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Free Books » Bonar, Horatius » Light & Truth: Acts and the Larger Epistles

Chapter 47 - Romans 5:10 - The Dead and Living Christ Light & Truth: Acts and the Larger Epistles by Bonar, Horatius


There are four distinct facts or events given us here, on which the argument of the passage builds itself. Two of these have reference to the history of the sinner, and two of them to tile history of the sinner's deliverer. The first two are, man's enmity and man's reconciliation; the last two are, the Saviour's death and the Saviour's life. Out of these four facts the apostle's argument is constructed—an argument as profound as it is simple, as convincing as it is natural. It is apparently but one argument, and yet it divides itself very easily into three quite separate parts, rising out of these two classes of facts. The first argument is—"If God did so much for us when enemies, what will He do for us when friends?" The second is—"If Christ's death has done so much for us, what will His life do?" The third argument is—"If Christ's death did so much for us when enemies, what will his life do for us when friends?"

Such is the argument of our text,—threefold in its construction, and yet each part not merely linked to the other, but most naturally and simply rising out of the other, so that a person in possession of the facts could not help following time steps of his reasoning, and acquiescing in his triumphant conclusions. But before proceeding to consider these, there is a truth which may be brought out here, and kept in mind as we pass along, being implied in and illustrative of time argument. It is this—"If God's thoughts were gracious before sending His Son, they cannot be supposed to be less 'so after He has been sent." Now, we know that His thoughts were thoughts of peace and grace from all eternity. Had they not been so, He never would have sent His Son. And we know that it is written: "God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son;" "God commendeth His love towards us, in that, while ye were yet sinners, Christ died for us;" "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins." There having been in His infinite bosom this exceeding love before He gave His Son, it is wholly incredible that He should be less gracious now, less compassionate, less loving, less willing to bestow all needed gifts. For (1) that gift did not exhaust His love. It did not empty the heart of God, nor dry up the fountain of His grace. God's love is not like man's love, ebbing and flowing, bursting forth and then subsiding.' No. The gift, though unspeakable, was not the exhaustion but the manifestation of the love, demonstrating it to be an infinite love, and shewing the infinite lengths to which it is willing to go. So far from having made God unwilling to do more for us, it has proved that there are no limits to His willingness to do for us exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think. (2.) That gift has not thrown any hindrance in the way of God's love. It is not now a more difficult thing for God to love us; nay, if we can say so, it is easier than ever. All hindrances have now melted away. That gift which displayed the love, contained in it provision for the removal of all barriers that stood in its way. There are now no breaks nor barriers to stay its course. It is at liberty to roll on unhindered in its amplest fullness. It is now a righteous thing in God to love, to pardon, and to bless. And will He love less now that there exist no longer any obstacles to check the course of love? Will He love less when His love is no longer pent up, but has free course; when He is free to love; nay, to give vent to it, even to the uttermost;—nay, when in doing so, He magnifies His law, glorifies Himself, and puts honour on His Son? Instead, then, of God's loving us less, we should be led to conclude, that, if that were possible, He must love us immeasurably more!

Having thus briefly noticed this important truth, we now pass on to consider time three special heads of argument.

1. If God did so much for us when enemies, what will he do, or rather, what will He not do, for us now that we are friends? He is speaking, of course, in the name of those who have entered into reconciliation over time blood of the great sacrifice—who, in believing, have found peace with God, and have exchanged enmity for friendship, hatred for love. Speaking 'in their name, he reasons "If, when we were enemies, He reconciled us to Himself, much more now, when reconciled, will He bless us. Our enmity did not hinder His blessing us, much less surely will our reconciliation. Our enmity, great as it was, did not hinder His bestowing such an unspeakable gift; what is there, then, within the whole circle of the universe, which we may not count upon, now that that enmity has been removed, and we have entered into eternal friendship with Him? Nothing was too costly for us when we were enemies; can anything be too costly now that we are friends. The great difficulty of our enmity being surmounted, what is there that remains to hinder the fullest outflow of His hove? Nay, what is there that will not tend to draw out that love in larger and larger measures?"

He loved and blessed us when enemies; will He not much more love us when friends? He loved us when we hated Him; will He not love us more when we return His love? He loved us when aliens, strangers, prodigals; will He not love us more when we have become sons, and, as sons, have returned to the parental home, and have received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry "Abba, Father"? He loved us when unrighteous,—when we had not even so much as a creature's righteousness,—will He not love us unspeakably more when we stand before Him in righteousness, and that the righteousness of His only-begotten Son? He loved us when unholy; will He not love us now when His Spirit has taken old timings away, and made all things new? He loved us when there dwelt in us only the spirit of the world, nay, the very god of this world himself; will He not love us when His own Spirit dwells in us, making us temples of the living God? He loved us when we were heirs of wrath; will He not love and bless us more when we are heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ?

There may be said to be three stages in this love, at each of which it rises and increases:—First, He loved us when enemies. Secondly, He loves us more when friends, even in this imperfect state of still-remaining sin. Thirdly, He will love us yet more when imperfection has been shaken off, and we are presented without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing. The first stage of this love is, when we were heirs of perdition; the second is, when we become heirs of the kingdom; the third is, when we actually get possession of the kingdom, and are seated with Christ upon His throne.

Here, then, is love in which we may assuredly triumph. It was love which expressed itself by an infinite gift. It did so when we were afar off when we were enemies; what expression, then, will it give, or rather, what expression will it not give to itself now when we have been brought nigh to God, and have entered into covenant with Him? Nay, more, what a portion must be ours hereafter, what a sum of blessedness, what an exceeding and eternal weight of glory! Especially when, in giving vent to His love to us, He is getting vent to His love towards His Son; when, in honouring and glorifying us, He is honouring and glorifying His Son! Being, then, justified by faith, not only have we peace with God, not only have we access into this grace wherein we stand, but we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. We reason thus: If God has lavished on us such a love when we knew Him not, what will He not do for us now that we know Him? If He is loving us and blessing us here, oh! will He not love us and bless us in the day when we take possession of the provided inheritance?

II. If Christ's death did so much for us, what will not His life do? If a dying Saviour did so much for us, what will not a living Saviour be able to do?

The expression "saved" used here, denotes the whole blessing which God has in store for us—complete deliverance in every sense of that word—a complete undoing of our lost estate—the full possession of every blessing. Salvation, in God's sense of it, takes in the very widest compass of blessing, from the forgiveness of the first sin to the possession of the eternal glory. Of this salvation, reconciliation was the commencement. In being brought nigh to God through the blood of the cross, our salvation began. Its consummation is, when Jesus comes the second time without sin unto salvation.

The apostle's argument rests on the fact of the existence of these two opposite states of being—the two opposite extremities of being, death and life. Death is the lowest pitch of helplessness, lower even than the feebleness of infancy. It is the extremity of weakness. It is the utter cessation of all strength. Life is the opposite of this. It is the full possession of being, with all its faculties and powers. It is the guarantee for the forth putting of all the vigor and strength which belongs to the individual in whom it dwells. And it is thus that the apostle reasons: If Christ in His lowest state of weakness accomplished such marvels for us, what will He not be able to do for us now that He is in the full exercise of His almighty strength? If when reduced to the very extremity of helplessness, He did so much for us, what will He not do for us now when He can say, All power is given to me in heaven and in earth? If, when going down into the tomb, He yet wrought such achievements for us, what will He not do when rising from the tomb, nay, ascending on high? If when under the power of His enemies, and nailed in helpless agony on the tree, He yet prevailed in our behalf how will He not prevail now that He has triumphed over all? If when made a little lower than the angels, He did so much for us, what will He not do when raised far above principalities and powers, and every name that is named? If, when subjected to the dominion of him who had the power of death, He yet conquered for us, and won such glorious spoils, what will He not do now when He has led captivity captive, and completed His mighty victory? If the cross and the tomb have done so much for us, what will not the throne secure?

How perfect the reasoning! How blessed the conclusion! Resting on such an argument, we may stand unshaken and unruffled. Using this as our shield, what fiery darts of the wicked one may we not repel? And shall we not ply it to the utmost in dispelling our darkness, in banishing our doubts, in making us thoroughly ashamed of our fears? Using it as time apostle does, and reasoning with ourselves—"If a dying Saviour did so much for us, what will not a living Saviour do?" let us say, "Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? still trust in God; for I shall yet praise Him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God."

III. If Christ's death did so much for us when enemies, what will not His life do for us when friends? In other words, If a dying Saviour did so much for us when enemies, what will not a living Saviour do for us when friends? This is the conjunction of the two previous conclusions. It completes the whole argument by thus putting the two into one. It is a double argument; double in its structure, and double in its strength. It is an argument of resistless power, making us feel the perfect and absolute security which we have for everything included in that word salvation. If enemies have tasted such love, and received such blessings, at the hands of a dying Saviour, what may not friends receive at the hands of Him who is not only alive, but liveth for evermore? If, in the extremity of His weakness, and in the extremity of our alienation, such wonders were wrought for us—in spite of that weakness on His part, and that alienation on ours—what may we not expect now that He is invested with the perfection of all power, and when we have not simply been reconciled, but have been made friends and sons, nay, taken to His bosom as His chosen bride? If a father, in the midst of poverty and weakness, will do much for a prodigal child, what will he not, in the day of his riches, and power, and honour, do for a reconciled son?

Here, then, are two truths which, in assuring us of pardon, assure us of everything. "Jesus died, and Jesus liveth,"—these are the truths which contain everything for us. "Jesus died!"—that contains everything that we need for reconciliation and peace: "Jesus liveth!"—that contains everything pertaining to the promised inheritance. In knowing the former, I enter into friendship with God; in knowing the latter, I get hold of a security for all heavenly blessing, which takes away the possibility of a suspicion arising in my soul, even in my most troubled hours, as to my joy and glory for eternity. "Jesus died—Jesus liveth!" The simple knowledge of these simple truths is salvation, forgiveness, peace, eternal life. All that the death and life of Christ combined can accomplish is ours! All that can come forth from His grave, or down from His throne,—all that a dying and a living Saviour can do, is ours! All that is embraced in the wide compass between the lowest depths of the tomb of Jesus and the infinite heights of His eternal crown, all is ours! Many were the wonders which His death achieved for enemies; many more will be the wonders yet to be accomplished for His friends!

Hear how Scripture speaks of His life. "When He who is our life shall appear, then shall we also appear with Him in glory." His appearing as our life shall bring with it all that blessedness and glory which pertain to Him as the living One—as our life. "Because I live ye shall live also." He cannot die; He liveth forever. He is the resurrection and the life; therefore life, and all that life comprises, shall be ours. "He ever liveth to make intercession for us." He lives as if just on purpose to intercede for us; and oh, what will not the intercession of this ever living One secure for us! "Fear not," He says, "I am He that liveth and was dead; and am alive for evermore; and have the keys of hell and death." What more can we need, not simply to dissipate all fear, but to call up in us the most assured hope—nay, to fill us with the joy unspeakable and full of glory?

Of what, then, is it that this life of Christ gives us the assurance? Of salvation says the apostle: "We shall be saved by His life." Reconciliation is the result of His death; salvation, of His life!

But what does this salvation include? It is, as we have already seen, the entire reversal of our lost estate. And this includes much. It is, in the very largest sense, a "manifold salvation." It is deliverance from the wrath to come, from the horrors of an eternal hell. Of this, His death gives us the assurance; His life, much more; for hell itself, with all its powers and potentates, cannot prevail against Him who has subdued its prince. It is deliverance from guilt. However infinite that guilt may be, there is entire salvation from it all, salvation sure and irreversible. It is deliverance from sin. It assails sin in its very citadel, the inmost soul, and casts it out. No amount of corruption can withstand it. Self gives way, the flesh is crucified; the old man dies; the inward man is renewed day by day. It is deliverance from death,—the death both of body and soul, the first and second death. The Saviour has shaken the grave, and flung open its gates. Life,—life beyond the tomb, life in resurrection,—is what He has secured for us. "I am the resurrection and the life"; "Because I live ye shall live also"; "I have the keys of hell and death." Thus he speaks to us assuring us of redemption from the power of the grave. It is deliverance from want. His fullness takes away the possibility of any want, from the moment that our connection with Him began. Want from that time became impossible; for all His riches became ours. His fullness was always at command. It is deliverance from enemies and perils. Many and mighty as these might be, they could not affect us. We were beyond their reach. They might aim at us, but they could not harm. Our victory over them was sure.

And as we are thus assured not only of reconciliation but of salvation from all evil in every form, so are we put in possession of every good. "All things" become ours: for He who saves us makes full provision for His saved ones. All that a dying Saviour could secure for us is freely given; nay more, all that a living Saviour possesses for Himself becomes also ours. Joy, glory, dominion, royalty, priesthood, and a boundless inheritance,—all these are ours, and all of them made irreversibly sure to us from the fact that "Jesus liveth." He was dead and is alive; yea, and He liveth for evermore. This is our pledge for the perpetuity of our possession. He lives; and all that a living Saviour can do for us shall be done. He ever liveth to make intercession for us: what more do we need to assure us that "things present, things to come, life and death," all are ours; for we are Christ's, and Christ is God's? If His death made such a glorious commencement for us when we were enemies, what will not His life carry out and consummate for us now that we are friends?

Here, then, let us rest, for surely the resting place is a sufficient one. With arguments such as those of the apostle, let us confront Satan, breaking all his snares, overthrowing all his might; and disentangling ourselves from his subtlest sophistries. On grounds such as these, let us cast aside the various processes of doubting through which so many seem to think it necessary to pass; not listening to the whispers of unbelief, but meeting them all with the resistless argument of our text.

Here, too, let us greatly rejoice, turning this argument into a song of triumph; for surely it is both. It is as much the latter as it is the former. And more especially let us do so in these last days, when we are looking for the return of this same living Saviour. The prospect of His speedy arrival seems to impart to it double edge and force. Carrying out the argument we can say, If an absent Saviour has done so much for us, what will not a present Saviour do? If, when afar off, He has done such things for us, what will He not do when He is nigh? If the Man of Sorrows did so much for us, what will not the mighty Conqueror do? If, when put to shame, He did such great things for us, what will He not do when He is glorified? If, upon the cross, He so blessed and befriended us, what may we not expect when He sits upon His throne? If when He appeared on earth without form or comeliness, He wrought such wonders for us, what may we not look for when He comes in His beauty as the Church's Bridegroom? If, when He came as the son of the carpenter,—the despised son of Mary,—He achieved such victories and won such honours for us, what may we not anticipate when He comes in glory as the King of kings and Lord of lords.