Matt. 3:1-17, Matt. 4:1-11; Eph. 1:1-14; Eph. 6:10-13.
Notes of Address by J. A. Trench at Galashiels (2/7/1916).
It was a wonderful moment in the ways of God when John the Baptist, as the forerunner of the Lord Jesus Christ, went out with his solemn testimony calling upon the people to repent. It was he of whom it was prophesied as the voice of one crying in the wilderness, "Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make His path straight." There were those attracted by his testimony, and they went out to him and were baptised in Jordan, confessing their sins. However it must not be thought that everybody went out. In point of fact the result was very different. The religious leaders had rejected the counsel of God. He addressed the Pharisees and Sadducees as a generation of vipers, as those who had not brought forth fruits meet for repentance. It was indeed a very small remnant of the most disreputable classes in Israel to whom his testimony found access. It was the moral refuse which were moved by John the Baptist's ministry. This is a blessed mark of God's sure work in the soul; and there was no work done until they were brought down before God, confessing their sins.
Doubtless it was no small surprise to John when Jesus presented Himself for baptism. He did so to carry out God's will. He identified Himself with what was approved to be of God in Israel. What a moment it was when Jesus came up out of the water. The heavens were opened. God in His wonderful grace sees the moment for the full revelation of Himself. The testimony of God had been tending right on from Genesis that He might reveal Himself, but the full revelation had never been made until that moment. "This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased." What a revelation — incomparable, infinite, of the Father and the Son and the Son in relation to the Father. How infinite was the grace of God found with the Lord Jesus Christ as intimated in Psalm 16, which is His own peculiar Psalm. It could only be applicable to the Lord Jesus, from the very outset. His interest was in the saints, the excellent of the earth, in whom was all His delight. This was not in the state in which He found them. As set forth in the end of the third chapter, the Lord Jesus became the pattern of all that He would bring them into, and us also now by the Gospel. Among the things which come out in these Scriptures are the Father's voice declaring His beloved Son as the object of His perfect pleasure, and the Spirit of God descending and abiding upon Him. I need hardly say that the Lord Jesus was absolutely alone in the position in which we find Him. He only was declared as the Father's beloved Son, the object of favour on whom the Spirit could descend. Never could this have happened upon any other apart from blood. He had taken up the place as a man before God, but not to remain as such. "Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone, but if it die it bringeth forth much fruit (John 12:24). He humbled Himself so as to introduce us into His own place before His Father. The fulfilment of His Father's will was His direction right from the opening of His path to His death on the cross.
In Eph. the heavens are opened to us, and so the Apostle in the opening verses can say "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies in Christ." Could the heavens have been opened in any better way? The opening is of the richest character and in the highest place. We are identified absolutely with Him. It is no wonder then that the Apostle, before going in to the ordinary communications of the Epistle, had to relieve his heart in the way he did, which is the true character of worship. Worship is shown in the heart being full so as not to contain itself, and he goes on to say "According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love." I ask you to observe the standpoint God brings us to in His wonderful revelation. It is the standpoint of His own eternal counsels. To be before Him without blame in love is just as Christ was presented in Matthew's Gospel. What helps us in seeking to enter into these things is to apprehend the way in which Christ is presented to us in the Gospels. He was the complete expression of God in His own person, and this had to take place before any of us could have been actually introduced. We have everything set forth in Himself. He went down into death to carry out the eternal counsels of God. That is the standpoint of His choosing us in Him before the foundation of the world.
Into what relationships has the will of God put us? That you and I should be taken up out of the guilt and defilement made angels would never have satisfied the heart of God. He had to predestinate us unto sonship by Jesus Christ to Himself according to the good pleasure of His will. That was the position of Jesus as shown in Matthew 3. There we see sonship manifested for the first time. In the everlasting counsel it was set forth that we should be introduced to sonship. There is no activity in counsel. There was none in choosing what was according to desire. He chose us in Christ. He wanted to have us before Him perfectly suited to Himself. Then the activity comes in. All this is very wonderful. God's counsel was for Himself, not merely to satisfy us with such relationship. We could never have dreamed of it. Not one of the angels could ever have called God "Father." God wanted to surround Himself with those who could cry "Abba, Father," surrounded by the children of His love. But we are in the position of sons. The distinction between sons and children is very hard to bring out in English. I am a child by relationship, I am a son by position, which is a contrast with the angels place. We are children by being begotten. It is worthy of note that in verse 6 the Spirit of God changes the keynote in the chapter "To the praise and the glory of His grace wherein He has made us accepted in the Beloved." Previously we are spoken of as in Christ. God wants us to know that we are in the same place as His Son. We might have thought that such a special place was reserved for Him only, but He has reserved nothing. In John 17. Jesus says, "O Father, glorify thou Me with thine own self with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was." The last verse of that same chapter tells us the provision He has made for knowing the Father's name. The revelation of the Father's heart is a present thing. He loves to bring the consciousness of His love into our hearts which gives us the strength and capacity to enjoy the wonderful place we have in the Father s love. What a great thing it is to be walking in the consciousness that we are as dear to the Father as the Lord Jesus Christ.
In the next verse we have redemption through His blood according to the riches of His grace. That is the way He has met us in our need. The poverty of our need required the riches of His grace. There is such a revelation in that name of the blessing contained in that wonderful revelation. He was known by a new name, not Jehovah which was the name he was known to poor failing Israel. He was now to be known as the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Surely it must be in the spirit of worship we enter into that sphere of blessing. We are blessed with all spiritual blessings. We could not be more blessed! The Spirit of God descended and abode upon Jesus. It had never descended upon any other man in this world, without blood. Redemption having been effected through His blood, the forgiveness of sins and the tidings of salvation reached us. We have received the seal of His own delight upon us. The Father sealed the Son by the same blessed Spirit we have received, and so it is with us the moment that we receive the glad tidings, we are sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession.
The next scene opens in Matt. 4, where the Lord is led into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. He was brought into direct conflict with the power of Satan. It is wonderful to think of it, yet it is what we may expect. We have no sooner been put into the place given us by accomplished redemption than we meet the power of Satan. It is in Ephesians which gives us such a revelation of God in His fulness, that we are instructed as to meeting the powers of wickedness. We are to put on the whole armour of God that we may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil, whose whole object is to cast us down from our excellency. We are thus provided with the complete armour to withstand. The Lord was led of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted. He fasted forty days. Satan, as the subtle tempter, seizes the opportunity. It is a contrast with what happened to Adam and Eve. He hoped that in human weakness he would achieve the same success as with the first man. Man's place is to obey. Christ had previously been in the place of God, but He answered every attack with, "It is written." It is well to observe that. But there is more than the idea of direction, there is the question of living. "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." The Word of God is to form our life. Do you study the Word of God to seek to enter into the truth, and to be ready to meet Satan, having treasured up the Word within you? It should be noted also that the devil can quote Scripture, but in doing so he left out the cardinal point in the passage to which he referred, viz., "In all thy ways." It is no part of God's will for anyone to commit suicide, and when baffled again by the Word of God "It is written," Satan changes the ground to worship. His whole aim is to displace God. He has not the power actually to give all the kingdoms of the world and the glory, but he is able to present them in such a way as to dazzle the eyes and to gain the heart. But Jesus was again proof against the tempter through using the word, "It is written, thou shalt worship the Lord thy God and Him only shalt thou serve."