(Conclusion of meditation begun in the August issue)
“Unto him that loveth us, and loosed us from our sins by his blood; and he made us to be a kingdom, to be priests unto his God and Father; to him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” (Rev. 1:5, 6).
“Loosed from our sins by his blood.” Loosed from the penalty of our sins. Loosed from their power.
This is real freedom! “If the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:36).
He breaks the power of cancelled sin, He sets the prisoner free; His blood can make the foulest clean, His blood avails for me. Freedom is a much abused word.
Christians cannot afford to mishandle the term. The liberty we have in Christ is not the abandonment of restraint. It is not release from responsibility. Strange as it may sound, our freedom lies in a bond-service, a totalitarian service. The Savior who loosed us is our Lord! The secret of his liberty lies in submission to his sovereignty. It is not enough to ask, “Freedom from what?” We must also ask, “Freedom for what?” And the answer is: “He died for all, that they that live should no longer live unto themselves, but unto him who for their sakes died and rose again” (2 Cor. 5:15).
Spiritual Freedom, A Matter of the Heart
This spiritual freedom is not in our circumstances but in our hearts. Liberty in the Lord is not an external condition. Christ sets the heart free so that under any circumstances, whether in sickness or in health, in poverty or in prosperity, the man is free. Paul in bonds was a good deal more free than King Agrippa upon the throne. Madame Guyon in prison was gloriously free. That is why she could write:
A little bird I am shut from the fields of air:
Yet in my cage I sit and sing
To Him who placed me here:
Well pleased a prisoner to be
Because, my God, it pleases Thee.
My cage confines me round,
Abroad I cannot fly,
So though my wing is closely bound,
My heart’s at liberty.
My prison walls cannot control
The flight, the freedom of my soul.
Oh, it is good to soar
These bolts and bars above,
To Him whose purpose I adore,
Whose Providence is love:
And in Thy mighty will to find
The joy, the freedom of the mind.
“Loosed from our sins by his blood.” But this is not all. The redemptive design of our Savior’s mission includes our advancement to a state of great dignity. “He made us to be a kingdom, to be priests unto his God and Father.” Here the promise of Exodus 19:6, originally applied to Israel, is given wider application to all believers. The Israel of the Old Testament broadens into the Church of the New. What was once a narrow, racial channel issues in the ocean of a new humanity in Christ.
Spiritual Service, a Living Sacrifice
The New Testament is replete with references to our high dignity and great responsibility as a royal priesthood: “Ye also, as living stones, are built up a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (I Pet. 2:5). “Ye are an elect race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, that ye may show forth the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (I Pet. 2:9). “Through him then let us offer up a sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of lips which make confession to his name” (Heb. 13:15). “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service” (Rom. 12:1).
It is a highly spiritual service to which we are consecrated. And the consecration is real, not merely nominal. We have “an anointing from the Holy One” (I John 2:20). True, we arc not called away from the common duties and occupations of our daily life. The blood-royal of heaven have earthly tasks to perform. We are placed in the same relations with unbelievers, engaged in the same employments, busy with them in the market places, associating with them in the business of life. Yet, in these common functions we are taught to act for God. Our association with the world is never to be identification with the world. Always there must be a difference, not necessarily an external one, as in garb or in fashion—though on occasion there may need to be but a difference in character and in nature.
Called to a Spiritual Kingdom
The believer is a child of the Most High. He is one with Christ, the Lord of glory. He is “born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:13). It is a spiritual kingdom to which he belongs and in which he has his royal honors. Here he fights the good fight of faith, clad in the whole armor of God. He witnesses for truth, repels the aggressions of temptation, and walks at liberty because he loves God’s commandments. In ruling his spirit, he is better than he that taketh a city. He serves God and him only, for even in what he does for man he is the servant of God. He has an amplitude of possessions, for though he may be poor in this world’s goods he is in the best sense rich. God’s favor rests upon him, God’s image is restored within him, and as a prince he has power with God and prevails. Moreover, as priest he is admitted to intimate communion with God. Far superior are his privileges over those of the high priest of old who could enter the most holy place but once each year. The royal priest of the New Covenant has access at all times into the holiest by a new and living way (cf. Heb. 10:20).
It remains for eternity to unfold the full measure of our exalted position as God’s adopted children. For the present, the glory of our character is veiled. Hence the apostle writes, “Your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall be manifested, then shall ye also with him be manifested in glory” (Col. 3:3, 4).
Obliged to Holy Gratitude
It is the natural fruit of faith and also its evidence, to be much engaged in contemplating the love of the Redeemer, and in regarding with holy gratitude the benefits we have received and yet expect at his hands. And while we thus meditate on his love, and on our honors and privileges as his people, our hearts burn within us and our lips speak forth his praise. So John, in the text of this devotional meditation, considering the love of Christ in loosing his people from their sins, and in making them a royal priesthood, cries out in the name of the Church Universal, “to him be the glory and the dominion for ever and ever. Amen.”
These words express the joy which the believer feels in the glory to which Christ has already been exalted, and his longing to see him universally glorified. “God…raised him from the dead, and gave him glory” (I Pet. 1:21). We cannot err in the way of excess in acknowledging the preeminence of our Savior. It is declared to be the will of God “that all…honor the Son, even as they honor the Father” (John 5:23). Again, it is written: “Let all the angels of God worship him” (Heb. 1:6). To him be the glory!
The spirit of faith is invariably a spirit of such devotion. Have you ever observed that a good part of the Holy Scriptures consists in the expression of devout feelings? The prophets and apostles were not satisfied with reasoning out the truth, establishing it by arguments and illustrating it by examples, but they continually gave utterance to corresponding emotions of soul. Let no one say that this represents only the surface of religion. The fact is that this represents the deeper aspect of faith so long as these emotions and enthusiasms are regulated by the truth.
The Need for Holy Enthusiasm
In many academic circles religious enthusiasm is taboo. One sometimes finds this to be so where he least expects it, namely, in Christian schools, colleges, and seminaries. Young people whose hearts are warm with love for Christ and his kingdom are astonished and disappointed by the “deep freeze” handling of truth—God’s truth—in the classrooms. The intelligentsia can be so cold. Everything for the head; nothing for the heart. Warfield, in 1912 decried the Christless Christianity of his times. In our day we must lament the heartless Christianity. Perhaps the two are related. Listen to the angels! It is not intelligence only, but more eminently devotion that distinguishes their spiritual exercises. These high orders, in all their gradations, continually express their devout ardor in terms like these: “Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever” (Rev. 5:13).
We need more of this in our homes, our churches, and our Christian schools. So often it appears that we are averse to the cultivation of devotional feelings. Our thoughts are not occupied as they should be with the glory of the Savior. His character and grace should be frequent subjects of our meditation. Our hearts should muse while our minds are being stimulated, till the fire burns within us and our tongues exclaim: “To him be glory for ever.”
Does someone call that fundamentalism? Call it what you please, my friend. It is genuinely scriptural. Paul was such a fundamentalist. He was not a cold-blooded logic-chopper. Far from it! A burning zeal consumed him. To the learned that confronted him, wherever he preached or lectured, he had something more to offer than a dessicated cluster of juiceless categories. A man of unusual intellect, a dialectician and theologian, he was also a man of deep feeling. H is theology had warmth. His reasoning was suffused with emotion. This is observable even in his epistle to the Romans, the most severely logical form of reasoning he has left us.
The Joy of Personal Submission
“To him be the glory and the dominion.” Yes, dominion, too. This is an acknowledgment of his right to reign, a profession of our personal submission to him, and an aspiration after the universal establishment of his kingdom. To praise him thus is a most personal matter. For if we say, “To him be dominion,” we must be sure that we ourselves submit to him. Otherwise our words will condemn us.
We must submit to the dominion of his grace, placing all our confidence in it. We must submit to the dominion of all his laws, in all their extent and spirituality. His laws are holy, just, and good. They are the transcript of his character. We sec the excellence of them all, and while painfully aware that we fall far short of their perfection, we would not have one of them altered.
“To him be the glory and the dominion for ever and ever. Amen.”