Lord’s Day 40, 2010
I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.”
Hymn 43. Part 1. (L. M.)
Jesus our surety and Saviour. 1 Pet. i. 18; Gal. iii. 13; Rom. iv. 25.
Isaac Watts (1674-1748)
Adam, our father and our head,
Transgress’d, and justice doom’d us dead;
The fiery law speaks all despair:
There’s no reprieve nor pardon there.
But, O unutterable grace!
The Son of God takes Adam’s place;
Down to our world the Saviour flies,
Stretches his arms, and bleeds, and dies.
Justice was pleas’d to bruise the God,
And pay its wrongs with heav’nly blood:
What unknown racks and pangs he bore!
Then rose; the law could ask no more.
Amazing work! look down, ye skies,
Wonder and gaze with all your eyes;
Ye heav’nly thrones, stoop from above,
And bow to this mysterious love.
Lo! they adore th’ incarnate Son,
And sing the glories he hath won;
Sing how he broke our iron chains,
How deep he sunk, how high he reigns!
Triumph and reign, victorious Lord,
By all the flaming hosts ador’d;
And say, dear Conqueror, say how long
Ere we shall rise to join their song.
Send down a chariot from above,
With fiery wheels, and pav’d with love
Raise us beyond th’ ethereal blue,
To sing and love as angels do.
—from The Psalms & Hymns of Isaac Watts. Hymns and Spiritual Songs. Book I: Collected from the Holy Scriptures (Soli Deo Gloria, 1997).
And you know the way where I am going.” 5 Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?” 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. 7 If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him.”
8 Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ’Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works. 11 Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves.”
We should mark in these verses how much better Jesus speaks of believers than they speak of themselves. He says to His disciples, “Ye know whither I go, and ye know the way.” And yet Thomas at once breaks in with the remark, “We know neither the whither nor the way.” The apparent contradiction demands explanation. It is more seeming than real.
Certainly, in one point of view, the knowledge of the disciples was very small. They knew little before the crucifixion and resurrection compared to what they might have known, and little compared to what they afterwards knew after the day of Pentecost. About our Lord’s purpose in coming into the world, about His sacrificial death and substitution for us on the cross, their ignorance was glaring and great. It might well be said, that they “knew in part” only, and were children in understanding.
And yet, in another point of view, the knowledge of the disciples was very great. They knew far more than the great majority of the Jewish nation, and received truths which the Scribes and Pharisees entirely rejected. Compared to the world around them, they were in the highest sense enlightened. They knew and believed that their Master was the promised Messiah, the Son of the living God; and to know Him was the first step towards heaven. All things go by comparison. Before we lightly esteem the disciples because of their ignorance, let us take care that we do not underrate their knowledge. They knew more precious truth than they were aware of themselves. Their hearts were better than their heads.
The plain truth is, that all believers are apt to undervalue the work of the Spirit in their own souls, and to fancy they know nothing because they do not know everything. Many true Christians are thought more of in heaven while they live, than they think of themselves, and will find it out to their surprise at the last day. There is One above who takes far more account of heart-knowledge than head-knowledge. Many go mourning all the way to heaven because they know so little, and fancy they will miss the way altogether, and yet have hearts with which God is well pleased.
We should mark, secondly, in these verses, what glorious names the Lord Jesus gives Himself. He says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” The fullness of these precious words can probably never be taken in by man. He that attempts to unfold them does little more than scratch the surface of a rich soil.
Christ is “the way,”—the way to heaven and peace with God. He is not only the guide, and teacher, and lawgiver, like Moses; He is Himself the door, the ladder, and the road, through whom we must draw near to God. He has opened the way to the tree of life, which was closed when Adam and Eve fell, by the satisfaction He made for us on the cross. Through His blood we may draw near with boldness, and have access with confidence into God’s presence.
Christ is “the truth,”—the whole substance of true religion which the mind of man requires. Without Him the wisest heathen groped in gross darkness and knew nothing about God. Before He came even the Jews saw “through a glass darkly,” and discerned nothing distinctly under the types, figures, and ceremonies of the Mosaic law. Christ is the whole truth, and meets and satisfies every desire of the human mind.
Christ is “the life,”—the sinner’s title to eternal life and pardon, the believer’s root of spiritual life and holiness, the surety of the Christian’s resurrection life. He that believeth on Christ hath everlasting life. He that abideth in Him, as the branch abides in the vine, shall bring forth much fruit. He that believeth on Him, though he were dead, yet shall he live. The root of all life, for soul and for body, is Christ.
Forever let us grasp and hold fast these truths. To use Christ daily as the way,—to believe Christ daily as the truth,—to live on Christ daily as the life,—this is to be a well-informed, a thoroughly furnished and an established Christian.
We should mark, thirdly, in these verses, how expressly the Lord Jesus shuts out all ways of salvation but Himself. “No man,” He declares, “No man comes unto the Father but by Me.”
It avails nothing that a man is clever, learned, highly gifted, amiable, charitable, kind-hearted, and zealous about some sort of religion. All this will not save his soul if he does not draw near to God by Christ’s atonement, and make use of God’s own Son as his Mediator and Saviour. God is so holy that all men are guilty and debtors in His sight. Sin is so sinful that no mortal man can make satisfaction for it. There must be a mediator, a ransom-payer, a redeemer, between ourselves and God, or else we can never be saved. There is only one door, one bridge, one ladder, between earth and heaven,—the crucified Son of God. Whoever will enter in by that door may be saved; but to him who refuses to use that door the Bible holds out, no hope at all. Without shedding of blood there is no remission.
Let us beware, if we love life, of supposing that mere earnestness will take a man to heaven, though he knows nothing of Christ. The idea is a deadly and ruinous error. Sincerity will never wipe away our sins. It is not true that every man will be saved by his own religion, no matter what he believes, so long as he is diligent and sincere. We must not pretend to be wiser than God. Christ has said, and Christ will stand to it, “No man cometh unto the Father but by Me.”
We should mark, lastly, in these verses, how close and mysterious is the union of God the Father and God the Son. Four times over this mighty truth is put before us in words that cannot be mistaken. “If ye had known Me, ye would have known my Father.”—“He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father.”—“I am in the Father, and the Father in Me.”—“The Father that dwelleth in Me, He doeth the works.”
Sayings like these are full of deep mystery. We have no eyes to see their meaning fully,—no line to fathom it,—no language to express it,—no mind to take it in. We must be content to believe when we cannot explain, and to admire and revere when we cannot interpret. Let it suffice us to know and hold that the Father is God and the Son is God, and yet that they are one in essence though two distinct Persons,—ineffably one, and yet ineffably distinct. These are high things, and we cannot attain to a full comprehension of them.
Let us however take comfort in the simple truth, that Christ is very God of very God; equal with the Father in all things, and One with Him. He who loved us, and shed His blood for us on the cross, and bids us trust Him for pardon, is no mere man like ourselves. He is “God over all, blessed forever,” and able to save to the uttermost the chief of sinners. Though our sins be as scarlet, He can make them white as snow. He that casts his soul on Christ has an Almighty Friend,—a Friend who is One with the Father, and very God.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.