What did Christ suffer? He suffered that which answered the justice of God. He suffered that which answered the law of God. He suffered that which fully repaired the glory of God. Brethren, let us encourage ourselves in the Lord. If there be any demands to be made of you and me, it must be upon the account of the righteousness and justice of God; or upon the account of the law of God; or upon the account of the loss that God suffered in His glory by us. If the Lord Jesus hath come in, and answered all these, we have a good plea to make in the presence of the holy God.
1. He suffered all that the justice of God did require. Hence it is said that “God set Him forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood, to declare His righteousness for the remission of sins” (Rom. 3: 25). And you may observe that the apostle uses the very same words in respect of Christ’s suffering that he uses in respect of the sufferings of the damned angels (Rom. 8: 32): “God spared Him not.” And when He would speak of the righteousness of God in inflicting punishment upon the sinning angels, He doth it by that very word, “God spared them not.” So that whatever the righteousness of God did require against sinners, Christ therein was not spared at all. What God required against your sins and mine, and all His elect, God spared Him nothing, but He paid the utmost farthing.
2. The sufferings of Christ did answer the law of God. That makes the next demand of us. The law is that which requires our poor, guilty souls to punishment, in the name of the justice of God. Why, saith the apostle, “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us” (Gal. 3: 13); by undergoing and suffering the curse of the law, He redeemed us from it.
3. He suffered everything that was required to repair and make up the glory of God. Better you and I and all the world should perish than God should be endamaged in His glory. It is a truth, and I hope God will bring all our hearts to say, Christ hath suffered to make up that. The obedience that was in the sufferings of Christ brought more glory unto God than the disobedience of Adam, who was the original of the apostasy of the whole creation from God, brought dishonour unto Him. That which seemed to reflect great dishonour upon God was that all His creatures should as one man fall off by apostasy from Him. God will have His honour repaired, and it is done by the obedience of Christ much more. There cometh, I say, more glory to God by the obedience of Christ and His sufferings than there did dishonour by the disobedience of Adam; and so there comes more glory by Christ’s sufferings and obedience upon the cross than by the sufferings of the damned for ever. God loses no glory by setting believers free from suffering, because of the sufferings of the Son of God. This was a fruit of eternal wisdom.
Since we dwell in God, and He in us by His Holy Spirit, we may be much bold to testify the Gospel of the grace of God. Coming to Christ gives to us a spiritual knowledge which no unbeliever, be he never so thoroughly trained in theological argumentation, can possess. The unbeliever can learn and recite spiritual facts, but he can never say with personal conviction that Jesus is Lord. He may learn that the Bible teaches that Jesus was sent by the Father to be the Saviour of the world, but he has not seen it with spiritual eyes, and therefore cannot testify of it to any good effect. This is why it is incumbent upon the people of God to proclaim the grand truth of redemption throughout the world, because there is no other agency by which it may be done. Christ’s church is the pillar and ground of the truth, and if we do not communicate the truth to our fellow mortals, then they can never learn it. And if they never hear and learn the truth, they can never be saved; for faith comes only by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
The Lamb that died, and was buried, is now risen and exalted, and sits on the right-hand of God the Father; and when he shall come to judge all the world, then, my brethren, it will be seen whether we have deserved the usage the world has given us; then it will be known who are the true followers of the Lord Jesus, and who are madmen and fools…
To live such a life is certainly beyond the power of men, who are polluted in every faculty by sin. But God does not leave it up to us, to do that which is impossible by nature. He sends forth His Spirit into our hearts, whereby we are enabled to love one another even as Christ loved us, and to manifest forth the grace and love of God to a lost and dying world. We know that we have the Spirit of God dwelling us when we show these marks of regeneration. If we love the law of God and seek to walk in its light, and if we love the brethren, then we may know that our religion is not a simple reformation of character, but it is Spirit-wrought life. It is, in fact, the seed of eternal life which was planted with us, germinating and bearing fruit. This is how we know that we dwell in God. The Spirit of God can never come into a person and leave him unaffected. That person will be distinguished by the marks of grace, so that both he and others may know that he is in fellowship with the living God of heaven and earth. This is an incredible boon for we earthly mortals, a gift of which we can never be worthy, but for which we should thank our God every day, and plead importunately for greater manifestations of the power of the Spirit in us.
Here John interjects a statement lifted, as it were, from his gospel, 1:18, where he said, “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him.” There, the holy apostle was manifesting that, although we have not seen God with our naked eyes, we nevertheless see His perfect image and attributes, in the glorious splendor of His grace, in the person of Jesus Christ. The fullness of the Godhead dwells in Him bodily, so that the Lord could declare with no exaggeration, “He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father.” But here, John utilizes the fact that no man has seen God in the full majesty of His glorious essence to a different purpose. The glory, kindness, and love of God, is seen, not in looking at the throne, for there God dwells in the light which no man can approach unto. But the love and kindness of God is now manifested in the love which His people manifest one towards another. When we love one another, His love is perfected in us, and the world cannot help but notice that we are showing forth the grace of our God. What a tremendous obligation this places upon us, that we, sinful and frail though we are, should show forth the glory of the great God to a lost and dying world!
After entering Jerusalem secretly, and remaining in seclusion for about half the feast, Jesus at last showed Himself and began to teach the people in the temple court. This sermon from John 7:14-16 emphasizes the power and quality of Christ’s preaching, and stresses His fidelity to the will of His Father in everything that He said, based upon the words, “My doctrine is not Mine, but His that sent Me.” This is held forth as an example for us, that we ought to speak nothing as religious doctrine except what has been committed to us by God through His word.
The Father loved us so greatly that He gave up His Son to be cruelly mocked and slain by wicked hands. This is the true manifestation of love. It is not the powerful sentiment that overwhelms a man who lays eyes on a beautiful woman, nor the tender affection which a mother feels for its infant child. The nature of heavenly love is shown in that it is self-sacrificing. It is true, God manifests a paternal love by giving us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness. Notwithstanding, we had never known the depths of the love of God had He not given His Son to be the propitiation for our sin. Christ was made a sin-offering, an appeasement. He accepted the wrath and punishment which we deserved, in order that we may escape condemnation for our sins. This is love of such a degree that the human mind cannot begin to fathom it, mainly because we cannot comprehend the great glory and perfect happiness God enjoyed in Himself, nor can we begin to understand the terrible gulf which separates us from God due to sin. That God Himself would bridge that gap, by giving His Son to be the propitiation for our sin, is indeed the most astounding manifestation of love which has ever been seen.
John has not deviated from his theme of Christian love, but is showing us the ground from which it springs. We know nothing of what the true love we should demonstrate is about until we understand the love of the Father and the Son for sinful men. This helps us to understand that our love is not just a warm affection for friends and family whom we already held in high regard. This is no better than the love of common sinful men. We are to love all of God’s children, irrespective of those outward differences which may tend to separate us, and irrespective of those personal qualities which may chance to grate on our nerves. To do anything less is to manifest a less than Christ-like love. One of John Newton’s hymns asks the question, “Could we bear from one another what He daily bears from us?” He adds, “Yet this glorious Friend and Brother loves us though we treat Him thus.” Dare any one of us say that we have lived so impeccably as to have actually earned the love which Christ gives us? If not, then how can we dare to slight our brethren, who through weakness, or perhaps through some cultural or personality difference, may not measure up to our standards of how things ought to be? God knows I am no egalitarian in any way, shape, or form. But at the same time, I must in all good conscience deprecate any brand of Christianity which would make us turn away from any brother or sister because they are culturally or racially distinct from us. This does not mean we must intermarry with them, or reprehend our own culture in order to affirm theirs. Genuine Christianity is its own culture, and is in fact the only culture worth truly maintaining. However vast may be the differences between, say, Christians in America and Christians in Uganda, the truth is that there is more that joins us than joins an Oklahoman to an Arkansan. We have all been made to drink into one Spirit, meaning that we love the same things and the same people, and rejoice in the same Saviour. If the love of Christ has been manifested towards us in such amazing fashion as to save us from the power and the penalty of sin, then we ought to love with self-sacrificing humility those who have received the same salvation.