Christ Is All (2)
Let us understand that ‘Christ is all’ in the religion of all true Christians on earth.
In saying this, I wish to guard myself against being misunderstood. I hold the absolute necessity of the election of God the Father, and the sanctification of God the Spirit, in order to effect the salvation of everyone that is saved. I hold that there is a perfect harmony and unison in the action of the three Persons of the Trinity, in bringing any man to glory, and that all three co-operate and work a joint work in his deliverance from sin and hell. Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Ghost. The Father is merciful, the Son is merciful, the Holy Ghost is merciful. The same three who said at the beginning, ‘Let us create,’ said also, ‘Let us redeem and save.’ I hold that everyone who reaches heaven will ascribe all the glory of his salvation to Father, Son and Holy Ghost, three Persons in one God.
But, at the same time, I see clear proof in Scripture that it is the mind of the blessed Trinity that Christ should be prominently and distinctly exalted in the matter of saving souls. Christ is set forth as the ‘Word,’ through whom God’s love to sinners is made known. Christ’s incarnation and atoning death on the cross are the great corner-stone on which the whole plan of salvation rests. Christ is the way and door, by which alone approaches to God are to be made. Christ is the root into which all elect sinners must be grafted. Christ is the only meeting-place between God and man, between heaven and earth, between the Holy Trinity and the poor sinful child of Adam. It is Christ whom God the Father has ‘sealed’ and appointed to convey life to a dead world (John 6:27). It is Christ to whom the Father has given a people to be brought to glory. It is Christ of whom the Spirit testifies, and to whom He always leads a soul for pardon and peace. In short, it has ‘pleased the Father that in Christ all fulness should dwell’ (Col. 1:19). What the sun is in the firmament of heaven, that Christ is in true Christianity.
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(a) Christ is all in a sinner’s justification before God.
Through Him alone we can have peace with a Holy God, By Him alone we can have admission into the presence of the Most High, and stand there without fear. ‘We have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of Him.’ In Him alone can God be just, and justify the ungodly (Eph. 3:12; Rom. 3:26).
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We must come in the name of Jesus—standing on no other ground—pleading no other plea than this, ‘Christ died on the cross for the ungodly, and I trust in Him. Christ died for me, and I believe on Him.’
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(b) But again, Christ is not only all in the justification of a true Christian, but He is also all in his sanctification.
I would not have anyone misunderstand me. I do not mean for a moment to undervalue the work of the Spirit. But this I say, that no man is ever holy till he comes to Christ and is united to Him. Till then his works are dead works, and he has no holiness at all.—First you must be joined to Christ, and then you shall be holy. ‘Without Him—separate from Him—you can do nothing’ (John 15:5).
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(c) But again, Christ is not only all in the sanctification of a true Christian, but all in his comfort in time present.
A saved soul has many sorrows. He has a body like other men—weak and frail. He has a heart like other men—and often a more sensitive one, too. He has trials and losses to bear like others—and often more. He has his share of bereavements, deaths, disappointments, crosses. He has the world to oppose—a place in life to fill blamelessly—unconverted relatives to bear with patiently—persecutions to endure—and a death to die.
And who is sufficient for these things? What shall enable a believer to bear all this? Nothing but ‘the consolation there is in Christ’ (Phil. 2:1).
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(d) But as Christ is all in the comforts of a true Christian in time present, so Christ is all in his hopes for time to come.
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A true Christian has a good hope when he looks forward: the worldly man has none. A true Christian sees light in the distance: the worldly man sees nothing but darkness. And what is the hope of a true Christian? It is just this—that Jesus Christ is coming again, coming without sin—coming with all His people, coming to wipe away every tear—coming to raise His sleeping saints from the grave—coming to gather together all His family, that they may be for ever with Him.
Why is a believer patient? because he looks for the coming of the Lord. He can bear hard things without murmuring. He knows the time is short. He waits quietly for the King. Why is he moderate in all things? Because he expects his Lord soon to return. His treasure is in heaven, his good things are yet to come. The world is not his rest, but an inn; and an inn is not home. He knows that ‘He that shall come will soon come, and will not tarry.’ Christ is coming, and that is enough (Heb. 10:37).
—J. C. Ryle, Holiness (Banner of Truth, 2014), 422–429.
What It Means to Be a Christian
What I Believe