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That Blessed Trio of Triumph:
The KNOWLEDGE of GOD: the POWER and the SUFFERING
It is in Philippians 3:10 that we read of Paul’s intense desire that
“I may know Him and the power of His resurrection,
and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death,
if by any means I might attain to the resurrection from the dead.”
This is Paul’s express desire as shown in Philippians 3:10. It is not to be sure, that which all would express. Some might say: I want to know God, the power of His help and the fellowship of His joys. However, the apostle is not interested in self-fulfilment, but divine joy, not in avoidance of sufferings so that the register of selfishness might be better filled, but in encompassing them IN and FOR Christ as the case might require. It is better so, far better so. Self-pleasure-pain is no worthwhile trinity, but KNOWING YOUR PLACE in your Creator, and HIM in whom this places you is good and godly: KNOWING HIS POWER FOR HIS PURPOSES IN YOU and finding FELLOWSHIP in doing what you are bidden, for so exalted an aim, this is the way of the person who trusts in God, and for whom God is God, not convenience utility.
In this volume, these three phases of Christian life, KNOWING GOD, knowing the POWER OF HIS RESURRECTION and the FELLOWSHIP of His sufferings, DV will form a core of conception, an avenue of exploration and an emphasis for application. In this present chapter, some of the thrust of this passage will be contemplated so that its beauty may be felt, its point appreciated and this life the better fulfilled.
After that, this theme may pulse through news and presentation, apologetic emphasis and application in this world as it develops in its throes of torment, before judgment, in its scope for salvation before that day, and in its hope for mankind, always lively, always available and always Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever. But there is an end: Christ is alpha and omega, the beginning and the end, the word express word of the living God, and when the time comes, as when time began, there is no more time, and heaven and earth shall flee away. It is time to be timely about time, and not so to time your days that you leave untimely, truant from truth.
It is better to KNOW GOD, the POWER of His resurrection, and to share the FELLOWSHIP of His sufferings.
THE POWER OF HIS RESURRECTION
You see this power which had raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead (Luke 8:41ff.), and the son of the widow of Nain (Luke 7:11), as well as Lazarus (John 11), and in concert with His Father and the Holy Spirit, had raised Christ from the dead like a rocket blasting its way through rock, that of the tomb into a life which seized the apostles and astounded the world (Luke 24). Thus Acts 1:1 tells us that in Luke we were told what Christ had BEGUN to do; now in this APPLICATION of His risen power, we find what He continued to do.
It is this same power from this same Jesus which was assuredly shown in Paul’s dealings as the book of Acts in grand and minute detail attests (Chapter 2 below), in healings, in guidance, in church foundings, in corrections, in self-discipline, in ardour, in effectiveness, in love, in grace, in courage, in testimony, as a “master builder” (I Corinthians 3:10-11), and yet as one who would build as directed, since no man CAN build what endures as truth, on any other foundation “than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (I Cor. 3:11).
Nothing else lasts from the first (Barbs, Arrows and Balms 17, TMR Ch. 3), or moves from then till now unchanged: but oh so elaborated, so activated, so fulfilled, in such detail, in such thematic splendour, with such practicality of things only God could do, in such coverage of history, of holiness and of sacrifice, in such blessedness and coherence, validity and authenticity, confirming itself on all points so that no man, rational and open to truth, can withstand it (cf. SMR, TMR). Alas however, there is no man without sin, and the greatest of sins is that resistance to the Holy Spirit which in the end, leads to a blasphemy so intense that there is no escape (cf. Acts 7:51ff., Hebrews 6, 10).
What is the kernel of blasphemy ? It is an unwilling heart and a contorted mind which clings as to the flesh of the victim like a leach, disturbs his spirit and disquiets his nature; but in this case, alas, the victim is man himself. It is to Christ he must cling, and this, not to suck the blood, but to receive its message, accept its cover and being sacrificially bought by a price which only the sinless Saviour could pay, live with, in, for and through the Lord Himself.
But what of this passage in Philippians 3:10, and Paul’s great yearning of heart ?
No Gospel but one was there (cf. Ephesians 4:4, Galatians 1, 3, 5), and no rest but in the Christ to whom this pointed is there. So Paul strove in shipwrecks, in imprisonment, as unknown yet well known, as knocked down but not out (though on one occasion he was left for dead), as reviled, as a sort of offscouring of the universe (cf. I Corinthians 4:13), along with the other apostles, and they were of one mind, not dividing, but learning from one another when needed, yet always firstly and finally from the Lord and in His name acting. As with David, Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, but now under the summary sovereign power of the sacrificial Saviour, they worked in the name of that ONE GOD who alone has put His power to His word and His word to work to do whatever He has said.
THE FELLOWSHIP OF HIS SUFFERINGS
were as the
above equally shows, experienced to the full, and this, as Paul put it
(whether for himself or for us who are Christians now) was partly that he might
“fill up in my flesh what lacks in the afflictions of Christ,
for the sake of His body,
which is the Church” –
Colossians 1:24. And in what could anything be lacking (Colossians )? In this: that the love of Christ might be felt NOW via contemporary disciples, and be seen and impactive on the world, yes, and be more realised, as the globe grows weary and soiled, toiling in its turnings to the doom that awaits its inhabitants.
Doom ? (Matthew 24:35, II Peter 3), yes it is this, except they receive that mercy from God which He has sent by ONE person in ONE human form for ONE purpose that ONE result might be obtained for that ONE place, by His side in heaven, which is the due result for man, though not with the appendage of sin; so that without the attribution of sin, in Christ’s redemption he might there appear (cf. I Ephesians 4:4, Corinthians 15:50 cf. … Immutable Faith Ch. 11, I Thess. 5:9-10, Titus 2-3, John 14:1ff., Romans 3:23ff., Ephesians 2, 4).
This love, it is this in which the Father sent Christ to finish redemption (Hebrews 9:12ff., John 3:16, I John 4:9), which in anguish and triumph, He accomplished (Hebrews 5:7, John 19:13-30); and it is this in which His people must live and act, so that others might in our time the more readily realise that it was because GOD SO LOVED the world that He gave His Son (John 3:16); and it was because He was pleased so to act as to enable the reconciliation of “all things to Himself by Him,” yes, “whether things in heaven or in earth” (Colossians 1:19ff.), such was His love, that He gave.
Do you not notice it ? Many seem to fail to do so. It is immediately after EMPHASISING that Christ created ALL THINGS that are “in heaven and earth,” in that extensive fashion, “whether principalities or powers”, whether “visible or invisible” that we learn that IT PLEASED the Father to reconcile the same ALL THINGS, in the same sort of manner emphasised and itemised (1:15 with 1:19-20). His grandeur of conception, creation and salvation as far as His love is concerned, is total, parallel and profound. Anything less not merely parodies the precision of scripture, but distorts the very love of God. SO it is said to be; so it is. That is the sort of love YOU NEED to SHOW! That is the Person with whom you deal, in Christ! With whom you have fellowship!
Moreover, though not all things will come to Him, yet God has gone to the uttermost in seeking; and without the travesty of creation to be made if it were treated as if it were mere robots, the robotic in the hands of the despotic, He brings His love to the issuance. Though He has foreknown all who are His, it is the method which matters: and though before time, He knew it, it is in Christ that this foreknowing is done, and He ? He does not change (Hebrews 13:8). While therefore dealing with man as in His image, however defiled by sin, He stops as He stopped at the barrier of breach, as love does: though His love cries as Christ did, saying,
“How often would I have gathered you under my wings as a hen gathers her chickens, but you were not willing…” (Matthew cf. SMR Appendix B).
While our wills are by sin rendered inoperative at the level of ‘choosing’ God before our salvation (Romans , John , 1:12ff., I Corinthians 2:14, I John 3), yet God in choosing His own people (I Timothy 2:19, Ephesians 1:4) is multiply on record*1 about His love towards all, that HE WOULD HAVE all to be reconciled to Himself. The limit lies not in God but in man; and if in God, it is then that love will not prostitute itself, or so demean its object that not love but lust or force is involved. Moreover, that is not to reduce the love, but to ensure that love is what it is, and that love is what man gains; for GOD IS LOVE (I John 4:7ff.). In Him, it is neither possessive nor vacuous, and His own He finds, and binds them to Him with cords of love.
How does one who is held in this love then act ? It is as love will. Thus in that love (cf. Ephesians 3:14ff.), Christians today cannot rightly say, I will do this or that because I fear this, or impute evil in this way or that, or my church does not want this or that: for who made YOU or YOUR CHURCH to occupy some blasphemous position as an alter ego to God! It is to do what we are TOLD that shows and expresses best the love of God (John 14:21-23, I John 5:1ff.); and it is in obeying His commandments, the first of which is whole-hearted love to God and the second under it, to our neighbour as ourselves, that we best help others. Oneness in Christ CANNOT go beyond His word, but within it, it is to be sought ardently (John 17:6, 17:17,21-23). After all, whom do we represent, ourselves, our church, our hopes, our pleasure, our penchant, or our God: and as to Him, HE SPEAKS!
Thus, making up “what remains” of this contemporary testimony to Christ the only Redeemer (Acts 4:12-13), God as man (Isaiah 40:10-11, Isaiah 53), provides an amplification of the eternally complete redemption, in one point, not in its nature, but in its exhibition. Suffering is one attestation of love which any may read, and when it is wrought in that Spirit of Christ which He sends, then is the flower flourishing which any may savour.
Love hopes all things, bears all things. In such love and with it, the children of God may attest in word and deed, what it is that animates them, SHOW its ultimately divine basis of real and practical determination for man’s good, and SEEK the lost in that love. In this and such ways, there is a constant updating of the love that never changes. It is not in its nature, but in its exhibition that ever renewing resources flow!
The work of redemption is done; its presentation continues in the POWER
The DESIRE of God was shown in this, that indeed having been pleased to incarnate His eternal Word so that as the Son of God He might redeem within the beauty of humility of disposition, serviceability in power, healing of heart and body, soul and spirit, mind and capacity, unanswerability of wisdom, glory of heart, tenderness of solicitude His continual attestation: yet it was by the blood of the Cross that He made peace. It is “in the body of His flesh through death” (Colossians 1:22), that He acts, “to present holy and unblameable, and unreproveable in His sight.” The QUALITY is perfection; the OPERATIVE MEDIUM, it is blood. The desire is to shield and save; the means is death, dire ransoming death. For that purpose it was shed; and for this, it is applied.
Yes with all the delicacy of the flower, the beauty of the garden of life, He came, yet as the evil powers of hell resisted all goodness and raged their condemnations of man, He consummated and achieved the crux of His coming with the surgical horror of presenting His very body, not to deny the sin, but to cover it. “So Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many” (Hebrews 9:28). There is that “many” for the third time already.
He was not offered to bear the sins of all; NEVER was such a ludicrous abuse of His efficacy in view. The personal animal sacrifice in the Old Testament most clearly had to have the confession and transference of sins made upon it, before it was slain; and without that, there was mere nothing, a dispersion of the covenant and an annulment of the offer. ONLY then was sin borne, only then was the deed done (Leviticus 4). To be sure, there was provision for the annual sacrifice for sins (Leviticus 16), but this was not for ANYONE but for ANYONE who BELIEVED (Deuteronomy 29:18ff.).
Those without faith have nothing to do with the blessings of the covenant. Imagining you can breach your way in (contrary to John 10:1ff.), by sheer will power, and so contact the sacred in any efficacious manner is ignoring the fact that the new birth as in John 1:12, is NOT according to the will of man, or the flesh or any such thing, but as in all birth, wrought without the contrivance of what is to be borne, carried into birth. All is provided from without.
Again, you cannot TELL where the wind which signifies the work of God, comes from: and YOUR WILL you CAN tell! Hence the operation of your will is not a condition or criterion of faith; it is the expression of what you are, and it is God who knowing all, calls effectually whom He will. It is neither by virtue of implicit superiority of character nor of will. The case is neither a denial of the love to all which He categorically affirms, that they might be saved, nor is it an emplacement of eternal destiny in the blind wisdom of man in his sin. It is GOD who chooses; but THIS, in His unlimited LOVE, is HOW He chooses.
Thus it is in Christ before all time (Ephesians 1:4), and not in some other way; it is in the One who wept for Jerusalem and who cried for His people as a hen for chickens (SMR Appendix B), yes it is in Him that predestination was STATEDLY made; and just as it is central to the reality of the incarnation that He who has seen Christ has seen the Father (John 14:9), so it is central to realise that it is THIS Christ who shows the true heart and mind, character and disposition of God. Hence in predestination as in all other things, as He was on earth in spirit and character and word, SO He was in heaven; as He was in time, so before it. Accordingly, SO it was when in this love, many were elected, and so predestinated. These, then, they are known; they are foreknown; then the case is set: His blood has availed for them, just as it was freely offered to all, with a sincerity amounting to passion, with a depth amounting to weeping that they do not come.
OPEN to all, then, He is SAVIOUR TO SOME, and in so doing, He pays for those who in receiving His sacrifice, render it operative for themselves, for as to those who reject Him, of them He says this, “You shall die in your sins” – John 8:24.
For them, not a flicker of the register occurs, not a drop of blood is spilt, shed or oozes from the lacerations of the body of Christ, no death avails, and no redemption is provided. It is not that it is not THERE and AVAILABLE; but it is not touched. It is not that it is on the other hand, activated or applied at all, in such a case; the love is expended, but the blood is not received. What is not received does not achieve transference. Redemption is as close as the brotherhood, while its offer is as wide as the earth, and yet wider, for it “pleased the Father that in Him should all the fullness dwell, and having made peace through the blood of the cross, through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, through Him, I say, whether they be things on earth or things in heaven” (Colossians 1:19).
of the loving heart of God is UNIVERSAL, and He says so in language frequently
found, emphatic, and dramatic. The PAYMENT is adequate for all, apt for all,
and interpretative of the love in this, as I John 2:2 so abundantly clearly
proclaims. Thus it is, this sacrifice, “on behalf of all”, for there is none
who is excluded who would come, as in the sacrifices of the Old Testament
precisely; but it is equally, effective
only for many, for the whole of heaven is the inheritance of those whose sins
He bore as Romans 8:32, with precise and perfect clarity, attests. “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for
us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things ?”
Not only so, but Paul proceeds to expatiate in the very terms of the elect: “Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect ? It is God who justifies. Who is He who condemns ? It is Christ who died.”
Those for whom He was delivered up not merely have all of heaven as their inheritance, but are spoken of in terms of His elect! It is not for some exhibition of feeling that Christ died, though His death certainly DOES attest that feeling. To be sure, His desires and protestations as in Ezekiel 33:11 do mean that in dying He has attested His love to the uttermost; but He has not invested it in a redemption inapplicable to those for whom it is made. It is statedly for those to whom He will “also freely give all things”, that He is delivered up as a sacrifice.
All sacrifice indeed is meaningless to the spiritual recipient, without faith. Just as the individual in the temple patterns, would offer sacrifice on a personal substitutionary base, and would act as a believer within the terms of the covenant, so now also, it is to faith, by faith, on Him as objective, the object of faith (cf. Romans 4:24ff.). Again, just as a sacrificial offer was made for Israel annually, so He once for all was offered; and just as only some believed (cf. Hebrews 4:1-2, I Corinthians 10:1ff.), so the sacrifice had no efficacy for such, but rather the contrary (Deuteronomy 29:18ff); and without contest, hell has no such conferment to present to any of its lonely inhabitants, nor have those eventually to be lost, any such celestial inheritance as those to whom Paul speaks in Romans 8:32ff., nor yet are the sons of hell, the elect. It is these, the elect, for whom He is statedly delivered up, and it is to the world that He has come, out of love, proclaiming in all sincerity, “Whosoever …”
For God did not disdain the world, in order to send His Son, but so LOVED. He was not befuddled, but He bought. He did not pay for what He did not get, but obtained His purchase. Nor did He withhold that which might avail, but announcing love to all, He provided enough for them, but paid only for His own, not ashamed to pick up the cheques of divine credit. Where the offer is avoided, it is void.
frequently found Calvinist contention is quite wrong
Repent or Perish Ch. 1,
Outrageous Outages ... and the Courage of Christ
Ch. 9 with
Celestial Harmony ... Ch. 2,where correlative
Christian Pilgrimage Ch. 3,
When God says He would have all to be saved (I Timothy 2), it is what He means.
His restraint is not the same either as frustration or diffuseness. The love is real, but so is its purity, and it proceeds as love does, as far as it may; and how far is that ? It is as far as He who IS love wishes to send it, though in yearning for His misspent creation, He would that it might yet reach further. Yet He will not breach His own nature, nor the natures of those for whom He has sought. The resurgence of His love, like giant rolling breakers, is most powerful and intense; but it does not fly, as if it forgot that to which it was directed. Its sincerity is towards all; its purity may reach only some, NOT because they were more meritorious, with any X-factor of desirable character, or superior operative will for that matter, but because He will not breach what He has made, and having made, both loves without limit, and towards it acts without sullying or bullying.
SO He loves without limit, as He has indicated when treating of this aspect, repeatedly; and He loves also without violation of love (I John 4).
On the other hand, the Arminian*2 trend to expand the amplitude of His love into a deficiency of attainment, as if He paid for what is yet lost, is as bad if not worse. Here you have a flat contradiction of scripture, just as in the other case. No wonder they do war, have warred and presumably will war on and on. They are both wrong. It is as in a divorce: both parties may have sinned, each against the other and the truth, and without repentance what can be done ? So they separate.
In fact however, the love is as great as Wesley ever desired to express, and the sovereignty as sure as Calvin ever set his heart on expounding. Neither conflicts, neither is occasion for addition to the word of God, or for contraction of it (cf. Predestination and Freewill, Section II and Section III). In one point Wesley was right against Whitefield, and in one, Whitefield was right against Wesley. Love and sovereignty, each unembarrassed, each utterly integral and with utter integrity, are alike unhindered and unharassed in this, that nothing breaches either, and each is what it is and not another.
It is in this love that one works by suffering (cf. Colossians 1:24);
and because it IS this love, so ample, so vast, so unrestricted
but not unrestrained in its purity,
that when one proceeds thus,
it is indeed in fellowship with the Lord;
and that is a fellowship which the sufferings interpret
and their fruit depicts, for it is Christ only who saves.
The fellowship is not one of some synergistic symphony, as if one were a participant in providing others with salvation. Rather is it one of beautiful comradeship, so that the person speaking of Christ Jesus attests Him as provider of the word, testifier of the truth, but this as one who shares the research product of some great firm, to which one has contributed - and can contribute, NOTHING. Wrong is the often used phrase, “go out and convert someone”, or as one minister inadvisedly once applied it when as a teacher the author was speaking to a Science specialist, ‘Donaldson is converting so and so…’
Yet how could I convert anyone ? If a man ministers, it is God who commands the light to shine out of darkness (II Corinthians 4:6). It is the word of God which is presented which does not return void (Isaiah 55:1-11), and the power of the Holy Spirit in His threefold work (John 16:9-11), which converts. I for my part am no more ‘converting’ someone than is the one who flies with an atomic bomb, either creating it or making its power (Romans 1:16). He merely brings it to the place where it does what it is to do. With the glorious gospel of Christ however, one is making a far greater explosion of grace, than the worst bomb of destruction; for this grace is priceless, while that may be purchased for a few millions.
Further, though Christ ALONE died for sins, a ransom (cf. Matthew 20:28), there is a spirit of service which endues this action, to which the Christian must come; and as Christ suffered to the most excruciating degree, in providing a redemption which hit the universe like a galaxy in collision with the earth, and its Milky Way, so the Christian may need to suffer in ways unthought of, though they could never begin to find equality with the suffering of God for man, in the form of a man, without sin and yet bearing its impact in order to dismiss it.
Suffering now, for the purpose of seeking the application of His redemption by His word, this however is aptly dispensed with a liberality if required, that attests the One in whose name one comes.
Yes there is even more than this to be found in this phrase. What then do we find ?
In Philippians 3, Paul not only speaks of the power of God and of the sufferings which he is to endure in its exhibition and application to a suffering world; he also speaks of the “fellowship” of the sufferings of Christ, of that participation in this work of the Lord as a chief aim. In what sense then is there “fellowship” in sufferings, and how may we understand it more intimately than we have as yet ?
of His sufferings: This is the easy part to SAY; but it is the hard part to DO!
SINCE Christ as God is love, then His desire for the lost is most intense.
WHEN you experience such a desire, and act to apply it,
then you are one with Christ and He is one with you,
as you follow His word, His Spirit in you (if you are a Christian – Romans 8:9).
You toil for HIM, and He toils in YOU (cf. Philippians 2:12-13), and toiling together, He in you, and you to present the Gospel, expound the word, give reason for the faith, show the love of Christ, and find the self-discipline which is thus required, there is FELLOWSHIP. He acts to give power, grace and understanding, direction and joy with peace, you to implement His will in His friendship, which being divine, is incomparable.
There is a blessed peace between you and Him, as His life and love are shared, as a branch shares in the vine, and His power is propelling you as the sap moves through the vine to the leaves, and you rejoice in His desire, and He in your implementation.
He joins with you in this great project, and you with Him, and there is a cordial collaboration which engenders a friendly joy and a brotherly delight (cf. Hebrews 2:10-11,17).
With such a brother as this, who would not rejoice! Rejoice and again I say rejoice! says Paul (Philippians 4:4), and what is missing in that ? It is this phrase, “in the Lord” :
“Rejoice in the Lord, always. Again I say rejoice.”
Yet now we return to the
KNOWLEDGE of GOD: that I may KNOW HIM, says Paul,
It is to this, to know God, and Jesus Christ whom He has sent – not some philosophical speculation, some theosophical compilation, some vacuous visionary deposition as if this were for man to rely upon (and hence not least, no doubt, Paul’s extreme reticence on talking of his visions – II Corinthians 12:1-7). To be sure, one may have visions (Acts 2:17), for this reference used by Peter at Pentecost and taken from Joel is one of the signals of our age, and it is to the young it is given, whilst in parallel, dreams to the old, and it is associated with the outpouring of the Spirit in a non-restrictive fashion.
The author had vision of God at the first leading to conversion, and it was associated at first with Gospel conviction and then with commission for ministry; and it was well to have such a commencement to such a ministry which in so much by so many for so long has been so assailed, as if simply INSISTING on the scripture of truth, the Bible as the sole authorised, written revelation of God to man, on its reliability and its sole efficacy, and on Christ as there presented, were fatal. It is as if it were in some way extraordinary, though it is this and must remain so to the unbelieving world, and this the more as it wanders into isolation from God with more fraud and falsity, emptiness and urbanity, terrors and acquired immunity to truth as its regress progresses to its own fatal finish. Does it not find itself outraged, inflamed, exasperated, hostile or alien even to the simplest of demonstrable propositions, which touch its pride, vainglory and false hopes!
Despite all such things, like headwinds experienced by an aircraft on its journey, there has been result, and there must be with the word of God: one naturally applies it, expounds it, expresses its point, preaches it, teaches it; but in this Age of Confusion there has been such a traditional air of this, linked to an innovative air of that, as if the camp and not the Christ were important, or as if novelty and not necessity mattered, that it reeks of the false prophets and false christs whom Christ attested as the affliction of the times to come.
Visions as we read in Joel and Acts, will come. It is not at all, however, in such visions that one glories, but in God who gives the knowledge of Himself in MANY ways, as does any friend, and this One being my Creator, has inimitable ways and illimitable power: and He acts for those who wait for Him and keep His ways (Isaiah 64:5), and with what wonderful action! Moreover He has provided the decisive and definitive scripture, the incisive Christ and the expository experience of life in accord with this and with Him, just as He calls for a fellowship of sufferings; and as we proceed, who could fail to KNOW Him who calls, who IS the truth (John 14:6), who enables, who delivers, who instructs the heart and teaches the mind! On the “highway of holiness” (Isaiah 35), it is of inexpressible delight that EVEN FOOLS do not err!
To know God and in particular Jesus Christ whom He has sent (John 17:3) is entirely crucial to salvation (John 17:3), just as knowing you are a man, is important in being one; for if you were confused, and thought perhaps you were an animal, you might indeed be so denatured as to be dehumanised into proportions at last contemptible. With contempt, alas, the scripture is quite clear, many will make their way to their ends (Daniel 12:2, II Peter 2:10-3:7, Matthew 7:21ff., Mark 9).
Imagine if a Volkswagen were convinced that it was a Boeing 747, or vice versa. Vice versa of course is the apt analogy for those who think of themselves as animals. Only recently, in conversation, one had to point out that a man could certainly DECIDE, CHOOSE to act as an animal, or a devil, or as one for whom the means of living were taken instead of the life to which they minister, but in being able so to CHOOSE, he shows that he is not this. An animal has NO CHOICE. It acts as it is. The spirit of man (Christ Jesus: the Wisdom and the Power of God, Ch. 7), enables this comedy and this tragedy of pretension; and so to act is as mad in spirit (Hosea 9:7 gives this sense) as is its converse, where a man, being a mere sinner, comes to act as if he were God! So they RISE in folly, or FALL in baseness: astray!
God Himself may act as man by CHOOSING to become one; but for a man to act as God or a god, is for the Volkswagen, seeing it is popular, to decide that it is a car factory.
To know God means that you know what you are, whose you are by creation, whose you are by adoption as a Christian, whose blood was shed for you (Acts 20:28), whose Spirit inhabits you (Romans 8:9). You know whose inheritance is given to you (Ephesians 1:11) – though some may have seasons of confusion, alas, which should be quickly remedied in faith in Him according to His word, which is MOST clear as here shown – whose ways delight you, whose works enable you, whose finished work of atonement has paid for you, whose love embraces your spirit, whose understanding enables your mind and whose tender compassions and mercy uphold you despite your weakness, giving you strength for the day, patience for the task and rest for your soul (Matthew 11:28-30). And this ? It is indeed glorious (Isaiah 11:10, which is thus verified daily).
You then can know what it means that the young men will faint in their weakness, while you may be gray-headed, yet not forsaken, and with those who wait on the Lord, INCREASE your strength, rise up with wings like eagles, run and not be weary, yes, walk and not faint (Isaiah 40:28ff.). Do you recall the word of Christ to Peter as in John 21, when finding him active anew in his earlier profession of fishing, and that after denying Christ three times at the dramatic crisis ? It was so gracious and pleasant, this word, if searching.
The events were like the workings of a compressed spring. Peter realising from the very boat where he fished that it was the Lord, jumped in and swam to Him on the shore, enjoying in this way the POWER OF HIS RESURRECTION. Christ cooked the meal for them from the fish caught, just as He had eaten with them earlier (Luke 24:43), proclaiming that He was not spirit, but flesh and blood (Luke 24:39), exhorting them to HANDLE ME AND SEE!
Now later, in the fishing episode, when they were again led to catch many fish in a way so reminiscent of the earlier actions when He had now long known them, He proceeded to recommission Peter in terms of that love and loyalty in which He had failed, asking three times in different terms, similar questions. IF there was the warmth of friendship, and if the devotion to the Lord, then this was to be the spur for service, like that a shepherd, considerately caring for the sheep.
From the dead came this voice, in the living it came; and to the living to gave a privilege, for to have as employer the One who broke death leaves all knowledge in abeyance and meekness by comparison, and all power puny. It is the power of One who was dead and is alive (Revelation 1:18-19); and having taken the whole course of triumph, the tour of duty, having visited the human form and lived in it, sickness and cured it, death and raised the dead, He then went through that supreme sacrifice of actually dying Himself, that in the breach of death, not only as an event and power, but as something having grounds in divine justice, there might be met the breath of life: and He lived. Would a man forget this ? Would such a commission pall, or would it be inadequate ? for what power is greater, and what can threaten more than this, which is quenched, like flames, and what confidence could excel the trust in the One who did it!
“Because,” said Christ, “I live, you shall live also!” (John 14:19, Romans 3:23ff.).
The knowledge of God, to know Him, it is not a phrasing or a clutter of speech, but an experience so utterly exceptional, a function so truly unique, that one can understand, even before Christ put His seal on it all, the Psalmist well saying, as in Psalm 73:25:
“Whom have I in heaven, but Thee;
and there is none whom I desire on earth, beside Thee.”
If a tree were a man, would it not know the river by which it lives, as some giant red gum by an Australian stream (the Holy Spirit as in the imagery of Ezekiel 47 and Revelation 22 q.v.). Would he not know the fishermen who were by his side ? Would he not provide shade for them ? Would he not know the ground of his roots (“other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (I Cor. 3:11) ? Would he not know the skies above (we are sitting in heavenly places IN CHRIST – Ephesians 2:6) ? Would he not sense the profundity of peace as the stream ran on its course, bringing blessing on all sides (cf. Isaiah 48:18, Psalm 1), beauty in arcades about it ?
So when a man is IN Christ, and Christ in him (Colossians 1:27),
does he not know it ?
Or when he knows WHO forgave his sins and pardoned his iniquities,
WHO suffered for him and WHO gave His life for Him,
WHO being sent by the LOVE of God, loved His own to the end (John 13:1)
and offered His salvation freely to all; and when he realises
WHO lives in Him and
WHOSE He is,
is he unconscious of these specifications and dynamics of living ?
Further, when the Holy Spirit sent by Christ from the Father (John 15:26) works in Him, at times striving mightily (Philippians 2:13-14, Ephesians 3:16), does he not know it ? Indeed, in knowing Christ in this way, he does more than assent to propositions, though these do truly express reality when from the Bible they come; he knows the One who made them.
Some use some conception of this to try to ADD to the word of God, as if knowing God made you an apostle, or being saved gave you sanction to invent: but the canon is indeed closed (cf. SMR Appendix C and D, Ancient Words, Modern Deeds Ch. 11, Sparkling Life … Chs. 1-2), and irreversibly the portrait of Christ is once for all made in history, and indited in word form, by those whom saw Him. It is useless trying to paint a portrait with your mind; for you must see the One concerned.
Some use it to subtract from the word of God, so that the authority of Him who came to make manifest who God is, what His love is and His salvation, is to be excluded in behalf of this great and sensational presumption, that someone neither witnessing His splendour nor living in His time, if it were possible would pare off, like some beauty surgeon, the divine face till it fits his own preferred philosophic and arrogant moulding. If such a task is purely spiritual, it is neither spiritually pure nor much to be preferred to that other remoulding which snatched out His beard and acted so to deform His physique that the residue, we read, was scarcely recognisably human (Isaiah 52:12ff.).
Some use it in seeking to evade what God has said. They use the reliability and definitive character of the word of God written, the Bible, to evade the personal reception of Christ, just as He Himself said when on earth! In John 5:39-47, we see it clearly, the incalculable intimacy of the word which depicts and the Christ whom it depicts like partners in marriage, and the failure of some to follow the one given, to the One shown:
“You search the Scriptures,
for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify
of Me. “But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.I do not
receive honor from men.
“But I know you, that you do
not have the love of God in you.
“I have come in My Father’s
name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, him you will
“How can you believe, who receive honor from one another, and do not seek the honor that comes from the only God?
"Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father; there is one who accuses you—Moses, in whom you trust. For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?”
You have perhaps watched sheep dogs
trying to put the sheep into this gate or that,
and it is a splendour of insubordination,
a marvel of cross-grained lack of desire
that leads the sheep even to seem creatures of some initiative
as they find almost any way other than the one indicated,
as if a fear of rightness gripped them.
So with men: like sheep they go astray,
and some seem even to glory in staying that way.
To them, then, it is not to know God,
or the power of His resurrection
or the fellowship of His sufferings.
They can have life without meaning,
and without liking their beginning as creations,
can have desecration their diction, and their end.
NO BLACK HOLES IN THE LOVE OF GOD BUT A SHINING TRACK
§ There are, then, no black holes in this way, in this love, in this sovereignty, in the God of truth and mercy; there is nothing collecting, but not dispersing light. It is rather more, in analogy, like a white hole, irrepressible broadcasting light.
§ No cardinal – or any other – weakness appears, but rather luxuriance of harmony, exuberance of truth, cardinal and original vigour, as in a four-lane highway.
§ Again, as a train track surmounting the thrusting uprisings of the Rockies in Canada, soaring to the heights, curving about vastnesses, so this word adorns the beauty to which it carries you, its words as these rails, carved in Rock
§ And what more fitting for Him who and who alone, is the impenetrable Rock (II Samuel 22:32, Psalm 62), yet who in a radiance of love has divulged the heart of His eternal ranges, not of mountains but of originality and power, tenderness, compassion and pity, the uttermost reaches of limitless divine intelligence and the plan of salvation which like mountain lightning, illuminate the scene for man.
§ To know this beauty of holiness is to come to know the source of earth’s glory, the cause of its self- betrayal, the seeds of its plagues and the hope for the hearts, becoming certainty for those who join the train of His Majesty, Jesus the Christ. He does not rest in His searching for souls; but in His heart is a rest so profound that all the lakes of serenity can merely suggest its majesty, scope, grace, quiet and contentment.
§ To know God, the fellowship of His sufferings and the incalculable resources of His power, this is the mind of God for man; and it is this to which man will yearn, from which so often in simplistic selfishness, many turn, but to which Paul set his heart, assured that his citizenship being in heaven, the body itself at the day of the Lord’s return, will rise transformed just as Christ’s was brought with incalculable power, back to this earth and its ways, more elevated, but no less communicative in word, in fellowship of eating, in touchability, the body not only tangible but offering facility for grasping hands or offering cooked fish! (Philippians 3:20-21, Luke 24, Matthew 28). So is the illimitable and irrefrangible power of God displayed, and to be displayed by Him before whom all things will be subdued.
too is no privilege unique to the apostle, nor is this salvation (II Timothy
4:8), so limited, but it is for all who have loved His appearing, His life
(John 14:21-23, 12:48-50); and receiving them and Him, crucified, risen in body (Matthew 20:28, I Corinthians 15, Romans 10:9), therefore lived (John 5:24).
Indeed, here is the plateau of faith for all whose heart’s desire is set there, like eagles in their eyries, their eyes seeing the land that is far of, by faith (Isaiah 33); and the rarified air is pure with the touch of heaven.
§ Such is the knowledge of God.
§ This then is knowing God, and not doing so. It is health when present, but when absent, it is parody; and when the parody is of the divine, then the result is a parody of man. Cutting God into pieces, in thought, does not alter Him; but it renders the one who does it, so parallel to a murderer, that it is small wonder the results prove appalling in a negative wonder, to reflect with justice, the height of the positive (cf. Hebrews 10:26-29).
§ In our next chapter, we shall plan to look at the POWER of GOD, as shown in Peter, and consider the fascinating extension of the very resurrection power (cf. … Immutable Faith Ch. 11) which raised Christ, in confrontations both numerous and supernatural indeed, with the powers of that day. As to these, they were to fall; while Christ, having arisen, dies no more but acts with vigour, always able to make intercession for His people, until the time comes, the wheel of the Age turns, to turn no more, and the day comes for His return.
EXCURSION from Repent or Perish Ch. 1, *1, recently amplified.
A Post-script of Encouragement:
See Predestination and Freewill pp. 79ff., re Calvin's declaration in Institutes Book 3, Ch. XXIV, 17. Calvin's endeavour to make metaphors a conveyor of what is not the case - as if we did not know metaphor for what it is, a CORRECT depiction of the POINT to which it refers - is wholly irrelevant, and not admirable. "Stretching forth one's arms" is not a reference, one might without much difficulty discern, to God's having arms. If so, what is the use of metaphor at all! It is however a clear reference to what THIS ACTION IMPLIES, when it is performed, and so conveys this.
God does indeed have most deep thoughts, as Calvin indicates, and it is indeed entirely possible to misread this depth, which is infinite, and to imagine that some item on the agenda means something final, when it is merely an incident to alert, a device to sensitise and so forth. Indeed this equally is quite true. What however is not at all true is this: that God who in depth is so vast, in speech is not accurate.
When therefore He declares that something is so, it is His VERY DEPTH and righteousness, in whom is no unrighteousness at all, which MEANS that we CANNOT and DARE NOT and in all modesty SHOULD NOT attempt to "READ" it like the scribes of old, to MEAN something other than what it says. It is nothing to do with being literal, but only with handling the word of God with soft fingers, so that a declaration that HE WOULD, on the part of Christ, MEANS that He would, and not that His disfigurement was not only OF Him, on the Cross, but even BY Him, of the Father also, a blasphemous thought, when you tease it out and look it in the face.
FORM of Christ STATEDLY involved Him in what as a servant was not found in the
FORM of God: that is, He could thirst and be arrested. The declarations of
Christ however are not even His own invention, but He provided what His Father
commanded (John 12:48-50). This then would make even the Father a communicative
failure. It is time such nonsense was ousted from the realms of theology, where
its philosophic intrusion is barred rightly by Paul in Colossians 2:8.
· Philosophy ? From the heart of man,
· it is indeed "vain", as is anything which
· tempers the word of God with human wit, and
· tampers with direct statements as to the nature of the heart and will of God.
· Christ became man not to distort or disorientate, but to declare and lead the Father forth, so that he who knew Him, knew the Father likewise, NOT some first beginnings in which error could creep, so that what was declared to be SO, in terms of principle and approach on the part of God, was NOT so.
That is not theology, it is philosophy. The so-called five points of Calvinism, if read in the context of Scripture as always for all things necessary in doctrine, are indeed excellent. They help to exhibit many errors. But this is no reason for elevating Calvin to a pinnacle of which men will say, "I of Apollos, I of Calvin!" It is quite simply by the word of God FORBIDDEN to do this (I Corinthians 3:4,21-23).
How long does it take for this word to be obeyed! Does the word of God owe something to Augustine or to Calvin or to Apollos? Of course not, for as Paul states, he received it by revelation from God, not of man at all, neither from what he was taught; and in I Cor. 2:9-13 he traces how the wording itself is provided by God, whose is both the substance and its expression, preserved to His entire quality specifications for the word of God. (See SMR, Appendix D on this topic.) If this word is not heeded, then the errors, few though they may be, of one saint of great power and service to the church, may be imbibed as if the fluid of his speech were the very pure milk of the word. (Cf. The Kingdom of Heaven, Ch.9, pp. 174ff., items 12-13, The Biblical Workman Ch.8, including *2.)
Enough! It is forbidden and it is done, and it ought not to be done, and one of its results is not only a limitation of restrictive vision, as by blinkers on a horse, concerning the very word of God itself, but a restless divisiveness which can afflict the church. It is not merely wholly unnecessary, but to the praise of God let it be clearly stated, it COULD NOT HAPPEN IF THE WORD OF GOD WERE OBEYED. You are simply not permitted to develop a form of doctrine based on the correctness of any theologian, though you may choose of his works for formulations, always susceptible to testing.
These however, even these, may not be "of Calvin" or of "Augustine" or "of Apollos", but merely helps. Moreover, following such a stringently Biblical path as here recommended, and indeed divinely commanded, could only stimulate the real uniting church - not one in fellowship with Rome , but one ruled by the word of God, outside the philosophical and often personalised camps that conflict often both with each other and the word of God, minimising or adding to it. (Cf. Biblical Blessings Ch.3, end-note 1, and "moderation" in the Topical Index for "The Twenty One".)
Do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, for there is simply nothing comparable (Colossians 3:17). It is one of the features of churches like the Presbyterian Church of Australia, at least before it developed novel features and changed its way, that it ADDED this emphasis on the love of God TO the Westminster Confession in the so-called Declaratory Statement, which in this was a wonderful refinement. The system was not wrong: that was not the point. The addition of this pre-systematic reality of the love of God in its Biblical force was needed, and efforts were made to ensure it was there. This was an excellent and discerning move. Let us however revert to Calvin.
Unfortunately, Calvin was carried away here. CHRIST WOULD HAVE GATHERED THEM UNDER HIS WINGS, just as He says, and these, the daughters or current generation of Jerusalem, her children, WERE NOT WILLING (Matthew 23:37, cf. SMR Appendix B and below). It is true that Calvin was dealing with some saucy doctrine of the flesh, and seeking to refute it, but to invent one's own doctrine is not the way to declare that of the Lord! The full analysis of this matter is found in Predestination and Freewill where shown, and in what follows throughout its presentation.. He wants to show that it does not "follow that God's plan was made void by man's evil intent", and this is a good objective, since He states that He works all things after the counsel of His own will, and does what He pleases in heaven and earth, albeit it is a good pleasure (Ephesians 1:11, Psalm 115, Ephesians 1:5). The objective does not however sanction the method taken to refute that error: it is not good to make one error to refute another.
God's restraint in love is shown throughout the whole Bible in such terms, in so many images, through so many deeds, in such declarations, with such pathos, poignancy, amid such protestations, with so many devices to delay judgment, that a failure to perceive that this Sovereign is so loving that John declares "God is love", is a lapse sufficient to have sent shock-waves through Christendom for long enough. It is time the striving ceased and the word of God ruled, and that the pugilistic "certainties" of philosophic camps, somehow arrayed within the walls of what is called the church, made peace first with the word of God, and then with each other.
Meanwhile, the word of God is true, and harmonious, and like God, it is wonderful, it is His, and as we read in our dissertation on the Song of Solomon, "His mouth is most sweet" (The Kingdom of Heaven... Ch.11). It is the textual certainties which do not vary, and cannot with truth be invaded. These have a harmony (as demonstrated in Predestination and Freewill) which is profoundly arresting and unique in this field. That is good. But it is HIS word; and that is better.
As the Psalmist puts it,
· "Thy testimonies have I taken as a heritage for ever: for they are the rejoicing of my heart" - Psalm 119:111, and again,
· "The righteousness of Thy testimonies is everlasting: give me understanding, and I shall live" v.144;
· "Thy word is true from the beginning, and every one of Thy righteous judgments endures for ever" - v. 160;
· "Thy testimonies also are my delight and my counsellors" - v. 24,
· "How sweet are Thy words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!" - v. 103;
· "Thy word is very pure, therefore Thy servant loves it" - v. 140;
· "concerning Thy testimonies, I have known from of old that Thou hast founded them for ever" - v. 152,
· "forever, O Lord, Thy word is settled in heaven" - v. 89, and
· "Through Thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way" - v.104.
By these, one knows the true from the false, and one does not fiddle with the standard, which is then MADE false.
Let God be true, though every man a liar! His word? It is true that when we know as we are known, prophecies shall no longer be the sometimes indirect exposure, but sight the direct knowledge. Nevertheless, it is sufficiently clear that this does not render dispensable the word of God which is and always has been, utterly pure - "The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times" - Psalm 12:6. When God speaks, we do not hypothesise as to His meaning, we read it; and far less do we hypothesise that it is contrary in Christ to the Deity, when He IS the deity, or that His human form defiles His truth, for He stated, "I am the truth".
Let us therefore read and understand with the Psalmist, and BY IT try every false way, and REPENT of sin with all our hearts and abide in Him and have His words abide in us, for there is not merely safety, but the unspeakable joy of His company and comfort, who desires us so to abide.
did indeed so love THE WORLD that HE GAVE His only-begotten Son, and what
obscures this mission is not of the Lord, but of sin; and those who in sin
depart from this divine and universal offer from the very heart of God, do
despite to their own hope, doubly in folly, that in the face of such a love and
heart as this, they so distinguish themselves. As He says in Matthew 23:37, so
in Isaiah 30:15: "In returning and rest shall you be saved; in quietness and in
confidence shall be our strength: and you would not." Again, as noted in The Kingdom
of Heaven, Ch.4, we have this:
· "Thus in John 3 we are told that THIS is the condemnation, that light has come into the world and men loved darkness rather than light, or more literally, men loved the darkness more than the light.
· "Now if anyone sought to establish that the light referred to was not Jesus Christ, he would have some difficulty in escaping a just charge of eisegesis. After all, the Gospel of John has been at extreme pains to show that the light IS Jesus Christ, sent into the world. It actually SAYS so (John 1:3,10-11). The Word is the focus, it was the light, is the light, became flesh and dwelt among us. This is the declaration" ... "
As we there show in detail from John's Gospel, with a declared PURPOSE of NON-CONDEMNATION Christ came into the world, that it might be saved, and the PRINCIPLE, in the light of this light, for actual CONDEMNATION is this: that light has come and men have preferred darkness to light. And the light, it is He who HAS COME, as just described in enormous detail, in the incarnation.
The purpose is EXPLICIT, the PROVISION is AMPLE, the DIVINE MOTIVE is DECLARED, and the principle for exclusion in hell is MANIFESTED in terms of human preference in the face of this Light... The Light is manifested in terms of Christ, who declares "I am the light of the world" (John 8:12), whose divine entry and full-orbed wonder is the chief focus of John 1. Its rejection, thus defined, is the condemnation, because of preference for darkness.
This, of condemnation, is the essence. It is not something hidden; it is something stated, stipulated in principle.
The fact that man is too sick in soul to make the "decision" for His salvation is not in the least relevant to the way in which GOD in His foreknowledge, being wholly apt for any knowledge, predestines those whom HE foreknows. It is not in the hands of man, but in those of God exclusively; but as to those hands, they are those which relate to the God who has declared His heart, His intention and His principles. There is no room for doubt except by butting into the word of God like a goat into a fence. He is always the same, and His ways do not change, and they are as Christ has shown them to be, declaring, He who has seen Me has seen the Father, indeed that He spoke what His Father commanded, and it is He who, in response to the cry for the showing of the Father to His disciples, replied,
"Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known ME, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father, so how can you say, 'Show us the Father!' "
Changes of form (Philippians 2) do nothing therefore to defile, distort or smash the reality, the principles, the force, the texture or the truth. He, as He there lived, declaring, "I am... the truth" (John 14:6).
To libel the love of God by constricting it where He affirms it, in the interests of a blind and circumscribed philosophy, is a rank act; just as is, at the other philosophical extremity, that distortion of sovereignty that imagines God to resolve in vain (v. Isaiah 43:13). Disabled by sin, man is nevertheless not deleted, and is found by that uncontractable love of God, of Colossians 1:19-23, I Timothy 2:1-6, being predestined to and through this.
God does not contradict Himself, affirming the desire, while from eternity and in principle, withholding the means essential to its fulfilment, but cries to responsible man, 'Repent!' (Matthew 4:17, Luke 13:1-3), and to Jerusalem, weeping, "If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes..." (Luke 19:42, cf. The Kingdom of Heaven, Ch.4, esp. pp. 49ff.).
The shallow sophistications of misled philosophy always entice the unwary to their additive constraints; but God knows how to be what He is and get what He wants even in the realm of personality, achieving without dispersion, receiving without distortion, being received without violence, the lover who leaves all other love behind, yet inspires it and is its rest and source.
· As in predestining sublimity (cf. Predestination and Freewill),
· so in historical reality,
· God is able to receive and be received by what is His own,
· with no mechanics to defile His principles,
· or derangements to over-rule His protestations.
· It remains true that in the face of the ample and capacious love of God to the world (John 1-3 and elsewhere as noted),
· the gift of repentance, like all the rest of the amazing deliverances to those elected to be the children of God,
· is truly received,
· and the non-reception of what is proffered
· remains the divinely stated criterion of exclusion (John 3:17ff.), even in the face of such love, a love uninterested in this phase, in any condemnation,
but rather desiring incorporation.
Such thoughts therefore, as those cited from Calvin, which
would convey a breach between the heart and mind of Christ and that of His Father
are vain. Such a procedure is worse then irrelevant.
It does not move this fence. God's word protects God from such false allusions to His word, to His principles and to His purpose, just as, in the field of a parallel error, they protect man from delusive imaginations about His own "capacity" to gain His salvation by any work or nuance, any nobility or merit, any work of his own.
· Response then is in the end, real and apt for one in the image of God: it is merely a matter of how it is secured in the Lord before all time, as He who knows all, also know this: what is appropriate for His love in such a disenabled soul. Contentious cavils, philosophic intrusions with all their merely human and passing insistences, the constraints of confusion and illusion, will never erode the clear declaration of the word of God, from the right or from the left, from 'super-orthodoxy' or from rabbled and irrational radicalism. He who, in His love and salvation, does violence to the will of none, and in love does not shanghai or play the buccaneer, knows also this: who are His and why.
"HOW OFTEN" He had sought, as He said. HOW often would He have gathered the children of Jerusalem together under His wings, those who, as with "the children of Israel" of old, were the current generation of the people, and here those of the great city (cf. II Chronicles 36:15ff.). In Christ's day we read of those of yore, He sent because "He had compassion on His people"! "IF ONLY...", as Christ cried in His own day on earth, if only they had known! But as to the daughter of Jerusalem, as the contemporary citizens are often called (Appendix B, SMR, cf. Matthew 23:37, Luke 19:42ff., Jeremiah 6:2-312-15,, 6:23,26, 8:11, 9:1,7, Lamentations 2:2,8), she was not interested. In former days, AFTER the judgment from Babylon, we read that the elders of this 'daughter' (Lamentations 2:10) "sit on the ground and weep in silence". It is as with Isaiah:
"...this is a rebellious people,
Children who will not hear the law of the LORD,
Who say to the seers, 'Do not see,'
And to the prophets, 'Do not prophesy to us right things;
Speak to us smooth things,
Get out of the way,
Turn aside from the path.
Cause the Holy One of Israel
To cease from before us" (from Isaiah 30:9-11, emphasis added).
As with Jeremiah, where 'she', the daughter of
Jerusalem, was instructed to roll around in the dust in shame at her
abominations, so now. He would have gathered that generation together under His
wings, as a hen gathers her chickens ... just as He would have healed... even
BABYLON and Israel itself (Jeremiah 51:9, Hosea 7:1). But it is not so!
His tenderness and restraint, not to say patience, are clear in so
many ways, that the small selection here made is merely indicative; but this it
is. To divorce the Lord from this aspect is no less or more distorting that to
humiliate His sovereignty into some cap-in-hand uncertainty. God is not only a
lover, but an all-knowing one; He is not only a sovereign, but a wholly
compassionate one: and what if, with much patience, He endured those foreknown
for destruction! (Romans 9:22).
· He does not put the lost sheep in grappling irons, but carries it home on His shoulder.
The foreknowledge does not pre-empt love, but expresses what, as John 3 makes so clear, is undercut by nothing. If then, it is a sovereign love, it is the love of a loving sovereign. He is so towards Israel as already shown in many examples (cf. SMR Appendix B), even when they are rejected, statedly BECAUSE of their rejection of Him who appeals, provides and protests, and in protesting, protests His love that a peace and blessing should be theirs, one of profound and beautiful character, in Him (as in Ezekiel 33:11 cf. Acme, Alpha and Omega: Jesus Christ, Ch.10. pp. 143ff., cf. I Tim. 2:1-5) .
Christ, desolate at their rejection of Him (because it would render them desolate, as we see in Luke 19:42ff.), yet receives it. He does not twiddle with words, like a verbally contentious scribe or a legal contortionist, with specious sophisms, or captious cavils: but He appeals to the heart, just as He who IS the truth (John 14;6) expresses with profundity and justice, His own!
If some did not receive the grant of repentance (Acts 11:18), even though Christ did not come to condemn, but that the world might be saved through Him (John 3:17), God being willing that all might be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth (I Tim. 2:1-6): it was not because the Lord had a lapse of concentration, or a technical failure. It was not for such reasons that many are doomed (Matthew 7:13-14, Mark 9).
Pilfering His product (themselves), with those who do "always resist the Holy Spirit" (Acts 7:51-52), despite outpourings of divine grace, even reaching to manifest divine revelation (Acts 7:53) and in fact, to the Light Himself when He came (John 1-3) into the world, with the express willingness that it might be saved (John 3:17): they find gravity rather than grace as they hurtle with remorseless heart, over the cliff of the rock on which they should have stood, to the waters of death.
Thus we find this living embodiment of the word of God, Christ Jesus the Lord (John 1, John 12:48ff.), lament at what was, in marred will and feverish restlessness, to be lost, rather than to awake to an understanding of the day of its visitation (Luke 19:42ff.). Alas, like Elisha of old (II Kings 8:11-13), Christ wept at the judgment on the remorselessly recalcitrant; for they achieve their damnation with notable diligence.
And what is their stated ground for judgment ? that their indefensible and indispensable preference for darkness endured, and did not falter. This preference in the beseeching presence of eternal light (John 3:19, cf. John 15:21ff.), the very cited basis of the condemnation, is as far from some imagined diversion of His heart, from His stated love (I John 3:19), some dimming of its amplitude (Col. 1:19ff.) and His gracious purpose (cf. I John 2:1-3) as it would readily be possible to move! Not in pettifogging ploys and words (I Tim. 2:14, Proverbs 8:8-9), but in explicit declaration of intent from His very nature (John 4:8-10) is the case in view.
With every avenue shut, every focus dimmed, every sacrifice delusively dismissed, every heart of many being sought, as hard as adamantine, as in the days of the prophets, He did not swoop in like German blitzkriegs in the shape of some medieval crusader. Rather did He fulfil His mission in power and word, in declaration and rebuttal, in divine attestation of His divinity, in crushing collision with sin on the cross where He bore it for those to be redeemed. Penetrating as foreknown and predestined in His love (for God IS love), He acted then as before time (Ephesians 1:4), in the very spirit and reality which he showed in earth, of whom it is rightly said, He who has seen Me has seen the Father.
Who said that ? Christ said it. Meanwhile, judgment set in like a cloud, as darkness symbolically covered the site of His execution. They but executed their own mercy.
Soon their very city would be executed by Rome. What is profoundly beautiful in His love, is this, that even as His own carnage come near, a work of indescribable dimensions since it included the actual bearing in the human format of the guilt of the sin of all to be redeemed from all ages, He wept. But for whom ? NOT for Himself, in this planned outrage on His person and purity, drafted into a vicarious sacrifice, but for the OBJECT of His concern, those of Jerusalem!
His judgments, to be sure on the other side, follow with distinctness, even if amazing extensions - before eventual impact - may occur to the point that Ezekiel was instructed to deal with a newer type of tortuous twisting on the part of mockers. Their new contortion of truth: it was to the effect and complaint that God prolongs things: THEREFORE, says the prophet from the mouth of the Lord, JUDGMENT IS NOW.
There will be no more delay (Ezekiel 12:22-28). Compare to this, Jeremiah 17:19-27 where a proposition for prolonged and wonderful blessing, even to remain for ever (17:25), was made: even in the midst of judgment, a fresh proposal of splendid mercy was provided, one which their hearts were not in tune to keep, though it was ever so simple, and filled with grace. They would not heed even that.
"Therefore tell them, 'Thus says the Lord GOD: 'None of My words will be postponed any more, but the word which I speak will be done,' says the Lord God." Imminent doom became an implacable end.
Neither aspect, love or sovereignty, seeking in mercy (in which CATEGORICALLY, GOD DELIGHTS - Micah 7:18-19) or declaring in judgment - presenting or precluding, pre-empts the other: God is not divided, and knows His own mind, and declares in truth His own heart.
What He says in principle, over and over in this form, phrase and phase and in that, as He constantly reveals the love and the seeking (cf. Hosea 12:10), and as He repeatedly constrains and controls with His decisions and determinations, His sovereign edicts: BOTH we know, and that, it is the whole point. Only philosophy objects with its running sore of uncontrolled thrusting past the word of God, to satisfy this or that human instinct: and as to that, as Paul declares, it is vain; for what is man's thought compared with the Lord, and man's thoughts are not as His.
As to those who know Him, however, they know this, that this miracle of miracles, that HE should penetrate to their heart and find them, it is the work of God for whom nothing shall be said to be impossible (Luke 1:37, John 6:28-29). Nothing BUT that work and that work alone, could have secured it (John 10:26); but as John 1-3 makes so superabundantly clear, God is not selectively disregarding where it counts, anyone in the scope of His offer and the reality of His love; it is a preference for darkness in the very face of this universality of the divine cover of charity, which is cited as the ground of condemnation (John 3:15-19); it is the failure to come to Him in the face of such words and deeds as these, which is cited against them (John 15:21-23).
Without that, as the Scripture says, to the point at issue (their salvation), "they would have had no sin. But now...", it is the end, for there is no other beginning for sinners, but this.
There is nothing wreathed or contorted, twisted or devious about the word of God. It is not least for that reason that as to His words, "They are all clear to him who understands". His word is pure, see times refined, and in Him is no iniquity at all (James 1:17, Psalm 92:15, Deuteronomy 32:4); and it is from His light that we see light (Psalm 27;1, 36:9). But let us resume.
If we put together the two conclusions of such impenitence in John 15:22,24, we gain the understanding. They "would have had no sin", but now, they having disbelieved though faced with the direct impact of His words and His deeds, He declares:
a) "they have no excuse for
b) "they have seen and also hated both Me and My Father".
He adds: "But this happened that the word might be fulfilled which is written in their law, 'They hate Me without a cause' " - John 15:25.
To disregard (Him) at this level, to discount at this intense place of value and sacrifice, is to relegate reality and mercy and hope to the point that all that is precious is despised. Indeed that, in spiritual things where the petty patter of legalisms is long since past, is to assign such a nethermost portion to the infinite God of all wonder, definitively declared in Jesus Christ and as His own Person, that it is classed rightly indeed, as hate. Rejection of Christ at this point then appears as it is:
An impermeable, impenetrable,
undying, ungrounded, unfounded,
unruly and intemperate
of intimate, ultimate value and majesty,
tenderness and mercy from Creator to creature.
Christ is not demi-urge but deity, and denial of Him in His mercy mandate ministry is consignment to hell by one's own soaring folly as efficient - all too efficient - cause. It is this ultimate denial in His gracious, Messianic face which is the defined, despatch notice to doom.
For this, the first call is straightforward, simple and clear:
"REPENT FOR THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN IS AT HAND" (Matthew 4:17), and this,
"UNLESS YOU REPENT YOU WILL ALL LIKEWISE PERISH."
And the invitation is no less clear, "For as many as received Him to them He gave the authority to become children of God" - John 1:12.
The interminable horror of the folly is justly seen in its counterpart and destiny: the "everlasting contempt" (Daniel 12:2).
· To subtract acceptance, as if one merely were on auto-pilot under mechanical control; or to add good works, church works, church acceptance, penances, indulgences, traditions, hopes, gurus, ancient as with Rome or recent as with mutant Buddhist, Hindu or other existential varieties, self-fulfilment, self-assertion in spiritual things, methods ... to the work of Christ, is to subtract truth or to add folly to love, blatancy to beauty, flesh to spirit, restlessness for rest, vinegar for balm, and pride for humility.
Christ ALONE is perfect and offered Himself WITHOUT SIN or SPOT to God, His Father, thereby purchasing eternal redemption (Heb. 9:12), so that those so covered are “perfected for ever” by one offering (Heb. 10:10), and those thus redeemed (Ephesians 1:7), “have obtained an inheritance” (as in Romans 8:32 in precise parallel): for just as His love is vast and illimitable in scope, so is His redemption limited and arithmetically precise in coverage. It is a limited atonement, a limited attainment in sheep found, but an unlimited issuance in love presented. The price is adequate, effectual, delimited, pure, only His (Acts 4:11-12, Hebrews 9:12-14, Galatians 3:1-13).
· To add to the purchase price given by God alone, by the work of sinners, in terms of your own merit or will (Romans 9:16, John 1:12), proclivities or powers, or any contribution therefrom; or anybody else's, or that of any group, theologian or body, or in terms of any innate godliness or God-suitability (Ephesians 2:1-10): this is a presumption so bold, an addition so contrived, a denial of the freedom of salvation so vast, an antidote to the deliverance of Galatians 3:1-5 so complete, a rejection of the amplitude of Galatians 6:14 so perfect, as to form a badge almost for a brigade within that everlasting contempt.
· There, instead of direct rejection, you find the adornment of God with man’s assertions; instead of open contempt for Christ, you find what despises His covenant; instead of protection by His blood, there is discovered a wasting substitute for faith.
· Here sinners 'help', as did the High Priest with Pilate. (Hebrews 9:12-15,24-28; 10:10,14, Romans 6:24, 5:15, 3:25-28, Galatians 3:1-5, 6:14, I Peter 1:18-21,3-5, John 11:49-50, II Corinthians 5:17-21, 11:1-13:6.)
Indeed, it is important that tradition should not blind to the fact that some may UNINTENTIONALLY add by implication with an X-factor of God-desirability (cf. Calvin in Predestination and Freewill Section II and The Kingdom of Heaven … Ch. 4), back of election, of predestination; just as much as others may do much the same with an express confession of the efficacy of their own wills, in the selection for salvation! Moreover, in efforts and endeavours to make some point sure, instead of simply relying on the word of God, many bring in unnecessary controversy. In the end, it is all over before it begins: it is written, on the one side and the other, and neither can add by their traditions and irreconcilable antinomies or adverse contentions.
The only safe procedure is to take the word of God as it comes, not to take it where you think it should go; and while God is merciful, there is no comfort to the church of God in philosophic preoccupations defiling the purity of His word.
· The rags of ecclesiastical or personal or social self-righteousness (Isaiah 64:6, Jeremiah 17:5-9, I Cor. 3:3-11) are indeed filthy. Did PAUL die for you, or PETER, or THE CHURCH, or some theologian, or some sect, or did some tradition of men, some named theologian amongst men (cf. the prohibition in I Corinthians 3:4) ? Did he or it rise for your justification (Romans 4:25). Does Christ need your help, or that of Peter, whom He had to rebuke sharply in terms of satanic error, when the latter took it into his head to 'help' Christ (Matthew 16:22-23) by some invention of his own ?
· In His divinity, God has accomplished His work of predestination, applying all His love, and securing the result. In your humanity, you need to receive it, leaving to God the treatment of will, knowing this, that what concerns you is not making excuse in terms of the only harmony on earth, touching responsibility and sovereignty, freedom and determinism, but facing it squarely: that this being gone, you must come or not. Changing the appeal to philosophic tantrums will do nothing to alter the result, except in the end, these merely attest your preference for darkness. In the truth, however, there is only light! (See references at the end of this Excursion, esp. where marked red.)
· Such inventions, as Peter momentarily tell into, may be intentional, outrageous by design; or confused, imputing without thought; but when each is exposed, then to cling to it, or to some school of theology which is not endorsed by the Bible, adding to protect just as Liberals subtract to sack, then warning is needed; for the whole process is in vain.
· What is written equally affirms the unlimited love of God back of the salvation enterprise, and the unlimited sovereignty of God in applying that love. He neither resiles from it, nor abandons its supervision. As to the love of God, it is necessary to remember that it is GOD’s; and as to the scope of it, it is in parallel needful to recall that it is without limit, that it does not flicker unsteadfastly, but is what He says it is, speaking again and again with both direct and indirect testimony of its intensity and the profundity of grief when it is not received.
In the end, much falls from His love, and naturally this He has known from the beginning (Ephesians 1:4); yet it is not by this limited in kind, but in the reception of its kindness. In all this, man is so adept at adding to the word of God, the ideas of his own mind, for this or for that, that to escape such pollution of the pure love of God, or His plan of salvation, requires a discipline that sees beyond tradition, and reads WHAT IS THERE!
· As to that sort of pollution, nowadays it would probably be dignified by the term 'theology', but unless repented of, it readily becomes merely idolatry, allowing the things of man to add to the things of God, when the Gospel, even if PAUL HIMSELF should change it, merely condemns the arrogance of those who so act (Galatians 1:6-9). Paul's gospel was not future, but PAST in this, that it was what HE HAD PREACHED at the time of writing. (See The Everlasting Gospel - Barbs, Arrows and Balms, Item 17.) Addition of ANYTHING to Christ's personal work is utterly condemned, and of anything to our own value, but what grace provides, no less (Romans 10). Such things represent in the end, a monstrous and monumental perversion of the truth (Gal. 3:1-13). Indeed, those who add to "these things" are exemplified in Peter's momentary fall, not his repentance (I Peter 5:1-4, 1:3-5, Revelation 22:18-19, Proverbs 30:6).
Rejection is a perverse syndrome, sometimes acting in flamboyant disregard, at times in wily subtleties, seeking to add, or change without confrontation, at times acting as if to accept in forms, but without faith. However, without FAITH you cannot please God, and the OBJECT OF FAITH is the FOUNDATION, Jesus Christ (not a sinner, Creator in form of creature, but per se Creator, Philippians 2), whose death wholly atones (Galatians 3:1-13), whose resurrection brings justification, whose people are through faith in Him, already saved (II Timothy 1:9-10, Titus 3:5, Ephesians 2:1-10).
Acceptance however, acceptance "in the beloved" (Ephesians 1:3-6), whereby the Christian has already "obtained an inheritance" (1:11), like the clear-hearted acceptance of Christ crucified, yes rather risen (Romans 8:31-33), in repentance towards God, leads to such an abundance, an outpouring (cf. Proverbs 1:20-33) that it is scarcely comprehensible in its profundity (cf. Ephesians 3:17-21), but magnificent in its exposition of the word of God. Like a geyser for vigour, like a mountain for solidity, like a breeze for purity and freshness, like manna from heaven, as undeserved, like the love of the artist of beauty so long pre-programmed, it now is seen in dawning and sunset, when swept away are the clouds of sin and self and other-selves.
These last? clouds and spiritual contraptions, man-made and modelled. They are found in items such as church in the place of Christ, or pope, or priest, or self, or society, or community, or nation, or United Nations or some adventitious theology. Some of these are things that might in some ways, if acting in appointed places, levels or roles, even be good, but become damnable when they act as if to usurp the prerogatives of the everlasting God. In others of these cases, however, it is their very nature, for they are so constructed as to usurp; but not by God! (Cf. SMR pp. 1032-1088H.) They become mere projections of polluted human personality, or simplistic substitutes for spiritual reality, conceived in corruption, modelled in psychic eruption. They become emblems of shame, whether expressed in new cultural norms or in esoteric constructions.
To all this there is indeed an "everlasting contempt" most horrible in that it is most apt; for how much fouler is it to modify a gift of another, to pollute by sinful imperfections the sinless perfection of God.
But do you not realise that this, the profundity of the ruin is correlative to what is indeed encouraging to receive with joy, the ultimate of all wonders? The intensity of the light needed is index to the blackness of darkness to be contrived in His absence, in departure from Him who is so high, so glorious, so close to heart, the key to the puzzle, the flaming life to the spark, the plateau on which to land our small craft. How intense is the love of God that He went so far to deliver from so much, with One so precious! and that THIS LOVE is not excluded from the seeker of salvation in terms of the same Jesus Christ, for
"God demonstrates His love toward us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" - Romans 5:8. He did not wait for the gaining of righteousness in order to love.
What remains as much a delight is this further fact:
"having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" - Romans 5:1. It is not in heaven that it needs to be arrested, it is not in hell that it needs excavation: it is right here, at your side, in your ear, by your mouth, that you might call upon the name of the Lord and be saved from the follies that being contemptible, will find contempt, for the life that being His who is magnificent, is abundant (Acts 2:38, 4:11-12, I Peter 3:21).
· " 'For Your sake we are killed all the day long;
We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.'
"Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.
· For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us form the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" - (Romans 36-38).
What then ? There is this amplitude, this restraint, this foreknowledge and predestination IN HIM who on earth showed His heart, which also is likewise therefore the very quality of His love IN the very act of predestination, which thus assures and does not remove, what is in His heart: for ...
· "It pleased the Father that in Him all the fulness should dwell,
· and having made peace through the blood of His cross, by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, " Colossians 1:19-20.
That is the nature of His pleasure who DELIGHTS IN MERCY (Micah 7:19ff.). SO far from niggardly in the export of His love, He finds in the distribution of mercy, a cause and ground of rejoicing. That is the way it is. Thank God that it is! How great is the marvel of Him whom to know is life eternal… Let us then not squander His word, but swallow it; not adding sugars and sweets of our own, or sour or bitter pills, as if a junior artist should attempt to ‘adjust’ the work of an artistic master; for with them, it is merely comparative in collision; but with God, it is superlative in squalor.
When therefore we set forth, it is with relish for the liberality of His love, the power that backs it and the fellowship of sufferings that are unimpugnable, for to Him nothing is inextricable; only He will not use to abuse, nor will He surrender to those who, in the fullness of arrogance, would like to manage His affairs for Him, making man master, or God of limited love, rather than He whose unlimited purity has marvellous restraint, not on its own standards, but on His approach to man (cf. The Kingdom of Heaven Ch. 4).
It is to this God that we look, as led forth in Christ, depicted in scripture, and it is He whose compassions are new every morning, who comes onto the spirit of man as rain on the grass to refresh its growth, with a purity apart from all human reservoirs and containers. It is He who is to be known, as He is, and not as He is concocted in the philosophies, traditions or intractabilities of man.
The power of this, the living God, the fellowship of His sufferings and the knowledge of Him, so that one can truly say, I know God: it is on these things that Paul has focused, and it is this which we have sought to follow in scriptural terms. They are uniquely harmonious, wholly adequate, answering every quibble, challenge and confrontation, while providing confrontations unanswerable, as befits the word of God, and joys inextinguishable in the performance of His wishes, in His presence. .
As to knowing God: without this, there is a void implacable, and a nullity impenetrable, the stuff if philosophy and the dabbling with destiny as if it were a painting made by man, and not a grandeur correlative for His people, with God Himself; for HIS is the supply, and it is Christ who goes to prepare a place; and its best part is this, that it is HIS!
For the harmony and significance of these things, which have been discussed above, with emphasis on predestination and love, sovereignty and salvation, in the beauty of the Lord's unique holiness, see also
The Kingdom of Heaven Ch.4,
Possess Your Possessions Vol. 10, Ch. 6 as marked,
Department of Bible ... Vol 11, Ch. 8, endnote 2,
The Biblical Workman Ch. 8, End-note 2,
Tender Times for Timely Truths
Ch. 11, and
Ch. 2, esp. the Excursion in End-note 1, and
The Christian Pilgrimage Ch. 3,
Sparkling Spirituality … Ch. 7
Earth Spasm … Ch. 6
Repent or Perish Ch.1, End-note 1,