Favour and Power

Genesis 8:20-22; Luke 14:15-23.

After Noah and his family had been in the ark (the ark being at that time the only safe place, and a figure of Christ - when they came out Noah offered unto the Lord burnt-offerings) Noah found himself on new ground in favour and power. Those two words are an immense help in enabling us to ascertain what is the character of the new ground God has brought us on to favour and power. You may say Noah failed on this new ground. True, he did. We cannot count upon self for anything, especially when set for Christ here. Noah got drunk, and miserably failed. A man who cannot rule himself will never be able to rule anyone else. Noah failed; he lost the place of favour in which God set him, and he failed in power.

In Luke 14 the Lord speaks of the real way of having a feast, when one present, no doubt a pious Jew, exclaimed, "Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God." It was a great supper, a figure which sets forth the present large enjoyment of the believer, and where the food of the believer is - it is neither from earth, neither is it on earth. There is a festival prepared by God Himself for the believer, which is neither on nor from earth. Judgment is removed, and we are in favour and power. "All things are ready; come." What characterises the grace of God is favour and power. What the chapter sets forth is that God has made a great provision, a great feast, and He invites you to it. The Jews had it here, but you cannot enjoy it where they did; and if you look for anything here you will not get it. You may build a house, and buy a piece of land, but it is in the wrong place. How could you expect the favour of God in a place where the Lord was crucified? What is the meaning of showing forth the Lord's death till He come?

I cannot accept. any favour in the place where Jesus was crucified. If it had been last Friday that the Lord was crucified it could not be forgotten, but the fact remains. The invitation went out to the Jews first: "Come; for all things are now ready." They refused it. Then it is sent to the poor of the flock and the Gentiles who never got a place here, and the servant is sent forth and told to compel them to come in. Now you must not make that the gospel; it is the finish of the gospel, if you like, because the invitation is to come into the house. Luke 14 is our side; Luke 15 is God's side. You have the joy of the finder there. The business of the Servant (the Spirit of God here) is to bring them into the house; and the work of the Servant is not done till He has got them in. The question is, What is this supper, and how is it to be enjoyed? You must start with this - it is not from earth, or on earth. "The kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost." (Romans 14:17.) In simple language this is what is called the great supper. The Holy Ghost is the feast, and He conducts the guests to it. I might say a great deal about that, while I quite admit that the invitation is to go forth over all the earth. In John 4 we have a guest found in the woman of Samaria. The Lord meets her there in the most desperate circumstances in which anyone could be found as to character and position, and He tells her, Whosoever drinks of the water which I shall give him shall never thirst for ever. It is the strongest figure that can be used. It means shall never thirst again, either here or hereafter. Your soul is conducted by the Spirit of God into the region of satisfied desire. The philosopher will say that is an absolute impossibility. The Spirit of God comes and takes up a poor outcast woman in the most degraded circumstances as to character and condition, and brings her into the enjoyment of a life outside, and entirely outside everything here. "Shall be in you a well of water springing up into everlasting life."

Then in chapter 7 we have the Feast of Tabernacles, and man found in the most blessed position in which he could be found upon earth. He had seven days of it too; but on the eighth day, when they had come to the end of the seventh, the Lord stands up and cries, "If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink." (John 7:37 - 39.) In the first case (the woman in chapter 4) the Lord begins at the bottom and lifts her up to the top; in chapter 7 He begins at the top, and fills you so full that you cannot contain all you get from above. The idea is, that if a man is full he becomes a giver, not a receiver. And where do you get it? From above. John 4 and 7 refer to the individual believer - what he gets, and not to service at all. If you want to know about service you must go to Luke 14. If you ask me to explain what the great supper is, well, the Holy Ghost is the one who conducts you to it, and no matter what your surroundings on earth are, the believer has something far beyond anything that can be found below.

Romans 5:1-11 describe the terms on which God can be with me, and Romans 8 the terms on which I can be with Him; then you go back to Romans 5. You joy in God, you are reconciled; and being justified by faith, we have peace with God, stand now in the favour of God, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. That is what the prodigal could say when he was brought in, Now I am in favour; and then we go on to find ourselves in acceptance with Him too, and the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which He has given us. The prodigal had the sense of reconciliation first, and then of enjoyment. Many know the terms on which God can be with them (Romans 5) who have not been conducted to the other side (Romans 8), where they learn the terms on which they can be with God; that brings us enjoyment. The first thing you learn is that God could not be on better terms with me than He is. "Well," you say, "I know that, and can always feel happy when I look up, but immediately I look at myself I am miserable." Then you are not at the feast, you are not making merry, you are not really in the power of the Holy Ghost. I will try to make myself simple. You may have a very clear idea of the gospel as to what God is to you, and you begin to try to improve self. A man will do anything and suffer anything in his efforts to improve self, so as not to put self out; he wants a corner for self somewhere, but until you give Christ His place self will not go out. It was what I call the coronation day in Abraham's house when Isaac got his true place there, and that he might have that Ishmael must go out. It is a wonderful day in the history of a soul when Christ gets His true place. Now Romans 8 comes in, and what feasting there is! The prodigal, if he looks at himself, says, I am not fit for my Father's house. But the Father calls to the servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him. And what is the best robe? Christ. In Romans 5 you get the secret as to how God can do this. It is not Adam before Him now but Christ, and He does not expect anything from Adam.

The end of Romans 5 hooks on with chapter 8. In chapter 6 you are committed to death if you do not accept it; then chapter 7 proves what Israel found in the wilderness, that they could not keep the law, and I know what the anguish of such a state is. When I found the flesh too strong for me I said, I must try by faith to master it. I do not say that now, because I have learned that the Holy Ghost alone can master the flesh. "If ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live." The moment the best robe is on, that is that you know yourself as "in Christ," what follows? "Bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry"  - figure of the great enjoyment you have in the presence of God. It is not so much here that you know it, but now you enjoy it, and that verse is fulfilled: "The kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost." (Romans 14:17.) You are free of self. There is a class of religionists who say the prodigal kept on his old clothes under the best robe, that he might look at them occasionally in order to keep him humble. No teaching or reading will displace self, a Person only can do it. "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me."

Again I say it was the most festal day in Abraham's house when Isaac got his true place there, when the 318 servants all bowed before and acknowledged him. Then Ishmael must go. You ask, Who is that? Ishmael is descriptive of the most accomplished in nature. He had been brought up, too, in Abraham's house, but he mocked Isaac. So now the natural man will never accept Christ. A great many see that God has removed the first man, but they do not come to Romans 6. They are not prepared to part with self. We have all travelled the road; we know it. All are counted as dead by God. Now "reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord." Here the most unaccountable mistake takes place., People think that "baptized unto Jesus Christ" means the mere formal act of baptism, and that their acceptance of baptism is an act of obedience, an expression of their being dead and risen with Christ; but we do not become dead by the reckoning of faith, neither do we obtain holiness by faith. These are not scriptural statements. "He hath chosen us in Christ before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love."

We cannot be too simple about it, cannot deviate from it, that God never sees me in the flesh. He knows I am in it, but He does not see me there. If there is anyone here today not clear about it, let me say that there is no more offering for sin. And how can you improve anything that is gone from the eye of God? The Corinthians and Galatians had got the Spirit of God, but were not walking in it; and many now have the Spirit of God, but are not walking in it. I could not say that any man has the Spirit of God as long as he tries to improve the flesh. God says, I have removed everything from My eyes in order to be on the very best terms with you, and I want you to be in moral correspondence with that. The Holy Ghost is the witness to me that I am as clean as God can make me. I would say to the young believers especially that I believe it to be most mischievous looking at baptism as in Romans 6 as a mere ordinance. Let me tell you that it is a real experimental thing. In the first edition of the Synopsis it is not made experimental, but in the second it is. How is it accomplished? You find that in Romans 8:13: "If ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live." Holiness by faith does not go beyond the ten commandments. To put it simply, these things are not in correspondence with the mind of God. You might know the gospel, and yet not be walking in the Spirit of God; and He always occupies you with Christ, not with your usefulness. "Walk in the Spirit," and He will not let the other man in. If Christ is not living in you, then you are not at God's side of things. When you are there you will find yourself in the unclouded enjoyment with God of Christ and heavenly things. The natural man says, What an impossibility, because you cannot know anything about it until you are in it. Let me ask, Do you want it? Are you ready for it? God never gives anything till the soul is ready to receive it. When you are ready you will long for it. You may say, Where do I start? You never start till you reach Romans 8. Again I repeat, If you only know the work of Christ you are prepared to make sacrifices; but if you know Him as your life, then you are ready to suffer for Him. The Lord give us to know not only our acceptance in Christ, but also how the Holy Ghost can give us to enjoy that acceptance.

J. B. Stoney. 1894.