There are no men more careful of the use of means than those that are surest of a good issue and conclusion, for the one stirs up diligence in the other. Assurance of the end stirs up diligence in the means. For the soul of a believing Christian knows that God has decreed both.
This message covers the second half of Psalm 2, touching upon a variety of the great subjects touched upon in this grand passage of scripture. The doctrine of Christ’s sonship is introduced here, and the authority given to Him by His Father over all the nations of the earth. This psalm describes His power to destroy His enemies, and finishes with an admonition to the kings of the earth, which I extrapolate to all men, to kiss the Son with a kiss of homage and submission, lest we perish from the way at the least kindling of His wrath.
These men are dangerous because they came out of Christian churches. They once, apparently, even fellowshipped with the apostles. But John would not have us think that these were once real Christians who are now “fallen from grace.” They may have once companied with the apostles and the Christian church, but they were never “of us.” Their hearts had not been renewed by grace, and they had not been joined to Christ in vital saving union. They were religious, but still lost. Religion to them was a way of gaining popular applause, or perhaps of making money. The root of the matter was never in them. John says that the way we can know this is the case with these apostates, who are now teaching blasphemous doctrines against the person and work of Christ, is that they departed from the apostolic teaching and the community of the faithful. Had they truly been God’s children, they would have continued within the bosom of the church, and in line with the apostolic doctrine.
There are times when religious institutions must be forsaken, and a new line of work taken up. This occurs when a professing church departs from the doctrine of the Word of God, and itself becomes opposed to the truth. The protestant Reformation is perhaps the greatest example of this. The men whom John writes, however, departed from the truth, and separated themselves from those who embraced the truth. Thus, it was manifest that they were never truly members of Christ’s body.
John now passes on to give us another warning, this against the antichrists who will assault the Christian church. He solemnly informs his readers that it is the last time. All too many believers are looking for signs that we are in the last days, when the Scripture plainly teaches that “the last time” began when Jesus Christ inaugurated the kingdom of God. This is the last era, or dispensation, of God’s dealing with men. This church age, centered around the preaching of the Gospel and faith in the resurrected and reigning Son of God, is the age of God’s final method of dealing with mankind.
Scripture informs us that the last times will be perilous, that iniquity shall abound and the love of many shall wax cold. False doctrine will flourish, and the church will be inundated with false teachers. To this agrees the word of John, that even now “there are many antichrists.” Many, probably most, Christian interpreters believe there shall be a final, singular Antichrist, who will wage war against the saints, and finally be overthrown by Christ Himself. I have long suspected, based upon this passage, that “Antichrist” is not a particular individual, but rather refers to the doctrine, by whomever espoused, that is contrary to the faith once delivered to the saints. Be that as it may, John tells us that we can be certain we are in the last age because there are many antichrists in the world, who have arrayed themselves squarely on the side of the Devil, and in opposition to the doctrine of Christ and His apostles.
It is not a true Gospel that gives us the impression that the Christian life is easy, and that there are no problems to be faced. That is not the New Testament teaching. The New Testament is most alarming at first, indeed terrifying, as it shows us the problems by which we are confronted. But follow it-go on! It does not stop halfway, it goes on to this addition, this second half; and here it shows us the way in which, though that is the truth concerning the battle, we can be enabled to wage it, and not only to wage it, but to triumph in it. It shows us that we are meant to be “more than conquerors.”
This is my sermon from a week ago, December the 3rd, covering John 6:63-65. In this passage, Christ tells His hearers that the words He speaks are spirit and life, and that they cannot hear and receive them because they are still in the flesh, and the flesh is profitable for nothing. He closes his message to His skeptical disciples by reminding them of the great truth that no man can come to Him except he be drawn of the Father. These great truths of man’s spiritual helplessness and God’s irresistible grace must be preached today with the same strength and conviction as Christ preached them to the unbelieving masses of His time.
Now John annexes the reason why living for the lusts of the world is such utter folly: “The world passeth away, and the lust thereof.” It is the sheerest madness for a man to wholeheartedly dedicate himself to something which will perish in a few short years. It is the philosophy of the world to dedicate itself to winning trophies which will rust and decay, to glorifying a body which is going to sag, wrinkle, grow ugly, and then die and rot away. A man should seek to serve his own generation, but not so that his generation will praise him. Rather, like David, he should “serve his own generation by the will of God.” The only lasting good we do in this world is the good that we do to the souls of men. The child of God understands this, and thus he strives to do the will of God. The man who lives to accomplish God’s will abides forever. His body may die and decay, but his good works are treasured up before God, and will be rewarded, albeit by way of grace and not of merit. Contrariwise, the individual who lives to gratify his own lusts or to exalt his own reputation will soon find that his best accomplishments are fading, and will do him no good whatsoever when he sinks into the grave.