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Exhortation

DAILY EXHORTATION

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JANUARY 29

 

THE KINGDOM’S CERTAINTY

Reading: Romans ch. 5

 

The basis of our fellowship with one another, and indeed of our acceptance with God as His sons and daughters, is a correct understanding of the fundamental truths of Scripture in relation to His purpose. We can sum it up in a phrase of Scripture found, as you know, in the Acts of the Apostles, that the things we believe are those things concerning “the Kingdom of God and the Name of Jesus Christ.” The things concerning the Kingdom of God take us back in our reading of the Word to the days of the patriarchs, to the promises made to them, to the fact that there would be a time when God’s Kingdom would be established on this earth in all its glory and beauty; for that day they looked and longed. Because it was a day in the future it was something in which they had had faith, and so as we read in our chapter yesterday in the epistle to the Romans, that well- known verse in chapter 4, verse 13 which we quote so often in our lectures: “For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.” So Abraham could look well away into the future to the time when these things would be seen in the earth, and he, like the other worthy of whom we read, Daniel, would stand in his lot at the end of the days.

But these things could not be accomplished until the things concerning the Name of Jesus Christ were seen in the earth, until sin had been shown to be exceeding sinful, and until one who was connected with our race could not only fight against sin but could overcome it, who could be amongst the evil and could defeat it, and the Lord Jesus Christ, as we know, did that. Though sin put him in the grave, yet because of his righteousness, because of his perfect service before his Father, he was enabled to be raised from the dead, and so we stand in the happy position this morning of being the sons and daughters of God, made so through the faith we have in the obedience of our Lord and Master, the Lord Jesus Christ.

That is the thing which the apostle Paul is bringing before us in this epistle to the Romans, and every Sunday when we meet together as we do to partake of these emblems so we bring these things to mind. We recognise that our position, the wonderful position in which we now stand and the more wonderful position which we hope to attain to in the future, is because of the obedience of Jesus Christ our Lord. So, as we say, as we take of these emblems Sunday by Sunday and bring to mind the great things which have been done for us through the Lord Jesus, not only do our minds go back to the days of his trial, his tribulation, his trouble and his suffering, but forward also to the time when the Kingdom will be established and he will partake of these things anew with his disciples in the Kingdom.

We heartily believe these things; if we do have a hearty belief in them it is imputed to us for righteousness. So the apostle says in that 4th chapter verse 23: “Now it was not written for his sake (Abraham’s sake) alone, that it was imputed to him; but for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.”

Now this knowledge which we have, and which we rejoice in, should not be something which is merely academic; no, the belief that we have in these things must be shown in the sort of life we lead, the manner of life that we live. It was so in Abraham; it was so with all the faithful. Abraham received the word of the promise of the Almighty, but he was told to go out to a country that God would show him, and the Scripture says “he went out, not knowing whither he went.” But he went in faith. His life was altered by the appreciation he had of the promises which God had made to him. So the knowledge of the Truth should alter our way of life, as indeed it did with the fathers of old.

Perhaps the words in Hebrews 11 will be apposite in this connection. Concerning Abraham, in the 9th verse we read: “By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise.” Again, later on in verse 17: “By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called:” and he was ready to do it because he accounted “that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.” So we can see, coming back to our readings in Romans once more, that the mind of Abraham was motivated by the underlying thought as given to us in verse 21 of the 4th chapter, he was fully persuaded that what God had promised He was able also to perform. That was not just a matter of academic knowledge with Abraham, but his life was altered because of his full appreciation of the things which had been spoken to him and which he most surely believed. So it should be with ourselves, at least in a measure. We know that the Kingdom will come: it is the purpose of God. We know that God has vested in the Lord Jesus Christ the power to bring about the establishment of the Kingdom: that is certain. But there is more than that. It is whether our minds are so attuned to these things that we not only have an appreciation of them but further, we recognise that they are the outcome of a divine love, a love which we must reciprocate if we are to attain to the blessings. Because that is the mind which we have (or should have) we desire to show that love to our Father, to draw as it were nearer to Him, and to show in our life and in our works how closely we are following our Lord and Master in our day and generation.

So the apostle proceeds in chapter 5, which has been read in our hearing this morning: “Therefore,” that is, because of what has gone before, “Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” We are justified now, or accepted by God; accepted because of the work Jesus has done, because of the fact that our sins have been forgiven, because we have appreciated the work of God through Jesus Christ our Lord. It has given us, at once, something which we alone of all peoples of the earth have, and that is peace with God. The apostle says so in this verse; “We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” That is our position. So he goes on: “By whom” (through our Lord Jesus Christ) “By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”

That was Paul’s position then, but it was not in his early days. It was very different in his early days when he had sat at the feet of Gamaliel, and when he thought he was doing God service in persecuting the church of God. His life in those days is given to us in the Acts of the Apostles, chapter 26.9: “I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. Which thing I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them. And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities.” But that life of zeal and energy was not what God had in store for the apostle. No, his zeal was to be used in a different way, and so he was apprehended, as we know, on the road to Damascus and shown what he should do.

He had no peace of mind, surely, in the way he followed before, but it came afterwards. It came with the knowledge that he was now a brother of the Lord Jesus Christ and a true son of God. It comes out in this epistle to the Romans; he was a Jew now inwardly, not after the flesh, for as he says in Romans 2, 29: “I-Ic is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.” So the apostle changed all the praise which he had from the leaders in Jerusalem to the approbation of the Almighty. It did not mean when this sort of peace came to him that there was an avoidance of trial. We might say, surely, that that increased for him. But he had that peace of mind which the Lord Jesus gave to his disciples, which he was able to give to them in the time of his trial, when he could say: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you.” No, the world cannot give it and the world cannot understand it, but it is a peace of mind which comes to those who have appreciated the way of God and have become related to Him through the Lord Jesus, and are endeavouring to follow Jesus in their day of probation. It is a peace of mind which starts with the realisation that sins are forgiven, that continues with a desire to learn more of the Father and of His purpose, that stabilises, we might say, in the confidence that “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose,” as we shall read later on in the epistle to the Romans; and because of that the strength of those lies in the confidence which they have in God and in His Word.

That is our position, then: related to God through the Lord Jesus, having before us a wonderful future which we know the love of God will bring to fruition. So we go on in our chapter, Romans 5.3. We stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God, but says the apostle:

“Not only so,” but it colours our life: “Not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience.” “We glory in tribulation.” Once again we go back to the life of the apostle Paul. Not only could he say that, but he really did it. He said, writing to the Philippians: “I count all things but loss” that he could “win Christ, and be found in him”; he was prepared to suffer the loss of all things and counted them as nothing that he might be accepted of Christ in the day of his revelation. That was the mind of the apostle Paul.

What then if there be tribulation? What then if there be difficulties? In the first place, we know that they will shortly go, they will come to an end because the Kingdom will come and the troubles and difficulties for the saints will then have passed. But, says the apostle, we can glory in them now. Why? Because they are fulfilling a purpose, and that is something which we must bear in mind if we are going to derive the benefit from tribulation and trouble, which in some measure each one of us in our pilgrimage must face, for, as the apostle says again as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, it is only through much tribulation that one can enter the Kingdom of God. So these tribulations are for a purpose, as it says in our chapter: “Tribulation worketh patience.”

Now we suppose that all of us understand the meaning of the word patience as endurance, and we endure because the end is worth it. That is where the blessedness of being related to God through the Lord Jesus Christ comes in. There are many things which, if we suffered them only in the course of thislife, would be overbearing, but when we think they are helping us to attain the blessedness which is yet to come, then they can be suffered and in a sense we can glory in tribulations. We will endure unto the end because, as we have said, the end is worth while.

The apostle goes on to say that patience also brings experience. We suppose the idea behind the word experience there is the mark that the tribulation and the endurance makes upon one. The experience then speaks of character, the character that is moulded by the things we have to suffer: occasionally, not always—there are some good things in the Truth, and let us remember it. But the things we do have to meet from time to time bring about the experience and mould our character that we might appreciate the more the hope; as it is written:

patience brings experience; “and experience, hope: and hope maketh not ashamed.”

So it is because of that that “the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts,” as the apostle goes on to say; because we know that theend in view is worth while, and that the things we meet in this life are in order that the end might be attained by each one of us. So, following upon this particular way, we can recognise that “the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts.”

Now how vividly the love of God is seen and brought to our notice every Sunday as we meet together in the way we do. Our minds go back to the well known verse which we read in the record through John, so well-known and perhaps so sadly misunderstood. John 3.16:

“God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” But do we, as we read that verse, get the exhortation which is behind it when we see the love of the Father, that God so loved the world that He did something, that He gave His only begotten Son? That was the strength of the love of God. Then we come to the Lord Jesus Christ, that he gave his life. He could not give more; that was all he had. He gave his life. There is the love of God and the love of the Lord Jesus brought before us Sunday by Sunday as we meet around the Word. So it is written in the 6th verse—and here it is brought home to us, surely—”For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.” That was us, once, and it is brought out more clearly as the apostle goes on. Here is the manifestation, then, in the emblems before us, of the love of God. It is a Jove of God which is unique, as the apostle goes onto show: “For”, he says, “scarcelyfora righteous man will one die.” We suppose it means one who is strictly proper, strictly true in his walk and conduct, perhaps almost austere; one could scarcely die forsuch an one. “Peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.” One who is good, kindJy, benevolent, the milk of human kindness flowing from him so that all benefit by coming in contact with him; some might even dare to die for such an one.

But the personal aspect is in the next verse: “God commendeth his love toward us,” (that is the point, toward us) “in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Perhaps we sometimes do not get the emphasis we should do from some of these verses, when we remember that they affect us so closely. So “God commendeth his love for us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” The love and goodness of God is shown through the Lord Jesus, who died that we might five. How great, then, is our debt of gratitude! What should we not be prepared to do for God, who has done so much for us through Jesus Christ our Lord?

But there is more than that, and the apostle goes on to say so. Verse 9: “Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.” Jesus died for us, that our sins might be forgiven, that we might be justified, that we might be accepted by the Father, that we might be reconciled; and as it were that we might start on another road, the following of a new creation which was begun by the Lord Jesus Christ when he rose from the dead, as the apostle says, writing to the Colossians, Jesus now lives for us; as it says in this verse in Ronians, “we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled we shall be saved by his life.”

So he lives now for us; what will he do for us, seeing that now he is alive for evermore? Well, he will do very much for us. First of all, he is ready, as we know, to plead for us. He knows our ways better than we know them ourselves, and because he has trodden the way before us, because he has died and now Jives, he remembers. That might be the explanation of a verse in the 8th chapter which sometimes seems a little difficult: “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” We think, not that the Spirit groans but that Jesus remembers and he intercedes for us, and remembering the past and the difficulties of his way he can put, as it were, before the Father the things we cannot utter. So the Spirit maketh intercession for us with those groanings and pleadings which we could not utter but Jesus knows because he has trodden the way and triumphed over the difficulties which beset him,

Jesus, then, pleads for us. And he will give us aid, as we know from that well known verse in the epistle to the Hebrews chapter 4. The apostle says he is one that can be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, but then goes on to say in verse 16: “Let us (note the personal aspect again) Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”

Well, what effect do these principles have upon us, when we think of the way in which the Lord Jesus is ready now to work for us, to plead for us, to aid us; and also what is before us, for he said to his apostles: “Because I live, ye shall live also”: what effect do these principles have upon us? We can see if we turn to the epistle to the Galatians what effect they had upon the apostle Paul. There is an interesting verse in the 2nd chapter, verse 20, and we think it is very apt to quote it in this connection. Here is the apostle in tribulation, none more so, and he says: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me,” The apostle had that so much in his heart and mind that he was prepared to do what is revealed in the Scriptures concerning his way, how he was prepared, as we have said, to count all things but loss that he might win Christ.

Nineteen centuries after the time of the apostle Paul we ourselves are the happy recipients of the love and the mercy of God, and the benefit of the love and the obedience of the Lord Jesus Christ. How can we show our appreciation? Surely, only by a willing and a loving conformity to the things which God would have us do. If God could give His Son and Jesus could give his life, can we do less than heed the exhortation which the apostle gives to us later on in this epistle to the Romans.—you will remember it in the 12th chapter—when he says we should be prepared to “present our bodies a living sacrifice”? To do it he says we should not be “conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.” There is an interesting play on words there; it is easy enough to conform to this world because we are there; transform means cross over. So we have to make a journey, as it were, from the one to the other. Let us see then that we are not conformed to the world we are in but transformed, that we cross over to a new way of life and remain in it. And, we say, can we do less?

But let us remember that we do these things from a reciprocal love, because of the appreciation we have of what has been done for us. That is something which grows. In our early days in the Truth perhaps there were certain things that we recognised we should avoid, certain worldly things. Perhaps we did not do those things because we recognised that in the Truth they were things which were not practised. Our obedience might then have been almost as much custom and command as anything else, and we hardly perhaps appreciated the deeper things behind it. But as we grow older in the Truth then we do not do such things because we fear to displease Him who has called us unto Himself, we fear to displease our heavenly Father and the Lord Jesus, who have done so much for us. So then the things we do and the things we do not do are because of the love we have for our Father and our appreciation to him for the position in which we now stand. As the apostle John says, the state of mind is that “we love him” (and we cannot help doing so) “because he first loved us.”

So with such thoughts in mind we can once again approach the emblems. “Take, eat;” said Jesus; “this is my body, which is broken for you.” Again we come to the personal aspect of it all, and we all as individuals now are closely associated with the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus. Are we not wise if we can bring home to ourselves the personal aspect? “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Drink ye all of it. I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you To the disciples only? No, to “them also which shall believe on me through their word” and so be related to the Father. It is very, very personal, is it not?

So as we have just read through the gospel of Matthew, did we find ourselves with the Lord Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, and with him following on, before Caiaphas, then into Pilate’s hall, back to Herod, and on to Pilate again? With him, following him to the cross? And reading those chapters, did we get the message which came to us, that he died for us? When we get that, the things we would not be prepared to do because they are command or custom, we will be prepared to do because of love, because so much has been done for us that we can do nothing else. Then perhaps we are not very far from the Kingdom of God.

So as we go on in the epistle to the Romans the Father’s love through the Lord Jesus is shown to us in no uncertain way. Blessings are with us now, many blessings, but there are greater to come, as we read in the 8th chapter, verse 32: “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” We shall be helped on the way, and the blessing will come, for “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” The apostle had met all those: we have not, but, he says, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” “Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that 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 creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” The emblems testify to it. And that love we must try and reciprocate.

  • J. D. Webster.