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18 Bible Studies on Positive Living in Christ.
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From the book Grace and Glory
by A.J. Gordon, first published in 1872.
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The Twofold Ministry Of Christ
II. Christ's twofold ministry in heaven, cont.
by A.J. Gordon (Part 2)
I feel as sure as I am of anything that the loss of a healing ministry is due to a change in the Church, and not to a change in Christ. It is because we have backslidden from the foundation of apostles and prophets, and not that Christ has retreated from His ground. Because we know not how to rise to the height of this great privilege, we bring down the promises of God to our level; and what we cannot do, we hold that God does not allow. Would it not be better to keep the standard of power and privilege where the Lord put it, if it served no other purpose than to humble and condemn us for our unbelief? There is no evidence that since the day that Christ entered into heaven, and through the Holy Ghost gave gifts to men, "to one, the word of wisdom, and to another, the word of knowledge, by the same Spirit; to another, faith, by the same Spirit; and to another, the gift of healing, by the same Spirit," there has been any change in the Lord's order for His Church.l
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There has been a change in the Church's attitude towards these gifts. She has learned to discredit what she has forgotten how to use. She has come to condemn as fanatical what she once rejoiced in as Divine. But her Divine right and charter remain unchanged, and only wait for her resumption when she gets back her ancient faith. Do I say this in criticism, speaking of others as one who had himself attained? Indeed not. Nor is personal attainment the indispensable condition to strong faith and positive assertion. Have you never read the saying of a Christian father, Certum est quia impossibile," -- It is true because it is impossible? It seems like an audacious paradox; but it was learned from the Master Himself: "The things which are impossible with man are possible with God," says Jesus. And faith has to do with God, not with man. It takes the measure of its creed from the power and promise of the Almighty, not from the experience of the creature. Hence, with the revelation, "All things are possible with God," Christ has taught us the confession, "All things are possible to him that believeth." |
What, then, has God written of His power and will concerning us? This is the one question for us to settle. We are not to level down God's words to the grade of our own experiences. "All the promises of God in Him are Yea, and in Him Amen, unto the glory of God by us." And it is not for us to modify and condition them to every various shade of faith or feeling. What has the Lord declared concerning the great matter which we are discussing? This question must be held supreme. Tell me, then, what these words mean: "And the prayer of faith shall save the sick and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him." Here is a double promise, bearing the distinctest impress and seal of that double ministry of which I am speaking. The latter half of it you have no doubt about. With the fullest assurance you fall upon your knees to pray for a friend that his sins may be forgiven him, and if you see that he has faith to be forgiven, you do not hesitate, on the strength of God's word, to declare his absolution. But of the first part of the passage you say, This does not apply to present times; this was for the apostles and primitive believers. And who gave you warrant for cleaving this text in twain, and using one-half of the promise and remanding the other to an outgrown age of miracles and wonders?2 Let us beware. To a true Christian the very life of a text is in its undivided wholeness, and, like the true mother in the judgment of Solomon, he would rather surrender it entire than have it sundered by the sword.
I have said all this in the revolt which I feel at the arbitrary license which so many are exercising in setting aside as impossible what the Scriptures promise without reserve. And I am glad to believe that in many parts of the world, and in many branches of the Church, God is signally reviving these ancient gifts. The great soul of Edward Irving burned to see the fires of prophecy and miracles breaking forth once more from the smouldering embers of modern faith. For this he prayed and pleaded, exhorting his flock, as he says, to live continually on Jesus, for the body as well as the soul. And I know of no sublimer exhibition of faith than that which appears in the story of his own mastery of disease through prayer. Prostrate in the pangs of deadly sickness, he yet asked God to give proof of His promise by healing him, and letting him stand in his place on Sunday morning before his flock. Sabbath morning came, and still his request was unanswered. He was carried to his church in spite of the entreaties of his friends; he was helped into his place, and there stood the pallid, pain-racked preacher, holding on to the sides of the pulpit, and pleading silently with God to have respect unto His word, in which He had caused His servant to hope. And then he tells us how, as he opened his Bible, the bands of disease were loosed, and the power of the Holy Ghost came upon him, and how he preached with an unction and impressiveness never surpassed in his history, and then walked joyfully home at the close of the service, praising God for His faithfulness. Many Christians will explain the incident on the same natural principles with which the sceptic explains the miracles of our Lord. But why should it be thought a thing incredible?
And such instances, resting on incontestable evidence, are crowding upon us in these days. I believe in their possibility, because I believe in God's word. Not that we are to suppose that the sick will always be raised at our asking. The same question of the limitations of prayer and its subjection to God's will comes in here as elsewhere. But the Scripture cannot be broken, "The prayer of faith shall save the sick."3 It has been so in multitudes of instances. It is doing so to-day. Two tides of blessing and life flowed forth from the Redeemer's life, even as the water and the blood flowed from His dying heart, -- the one for cleansing the soul, the other for re-animating the body; and God never meant they should cease to flow till the entire man had been redeemed and perfected.
III. Christ's twofold ministry at His second coming
The return of the Lord from heaven will put the climax and seal of completion upon both elements of this ministry. Then the soul will be "presented faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy;" and "the body of our humiliation" will be transformed and "fashioned like unto the body of His glory." Sanctification, the final perfection of the spirit, and resurrection, the final perfection of the body, -- these are the two events which will signalize the glorious appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Some, indeed, are accustomed to speak of sanctification as taking place at death. It is enough for us to note how invariably the Scriptures connect the event with our Lord's second advent. "To the end He may stablish your hearts unblamable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints," is the apostle's language. And again, "He that hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ." Does the spirit drop from the body at death like the ripened grain from the husk, needing its support and protection no longer, now that it has come to maturity? And does the body, like a dead and sapless husk, now fall into the grave, since it has served its purpose of bearing and ripening the soul? Nay! these two factors of our being are not so related. The perfection of each is to be found in its sanctified reunion with the other, -- the soul cleansed from its sins and the body healed of its sicknesses, and the two dwelling together at last in harmonious unity. Whatever holiness and bliss the soul may attain out of the body and in the presence of the Lord, it is yet in an imperfect state. It lacks the vehicle of action and the organs of life, and is therefore imperfect; and whatever is imperfect is as yet unsanctified. For holiness is not a dead white purity, the perfection of the faultless marble statue. Life, as well as pureness, enters into the idea of holiness. They who are "without fault before the throne" are they who "follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth," -- holy activity attending and expressing their holy state.
And for the highest life and activity the soul must have a body; we can no more conceive of the spirit's truest, most exalted life apart from the body than of the body's life as continuing at all without the soul. We do well to study the wondrous mystery of the union of the flesh and spirit. It is a prophecy as well as an enigma, -- emotion reporting itself in smiles and tears; the soul hanging out its storm-signals in the face, so that we can see the coming anger in the look before it breaks forth in words; and the body, on the other hand, clouding the soul with its humours or lightening it with its health. Can it be that this marvellous union and interplay of mind and matter is only temporary and provisional? I believe, on the contrary, that all this is but an imperfect foreshadowing of what shall be when the discord which sin has brought in between soul and body shall be ended, and when the redeemed body shall become at last the perfect organ and instrument of the redeemed soul. Perfection of relation, as well as perfection of the parts of our nature, is the end of God's purposes. It is not enough that the disembodied soul shall be completely cleansed from sin and perfected in holiness. God will give to it a body perfectly fitted to its needs, -- a body capable of expressing all its exalted emotions, of bearing it on in its swift and tireless ministries, and of executing without impediment its holy affections and desires.
Here, then, is where the lines of Christ's twofold ministry terminate, -- in sanctification, the perfection of the spirit's holiness, and in resurrection, the perfection of the body's health.
If we carry ourselves forward to the state immediately succeeding the first resurrection, as it is described in the closing chapters of the Apocalypse, we find it to be a state of perfect healthfulness. The body has not been discarded, but resumed in glory. The corruptible has put on incorruption, and the mortal has put on immortality; and a state has been reached where not only sin has been abolished, but sickness also. "And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away." No more pain, -- the nerves re-tuned at last from the discord which sin had introduced, and henceforth conveying only sensations of delight and comfort; and no more death, -- the wages of sin no longer exacted, because the service of sin is no longer pursued. What is all this but God's final, perfect healing of these bodies? And what glory does it shed upon Christ's redemption!
This marvellous mechanism of the human frame, so disordered by transgressions, so deranged with disease, "Throw it away, as beyond the possibility of repair," says the man of little faith; "give me happiness by effecting my release from the body of this death." -- "He shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in you," is the triumphant assurance of the Scripture. What God made, He can repair; what sin has marred, He can restore; and while man in despair would abandon this mortal frame to the grave, He teaches us to "wait for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of the body." Oh, blessed hope! In a world smitten with pestilence, where death reigns over all and "the mourners go about the streets," we are summoned to look towards a city whose "inhabitants shall not say I am sick, and the people that dwell therein shall be forgiven their iniquity."
And now "take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God." I summon you to believe not what I have seen, or heard, or proved, but only what God has spoken. Do not deceive yourselves by going beyond what is written; but do not, I entreat you, defraud yourselves by coming short of what is written. God has not called you to a partial redemption, but to a full and eternal recovery both from the curse and from the consequences of sin. If you are struggling and battling with a rebellious and evil heart, wondering if God can ever forgive and make holy such a one as you, hear what He saith: "I, even I, am He that blotteth out thy transgressions for Mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins." And are you sick in body, compassed with infirmity, or burdened with some inherited malady from which you expect no relief except in the grave, hear again what God saith: "I am the Lord that healeth thee." -- "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ."
1The evidence seems to be incontestable that the signs promised in the great commission to those who should believe (Mark 16:17), and fulfilled under the ministry of the apostles, continued in unbroken succession into the third century after Christ. "Witnesses who are above suspicion," says Uhlhorn, "leave no room for doubt that the miraculous powers of the apostolic age continued to operate at least into the third century" ("Conflict of Christianity with Heathenism,'' p. 169.). Mosheim, Milner, Dodwell, and Tillotson bear equally strong testimony. (See references to the Fathers, in notes to work above cited, p. 486.) If these gifts remained to the third century, why might they not continue into the nineteenth?
2"Oh, happy simplicity," exclaims Bengel, commenting on this text, "interrupted or lost through unbelief." Thomas Erskine declares his conviction that the gifts of healing were intended to be "the permanent endowment of the Church," and that "had the faith of the Church continued pure and full, these gifts of the Spirit would never have disappeared." ("Brazen Serpent," p. 203. See also Dr. Bushnell's powerful defence of the proposition, "Miracles and Spiritual Gifts not Discontinued." "Nature and the Supernatural," chap. 14.)
3Luther assents to this promise with his usual heartiness and frankness. He says, "How often has it happened, and still does, that devils have been driven out in the name of Christ, also by the calling on His name and prayer, that the sick have been healed.
This page Copyright © 1999 Peter Wade. The Bible text in this publication, except where otherwise indicated, is from the King James Version. This article appears on the site: http://www.peterwade.com/.
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