Having believed on Christ, committing the destiny of our immortal souls into His gracious hands, and having taken up the cross to follow after Him, we may then pray with confidence. Strong faith is certainly a gift of God, but it is attainable for even the weakest Christian. Once more, having believed on Christ, and gained a comforting assurance of our salvation, we may then be sublimely confident that when we pray according to the will of God, He will hear us. Is not this how our Lord taught us to pray? “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, in earth as it is in heaven.” He taught us not only by word, but by His own holy example. When He confronted the horror of the cross, the terrifying reality of being made a curse for His people, He pleaded with His Father that that cup might pass from Him. But He appended to that petition the words, “Thy will be done.” It was the Father’s will that Christ suffer for the sins of His people, and therefore, knowing that He must drain the cup, our Lord boldly went forth to meet His enemies, submitted Himself to be apprehended, and finally nailed to the cross, where He bore the full wrath of God against our sins.
Thus should our prayers be. We must confess to God when we come that often we lack wisdom, and know not what to pray for as we ought. We must be cognizant that often we are just foolish enough to pray for some blessing, for no other reason than that we may consume it upon our lusts. Being thus aware of our own weaknesses, we ought to hasten to add to all our petitions the words of our Saviour, “Thy will be done.” If we can pray this way in faith, we may then have perfect confidence that the Lord will hear us. It may be He will not answer our prayers in the way that we intended them. But if we are praying for spiritual blessings and guidance, praying that He will in His mysterious providence work all things together for our good, then we can know that, however He may orchestrate the affairs of our life, He is indeed working matters for our eternal good. He did not answer us as we may have wished, not because He was deaf and could not hear, but because as a wise Father He knew what was best for us, and gave us the bitter medicine rather than the unhealthy treat. When we can arrive at this position of Christian maturity, then we may pray with an abundance of confidence in our gracious God, knowing that whatsoever He does is right and best, and for our ultimate good.
As he begins to draw his epistle to a close, John reminds us why he was written after such a fashion. Contained within these 5 brief chapters are many exhortations and warnings, but all pertaining to the main end of helping the professing members of the body of Christ to know whether they are truly saved or not. His letter is intended, not half so much for the disillusionment of the false professor, as for the comfort of the child of God. It is true that his warnings are so stark and so sharp that they may even trouble the true Christian for a time. Yet, when he examines himself and discovers longings after holiness, and genuine love for the children of God, he may then derive great comfort from this book of 1st John.
John would have us who have believed on the name of the Son of God to know that we truly possess eternal life. It is not a doubtful, nor an ephemeral thing. Eternal life is the present possession of all those who have truly believed on the name of God’s only begotten Son. John’s epistle, when rightly interpreted and applied, helps us to know if we are among that happy number; and if we find none of the marks of grace described herein within ourselves, then it is a warning that we must flee to Christ without delay, in Whom alone salvation may be found.
The record that men are required to believe is that eternal life is God’s free gift to sinners through His Son. This is the wonderful blessing of which all real believers partake. The record of the Gospel is that God sent His Son into the world, so that whosoever believeth on Him may have everlasting life, and be raised up to glory at the last day. This life is to be found in Christ alone, and nowhere else. If we go searching in other religions, or within ourselves, for answers to eternal questions, we must inevitably come up empty. Only when we commit ourselves totally to Jesus Christ will we find the eternal life which is the only security for lost sinners.
John has uttered many things in this brief epistle so profound as to boggle our feeble minds. But the son of thunder also possessed a gift for simplifying his doctrine so that even a child could understand it. This he does in verse 12, when he tells us, “He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.” It cannot be made any plainer than this. Eternal life can only be possessed by those who are in a vital, living union with Jesus Christ. He must be apprehended, in His person and graces, by faith. We must trust in Him, and commit ourselves to Him as the only Saviour, and as His servants. This is the man that “hath the Son.” All else are on the outside, with the wrath of God hovering over them like the executioner’s axe. They remain in a state of death and condemnation, enemies of God, children of the Devil, and aliens from the commonwealth of Israel. Surely there is no more deplorable lack in the world than to have not the Son. One may possess all earthly goods, along with fame and power, but if he has not the Son, his situation is most pitiable. But the believer in Christ may rejoice, even if he is poor, downtrodden, persecuted, and dying, for his life is hid with Christ in God, and he knows that he shall soon appear with the Saviour in glory. This great truth must be impressed as with a branding iron upon our minds, for our very eternal destiny depends on it.
The Fear of Man Bringeth a Snare
I deviated from my regular Wednesday messages to preach this very important sermon on the deadly snare of fearing man. This is an issue which all of us must grapple with us, particularly if we are possessed of a timid or cowardly disposition. Nevertheless, if we operate under the fear of man, we are certainly not operating under the fear of God. A man or woman who lives under the fear of man cannot serve God aright, and very likely is not a believer at all. Therefore, this is a matter that must be considered with the utmost sobriety.
The person who has believed in the Son of God has the witness of the Spirit within him. There is no believer who is not indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God: “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His.” Therefore, there can be no such thing as a genuine Christian who is not interested in following the things which John has put forth in this epistle; holiness, obedience to God’s law, love to the brethren, and such like. Where the Holy Spirit is present and active, fruit will be produced, for it is by the Spirit that we are connected to the living Vine, even Jesus Christ.
John would also declare to us the horror of unbelief, showing us that it is not simply an intellectual decision, nor is it a matter of small consequence. Rather, John trumpets for all the world to hear, “He that believeth not God hath made Him a liar, because he believeth not the witness that God gave of His Son.” To reject the Gospel is, then, to call God a liar. This is true for every single person who hears the Gospel record concerning the person and the saving work of the Lord Jesus. If we hear, but refuse to believe, no matter what may be our excuse, our fault is of the worst kind. It is considered a terrible affront to accost a national leader and publicly denounce him to his face as a liar. If such a man be guilty, how much greater guilt does he incur who scoffs at the record God gives concerning His Son, and chooses to believe something else! This is a company in which we should wish no part. To reject the record that God has given of His Son is to reject the only hope of eternal life that poor mortals have.
Our Reasonable Service
This is a message I first put together and preached in Guyana, but was so moved by the importance of it that I wanted to preach it to our home congregation as well. In this sermon, I go through each clause of this verse, which is the transition point in the epistle to the Romans from the doctrinal to the practical. The majority of time is spent exhorting us, as Christian people, to present our bodies as living sacrifices unto God. If we are truly born again, and have an appropriate gratitude towards our God for all that He has done for us in Christ, we will not think anything that He requires of us to be unreasonable, but any and every sacrifice will prove worthwhile, if it serves the end of His glory and advances His kingdom.