'God chose you unto salvation in sanctification and belief of the Truth.' -- 2 Thess. ii.12.
The chief means of sanctification that God uses is His word. And yet how much there is of reading and studying, of teaching and preaching the word, that has almost no effect in making men holy. It is not the word that sanctifies; it is God Himself who alone can sanctify. Nor is it simply through the word that God does it, but through the Truth which is in the word. As a means the word is of unspeakable value, as the vessel which contains the truth, if God use it; as a means it is of no value, if God does not use it. Let us strive to connect God's Holy Word with the Holy God Himself. God sanctifies in the Truth through His word.
Jesus had just said, 'The words which Thou gavest me, I have given them.' Let us try and realize what that means. Think of that great transaction in eternity: the Infinite Being, whom we call God, giving His words to His Son; in His words opening up His heart, communicating His mind and will, revealing Himself and all His purpose and love. In a Divine power and reality passing all conception, God gave Christ His words. In the same living power Christ gave them to His disciples, all full of a Divine life and energy to work in their hearts, as they were able to receive them. And just as in the words of a man on earth we expect to find all the wisdom or all the goodness there is in him, so the word of the Thrice Holy One is all alive with the Holiness of God. All the holy fire, alike of His burning zeal and His burning love, dwells in His words.
And yet men can handle these words, and study them, and speak them, and be entire strangers to their holiness, or their power to make holy. It is God Himself, the Holy One, who must make holy through the word. Every seed, in which the life of a tree is contained, has around it a husk or shell, which protects and hides the inner life. Only where the seed finds a place in congenial soil, and the husk is burst and removed, can the seed germinate and grow up. And it is only where there is a heart in harmony with God's Holiness, longing for it, yielding itself to it, that the word will really make holy. It is the heart that is not content with the word, but seeks the Living, Holy One in the word, to which He will reveal the truth, and in it Himself. It is the word given to us by Christ as God gave it Him, and received by us as it was by Him, to rule and fill our life, which has power to make holy.
But we must notice very specially how our Saviour says, Sanctify them, not in the word, but in the truth. Just as in man there is body, soul, and spirit, so in truth too. There is first word-truth; a man may have the correct form of words while he does not really apprehend the truth they contain. Then there is thought-truth; there may be a clear intellectual apprehension of truth without the experience of its power. The Bible speaks of truth as a living reality: this is the life-truth, in which the very Spirit of the truth we profess has entered and possessed our inner being. Christ calls Himself the Truth: He is said to be full of grace and truth. The Divine life and grace are in Him as an actually substantial existence and reality. He not only acts upon us by thoughts and motives, but communicates, as a reality, the eternal life He brought for us from the Father. The Holy Spirit is called the Spirit of Truth; what He imparts is all real and actual, the very substance of unseen things; He guides into the Truth, not thought-truth or doctrine only, but life-truth, the personal possession of the Truth as it is in Jesus. As the Spirit of Truth He is the Spirit of Holiness; the life of God, which is His Holiness, He brings to us as an actual possession.
It is now of this living Truth, which dwells in the word, as the seed-life dwells in the husk, that Jesus says, 'Make them holy in the Truth: Thy word is Truth.' He would have us mark the intimate connection, as well as the wide difference, between the word and the truth. The connection is one willed by God and meant to be inseparable. 'Thy word is truth;' with God they are one. But not with man. Just as there were men in close contact and continual intercourse with Jesus, to whom He was only a man, and nothing more, so there are Christians who know and understand the word, and yet are strangers to its true spiritual power. They have the letter but not the spirit; the Truth comes to them in word but not in power. The word does not make them holy, because they hold it not in Spirit and in Truth. To others, on the contrary, who know what it is to receive the truth in the love of it, who yield themselves, in all their dealings with the word, to the Spirit of Truth who dwells in it and in them too, the word comes indeed as Truth, as a Divine reality, communicating and working what it speaks of. And it is of such a use of the word that the Saviour says, 'Make them holy in the truth: Thy word is truth.' As the words, which God gave Him, were all in the power of the eternal Life and Love and Will of God, the revelation and communication of the Father's purpose, as God's word was Truth to Him and in Him, so it can be in us. And as we thus receive it, we are made holy in the Truth.
And what now are the lessons we have to learn here for the path of Holiness? The first is: Let us see to it that in all our intercourse with God's Blessed Word we rest content with nothing short of the experience of it, as truth of God, as spirit and as power. Jesus said, 'If ye abide in my word, ye shall know the truth.' No analysis can ever find or prove the life of a seed: plant it in its proper soil, and the growth will testify to the life. It is only as the word of God is received in the love of it, as it grows and works in us, that we can know its truth, can know that it is the Truth of God. It is as we live in the words of Jesus, in love and obedience, keeping and doing them, that the Truth from heaven, the Power of the Divine Life which there is in them, will unfold itself to us. Christ is the Truth; in Him the love and grace, the very life of God, has come to earth as a substantial existence, a Living, Mighty Power, something new that was never on earth before (John i.17); let us yield ourselves to the Living Christ to possess us and to rule us as the Living Truth, then will God's word be Truth to us and in us.
The Spirit of Christ is the Spirit of Truth; that actual heavenly reality of Divine life and love in Christ, the Truth, has a Spirit, who comes to communicate and impart it. Let us beware of trying to study or understand or take possession of God's word without that Spirit through whom the word was spoken of old; we shall find only the husk, the truth or thought and sentiment, very beautiful perhaps, but with no power to make us holy. We must have the Spirit of the Truth within us. He will lead us into the Truth; when we are in the Truth, God makes us holy in it and by it. The Truth must be in us, and we in it. God desires truth in the inward parts: we must be of the people of whom Christ says, 'If ye were of the truth,' 'he that is of the truth knoweth me.' In the lower sphere of daily life and conduct, of thought and action, there must be an intense love of truth, and a willingness to sacrifice everything for it; in the spiritual life, a deep hungering to have all our religion every day, every moment, stand fully in the truth of God. It is to the simple, humble, childlike spirit that the truth of the word will be unsealed and revealed. In such the Spirit of truth comes to dwell. In such, as they daily wait before the Holy One in silence and emptiness, in reverence and holy fear, His Holy Spirit works and gives the truth within. In thus imparting Christ as revealed in the word, in His Divine life and love, as their own life, He makes them holy with the holiness of Christ.
There is another lesson. Listen to that prayer, the earthly echo of the prayer which He ever liveth to pray, 'Holy Father! make them holy in the truth.' Would you be holy, child of God? cast yourself into that mighty current of intercession ever flowing into, ever reaching, the Father's bosom. Let yourself be borne upon it until your whole soul cries, with the unutterable groanings, too deep and too intense for human speech, 'Holy Father! make me holy in the truth.' As you trust in Christ as the truth, the reality of what you long for, and in His all-prevailing intercession; as you wait for the Spirit within as the Spirit of truth; look up to the Father, and expect His own direct and almighty working to make you holy. The mystery of holiness is the mystery of the Triune One. The deeper entrance into the holy life rests in the fellowship of the Three in One. It is the Father who establishes us in Christ, who gives, in a daily fresh giving, the Holy Spirit; it is to the Father, the Holy Father, the soul must look up continually in the prayer, 'Make me holy in the truth.'
It has been well said that in the word Holy we have the central thought of the high-priestly prayer. As the Father's attribute (John xvii.11), as the Son's work for Himself and us (ver.19), as the direct work of the Father through the Spirit (vers.17, 20), it is the revelation of the glory of God in Himself and in us. Let us enter into the Holiest of all, and as we bow with our Great High Priest, let the deep, unceasing cry go up for all the Church of God, 'Holy Father! make them holy in the truth: Thy word is truth.' The word in which God makes holy is summed up in this, HOLY IN CHRIST. May God make it truth in us!
BE YE HOLY, AS I AM HOLY.
Blessed Father! to Israel Thou didst say, I the Lord am holy and make holy. But it is only in Thy beloved Son that the full glory of Thy Holiness, as making us holy, has been revealed. Thou art our Holy Father, who makest us holy in Thy truth.
We thank Thee that Thy Son hath given us the words Thou gavest Him, and that as He received them from Thee in life and power, we may receive them too. O Father! with our whole heart we do receive them; let the Spirit make them truth and life within us. So shall we know Thee as the Holy One, consuming the sin, renewing the sinner.
We bless Thee most for Thy Blessed Son, the Holy One of God, the Living Word in whom the Truth dwelleth. We thank Thee that in His never-ceasing intercession, this cry ever reacheth Thee, 'Father, sanctify them in Thy truth,' and that the answer is ever streaming forth from Thy glory. Holy Father! make us holy in Thy truth, in Thy wonderful revelation of Thyself in Him who is the truth. Let Thy Holy Spirit so have dominion in our hearts that Thy Holy Child Jesus, sanctifying Himself for us that we may be sanctified in the truth, may be to us the Way, the Truth, and the Life. May we know that we are in Him in Thy presence, and that Thy one word in answer to our prayer to make us holy is -- Holy in Christ. Amen.
1. God is the God of truth -- not truth in speaking only, or truth of doctrine -- but truth of existence, or life in its Divine reality. And Christ is the truth; the actual embodiment of this Divine life. And there is a kingdom of truth, of Divine Spiritual realities, of which Christ is King. And of all this truth of God in Christ, the very essence is, the Spirit. He is the Spirit of truth: He leads us into it, so that we are of the truth and walk in it. Of the truth, the reality there is in God, Holiness, is the deepest root; the Spirit of truth is the Holy Spirit.
2. It is the work of the Father to make us holy in the truth: let us bow very low in childlike trust as we breathe the prayer: 'Holy Father! make us holy in the truth.' He will do it.
3. It is the intercession of the Son that asks and obtains this blessing: let us take our place in Him, and rejoice in the assurance of an answer.
4. It is the Spirit of truth through whom the Father does this work, so that we dwell in the truth, and the truth in us. Let us yield very freely and very fully to the leading of the Spirit, in our intercourse with God's Word, that, as the Son prays, the Father may make us holy in the truth.
5. Let us, in the light of this work of the Three-One, never read the Word but with this aim: to be made holy in the truth by God.