was penetrating, piercing, in His Son. When they had QUITE finished tormenting His flesh, mocking His Spirit, mauling His body, pretending His guilt (despite Pilate’s formally washed hands!), attacking His doctrine (with never any success), assaulting His healing ministry when it happened on a Sabbath (though quite willing to pull out a cow if it fell on a Sabbath into a pit), vehemently arguing against Him (Luke 11:52ff.), interring His body after exposing it to the skies with the blood dripping off, and the breath being depressed as the arms sagged over the hours of the crucifixion: THEN they still failed.
What they could not prevent was quite simply the FAILURE to produce His body after the 3 days which He set as the term for its being dead, before it would rise. HE was unable to be shown wrong even when State and Religious Power, in inglorious communion, had done their worst.
WHERE was the body, since they had been TOLD from ancient times and repeatedly from the lips of Christ that NOT ONLY would He rise from the dead (which, incidentally does NOT mean, NOT rise – cf. Luke 24:38-39), but would do so at an arithmetically distinct time, precisely THREE days after the burial.
To the delight of His friends, the joy of His apostles, the wonder of many, the turning of the tables on fraud, lying and deceit, the overturning of the power of the devil, the dealing of death to death and destruction to destruction, the elevation of mercy in glad glory over judgment, He met judgment and ruined its results by gladly bearing them. Convinced, His disciples spoke; oppressed they spoke; in prison, they sang; in torments of whipping, they praised God for the privilege (Acts 3-10), in confrontation, they fearlessly noted the murder and resurrection; told to cease, they continued; rescued from prison, they spoke again in the face of their tormentors; at peace they knew no weakness, in prayer, they abounded in endurement (Acts 4:22ff.).
How then did God do it ? We know why; but how ?
One obvious reason is this: the maximum planning of man, with soldiers and tombs, with the stark and customary reality of death in his face, is not adequate to displace the intention and planning of God; and this does not cease to be so, EVEN WHEN GOD ANNOUNCES this in advance, as He very frequently does! (cf. SMR p. 743). There is no limit to God.
The experimental test is clear: man failed, God succeeded. As to the rest of the resurrection*3, His eating in their presence, His calling to them in their boats, His conversation with Peter in the midst of the other disciples, His differentiation about the different death modes to come for Peter and for John (accurate as always – John 21), His invitation to Thomas to try out the substantial character of His wounds by using fingers (a fitting rebuke, both personally and procedurally!), and to the disciples as in Luke 24, to verify for themselves that a SPIRIT does not have FLESH and BONES as He did: it is one long narrative of simplicity and testimony, of data and procedure according to plan.
In John 14, 16-17, you see Him telling that after His death, He will be going to be with His Father (John 14:2, 25ff., 16:7, 16:29, 32ff.), when He is ready, and in His own time returning in JUDGMENT so that all should be judged as the case requires.
In Matthew 24, you see Him telling of what would happen after His death and return to His Father, over long periods involving much international commotion and development, in which the Gospel would be preached to all nations. He would then RETURN to judge (24:29 to the end).
In Luke 24, you find Him telling them,
“O foolish ones and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory ?”
In all things the plan went according to plan, and the words, whether ancient or from Christ’s own lips, were to be fulfilled without any exemption or exception, any cavil or qualification, as always is the case with the word of God (cf. Isaiah 44:25ff., 48:6ff., 41:21ff.). If it were otherwise, there would be no Christianity, and Christ would have been a mockery (as in Mark 2!) long before it was found necessary to deprive Him of life on this earth (to the point of killing His formatted frame), as an exasperated and guileful grasp on life and national power was held out (John 11:49ff.), for the taking. HE goes, WE say. ONE goes, the nation stays.
They have merely inherited infamy. The nation inherited devastation, and the continuation of its unbelief, brings it untold suffering to this day; and who cannot lament for such things, so unnecessary in the very face of the love of God, so slighted, with such sad results.
The highest minds of His day, these could not answer His answers, taint His power, spoil His ministrations, exhibit any weakness. They could not stop Him raising the dead (John 11), nor when His time came, could they find the body, since He was freely walking about with it. The greatest Empire on earth could not keep His body, since God has His own ways of moving things and removing things, which depends on His entire comprehension of, and planning for what is to be. The author has great rights over His book, though in the events before us, THIS AUTHOR who is DEITY HIMSELF, is careful not to make of the test which we all face, a farce, by removing the suffering or obscuring the issue.
So Christ suffered in the grandeur of grace, performed in the illimitability of power, and did so in a body so frail that, like those we have ourselves, it could be snuffed in hours, and rose in the reliability of deity, allowing no rest for Rome or for Jerusalem alike, so that thousands came in short measure, after His death, knowing His return was to come, and seeing His Spirit (as in Acts 2) had come already as He promised (John 14, 16).
Suffering is not optional for love, where need is. Power is not optional where sin is. God acts neither so as to remove the reality of test, nor to remove the continuity of His people. Do then miracles such as those multiplied in Christ, and categorically exhibited in His resurrection remove the stringency and reality of test ? On the contrary, miracles do not alter the test, except to remind man of the conditions in which he is placed, and of the opportunities which he is ignoring, by his morbid defiance of the grace of the most gracious sovereign in heaven or on earth, the most wise and the most powerful. The cost in the interim remains colossal, as Paul put it in Colossians 1:24:
“I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church.”
(See for exposition of this, To Know God … Ch. 1.)
Carefully marking the place of the tomb (they were not mad! Luke 23:35, or inhuman in their grief!), they returned to find the action of deity, not in destroying Twin Towers, but in raising the twin towers of Truth and Mercy in His Son, so that those who would believe in Him would see both the suffering and the sense of glory. NO ONE CAN BEAT GOD, but God does not simply beat man; for man is not so made: rather, He provides for Him astutely, even in the very MIDST of his sin, by exposing Himself to evils untold, by plan, and overcoming them in suffering, by plan, and overturning them in ignominious defeat, by plan, so that in all things man might see the work for himself as image-bearer of God, and might savour the victory.
It is not to suffering-free selfishness, like some slug leaving its silver trail on the surface of the earth, that man is called; for man is not the centre, but a derivative from deity’s creation. It is not in vainglorious self-affirmation, for the selves which do so, are merely blind to the glory of the God who made them. It is however WITH suffering and in the MIDST of the glory of God that the children of God work, with the same power which raised Christ from the dead*4available, and the same sharing of ignominy as the case may require, as the Prince of this World blows his horns, and arrogantly asserts his place.
Yet it is not his place, and so brings judgment. Hence there is CONVICTION OF JUDGMENT for those who disbelieve in this ONLY PROVISION of Almighty God for mankind.
Consider then the multiplying graces which, accelerating in speed before our astonished eyes, present themselves as they pass. Let us look at just some glimpse of a few of them, as tokens.
He cares ENOUGH TO CREATE, and having created enough to PROVIDE, and having provided, enough to be AVAILABLE, by His Spirit (I Peter 5:7, Ephesians 3:16, Romans 5:5, 8:10ff..)
His is LOVING. There is really nothing to equal that. A mother, imperfectly but even passionately may care for her child, even to old age in one sense. My own devoted and blessed mother lived to 99 years, and her solicitude did not cease, nor her kindness. But God created the SYSTEM in which love might appear, and could have ignored this, and done otherwise.
Love in Him is ORIGINAL and ULTIMATE: God is love (I John 4:7ff.). This, we must always realise, does not mean that LOVE IS GOD. That is nonsense. Principles do not make themselves and kick about the universe. God whose omni-competence is the basis of all thought and order, IS LOVE. NOTHING contrary appears in Him. Nothing compromising to it is with Him. There is no quality which dispenses with it, censures it or withholds it, in Him.
That is one reason why some forms of Calvinism (and Calvin is not without fault in this cf. To Know God … Ch. 1, however great much of his work is) have to be exposed as unscriptural. Quite simply Colossians 1, as the author has shown consistently since 1956 when it was, by consent, presented to the class of John Murray at Westminster Seminary, without reply, teaches the love of God in the most expansive possible manner.
It is not a merely regional matter, for its scope it indifferent, “Whether things on earth or things in heaven”: it is one.
It is not a matter of economy. “HAVING MADE PEACE THROUGH THE BLOOD OF HIS CROSS” – sufficient was this for any or all, as the
Bible Presbyterian Church of the 1930s rightly affirmed in its Constitution, in
It is not a merely bureaucratic style of venture, for “it PLEASED THE FATHER”. Nor is it impractical, for it led to action, in this that “it pleased the Father than in Him should all the fullness dwell”. This means that there was no truncation, shortening, partial presentation in the Christ who became man, sent from His eternity in heaven (John 1:1 – God knows only ONE GOD! Psalm 82, Exodus 20, and that is why Thomas addressed Him as My Lord and My God! Using in the Greek, the GOD OF ME, phrasing, when ‘answering Him’ who spoke to him).
It is not a reserved matter. God did not spare Himself, reserving select regions of His nature from attack. ALL FULNESS went into the incarnation, and that is one of the many reasons why there can never be another.
God is ONE BEING and it is impossible that He should come as two different beings, as if the image of God in man were not a definitive matter, or God’s use of it were not an expression of eternity, not subject to any duality. Moreover, ONE death is what men suffer, so ONE death is what Christ vicariously suffered, and ONE life is what is given to man, and ONE life is what Christ assumed in presenting Himself a sacrifice for ANY man, and for ALL who come to Him (Romans 8:32 makes it quite clear that those for whom He is actually sacrificially offered up are possessors of heaven). So is the reality preserved with that astounding accuracy which is one of the prerogatives, without any exception at all, of God.
Thus it is not a PARTIAL MATTER, since in Christ to be crucified, dwelt all the fullness. Nor was it a merely selective matter in some sense of mere preference, for the Father WOULD HAVE ALL reconciled by this means. Statements to the contrary, on the basis of what is written, do injustice to the love of God, and simply, idly contradict the book of the Lord (cf. SMR Appendix B, The Kingdom of Heaven Ch. 4).
It is not a CIRCUMSCRIBED MATTER, for God is seeking nothing less than RECONCILATION TO HIMSELF. It is not a mere forbearance, not a simple toleration, as with David towards Absolam on his first return when he had fled, nor a putative matter, as if things were under review for eternity or some lesser time, on probation. The result of the blood and repentance with faith receiving the living God in the name of His bodily resurrected Son, is one thing: reconciliation to God. There is no mere lazy waiver, no slack wave of the hand, nor is there any mixture: God loves, provides, forgives, receives as CHILDREN of His own, adopted into His own family in the name of His own Son (Ephesians 1:5). In Him they are ACCEPTED (Ephesians 1:6).
It is not temporary, for God is not double-minded in love, but loves absolutely. Hence of the children of God, we read this, that they “have obtained an inheritance” (Ephesians ), and what is this, their inheritance ? It is REDEMPTION of body and mind and soul and spirit (Ephesians ). What is lost is restored without diminution, and being paid for (as in Romans 5:1-11) is restored forever.
It is not unclear, for what does it say ? That if you believe in your heart that God has raised Christ from the dead, and confess Him with your lips, you will be saved. The Greek is not GO ON CONFESSING, incidentally, the present tense, but the aorist of past action. Faith is such and being such, reaches God by the power of His Spirit and the promise of His word, and when He is found, YOU are never lost.
If this is rejected, it is simple failure to believe. Indeed, whoever enters HIM AS DOOR, HE WILL KEEP, most explicitly in John 10:9,27-28, and NOTHING whatsoever can snatch out of His hand, nor will the life concerned ever PERISH.
It is not dependent on performance, for it is NOT OF WORKS, lest any man should boast (Romans 3:23ff., Ephesians 2:1-10), and it is not indifferent to performance, for when HE makes a tree good, it bears good fruit, not as a condition but as a consequence. Roots are not fruits, and every tree which He plants is His, and what is NOT planted by Him, does not last (Matthew 15:13, 7:18ff.).
It is not dependent on man, for when HE saves a person, he is KEPT BY THE POWER OF GOD (I Peter 1).
It is not indifferent to growth, for it prescribes growth areas, like a good gardener (II Peter 1).
It does not leave people in a mist of test as if they did not personally matter FOR THE PRESENT, for He sends His Holy Spirit (as in John 14:18ff.), so that His comforting strength and virtue and victory might inhere by His presence in His people (cf. I John 5:4, Romans 8:5ff.).
It is not merely abstract for it is wrought “in the body of His flesh through death” – Colossians .
It is not impersonal, for churches which use His name without truth or faith, may indeed be severed, the personnel changing over time (Colossians 1:23, Revelation 2-3), while HIS sheep shall never perish, even those ever so simply, who ENTER HIM AS THE DOOR OF GOD, TO GOD and PRESENTED BY GOD. It is in this, God Himself placed for entrance, that they gain access and acceptance (Ephesians 1:5-6) into His own Kingdom.
It is not without price, since the ultimate sacrifice was made of God’s only begotten Son, in whom ALL His fullness dwelt, first in enduring entry to littleness of life as a babe, then to smallness of human resources, not in the houses of the rich, then to temptation (Matthew 4), the devil an advocate of evil in His very hearing, making offers, then to contradiction of sinners (Luke 11:47ff.), thence to condemnation (Mark 14:47ff.,62ff.), both in word and in all the awful folly of torture, which came relentlessly to the accompaniment of death in the very mocking presence of His enemies.
It is not without a blessed combination of PURITY of MOTIVATION, PERFECT PERSEVERANCE (for what love deserves the name, that stops towards those who receive it!), TENDER SOLICITUDE and CAREFUL TEMPERING OF TEST (I Corinthians ) for His people.
Not totalitarian, God is nevertheless TOTAL IN GRACE, and in knowledge as well, for He knows who are His (II Timothy ).
Reconciled BY the work of LOVE, His people are reconciled TO the life of LOVE, and kept IN LOVE, for God is love!
In truth they grow, for HE is the truth, and in the way they go, for HE is the way, and as the way, He provides the HIGHWAY OF HOLINESS, for He is holy (Isaiah 35).
Such is the grandeur of the greater grace, the glory of the greater king, the wonder of the Eternal God.
The inordinate character of the indifference to God and His ways, as He is exposed and expressed in all His munificence and magnificence, represents a kind of lust or failure to contain the spirit given us, within the realm of factuality and reverence alike. As the word of God truly declares (cf. SMR, TMR), the invisible things of God are MANIFEST, even His divine nature and power (Romans 1:17ff.), and the failure to recognise Him, not as some ‘power’ but as He is revealed to be, is part of the defence against God which man in a sort of wrestling with reality, descends to perform.
As God also declares in Romans 3:21, the specific revelation in Christ is witnessed by the law and the prophets, and Paul demonstrated that Jesus is the Christ (Acts ), just as His resurrection was by many infallible proofs (Acts 3:3). The book of the Lord is itself likewise so clear and demonstrable in its character, that God travails in exhortation to Israel of old, for the slack failure to recognise overpowering reality in His testimony, though over time it was clear, powerful, predictive and accurate, repeatedly and unfailingly (Isaiah 41: 21-24, 43:8-12, 44:6-8, 44ff.,45:19ff., 48:3ff., Jeremiah 8:7ff., Deuteronomy 32:21-43).
Yet like the blind, the bemused, they grew fat and fatuous (cf. Deuteronomy 32:15), indifferent to thought, without regard to the obvious. Such is the account and exposure in Deuteronomy. As history flowed over the world, so His word flowed over history, which became in this way, conformist after all!
Despite unbreakable testimony of things past and to come, with an entire companionship to the nation with power and majesty, never once failing, the desire for life without His covenantal promise overpowers many now, as it did then, who torture the truth. In this, the treatment of Christ by Jewish and Roman authority, epitomises the sins of the past and encapsulates those which were to come.
Moreover, since He Himself by no means makes His dwelling with the vanities of lie and fraud which bewitch the lustful (Psalm 50:20-23), God has made His own contradistinct testimony in word and deed, so that there is neither competition nor avail, only Himself and His word, with its fulcrum, the Gospel. for meeting the case. Otherwise, man lives in a realm where lying and injustice, fraud and pretence are ruling, the prince of this world having his day in the fray, as Christ foretold (John ). This proud and polluted being has, said the Lord, “NO PART IN ME” ! True is this word of Christ, for that liar’s followers likewise, except they repent (cf. Luke 13:1-3).
To remove the world (it came close in the flood) is one option. To provide remedy, this is the other. It is not removed. Remedy is apparent in the book of the Lord and in no other, nor is there even any other which rationally attests itself, verifies itself, conforms itself to the demands of reason for the attestation of truth. Truth lies exposed like mountains in the Winter sunshine, their gleaming proportions massive, peaceful and vast. There is nothing else.
To attribute mere contemplation of the sum of vast and profound iniquity in this world, to God, as if He should tolerate it, and merely continue such a universe as that: this is an idea which begins by ignoring the fact that all is His creation, and truth is the word accompanying the deed of His choice. His is not division of Spirit, where creation vies with desire, or the irresolvable asserts itself in duplication: for He is uncreated, unconstrained and nothing is irresolvable. If then such a thought as this world, derelict without divine remedy, begins by ignoring His status, how does it end ? It does this by attributing to Him the sleaziness so readily found in His creatures in a monumental vanity of mind and failure of wit, which thus becomes a moral accusation as well (cf. SMR pp. 99ff., 999, 1001ff.). This is explicit or implicit, depending on taste!
So do creatures attribute the absence of their powers, to their Creator, and breed thoughts of their own superiority over Him, as if theirs were the moral integrity He is deemed to lack, even in the face of the evidence that they ignore the remedy for thousands of years made plain without alteration, with intervention in the Cross, with demonstration in the Christ, with application in history, and in the state of the world which nevertheless bares its doors to Him, as if the Maker were a burglar, and they the moral burghers in the town. Declaring truth without deeming it to exist in a vacuous world without any absolutes, they tear the very concept of truth as they advise us of its content!
When you invert someone, does he not tend to get dizzy; and man upside down is seeing double, himself as his own saviour despite is obduracy, rebellion and irrationality, and God down the reversed telescope, as small, defective and perhaps even reprehensible. After all, where faith does not receive the intractable truth, folly breeds its own assurance.
Excuses for turning from the Christ are not minimal: they do not exist, reason and righteousness alike being sacrificed on the altar of inordinate will (cf. Wake Up World! Ch. 2, Repent or Perish Ch. 2, TMR Ch. 5). As shown in these references, you blaspheme God or accept His verified, solely valid revelation in Jesus Christ: it is He who has not only acted in differentiation of Himself from the affront to His own actions which lying and injustice comprise, but in His so doing, has acted with a largesse and munificence which to ignore. In this way does man provide towards God an effrontery like a negative sublimity, not soaring to the heavens, but squalid subterranean in its abysmal pretensions.
This is a fascinating point that perhaps needs a little more to be said on it. Moreover, it helps perception of something more flaming in the annals of liberty than man can ever know, and a love more flamboyant in pure beauty than it is given to our race to exhibit; though in Him, we abide in this love and know it, and it abides in us.
As shown in the text, God’s options included many in the eternal realm, where planning precedes time as we know it, since our time is merely a means of giving to man, or any others concerned, opportunities to see things develop as they act, or constraints to await results and make commitments before they come, or scope for patience in love over a work of art, or bearing with the irresponsible in love and endurance, until the erring might learn to love also: and many such things.
Man is thus able in time to show some of the divine characteristics imbued into him by the Holy Spirit (cf. II Corinthians 3:18), and even if he should waver, he can be moved to repent; and even if going aright, he is able to become strong and confirmed in righteousness, to undergo tests like Job for the glory of God, to show the integrity of sincerity and its intensively NON self-seeking nature, to exhibit without inhibition the justice of truth at any cost, within the Lord, and to love without remission in the very midst of hostility and hatred. All these things, in slow motion, if you will, are man’s lot in time in particular.
Yet to man it is not given to decide whether there should be a creation, or even whether - should there be one - such a being as himself should exist in it; or indeed, even if it should, whether there should be redemption available, and even if in some sense there should be, whether it would be worthy of infinite cost.
Such things are not for man, already created. These things belong to God alone, and in exercising these wholly divine prerogatives, God shows a love which NONE CAN EQUAL, for the rest are already immersed in history; but He decided to make it so much as exist, so that there would be problems with the misuse of freedom, and solutions provided from the source of all, Himself. Inseparable from love, this solution was such as cost Him not the earth, but His eternal word, who coming to earth, made eternal life available to man. To be sure, He was resurrected: yet the experience of sin, though vicarious, of mockery and death, of folly in authority and reckless irreligion in a priesthood which in many cases inveterately hated Him, so that His subjects crucified Him with taunting cry, Come down and then we will believe you! this is not available for quantitative costing!
This fascinating presentation, in I Corinthians 1:20-31, is as follows.
“Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age?
“Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
“For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence. But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption— that, as it is written, ‘He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.’ ”
Cf. SMR Ch. 6, Magnificence of the Messiah, The Kingdom of Heaven Ch. 9, Section 14, Things Ancient and Modern Ch. 2, Excursion 2A).On the current power of His resurrection, associated with the fellowship of His sufferings, as in Philippians 3:10, see the volume, To Know God …