I. THE IMPORTANCE OF THE DOCTRINE.
The prominence given to the doctrine of Repentance in the Scriptures can hardly be overestimated. John the Baptist began his public ministry, as did Jesus also, with the call to repentance upon his lips (Matt.3:1, 2; 4:17).
When Jesus sent forth the twelve and the seventy messengers to proclaim the good news of the kingdom of heaven, He commanded them to preach repentance (Luke 24:47; Mark 6:12).
Foremost in the preaching of the apostles was the doctrine of repentance; Peter, (Acts 2:38); Paul, (Acts 20:21).
The burden of the heart of God, and His one command to all men everywhere, is that they should repent (2 Pet.3:9; Acts 17:30).
Indeed, failure on the part of man to heed God's call to repentance means that he shall utterly perish (Luke 13:3).
Does the doctrine of repentance find such a prominent place in the preaching and teaching of today? Has the need for repentance diminished? Has God lessened or changed the terms of admission into His kingdom?
II. THE NATURE OF REPENTANCE.
There is a three-fold idea involved in true repentance:
1. AS TOUCHING THE INTELLECT.
Matt.21:29 -- "He answered and said: I will not; but afterward he repented, and went". The word here used for "repent" means to change one's mind, thought, purpose, views regarding a matter; it is to have another mind about a thing. So we may speak of it as a revolution touching our attitude and views towards sin and righteousness. This change is well illustrated in the action of the Prodigal Son, and of the Publican in the well-known story of the Pharisee and the Publican (Luke 15 and 18). Thus, when Peter, on the day of Pentecost, called upon the Jews to repent (Acts 2:14-40), he virtually called upon them to change their minds and their views regarding Christ. They had considered Christ to be a mere man, a blasphemer, an impostor. The events of the few preceding days had proven to them that He was none other than the righteous Son of God, their Saviour and the Saviour of the world. The result of their repentance or change of mind would be that they would receive Jesus Christ as their long promised Messiah.
2. AS TOUCHING THE EMOTIONS.
2 Cor.7:9 -- "Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance; for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing." The context (vv.7-11) shows what a large part the feelings played in true Gospel repentance. See also Luke 10:13; cf. Gen.6:6. The Greek word for repentance in this connection means "to be a care to one afterwards," to cause one great concern. The Hebrew equivalent is even stronger, and means to pant, to sigh, to moan. So the publican "beat upon his breast," indicating sorrow of heart. Just how much emotion is necessary to true repentance no one can definitely say. But that a certain amount of heart movement, even though it be not accompanied with a flood of tears, or even a single tear, accompanies all true repentance is evident from the use of this word. See also Psa.38:18.
3. AS TOUCHING THE WILL AND DISPOSITION.
One of the Hebrew words for repent means "to turn." The prodigal said, "I will arise.... and he arose" (Luke 15:18, 20). He not only thought upon his ways, and felt sorry because of them, but he turned his steps in the direction of home. So that in a very real sense repentance is a crisis with a changed experience in view. Repentance is not only a heart broken for sin, but from sin also. We must forsake what we would have God remit. In the writings of Paul repentance is more of an experience than a single act. The part of the will and disposition in repentance is shown:
a) In the Confession of Sin to God.
Psa.38:18 -- "For I will declare mine iniquity: I will be sorry for my sin." The publican beat upon his breast, and said, "God be merciful to me a sinner" (Luke 18:13). The prodigal said, "I have sinned against heaven" (Luke 15:21).
There must be confession to man also in so far as man has been wronged in and by our sin (Matt.5:23, 24; James 5:16).
b) In the Forsaking of Sin.
Isa.55:7 -- "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return unto the Lord." Prov.28:13; Matt.3:8, 10.
c) In Turning Unto God.
It is not enough to turn away from sin; we must turn unto God; 1 Thess.1:9; Acts 26:18.
III. HOW REPENTANCE IS PRODUCED.
1. IT IS A DIVINE GIFT.
Acts 11:18 -- "Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life." 2 Tim.2:25 -- "If God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth." Acts 5:30, 31. Repentance is not something which one can originate within himself, or can pump up within himself as one would pump water out of a well. It is a divine gift. How then is man responsible for not having it? We are called upon to repent in order that we may feel our own inability to do so, and consequently be thrown upon God and petition Him to perform this work of grace in our hearts.
2. YET THIS DIVINE GIFT IS BROUGHT ABOUT THROUGH THE USE OF MEANS.
Acts 2:37, 38, 41. The very Gospel which calls for repentance produces it. How well this is illustrated in the experience of the people of Nineveh (Jonah 3:5-10)! When they heard the preaching of the word of God by Jonah they believed the message and turned unto God. Not any message, but the Gospel is the instrument that God uses to bring about this desired end. Furthermore, this message must be preached in the power of the Holy Spirit (1 Thess.1:5-10).
Rom.2:4 -- "Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and long-suffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?" Also 2 Pet.3:9. Prosperity too often leads away from God, but it is the divine intention that it should lead to God. Revivals come mostly in times of panic.
Rev.3:19; Heb.12:6, 10, 11. The chastisements of God are sometimes for the purpose of bringing His wandering children back to repentance.
2 Tim.2:24, 25. God oftentimes uses the loving, Christian reproof of a brother to be the means of bringing us back to God.
IV. THE RESULTS OF REPENTANCE.
1. ALL HEAVEN IS MADE GLAD.
Luke 15:7, 10. Joy in heaven, and in the presence of the angels of God. Makes glad the heart of God, and sets the bells of heaven ringing. Who are those "in the presence of the angels of God"? Do the departed loved ones know anything about it?
2. IT BRINGS PARDON AND FORGIVENESS OF SIN.
Isa.55:7; Acts 3:19. Outside of repentance the prophets and apostles know of no way of securing pardon. No sacrifices, nor religious ceremonies can secure it. Not that repentance merits forgiveness, but it is a condition of it. Repentance qualifies a man for a pardon, but it does not entitle him to it.
3. THE HOLY SPIRIT IS POURED OUT UPON THE PENITENT.
Acts 2:38 -- "Repent... and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost." Impenitence keeps back the full incoming of the Spirit into the heart.
I. THE IMPORTANCE OF THE DOCTRINE.
II. THE DEFINITION OF FAITH.
1. IN GENERAL:
2. IN PARTICULAR:
a) Towards God.
b) Towards Christ.
c) In Prayer.
d) In the Word of God.
3. RELATION OF FAITH TO WORKS.
III. THE SOURCE OF FAITH.
1. THE DIVINE SIDE.
2. THE HUMAN SIDE.
3. MEANS USED.
IV. SOME RESULTS OF FAITH.
2. JOY AND PEACE.
3. DO GREAT WORKS.
I. THE IMPORTANCE OF THE DOCTRINE.
Faith is fundamental in Christian creed and conduct. It was the one thing which above all others Christ recognized as the paramount virtue. The Syrophoenician woman (Matt.15) had perseverance; the centurion (Matt.8), humility; the blind man (Mark 10), earnestness. But what Christ saw and rewarded in each of these cases was faith. Faith is the foundation of Peter's spiritual temple (2 Pet.1:5-7); and first in Paul's trinity of graces (1 Cor.13:13). In faith all the other graces find their source.
II. THE DEFINITION OF FAITH.
Faith is used in the Scriptures in a general and in a particular sense.
1. ITS GENERAL MEANING:
Psa.9:10 -- "And they that know thy name will put their trust in thee." Rom.10:17 -- "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." Faith is not believing a thing without evidence; on the contrary faith rests upon the best of evidence, namely, the Word of God. An act of faith denotes a manifestation of the intelligence: "How shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard?" Faith is no blind act of the soul; it is not a leap in the dark. Such a thing as believing with the heart without the head is out of the question. A man may believe with his head without believing with his heart; but he cannot believe with his heart without believing with his head too. The heart, in the Scriptures, means the whole man -- intellect, sensibilities, and will. "As a man thinketh in his heart." "Why reason ye these things in your hearts?"
Mark 12:32 -- "And the scribe said unto him, Well, Master, thou hast said the truth." So was it with the faith which Christ demanded in His miracles: "Believe ye that I am able to do this?" "Yea, Lord." There must not only be the knowledge that Jesus is able to save, and that He is the Saviour of the world; there must be also an assent of the heart to all these claims. Those who, receiving Christ to be all that He claimed to be, believed in Him, became thereby sons of God (John 1:12).
John 1:12; 2:24. There must be an appropriation of the things which we know and assent to concerning the Christ and His work. Intelligent perception is not faith. A man may know Christ as divine, and yet aside from that reject him as Saviour. Knowledge affirms the reality of these things but neither accepts nor rejects them. Nor is assent faith. There is an assent of the mind which does not convey a surrender of the heart and affections.
Faith is the consent of the will to the assent of the understanding. Faith always has in it the idea of action -- movement towards its object. It is the soul leaping forth to embrace and appropriate the Christ in whom it believes. It first says: "My Lord and my God," and then falls down and worships.
A distinction between believing about Christ and on Christ is made in John 8:30, 31, R. V. -- "Many believed on him.... Jesus therefore said to those Jews that had believed him."
S. THE MEANING OF FAITH IN PARTICULAR:
a) When Used in Connection with the Name of God.
Heb.11:6 -- "But without faith it is impossible to please him; for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him." Also Acts 27:22-25; Rom.4:19-21 with Gen.15:4-6. There can be no dealings with the invisible God unless there is absolute faith in His existence. We must believe in His reality, even though He is unseen. But we must believe even more than the fact of His existence; namely, that He is a rewarder, that He will assuredly honor with definite blessing those who approach unto Him in prayer. Importunity will, of course, be needed (Luke 11:5-10).
There must be confidence in the Word of God also. Faith believes all that God says as being absolutely true, even though circumstances seem to be against its fulfillment.
b) When Used in Connection with the Person and Work of Christ.
Recall the three elements in faith, and apply them here.
First, there must be a knowledge of the claims of Christ as to His person and mission in the world: As to His person -- that He is deity, John 9:35-38; 10:30; Phil.2:6-ll. As to His work -- Matt.20:28; 26:26-28; Luke 24:27, 44.
Second, there must be an assent to all these claims, John 16:30; 20:28; Matt.16:16; John 6:68, 69.
Third, there must be a personal appropriation of Christ as being all that He claims to be, John 1:12, 8:21, 24; 5:24. There must be surrender to a person, and not mere faith in a creed. Faith in a doctrine must lead to faith in a person, and that person Jesus Christ, if salvation is to be the result of such belief. So Martha was led to substitute faith in a doctrine for faith in a person (John 11:25).
It is such faith -- consisting of knowledge, assent, and appropriation -- that saves. This is believing with the heart (Rom.10:9,10).
c) When Used in Connection with Prayer.
Three passages may be used to set forth this relationship: 1 John 5:14, 15; James 1:5-7, Mark 11:24. There must be no hesitation which balances between belief and unbelief, and inclines toward the latter -- tossed one moment upon the shore of faith and hope, the next tossed back again into the abyss of unbelief. To "doubt" means to reason whether or no the thing concerning which you are making request can be done (Acts 10:20; Rom.4:20). Such a man only conjectures; he does not really believe. Real faith thanks God for the thing asked for, if that thing is in accord with the will of God, even before it receives it (Mark 11:24). Note the slight: "that man."
We must recognize the fact that knowledge, assent, and appropriation exist here also. We must understand the promises on which we base our prayer; we must believe that they are worth their full face value; and then step out upon them, thereby giving substance to that which, at the moment may be unseen, and, perchance, nonexistent, so far as our knowledge and vision are concerned, but which to faith is a splendid reality.
d) When Used in Connection with the Word and Promise of God.
First, we should know whether the particular promise in question is intended for us in particular. There is a difference in a promise being written for us and to us. There are dispensational aspects to many of the promises in the Bible, therefore we must rightly divide, apportion, and appropriate the Word of God (cf. I Cor.10:32).
Second, when once we are persuaded that a promise is for us, we must believe that God means all He says in that promise; we must assent to all its truth; we must not diminish nor discount it. God will not, cannot lie (Titus 1:2).
Third, we must appropriate and act upon the promises. Herein lies the difference between belief and faith. Belief is mental; faith adds the volitional; we may have belief without the will, but not faith. Belief is a realm of thought; faith is a sphere of action. Belief lives in the study; faith comes out into the market-places and the streets. Faith substantiates belief -- gives substance, life, reality, and activity to it (Heb.11:1). Faith puts belief into active service, and connects possibilities with actualities. Faith is acting upon what you believe; it is appropriation. Faith counts every promise valid, and gilt-edged (Heb.11:11); no trial can shake it (11:35); it is so absolute that it survives the loss of its own pledge even (11:17). For illustration, see I Kings 18:41-43.
3. THE RELATION OF FAITH TO WORKS.
There is no merit in faith alone. It is not mere faith that saves, but faith in Christ. Faith in any other saviour but Christ will not save. Faith in any other gospel than that of the New Testament will not save (Gal.1:8, 9).
There is no contradiction between Paul and James touching the matter of faith and works (cf. James 2:14-26; Rom.4:1-12). Paul is looking at the matter from the Godward side, and asserts that we are justified, in the sight of God, meritoriously, without absolutely any works on our part. James considers the matter from the manward side, and asserts that we are justified, in the sight of man, evidentially, by works, and not by faith alone (2:24). In James it is not the ground of justification, as in Paul, but the demonstration. See under Justification, II.4, p.159.
III. THE SOURCE OF FAITH.
There are two sides to this phase of the subject -- a divine and a human side.
1. IT IS THE WORK OF THE TRIUNE GOD. God the Father: Rom.12:3; I Cor.12. This is true of faith both in its beginning (Phil.1:29) and its development (1 Cor.12). Faith, then, is a gift of His grace.
God the Son: Heb.12:2 -- "Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith." (Illustration, Matt.14:30, 31 -- Peter taking his eyes off Christ.) I Cor.12; Luke 17:5.
God the Spirit: Gal.5:22; I Cor.12:9. The Holy Spirit is the executive of the Godhead.
Why then, if faith is the work of the Godhead, are we responsible for not having it? God wills to work faith in all His creatures, and will do so if they do not resist His Holy Spirit. We are responsible, therefore, not so much for the lack of faith, but for resisting the Spirit who will create faith in our hearts if we will permit Him to do so.
2. THERE IS ALSO A HUMAN SIDE TO FAITH.
Rom.10:17 -- "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (cf. the context, vv.9-21.) Acts 4:4 -- "Howbeit many of them which heard the word believed." In this instance the spoken word, the Gospel, is referred to; in other cases the written Word, the Scriptures, are referred to as being instrumental in producing faith. See also Gal.3:2-5. It was a looking unto the promises of God that brought such faith into the heart of Abraham (Rom.4:19).
Prayer also is an instrument in the development of faith. Luke is called the human Gospel because it makes so much of prayer, especially in connection with faith: 22:32 -- "But I have prayed for thee that thy faith fail not." 17:5 -- "And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith." See also Mark 9:24; Matt.17:19-21.
Our faith grows by the use of the faith we already have. Luke 17:5, 6; Matt.25:39.
IV. SOME RESULTS OF FAITH.
1. WE ARE SAVED BY FAITH.
We, of course, recall that the saving power of faith resides not in itself, but in the Almighty Saviour on whom it rests; so that, properly speaking, it is not so much faith, as it is faith in Christ that saves.
The whole of our salvation -- past, present, and future, is dependent upon faith. Our acceptance of Christ (John 1:12); our justification (Rom.5:1); our adoption (Gal.3:26); our sanctification (Acts 26:18); our keeping (1 Pet.1:5), indeed our whole salvation from start to finish is dependent upon faith.
2. REST, PEACE, ASSURANCE, JOY.
Isa.26:3; Phil.4:6; Rom.5:1; Heb.4:1-3; John 14:1; 1 Pet.1:8. Fact, faith, feeling -- this is God's order. Satan would reverse this order and put feeling before faith, and thus confuse the child of God. We should march in accord with God's order: Fact leads, Faith with its eye on Fact, following, and Feeling with the eye on Faith bringing up the rear. All goes well as long as this order is observed. But the moment Faith turns his back on Fact, and looks at Feeling, the procession wabbles. Steam is of main importance, not for sounding the whistle, but for moving the wheels; and if there is a lack of steam we shall not remedy it by attempting by our own effort to move the piston or blow the whistle, but by more water in the boiler, and more fire under it. Feed Faith with Facts, not with Feeling. -- A. T. Pierson.
3. DO EXPLOITS THROUGH FAITH.
Heb.11:32-34; Matt.21:21; John 14:12. Note the wonderful things done by the men of faith as recorded in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews. Read vv.32-40. Jesus attributes a kind of omnipotence to faith. The disciple, by faith, will be able to do greater things than his Master. Here is a mighty Niagara of power for the believer. The great question for the Christian to answer is not "What can I do?" but "How much can I believe?" for "all things are possible to him that believeth."
C. REGENERATION, OR THE NEW BIRTH.
I. ITS NATURE.
II. ITS NECESSITY.
III. THE MEANS.
C. REGENERATION, OR THE NEW BIRTH.
It is of the utmost importance that we have a clear understanding of this vital doctrine. By Regeneration we are admitted into the kingdom of God. There is no other way of becoming a Christian but by being born from above. This doctrine, then, is the door of entrance into Christian discipleship. He who does not enter here, does not enter at all.
I. THE NATURE OF REGENERATION.
Too often do we find other things substituted by man for God's appointed means of entrance into the kingdom of heaven. It will be well for us then to look, first of all, at some of these substitutes.
1. REGENERATION IS NOT BAPTISM.
It is claimed that John 3:5 -- "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit," and Titus 3:5 -- "The washing of regeneration," teach that regeneration may occur in connection with baptism. These passages, however, are to be understood in a figurative sense, as meaning the cleansing power of the Word of God. See also Eph.5:26 -- "With the washing of water by (or in) the word"; John 15:3 -- "Clean through the word." That the Word of God is an agent in regeneration is clear from James 1:18, and 1 Pet.1:23.
If baptism and regeneration were identical, why should the Apostle Paul seem to make so little of that rite (1 Cor.4:15, and compare with it 1 Cor.1:14)? In the first passage Paul asserts that he had begotten them through the Gospel; and in 1:14 he declares that he baptized none of them save Crispus and Gaius. Could he thus speak of baptism if it had been the means through which they had been begotten again? Simon Magus was baptized (Acts 8), but was he saved? Cornelius (Acts 11) was saved even before he was baptized.
2. REFORMATION IS NOT REGENERATION.
Regeneration is not a natural forward step in man's development; it is a supernatural act of God; it is a spiritual crisis. It is not evolution, but involution -- the communication of a new life. It is a revolution -- a change of direction resulting from that life. Herein lies the danger in psychology, and in the statistics regarding the number of conversions during the period of adolescence. The danger lies in the tendency to make regeneration a natural phenomenon, an advanced step in the development of a human life, instead of regarding it as a crisis. Such a psychological view of regeneration denies man's sin, his need of Christ, the necessity of an atonement, and the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit.
3. REGENERATION IS A SPIRITUAL QUICKENING, A NEW BIRTH.
Regeneration is the impartation of a new and divine life; a new creation; the production of a new thing. It is Gen.1:26 over again. It is not the old nature altered, reformed, or re-invigorated, but a new birth from above. This is the teaching of such passages as John 3:3-7; 5:21; Eph.2:1, 10; 2 Cor.5:17.
By nature man is dead in sin (Eph.2:1); the new birth imparts to him new life -- the life of God, so that henceforth he is as those that are alive from the dead; he has passed out of death into life (John 5:24).
4. IT IS THE IMPARTATION OF A NEW NATURE -- GOD'S NATURE.
In regeneration we are made partakers of the divine nature (2 Pet.1:4). We have put on the new man, which after God is created in holiness and righteousness (Eph.4:11; Col.3:10). Christ now lives in the believer (Gal.2:20). God's seed now abides in him (1 John 3:9). So that henceforth the believer is possessed of two natures (Gal.5:17).
5. A NEW AND DIVINE IMPULSE IS GIVEN TO THE BELIEVER.
Thus regeneration is a crisis with a view to a process. A new governing power comes into the regenerate man's life by which he is enabled to become holy in experience: "Old things are passed away; behold all things are become new" (2 Cor.5:17). See also Acts 16:14, and Ezek.36:25-27, 1 John 3:6-9.
II. THE IMPERATIVE NECESSITY OF THE NEW BIRTH.
1. THE NECESSITY IS UNIVERSAL.
The need is as far reaching as sin and the human race: "Except a man (lit. anybody) be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3, cf. v.5). No age, sex, position, condition exempts anyone from this necessity. Not to be born again is to be lost. There is no substitute for the new birth: "Neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature" (Gal.6:15). The absolute necessity is clearly stated by our Lord: whatever is born of the flesh, must be born again of the Spirit (John 3:3-7).
2. THE SINFUL CONDITION OF MAN DEMANDS IT.
John 3:6 -- "That which is born of the flesh is flesh" -- and it can never, by any human process, become anything else. "Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good that are accustomed to do evil" (Jer.13:23). "They that are in the flesh cannot please God" (Rom.8:8); in our "flesh dwelleth no good thing" (Rom.7:18). The mind is darkened so that we cannot apprehend spiritual truth; we need a renewing of the mind (Rom.12:2). The heart is deceitful, and does not welcome God; we need to be pure in heart to see God. There is no thought of God before the eyes of the natural man; we need a change in nature that we may be counted among those "who thought upon His name." No education or culture can bring about such a needed change. God alone can do it.
3. THE HOLINESS OF GOD DEMANDS IT.
If without holiness no man shall see the Lord (Heb.12:14); and if holiness is not to be attained by any natural development or self-effort, then the regeneration of our nature is absolutely necessary. This change, which enables us to be holy, takes place when we are born again.
Man is conscious that he does not have this holiness by nature; he is conscious, too, that he must have it in order to appear before God (Ezra 9:15). The Scriptures corroborate this consciousness in man, and, still further, state the necessity of such a righteousness with which to appear before God. In the new birth alone is the beginning of such a life to be found. To live the life of God we must have the nature of God.
III. THE MEANS OF REGENERATION.
1. REGENERATION IS A DIVINE WORK.
We are "born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God" (John 1:13). It was of His own will he begat us (Jas.1:18): Our regeneration is a creative act on the part of God, not a reforming process on the part of man. It is not brought about by natural descent, for all we get from that is "flesh." It is not by natural choice, for the human will is impotent. Nor is it by self-effort, or any human generative principle. Nor is it by the blood of any ceremonial sacrifices. It is not by pedigree or natural generation. It is altogether and absolutely the work of God. Practically speaking, we have no more to do with our second birth, than we had to do with our first birth.
The Holy Spirit is the Divine Agent in our regeneration. For this reason it is called the "renewing of the Holy Ghost" (Tit.3:5). We are "born of the Spirit" (John 3:5).
2. AND YET THERE IS A HUMAN SIDE TO THE WORK.
John 1:12 and 13 bring together these two thoughts -- the divine and the human in regeneration: Those who received Him (i. e., Christ)....were born of God. The two great problems connected with regeneration are the efficiency of God and the activity of man.
a) Man Is Regenerated by Means of the Acceptance of the Message of the Gospel.
God begat us by "the word of truth" (James 1:18). We are "born again," says Peter (1 Ep.1:23), "of incorruptible seed, by the word of God." We are "begotten through the gospel" (1 Cor.4:15). These scriptures teach us that regeneration takes place in the heart of man when he reads or hears the Word of God, or the Gospel message, or both, and, because of the Spirit working in the Word as well as in the heart of man, the man opens his heart and receives that message as the Word of life to his soul. The truth is illuminated, as is also the mind, by the Spirit; the man yields to the truth, and is born again. Of course, even here, we must remember that it is the Lord who must open our hearts just as He opened the heart of Lydia (Acts 16:14). But the Word must be believed and received by man.1 Pet.1:25.
b) Man Is Regenerated by the Personal Acceptance of Jesus Christ.
This is the clear teaching of John 1:12, 13 and Gal.3:26. We become "children of God by faith in Jesus Christ." When a man, believing in the claims of Jesus Christ receives Him to be all that He claimed to be -- that man is born again.
Man therefore is not wholly passive at the time of his regeneration. He is passive only as to the change of his ruling disposition. With regard to the exercise of this disposition he is active. A dead man cannot assist in his own resurrection, it is true; but he may, and can, like Lazarus, obey Christ's command, and "Come forth!"
Psa.90:16, 17 illustrates both the divine and human part: "Let thy work appear unto thy servants," and then "the work of our hands establish thou it." God's work appears first, then man's. So Phil.2:12,13.
I. ITS MEANING.
II. ITS METHOD.
1. NOT BY LAW.
I. THE MEANING OF JUSTIFICATION.
It is a change in a man's relation or standing before God. It has to do with relations that have been disturbed by sin, and these relations are personal. It is a change from guilt and condemnation to acquittal and acceptance. Regeneration has to do with the change of the believer's nature; Justification, with the change of his standing before God. Regeneration is subjective; Justification is objective. The former has to do with man's state; the latter, with his standing.
2. ACCORDING TO THE LANGUAGE AND USAGE OF THE SCRIPTURES.
According to Deut.25:1 it means to declare, or to cause to appear innocent or righteous; Rom.4:2-8: to reckon righteous; Psa.32:2: not to impute iniquity. One thing at least is clear from these verses, and that is, that to justify does not mean to make one righteous. Neither the Hebrew nor Greek words will bear such meaning. To justify means to set forth as righteous; to declare righteous in a legal sense; to put a person in a right relation. It does not deal, at least not directly, with character or conduct; it is a question of relationship. Of course both character and conduct will be conditioned and controlled by this relationship. No real righteousness on the part of the person justified is to be asserted, but that person is declared to be righteous and is treated as such. Strictly speaking then, Justification is the judicial act of God whereby those who put faith in Christ are declared righteous in His eyes, and free from guilt and punishment.
3. JUSTIFICATION CONSISTS OF TWO ELEMENTS.
a) The Forgiveness of Sin, and the Removal of Its Guilt and Punishment.
It is difficult for us to understand God's feeling towards sin. To us forgiveness seems easy, largely because we are indifferent towards sin. But to a holy God it is different. Even men sometimes find it hard to forgive when wronged. Nevertheless God gladly forgives.
Micah 7:18,19 -- "Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he retaineth not his anger forever, because he delighteth in mercy . . . . he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea." See also Psa.130:4. What a wondrous forgiveness!
Forgiveness may be considered as the cessation of the moral anger and resentment of God against sin; or as a release from the guilt of sin which oppresses the conscience; or, again, as a remission of the punishment of sin, which is eternal death.
In Justification, then, all our sins are forgiven, and the guilt and punishment thereof removed (Acts 13:38, 39; Rom.8:1). God sees the believer as without sin and guilt in Christ (Num.23:21; Rom.8:33, 34).
b) The Imputation of Christ's Righteousness, and Restoration to God's Favor.
The forgiven sinner is not like the discharged prisoner who has served out his term and is discharged from further punishment, but with no rights of citizenship. No, justification means much more than acquittal. The repentant sinner receives back in his pardon, the full rights of citizenship. The Society of Friends called themselves Friends, not because they were friends one to another but because, being justified, they counted themselves friends of God as was Abraham (2 Chron.20:7, James 2:23). There is also the imputation of the righteousness of Jesus Christ to the sinner. His righteousness is "unto all and upon all them that believe" (Rom.3:22). See Rom.5:17-21; 1 Cor.1:30. For illustration, see Philemon 18.
II. THE METHOD OF JUSTIFICATION.
1. NEGATIVELY: NOT BY WORKS OF THE LAW.
Rom.3:20 -- "Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight; for by the law is the knowledge of sin." "Therefore" implies that a judicial trial has taken place and a judgment pronounced. At the bar of God no man can be counted righteous in His sight because of his obedience to law. The burden of the Epistle to the Romans is to set forth this great truth. As a means of establishing right relations with God the law is totally insufficient. There is no salvation by character. What men need is salvation from character.
The reason why the law cannot justify is here stated: "For by the law is the knowledge of sin." The law can open the sinner's eyes to his sin, but it cannot remove it. Indeed, it was never intended to remove it, but to intensify it. The law simply defines sin, and makes it sinful, yea, exceedingly sinful, but it does not emancipate from it. Gal.3:10 gives us a further reason why justification cannot take place by obedience to the law. The law demands perfect and continual obedience: "Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them." No man can render a perfect and perpetual obedience, therefore justification by obedience to the law is impossible. The only thing the law can do is to stop the mouth of every man, and declare him guilty before God (Rom.3:19, 20).
Gal.2:16, and 3:10, Rom.3:28, are very explicit in their denial of justification by law. It is a question of Moses or Christ, works or faith, law or promise, doing or believing, wages or a free gift.
2. POSITIVELY: BY GOD'S PEEE GRACE -- THE ORIGIN OR SOURCE OF JUSTIFICATION.
Rom.3:24 -- "Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." "Freely" denotes that it is granted without anything done on our part to merit or deserve it. From the contents of the epistle up to this point it must be clearly evident that if men, sinful and sinning, are to be justified at all, it must be "by his free grace."
3. BY THE BLOOD OF JESUS CHRIST -- THE GROUND OF JUSTIFICATION.
Rom.3:24 -- "Being justified . . . . through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." 5:9 -- "Much more then, being now justified by his blood." 2 Cor.5:21 (R. V.) -- "Him who knew no sin he made to be sin on our behalf; that we might become the righteousness of God in him." The bloodshedding of Christ is here connected with justification. It is impossible to get rid of this double idea from this passage. The sacrifices of the Old Testament were more than a meaningless butchery -- "Without shedding of blood is no remission" of sin (Heb.9:22). The great sacrifice of the New Testament, the death of Jesus Christ, was something more than the death of a martyr -- men are "justified by his blood" (Rom.5:9).
4. BY BELIEVING IN JESUS CHRIST -- THE CONDITION OF JUSTIFICATION.
Gal.2:16 -- "Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ," or as the Revised Version margin has it: "But only through faith in Jesus Christ." Rom.3:26 -- "To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness; that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus." "Him that believeth in Jesus" is contrasted with "as many as are of the works of the law" (Gal.3:10). When Paul in Romans 4:5 says: "Now to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly," he gives the death-blow to Jewish righteousness. "His faith is counted for righteousness;" that pictures the man who, despairing of all dependence upon his works, casts himself unreservedly upon the mercy of God, as set forth in Jesus Christ, for his justification. Thus it come to pass that "all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses" (Acts 13:39). The best of men need to be saved by faith in Jesus Christ, and the worst need only that. As there is no difference in the need, neither is there in the method of its application. On this common ground all saved sinners meet, and will stand forever. The first step, then, in justification is to despair of works; the second, to believe on him that justifieth the ungodly.
We are not to slight good works, for they have their place, but they follow, not precede justification. The workingman is not the justified man, but the justified man is the workingman. Works are not meritorious, but they meet with their reward in the life of the justified. The tree shows its life by its fruits, but it was alive before the fruit or even the leaves appeared. (See under Faith, II.3, p.148, for further suggestions regarding the relation between faith and works.)
Summing up we may say that men are justified judicially by God. (Rom.8:33); meritoriously by Christ, (Isa.53:11); mediately by faith, (Rom.5:1); evidentially
THE DOCTRINES OF SALVATION
I. THE MEANING OF ADOPTION.
II. THE TIME OF ADOPTION.
III. THE BLESSINGS OF ADOPTION.
IV. SOME EVIDENCES OF SONSHIP.
Regeneration begins the new life in the soul; justification deals with the new attitude of God towards that soul, or perhaps better, of that soul towards God; adoption admits man into the family of God with filial joy. Regeneration has to do with our change in nature; justification, with our change in standing; sanctification, with our change in character; adoption, with our change in position. In regeneration the believer becomes a child of God (John 1:12,13); in adoption, the believer, already a child, receives a place as an adult son; thus the child becomes a son, the minor becomes an adult (Gal.4:1-7).
I. THE MEANING OF ADOPTION.
Adoption means the placing of a son. It is a legal metaphor as regeneration is a physical one. It is a Roman word, for adoption was hardly, if at all, known among the Jews. It means the taking by one man of the son of another to be his son, so that that son has the same position and all the advantages of a son by birth. The word is Pauline, not Johannine. The word is never once used of Christ. It is used of the believer when the question of rights, privileges, and heirship are involved. It is peculiarly a Pauline word (Gal.4:5; Rom.8:15, 23; 9:4; Eph.1:5). John uses the word "children," not "sons," because he is always speaking of sonship from the standpoint of nature, growth, and likeness (cf.1 John 3:1, R. V.).
Exodus 2:10 and Heb.11:24, furnish two splendid illustrations of the Scriptural sense and use of adoption.
II. THE TIME WHEN ADOPTION TAKES PLACE.
1. IN A CERTAIN SENSE IT IS ETERNAL IN ITS NATURE.
Eph.1:4, 5 -- Before the foundation of the world we were predestinated unto the adoption of children. We need to distinguish between the foreordaining to adoption, and the actual act of adoption which took place when we believed in Christ. Just as the incarnation was foreordained, and yet took place in time; and just as the Lamb was slain from before the foundation of the word, and yet actually only on Calvary. Why then mention this eternal aspect of adoption? To exclude works and to show that our salvation had its origin solely in the grace of God (Rom.9:11; 11:5, 6). Just as if we should adopt a child it would be a wholly gracious act on our part.
2. IT TAKES PLACE THE MOMENT ONE BELIEVES IN JESUS CHRIST.
1 John 3:2 -- "Beloved, now are we the sons of God." Gal.3:26 -- "For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus." See also John 1:12. Sonship is now the present possession of the believer. Strange as it may be, inconceivable as it may seem, it is nevertheless true. The world may not think so (v.1), but God says so, and the Christian believing it, exclaims, "I'm the child of a King." Formerly we were slaves; now we are sons.
3. OUR SONSHIP WILL BE COMPLETED AT THE RESURRECTION AND COMING AGAIN OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST.
Rom.8:23 -- "Waiting for the adoption, to-wit, the redemption, of the body." Here in this world we are incognito; we are not recognized as sons of God. But some day we shall throw off this disguise (2 Cor.5:10). It doth not appear, it hath not yet appeared what we shall be; the revelation of the sons of God is reserved for a future day. See also I John 3:1-3.
III. THE BLESSINGS OF ADOPTION.
The blessings of adoption are too numerous to mention save in the briefest way. Some of them are as follows:
Objects of God's peculiar love (John 17:23), and His fatherly care (Luke 12:27-33).
We have the family name (1 John 3:1; Eph.3:14, 15), the family likeness (Rom.8:29); family love (John 13:35; 1 John 3:14); a filial spirit (Rom.8:15; Gal.4:6); a family service (John 14:23, 24; 15:8).
We receive fatherly chastisement (Heb.12:5-11); fatherly comfort (Isa.66:13; 2 Cor.1:4), and an inheritance (1 Pet.1:3-5; Rom.8:17).
IV. SOME EVIDENCES OF SONSHIP.
Those who are adopted into God's family are: Led by the Spirit (Rom.8:4; Gal.5:18). Have a childlike confidence in God (Gal.4:5, 6). Have liberty of access (Eph.3:12). Have love for the brethren (1 John 2:9-11; 5:1). Are obedient (1 John 5:1-3).
I. ITS MEANING.
1. NEGATIVELY -- SEPARATION FROM EVIL.
II. WHEN IT TAKES PLACE.
III. THE MEANS.
If Regeneration has to do with our nature, Justification with our standing, and Adoption with our position, then Sanctification has to do with our character and conduct. In Justification we are declared righteous in order that, in Sanctification, we may become righteous. Justification is what God does for us, while Sanctification is what God does in us. Justification puts us into a right relationship with God, while Sanctification exhibits the fruit of that relationship -- a life separated from a sinful world and dedicated unto God.
I. THE MEANING OF SANCTIFICATION.
Two thoughts are prominent in this definition: separation from evil, and dedication unto God and His service.
1. SEPARATION FROM EVIL.
2 Chron.29:5, 15-18 -- "Sanctify now yourselves, and sanctify the house of the Lord God . . . . and carry forth the filthiness out of the holy places. . . . And the priests went into the inner part of the house of the Lord, to cleanse it, and brought out all the uncleanness. . . .Then they went in to Hezekiah the king, and said, We have cleansed all the house of the Lord." 1 Thess.4:3 -- "For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication." See also Heb.9:3; Exod.19:20-22; Lev.11:44.
It is evident from these scriptures that sanctification has to do with the turning away from all that is sinful and that is defiling to both soul and body.
2. SEPARATION OR DEDICATION UNTO GOD.
In this sense whatever is set apart from a profane to a sacred use, whatever is devoted exclusively to the service of God, is sanctified. So it follows that a man may "sanctify his house to be holy unto the Lord," or he may "sanctify unto the Lord some part of a field of his possession" (Lev.27:14, 16). So also the first-born of all the children were sanctified unto the Lord (Num.8:17). Even the Son of God Himself, in so far as He was set apart by the Father and sent into the world to do God's will, was sanctified (John 10:36). Whenever a thing or person is separated from the common relations of life in order to be devoted to the sacred, such is said to be sanctified.
3. IT IS USED OF GOD.
Whenever the sacred writers desire to show that the Lord is absolutely removed from all that is sinful and unholy, and that He is absolutely holy in Himself they speak of Him as being sanctified: "When I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes" (Ezek.36:23).
II. THE TIME OF SANCTIFICATION.
Sanctification may be viewed as past, present, and future; or instantaneous, progressive, and complete.
1. INSTANTANEOUS SANCTIFICATION.
1 Cor.6:11 -- "And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God." Heb.10:10, 14 -- "By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. . . . For by one offering he hath perfected forever them that are sanctified." By the death of Jesus Christ the sanctification of the believer takes place at once. The very moment a man believes in Christ he is sanctified, that is, in this first sense: he is separated from sin and separated unto God. For this reason all through the New Testament believers are called saints (1 Cor.1:2, R. V.; Rom.1:7, R. V.). If a man is not a saint he is not a Christian; if he is a Christian he is a saint. In some quarters people are canonized after they are dead; the New Testament canonizes believers while they are alive. Note how that in 1 Cor.6:11 "sanctified" is put before "justified." The believer grows in sanctification rather than into sanctification out of something else. By a simple act of faith in Christ the believer is at once put into a state of sanctification. Every Christian is a sanctified man. The same act that ushers him into the state of justification admits him at once into the state of sanctification, in which he is to grow until he reaches the fulness of the measure of the stature of Christ.
2. PROGRESSIVE SANCTIFICATION.
Justification differs from Sanctification thus: the former is an instantaneous act with no progression; while the latter is a crisis with a view to a process -- an act, which is instantaneous and which at the same time carries with it the idea of growth unto completion.
2 Pet.3:18 -- "But grow in (the) grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." 2 Cor.3:18 -- We "are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, even as from the Lord the Spirit." The tense is interesting here: We are being transformed from one degree of character, or glory, to another. It is because sanctification is progressive, a growth, that we are exhorted to "increase and abound" (1 Thess.3:12), and to "abound more and more" (4:1, 10) in the graces of the Christian life. The fact that there is always danger of contracting defilement by contact with a sinful world, and that there is, in the life of the true Christian, an ever increasing sense of duty and an ever-deepening consciousness of sin, necessitates a continual growth and development in the graces and virtues of the believer's life. There is such a thing as "perfecting holiness" (2 Cor.7:1). God's gift to the church of pastors and teachers is for the purpose of the perfecting of the saints in the likeness of Christ until, at last, they attain unto the fulness of the divine standard, even Jesus Christ (Eph.4:11-15). Holiness is not a mushroom growth; it is not the thing of an hour; it grows as the coral reef grows: little by little, degree by degree. See also Phil.3:10-15.
3. COMPLETE AND FINAL SANCTIFICATION.
1 Thess.5:23, R. V. -- "And the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved entire, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." "Wholly" means complete in every part, perfect in every respect, whether it refers to the Church as a whole, or to the individual believer. Some day the believer is to be complete in all departments of Christian character -- no Christian grace missing. Complete in the "spirit" which links him with heaven; in the "body" which links him with earth; in the "soul" as being that on which heaven and earth play. Maturity in each separate element of Christian character: body, soul, and spirit.
This blessing of entire and complete sanctification is to take place when Christ comes: 1 Thess.3:13 -- "To the end that he may establish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints." It is when we shall see Him that we shall be like Him (1 John 3:2). How explicitly Paul puts the matter in Phil.3:12-14, R. V. -- "Not that I have already obtained, or am already made perfect: but I press on, if so be that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold on by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself yet to have laid hold: but one thing I do, forgetting the things which are behind, and stretching forward to the things which are before, I press on toward the goal unto the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."
III. THE MEANS OF SANCTIFICATION.
How are men sanctified? What means are used, and what agencies employed to make men holy and conform them into the likeness of Christ? The agencies and means are both divine and human: both God and man contributing and co-operating towards this desired end.
1. FROM THE DIVINE SIDE: IT IS THE WORK OF THE TRIUNE GOD.
a) God the Father.
1 Thess.5:23, 24, R. V. -- "And the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly. . . . Faithful is he that calleth you, who will also do it." God's work is here contrasted with human efforts to achieve the preceding injunctions. Just as in Hebrews 12:2, and Philippians 1:6, the Beginner of faith is also the Finisher; so is it here; consequently the end and aim of every exhortation is but to strengthen faith in God who is able to accomplish these things for us. Of course there is a sense in which the believer is responsible for his progress in the Christian life (Phil.3:12, 13), yet it is nevertheless true that, after all, it is the divine grace which works all in him (Phil.2:12, 13). We cannot purify ourselves, but we can yield to God and then the purity will come. The "God of peace," He who reconciles us -- is the One who sanctifies us. It is as if the apostle said: "God, by His mighty power will do for you what I, by my admonitions, and you by your own efforts, cannot do." See also John 17:17 -- "Sanctify them through thy truth." Christ addresses God as the One who is to sanctify the disciples.
b) Jesus Christ the Son.
Heb.10:10, R. V. -- "By which will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." The death of Jesus Christ separates the believer from sin and the world, and sets him apart as redeemed and dedicated to the service of God. This same truth, namely, the sanctification of the church as based on the sacrificial death of Christ, is set forth in Eph.5:25, 27 -- "Christ loved the church, and gave himself up for it; that he might sanctify it." Christ is "made unto us . . . sanctification" (1 Cor.1:30). See also Heb.13:12, R. V.
c) The Holy Spirit Sanctifies.
1 Pet.1:2 -- "Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit." 2 Thess.2:13 -- ". . . . Because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth." The Holy Spirit seals, attests, and confirms the work of grace in the soul by producing the fruits of righteousness therein. It is the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus who gives us freedom from the law of sin and death (Rom.8:2). He is called the Holy Spirit, not only because He is absolutely holy Himself, but also because he produces that quality of soul-character in the believer. The Spirit is the executive of the God-head for this very purpose. It is the Spirit's work to war against the lusts of the flesh and enable us to bring forth fruit unto holiness (Gal.5:17-22). How wonderfully this truth is set forth in the contrast between the seventh and eighth chapters of Romans. Note the unsuccessful struggle of the former, and the victory of the latter. Note also that there is no mention of the Holy Spirit in the seventh, while He is mentioned about sixteen times in the eighth chapter. Herein lies the secret of failure and victory, sin and holiness.
2. FROM THE HUMAN SIDE.
a) Faith in the Redemptive Work of Jesus Christ.
1 Cor.1:30, R. V. -- "But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who was made unto us wisdom from God, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption." Christ is indeed all these things to us, but, in reality, He becomes such only as we appropriate Him for ourselves. Only as the believer, daily, yea, even momentarily, takes by faith the holiness of Jesus, His faith, His patience, His love, His grace, to be his own for the need of that very moment, can Christ, who by His death was made unto him sanctification in the instantaneous sense, become unto him sanctification in the progressive sense -- producing in the believer His own life moment by moment. Herein lies the secret of a holy life -- the momentarily appropriation of Jesus Christ in all the riches of His grace for every need as it arises. The degree of our sanctification is the proportion of our appropriation of Christ. See also Acts 26:18.
b) The Study of the Scriptures and Obedience Thereto.
John 17:17 -- "Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth." Eph.5:26 -- "That he might sanctify and cleanse it (i.e., the Church) with the washing of water by the word." John 15:3 -- "Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you." Our sanctification is limited by our limitation in the knowledge of and our lack of obedience to the Word of God. How does the Word of God sanctify? By revealing sin; by awakening conscience; by revealing the character of Christ; by showing the example of Christ; by offering the influences and powers of the Holy Spirit, and by setting forth spiritual motives and ideals. There is no power like that of the Word of God for detaching a man from the world, the flesh and the devil.
c) Various Other Agencies.
Heb.12:14, R. V. -- "Follow after . . . the sanctification without which no man shall see the Lord." To "follow after" means to pursue, to persecute, as Saul of Tarsus pursued and followed the early Christians. One cannot become a saint in his sleep. Holiness must be the object of his pursuit. The lazy man will not be the holy man.
Heb.12:10, 11: God chastens us "for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness." Chastisement ofttimes is intended to "produce the peaceable fruit of righteousness."
Rom.6:19-32; 2 Cor.6:17, 7:1. Sanctification is brought about in the life of the believer by his separating himself deliberately from all that is unclean and unholy, and by presenting, continually and constantly, the members of his body as holy instruments unto God for the accomplishment of His holy purposes. Thus by these single acts of surrender unto holiness, sanctification soon becomes the habit of the life.
I. ITS IMPORTANCE.
II. ITS NATURE.
1. AS SEEN IN ITS HISTORIC DEVELOPMENT.
III. ITS POSSIBILITY.
1. THE REVELATION OF GOD.
IV. ITS OBJECTS.
1. GOD THE FATHER.
V. ITS METHOD.
VI. HINDEANCES AND HELPS.
I. THE IMPORTANCE OF PRAYER.
Even a cursory perusal of the Scriptures will reveal the large and important place which the doctrine of Prayer finds therein. The Christian life cannot be sustained without it; it is the Christian's vital breath. Its importance is seen when we recall:
That the neglect of prayer is grievous to the Lord (Isa.43:21, 22; 64:6, 7, R. V.). That many evils in life are to be attributed to the lack of prayer (Zeph.1:4-6; Dan.9:13, 14, cf. Hosea 7:13, 14; 8:13, 14).
That it is a sin to neglect prayer (1 Sam.12:23).
That to continue in prayer is a positive command (Col.4:2, R. V.; 1 Thess.5:17; we are commanded to take leisure or a vacation for prayer: 1 Cor.7:5).
That it is God's appointed method of obtaining what He has to bestow (Dan.9:3; Matt.7:7-11; 9:24-29; Luke 11:13).
That the lack of the necessary blessings in life comes from failure to pray (James 4:2).
That the apostles regarded prayer as the most important employment that could engage their time or attention (Acts 6:4; Rom.1:9; Col.1:9).
II. THE NATURE OF PRAYER.
It is interesting to trace the development of prayer in the Scriptures.
In the life of the patriarch Abraham prayer seems to have taken the form of a dialogue -- God and man drawing near and talking to each other (Gen.18; 19); developing into intercession (Gen.17:18; 18:23, 32), and then into personal prayer (Gen.15:2; 24:12); Jacob, (Gen.28:20; 32:9-12, 24; Hosea 12:4). The patriarchal blessings are called prayers (Gen 49:1; Deut.33:11).
During the period of the Law. Not very much prominence is given to formal prayer during this period. Deut.26:1-15 seems to be the only one definitely recorded. Prayer had not yet found a stated place in the ritual of the law. It seems to have been more of a personal than a formal matter, and so while the Law may not afford much material, yet the life of the lawgiver, Moses, abounds with prayer (Exod.5:22; 32:11; Num.11:11-15).
Under Joshua (7:6-9; 10:14), and the judges (c.6) we are told that the children of Israel "cried unto the Lord."
Under Samuel prayer seems to have assumed the nature of intercession (1 Sam.7:5, 12; 8:16-18); personal (1 Sam.15:11, 35; 16:1). In Jeremiah (15:1) Moses and Samuel are represented as offering intercessory prayer for Israel.
David seems to regard himself as a prophet and priest, and prays without an intercessor (2 Sam.7:18-29).
The prophets seem to have been intercessors, e.g., Elijah (1 Kings 18). Yet personal prayers are found among the prophets (Jer.20 -- both personal and intercessory; 33:3; 42:4; Amos 7).
In the Psalms prayer takes the form of a pouring out of the heart (42:4; 62:8; 100:2, title). The psalmist does not seem to go before God with fixed and orderly petitions so much as simply to pour out his feelings and desires, whether sweet or bitter, troubled or peaceful. Consequently the prayers of the psalmist consist of varying moods: complaint, supplication, confession, despondency, praise.
True prayer consists of such elements as adoration, praise, petition, pleading, thanksgiving, intercession, communion, waiting. The closet into which the believer enters to pray is not only an oratory -- a place of prayer, it is an observatory -- a place of vision. Prayer is not "A venture and a voice of mine; but a vision and a voice divine." Isa.63:7; 64:12, illustrates all essential forms of address in prayer.
III. THE POSSIBILITY OF PRAYER.
This possibility consists in five things:
1. THE REVELATION OF GOD WHICH CHRIST HAS BROUGHT TO US.
John 1:18 -- "No man hath seen God at any time; the only-begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him." Matt.11:27 -- ". . . . Neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him."
Christ reveals God as a personal God, as a Being who sees, feels, knows, understands, and acts. Belief in the personality of God is absolutely necessary to true prayer (Heb.11:6).
Christ reveals God as a sovereign God (Matt.19:26) -- "With God all things are possible." God is sovereign over all laws; He can make them subservient to His will, and use them in answering the prayers of His children. He is not bound by any so-called unchangeable laws.
Christ revealed God as a Father (Luke 11:13). In every instance in the life of Christ whenever He addresses God in prayer it is always as Father. The fact of the fatherhood of God makes prayer possible. It would be unnatural for a father not to commune with his child.
2. THE SACRIFICIAL WORK OF JESUS CHRIST.
Heb.10:19-22, R. V. -- "Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by the way which he dedicated for us, a new and living way, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; and having a great priest over the house of God; let us draw near with a true heart in fulness of faith." It is because of the death of Christ, which removed the barrier that stood between God and us so that He could not consistently hear and answer our prayers, that He can now hear and answer the petitions of His children.
3. THE INSPIRATION OF THE HOLY GHOST.
Rom.8:26 -- "Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit himself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered." See also Jude 20. The thought is this: Even though we are assured that there is a personal God to hear us, and although we have the confidence that the barrier of sin which stood between us and God has been removed, so that we now desire to pray, we often are hindered because we either do not know what to say or what to ask for. We may ask too ardently for wrong things, or too languidly for the things we most need. And so we are afraid to pray. The assurance that this verse gives us is that the Holy Spirit will pray within us, and will indict the petition, helping us in our prayer life.
4. THE MANY PROMISES OF THE BIBLE.
We are told that there are over 33,000 of them. Each promise is "yea and amen in Jesus Christ"; He is the guarantee and the guarantor of them all. They are not given to mock but to encourage us: "Hath he said and shall he not do it? Hath he spoken and shall he not make it good?" See John 14:13; 15:7; 1 John 5:14, 15; Luke 11:9, etc.
5. THE UNIVERSAL CHRISTIAN TESTIMONY.
Christians, by the millions, the world over, can and do testify to the fact that God both hears and answers prayer. The credibility, character, and intelligence of the vast number of witnesses make their testimony indisputable and incontrovertible.
IV. THE OBJECTS OF PRAYER -- TO WHOM TO PRAY.
1. TO GOD.
Neh 4:9; Acts 12:5 -- "Prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him": God is holy -- hence there must be no impurity in the life of the one praying; righteous, hence no crookedness; truthful, hence no lying or hypocrisy; powerful, hence we may have confidence; transcendent, hence reverence in our approach.
2. TO CHRIST.
Acts 7:59 -- "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." 2 Cor.12:8, 9; 2 Tim.2:22.
3. THE HOLY SPIRIT.
Rom.8:15, 16 sets forth the relation of the Holy Spirit and prayer, as do also Zech.12:10; Eph.6:18; Jude 20. The Holy Spirit is God (Acts 5:3, 4; Matt.28:19; 2 Cor.13:14), hence is to be worshipped (Matt.4:10; Rev.22:9).
The normal mode of prayer is prayer in the Spirit, on the ground of the merits of the Son, to the Father: In the Spirit, through the Son, to the Father.
V. THE METHOD OR MANNER OF PRAYER.
1. WITH REGARD TO THE POSTURE OF THE BODY.
The soul may be in prayer no matter what is the attitude of the body. The Scriptures sanction no special bodily posture. Christ stood and prayed (John 17:1), knelt (Luke 22:41), He also fell on his face on the ground (Matt.26:39); Solomon knelt (1 Kings 8:54); Elijah prayed with his elbows on his knees and his face buried in his hands; David prayed lying on his bed (Psa.63:6); Peter prayed on the water (Matt.14:30); the dying thief, on the cross (Luke 23:42).
2. TIME AND PLACE.
Time: Stated times (Dan.6:10; Psa.55:16, 17; Acts 3:1; 2:46; 10:9, 30). Special occasions: Choosing the twelve (Luke 6:12, 13). Before the cross (Luke 22:39-46). After great successes (John 6:15, cf. Mark 6:46-48). Early in the morning (Mark 1:35). All night (Luke 6:12). Times of special trouble (Psa.81:7, cf. Exod.2:23; 3:7; 14:10, 24). At meals (Matt.14:19; Acts 27:35; 1 Tim.4:4, 5).
Place of Prayer: Inner chamber (Matt.6:6); amid nature (Matt.14:23; Mark 1:35). In the church (John 17:1; Psa.95:6). Before the unsaved (Acts 16:25; 27:35). In all places (1 Tim.2:8, R. V.).
VI. HINDRANCES AND HELPS TO PRAYER.
Indulged known sin (Psa.66:18; Isa.59:1, 2). Wilful disobedience to known commandments (Prov.28:9). Selfishness (James 4:3). Unforgiving spirit (Matt.5:22, 23; 6:12). Lack of faith (Heb.11:6; James 1:6). Idols in the heart (Ezek.8:5-18; 14:1-3).
2. HELPS -- ESSENTIALS TO PREVAILING PRAYER.
Sincerity (Psa.145:18; Matt.6:5). Simplicity (Matt.6:7, cf.26:44). Earnestness (James 5:17; Acts 12:5; Luke 22:44). Persistence (Luke 18:1-8; Col.4:2; Rom.12:12, R. V.). Faith (Matt.21:22; James 1:6). Unison with others (Matt.18:19, 20). Definiteness (Psa.27:4; Matt.18:19). Effort (Exod.14:15). In the name of Jesus (John 16:23; 14:13, 14). With fasting (Acts 13:2, 3; 14:23).