17. Blameless before God.
“Then Jacob fled from his father's tent with a fearful spirit and condemning conscience, he came to a desert place, where night overtook him. His only possession was his staff, and laying his head upon a stony pillow, the solitary wanderer fell asleep. Then God showed him His mercy — opened His heavens above Jacob, and discovered to him a ladder set up from the earth, the top of which reached to heaven. Upon this shining way the angels of God ascended and descended, and “behold the Lord stood above it, and said, I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of
Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed; and thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee, and in thy seed, shall all the families of earth be blessed.” Having promised, God declared that He would perform. He assured Jacob that He would be with him, and keep him, and not leave him until all the word of His grace had been fulfilled.
Thus was Jacob blessed with the promise of earthly blessings in earthly places, and all was secured to him in the Seed — Christ.
Let us turn to a ladder of blessings, another shining way even more excellent than that which Jacob saw, and upon which the angelic company communicated between earth and heaven. We, like Jacob, are by nature ready to perish. We are wandering across the desert world possessed, in self, of not one single good thing. Darkness surrounds us. Sleep wraps us in insensibility; but God is rich in mercy. Of His own great love He loves us, even as we are, dead in our sins. He opens His home above to us, and shines upon us in His own love. He “hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in the heavenly places in Christ.” All is God's own doing, all His sovereign grace, and He Himself secures every blessing to us irrevocably in Christ.
The ladder Jacob saw was set up upon earth and reached to heaven; the shining way of spiritual blessings, which God presents to the christian's eye in the opening verses of the first chapter of the epistle to the Ephesians, is let down from heaven, and reaches us, just as we are, on earth. Its stay is the very heart of God, and from the heart of God it descends to us, and by it we reach to the heart of God.
CHOSEN in Him before the world's foundation.
HOLY — BLAMELESS — “Holy and without blame before Him in love.”
ADOPTED — “Predestinated unto the adoption of children by Christ Jesus to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the GLORY OF His GRACE.”
ACCEPTED — “Accepted in the Beloved.”
REDEEMED — “In Whom we have redemption through His blood.”
FORGIVEN — “Forgiveness of sins according to the RICHES OF HIS GRACE.”
The reader will not fail to note that it is the riches of God's grace which meet him in his helplessness and in his sins. Those stores of grace, which the need of millions cannot exhaust, that wealth of grace, which countless crimes and sins innumerable have not diminished; for God is “rich in mercy,” and the treasury wherein the riches of His grace are stored is none other than His own heart, and according to His own heart He abounds in grace towards the sinner.
Forgiveness is our first blessing. The heavenward step upon which we first set foot is “forgiveness of sins.” We cannot know one of all the blessings wherewith we are blessed in the heavenly places in Christ until we, by grace, believe and know that God has forgiven us all our sins by virtue of what Christ has done for us.
Redeemed, brought to God, is the next step. Redemption in Christ, through the blood of Christ. Here we discover a sensible nearness to God such as even the knowledge of His pardoning grace does not afford. The forgiven sinner is purchased for God. He is taken out of the prison and brought into liberty; and it is in Christ, where Christ is, that he has the redemption. The redemption is connected with the Person of the Redeemer. It is not simply that a price, even that of His precious blood, has been paid for us, but in the Lord Himself “we have the redemption.”
Accepted — “Accepted in the Beloved.” Mark these wonderful words, and behold how we have mounted upwards! All that the beloved One of God is to God as the Accepted One on high, so is the humblest believer in Him. Christ is personally accepted, and as such He is the object of God's delight — we, too, being in Him, are accepted even as Christ. Christ is the measure of our acceptance before God. We are graced in the Beloved, robed in His beauty, adorned with His perfections.
Forgiven all trespasses — brought to God in Christ — accepted in the beloved One of God — these are indeed blessings whereby we ascend in the power of God's grace towards us to God Himself, the Blesser. God's purpose of grace is to bring His people into perfect nearness to Himself. His will is to have His own before Him, not simply as forgiven sinners, but as dear children. And the fulfilment of this, His purpose, God will display in eternity to the glory of His grace. While all the blessing of the 15th of Luke is without doubt ours now, we may find in the father kissing the prodigal, despite his rags and misery, the riches of grace; and in the father seating the son at his table, the glory of grace. Before his father, at rest in his father's love, the prodigal was the expression of the father's heart to all within the house, a heart which not only forgave him his sins, but brought him into the honours of his house. Here in our sins we prove the riches, there in His presence we shall ourselves be the joyful expression of the glory of His grace. Here, in our need, we receive privately the riches of pardoning mercy, the pardon of our own particular evil, but in the coming day myriads of God's creatures shall behold the glory of God's grace to sinful men in the blessings wherewith we are blessed in Christ.
Adopted into God's family is the common lot of all God's people. God has destined that His people should be His children. Angels are His servants. Sinners saved by grace, forgiven, redeemed, accepted, are nearest to His heart. And thus it is given to us, before it is manifested what we shall be, to rest in the love of God in the affectionate intelligence of His dear children; “Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us that we should be called the sons of God!” We are already made partakers of the divine nature and have the spirit of adoption given to us whereby we cry Abba! Father!
With the present blessing of adoption and with the prospect of God having us before Him to the glory of His grace, we find that we have yet again mounted up on our shining way. But let us enquire, “Are we at liberty as we thus think of God? Are there any fears left?” God is holy; we are by nature still sinful. God is light; we are, though believers, often sinning. What a word then is this which next meets us: —
Blameless! — “Without blame before Him.” In His presence. Under His eye, in whose sight the very heavens are not clean. Before Him, who charges even the angels with folly. And what is man the sinful worm, man? But “blameless” is God's own word. No fault before God is what He declares respecting His children. Such is the result of God's great salvation for us.
Holy! is also His word. The nature holy, the actions blameless. The fountain pure, the waters undefiled. Such is the purpose of God respecting His own.
In love we are to be before Him thus. Not as if He would excuse, or extenuate, or pass over our weakness and wilfulness in love. No, but in love, as in the repose of His own nature, for He is love. God is love, and in the joy of that love we are to be before Him. God is light, and in the holiness of that light, and in the liberty of it, we are to be before Him. Holy as to our inmost being, for God is holy; blameless as to our behaviour, no folly left for God to find fault with. Verily conformed to the image of His Son, and thus perfect liberty before Him, our everlasting joy.
It is for this, christian reader, that we are
Chosen, and chosen not in self, not because of what we are, but in Christ, for it is His work and His worth which God regards with ineffable delight, and it is in Him alone that all these blessings are ours. “Now He that hath wrought us for the self-same thing (the glory) is God” (2 Cor. 5:5); but the present reality, “Ye are of God,” and, “Greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4), is in no wise short of the future glory. Let us weigh them together and enquire whether one is more rich in blessing than the other — whether the present blessing or the secured blessing is the greater. The secured blessing is but the display of the present. All is ours now in Christ. We are heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ.
If there be not complete rest in God there is something lacking in our hearts. If we cannot lay hold of “Holy and without blame before Him,” the weakness arises from lack of the sense of sin within our breasts. A deep sense, a thorough sense of what sin is, will be the best practical interpreter of our being blameless before God. If we have indeed learned what sin is at the cross, we shall not dread God's holiness, for we shall then be shut up to the love which gave His Son to be made sin for us and to suffer in our stead. God's perfect love casts out fear from its presence. Our sinful nature has been condemned; what is there left to us? The nature of God Himself, Light and Love! Our sins are pardoned; what then is left to us? The holy liberty of children in the presence of Him who gave His Son to be the propitiation for our sins! Well may we say, “What hath God wrought?”