Sunday, March 24, 2013

What Christ Deserves From God and Man

What Christ Deserves From God and Man

by Edward D. Griffin

"Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever."—Rev. i. 5, 6.

This was the exclamation of the beloved disciple, who had lain on his Saviour's bosom, who had seen Him die, who had just sunk at His feet in Patmos, and who was then rapt by the inspiration of God. With what inexpressible emotions did such a man, at such a time, utter this bursting praise! Could the veil of unbelief and the rock of insensibility be taken from our eyes and hearts, we would utter with the same emotions—
"Jesus is worthy to receive
Honour and power divine."

And the time is coming when "every creature.. in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them," shall be heard saying, "Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever." This beloved apostle, in the view which he took, saw and felt that Christ was worthy, not only of all gratitude and praise from the redeemed, but of all "glory and dominion" from God. His wish, as expressed in this burst of feeling, was, that He might be honoured by the obedience and adoration and thanks of all holy creatures, and by the kingdom and inheritance conferred by the Father. I am ready to think that you, my friends, who have so often seen Him on the cross, will echo this wish from the bottom of your hearts: and in order to lead your thoughts where such a wish would carry them, I will consider,—
I. What Christ deserves from God; and,
II. What He deserves from the redeemed.

I. What He deserves from God. And here I am not certain whether the term deserves is well applied. Viewing Him purely as Mediator, holding an office under God (without reference to His original equality with the Father, or any claim which He may be supposed to have as one of the eternal Persons in the Trinity), His title rests solely on the promise which God made to the obedience that He performed while a servant under law and bound to obey. Considering Him simply in this light, He could, in strictness of speech, deserve nothing from the Father; that is, He could not as a servant add any thing to God and lay Him under obligation upon the principle of commercial justice; as when a man has done a day's work for another and has a just claim for wages. No creature or subject can lay such an obligation upon God. "Who hath first given to him and it shall be recompensed unto him again?" Gabriel has no other claim than that which rests on a gratuitous promise. And Jesus, viewed as a mere servant under law, could establish no other. All that His obedience could do was to render Him a fit object of God's approbation, and a fit subject of a reward intended to encourage obedience, but due on no other ground than that of a promise sovereignly made. If we go back to the time when the covenant of redemption was formed, and consider Him as one of the original Persons in the Trinity, standing on an equality and contracting with Him who in the economy of redemption is known as the Father; if we can consider those two Persons of pure Godhead as so far two that one can have a claim on the other; and if the second Person in the eternal Godhead (I call Him so for want of another name, though second belongs to the scale of redemption), if the second Person in the eternal Godhead can be supposed so far interested in the rewards of the Mediator (for all the rewards are conferred on the Mediator—a character wholly formed by the covenant of redemption), as to have a claim to them in His own proper and original personality; then the second Person may deserve from the first all that good which to the Mediator is a reward, just as one man may deserve from another what is due to him by a fair and equal contract. But these are points too deep and mysterious for us to pronounce upon. It is enough for us to know that the rewards are all conferred on the Mediator, once the servant, now the Vicegerent of the Father, who, as holding the rights of the Godhead, is acknowledged in them all as the original Proprietor and Giver. "Ask of me, AND I shall give thee," is the tenor of all the promises to the Son. Viewing the matter in this light, we cannot place the claims of the Mediator on any other ground than those of Gabriel, and must rest them on a sovereign promise made to His obedience. And when we speak of His deserts or merits, we must mean only His fitness for rewards which express the Father's approbation, and His claims to them on the score of a divine promise.

Such merits the Redeemer has completely made out. His unvarying obedience under circumstances so difficult and self-denying; His acting out the perfect love required in the divine law, under all the abuses and insults of His murderers; His submission to the Father's will while sweating blood in the garden; His yielding to such dreadful agonies of body and soul for so many hours without one impatient feeling or recoiling wish,—are altogether such an exhibition of obedience as makes heaven and earth amazed; such as never was and never again will be made in any part of creation; such as was fit to constitute a title to all the inheritance of the Son of God.

This is the ground on which His inheritance is conferred. In that memorable account of the inheritance of the Son of God and Heir of all things, contained in the first chapter of Hebrews, the ground o the whole is expressed in these words: "Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows." For one under law to love righteousness and hate iniquity, is to obey. The whole then is awarded to His obedience. Some other parts of this chapter, as throwing light on His inheritance, I will quote: "God..hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things:.. who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they: for unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee?.. Of the angels he saith, Who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire. But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom." Here the inheritance by which Christ is raised to the title and honours of the Son of God, is made to include His exaltation to the kingdom. All this is again expressed in the Epistle to the Philippians: "Being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross: wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name," [to wit, the name of the Son of God;] "that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, .. and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."

In His inheritance are included all the positive blessings ever intended for Adam's race in both worlds; whether those which are extended to mankind indiscriminately as adapted to a state of probation, or those which are offered and promised and conferred as a gracious reward, or the sovereign gift of regeneration to the elect. All issue from Godhead as the reward of a perfect obedience; all are given to Christ for the use of man; all are held by a mediatorial claim, and drop upon our world as a part of the mediatorial estate. Not a salubrious breeze, nor a delightful prospect, nor a pleasant relation, nor a crumb of bread, but belongs to the mediatorial estate, and comes to us because first given to Christ. In this sense all are grounded on the righteousness of the Redeemer, and in no other sense come to us through Him, and in no other sense can be asked for His sake.

In His inheritance is included the highest visible throne in heaven, with all the personal glories which surround Him there, and universal dominion, accompanied with the submission and worship and thanksgiving of all holy creatures. So far as the power of enjoyment and the right of control imply possession, He possesses the whole universe, and certainly has authority to press everything into the service of His Church. As elsewhere, so on earth He is the only God that governs. All the power that is ascribed to God in the preservation, supply, and government of the world, and in the production of new generations of creatures, is exclusively exercised by the Mediatorial King. He said after His resurrection, "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth." The apostle speaks of him as "upholding all things by the word of his power." He was the God of the Old Testament, and has been the only Governor from the beginning. It was He that appeared in Eden; it was He that appeared to Abraham, and said, "I am the Almighty God"; it was He that appeared to Moses in the burning bush, and said, "I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." It must have been He, for "No man hath seen God" [meaning the Father] "at any time; the only begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him." It was He that went before Israel in a pillar of cloud by day and of fire by night, and was tempted or provoked by the rebels. Hence the warning of the apostle: "Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted and were destroyed of serpents." In speaking of the Father in the first chapter of Hebrews, the apostle says, "Unto the Son he saith" [quoting from the forty-fifth Psalm], "Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever." He then quotes the language of the inspired David to the God of the Old Testament (who of course was no other than the Mediatorial King), as the continuance of this very address of the Father to the Son: "And thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of thy hands. They shall perish, but thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment, and as a vesture shalt thou fold them up and they shall be changed; but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail." Whoever looks at the hundred and second Psalm will perceive that these words were addressed by David, under the Spirit of inspiration, to the God of the Old Testament,–the only God known as such: but here the apostle declares that they were addressed by the Father to the Son. As the Father had the original, undelegated claim to the Spirit, what is said by the authority of the Spirit to the God of Israel, the Mediatorial King, is ere alleged to have been said by the Father to the Son. The Son then must have been the God of the Old Testament.

In His inheritance is included the Church itself–the seed to serve Him, and the whole body of the elect before their conversion, together with the ways and means necessary to bring them to the knowledge of the truth and to conduct them to heaven; in short, the whole assembly of the redeemed in heaven and earth. His Church is one day to fill the whole world; and to all the nations then on the face of the earth He has a covenant claim. He has received by charter "the heathen for" His "inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for" His "possession." Every conversion is in pursuance of the promises made to Him, and a part of His stipulated reward. Every effusion of the Spirit is this on a larger scale. Every mission to the heathen is a partial fulfilment of the covenant made with Him. All thi mighty movement on earth is the promised reward of the Sufferer of Calvary, and is brought about on purpose to give Him a glorious triumph in the world where He obeyed and died. Who will not contemplate revivals and missions with new interest after this is known? Let them proceed. Let Him have His kingdom who died for wretched men. If all others sink, let the glorious Son of God be honoured. Go forth, ye heralds of the cross. Arise, ye nations, and "crown him Lord of all."

This leads me to consider,–

II. What He deserves from the redeemed. The ground of His claim against them is His dying for them and purchasing for them an inheritance. It is true that His obedience to His Father's law, as it constituted His excellence (His whole excellence, inasmuch as it involved all the love that struggled in His heart,) lays claim to the complacency and supreme respect of all creatures. But the special claim which He has against the redeemed is founded on the amazing love He bore them, and the unspeakable benefits He procured for them by bearing their sins and purchasing their inheritance. He loved them to such a degree that, rather than they should perish, He came down to all the humiliations of the manger and the prætorium; He endured that awful agony of soul for the greater part of four and twenty hours; and for six hours, with His life unbroken within Him, He hung suspended on the torturing spikes. All this to raise them, not from trifling calamities, but from everlasting fire, and the fury of rendering passions, and the company of raging devils, and from infinite despair. He came down to all the submission and toil of a servant, that by the most difficult and self-denying obedience He might purchase for them the blessings of this life, and glory for ever enduring and for ever increasing. This was love. This was conferring benefits on a scale worthy of the Son of God. If ever obligations were created by kindness, here are obligations as ponderous as the universe and as endless as eternity. And now what do the redeemed owe to their Deliverer?

1. They owe Him love and gratitude and praise. They owe it to Him to feel just as the beloved disciple did when His soul went out in this burst of affection: "Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever." They owe it to Him to feel just as the redeemed in heaven do when they sing that new song: "Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood, and hast made us unto our God kings and priests." Among all the objects which engage our daily attention, the Saviour of the world ought to stand pre-eminent. We ought to ponder upon His infinite excellence in descending so far, in doing and suffering so much, to support the energy of a holy government and to snatch a world from death; to hold out to view "the image of the invisible God" irradiated as by a thousand suns; to fill the universe with a knowledge of the glory of God, and to give complete and everlasting empire to holy order. We ought to ponder upon His immeasurable tenderness and compassion towards a wretched race, towards a world of enemies, towards the tigers who hung Him on the spikes and laughed at His agonies. We ought to ponder upon Him as the only ground of pardon, as the only ground of our present and eternal comforts, as having received (as His own reward and His own estate) the whole sum of good intended for us in both worlds. We ought to ponder upon Him as the most exalted, the most holy, and the most compassionate King, raised up to suppress all insurrections, to quell all disorders, to subdue all His enemies, and to extend a sceptre of righteousness over a composed and peaceful kingdom; raised up "to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins," to penetrate the mountains after the lost sheep, and to bring them home upon His shoulders rejoicing, to gather the lambs in His arms and carry them in His bosom; to extend the shield of protection over His people, to take care of all their interests, to supply them with every comfort, to support them when weary, to cheer them when faint, to wipe the tear from their cheek, and with a tenderness which another never felt, to carry forward and compete their salvation. This wonderful Personage, who is the grand subject of the Old Testament and the New, who fills the whole field of vision (not indeed so as to hide God the Father behind the Mediator, but in a way to present the only face in which God is seen), this glorious Sufferer, Saviour, and King, ought to be the object of our highest love, gratitude, and praise. The dearest earthly friend should give place to Him. It was not too much when He required us to hate father and mother and life in comparison with our love Him. And as to gratitude, no attentions of the kindest mother can put in their claims by the side of His. The highest gratitude that ever throbbed in the most affected heart should make Him its aim and scope. Every hour of the day, as often as the mind has leisure to direct an eye to Him, this gratitude ought to spring forth. And praise, sweet as the breath of love, and deep as the consciousness of our woes, and loud as the echo of His fame, should sound through the earth. The strain should be prolonged, and die away at last on our faltering tongue, only to burst with new raptures in another and better state.

2. We owe it to Him to believe in Him and to embrace Him, to approve of the way of salvation by Him, and to accept Him for our Saviour. Not to do this is to do all in our power to make it true that He died in vain. To do this is to give Him, as far as we have influence, all the reward which He ever sought. Surely after the Son of God has descended to the manger and the cross for our salvation, it is the least that we can do to allow Him to be our Saviour.

3. We owe it to Him to escape from sin and to obey all His commands. One principal end of His mediation was to save His people from their sins; and if they refuse to escape from sin they counteract His great design. The happiness which His benevolence sought for them is that which is bottomed on holy order, and connected with a union to Him in character and heart; and if they refuse to be like Him they frustrate the very end He had in view. In reward of His labours in our service He is made King of Zion, with authority to exercise dominion over all creatures: and how ungrateful for us not to submit to an authority thus acquired. If God will make Him a King for what He has done for us, will we refuse to own Him for a King? Will we deny Him that dominion which is His recompense for laying down His life for us? After all the benefits which the Son of God has conferred on us, will we not render Him the respect of our obedience? Has He not deserved this at our hands? After all the miseries which our sin has caused Him, will we still roll it as a sweet morsel under our tongue? Has not Calvary furnished a lesson to wean us for ever from sin? Can we see the anguish which it cost His holy soul, can we see its horrid nature as there depicted, can we hear the firm determination of God to punish it as there pronounced,–without fleeing from it as from a pestilence?  without panting with insatiable desires after universal holiness?

4. We owe it to Him to rejoice in the kingdom which He has received, and in everything which brings forward the grand consummation when He is to reign over all the earth. What friend of Immanuel, after following Him through His poverty and toils, and trembling at the insults and tortures which He endured from men, does not rejoice that He has found a throne? does not leap for joy at the decree pronounced when He escaped from Pilate and the Jews and rose from the sepulchre? "Yet have I set my King upon my holy hill of Zion... Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession." Who does not rejoice to know that on this earth where He wandered an exile, not having "where to lay his head," he is yet to reign the beloved and universal Monarch, and with a splendour of dominion which no potentate ever before attained? Not the splendour of Persian gold and Indian gems, but the splendour of immortal love and holines waving its triumphs over sin and misery subdued. Under His benignant sceptre I see the wretched prisoners burst their chains and walk forth disenthralled and redeemed. I see the throb of misery quelled and composed, as water quenches the flaming brand. I see the triumphs of the new-creating Spirit changing the face of the valley of death, and pouring upon anguish and despair His lights and consolations. I see the wretched Hindoo leaving his religion of obscenity and blood and coming up to the dignity and blessedness of a worshipper of Jehovah. I see the poor African dropping his gregrees to lay hold of the skirt of Christ. I see the South Sea islander mountng the scale of existence from the neighbourhood of vegetative life to a standing among immortal spirits. I see the poor Jew dropping the veil and tearing the rock from his breast, and weeping as he looks on Him whom his fathers pierced. I see, from nation to nation, the angry passions hushed, the rancour of the heart extracted, the empire of crime broken, the sword beaten to a ploughshare, the night of ignorance dispersing, pardons everywhere sweeping away the sentence of death, and the general moan of misery changed to universal exultation and praise. These are fruits which everywhere grow up under the tread of a Saviour's feet. These are the triumphs of the Redeemer's reign. Who that sees these things in prospect does not rejoice that the kingdom was given to Christ? Who that has any other than the heart of a devil does not rejoice at this mighty movement which is taking place on earth? does not shout for joy at the sight of every new mission sent to the heathen? Go, ye messengers of Christ, gather to Him the promised seed from the wilderness; enlarge His kingdom among the children of the forest, and translate His praises into tongues which never before contained His name. While ye go my soul shall thank you and rejoice; yea, it shall leap for joy that He who wore the platted thorns is to wear the many crowns.

5. We owe it Him to devote ourselves to His service, and to consecrate all that we are and have to the promotion of His kingdom. "Ye are not your own," said the apostle, "for ye are bought with a price." "Ye are bought with a price, be not ye the servants of men." That is, have but one master; be not in subjection to the opinions and customs of the world; attempt not to serve God and mammon; keep your eye single; have but one ultimate end; remember that you are not your own, but belong exclusively to Him who purchased you with His blood. O what a sacred bond would a deep sense of these words impose! "Ye are not your own, ye are bought with a price." If a man has bought a criminal from prison and from death that he may be his servant, how reasonably bound is that man to devote all his time to his benefactor, and never to feel himself his own. Had it not been for the bitter sufferings of our divine Master, we should have been spending all these years in hell. Surely then we are not our own but His. And nothing that we call our own is ours. "Holiness to the Lord," should be inscribed on everything that we are or have. Our only business on earth should be to promote His Kingdom and glory. Our time and talents should have no other appropriation; our exertions should have no other aim; all our habits and expenses and amusements and business and calculations should be brought under this law; every particle of our property should be disposed of in a manner which we conscientiously believe most calculated to honour Christ, and should be held ready to be given up without a struggle as fast as He calls for it, even to the uttermost farthing. We should rack our invention to contrive ways of doing good, and be constantly occupied in this study and work, as far as health will permit. We should be sure to bring to pass as much as possible every day. And when we find a clear opportunity to do or give something to promote the kingdom of Christ, we should rejoice in it more than in great riches. This is certainly the least that can result from feeling ourselves not our own, but bought with a price: and all this we manifestly owe to Him who left the heaven of His glory to die for us on a cross. Say, ye redeemed of the Lord, is this too much? Ask John, while that burst of gratitude is breaking from His heart, "Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood," and would he say that I have placed the standard too high? My brethren, we have divided the interest with Christ long enough. Hereafter let Him have the whole. Let us look through our hearts and families, through our neighbourhood and world, and see what we can give or do for His kingdom, and cast in our prayers, our efforts, our property, our all, to advance that great and only interest of the world. And when that kingdom shall be completed in heaven, we shall find enough in it to constitute our eternal portion, without the husks which we gave for its advancement. Let that be my portion, and let sinners take the rest. Amen.

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