Rom. 7:24, 25; Rom. 8:1-17.
If it appear strange to you, beloved friends, that I should begin a series of discourses on the second coming and kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ with such a subject as "The Scripture Ground of Perfect Peace with God," I would say that my reasons for so doing are these In the first place, I find that the Holy Ghost has, in the Old Testament Scriptures, remarkably connected together the sufferings of Christ and the glories that follow and in the New Testament, where so much about the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ is brought before us, it is generally in connection with His sufferings. There is great danger, too, in the present day, of persons being occupied with subjects associated with the Lord's second coming in what I would call a political way that is, looking at the various events of Scripture very much like a person studies the political events of the present age. This may gratify the intellect, but be assured that such will find very little blessing to their souls. To be merely occupied with prophetical events apart from Christ Himself, I am persuaded is not the path of the Spirit for the sufferings and death of Christ are the very foundation of the glories that will yet be revealed. But there is another reason why I start with the present subject. I would ask, — How is it possible for any one to be waiting for God's Son from heaven, and to be crying truthfully "Come, Lord Jesus" (which, I apprehend, every Christian ought to do according to the last chapter of Revelation), while he has any doubt as to his acceptance in Christ, and is not assured of present salvation, and eternal deliverance from the wrath to come? Therefore, it occurred to me, that we ought to devote a little time at the very outset on the true ground of peace, especially for the sake of any who have not yet found peace and rest before God, and seek to persuade them to look at this subject solemnly as in God's presence, and in the light of His revealed truth.
Let me say at once, beloved friends, that that person who talks about making his peace with God manifests the greatest possible ignorance — ignorance of himself, and ignorance of God; and if there be a soul here tonight who entertains such a thought, I entreat him from this moment to discard it altogether from his mind, and to take the place of an inquirer as to the Scripture ground of true peace with God.
There are many people in the present day who seem to imagine that they have before them a pair of scales suspended from a balance, and that they put all their good deeds, as it were, into one scale, and all their bad deeds into the other, and if they can only conclude that their good deeds outweigh their bad deeds, then they think there is some hope of their salvation. My beloved friends, God has settled the matter. In His holy word He tells us that salvation is "not of works, lest any man should boast."
Another large class of persons are diligently seeking to get peace with God by law-keeping, observing certain commandments, religious ordinances, and devoting themselves to charitable doings, and the like. These people, too, are most particular that they should not infringe on a certain routine on the so-called Sabbath day; that they should not fail in certain duties; that they should not take the name of the Lord in vain, and many other things, which are very good in their place; but the snare is, that they imagine, and vainly hope, by such religiousness, they may possibly obtain salvation at last. They little think that that same law of Moses, which tells them the things that I have referred to, says also, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me," and "Thou shalt not covet." How, then, could they stand before God on the ground of law-keeping? But, beloved friends, I am not going to occupy time tonight in going over the various ways in which souls are being deceived by their mistaken attention to God's holy and just law, but refer to one verse of Scripture, which is found its the third chapter of the epistle to the Romans, the twentieth verse, to show the fallacy of expecting peace with God on such ground: "By the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified in His sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin."
There are some dear people — true, I trust, but badly taught — who are trying to get peace with God on the ground of experience. Now, I am not speaking against Christian experience, or going to define what it should be; but I am sure experience never gives peace — peace with God. The seventh chapter of the epistle to the Romans plainly chews that. The more the writer of that chapter looked at himself the more miserable he felt. He turned himself over a great many times, so that a considerable part of the chapter is occupied with the expression of his feelings and experiences; but he could only come at last to this conclusion "O wretched man that I am who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" Experience, then, is not the true ground of peace.
Another point I would call attention to, before entering upon the positive side of our subject, and it is this, that the work of the Spirit in the soul is not given to us in Scripture as the ground of peace. Multitudes of dear people — truly anxious souls, souls, no doubt, taught in some way of God are continually looking at the work of the Spirit within them for evidences, and such never have settled peace. If you read the first seven chapters of this epistle to the Romans, (which especially sets before us God's way of saving and justifying, on the ground of righteousness as well as grace, the sinner that believes in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ,) you will find that the work of the Spirit is scarcely alluded to. But in these chapters, where the subjects of justification and peace are looked at over and over again, you will find that the apostle invariably presents Christ — Christ crucified and risen — as the only ground of peace and justification.
And when the soul has been brought to find rest before God on the ground of the already accomplished work of Jesus, as we have at the end of the seventh and the beginning of the eighth chapter, you then see that the work and operations of the Spirit of God are largely entered into, as instruction needed by those who have peace with God in the way of faith. This, then, is the divine order. I would not, therefore, say one word to an anxious soul about the work of the Spirit but I would present to him the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, crucified for sinners, whom God raised from the dead, as God's way of saving lost sinners that believe on Him. Though every truly awakened soul is regenerated by the Spirit, still the Spirit, through the Scriptures, points him to Christ, and Christ alone, as the ground of peace. But when he has believed, the Spirit of God is sent forth into his heart as the earnest, and the Spirit of adoption; He anoints him, seals him, takes possession of him, leads him, and teaches him all the wilderness way, until he meets the Lord in the air, when he will have possession of what his heart has so long desired, and more than his thoughts ever conceived.
If then the question be asked, What is the true ground of peace with God? I would say that the ground of peace with God is the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Wonderful it is to be able to say, that the source of peace with God is God Himself. It is not from man to God, but from God to man. Only think of this, that God, in His infinite grace, in the perfection of His own love, has given that most wonderful of all gifts, His only begotten Son, to redeem us from all iniquity; so that now, through an already accomplished work, we may have full and abiding peace and rest in God's holy presence, without a question, a fear, or a cloud.
There are three great reasons why many anxious and sincere souls have not peace with God. One is, that they have not fully received the truth of Scripture recorded in this eighth verse of the eighth of Romans, that "they that are in the flesh cannot please God." The second reason is the sense of their own transgressions, the burden of the sins that they themselves have committed. Their consciences have no rest. Every now and then old sins rise up and stare them in the face, so that they are greatly troubled. The third, and perhaps the most important of the reasons, is one's self. Let us look at each of these three points.
In the first place, be it remembered that the statement, "they that are in the flesh cannot please God," is God's truth, whether men acknowledge it or not. It is God's own verdict of what man is in the flesh. If a person s not clear on this point, if he has not received it as a divine revelation, if he has not grasped it as the truth of the living God, he will be continually thinking about mending, improving, altering doing something or other to commend himself to God. He will be, in some way or other, looking at self; sometimes, it may be, puffed up with pride, at others cast down with despair. He will be thinking of himself, his usefulness, his benevolence, his piety. In some shape or form, he will be continually recurring to self, unless he sees that God, with one stroke, as it were, has decided the whole matter for him, that "in the flesh," whether educated or uneducated, virtuous or vicious, religious or profligate, he cannot please Him. Dear friends, I specially and affectionately commend this to any of you who have not settled peace with God. I say that, if you are not clear as to that great principle of divine truth, you will be continually looking at yourself, reckoning upon resources in yourself, raising expectations from yourself; and thus you cannot have peace with God. But believing that no carnal efforts can please God, you then become compelled to look altogether outside yourself for peace, and gladly find it presented to you by God Himself in the death and resurrection of His beloved Son.
As to the second point — sins, I mean actual transgressions, things that a person knows he has committed, and feels to be wicked in God's sight. These things stare him in the face. Every now and then they rise upon his conscience with such force and freshness, that sins of a twenty or thirty years' history come upon him with the guilt of those of today. This fills him with distress, and he cries out in bitterness of soul that he is a guilty sinner, and that he does not know any one so vile as himself. He is taken up with his sins. It is evident, that the more he is occupied with his sins they more depression of mind and unhappiness he must, have. He may struggle, groan, be diligent in religiousness in ten thousand ways, but he will find no relief till he sees that all has been atoned for by Jesus, the Sin-bearer.
As to the third reason one's self, you may not all understand. what I mean. I will therefore try to make it as clear as I can. By one's self I do not mean outward evil that a person has committed, but the inward things of the heart, which no creature is aware of but one's self, and God who searches the heart. I refer to those horrible corruptions, those vile thoughts, those lusts, affections, inclinations, and motives that we should be ashamed to tell to any one; those workings of selfishness, pride, temper, and all the ten thousand abominations of self that may not be manifested to a single being round about us. This is where many people are. They are groaning over the miseries of self. They have not got deliverance from self. They are not so much troubled, it may be, like some others, about having actually committed terribly bad things, as they are about what they are in themselves. Now God in His Word has fully met all these difficulties, so that the soul may be in perfect rest and peace before Him, and through His marvellous grace be happier in His presence than in the presence of any one else.
I need not tell you that it is recorded in Scripture, over and over again, that Christ was the bearer of sins. — "He bare our sins in His own body on the tree." In the third verse of the eighth chapter of Romans we read, "God, sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh." Thus we get Christ presented to us as lifted up upon the tree, God's own Son the bearer of sins, and God Himself condemning the sins of the sinner in the person of His own Son. So that the sinner who believes can think of all his sins in the light of God's holy presence, and looking back on the cross of Christ can say, "He was wounded for my transgressions, he was bruised for mine iniquities: the chastisement of my peace (or that purchased my peace) was upon Him; and with His stripes I am healed." Thus if God condemned my transgressions in His Son Jesus Christ, surely it would be to accuse Him of unrighteousness, not to freely and fully pardon and justify me of every part of the guilt. Therefore, in the fifth chapter of this epistle, we are told that we are "justified by faith, and have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ."
With regard to deliverance from "self," this terrible plague, Scripture gives us clear instruction, especially in the sixth of Romans, and in the epistles to the Galatians and Colossians. There we learn that God has judged and set aside this evil nature which the Christian has so painfully to contend with. It is what the Christian finds in himself that so peculiarly troubles him what he is as a man in the flesh; and I say we have in Scripture God's own account as to how He has met our need in this respect, so that the soul may be in perfect rest and peace, so far as the conscience is concerned. In the last part of the seventh of Romans we find a person exclaiming, "O wretched man that I am!" Now, observe here, it is not "O wretched sins that I have committed!" That might be quite true also. But it is, "O wretched man!" the wretched man that I am. It is what he is himself. I was struck the other day by a lady telling me, that when she was quite a child she was groaning over her wretched self. A gentleman who was near her on one occasion said, "What can that little dear know about sin?" It was not, she said, sins that she had committed, it was not actual transgression against God that so troubled her, but it was the vileness of herself. Be assured, dear friends, it is this that the Spirit of God makes known to souls; for He teaches, that "they that are in the flesh cannot please God." The cry is, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me?" Deliver me from what? From my sins? from my transgressions? No; but from a deeper thing, than these. From the thing that caused the transgressions; or, shall I say it? from the machine, as it were, that gives birth to the transgressions; from the root from which all the transgressions spring; and the cry is, "Who shall deliver me (from this horrible self)? from the body of this death?" Now, I ask, how did the author of the cry get deliverance? Ah! not by looking at self. A dear young lady, a friend of mine, some years ago, said to me, she thought she was going on in the blessed way, and was getting very religious; for, she said, "I have written down all the sins that I can remember, and I read them over every morning, hoping I shall get good and grow humble and pious by so doing." Poor dear soul, what good could she get from that? Why, if taught by the Spirit of God, she would come to this, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" You will never get deliverance from looking at self in any shape, never! — good self, bad self, religious self, educated self, or moral self, reformed self, intellectual self; for Scripture declares, that "they that are in the flesh cannot please God." How then did this troubled soul get deliverance? Ah! the answer is this, he looked to God. He had been running away from God; and that may be what some of you have been about. Yes, running away from God; for you do not know how God loves poor sinners. You have never thought of that perhaps, that "God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son" to save sinners. Ah I have you never seen, that the love of God, in Christ crucified and risen, to poor perishing sinners, is the source of all true peace? "Who shall deliver me?" is the cry. And mark the next words: "I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord." That is how he obtained deliverance. If a soul say, Will God deliver a vile sinner like me? Yes He will; for though He is a just God, He is a Saviour. And you will never find peace, friends, unless you get it from God, and through our Lord Jesus Christ. Who shall deliver me? "I thank God" — there is the voice of praise — "I thank God" — why? — "through Jesus Christ our Lord." That is where he got deliverance from God, and through our Lord Jesus Christ. So that God Himself is the very one whose arm has brought salvation; and Himself it is who preaches peace by Jesus Christ. And God Himself it is who declares, that whosoever cometh unto Him, through His only-begotten Son, He will in no wise cast out, but save such to the uttermost. Therefore it is that we can say, "I thank God, through Jesus Christ our Lord." Now how simple this is. There is not only deliverance from the guilt of transgression, but deliverance from the whole thing — one's self. The wretched man, with all his miserable experiences, all the things that grieved, and vexed, and convicted the awakened conscience — all that made him feel how wicked he was, he saw fully met in the cross of Christ. How wondrously God came in to save him as he was — in his sins, in his guilt, in his ruin, a lost man; and He saved him perfectly, and for ever, through the atoning work of His Son Jesus Christ.
But, beloved friends, we have more than that brought before us here. There is not only peace for a poor ruined sinner in and through our Lord Jesus Christ, but God would have His children filled with spiritual wisdom. and understanding as to the knowledge of how He has come in and met us, and delivered us, and the acceptance we now have before Him; so that we may be able intelligently, and in all the liberty of love, to enter into His presence, and worship Him, as redeemed by the blood of the cross, and accepted in the Son of His love. We find in the next verse the experience this groaning one now has as a Christian — a saved person. I call attention to this fact, because it is immensely important. Many persons think they ought not, after they have believed on the Lord Jesus for salvation, to feel an evil thought springing up in their hearts, or evil desires, or evil suggestions, as if regeneration and reconciliation took away their evil nature entirely from them. Such, however, every Christian feels is not the case. Mark, therefore, what follows. "So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin." That is, he looks upon the wretched man, what he was in the flesh, no longer as himself; he regards "the flesh" as an enemy; he has disallowed it as unfit for God in the cross; he looks upon himself now as a person who has got another nature, he is a new creation, he has another existence; he has life. It is this new nature in him that he now calls "I myself;" it is this principle, this nature, whatever we may call it, that serves the law of God; and it is "the flesh," that incurably bad self which he was groaning under, that still serves "the law of sin." I say that verse describes, as a matter of fact, what every Christian is. There is not a Christian living on the face of the earth that has not these two principles or natures; with one, that which is born of the Spirit, the new life, he himself serves the law of God, but with the other nature, that which is born of the flesh, if he allow it to come into action, he can serve nothing but the law of sin. "The flesh" cannot please God, put into what shape you please; it is a corrupt tree, and cannot bring forth good fruit. The flesh cannot serve anything that is not carnal, and worldly, and evil; and the new nature, which is born of God and cannot sin, can never do anything contrary to the mind of God. These two principles, I say, are in every true Christian. The man, too, who enjoys settled peace with God through Christ, knows well that there is a warfare going on in him between those two principles, according to the apostle's words in Gal. 5:17: "The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh;" and so far from their ever becoming united, it is added, "and these are contrary the one to the other." It is immensely important that the believer should clearly see that he has this evil something in him which he must keep under, and not trust. Having life in Christ, he must cry to, and trust in, the Lord for strength, that he may be able, "through the Spirit, to mortify the deeds of the body."
Moreover, is it not an amazing comfort to the Christian to have the testimony of God's truth that the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ is the answer for his sins, and to know Jesus also on that cross as his Substitute, and that therefore everything of vile self has been virtually, judicially, and, according to righteousness, crucified, put to death with Him? Is not this what we are told in the sixth chapter of Romans? "Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin." So that you see it was not merely sins that were laid upon Christ, but the old man was crucified with Him; not only that sins might be atoned for, but that sin, root and branch, the body of sin, might be annulled. If I did not know that, how could I venture to approach God? how could one be happy in His presence?
In accordance, then, with this blessed truth, we have in Rom. 6:11 the following instructions: "Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead [or to have died] indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through [or in] Jesus Christ our Lord." We are thus told by the Holy Ghost that we are to reckon about ourselves in this way: Reckon ye also yourselves," etc. While I know I have still this evil nature, I am to reckon that it has been judicially put to death, crucified in the cross of Christ, and buried in the grave of Christ. And be assured, beloved friends, you will never get the victory over self without this. You will never be at rest in the blessed portion God has given you in Christ, until you can see in the cross of Calvary God's righteous judgment of the flesh with its affections and lusts. There is a text to which I must now refer in connection with this subject, and I call attention to it because I believe it is often misunderstood. In Gal. 5:24, we read, "They that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts." Now, what does this mean? Does it not exactly fit in with what we have been considering? How have I crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts? The answer is plain. Because, as a believer, I have consented to God's just and righteous judgment of myself as a man in the flesh, as totally incapable of pleasing God, and unfit for His presence. I have not only consented to the justice of that judgment, but I have accepted it as my only ground to stand on, and that which God has in His mercy accomplished for me in Christ my Substitute; so that in this way I have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. I have thus set aside the flesh; I have crucified it; I have heard God declaring that my old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be annulled; and I have heartily agreed to it, and said, "Yes, that is a just and a righteous judgment." Faith does this, and sees that God is glorified in it. What a wondrous blessing this is! How exactly God has met our deep need! I know no parts of Scripture so full of comfort and blessing, so calculated to establish and support us, and to draw us out in devotedness to God, as those which show how completely and judicially God has set us aside as to the flesh, and yet secured our eternal acceptance before Him in Christ, giving us a standing in His presence, through the death and in the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.
But further. We have been looking at Scriptures which show what God has accomplished for us in the death of His Son Jesus Christ. Now let us go a step further, because God has given abundant reason in His word why the believer should not only have peace, abiding peace, in His presence, but also be a joyful worshipper, and a happy, loving, obedient child. There are two points to which I am about to refer. One is the believer's standing in resurrection-life in Christ; and the other, the new relationships he is brought into with God and His beloved Son.
We read in Rom. 8:1, "There is therefore now no condemnation" to whom? — "to them which are in Christ Jesus." Observe, it is a present blessing — "now." It is to those who are "in Christ Jesus." This is a step beyond the cross of Christ. It is the other side of death. You will say, We were always in Christ according to God's eternal purpose. That is quite true; but I am not speaking of that now. Believers are now actually in Christ, partakers of His life, as risen from the dead. It is life in One who is on the other side of death.
Whatever were God's counsels and purposes, we had not union with Christ before His death. We are told that, "Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone." It is clear from this that Christ was alone, and would have been alone, if He had not died. We could not have been in Him, there could have been no union, until after He had died; and therefore the Scripture tells us, "You hath He quickened [or made alive] who were dead in trespasses and sins." But how? Quickened together, raised up together, and made to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. We are not yet with Christ, but we are in Christ. Therefore we find in the second verse of this eighth chapter, "The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death." It is life, then, in a risen Christ. This is the point. It is not merely deliverance from wrath by the blood of the cross, but life in a risen Christ. Is not this, beloved friends, ground for abiding, solid peace, and also of communion with God? And will not such grace, if really known in power, make us willing to spend and be spent in His service? Oh, that we could all enter into the dignity and blessedness of having life in a risen Christ! A friend of mine some years ago visited a distant place where there were a great many Christians, and in writing to me he stated, "The Christians here do not know life." I fear that few Christians are really in their souls on this blessed ground of death and resurrection, and enjoying the reality of being now in Christ Jesus.
We have then, blessed be God! life in a risen Christ. Christ is our life. We have passed from death unto life; we are seated in Christ in heavenly places. "This is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son." "He that hath the Son hath life" — life in a risen Christ. We are risen with Christ. It is not only redemption from sin, but we are brought to God; hence we find in the fifth chapter of the Revelation that the song of the elders in glory is, "Thou hast redeemed us to God." It is not merely seeing what we have been delivered from that gives us joy, but seeing where we are brought — made nigh to God in Christ Jesus, through His precious blood. Let us well consider this, and never forget what an unfailing title to blessing we have in the precious blood of Christ. It has brought us to God, nigh to God, into the presence of God. The blood of Christ has given us liberty to enter into the holiest, and a title to stand there, and share the inheritance with the blessed Lord. What a precious truth this is!
But I must take you to another important verse in this eighth chapter. It immediately follows the sweeping declaration, "They that are in the flesh cannot please God." The words are most remarkable: "Ye are not in the flesh." In the seventh chapter he says, "When we were in the flesh," and now he says, "Ye are not in the flesh." How is this? Because, as I have tried to prove, as a man in the flesh, you have been judged and put to death in your Substitute, the Lord Jesus Christ; so that you have now no existence before God as in the flesh. God knows you still have the flesh, and will discipline you if you walk in it; but He sees you in Christ, and not in the flesh. Now do receive this, beloved friends, as the revealed truth of God. I cannot tell you what an immense blessing it is to have clear knowledge of this from the testimony of God's word. Our first Adam standing is gone, so that the Holy Ghost says, "Ye are not in the flesh," and it clearly must be the case, because you are in Christ. You cannot be in both as to your. standing before God. You cannot be under condemnation and justification at the same moment. You cannot be in the first Adam condemned, and in the last Adam, the Lord Jesus Christ, accepted at the same moment. No; the cross of Christ has ignored your old Adam standing the guilt of it, the evil of it, the old man, with his affections and lusts, has been righteously dealt with in the cross of Christ, and put out of sight in His grave; and happy are those who are content that it should remain there. You have a new life in a risen Christ, and therefore it is that you are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit; and the life which you now live in the flesh is a life of faith upon the Son of God. You have a spiritual life. The Scripture says, "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life" — not shall have, but hath, everlasting life. Yes, you have the present possession of eternal life. Beloved friends, I affectionately invite your attention to the passage we are now considering: "Ye are not in the flesh." If you say, "I am in the flesh," all I can say is, that you contradict God's truth, and refuse the true grace of God. Be assured you can never have peace with God on any other ground than what He has accomplished for us in Christ. If you cannot submit to the words of the living God, farewell to any peace of soul; you cannot have it. No person can have peace with God who is not subject to His truth. Faith receives and bows to God's word. And oh I when we look at ourselves, and consider what poor, weak, miserable, wretched beings we are, we ought to rejoice with joy unspeakable when we find God telling us what He has done for us through the blood of Christ, and in Him risen and ascended. Blessed be His name! He has given us a standing in His own presence so perfect that He can say to us, "Ye are [not shall be, but are] complete in Him, who is the Head of all principality and power." Is it not a precious truth that Christ has accomplished eternal redemption for us? How blessed to know that He now presents us in all the perfectness of His own acceptance before God!
But I must not pass over what follows about the indwelling Spirit. "If so be the Spirit of God dwell in you." A person may say, "I don't think I have the Spirit of God dwelling in me." That may be, but we must not forget that Scripture says, "If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His." It is a serious matter, beloved friends, to trifle with divine truths. We read, "Ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be the Spirit of God dwell in you." These are the words of God, and they are full of comfort and blessing. "Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father." It is by the Spirit dwelling in us that we know and own Jesus Christ as Lord sitting at God's right hand. It is also by the Spirit dwelling in us that we have access unto the Father: "For through Him [that is, Christ] we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father."
Before quitting this point, I would refer once more to the Scripture I have already called attention to, because it now fits in so admirably with the whole we have considered. "Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord," or "in Jesus Christ our Lord," as the passage might be better rendered. This is the believer's life. He is to reckon in this way, that his life is in Christ Jesus, that Christ is his life. "Your life is hid with Christ in God." "When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory."
Now let us look at the "relationships" so blessedly brought out here. It is possible that a person might receive a very elevated standing without much affection. You or I might go into the South Sea Islands among persons who have no affection whatever for us; and we might have a very excellent position in the islands without any one manifesting true love toward us. But God, in His mercy, has given us the highest possible position in Christ Jesus in the heavens; as near to Himself as Christ is, and in all the acceptability of Christ; so that it can be truly said, "As He is, so are we in this world." Is Christ alive? So are we. Is Christ righteous? So are we. Is Christ nigh to God? So are we. As being in Christ ours is the most dignified standing possible. But beside this there is the highest character of relationship — the relationship of sons. In the fourteenth verse we read, "As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ."
My beloved friends, this is not dry doctrine, it is food for our souls. It is the true grace of God wherein we stand. In the epistle to the Galatians it is said, "Ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus;" which again shows that every believer in the Lord Jesus Christ is a son of God. He is a child of God, and the Father cares for, and watches over him. So you see it is a blessed, a wonderful reality. The old man is so set . aside, that you are brought into a new creation, with new privileges and relationships. You are brought to know that you are in Christ, and He in you, and that you stand in this new relationship of sons of God. Therefore the service that is expected of you is the service of a son. I was in a house some time ago where there were a great many visitors, and not a sufficient number of servants to do the work. Some of the children kindly assisted in serving the visitors; but what a very different character of ministry theirs was to that of the hired servants. They were prompted simply by love. There was happy liberty; there was no fear of bondage connected with it. They served with delight, caring for the honour of their father. And so our service to God should partake of this character. God has raised us up to this wonderful standing in a risen Christ at His own right hand, and brought us into the highest, the nearest, the dearest possible relationship to Himself — that of sons. This is what the Holy Ghost teaches. We have not received the spirit of bondage, but the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, "Abba, Father." And it is in the comfort of this truth that the weakest babe in Christ ought to be. It is here that the believer of yesterday ought to be. It is here that all believers should be, rejoicing in the thorough end of self, and finding in the Lord Jesus Christ life and righteousness, and that we are brought into the blessed relationship of sons to God. Relationship always moulds the affections, and guides the conduct.
There is another thing: "If children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ." Who can tell the full meaning of such glorious realities? Is it that we are to share the inheritance with Christ? that He will not enter upon the inheritance without us? Is it that Jesus is first coming from heaven for us, His joint-heirs? Is it this that the blessed Lord is coming for? Most certainly, for He who is heir of all things will take possession of every part of the inheritance, whether belonging to the heavens or to the earth. All things are to be put in subjection to Him. He is Lord of all; Lord of the living and of the dead. But He will first descend into the air, and we shall be changed and ascend to meet Him, and enter together upon the inheritance as joint-heirs with Him.
And now let me ask, what manner of people ought we to be? If this be the place, and if these be some of the blessings which we are brought into through the death and resurrection of Christ, and gift of the Holy Ghost, by the grace of God, I say, what should be the characteristics that we manifest down here? what should we show forth? We ought to be subject to Christ, to follow Christ; we ought to serve Him, and honour Him; and what else? We ought to wait for His return from heaven. Now observe, dear fellow Christians, that you have not to wait for everlasting life; we have seen that you already have that. "He that believeth on me hath, everlasting life." You have not to wait for righteousness; that you have too. "Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth." You have not to wait for union with Christ, because you have that. "By one Spirit we are all baptized into one body." You have not to wait for the Holy Ghost. You have seen that the Holy Ghost is given to them that believe; and "if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His." What, then, have you to wait for? You have to wait for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, who will change this vile body and fashion it like unto His own glorious body. There is nothing else to wait for. You will be caught up to meet Him in the air, and be for ever with and like your loving Lord. The Lord bless and preserve you, dear friends I earnestly desire that no person may go out of this room without being assured of salvation through the word of the living God. I hope you will see that it is entirely through the death of Christ that you are delivered from the wrath to come, and that you stand now in acceptance before God in Christ risen. As we are told in the first of Ephesians: We are "blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ Jesus." May you, beloved friends, enter into these things, and be earnest Christians, doing the Lord's will from your hearts, and glorying in those blessed truths of Scripture by which you are assured of perfect, abiding, and uninterrupted peace with God through Jesus Christ our Lord.