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“Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us…” Romans 12:6

Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.
And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord.
And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.”
1 Corinthians 12:4-6.
 

INTRODUCTION

In the twelfth chapter of Romans in considering the walk of believers as many members of one body in Christ, who walk by faith, ministering to one another in the assembly of the saints, Paul encourages them to walk in the will of God, in humility serving one another and preferring one another over themselves (Romans 12:10). In verse 6 he makes reference to the various gifts which God in grace gives to His people, that they, as different members of one body may be able to serve God and one another.

Elsewhere in the New Testament, especially in the First Epistle to the Corinthians, we also read of various gifts of the Spirit which were given to believers and practised in the churches. Some of these gifts were miraculous and some not so miraculous. In Romans 12 the concentration is upon prophecy, ministering, teaching, exhortation, rule and mercy. In 1 Corinthians however other, seemingly more miraculous, gifts such as tongues and healings are mention. We also read of various miracles being performed by the Apostles during the time of the early New Testament church.

Many today are fascinated by the miraculous and supernatural and many in Christendom are taken up with these accounts of miracles, signs, wonders and the gifts of the Spirit and desire to see such things repeated in the churches in our day. Indeed many would claim that it is only when such things are manifested in the church that the Spirit of God is truly working. They claim that such manifestations of the Spirit authenticate their ministry and churches and demonstrate the power of God at work.

But are these claims true? Is it true that such signs and wonders continue today? Do the miraculous gifts of the Spirit continue to be given and exercised in the church today? Do such things continue to the present day or did they cease with the passing away of the twelve apostles once the early New Testament church had been formed? Perhaps some gifts have ceased but others continue, and if so, which gifts continue to the present and in what form?

The New Testament describes several different gifts of the Spirit such as prophecy, tongues, healing gifts and so on (see 1 Corinthians 12). Let us consider this subject of the gifts of the Spirit and their continuation today, primarily with regard to the gift of prophecy. By considering this particular gift I believe we can also draw some conclusions regarding the continuance of the other gifts today.

THE INAUGURATION OF ISRAEL AND THE INAUGURATION OF THE NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH

‘Signs and wonders’ were used by God when Israel was brought out of Egypt, to mark their deliverance and the subsequent giving of the law, for the time until they crossed over the river Jordan. During this period of 40 years they were led by a pillar of cloud, and fire, there was water from the Rock, they were fed by manna from heaven. All were signs which ceased once the children of Israel crossed Jordan and for the hundreds of years following until the time of Christ (this can be seen from the fact that these signs were recorded in the books of Moses and only ever referenced elsewhere in the Bible as historical references to those times. Joshua 5:6-12 informs us of the cessation of the provision of manna. See also Nehemiah 9:9-21, Psalm 99:6-7, Psalm 105:23-45, Isaiah 48:21, Psalm 78:1-32, and John 6).

Likewise with the inauguration of the New Testament there were many signs and wonders demonstrated, and miraculous and special gifts of the Spirit given to mark a special time in the history of the church until the full canon of scripture was produced and their necessity ceased. This is much the same as happened in the time of Moses.

Also the children of Israel had these signs for 40 years. Such as manna from heaven by which they were fed. Likewise in the NT Christ rose from the dead and ascended around AD30. In AD70 the temple of Jerusalem was destroyed. A period of 40 years, during which the NT church was formed and the Gospel had gone out to the gentiles. During this time the people of God were fed on the ‘Bread of heaven’ by the preaching of the Apostles and by those who then prophesied by the Spirit declaring the truths of the Gospel of Christ as laid upon their memories by the Spirit until all the scripture had been set to paper, and gathered together, not long after.

PROPHECY PREFERRED OVER TONGUES

In 1 Corinthians Paul discusses the gifts of the Spirit and their use in the gatherings of the church. In 1 Corinthians 14 he shows how the gift of prophecy is to be preferred to the gift of tongues. Why? Because tongues were beneficial to those who spoke in them as led by the Spirit, and only to others if an interpreter existed. How often today are there truly interpreters of those who speak in tongues? I daresay some would say there are, but if there aren’t, as Paul says, those who speak in tongues would be better off being silent.

 

But Paul emphasises the preference of prophecy over tongues. Why? Because prophecy is intelligible and is beneficial to the whole church who hears it. It presents ‘truth’, it edifies, the secrets of the heart are made manifest in those who hear (1 Corinthians 14:25). Much like preaching does today.

 

But Paul states that all things should be done in order and that those who prophesy should do so by two or three (1 Corinthians 14:29), and that the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets (1 Corinthians 14:32).

 

Why is this?

 

Well, at the time of the church at Corinth – the early church – the written New Testament didn’t fully exist. Certainly those believers in the churches had very little of it. Each church might have had a letter or two from the Apostles but not the full canon of scripture and certainly not in the possession of each believer. So people couldn’t ‘preach’ from the Bible. They had to do so from their memories of the truths of the Gospel which had been taught them by the Apostles, as they were led of the Spirit. This is described as ‘prophesying’. And to ensure that what people in the church stood up and said was truly that Gospel, of the Spirit, and not error, Paul encourages those who prophesy to do so in twos and threes so that each man could testify to the truth of what the other had said. Also what they said needed to be subject to the prophets, meaning to be subject to what others in the church prophesied/preached and also to what the Old Testament prophets had written, and what was written in what that church had of the New Testament writings.

 

So this ‘prophesying’ by the Spirit was really preaching of the Gospel in a day and age when men couldn’t preach that Gospel from the scriptures because of the lack of them (Some may think of the gift of prophecy as having more to do with foretelling of future events. Certainly there is that type of prophecy seen in the Bible, but the gift of prophecy mentioned in 1 Corinthians 14 is connected with teaching the truth. This can be seen from the fact that the gift of a prophet given to the church is listed in Ephesians 4:11-15 alongside other teaching roles such as pastors and teachers. All these roles were given for the edifying of the body of Christ, just as prophecy in 1 Corinthians 14 was given for edification – 1 Corinthians 14:3). So, owing to the lack of written scriptures those who prophesied were led by the Spirit to bring truths from their remembrance which they had received from the Apostles, but they needed others to corroborate what they said as being true to the Apostolic Gospel, true to what they had been taught by the Apostles, true to the scriptures which they did have. And when the New Testament was completed it would be seen to be true to that as a whole.

 

Since the establishment of the early church we now have the completed scriptures. These are widely available in the churches. Prophecy in the sense of 1 Corinthians 14 now continues as preaching without the need for two or three to preach in the same way in order to corroborate what is said. We can now compare what the preacher says with the Bible to see if he truly speaks of the Spirit, or is in error. Anything preached of the Spirit will accord with what is in the Bible and will not be a ‘new revelation’ outside of it.

 

Now that scripture is complete the necessity of special gifts of the Spirit, such as speaking in tongues and prophesying by the Spirit (without written down scripture), has gone. Prophesying continues in the form of preaching by the Spirit from the word of God. The Spirit ALWAYS prophesied in accordance with that word, at one time before it had been recorded, but now having been recorded still in accord with it. As it says in John 14:26 and John 15:26:

“But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.”

“But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me:”

It is clear from these verses that those things the Spirit ‘brings to our remembrance’ are those things which testify of Christ which in our day are in accord with the scriptures – they aren’t extra revelations outside the scriptures.

In the early church the Holy Ghost brought all things to the remembrance of the people of God by means of causing men of God to prophesy in the meetings, two or three of them confirming that what was said was true. Now, the Bible being complete, preachers ‘prophesy’ by preaching from that written word of God according to how the Spirit leads them, but always according to that word, testifying of Christ.

So, during the time of the early church when the NT scriptures weren’t complete the Spirit would cause men to prophesy truths of the Gospel regarding Christ which had yet to be set down on paper, but which were being taught by the Apostles. However, once those truths were all recorded in scripture then the need for such ‘prophecy’ had gone, and all further prophecy/preaching would be in accord with the completed Bible. The Spirit is still involved in this but He confirms the truths in the Bible, He doesn’t add to them by further extra-Biblical ‘prophecies’.

In the days of Israel’s deliverance from Egypt actual manna from heaven was miraculously provided to feed the people. This ceased after they crossed Jordan, and the people were then fed on normal bread and food, physically. In the days of the early church there were miraculous signs and gifts given until the scriptures were complete. We feed on the “bread of heaven”, Christ, as typified by manna (see John 6). In the early church that spiritual food, that bread, came by the preaching of the Apostles and also by prophesying by the Spirit. We are now fed by preaching from the written word of God, now that it is complete.

For the children of Israel the type, the shadow, of manna during their 40 years of pilgrimmage was also their physical food. After that time they then ate normal food. They didn’t stop eating, but how their food was provided was changed, the administration of food changed. Likewise the way in which ‘spiritual food’ is provided in the New Testament age started off as being by Apostolic preaching and also by prophesying by the Spirit until the scriptures were complete, but now continues as preaching from the word of God. It is still feeding on the Bread of Heaven, but the way in which that is administered is now by preaching from the word, not by prophesying ‘apart’ from the word (1 Corinthians 12:4-6). Hence, whilst the Spirit’s gift of prophesying continues to this day the form of that prophesying has changed – it is now the preaching of the word of God from the scriptures. Yet it must be emphasised that it is by the Spirit that the scriptures are preached from – we are no less reliant upon the Spirit and His revelation of God’s truth than those in the early church were. Indeed, without the Spirit’s leading into truth the Bible remains a closed book to men, they simply cannot understand it except the Spirit opens it up to them (see 1 Corinthians 2:7-16).

THE INNER WORK OF THE SPIRIT CONTRASTED WITH THAT WHICH IS OUTWARD

Manna, the pillar of fire, the pillar of cloud, and water from the rock were all ‘miraculous’ signs and provisions which God used during Israel’s 40 year pilgrimage after being delivered from Egypt. In terms of what they represent they show forth the Lord’s presence amongst the people, His guidance of them and His feeding and watering them. But God only used the outwardly miraculous for a relatively short time (Of course these signs also have other spiritual significance too – manna typifying Christ, the Bread of heaven, the water from the Rock also pointing to Christ, in fact they all point to Christ in one way or another – but nevertheless they also had an immediate relevance to Israel through what they provided – guidance, feeding, watering).

Again, with the inauguration of the early NT Church similar miraculous signs and gifts of the Spirit were evidenced. Various ‘signs and wonders’ like miraculous healings by the Apostles were performed which showed the Lord’s presence in a powerful outward way to demonstrably show God’s work in the bringing in and establishing of the NT church. Likewise gifts of the Spirit such as prophecy and tongues were used to guide, edify and feed the people. There is a similarity here between these ‘gifts’ and the signs mentioned from the Old Testament.

Once the New Testament Church was established and the scriptures completed, the need for such ‘outward’ manifestations of the Spirit’s work had gone and God continued from that time forth to work by the Spirit in a more inward way through the preaching of the Gospel, leading to the resultant New Birth by the Spirit, the ‘baptism’ of the Spirit. This is no less miraculous a work but it is inward, not an outward thing. Such preaching results in men who are dead in trespasses and sins being quickened unto life by the Spirit, given new hearts and receiving the gift of faith to believe and rest in the finished work of salvation for sinners wrought out by Jesus Christ at the cross by His death. This is a powerful work of the Spirit but one which is essentially inward – within man – not outward.

Yet outward things appeal to men in the flesh. People like to see ‘miracles’. Seeing ‘miracles’ with the eye doesn’t require faith. They demonstrate the supernatural and provide proof of it, but don’t require faith to believe in the supernatural. But Christians walk by faith not by sight. Faith believes in things that can’t be seen with the natural eye, things which are ‘hidden’ (Hebrews 11:1). God uses outwardly miraculous signs at such times in history which indicate a great event in the work of God, such as the deliverance of Israel from Egypt, and the start of the NT church both during the life of Christ and shortly after under the Apostolic ministry. This was to demonstrate to all who looked on, including unbelievers that God was at work in a particularly significant way (ie. Christ had come in the flesh!). But once this had been shown, and testimony to it recorded in the scriptures, then God continued to work by His Spirit in the more ‘hidden’ realm of men’s hearts.

PROPHETIC GUIDANCE CONTRASTED WITH THE SPIRIT’S TEACHING GIFT OF PROPHECY

I have emphasised the nature of the gift of prophecy described in 1 Corinthians 14 as being that of teaching. Some may question whether all prophecy is of that nature and would claim that we read of various examples of prophecy in the New Testament, such as in the book of Acts, which are of a predictive nature – a foretelling of events. For example in Acts 21:10-11 we read of the prophet Agabus approaching Paul and warning him not to go to Jerusalem because the Jews there would persecute him.

It is true that such ‘prophecies’ occurred in the New Testament. However these sorts of prophecies are not what are described by Paul in 1 Corinthians 14 as being related to the Spirit’s gift of prophecy. The context is very different and they also don’t fall into the pattern laid down by Paul in that chapter.

 

By stating that 1 Corinthians 14 describes a form of prophecy which is primarily of a preaching and teaching nature I am not saying that this was the only form of prophecy there was in the NT . It is true that there are several instances of prophecy throughout the NT which are evidently of a predictive nature. During the Early Church days there were indeed prophets who prophesied by the Spirit in a predictive way and there were also those who prophesied in the gathering of the assembly by the Spirit to teach the Gospel of Christ to the church. These are two different forms of prophecy, both by the Spirit, which occurred during that time.

 

Most of the examples we may find of ‘foretelling prophecies’ in Acts however are simply occurrences of the Lord guiding people in specific ways, either through dreams, or by the Spirit. The Spirit’s leading of Philip to approach the chariot of the Ethiopian eunuch for example isn’t prophecy, but a leading of the Spirit. Likewise the angel appearing to Cornelius, or the Lord speaking to Paul in visions. Other examples are those of specific prophets with a message from the Lord, for instance Agabus. However none of these examples are taken from gatherings of the church during a meeting where two or three prophets stand up in turn and prophesy and where the people ‘learn’ by these prophecies and are edified, exhorted and comforted. It could be argued that Agabus might have delivered his prophecy regarding the famine in such a context but that really isn’t clear from the text. So none of these examples really fit with what Paul is encouraging in the gathering of the assembly in 1 Corinthians 14.

 

What Paul is dealing with in 1 Corinthians especially in chapters 10-15 is the Body of Christ and how that is built up. It is no coincidence that the subject of the gifts of the Spirit such as tongues and prophecy is dealt with in the very same epistle written to a church which had fallen into such outward, fleshly, corruption where fornication and other sins went on unchecked, where the Lord’s Supper was abused etc. etc. This was a church obsessed with outward fleshly things. And therefore also obsessed with those ‘spiritual’ things which had outward, supernatural, manifestations. The Corinthians thought it the height of spirituality to speak in tongues or to give prophetic revelations.

 

But Paul deals with this obsession with the outward not by outrightly forbidding the use of tongues or prophecy, but by gently guiding the church towards that which is best; that which will really build up the church. And that, ultimately is the Gospel of Christ. So we see a progression from chapter 12 where the Body and its members are described, through an emphasis on love in chapter 13 (the gift which if prevalent would ultimately overcome all the failings in the church), through prophecy being much preferred to tongues in chapter 14 (Why? Because by it the church is edified, encouraged and comforted because it is built up in the Gospel of Christ – it ‘learns’ by it), through to chapter 15 where Paul again discusses the Gospel and how the church should “keep in memory what I preached unto you” 15:2. This leads on to the truths of the coming resurrection of the dead.

 

The point here is that Chapter 15 emphasises what Paul delivered to the church. The Gospel of Christ. That which declares Christ to be “the power of God, and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:24). This is what should be in their ‘memory’. As 14:36 indicates, the word of God came to Corinth by Paul’s preaching, from God, it didn’t come out of them. What they should ‘prophesy’ in their meetings should be those truths, kept in their memory, which Paul taught them, which the Spirit then brings to mind in the prophets who would then speak as led by the Spirit in the meeting, by two or three. Paul “received” these truths from God and delivered them to the church at Corinth (15:3). Likewise their prophets should speak those things “revealed” to them (14:30) by the Spirit. The same truths that Paul had “received” of the Spirit and preached.

 

What truths are these? 1 Corinthians 15:3-11 tells us…

“… how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;
And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:

And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve:
After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep.
After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles.
And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.
For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.
But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.

Therefore whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed.”

Thus we are led full circle back to what Paul emphasises right at the start of the epistle in chapters 1-4: “But we preach Christ Crucified” 1:23. “For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” 2:2. The focal point of the whole letter is “Christ Crucified”. The Gospel.

 

This is what the prophecy of chapter 14 regards – the Gospel of Christ. That is why Paul encourages its use. And in that sense it is still encouraged today because we preach and teach the same Gospel from the scriptures, by the Spirit.

 

However, as mentioned before, the more supernatural nature of prophecy along with other signs and wonders was required at the time of the Early Church for two main reasons:-

1. To demonstrate in power the formation of the Church, that Christ had come, died, and risen again, and that the Spirit was now given to God’s people in the church. Under the Apostolic doctrine the Church of Christ was established, as testified outwardly by such signs.

2. Prophecy by the Spirit was required in the absence of completed scriptures in order to build up the church in the doctrine of Christ. Once the scriptures were complete ‘prophecy’ continued as more normal preaching and teaching, from the scriptures as opened up by the Spirit. Such prophecy, such preaching is still very much a gift of the Spirit who ensures that the Gospel comes “not in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance” (1 Thessalonians 1:5), but this prophecy is entirely based upon the scriptures, not outside revelations.

Once the Early Church was established, and the scriptures completed, the necessity of the more direct, supernatural gifts of the Spirit, signs and wonders, had ceased, as they had in the days of Moses. The Spirit continues to work but now in the more hidden, inward realm of men’s hearts.We still have preaching in the church of the Gospel of Christ, but not ‘prophecy by the Spirit’. We also continue to be guided by God, by the Spirit, through various means, but not in the same way as the direct, supernatural prophecies seen in the NT (At least this is not the ‘norm’. It may have been seen in the Early Church, but it is no longer required to the same extent now as God guides His people primarily through the word of God and the preaching of that word by His Spirit).

OTHER GIFTS OF THE SPIRITOf course there are various kinds of gifts of the Spirit, various ‘charismata’ and prophecy is just one of them. For example we read in 1 Corinthians 12:4-12 …

“Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will. For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.”

All these gifts of the Spirit ultimately have one purpose – the edification of the body of Christ. There is one body with many members and there are diversities of gifts given to those members, but all the gifts are given that the body might be edified, strengthed, built up in the knowledge and wisdom of God. It is in this light that we must consider these gifts and the way in which they are manifested and used in our day. Are the ‘gifts’ we see exhibited in some churches today truly being used for the edification of the body through the truth, by the proclamation of the word, by feeding the body upon Christ, or do they rather draw attention to man rather than Christ and excite the flesh rather than direct the gaze of faith towards the Saviour?I believe that any continuation of ‘prophecy’ today will be in accord with the written word of God, which is now complete, as there is no new revelation given today beyond the scriptures. That doesn’t mean that we can rule out the continuation of all gifts of the Spirit – not at all –  but it is clear that the more outward manifestations of gifts have served their purpose during the time of the Early NT Church. So the same principles set forward here regarding prophecy can also be related to other gifts of the Spirit such as healing for example. Yes, there is a gift of healing which continues to this day, but in keeping with the inward nature of the working of the Spirit upon the heart through the Gospel, which so characterises the ongoing work of the Spirit in our day, I believe that the gift of healing we see today is that which is edifying to the body of Christ. This is a gift of healing which comes through the preaching of “Christ Crucified” and which provides true healing for the souls of God’s people, which brings them to peace with God, which washes them clean from their sin, and which brings them into unity with their brethren. How often do we see disunity and wounds appearing between brethren? How wonderful then that God still provides the gift of healing to His people to heal those wounds and to strengthen the Body of Christ in the midst of its ongoing spiritual warfare with the many enemies which are set against it.

Is there the word of wisdom granted by the Spirit today? Yes, certainly. The word of knowledge? Yes. Faith? Most assuredly. Gifts of healing? Yes, but of an inward, spiritual nature to the edification and healing of the body of Christ. The working of miracles? Again, yes, in the inward sense, for it is true that the conversion of a sinner to new life in Christ Jesus under the power of the Gospel is indeed a miracle, and those sent to preach that Gospel can but stand by in awe and wonder at the mighty power of God in turning men from darkness to light. The discernment of spirits? Yes, indeed, this gift continues today for we must “test the spirits” and as we now have a completed canon of scripture we can also compare what men say with what is recorded in Holy Writ. What of tongues and the interpretation thereof? Well, as has been previously stated Paul encouraged prophecy over and above the use of tongues and both gifts ultimately are a means of conveying the truth of the Gospel for the edification of the Body of Christ. This continues today through the preaching of the word as recorded in scripture.But what of the outwardly miraculous? Well as has been already mentioned such things occurred at the inauguration of the New Testament church. The church having been established under the Apostolic ministry and testified by such outward demonstrations of God’s power has no longer any need for such outward manifestations of the Spirit’s work. The Spirit’s work is to testify of Christ, inwardly to the hearts of men, and this He continues to do today under the preaching of the Gospel. A ministry no less miraculous than that seen in the apostles’ days but one which concerns the revelation of truth to the eye of faith rather than the sight of men in the flesh.

CONCLUSIONS

In summary then if it could be shown that the manna given to Israel continued to be given from that time until the coming of Christ, or that Israel continued to be led by a pillar of cloud by day or of fire by night, then a precedent for the continuance in an outward, miraculous, sense of such gifts as prophesying (for example in the manner of Spirit-inspired revelations apart from the Bible) would be found. But I don’t believe that that precedence can be shown, and therefore we can conclude that such outward gifts, signs and wonders ceased after the Early Church had been brought in under the Apostles, as prefigured by Israel of old. This seems only right too, considering that the bringing in of the New Testament church under the Apostles was of such great importance. Furthermore a survey of the history of the church from Apostolic times up to the present demonstrates that this indeed has been the case.

May the Lord be pleased to give us that gift of the discerning of spirits in these days of much confusion that we might know what is truly of the Spirit of God and what is not. May we also recognise that there are diversities of gifts and differences of administration (for example between today and apostolic times) but nevertheless “the same Lord” (1 Corinthians 12:4-6). May we be given faith to follow the Lord Jesus Christ as revealed by the Spirit in the Gospel of Christ, as recorded in the scriptures, and to seek that real, true, inward reality of the working of the Spirit in contrast to that false, outward, counterfeit religion which seems to be so popular in our day and which appeals to the flesh which is fascinated by the unusual, the supernatural, the superficial and the spectacular. May we be found amongst those who walk by faith, not by sight, seeking an heavenly country, not an earthly, who walk as pilgrims and strangers in this present evil world. May we run the race before us looking unto Jesus the Author and Finisher of Faith. May we be amongst those who have found that the power of God rests not in the outwardly miraculous but in the “Gospel of Christ” (Romans 1:16). And may all glory be given to the Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the Spirit was sent to testify and to honour, through the proclamation of that very Gospel, which was, and is, the power of God unto salvation.

Amen.     

From Romans chapter 9 through to 11 the apostle Paul considers that people whom God has chosen to save. This is a people chosen not according to their birth in the flesh, but chosen in Christ from before the foundation of the world, who in time are born again of the Holy Spirit. They are a spiritual people, the children of promise, pictured by Israel of old, but nevertheless, not that fleshly nation, but a people chosen amongst both Jews and Gentiles. As Romans 9:6-8 tells us “…For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel: Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, in Isaac shall thy seed be called. That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.”

 

Having pointed out in Romans 2:28-29 that the true Jew is not one who is outwardly a Jew, one born physically a Jew, but one who is inwardly a Jew, one whose heart is circumcised, being born of God by His Spirit, Paul returns to this truth in chapter 9 where he illustrates that God has elected to save a people from both Jews and Gentiles, who collectively are the spiritual Israel of God: “Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles? As he saith in Osee, I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved. And it shall come to pas, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people; there shall they be called the children of the living God” Romans 9:24-26

 

It is this people, chosen out of both Jews and Gentiles, to whom the promises of God apply, those promises made of old to Abraham and His Seed, the promises of salvation and of an inheritance in the world to come. It is these who are the true Jews, God’s people, those who are brought to saving faith in Christ. For it is by grace, through faith, that this people are saved, not by works, and in setting forth the truth of that people whom God saves, Paul contrasts in chapters 9 and 10 the righteousness which is of the law, which Israel of old sought after, with that righteousness of faith, by which all God’s people are saved: “What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith. But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone; As it is written, Behold I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosover believeth on him shall not be ashamed” Romans 9:30-33.

 

No, salvation is not by the works of the law, nor by virtue of our fleshly birth, but through faith in Christ, “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth”.

 

But those people, both Jews and Gentiles, who are shown their sin, shown their utter inability to save themselves, to attain unto righteousness, or to keep the law of God, are taught their need of mercy. It is those whom God brings to call upon His Name for salvation, and everyone so brought, who so calls upon Him shall surely be heard: “For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” Romans 10:12-13.

 

Yes, those whom God saves, His people, the true Israel of God, are a people of faith, a people elected unto salvation, born again of God by His Spirit and given faith to call upon His Name for salvation, believing on Christ and His work in dying to save sinners.

 

But what is it to call upon the name of the Lord? Why does Paul stress the name of the Lord here?

 

Well, we read of the name of the Lord in other passages of scriptures, for example in Philippians 2:9-11.

“Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Here we read of that coming day when every knee – every man’s, every woman’s, every child’s – will bow to the Lord Jesus Christ. A day when every tongue will confess: “That Jesus Christ is Lord”. What a day that will be! What a tremendous confession, what glorious praise to God the Father and to Him whom He hath highly exalted, even Jesus Christ His Son!

But notice again how this passage is worded. It says “That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow.”

Why does scripture state it in this way? Why, like Romans 10:13, stress the name of Jesus, that name “which is above every name”? Why? Firstly, because of how exalted both the Person and His name are – how glorious they are. But also because of what the name of Jesus signifies: the truth of it. The truth conveyed by the very name itself. It is not only the Lord to whom we must call for salvation, but we must call upon the name of the Lord as believing the truth regarding Him. It is not only to Jesus that every knee shall bow, but to the truth He represents. For Jesus said “I am the way, the truth and the life; no man cometh to the Father but by me” (John 14:6). Jesus is The Truth and His name declares truth.

The name ‘Jesus’ is the Greek form of the Hebrew ‘Joshua’, or ‘Jeho-shua’, which has its roots in ‘Jah-shua’ meaning ‘God Saves’. Not only does this name declare Christ’s deity but it declares Him to be the God who saves! Now, this is a truth to which every knee shall bow – that God Saves! That through Jesus alone God saves sinners; that salvation is entirely of Him – from start to finish. Man simply has no part to play in it – the work is all of God – for God Saves.

Oh! how man by nature, in the fallen depravity of his sinful heart, rails against such a truth! How he hates it! How his innermost spirit detests such a truth that asserts dogmatically the absolute sovereignty of God in salvation. How man must have some part to play in saving himself. How his pride rises up against, how it fights against, the plain and simple truth that salvation owes nothing to himself, but all to God and His grace. Man by nature simply must have some part to play, he must have something which he can do, something which he can contribute – however small it may be. Whether it be his good works, his prayers, his attendance to religious ritual or worship, his decision to follow God, his simple ‘acceptance’ of ‘Jesus’, his willingness to believe; something, something, he does must play a part in his salvation. However much he may confess his need of Christ to save him, ultimately there is a part of his own, whether it be fifty percent or one percent, upon which he trusts. Man’s sinful nature, his pride, his arrogance, will not confess that he is absolutely worthless, utterly lost, totally blind to the truth, dead in trespasses and sins. He can go so far, but not that far. He’ll bow the knee to the idea of a saviour who saves those who allow Him to, those who ‘accept’ Him, but he’ll not bow the knee to the truth of The Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, and not to the truth of His Name: Jesus, ‘God Saves’. For God does save and He saves those whom He wills absolutely, entirely, without the work of man (James 1:18).

No, man by nature will never bow the knee to such a truth, he’ll never accept that ‘God saves’; that salvation is entirely of the Lord, entirely of His choice, entirely at His discretion (Romans 9:15); that God will either do everything to save a sinner, or he’ll do nothing at all, and if not, God will leave the proud, stubborn, rebellious, self-righteous, religious hypocrite to discover at the day of judgment that the filthy rags of his own righteousness could never wash away his sins – to discover that salvation has to be entirely upon a different footing from his own works, that he needs the blood of the Saviour to wash away his sins and make him clean before a Holy and Almighty God; such a one will be brought to see, when it is too late for him, that it is indeed the truth that ‘God Saves’ and God alone – then, on that day, his knee will bow to such a truth, even as the Lord God of Heaven and Earth delivers His eternal sentence of wrath upon him.

How merciful then to be delivered from such wilful delusion! What grace is shown by Almighty God when He arrests a sinner in his rebellious way and opens his eyes to the Gospel and the truth of the Name which is above every name. How wonderful to be brought to an end of ourselves and our own striving to save ourselves, and to be brought to see that “salvation is of the Lord”; how good to be brought to our knees to confess to God that we are nothing, that except He shows us mercy we will be lost; to cry out to Him “God, have mercy on me, a sinner”! (Luke 18:13) For it is those who are brought to call upon the name of the Lord in this way who shall be saved (Romans 10:13), for ‘God Saves’!

What a salvation God has wrought for sinners through His precious Son the Lord Jesus Christ! How God is glorified by it! This salvation was purposed by God the Father from all eternity when He chose a people in Christ whom He would redeem, called the “election of grace”; this salvation was effected by God the Son “who made himself of no reputation…and being found in fashion as a man… humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross”, when He laid down His life in the place of His people, bearing their sins in His own body on the tree, suffering the wrath of God against sin, that He might deliver them from sin and condemnation and grant them eternal life in Him; and this salvation wrought by the Son is applied by the Holy Spirit to these people when He quickens them from death to life and grants them faith to look to the Saviour who suffered and bled in their stead, to rest in Him and the righteousness of God in Him which is put to their account. This threefold work of Father, Son and Holy Ghost sets forth the glorious truth that ‘God Saves’, by grace alone, and it is this truth to which God’s people will be brought, by the Spirit, to bow the knee: to confess at the name of Jesus that ‘God Saves’, that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. For God “hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow”.

Yes, the work of salvation is entirely God’s work, from start to finish; all its handiwork, all its weaving, all its craftsmanship is of Him. All those who come to know such a salvation, all those who are quickened from death unto life by the irresistible work of the Holy Spirit, all those turned from darkness to light, from enmity to peace with God, from the dark paths of sin to the blessed way of righteousness, from misery unto joy, from a life lived for self unto a life lived for the Lord Jesus Christ and for His glory, all those chosen of God from amongst both Jews and Gentiles; all those will gladly, freely, willingly, lovingly, bow the knee to the Saviour, to Him who is Truth, and to this truth: that God Saves. And none who do will be passed by “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” Romans 10:12-13.

And whether man confesses this truth in his lifetime and bows the knee freely, or whether he comes to see it at the day of judgment, nevertheless, there comes a day when every man, every woman, every child, all, shall bow the knee to the truth that God Saves, for “Salvation is of the Lord”… “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow”.

“…and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21

 

 

Amen.    

RELATED AUDIO MESSAGES

“The Lost Sheep” Luke 15:6

“The Word of Life” 1 John 1:1

“Listen” Isaiah 49:1

In the closing chapter of Romans Paul concludes his epistle by sending greetings to the brothers and sisters gathered in the church at Rome and reaffirms his confidence in the message of the Gospel delivered to the saints.

Having addressed the saints in chapter 1 and commended their unity in Jesus Christ, in whom they were called through the Gospel, and thanked God for their faith which was “spoken of throughout the whole world” (Romans 1:8 ) Paul again commends their conduct, their faith, their love, and their labours for Christ as he closes his epistle. Here is a people drawn from both Jews and Gentiles whose unity is found not in nationality, race, culture or earthly interests, but in Christ. They are knit together in Christ, by His Gospel – chosen by God in eternity with an everlasting election, redeemed by the blood of His Son at the cross and quickened into spritual life by the Spirit to live and walk by faith.

Yet, in verse 17 Paul warns the brethren against those who would cause division in the church through their opposition to the message preached. The well-being and unity of the church rests in this – the faithful proclamation and adherence to that Gospel, that message declared from the beginning and expounded in this very epistle. Division stands in departure from this message. Unity does not stand in the creeds and confessions, it does not stand in denominations, or church orders, nor in man-made authority, be it the Pope of Rome or any other, neither in the theology, traditions or organisations of men – however scriptural-sounding and however seemingly well-meant. No, unity stands in one thing, and one thing only, Christ and His Gospel as revealed by the Spirit, and anything and everything which departs from that message, in any way, merely encourages and maintains division. Mark it well – take heed what you hear. How vital then is this message, and how seriously Paul treats that which is “contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned” and especially those who would bring such contrary doctrine, by which divisions and offences come, though they “by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of many”.

How seriously then should we take the message of the Gospel. It must not be taken lightly. It cannot be compromised. 

But we thank God that the very Gospel which Paul declared to those at Rome continues to be sounded even to the present day. It remains the same. It is that ‘faith which was once delivered unto the saints’. It does not vary. It cannot be added to, nor subtracted from. It isn’t subject to the opinions or objections of men, it isn’t subject to the changing fashions of this world or the differences between cultures and peoples. It stands sure and certain. It is the faith which was once delivered.

This is the message we need to hear in our day and age – the same message preached from the very beginning, and as recorded in the scriptures.

Is this the message you have heard? Is this the faith you confess? The faith once delivered to the saints? Has God revealed this ‘mystery’ to you? 

For these things must be revealed to us. Until they are they remain a mystery. Though with the coming of Christ, and the writing of the New Testament, those things which had previously been hid as a secret, were now revealed, though those things which had only previously been known in types, figures and prophecy were now fulfilled in Christ, nevertheless, even now, until God opens our eyes to see them, they remain a mystery to us too. Until the Spirit of God takes the words of scripture and breathes them into our hearts, until He proclaims the Gospel unto us in power, the truth remains but words on a page. A hidden mystery. We may read the Bible, we may devour books, we may hear a preacher, but all is beyond our comprehension, all is confused, everything is no more than information. No matter how intelligent, how wise, how well-read we may be these things will remain hidden from us until God in mercy teaches us to bow before Him and His revelation with child-like humility, for Jesus said I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes” (Matthew 11:25).

Yet when God does reveal the truth to us, when He, as it were, takes the wraps off the truth, opens our eyes to see and reveals that Gospel unto us then everything becomes clear – then what was once hidden can now be seen, what was once a dark shadow is now revealed in the light of the day, in heavenly light, divine light. What may once have been but knowledge of the letter, knowledge about Christ, now becomes a knowledge of Christ – in experience – by the Spirit…

I ask again, has God revealed this ‘mystery’ to you? Has He revealed His Son unto you through the preaching of His Gospel – that Gospel which is ‘the power of God unto salvation’?  That “mystery of the gospel” (Ephesians 6:19) “which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints” (Colossians 1:26), which declares “the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). For “without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory” 1 Timothy 3:16. Yea, has this Gospel, this mystery been revealed to you?

For salvation lies in no other message – for Christ, the Saviour, is revealed in no other message. Every variation from that ‘faith… once delivered’, however small, is by so much a departure from the truth and its saving power. Our great need today is to return to the truth as it was delivered in the beginning. Not to the ‘great days’ of the past in church history. Not to the Great Awakening, not to the Reformation, not to 1689, 1646, the 1500s, not to Lloyd-Jones, Philpot, Spurgeon, Whitefield, Luther or Calvin. But back to the beginning! Back to the Gospel as recorded in the scriptures, and as declared by Christ and His apostles. Back to the ‘faith which was once delivered unto the saints’. That faith Paul preached and expounded in his epistle to the Romans.

Has God taught you that faith? That Gospel? That message?

Has it been revealed unto you, in the heart, in the inward man, by the Spirit, through the word, by those sent to preach it – not in word only, but in power, in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance?

May God be pleased to sound this message in power in this day and generation. The message of Christ, of His salvation, of His justifying righteousness wrought by faith, of an eternal election, free justification, of salvation by grace and not by works. That salvation which is of God, not man, which is ‘from faith to faith’ – even the ‘faith which was once delivered unto the saints’.

This message. And none other. The faith once delivered to the saints.

The faith… of Jesus Christ.

 

 

“Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began,

But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith:

To God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ for ever. Amen.”

Romans 16:25-27

 

 

RELATED AUDIO MESSAGES

 

“The Mystery” Colossians 1:26

“The Revelation of Jesus Christ” Revelation 1:1

“That Our Eyes May Be Opened” Matthew 20:33

Paul introduces his letter to the Romans by stating his desire to preach the Gospel to them, “the gospel of God… concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; and declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead”. He places his absolute confidence in it as being “the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” on the grounds that “therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith”, and then he commences in chapter 1 and verse 18 to open up and expound the truths of this very Gospel. 

 

But where does he start? Where would you start? Most churches today would start with the love of God or the kindness of God to humanity. Or perhaps by offering people something they are missing in their lives, something to help them feel fulfilled. Not so Paul. He doesn’t even mention the love of God until chapter 5, and that but in passing. So where does Paul start? …Where? At the beginning! 

 

But what is the beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Take a look at Mark 1:1-3 which tells us…. 

“The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God; As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.”  

 

The Gospel begins with a voice “crying in the wilderness”, preparing the way for Christ. That’s the beginning of the Gospel. But what does that voice cry? 

 

In Romans 1:18-20 the voice which prepares the way for Christ has the following declaration: 

“…the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it into them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.” 

One Beginning: The Wrath of God Revealed

 

Yes, that’s where the Gospel of God begins – with a declaration of the fact that God’s wrath is revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. It begins with a voice which prepares the way of the Lord by telling men what they are by nature – sinners – and that God’s wrath is revealed against that sin.

 

This is where the Gospel must begin. For the Gospel reveals Jesus Christ the Saviour of sinners, it is the power of God unto salvation, and if so, the way to Christ must be prepared by seeking out sinners in need of salvation, by revealing to them their state before God and their need of the Saviour. For who needs salvation but those who are lost, those who are dead, those to whom God has sounded an alarm…. an alarm that His wrath is revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men?

 

Most of religion today is seeking to convince people to become Christians, to show them a ‘better way’. But those sent of God to preach the Gospel aren’t sent to ‘twist people’s arms’ or to educate them about religion through ‘courses’, but to seek out the lost, to preach a message of salvation to them, to find those who are desperate, hungry for the truth, those whom the Spirit has convinced of sin, of righteousness and of the judgment to come – those who know that death and eternity awaits them – those who need to hear of the Saviour and the Gospel of their salvation. Because until God shows us our need of salvation the message of a Saviour is meaningless. Sinners first need to hear that they are sinners!

 

For Jesus said “…I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel” Matthew 15:24.

 

“When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” Mark 2:17.

Yes, the alarm needs to be sounded… and to this end, Paul, as it were, cries out in Romans from chapter 1:18 to chapter 3:20, and sounds forth an alarm, in order to prove all men to be under sin… and to warn of its eternal consequence (Romans 2:8-9).

 

Two Classes of Men

In these chapters Paul divides mankind into two classes of men, into which all men fall, either into the one class or into the other. They are either Jews or they are Gentiles. They are religious, or they are irreligious. They may be church-goers, or they may be party-goers. They may be devout, or an aimless lout. But whether they have the scriptures like the Jews of old and profess to follow God, or whether they be in the world, with no thought for God, living for themselves and for selfish gain or pleasure, Paul in this epistle shows that all are alike in this respect: all are dead in sin. Outside of Christ, whether religious or irreligious, Jew or Gentile, there is no difference – all have sinned, all are guilty before God, all stand condemned before Him, all have turned their backs on their Maker, all in their ungodliness and unrighteousness have rejected the revelation of truth regarding God, so all are without excuse.

 

Three Revelations of Light

Why are all without excuse? Because all have had truth regarding God revealed to them in one way or another – whether they comprehend it or not. From Romans 1:20 to Romans 3:9 God the Holy Spirit points us to three clear revelations of light regarding the truth which God has made to man, to which mankind is accountable. Light which leaves men without excuse.

 

There is light in the Creation, light in the Conscience and light in the Scriptures.

 

Firstly, there is light in Creation. We read “… that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened” Romans 1:19-20.

 

Secondly, there is light in the Conscience. Romans 2:14-15 tells us “…when the Gentiles, which hath not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another”.

 

Both these revelations of light regarding God are made to all men, whether Jew or Gentile, religious or irreligious. All men have the witness of the creation, of the world around them, to the eternal power and Godhead of their Creator. And all men by nature have a conscience which bears witness to the truth, by which they have some understanding of right and wrong. Yet all men, by nature, look not upon these things. They ignore the light outside them, and they ignore the light within them, being blinded to both by the depths of their sin and depravity. This depravity is vividly described in the rest of chapter 1 which makes for sober reading regarding the state of man in sin – the state of you and me. Yet how contemporary is the picture painted therein.

 

But there is a third revelation of light which Paul points to and this is that found in the Scriptures. Romans 3:1-2 tells us “What advantage then hath the Jew? Or what profit is there of circumcision? Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.” So the Jews had this advantage over the Gentiles of possessing the scriptures, yet they too were under sin. Indeed because of this advantage they, like many who are religious today, so easily fell into the trap of thinking themselves better than others, of having more light, and judging others, yet in reality when that light remained outward, and never truly penetrated their hearts, they remained just as blind and just as sinful (See Romans 2:17-29). “For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly…. But he 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.” And the law which God gave the Jews made them no better – no, it made things worse, simply condemning them, just as it does us, “that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God” Romans 3:19.

 

So God has revealed light about Himself in the Heavens, in the Heart and in the Holy Bible. Yet who sees it? Who comprehends it? “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” Romans 3:23.

 

No wonder then that all men are without excuse before God. No wonder then that His wrath is revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who resist (hold) the truth in unrighteousness. Why? Because despite three revelations of light to mankind regarding the truth, man still turns away from the truth, from the light and from God.

 

Yes, despite these three revelations of light and despite the fact that today we have the benefit of the full written revelation of the Gospel in the scriptures, nevertheless man’s heart is so sinful, so darkened by nature, so hard that none of this light penetrates. It just washes over us! We may look, we may listen, we may read, yet all the while we see and hear nothing. Man by nature cannot, and he will not hearken. Mankind is without understanding and by nature no man seeks after God. There is no neutral response to God – we have all gone out of the way. As Romans 3:9-12 tells us:

 

“… for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin; As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no not one.”

An Inward Revelation

No, man in the depth of his sin simply cannot and will not come unto God. Not unless, and not until, God the Spirit opens the heart and shines the light in! Not until God reveals the truth to us, not only outwardly, but inwardly. Until then we remain in darkness. You may hear the words of a preacher, or read the words on a page, but have you heard the voice of the Spirit of God sounding an alarm in your heart? Has He spoken to you inwardly? Have these things been revealed to you?

 

For when God, through the preaching of His Gospel, opens the ears to hear and opens the eyes to see, when God the Spirit gives us light to see things as they really are, then we come to see just what we are before God by nature – just how bad we are! How vile we are, how unrighteous we are – and how “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men”. And then, and not until then, we will look for, and cry out for, mercy.

 

But what an answer God has for needy sinners in the Gospel! When shown our sin, when shown our state, when the alarm has been sounded and the way prepared, then we are brought to hear of the Saviour of sinners, even the Lord Jesus Christ, and just what He did upon the cross to save sinners. Then we are brought to the “But now” of Romans 3:21 and to the glorious revelation in the Gospel of the righteousness of God by the faith of Jesus Christ.

 

But have you been brought there? Have you indeed heard the beginning of the Gospel? Is this where the gospel you heard began? Have you heard that voice which prepares the way of the Lord?

 

Have you been shown that you’re a sinner in need of salvation… or in your wisdom have you become a fool (Romans 1:22)…? 

(Read this in Portuguese)

RELATED AUDIO MESSAGES

“Listen” Isaiah 49:1

“Grounded and Settled” Colossians 1:23

“The Word of Life” 1 John 1:1

“Who is This?” Matthew 21:10

“The Fool… And The Heart That Says, There Is No God” Psalm 14:1

In Romans 3:21 we read of the revelation or manifestation of the righteousness of God in the Gospel – the glorious ‘but now’ of Romans 3. This wonderful, foundational, truth of the Gospel through which the sinner is justified by having the very righteousness of God imputed to him as a result of the death of Christ on his behalf is expounded from Romans 3:21 to 26. In verse 22 we read of just how the righteousness of God is brought to light in the gospel.

 

 

 “Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference”

How was this righteousness manifested? How did God reveal His righteousness in the Gospel? He revealed it by the “faith of Jesus Christ”. It was the faith of Christ which brought the righteousness of God to light in the Gospel. A glorious truth – but one so often overlooked and neglected by many. This phrase “by faith of Jesus Christ” is very significant, and is one that we find repeated in several other passages of scripture in various forms. For example in Galatians 2:16, a passage which also refers to our justification through the work of God in Christ, we read the following:

“Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.”

But what is the ‘faith of Jesus Christ’ and just how did that manifest the righteousness of God in the Gospel?

Mistranslations considered

Well, before answering that question, sadly we need to take some time to brush aside the obscuring of this glorious truth in many modern translations of the Bible. Not all translations have rendered the phrase with the same accuracy as the Authorised Version of the Bible, and for this reason quite a degree of confusion has been caused regarding the truths brought out in these passages. Indeed rather than revealing the righteousness of God in the Gospel through the faith of Jesus Christ, these mistranslations of the Bible have all but hidden it!

 

Most modern ‘translations’ of the Bible, including the NIV and the NKJV, have altered this vital phrase to read ‘faith in Jesus Christ’ which gives a very different meaning to the verses. But why have the translators chosen to alter the passages in this way?

 

Well it is difficult from merely examining the Greek grammar or syntax alone, when the phrases are taken in isolation, to be entirely sure of the translation and this has perhaps led to some of the differences in translation. However when the context of the passages is considered it is quite clear that the Authorised Version of the Bible and its predecessors such as The Great Bible, or Tyndale’s Bible have rendered the passage correctly. The Holy Spirit in these verses is speaking of the faith of Christ, not of our faith in Him.

 

But it isn’t so much differences regarding the contextual meaning of the phrases in the Greek which have led to the modern mistranslations, but theological interpretation. This, more than anything else, has affected how these verses have been translated in most modern Bible ‘versions’. This, despite the overwhelming weight of evidence from the Greek resting entirely on the side of translating the phrase as ‘faith of Christ’. In the original Greek wording, for example, it may be contended that there is a certain ambiguity about the words which might lend themselves to be understood in more than one way. But such an understanding is only retained if the passage is translated using ‘of’. The English phrase “faith of Jesus Christ” could be understood more than one way, for example as Christ’s personal faith or faithfulness, or that faith we have which comes from Jesus Christ. However if translated “faith in Jesus Christ” only one understanding is allowed for – our faith in Jesus Christ. Hence those who have translated the passage in this way have forced upon it their own interpretational decision of what the phrase means which effectively rules out the reading of the passage as meaning the personal faith (or faithfulness) of Christ. In such an instance interpretation has come before the translation of the text, rather than interpreting the meaning of the text after translation.

 

This sets a dangerous translational precedent which is destructive to the truth which the Holy Spirit sets forth in these, the most doctrinal of passages. Few passages of scripture call for more careful, faithful, discerning and Spirit led wisdom in translation than Romans 3:22 or Galatians 2:16. Do these modern translations which have altered the rendering of these passages, casting doubt upon their meaning, demonstrate such wisdom on the part of their translators? It would appear not.

 

The accurate and faithful translation of these passages is certainly to render them as the ‘faith of’ Christ, as it was always translated in the various English versions of the Bible up to the 19th century, including the Great Bible, the Geneva Bible, Tyndale’s Bible, and the Authorised Version (KJV). It is the modern versions, influenced by erroneous theological thought (which places justification as conditional upon our faith, rather than being surely accomplished by God in Christ for all His people), which have switched to rendering ‘of’ as ‘in’. But a translation should translate what the original says! Interpretation of the result should then follow, as guided by the Holy Spirit. But Bible translations should be just that – translations of the words in the original language which the Holy Spirit wrote.

 

The original Greek from which the English is translated is the phrase ‘Pistis Christou’, which is a genitive, and in the context, a subjective genitive, meaning that the faith spoken of is that belonging to the subject, even Jesus Christ. It is His faith which is in view here. The evidence for the wording being a subjective genitive, referring to faith belonging to, and personal to, Jesus Christ, is backed up by similar grammar used elsewhere in the New Testament. There are many other verses referring to things which are personal to Christ or to God (eg. The ‘hand of God’, the ‘face of Jesus Christ’, etc.) which are worded in identical grammar in the Greek as with ‘Pistis Christou’ (the Greek construction used in Romans 3:22 and Galatians 2:16, meaning “faith of Christ”). Few would question those translations but when it comes to “faith of Jesus Christ” doubt is cast upon it. Why? Because the theological leanings of a number of modern ‘scholars’ prevent them from comprehending just why these verses refer to Christ’s personal faith. They think the writer must mean our faith in Christ. But in this they have stumbled, and rather than translating the text they have interpreted it, and obfuscated the truth from the readers of their mistranslations, and in so doing have shifted the focus away from that objective truth in the Gospel to that which is subjective in relation to it. But the text should be translated “faith of Jesus Christ”, for it is by the faith of Christ that the righteousness of God is revealed in the Gospel.

 

Faith or faithfulness

So, having considered the correct translation of the passages themselves, let us begin to consider the meaning of the phrase itself. What is to be understood by the phrase in these two verses? Does “faith of Jesus Christ” refer to faith which comes from Christ, or to Christ’s personal faith, or even to His faithfulness?

 

Firstly, Romans 3:22 is not referring to faith which comes from Christ, or that we have in relation to Him. Whenever the Apostle Paul wanted to refer to our faith or our believing he was very specific in the Greek he used. He knew perfectly well how to speak of our believing, or our faith in Christ, in contrast to the faith of Christ Himself. Compare in the AV/KJV verses such as Galatians 3:26, Ephesians 1:15, Colossians 1:4, or even the phrase “we have believed in Jesus Christ” in Galatians 2:16 in contrast to “the faith of Jesus Christ” in the very same verse. The underlying Greek differs, and it differs for a reason. When Paul writes “faith of Jesus Christ” he is not referring to our faith in Him, whether that faith originates from God, from Christ, or not. He is referring to Christ’s own faith in God.

 

What about the translation of the Greek word ‘pistis’? Does this refer to Christ’s faith or His faithfulness? The same Greek word can be translated into English with either meaning but whilst theological bias again leads some, who might concede that the AV has translated the passage correctly, to speak of Christ’s faithfulness in regard to Romans 3:22, the fact remains that virtually all English translations render the word as faith, just as they do when speaking of a believer’s faith. Not only this, but given that faithfulness has to do with obedience, with works, whereas faith has to do with belief, trust and submission, the contrast demonstrated in Galatians 2:16 between the works of the law and the faith of Jesus Christ points to the fact that it is not faithfulness but faith which is in view, which is being contrasted with works. The AV/KJV has translated the phrases correctly. Romans 3:22 refers to the “faith of Jesus Christ” – ‘pistis’ usually being translated as faith elsewhere in the New Testament.

 

The righteousness of God revealed

So if the correct translation of Romans 3:22 is  “Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference”, what does this phrase actually mean? Does it really mean that the righteousness of God is manifested by the faith of Jesus Christ (Romans 3:21-22)? That we are justified by the faith of Jesus Christ (Galatians 2:16)?

 

Yes. That is precisely the meaning of the passages. It is the faith of Jesus Christ which brought to light the righteousness of God, by which we are justified. The righteousness of God was manifested, revealed, brought to light, by the faith of Jesus Christ.

 

But one may answer that we are justified by the blood of Christ, by His death on the cross. And that is quite true – we are. But Christ’s death on the cross, His blood-shedding was a work of faith, an act of faith. It was the “obedience of faith”. Not obedience to the law, but the obedience of faith. The law didn’t demand that one lay down his life for another – but Christ’s faith revealed such love for His people, that while they were yet sinners He laid down His life for them. It is this which we see in the Gospel. It was by faith that He lived (“The just shall live by faith” Romans 1:17) and by faith that He died (Hebrews 12:2). Hence we are justified by the faith of Jesus Christ. By that substitutionary death which He died as an act of faith on behalf of those people whom He loved and gave Himself for (Galatians 2:20).

 

Likewise the righteousness of God is manifested by the faith of Jesus Christ, because it is through the manifestation of this righteousness that we are justified, made righteous, before God. Christ lived a perfect and sinless life. His life which He lived from conception and birth unto death was characterised by faith. He lived a life in constant communion with the Father, doing the will of the Father, not His, in perfect and willing submission. He completely submitted to the Father, trusted in Him for all things, looked to Him in all things, and walked before Him with His eyes fixed upon God. Christ was the “Just One” and “the just shall live by faith”. Without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6), yet Jesus pleased his Father in all things that He did (“This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased”). Romans 14 tells us that “what is not of faith is sin”. Clearly then, Christ, the sinless one, lived by faith, for He never once sinned. It is by faith that He pleased God, by faith that He lived, and by faith that He died.

When He died, Christ’s faith looked to God to lay upon Him the sins of all His people, to make Him to be sin for them, and to judge those sins according to the righteousness of God in order to blot out all the sins, and all the sin, of His people, that they might become the righteousness of God in Christ. In so doing the righteousness of God was manifested and God the Father rewarded the faith of His Son by justifying His people, purifying them as His Bride, a Bride without blemish, fit for a King.

 

The righteousness of faith

Romans 10 contrasts two types of righteousness: the righteousness of the law (Romans 10:5), which is about ‘doing’ (“Do this and live”), and the righteousness of faith, which springs from believing (“…If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” Romans 10:9). It is this ‘righteousness of faith’ which is revealed in the Gospel – the “righteousness of God by faith of Jesus Christ”. This righteousness springs from faith. Through it is the fulfilment of all the law’s demands but it is characterised not by legal obedience but by the obedience of faith. Faith characterises it. And Christ revealed it in the Gospel through His faith. For we are justified not “by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ” (Galatians 2:16). Hence in Paul’s statement about the Gospel of Christ in Romans 1:16-17 he says:-

 

“For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.”

What a summary of the Gospel! It is the power of God unto salvation. Why? Because therein, in the Gospel, is the righteousness of God revealed. How is it revealed? From faith to faith. But what does that mean? Well, once the fact of Christ’s own faith be recognised, this phrase ‘from faith to faith’ which has puzzled many a commentator (*) becomes much plainer to understand. The righteousness of God is revealed from faith – but whose faith? It is revealed to faith – but what faith is this?

 

The meaning of Romans 1:17 is this. It means that the righteousness of God was revealed from, or out of, Christ’s faith, unto our faith. Christ manifested the righteousness of God by His faith (Romans 3:22), and we come to see and believe in that righteousness (and that one great act of righteousness which Christ did in laying down His life on the cross to justify many by His blood) through faith. God gives us faith to see the righteousness of God revealed by Christ’s faith, within the Gospel.

 

It is this revelation, this manifestation of the righteousness of God which is described in Romans 3:21-22. For the righteousness of God is not simply revealed by the Gospel to our faith subjectively, but it is actually revealed in the Gospel objectively. It is that revelation, objectively in the Gospel, by the faith of Christ, out of which the righteousness of God is revealed to our faith subjectively: “from faith to faith”. Hence we can see the importance of the correct translation of these passages in the scriptures and how the mistranslations of modern versions undermine the truth here, because they seek to take that revelation of the righteousness of God which is objective in the Gospel, and make it merely subjective to the faith of the believer. Yet the scriptures plainly state that the “Gospel of Christ is the power of God unto salvation” because therein, in the Gospel objectively, “is the righteousness of God revealed”. Yes, this revelation is in the Gospel. How? Firstly by Christ’s life. His very life exhibited the righteousness of God. But secondly, in His death when He brought that righteousness to light in judgment against the sins of His people as He looked to His Father by faith whilst suffering upon the tree. This is what revealed the righteousness of God – The faith of Jesus Christ – And it is this revelation of righteousness in the Gospel which God’s people are brought by faith to believe in. Hence Paul writes that the righteousness of God is revealed “from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith”.

 

This phrase “The just shall live by faith” is absolutely central to the Gospel. It characterises it. It is at the heart of it. The just shall live by faith. Christ lived by faith. He justified us by His death, by His faith. His death was an act of His faith. And by it He justified His people, hence they too live by faith. By Christ’s glorious act of faith at the cross dead sinners are brought to life. That justifying work later to be brought home to these people in their experience, by the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit who gives them faith to believe it. Their lives then follow, as it were in the footsteps of Christ, as those who live by faith. The ‘just ones’, who like the ‘Just One’ before them, live by faith.

 

Who can question that Christ’s life was lived by faith? Or that He died as an act of faith? Psalm 22 describes His sufferings and the whole language of that psalm is of faith, of trust in God. Likewise from Hebrews 10:38 through to Hebrews 12:2 we read an exposition of the same phrase taken from Habakkuk 2:4, “The just shall live by his faith”. Hebrews 10:38 quotes that and the next chapter goes on to define faith, to show that “without faith it is impossible to please God”, and to enumerate many wonderful instances of lives lived by faith. What made the deeds of Noah, Abraham, Moses, Rahab and others pleasing to God, was that they sprang from faith. By faith!

 

Christ, our forerunner

That chapter brings us to Hebrews 12:2, where it reaches its focal point, its summit: Christ. Here the attention is centred on that great forerunner of faith, Jesus. It is not simply that He is the object, or end, of man’s faith, but He is the “Just One” who ran before us, living by faith. “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of [our] faith”. ‘Our’ here has been inserted by the translators. Also ‘author’ and ‘finisher’ are merely two words used to translate Greek words which have much fuller meanings. A better, more descriptive, translation might be “Looking unto Jesus the chief [or captain] and end [or object] of faith”. We look to Jesus who is the ‘end’ or object of [our] faith, but He is also the chief of faith, the captain or forerunner of faith. He is the One who went before us, who lived by faith, whom we follow.

 

And what did Christ do by faith? We read in chapter 11 of what Noah did by faith, of what Abraham and others did ‘by faith’, but what main thing did Christ do ‘by faith’? We read “…who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

 

That is what Christ did by faith – He endured the cross, despising the shame. Why? “For the joy that was set before him”. What joy? To justify all those whom the Father had given unto Him from before the foundation of the world. To be united in resurrection life with His bride, the church. To live for ever in eternal bliss with all those justified by His blood. That was His joy, His satisfaction. “He shall see the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.” Isaiah 53:11.

 

In laying down His life for sinners Christ trusted His Father with complete trust, complete knowledge (“by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many”), complete faith, counting Him faithful who had promised. He believed that God would lay all the sins of His chosen people upon His Son and that in Christ’s bearing them and taking their just punishment that those people would be really, truly, justified through His death. Christ had perfect faith in His Father and in that covenant they made before the foundation of the world. When in Gethsemane the Son of God was faced with the cup which He would soon drink, though such an awful prospect awaited Him, His faith did not shrink from it, but He willingly submitted to the Father’s will. And when, on the cross, He drank of that very cup, bore the sins of His people, and was beaten and bruised by the outpouring of God’s wrath against them, forsaken of Him in whose bosom He had dwelt, did Christ’s faith fail Him? No, He endured to the bitter end. He had perfect faith, perfect trust, that on the third day God would raise Him from the dead, and on the third day, rise from the dead He did in triumphant victory having justified His people for ever! Yes, Christ’s death was the most wonderful work of faith there has ever been. Perfect faith, from the perfect man, the Last Adam!

 

Justified by the faith of Christ

Finally, take another look at Galatians 2:16:-

 

“Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.”

How is a man justified? By the works of the law? No. By the faith of Jesus Christ. Not by faith in Jesus Christ. Our faith doesn’t justify us, it is Christ’s death by which we are justified. Then ‘by the faith of Jesus Christ’. Why? Because His death was an act of that faith.

 

And what is a result of being justified by Christ’s death, by His faith? The result is that “we have believed in Jesus Christ”. Our belief doesn’t justify us, it is a result of our justification, inwrought by the Spirit. Our belief brings us to an experimental knowledge of our justification before God subjectively in which God declares a sentence of justification in our hearts, but it is God that justified us objectively in the Person of His Son, who shed His blood for His people. And when Christ shed His blood for that people the righteousness of God was unto all of them from that very moment, to be applied by the Spirit upon all of them when they believe, “even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference”. For we are justified, not by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ

 

“…who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

 Oh, may God give us grace to both see the glory of His work in Christ, that work of faith by which He justified His people for ever, and believing, to walk by faith, looking unto Jesus, “the author and finisher of faith”. 

Amen.

 

…….

 

(* One common interpretation of the phrase ‘from faith to faith’ in Romans 1:17 is that it refers to the believer’s faith which, it is said, goes from one measure of faith to another, greater, measure. The problem with such an interpretation, however, is that the subject of Romans 1:17 is not the believer or his faith, but the righteousness of God, and how that is revealed in the Gospel. It is the revelation of the righteousness of God which is ‘from faith to faith’, and, as is shown in this article, this righteousness is revealed from (by, or out of)  the faith of Jesus Christ unto the faith of the believer.)

(Read this in Portuguese)

RELATED AUDIO MESSAGES

“The just shall live by faith” Hebrews 10:38

“I have preached righteousness in the great congregation” Psalm 40:9

“He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord” Romans 14:6

 

In the midst of the fourteenth chapter of Romans in verses 5-6 Paul considers the keeping, or regarding, of days.

     The keeping, or not keeping, of certain special days is an issue which often crops up in religion. The Jews under the law were commanded to keep the Sabbath day, as well as a number of other days as part of their ceremonial worship of God. The Gentile believers at Rome, however, had never been under the law as an outward covenant as the Jewish nation had. Therefore what was customary and natural to some, was an unusual and foreign practice to others. Some at Rome, therefore, were strongly persuaded that they should continue to keep the Sabbath day, or other days, as they had once done. Others saw no need for it. Some felt the practice of setting aside one day in seven in order to devote themselves to God’s worship was important. Others felt that they should treat all days alike.

     Opinions on the matter were very strong, and they continue to be so up to this very day. Many are fully persuaded of one thing, and others are fully persuaded against. Some, for example, particularly remember the Lord’s birth and His death on certain days each year. Others feel that such a practice is not commanded in scripture and is influenced by mere worldly tradition. Arguments for and against can be very strong.

     It is this which Paul addresses in these verses, by stressing that whether one keeps a day, or doesn’t keep it, he should do so, as ‘unto the Lord’. Under the New Covenant believers are not under a law to keep a Sabbath day, or any other particular day of remembrance (such as Easter). However, that does not in itself make the keeping of such days wrong. Paul seeks to emphasise that the keeping of, or not keeping of, such days is not wrong in itself and should not be a cause for division. He stresses the need to avoid “doubtful disputation” (Romans 14:1) over such matters. What matters is how one approaches the day. Whether kept, or not, all should be as unto the Lord.

     Someone once asked me the following question about the Sabbath day:

     “You mentioned that Sabbath keeping is not specifically mentioned in the New Testament whereas nine of the other commandments are quoted. Is there any implication to this? It seems to me that it is omitted because the Sabbath (or day of rest) was mainly instituted at the Creation, i.e. God was 6 days working and on the 7th He rested? What would your practical views be on the Sabbath now, for example would you be happy to do your groceries shopping on the Sunday? If not, then why not?”

     Let us consider this particular question of the Sabbath day, especially in the light of what Paul teaches in Romans 14. Firstly, it is very significant that the Sabbath command is not repeated in the New Testament. This is because it was essentially a type, a shadow, pointing to the rest which the believer has in Christ. Before coming to Christ the believer is, spiritually speaking, under the law, labouring. But when brought to faith his ‘six days’ of work come to an end and he enters into rest, having been crucified with Christ and risen with Him the other side of death. Then he is in rest, having the reality of what the Sabbath was but a shadow. Hence in the New Testament with the coming of Christ, and His work being finished at the cross, the Sabbath comes to an end. Therefore we read in Matthew 28:1 “In the end of the sabbath”, regarding the resurrection of our Lord. This is not simply referring to the end of that particular Sabbath day, you see, but this refers to the end of the Sabbath, full stop.

     Regarding the mention of the Sabbath at creation, it is true that Genesis 2 mentions the seventh day, and of course Exodus 20 refers back to this in relation to the Sabbath law. However, it is significant that no where else in Genesis is the Sabbath mentioned. There is no mention of it being made a law or requirement of man to keep until Moses brought Israel out of Egypt. We never read of the Patriarchs observing a Sabbath in that sense. Certainly at the creation the ‘type’ of the seventh day is mentioned, because it would be – the account is of God’s creation and is figurative of what He brings in in the new creation in which there is an eternal rest. The law of Moses certainly refers back to this because again the Sabbath law is a figure of that which is to come so it refers back to the previous figure (and it is made a law to teach us that to ‘break’ such a rest by working in it is wrong, because this is tantamount to adding our works to Christ’s in order to be saved – but we are to rest entirely in Him). However the fact remains that no mention is made elsewhere in Genesis of Sabbath observance, and the strict requirements of how to observe the Sabbath are only stated in the law.

     When we arrive at the New Testament we have various references to the Sabbath in the Gospels and Acts, but many of these references are to what Christ did on the Sabbath to the consternation of the Jews who accused him of being a Sabbath breaker. In the epistles the primary mention is in Colossians (2:16) which is highly significant as there the teaching concerns deliverance from earthly things, into which men seek to bring us into bondage. Paul seeks to set the Colossians’ gaze upon heavenly things showing them that these earthly types and figures have all passed away in Christ.

     So, in summary, in the New Testament we are delivered from the law, including the Sabbath law. The mention of the seventh day rest at creation doesn’t alter that, because the position of the believer is one of being dead to this present world, this present creation, and alive in Christ risen in newness of life the other side of death. What pertains to this creation is but a type and figure of the reality brought in in the new creation. The seventh day rest pictures that eternal rest we have in Christ. In Galatians 6:14 Pauls tells us that the world is crucified unto him, and he unto the world. If so, he is crucified unto all worldly, earthly things, including the observation of holy days, sabbaths and so on. We are not under a legal bondage in respect of such things (We are both dead to the law and also to the world.)  As believers we need to be mindful of our position in Christ the other side of death, as we are no longer earthly in the first man Adam, but heavenly in the Second Man Christ. We are called to mortify the deeds of the flesh, and if so, we reckon ourselves dead to the flesh, dead to this world, hence dead to what is earthly. Types, figures and shadows served their purpose in the Old Testament but now the reality has come, now the true Light has dawned, we put such things away and walk in liberty in Christ our Saviour.

     But how does all that work out in practice? Obviously despite our state in Christ we do still have the flesh, we are still in this world (though not of it) and we do have weeks with days and nights…. And for that reason, whilst we are not under any legal obligation to keep a sabbath day, being dead to the law, nevertheless the principle of one day of rest in seven, whilst in this world, is a good one – physically and spiritually, in this world, in many ways, we need it. Also, it is good to worship our Lord as often as we can, and having one day a week set aside specifically for that purpose, without the distraction of our daily work is helpful. So the historical situation in this country for example (Great Britain) which means that many have Sunday off work is something to be thankful for, and we can be happy, voluntarily, to set such a day aside for the worship of God, it being the first day of the week which is the day that Christ rose from the dead (and as such not the Sabbath day itself anyway, but nevertheless still one day in seven, and a continual reminder of our Lord’s resurrection, and of course a day on which the disciples in the New Testament became accustomed to meeting on as a result – see John 20:19 and Acts 20:7).

     Being able to avoid many of the everyday demands of life -such as shopping and work – on such a day is helpful as they prevent or distract from the worship of God. As Paul says in Romans 14:6, “He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord”. We have no legal obligation to keep one day in seven, and we should not be judgmental of others who see their liberty in Christ differently or indeed of those who lack the same freedom owing, for example, to commitments with work. But whether we esteem one day above another, or not, whether we observe one day a week differently, or one day annually, or not, we should do all as unto the Lord, all by faith, all for His glory. And all freely, willingly, out of love for Christ our Saviour.

     There are some who recognise that the believer is no longer under the Sabbath law who therefore treat Sunday much like any other day (except perhaps for attending a meeting or two on that day). Well, they have the liberty to do that, but why surround the worship of God with the distractions and busyness of everyday life if we have the freedom to do otherwise? Others would rather seek to raise every day up to the same standard, rather than bringing this one day down to the standard of others (in terms of being taken up with the distractions of earthly cares and duties). But as we can’t bring all the other days ‘up’, because of the need to work, shop, and so on, and although we might love to have two, three or more days a week like this one, we can nevertheless be thankful for that day, and that time, with which we have the freedom and liberty to set it aside entirely for the worship of God, not only in private, but publicly. It is good to at least be able to treat one day differently – to give our time in it freely to the Lord, if you like (to be mindful of heavenly things, putting aside earthly cares). We have no ‘Sabbath’, and such a day isn’t legally binding, but it is still nevertheless good to be able to devote such time freely out of love for the Lord. With a day of rest we can be reminded of that eternal rest which we have in Christ who has delivered us from bondage and brought us into liberty, as children of light who walk in the light of His countenance in the power of an everlasting life in Him, who having died for our sins rose again as the Firstborn from the dead, in whom we have our life and being.

     But whether we keep a day, or don’t keep a day, may it never be the cause of dispute. May we live by faith, each and every day, doing all as unto the Lord, and may we gather often with our brethren, whether on the first day of the week, the second, or any other, to hear the preaching of Christ in the Gospel of God and to worship His Name for His glory. May we walk as children of the day, children of light, who walk in the light of God’s glory in that ‘day’ of Christ’s ascended glory, that Lord’s Day, in which Christ, the Sun of Righteousness, shines forth His glory through the proclamation of His Gospel from on High.

     As Paul writes:

     “Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations.

     For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs. Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him.

     Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.

     One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks.

     For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s.

     For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living.” Romans 14:1-9

Amen.

RELATED AUDIO MESSAGES

“The just shall live by faith” Hebrews 10:38

“That Our Eyes May Be Opened” Matthew 20:33

“Whatsoever is not of faith is sin” Romans 14:23

IN the fourteenth chapter of Romans Paul considers the relationships of believers to their brethren who are weaker in the faith, and the liberty that each has in Christ to partake of or abstain from certain things, for example, the eating of meats. In so doing he contrasts those things which are earthly and temporal with those things which respect the kingdom of God, being heavenly and eternal. Constantly and repeatedly throughout the whole epistle, and here in a most practical part of it, the attention is set upon Christ and His Gospel.

Paul’s emphasis throughout this chapter is that many of the things which men so easily make rules out of, by which they judge one another, are in themselves of little consequence (14:14). What is important is the motive behind what we do, that all things should be done as unto the Lord, as springing forth from faith: “for whatsoever is not of faith is sin” Romans 14:23. All must regard Christ for He is all, and in all.

So much of what men stress in religion, so much of the practices which they press upon others, so much of what they set up as a standard by which they judge and condemn others, is that which springs forth from the flesh, is that which is earthly, not heavenly. It might seem ‘right and proper’ but it merely respects man approaching unto God in the will of his flesh. Such things owe nothing to the leading of the Spirit, and nothing to the walk of faith. The flesh so easily creeps into the things of God, and in to our judgment concerning such things. But we are called to walk in the Spirit, not in the flesh. To walk by faith, not by sight. Whatsoever is not of faith is sin. Whatsoever. Whatever we may do, however good it may seem before men outwardly, if it is not of faith, it is sin.

Yes, faith is the rule by which the believer walks. “The just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17). This principle applies to all aspects of his life. He lives by faith. Hence Paul exhorts believers to be fully persuaded in their own minds (14:5) regarding their daily conduct, to live as “unto the Lord” (14:8) knowing that we are the Lord’s and to have a clear conscience before God regarding our conduct knowing that “every one of us shall give account of himself to God” (Romans 14:12). Paul reminds his brethren of the death and resurrection of Christ for them, that He might be Lord over them (14:9), and hence it is to Christ and Him alone that they are answerable for their conduct… so why do they, why do we, judge one another?

Nevertheless Paul reminds the stronger brethren to be mindful of those who are weaker and not to do such things as might make their weaker brethren stumble. It is better to abstain from something, even if there is nothing wrong in the thing itself, than to offend him which is weak in the faith (14:21). Likewise Paul stresses the need to avoid “doubtful disputations” (14:1) over such earthly, inconsequential things. Those who are young in the faith can often become very strong minded, and very vocal, about many things they think should or shouldn’t be done by Christians. The wisdom of those stronger in the faith, however, is to avoid such disputes over earthly things, avoid giving their weaker brethren offence through their own conduct, and to constantly be mindful of and exhort their brethren regarding the life of faith which is founded upon heavenly things. To point to Christ!

Paul therefore concludes this chapter by lifting the gaze of his hearers up from the earthly realm, from the inconsequential things of food and drink, and the keeping of days, to the hope of their faith, and that in which the kingdom of God stands:

“For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men. Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.” Romans 14:17-19.

May God give His people grace to continually walk by faith having their affections set not on earthly things, but heavenly, not judging one another, but following after the things which make for peace, those things which edify one another. For the just shall live by faith, and what is not of faith is sin.

 

RELATED AUDIO MESSAGES

“The just shall live by faith” Hebrews 10:38

“The Word of Life” 1 John 1:1

“So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy” Romans 9:16  

THE overriding message of the ninth chapter of Romans is the absolute sovereignty of God in salvation, that “salvation is of the Lord”. In verse 15 we read God’s clear declaration that “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion”, demonstrating that salvation lies in the will of God, not in the will of man, and in the calling of God, not in the works or the merits of man (9:11), “so then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy”.

This truth of God’s sovereignty in calling those whom He wills unto salvation, in showing mercy to whom He wills, in showing compassion to whom He wills, is described in verse 11 as “the purpose of God according to election”. God has a people whom He has elected to save, a people whom He has chosen in Christ “before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4) having predestinated them “according to the good pleasure of his will” (Ephesians 1:5). These are those unto whom He shows His mercy, His compassion and His grace. For salvation does not rest upon the weak, fickle, corrupt and changeable will of man, but on the eternal will and purpose of God “according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself” Ephesians 1:9.

 

How often the scriptures repeat this truth. How clearly they show the contrast between the fallen will, desires and intents of mankind, and the perfect sovereign will and purpose of God. Man’s will by nature is always set in opposition to God and His grace, springing forth from the hearts of those who are “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1), who walk according to the spirit of the children of disobedience, according to the “prince of the power of the air”, in the lusts of their flesh, the “desires of the flesh and of the mind” Ephesians 2:2-3. How can such choose to follow the God of the scriptures? They can not and they will not. But in contrast God, in the good pleasure of His will has purposed from all eternity  to show mercy, to show compassion, to those who sought Him not, to those who had no will to seek Him, those who had no strength to run to Him, to those, who when taught their condition before God, when shown their sin and depravity, when awakened to the eternal consequences of their rebellion against God, could, and can, only throw themselves upon the mercy of God, upon His compassion, His grace. It is such as these whom God has purposed to save – those whom He has chosen in Christ unto salvation, those whom He has purposed to show unto mercy, and those whom He teaches, in time, their need of that mercy.

 

Romans 9 sets forth this truth of God’s sovereignty in considering the position of both the Jews and the Gentiles in relation to the promises of God. From the earliest of days God always had a people in this earth who were set apart from others. The nation of Israel was chosen of God as a people separate from others, to whom God showed great mercy, giving them the promises, the priesthood and the scriptures. God’s dealings with Israel throughout the scriptures stand as a clear picture of His sovereignty in salvation, of His electing purposes. God always did choose some, and not others. But as this chapter shows, Israel itself, as a physical nation, was merely a figure, a pattern, a type, of that which was to come. God’s eternal purposes in electing grace are set upon not a physical nation, but a spiritual. Not those born of the flesh, but those born of the Spirit. For those whom He saves are chosen out from amongst both Jews and Gentiles, and as one whole they form the true spiritual Israel of God, of whom Israel of old was but a picture, “For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel: Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but in Isaac shall they seed be called. That is, they which are of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed” Romans 9:6-8.

 

Hence the chapter having considered both those to whom God shows mercy, and those whom He hardens in their sin – those whom He raises up as vessels of mercy to make known His glory, and those described as vessels of wrath to make his power known in judgment – goes on to conclude that God has a people called out from amongst both Jews and Gentiles who are “afore prepared unto glory” to whom He shows His mercy. These are the people of God, the true Israel of God, the “children of the living God”.

“What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?

As he saith also in Osee, I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved. And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people; there shall they be called the children of the living God.” Romans 9:22-26

 

But this truth of God’s sovereignty and of His divine election unto salvation is not one that sits well with the natural man. By nature we oppose it. By nature we have a high regard for ourselves, our own abilities and our own will. By nature we feel that we have a right to choose our own destiny. That salvation be by the will of God, and not by our own, we consider to be unfair. But the reality is, by nature, we never receive the things of God, we never seek after God (Romans 3:11), our will never desires Him or His salvation, and in our fallen depravity, with hardness of heart we simply shake our fist at our Maker in complaint. But God has a reply to this complaint, “Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, why has thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?” 9:20-21.

 

No, man by nature may not react well to the truth of God’s sovereignty. But that is because “the carnal mind is enmity against God” (Romans 8:7), because “the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14). Except God reveal these truths to us by His Spirit they will always remain foolishness to us, something which we oppose.

 

Yet the truth is, if it were not for the rich mercy of God, for His undeserved compassion towards a people who sought Him not, who having turned from Him sought their own things, living life in the lusts and desires of their flesh, for their own ends, and for their own glory, in the depths of sin and rebellion, yea, if it were not for God’s mercy to such as these, none would be saved. Yet God, in His glory, in His mercy, has chosen a people in Christ whom He has called out from amongst all people, all races, Jews, Gentiles, male and female, all ‘vessels of mercy’, whom He has saved by the blood of Christ, by the death of His own Son who loving them gave Himself for them. Oh! What love for sinners this shows. And were it not for this love, for this purpose of God according to election, for the immutable will of God in saving “all Israel” none would be saved. But because salvation is of the Lord, because God is sovereign in salvation, because He has mercy on those whom He will have mercy, salvation is sure and certain to every last one for whom Christ suffered and died, to those whom He purchased with His own blood upon the cross.

 

And when such sinners are brought to see the love and mercy of God towards them, through the revelation of God’s Spirit, and feel the application of that mercy within their own hearts, then the truth of God’s sovereignty in salvation, that He by His own will sought them out to save them, is not something they resist, but something they rejoice in, something they glory in, something which will cause them to praise God’s Name for evermore!

Oh! Praise God for His mercy in saving sinners freely by His grace!

RELATED AUDIO MESSAGES

“The Lost Sheep” Luke 15:6

“That Our Eyes May Be Opened” Matthew 20:33

“The Word of Life” 1 John 1:1

How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!” Romans 10:14-15

 

 

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AITH comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. It is by hearing the word of God, the Gospel of Christ, that men are saved from their sins, for as Paul declares at the start of his epistle to the Romans: “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation”.

     Yes, the Gospel of Christ is the power of God unto salvation. It saves! It brings the knowledge of the Saviour into the ears of sinners, who, when quickened by the Holy Spirit from the deadness of their fallen, depraved state are given eyes to see and ears to hear, and having that God-given gift of faith wrought within by the Spirit are enabled to believe that word unto salvation.

 

Sent to preach

But that word must be heard – “How shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard?”

     And to be heard it must be preached – “How shall they hear without a preacher?”

     “And how shall they preach, except they be sent?”

     So, it must be asked just who are sent preachers? What is it to preach the Gospel? Are all believers called upon to preach the Gospel? Or is there a specific call to preach which is given to some but not to others?

     Well, certainly scripture teaches the ‘priesthood’ of all believers. All Christians are called upon to testify to the work of God and to edify one another in the body of Christ. In this sense each member of the body ministers to the body. There is a place in the gatherings of the church for all to edify one another as the Lord leads according to the gifts given to each (see 1 Corinthians 12). One might bring a psalm, one might pray, one might read the word, another might give a word of exhortation and another might give a short devotional message. All these means of edification in the church have their rightful and proper place.

     However scripture is also very clear that not all are called to be apostles, not all are called to be prophets and not all are called to be teachers (1 Corinthians 12:29 ). There are those in the church who are specifically called to the work of the ministry, those who are sent to preach the Gospel, those who have received a particular calling to minister to others, that the church might be built up and strengthened, by delivering what the Lord has first given unto them – those who are called to devote themselves to the work of the ministry. Indeed, these are those who themselves are given to the church as ‘gifts’ by God for the building up of others in the faith. Such gifts are sent by God to His church. As Paul tells us in Romans 10: “How shall they preach except they be sent?”

 

Sent by God to preach

So to preach the Gospel one must be sent. But sent by whom? By man? By the church?

     No, the call to preach comes from God and God alone. Such a calling may be recognised and acknowledged by others in the church, and indeed will be if it is true, but nevertheless the calling itself comes direct from God to those whom He sends to preach. The scriptures provide abundant examples of this pattern. Throughout the Old Testament we read of many prophets and each one has a particular and distinct calling of God. God meets with the man and sends him forth with His word as directed by the Lord. Many examples could be provided such as Moses in Exodus 3, Samuel in 1 Samuel 3, or Jeremiah in Jeremiah 1. The Lord appeared unto each one and specifically sent him forth with His word.

     “Then the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations” Jeremiah 1:4-5

     Likewise we see a similar pattern in the New Testament with those whom God called and sent forth to preach His word. Jesus called his disciples by name to follow Him and sent them forth to preach the Gospel (see for example Mark 16:15 and Luke 10). In the case of Saul of Tarsus, one who was not called by Jesus during the time when Jesus was on earth in the flesh, he too received a specific call from Christ to preach, being stopped on his way to Damascus by a bright light from heaven and a voice from heaven, even that of the Lord Jesus Christ who specifically called him to the work of the ministry. As we read in Acts 26:-

     “At midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me. And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.

     And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest.

     But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.

     Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision:” Acts 26:13-19

     So we see clear examples in both the Old and New Testament of the direct calling and sending of men to preach the Gospel. Each heard the word of the Lord and each was sent forth with a specific charge.

     But it may be asked whether these experiences were unique to the prophets and apostles?

     Well, it is true that the ministry of the prophets and apostles recorded in scripture was unique. They received the word of God by direct revelation at a time when the scriptural canon was incomplete. They had direct dealings with God often by hearing His voice audibly or in a vision or dream. The disciples indeed lived at a time when they actually beheld the Son of God incarnate in this world. Such experiences were obviously unique to them.

     Nevertheless the general principles and patterns set forth by the calling of these men to preach hold good to the end of time. The principle of Romans 10, “How shall they preach except they be sent?” is as true today as it was in the early church. God still calls and sends men into the ministry. Men sent to preach the Gospel. Men taught of God. Men prepared by God for that work. Men, such as Timothy, who though not an apostle was still nevertheless called by the same God to the ministry. Like his spiritual ‘father’ Paul, he too was saved through the same Gospel, by the same Saviour, and sent to preach the same truth. The example of Timothy and the charge given to him by the apostle remains in Holy Writ as a precedent for all those to follow who might consider themselves to be called of God to the same ministry. For the Gospel of Christ will continue to be proclaimed down through the ages until the very last of God’s sheep has been brought into the sheep-fold and the Lord returns again to gather his people to Himself for eternity to come. Until that great day the Lord continues to feed His sheep and He does so by sending men to preach His word.

     But what is the call to preach? Just how does God call men to the ministry today?

     Well, whilst the examples of the prophets and apostles may be unique, and whilst there may not be such signal, direct, appearances of God to His servants today, nevertheless God does still call His servants to His work, He does still speak to them and they will know that their sending is of God. His word may come as a ‘still small voice’ and one sent to preach may well be beset by doubts to his calling for some time, but nevertheless the man truly sent to preach will hear the Lord’s voice in direction, he will know the Lord’s will in the matter and it will be made plain to him that his sending is of God not man.

     The call of God to the ministry is very definite and if and when a man is called to preach he will know it. He will know that God has called him and ultimately he will have few if any doubts about it. His call will be much more than just a desire to preach, or a conviction that he should preach because of the need. No, a call is definite – the man called of God knows that God has called him to preach and he must do so. He feels compelled to – the love of Christ constrains him. He may well be unsure of whether he has been truly called for some time, but when he is called then he will come to know it.

     William Huntington wrote about the call to preach in his work, “The Servant of the Lord – Described and Vindicated”, which is very helpful regarding this matter. He deals not only with what is a call is but also with what isn’t a call. So, in like manner, I would like to provide here a few pointers of what doesn’t in itself represent a call to preach (although some of these things may well form ‘part’ of an overall spiritual exercise leading to a call):-

1. Seeing the need for the Gospel to be preached.

How great a need there is for Gospel preachers today! Yet seeing the need and feeling burdened about the state of the church isn’t in itself a call to preach.

2. Feeling that we can possibly ‘do better’ than some other preachers, who by the deadness of their preaching demonstrate that they are quite possibly not called to preach.

Sadly there are many in pulpits today who really shouldn’t be there. Many men ‘send’ themselves into the ministry who simply have no calling and no gift from God for the purpose. Scripture speaks of them as ‘hirelings’ and ‘false shepherds’. They bring real grief to the true children of God who groan to see such men leading others astray whilst making a name for themselves – and all under the guise of doing God service. Yet, recognizing such things; being able to see the errors of such men; knowing the true gospel better than they do; feeling that one could preach that gospel more correctly; may all be very good – but it doesn’t in itself represent a call from God to such a work.

3. Simply wanting to do something for the Lord or to be useful in His service.

This can be a great trap, a great snare into which many young men fall. Many young believers, especially young men, feel a great zeal for the things of God. They have a great desire to serve God and to make His word known, and many desire – often out of good motives – to be useful in the service of God and hence feel drawn to the work of the ministry. Yet all these desires, no matter how good, do not represent in themselves alone, a true call to preach.

4. Dissatisfaction with one’s current job/situation and feeling that preaching would be more to God’s glory.

This is another danger. One can feel drawn to preach because in some way the task seems more attractive than one’s current employment. Some young men just starting out in life shun secular work in favour of the ‘spiritually higher’ task of preaching. Other men, later on in life may feel weary with their present occupation and thus consider the work of the ministry as something more worthwhile. Much confusion can be entered into by such feelings. Yet they must be guarded against – they do not represent a call by God to preach. More often than not when God calls a man to preach he is called to make a sacrifice – called to give up, not a tiresome, unsatisfactory employment, but to give up that which is very favourable to the flesh – that which is well paid perhaps, or comfortable. Like Moses when he turned from the treasures of Egypt because he esteemed the reproach of Christ as greater riches (Hebrews 11:25 -26), God’s servants are called to suffer affliction with the people of God. Those truly sent of God to preach will know hardship, suffering, persecution, rejection, poverty, loneliness. But they will also know great joy and consolation in their Lord. For there are unsearchable riches, everlasting riches, to be found in Christ and His Gospel.

5. Pressure from men/churches given the lack of men these days entering the ministry.

In a day when there are fewer and fewer seemingly being called to the ministry there can be great pressure placed upon men to consider the work. Many see the need for Gospel preachers and many look to the young men in their congregations in the hope that they will serve the Lord in this way. This presents a great pressure upon many. Yet, feeling this pressure, seeing the needs and the hunger of others, does not represent a call to preach. We must be careful not to be ‘forced’ into the ministry, nor to force others into it.

     Yes, there are many points which may together form part of a call to preach, but in themselves they do not represent such a call, and we need to be careful to discern which impressions we have in our hearts which are really from God, and which are not. Many things may seem like a call to preach, but aren’t.

     Knowing what is a call to preach, however, can be rather harder to define. It is similar in some ways to how we know the Lord’s will and guidance in other matters, but obviously as this is such a high calling we need to be very sure about it. I believe the sent minister will know his calling in various ways – ways in which the Lord speaks to Him and reveals His will in this matter to him. For example through various passages of scriptures being laid very powerfully upon the man’s heart (not just because he ‘looks for them’ once he feels inclined to preach, because obviously there are texts there which can be found, but because when he isn’t looking for them they seem to leap out at him, or come up in his daily readings, or at services where he has heard preaching and so on), and also through direct providences in life. By this I mean various incidences in life showing the Lord’s calling to preach in ways that are simply not just (what men often call) ‘coincidences’. The kind of thing I mean is reading a certain passage (which may have to do with preaching), then having the very same passage preached on at the next church service, then having something similar happen the next week. When that keeps on happening you know that the Lord is saying something!

     I heard one preacher say something about preaching which I believe is good advice. He said that if a man feels that the Lord is calling him to preach he should resist as long as he can until he can resist no longer. That is sound advice – if the Lord really is calling then you won’t be able to resist His call. When God truly calls a man to preach He makes His will known to him. That man will feel an increasing burden in his heart about preaching. He will think about it constantly. He may try to escape it but the thought keeps coming back. The Lord will keep prompting him from within. Passages of scripture will keep on convicting him regarding the matter. His heart will be filled with a sense of compassion for God’s sheep, a desire that they might be fed, a desire that Christ would be lifted up in the ministry and in the hearts and minds of His people. Such a man will find that the everyday providences of his life keep pointing him towards this matter. The Lord will place landmarks in his path, continual pointers in this direction. The man may feel his utter unworthiness and inability, yet the Lord will keep reminding him ‘this is the way, walk ye in it’. He will complain of lack of strength, but the Lord will assure him that He will be his strength. He will complain of ignorance, yet the Lord will teach him and be all sufficient to him. In the end he will have his doubts cast aside, his objections answered, and ultimately he will feel that the love of Christ constrains him – he can’t but preach.

     Yet, withal there are many dangers in the way. Satan does all he can to sow confusion and he loves to encourage men into the ministry who have no true calling to it. Some things we need to be most careful of are:-

1. Pride.

This can affect all preachers. Certainly when he sees so much false preaching about a man can think “I wish I was preaching, I could do better than that etc.” and could easily get carried along by his own pride. Preaching is a high calling and obviously a position of authority, of being seen and noted in public, and we have to be very careful not to seek any approval from men, but only that approval that comes from above. Those called to preach seek not their own things, but the things of Jesus Christ, they seek not honour for themselves, but for all honour and glory to be ascribed to their God and Saviour.

2. The applause of man and the fear of man.

Similarly, another trap is to seek the applause of man or to be afraid of men and their reaction. There are many who can preach in a way which is pleasing to man, which draws great acclaim, much adulation and honour from others. But those sent of God to preach will do so for God’s glory only, proclaiming that message which God lays upon their heart to preach – no matter what men might say. The fear of man and what others might say can be a great stumbling-block to many, but those whom God sends forth with His word will preach it with boldness and with great plainness of speech. The message of the Gospel is not pleasing to man in the flesh, indeed it is foolishness to him, but what man counts as foolish God calls wisdom – the power of God unto salvation (1 Corinthians 1).

3. Sending ourselves or resorting to the ‘arm of the flesh’.

Once a man feels inclined to preach it is very easy to wonder whether he has been sent or not, and to be inclined to run before he has been truly sent. To look for passages in scripture to confirm his calling, before God really shows those passages to him, or to try to ‘open doors’ to preach before God opens those doors for him.

     If we read the testimonies of past preachers who were truly used of God we can learn much from their accounts of God’s dealings with them and their own attitudes. The last thing, before God called them to it, that most preachers wanted to do was to preach and I think that is a good place to be – to not want to preach, but to feel that the Lord nevertheless is calling us to such a work. Then we will know it is His will and not ours.

     Ultimately if God calls a man to preach he will know it when it has happened. He will be brought to a settled, inward, persuasion in his heart and mind of the Lord’s will in the matter. The confirmation of this being true will be that God will open a door, and an effectual one, for the preaching of the Gospel. Often that doesn’t come simply because that man has told others of his calling, but he will be asked to preach, or a door will open, without any contrivance of his own. Then when a door opens that man will know that the work is all of God.

     To preach in God’s name is a solemn and weighty calling which carries with it a huge responsibility. Hence no man should enter into the ministry hastily. But when God sends a man to preach, then that man will know that he walks in God’s will, that God has called him, and that God will help him. For the word is not his, but God’s, and he merely speaks as God’s ambassador.

 

Sent by God to preach the Gospel

Yes, a man must be sent to preach, and he must be sent of God to preach. But what does he preach?

     The Gospel of Christ!

     Whilst that might sound obvious to some the fact is that often it seemingly isn’t so obvious to many. Many preach what amounts to anything and everything but the Gospel of Christ. They preach morals, the wisdom of men, anecdotes, advice, funny stories, history, philosophy, intellectualism, sacramentalism, legalism, dispensationalism… and the list goes on. Yet, few, very few, really, truly, preach the Gospel of Christ as it is revealed in the scriptures.

     Many preach another gospel and another Jesus. But those truly sent of God, called of God, preach THE Gospel; The One Gospel; The Gospel of Christ. In fact, we may test a man’s calling by whether or not he truly preaches that Gospel, in the power of God, by His Spirit – see 2 Corinthians 11.

     But any sent of God to preach will preach the Gospel. As Paul declares:-

     “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.” Romans 1:16-17

     “For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.

     But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:17, 23-24

     This Gospel which Paul preached was that which he learnt of God. Not only was Paul not sent by man, but by God, but also the Gospel he was sent with was given to him not by man, but by God. As he states in Galatians 1:11-12:-

     “But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.

     All those truly sent by God will be taught of God. The word they bring is not theirs, not man’s, but God’s. They look to Him to teach, and the word they bring is that which He gives them. When Jeremiah was called of God he felt his poverty and his ignorance. He complained Ah, Lord GOD! behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child“, but God’s answer was Say not, I am a child: for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak. Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the LORD. Jeremiah writes, Then the LORD put forth his hand, and touched my mouth. And the LORD said unto me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth. See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant.

     To preach isn’t simply to know the doctrines of the Gospel well and to have a desire to convey those truths to others. It is to be God’s mouthpiece. To preach what God would have us preach, at that particular time, by the Spirit. This requires great humility, much exercise of soul, and much prayer before God, searching out what He would have preached from the scriptures. Sermons aren’t simply ‘constructed’ from commentaries and books, but are sought out from the Lord.

     The fact that a preacher is God’s mouthpiece, His ambassador on earth, cannot be stressed enough. Ultimately it is not men who preach, but God. It is Christ who preaches from the heavens. He is the one that speaketh and He speaks from heaven (Hebrews 12:25 ). God is Sovereign in all things, especially in the proclamation of His word, and He is not constrained to sending forth that word through the mouths of mere men – God is quite able to speak directly to someone by His Spirit as they read His word. Yet the fact remains that “it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe” (1 Corinthians 1:21). It pleases God to send forth men to preach His word. But though God’s servants might speak on earth it is still Christ who speaks from heaven through them by His Spirit. It is God’s word which is conveyed by the Holy Spirit and placed upon the lips of those men whom He sends forth in this world to proclaim that word. Except a man preach as the Holy Spirit leads him, his words will be of nothing worth. It is not man’s word that must be proclaimed, but God’s word, and the One truly sent forth to preach is Christ through His Spirit. When He preaches there is power in the word!

     A preacher who preaches in the power of the Holy Ghost is one who effectively ‘disappears’ into the background so that the hearers aren’t so much impressed by him, his learning or his oratory, but feel that they are hearing the Lord speak through him. He should be like a window through whom the light shines in. And I think every true preacher would probably confess that more often than not ‘he gets in the way’ of the clear shining of that light, but nevertheless when the Spirit is present he knows it and has liberty in his preaching. As Romans 1:16-17 says the power of God is in the GOSPEL. Not in the church, nor yet in preachers. Not actually in the Spirit either, but in the Gospel. Indeed, the power of the Holy Spirit is in the preaching of that Gospel – the Gospel of Christ.

     The very same Gospel of which Paul was not ashamed, for it is the power of God unto salvation. A Gospel which he received not of man, neither was he taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ (Galatians 1:12 ), as one who was called, sent and prepared by God for such a ministry.

 

Sent by God, and prepared by God, to preach the Gospel

Not only are Gospel preachers sent by God, not only are they taught the Gospel by God, but they are also prepared for the work of the ministry by God. God equips those whom He sends to preach for the task which they are given.

     No man by nature is fit to preach the Gospel. All are sinners, all have gone astray, all are weak in the flesh. Yet those whom God sends to preach are those whom He has elected and called from eternity past, those whom He has saved from their sins, those whom He has justified by the work of Christ at the cross, those whom He has quickened unto eternal life by His Spirit, those whom He has given faith to live by, those whom He has “led forth by the right way”, those whom He has revealed His Son unto, those whom He has granted grace to, those whom He has tried in the furnace and brought through many afflictions and trials for Christ’s sake. Such are those whom God calls and sends forth with His word.

     Why? So that it might be seen that their fitness for the work is not found in themselves, in their own might, or in their own strength, but in God. God prepares such men for the ministry so that all the glory might be given to God and not to man. The flesh is mortified and the work of God is magnified.

     The preaching of the cross in mens’ eyes is foolishness, and those whom God sends to preach it are counted as fools by the wisdom of this world. As Paul states in 1 Corinthians 1:25-31…

     “Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

     For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence.

     But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.

     God calls those who are ‘nothing’ in both the eyes of the world, and in their own eyes, to preach His Gospel. And having called such men He prepares them for the task – for the work is all of God – to this end: that “him that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord”.

     We can see this in Moses for example. When God called him to His work Moses protested “O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue”. But God’s answer was “Who hath made man’s mouth? Or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? Have not I the LORD? Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say.” Exodus 4:10-12.

     Likewise with Jeremiah, as we have already seen, he protested that he was a child, unfit for the work. But God said that He would be with him to deliver him, and He would put His words in his mouth. God prepared and fitted both Moses and Jeremiah for His work. All their sufficiency and strength was to be found in Him and in Him alone. In themselves they were nothing.

     But what of the apostle Paul? Surely he had much ability in the flesh for the task of preaching the Gospel? As he wrote in Philippians 3:4-6…

     “Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.

     Paul had much to boast of naturally. He was very bright, well taught, well versed in the Old Testament scriptures; surely an excellent man for God to send to his brethren in the flesh, the Jews, to preach the Gospel to them, as he was a ‘Hebrew of the Hebrews’? Yet, man’s ways are not God’s ways and God’s ways are not man’s ways. God called Paul to be the apostle to the Gentiles, not the Jews. Many would have accused him of wasting his prior ‘training’, but Paul had to submit to the calling of God, whatever man might think. To the Gentiles he went, and how powerfully GOD used him!

     What did Paul himself think of his own natural abilities?

     “But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ

     Paul counted all his abilities in the flesh, as not an aid, but a positive hindrance to the work of God! ALL the work must be of God, not man, and so it was. It was God who prepared Paul for the ministry, not man, neither the school of Gamaliel, nor even Paul’s fellow apostles, but God. As Paul testifies in Galatians 1:15-24…

     “But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace, To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood: Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus. Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days. But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord’s brother.

     Now the things which I write unto you, behold, before God, I lie not. Afterwards I came into the regions of Syria and Cilicia; And was unknown by face unto the churches of Judaea which were in Christ: But they had heard only, That he which persecuted us in times past now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed. And they glorified God in me.”

     In the cases of Moses, Jeremiah and Paul, God prepared each one to preach His word. They were men who knew their God, men who knew the Gospel, men who knew God’s grace and salvation, and men who knew what it is to walk with God. They were taught the Gospel, they were taught in the School of Christ, they were men prepared of God to preach that Gospel by being brought through fires, through afflictions, through trials and persecutions, and yet withal, standing fast in the strength of their God, and they thought nothing of themselves but all of Christ whom they sought to glorify, for…

     You must know Christ to preach Christ,

     You must experience grace to preach grace,

     You must be saved by the Gospel to preach the Gospel,

     You must be brought low to lift Christ high, and,

     You must experience the pathway to comfort those on the pathway.

     Yes, God sends His servants to preach the Gospel, God teaches them the Gospel, and God prepares them for the ministry of that Gospel. For the work is ALL of God. It is the Gospel of Christ which God sends forth as it is uttered by the One who speaks from heaven, whose speech is carried forth by the Holy Spirit and is put upon the lips of those whom God sends to preach His word, that sinners might hear that word, that faith might come by hearing that word, and that all those for whom Christ died might hear and call upon the name of the Lord that they might be saved. As it is written…

     “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!

     Oh! That the Lord would be pleased to raise up men in our day – men set apart for His service, called and sent forth to preach the everlasting gospel of peace; men called of God, sent of God, taught of God and prepared of God; men of faith who like Paul are not ashamed of the gospel of Christ for it is the power of God unto salvation; men who are prepared to spend and be spent for Christ’s sake and His glory alone!

     For how shall they preach except they be sent?

Amen.

     “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.” Romans 1:16-17

RELATED AUDIO MESSAGES

“Listen” Isaiah 49:1

“The Word of Life” 1 John 1:1

“I have preached righteousness in the great congregation” Psalm 40:9

”And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard?” Romans 10:14  

M

 

UST one hear the Gospel preached in order to come into salvation?  

The plain answer to this question, is very simply, yes. I don’t state that as an opinion, for my opinions really don’t matter. What matters is what the word of God says – and any truth we hold to must be founded upon the word of God. From reading the scriptures, it can be seen that God repeatedly stresses in several places that it is by the preaching of the Gospel that He is pleased to save sinners. A few simple references will demonstrate this.

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it [the gospel] is the power of God unto salvation…” Romans 1:16.

“For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” 1 Corinthians 1:21

“Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever.” … “But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.” 1 Peter 1:23,25

Now here are just three verses which demonstrate that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation, that it pleases God by the foolishness of the preaching of that gospel to save them that believe, and that we are born again (regenerated by the Spirit) by the word of God, that word being preached unto us in the gospel. There are many other passages of scripture which emphasise the same things.

It is certainly true that God is sovereign and can do as He pleases. He certainly isn’t confined in His power to having to use the actual preaching of the Gospel through the lips of mere men in order to save people. However the fact is that He has chosen to do His work this way. It has pleased Him to save sinners through the preaching of the Gospel. He could, and He is able to, just save sinners Himself by the direct inworking of the Holy Spirit without the use of the gospel whatsoever. But what God is able to do and what He pleases to do are sometimes two different things. The fact is that scripture repeatedly stresses that God is pleased by the foolishness of preaching (the gospel) to save them that believe. That is His appointed means. Why? Because it confounds the wise for God to take poor weak base men and to speak His word through their lips to the saving of others (see 1 Corinthians 1), because God is pleased to make known the truth of His salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ in this way. Very simply, in God’s great wisdom He has chosen to work this way.

However, some people have reacted to this truth with a certain wariness based upon essentially good (though misguided) motives, and because of an overemphasis of other truths. What they rightly recognise is that salvation is entirely of God, that until man is born again of the Holy Spirit he is dead in trespasses and sins and unable to comprehend the truths of God aright, that man can only believe the Gospel when God regenerates him and gives him faith to believe it. Man doesn’t comprehend the truth with his natural mind. He has no strength or ability in himself to turn to God and no faith by nature with which to believe. In seeing all these points some then conclude that the preaching of the Gospel itself cannot save, because man first needs to be regenerated by the Holy Spirit before he can understand and believe that Gospel. Thus they emphasise that regeneration (the new birth) is a sovereign act of God, entirely ‘without means’ (without the preaching of the Gospel), and as a result of that new birth man is given faith to then believe the Gospel when he hears it. Some of these peopel have thus divided things into two stages in which they stress regeneration by the Spirit without means, and then (afterwards) ‘gospel conversion’ where a person, already regenerated, hears the gospel and believes it with the faith which they have been given by the Spirit in regeneration.

Now, all that sounds plausible, and is certainly based upon certain truths. 1 Corinthians 2:11-16 emphasises that the natural man (before the new birth) cannot understand spiritual things, so until he is born again by the Spirit he cannot fully comprehend the truth of the Gospel. Some things may make sense in the natural intellect, but not properly. However whilst that is true, and whilst man cannot believe the Gospel until God regenerates him (causes him to be born again of the Spirit), because naturally he has no faith (faith being a gift of God), nevertheless that does not alter the fact that God has said that it is by the preaching of the Gospel that He is pleased to save His people. Romans 10:13-17 emphasises the necessity of the preaching of the Gospel and the fact that “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God”. In order to believe the Gospel heard, one must be sovereignly born again of God. But God is pleased to quicken/regenerate sinners to life actually under or as a result of that preaching of the Gospel. This is how He is pleased to work. The work is entirely of His sovereign mercy and grace, but the Spirit of God chooses to work through the preaching of the Gospel, through the lips of those men whom He calls and sends to preach it, in order to quicken sinners to life. He sovereignly sows the word of God as a seed, and when He is pleased He causes that seed to bring forth life in the hearts of those whom God has chosen in Christ.

The order goes something like this: A dead sinner hears a God-sent preacher preach the Gospel. Initially being dead in trespasses and sins the sinner cannot truly understand that Gospel – he remains dead under it. He may comprehend many facts of the Gospel in his head, in his natural mind, but really they just remains facts, mere head knowledge. He never comes to see Christ by faith as He really is, and know the power of His grace, or experience eternal life in Christ by His indwelling in the heart by the Spirit. No, such a sinner merely hears the outward word of the Gospel in his ears, he hears various facts, and may comprehend them to a degree, even ‘believe’ them (with a natural persuasion) as being right, with his natural intellect, but nevertheless his heart isn’t changed, he remains spiritually dead…. And such a state can go on for many years. With others, if they are not the elect of God, that is the state they will remain in until the day they die. Some people sit under the preaching of the Gospel all their life but are never saved by it, because it isn’t the outward word alone which saves. This is important to recognise. The Son of God must speak to us inwardly by His Spirit in order to quicken us unto life.

However, for the elect, there comes a time in God’s sovereignty, by the preaching of the Gospel when God is pleased to sovereignly regenerate that man unto life, give him a new heart, and grant him faith to believe the truth which he is hearing. Now the word ceases to be just the outward words of man, but become living words of the Holy Spirit which come in power. Having been alarmed by the Gospel to the truth of the day of judgment, having been awakened to his own sinful condition before God, having been convicted of that sin, now, being born again, by the word of God (as spoken by the preacher yes, but also by the Spirit inwardly within the heart), this elect child of God is given faith and by that faith he comes to truly see Christ in the Gospel and believe on Him, embracing Him for salvation, for deliverance from the wrath to come. Now the words which he used to hear in the Gospel which were once just in the ‘dead letter’ are now living words. What was once a mystery is now revealed, is now made known, and the elect, being born again, knows what it is to know Christ, the power of God, as revealed in him in the Gospel.

So you see, those who question the importance of the preaching of the Gospel in salvation are right to recognise that regeneration is a sovereign act of God the Holy Spirit, and they are right to recognise that the Gospel when spoken by man can remain as simply the ‘dead letter’ of scripture, words which fill the natural mind, but never enter into the heart in life. However, it is wrong to separate what God has joined together. It is wrong to see these things and separate the new birth by the Spirit from the preaching of the Gospel, or the word of God. It is wrong to react to errors such as the modern emphasis on ‘easy believism’ and man’s supposed ‘free will’ and natural ability to believe, by not only rejecting those errors but also rejecting an emphasis upon the preaching of the Gospel for salvation as though that presupposes some natural ability in man to believe it. It does not. The scriptures teach, repeatedly and in many places, that salvation is entirely the work of God, but that God uses the foolishness of the preaching of the Gospel to save them that believe. Who are they that believe? The elect of God, chosen in Christ from before the foundation of the world, and redeemed by Christ at the cross, to be sovereignly born again of the Spirit in due course… by the word of God, “and this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.” 1 Peter 1:25. God uses the preaching of the Gospel to save His people. Not every one that hears the Gospel with the outward ear will be saved, for man by nature is dead in trespasses and sins, yet God is pleased to take the outward words preached by those whom He sends to preach it, and speak them quietly by His Spirit into the hearts of His own, quickening them into life, and granting faith that they might believe that word unto the salvation of their souls.

In Ezekiel 37 we read of the vision of the valley of dry bones and how God commanded Ezekiel to prophesy unto the bones that they might live. Was there any ability in Ezekiel to bring dry bones unto life? Or were the words of a mere man able to do such a thing? No, only the power of God can work such a miracle. Yet, God was pleased to show forth His power in this case by having His prophet speak unto the bones. Through that speech God mightily worked in the vision to bring the bones to life – the whole vision being a picture of the Gospel and its proclamation unto dead sinners, ‘dry bones’, who are totally dependent upon God’s free grace to quicken them unto life. The power to do this does not lie in the preacher or in the eloquence of his words, but in the Gospel preached when applied by the Holy Spirit in power to the hearts of the hearers – living words which bring life. “The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live.” John 5:25. 

This is God’s usual and normal way in which He is pleased to save sinners – through the word of God, through the preaching of the Gospel, not “in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance” 1 Thessalonians 1:5. That Gospel which sets forth the Person and the Work of the Lord Jesus Christ. That Gospel of which Paul was not ashamed for “it is the power of God unto salvation” (Romans 1:16). Some may contend for exceptions to this ‘rule’ and point to exceptional conversions such as that of Saul on the Damascus Road (Acts 9), and it is certainly true that God can, and has, saved certain people in such exceptional ways by a direct preaching of the Gospel from on high, in certain circumstances. God is, after all sovereign and all powerful. But nevertheless this isn’t His usual way, or the way in which He is usually pleased to work. We can’t take the exceptional experience of one of the twelve apostles to overturn what God repeatedly states in the scriptures about the preaching of the Gospel. It pleased God by the preaching of the Gospel to save them that believe, and this is why God has through the ages continually sent forth preachers of that Gospel to proclaim it in power, by the Holy Ghost, that fallen, elect sinners might hear of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour of Sinners, be born again by the word of God, through the power of the Holy Spirit, and with God-given faith believe on the Lord Jesus Christ even unto the salvation of their souls. No wonder then that Paul writes, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth”.

RELATED AUDIO MESSAGES

“My Sheep Hear My Voice” John 10:27-28

“The Word of Life” 1 John 1:1

“Listen” Isaiah 49:1

“I have preached righteousness in the great congregation” Psalm 40:9