Men and brothers, let me freely speak to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried…
Nothing that our Lord did on earth was enough to establish a faith in Himself which should survive His death. At the end of His career, not even the Twelve retained their conviction. If the Lord had only left us the Sermon on the Mount and the memory of a martyrdom, there would never have been a Church. The risen and ascended Christ is the only intelligible account that can be given of the existence of our faith. From beyond the grave the living Master works. And how? By a Spirit. But for that Spirit to act firmly, enduringly, there must be given an instrument, an organic body, and the office of that body is clearly determined for it by the conditions of its existence. "The Spirit of truth proceeding from the Father shall bear witness of Me, and ye also shall bear witness," and so the apostles say, "We are witnesses of these things."
I. THE CHURCH IS THE WITNESSING BODY; IT PROVES CHRIST'S CASE.
1. Before God the Father. It manifests His glory by justifying His method of redemption; it bears witness before God that He has not sent His Son in vain.
2. In the face of men. It is to convince, so that even an unbelieving world may believe that the Father sent the Son.
II. IN ACCOMPLISHING THIS CONVERSION OF THE WORLD, THE CHURCH HAS TO PROVE AND TESTIFY.
1. That Christ is alive and at work to-day on earth, and that He can be found of them that believe, and manifest Himself to those that love Him.
2. That He is so by virtue of the deed done once for all at Calvary.
III. WHAT PROOFS CAN THE CHURCH OFFER FOR THESE POINTS?
1. Its own actual life. Its one prevailing and unanswerable proof is, "I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me."
2. This personal life of Christ in His Church verifies and certifies to the world the reality of His life, death, and resurrection. The fact that the man at the Beautiful Gate has this perfect soundness — this makes it certain that God did send His Son Christ Jesus to be a Prince of Life. And therefore the living Church bears a book about with it, the gospel book, the witness of those who beheld, tasted, handled the Word of Life. "This book," the body of Christ, declares "is true, and we know that these apostles spoke true; we are here to prove it, in that we have tasted the present power of that Word whose story they saw and recorded."
3. And again, the body carries with it the apostolic rite, the act commanded by the dying Christ to be done for ever as a memorial and a witness until His coming again.
IV. BY BELIEVING IN A BODY, A CHURCH, OUR FAITH LAYS UPON US RESPONSIBILITIES. It gives US a call; it sets us each a task. And is not this just what our religion most lacks? There is so little sense of purpose in our religious life. Religion is a comfortable habit, a refreshment in weariness, a solace and security in the face of death. Yes, but is it the one thing that gives us a living reason for being alive? Is it that which sets us on an aim worthy and enkindling, for which it is well worth while to live? Does it come to us as something which lays upon us a service of delightful freedom under the eye of a Master who waits ever to say, "Well done, well done, thou faithful servant"? Is not this exactly what we lack? If Christ established a Church, this means that every member has, by believing, a definite, an urgent, a glad and proud task set before him. That task is to witness; and do you doubt whether you have any call to witness for Christ? For what is this witness? It is the evidence you can give by active personal union with your Lord, now alive at God's right hand, of the authority of the gospel record and of the gospel Eucharist. And is there no one, then, who needs that evidence from you?
1. Can you find no one near you who is struggling with doubt and perplexity as he reads that gospel story? It is your witness and your evidence that alone can recover him his footing.
2. Is there no one who looks out upon the scenery of this bewildered earth and who can see nothing but confused suffering and unjust penalties; who can but cry out his bitter protest, "Is God indeed to be found there? Is there a Divine Judge of all the earth? Where are the signs of His love?" What if your witness were ready at hand? — if you could but whisper, "I know that the love of God has been manifested to all who believe Christ Jesus, every one that so believeth hath the witness in him"?
3. Or you may find yourself standing by one whom some strong sin has fast bound in misery and iron. Now is your time to speak, to cry to him, to deliver your testimony — "My brother, you may be free, for Christ is not dead — He is risen; He the great breaker of bonds, He is strong as of old to set free the captives." Conclusion: It is for us to be sure that we know, by blessed experience, that Christ was manifested to take away our sins; and that is the message that you have to carry on your lips — "We know that it is true." It would be a miserable thing to find yourself standing over some brother, with your human heart indeed yearning to help him, and yet to find yourself speechless and impotent just because you had never taken the trouble to learn, when you had time, the happy lesson which would enable you to say to him the one word that. can now save him.
(Canon Scott Holland.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day.