Abandoning God

Call to Worship January 13 2018

Expository Thoughts on the Gospel of Luke
J.C. Ryle Luke 22:14-23

“We should notice, for one thing in these verses — that the principal object of the Lord’s supper was to remind Christians of Christ’s death for sinners. In appointing the Lord’s supper, Jesus distinctly tells His disciples that they were to do what they did, ‘in remembrance of Me.’ In one word, the Lord’s supper is not a sacrifice. It is eminently a commemorative ordinance.

The bread that the believer eats at the Lord’s table, is intended to remind him of Christ’s body given to death on the cross for his sins. The wine that he drinks, is intended to remind him of Christ’s blood shed to make atonement for his transgressions. The whole ordinance was meant to keep fresh in his memory — the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, and the satisfaction which that sacrifice made for the sin of the world.

The two elements of bread and wine were intended to preach Christ crucified as our substitute under lively emblems. They were to be a visible sermon, appealing to the believer’s senses, and teaching the old foundation-truth of the Gospel — that Christ’s death on the cross, is the life of man’s soul.

We shall do well to keep this simple view of the Lord’s supper steadily in view. There is of course no doubt, that a special blessing is attached to a worthy use of it, as well to the worthy use of every ordinance appointed by Christ. But that there is any other means by which Christians can eat Christ’s body, and drink Christ’s blood excepting by faith — we must always steadily deny. He who comes to the Lord’s table with faith in Christ, may confidently expect to have his faith increased by receiving the bread and wine. But he who comes without faith — has no right to expect a blessing. Empty he comes to the ordinance — and empty he will go away.

The less mystery and obscurity we attach to the Lord’s supper — the better will it be for our souls. We should reject with abhorrence, the unscriptural notion that there is any sacrifice in it — that the substance of the bread and wine is at all changed — or that the mere formal act of receiving the sacrament, can do any good to the soul.

We should cling firmly to the great principle laid down at its institution, that the Lord’s supper is eminently a commemorative ordinance, and that reception of it without faith and a thankful remembrance of Christ’s death — can do us no good.

The words of the Church Catechism are wise and true, ‘The Lord’s supper was ordained for the continual remembrance of the sacrifice of the death of Christ.’ The declaration of the Articles is clear and distinct, ‘The means whereby the body of Christ is received and taken in the supper, is faith.’ The exhortation of the Prayer-Book points out the only way in which we can feed on Christ, ‘Feed on Him in your hearts — by faith with thanksgiving.’ Last, but not least, the caution of the Homily is most instructive, ‘Let us take heed, lest of the memory the Lord’s supper be made into a sacrifice.’

We should notice, for another thing, in these verses — that the observance of the Lord’s Supper is a duty binding on all true Christians. The words of our Lord on this point are direct and emphatic, ‘Do this in remembrance of Me.’ To suppose, as some do, that these words are only an injunction to the apostles and all ministers to administer the Lord’s Supper to others, is a thoroughly unsatisfactory interpretation. The obvious sense of the words, is a general precept to all disciples.

The command before us is overlooked to a fearful extent. Myriads of members of Christian churches never go to the Lord’s table. They would be ashamed perhaps to be known as open breakers of the ten commandments. Yet they are not ashamed of breaking a plain command of Christ! They appear to think there is no great sin in not being communicants. They seem utterly unconscious, that if they had lived in the days of the apostles — they would not have been reckoned Christians at all.

The subject no doubt is one on which we must beware of mistakes. It is not, of course, to be desired that every baptized person should receive the Lord’s Supper — as a mere matter of form. It is an ordinance which was intended for the spiritual living — and not for those dead in sins. But when we see vast numbers of church-goers never going to the Lord’s table, and no way ashamed of their neglect of the sacrament — then it is clear that there is something very wrong in the state of the churches! It is a sign either of wide-spread ignorance — or of callous indifference to a divine precept. When such multitudes of baptized people habitually break a command of Christ — we cannot doubt that Christ is displeased.

What are we doing ourselves? This, after all, is the point that concerns us.

Do we stay away from the Lord’s Supper under a vague notion that there is no great necessity for receiving it? If we hold such an opinion — the sooner we give it up, the better. A plain precept of God’s own Son is not to be trifled with in this way.

Do we stay away from the Lord’s Supper because we are not fit to be communicants? If we do — then let us thoroughly understand that we are not fit to die. If we are unfit for the Lord’s table — then we are unfit for Heaven, and unprepared for the judgment day, and not ready to meet God! Surely this is a most serious state of things.

But the words before us are clear and explicit. Christ gives us a plain command. If we willfully disobey it — then we are in danger of ruining our souls. If we are not fit to obey it — then we ought to repent without delay.

Let us notice, lastly — WHO were the communicants at the first appointment of the Lord’s Supper. They were not all holy. They were not all believers. Luke informs us that the traitor, Judas Iscariot, was one of them. The words of our Lord admit of no other fair interpretation, ‘Behold,’ He says, ‘the hand of him who betrays Me, is with Me on the table.’

The lesson of these words is deeply important. They show us that we must not regard all communicants as true believers and sincere servants of Christ. The evil and good will be found side by side even at the Lord’s Supper. No discipline can possibly prevent it. They show us furthermore, that it is foolish to stay away from the Lord’s Supper because some communicants are unconverted, or to leave a church because some of its members are unsound. The wheat and the tares will grow together until the harvest. Our Lord himself tolerated a Judas at the first Lord’s supper that ever took place. The servant of God must not pretend to be more exclusive than his Master. Let him see to his own heart — and leave others to answer for themselves to God.

And now, if we are not communicants — then let us ask ourselves, as we leave this passage: ‘Why are we not? What satisfactory reason can we possibly give for neglecting a plain command of Christ?’ May we never rest, until we have looked this inquiry in the face!

If we are communicants — then let us take heed that we receive the sacrament worthily. ‘The sacraments have a wholesome effect and operation in those alone, who worthily receive them.’ Let us often inquire whether we repent, and believe, and strive to live holy lives. So living, we need not be afraid, to eat of that bread and drink of that cup, which the Lord has commanded to be received.”

Grace & Peace

Call to Worship January 6 2019

Expository Thoughts on the Gospel of Luke

J.C. Ryle Luke 22:1-13

“We see, firstly, in these verses — that high offices in the church do not preserve the holders of them from great blindness and sin. We read that ‘the chief priests and scribes sought how they might kill Jesus.’

The first step in putting Christ to death, was taken by the religious teachers of the Jewish nation. The very men who ought to have welcomed the Messiah — were the men who conspired to kill Him. The very teachers who ought to have rejoiced at the appearing of the Lamb of God — had the chief hand in slaying Him. They sat in Moses’ seat. They claimed to be ‘guides of the blind,’ and ‘lights of those who were in darkness.’ (Romans 2:19.) They belonged to the tribe of Levi. They were, most of them — in direct succession and descent from Aaron. Yet they were the very men who crucified the Lord of glory! With all their boasted knowledge — they were far more ignorant than the few Galilean fishermen who followed Christ.

Let us beware of attaching an excessive importance to Christian ministers because of their office. Ordination and religious office confer no exemption from error. The greatest heresies have been sown, and the greatest practical abuses have been introduced into the church — by ordained men! Respect is undoubtedly due to high official position. Order and discipline ought not to be forgotten. The teaching and counsel of regularly appointed teachers, ought not to be lightly refused.

But there are limits beyond which we must not go. We must never allow the blind to lead us into the ditch! We must never allow modern chief priests and scribes, to make us crucify Christ afresh. We must test all teachers, by the unerring rule of the Word of God. It matters little who says a thing in religion — but it matters greatly what is said. Is it scriptural? Is it true? This is the only question. ‘To the law and to the testimony — if they do not speak according to this word — it is because there is no light in them.’ (Isaiah 8:20.)

We see, secondly, in these verses — how far men may fall after making a high profession. We read that the second step toward our Lord’s crucifixion, was the treachery of one of the twelve apostles, ‘Then Satan entered into Judas Iscariot, being of the number of the twelve.’ These words are particularly solemn. To be tempted by Satan is bad enough. To be sifted, buffeted, led captive by him — is truly terrible. But when Satan ‘enters into a man,’ and dwells in him — the man becomes indeed a child of Hell!

Judas Iscariot ought to be a standing beacon to the church of Christ. This man, be it remembered, was one of our Lord’s chosen apostles. He followed our Lord during the whole course of His ministry. He forsook all for Christ’s sake. He heard Christ preach, and saw Christ’s miracles. He preached himself. He spoke like the other apostles. There was nothing about him to distinguish him from Peter, James, and John. He was never suspected of being unsound at heart.

And yet this man turns out at length to be a hypocrite, betrays his Master, helps his enemies to deliver Him up to death, and dies as ‘the son of perdition.’ (John 17:12.) These are fearful things. But they are true.

Let the recollection of Judas Iscariot constrain every professing, Christian to pray much for humility. Let us often say, ‘Search me, O God, and know my heart — try me, and know my thoughts.’ (Psalm 139:23.)

At best, we have but a faint conception of the deceitfulness of our hearts. The lengths to which men may go in religion, and yet be without saving grace — is far greater than we suppose!

We see, thirdly, in these verses — the enormous power of the love of money. We are told that when Judas went to the chief priests and offered to betray his Master, they ‘agreed to give him money.’ That little sentence reveals the secret of this wretched man’s fall. He was fond of money, He had doubtless heard our Lord’s solemn warning, ‘Take heed and beware of covetousness!’ (Luke 12:15.) But he had either forgotten it, or given it no heed. Covetousness was the rock on which he made shipwreck. Covetousness was the ruin of his soul.

We need not wonder that Paul called the love of money, ‘the root of all evil.’ (1 Timothy 6:10.) The history of the church is full of mournful proofs, that it is one of the choicest weapons of Satan for corrupting and spoiling professors of religion. Gehazi, Ananias and Sapphira are names which naturally occur to our minds. But of all proofs, there is none so melancholy as the one before us. For money, a chosen apostle sold the best and most loving of Masters! For money, Judas Iscariot betrayed Christ!

Let us watch and pray against the love of money. It is a subtle disease, and often far nearer to us than we suppose. A poor man is just as liable to it, as a rich man. It is possible to love money without having it — and it is possible to have it without loving it.

Let us be ‘content with such things as we have.’ (Hebrews 13:5.) We never know what we might do, if we became suddenly rich. It is a striking fact, that there is only one prayer in all the Book of Proverbs, and that one of the three petitions in that prayer, is the wise request, ‘Give me neither poverty nor riches — but give me only my daily bread.’ (Proverbs 30:8.)

We see, lastly, in these verses — the close connection between our Lord Jesus Christ’s death, and the Feast of the Passover. Four times we are reminded here that the evening before His crucifixion was the time of the great Jewish feast. It was ‘the day when the Passover lamb must be killed.’

We cannot doubt that the time of our Lord’s crucifixion was overruled by God. His perfect wisdom and controlling power arranged that the Lamb of God should die, at the very time when the Passover-lamb was being slain. The death of Christ was the fulfillment of the Passover. Jesus was the true sacrifice to which every Passover-lamb had been pointing for 1500 years! What the death of the lamb had been to Israel in Egypt — Jesus’ death was to be to sinners all over the world. The safety which the blood of the Passover-lamb had provided for Israel — Jesus’ blood was to provide far more abundantly for all who believed in Him.

Let us never forget the sacrificial character of Christ’s death. Let us reject with abhorrence, the modern notion that it was nothing more than a noble instance of self-sacrifice and self-denial. It was this no doubt — but it was something far higher, deeper, and more important than this. It was an atoning sacrifice for man’s transgression. It was the killing of the true Passover Lamb, through whose death destruction is warded off from sinners believing on Him. ‘Christ our Passover Lamb,’ says Paul, ‘is sacrificed for us.’ (1 Corinthians 5:7.) Let us grasp that truth firmly, and never let it go.”

The Apostle Paul’s Authority

Call to Worship December 30 2018

Expository Thoughts on the Gospel of Luke

J.C. Ryle Luke 21:21-38

“Let us learn from these verses — the spiritual danger to which even the holiest believers are exposed in this world. Our Lord says to His disciples, ‘Watch out! Or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life — and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap!’

These words are exceedingly startling. They were not addressed to carnal-minded Pharisees, or skeptical Sadducees, or worldly Herodians. They were addressed to Peter, James, and John, and the whole company of the Apostles. They were addressed to men who had given up everything for Christ’s sake, and had proved the reality of their faith by loving obedience and steady adhesion to their Master. Yet even to them, our Lord holds out the peril of carousing, and drunkenness, and worldliness! Even to them He says, ‘Watch out!’

The exhortation before us should teach us the immense importance of humility. There is no sin so great — but a great saint may fall into it. There is no saint so great — but he may fall into a great sin. Noah escaped the pollutions of the world before the flood — and yet he was afterwards overtaken by drunkenness. Abraham was the father of the faithful — and yet through unbelief he said falsely that Sarah was his sister. Lot did not take part in the horrible wickedness of Sodom — and yet he afterwards fell into foul sin in the cave. Moses was the meekest man on earth — and yet he so lost self-control that he spoke angrily and unadvisedly. David was a man after God’s own heart — and yet he plunged into most heinous adultery.

These examples are all deeply instructive. They all show the wisdom of our Lord’s warning in the passage before us. They teach us to be ‘clothed with humility.’ ‘Let him who thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall.’ (1 Peter 5:5; 1 Corinthians 10:12.)

The exhortation before us should teach us the great importance of an unworldly spirit. The ‘cares of this life’ are placed side by side with carousing and drunkenness.

Excess in eating and drinking, is not the only excess which injures the soul. There is an excessive anxiety about the innocent things of this life — which is just as ruinous to our spiritual prosperity, and just as poisonous to the soul.

Never, never let us forget — that we may make spiritual shipwreck on lawful things — as really and truly as on open vices! Happy is he who has learned to hold the things of this world with a loose hand, and to believe that seeking first the kingdom of God, ‘all other things shall be added to him!’(Matthew 6:33.)

Let us learn secondly from these verses — the exceeding suddenness of our Lord’s second coming. We read, ‘That day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap!’ It will come as a trap falling suddenly on an animal, and catching it in a moment — as the lightning flash shining suddenly in the sky, before the thunder is heard — as a thief coming suddenly in the night, and not giving notice that he will come — so sudden, so instantaneous will the second coming of the Son of man be!

The precise date of our Lord Jesus Christ’s return to this world, has been purposely withheld from us by God. ‘Of that day and hour — no man knows.’ On one point however, all the teaching of Scripture about it is clear and unmistakable. Whenever it shall take place — it will be a most sudden and unexpected event. The business of the world shall be going on as usual. As in the days of Sodom, and the days before the flood — men shall be ‘eating and drinking, marrying and given in marriage.’ Few, even among true believers, shall be found completely alive to the great fact, and living in a state of thorough expectation.

In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, the whole course of the world shall be stopped. The King of kings shall appear. The dead shall be raised. The living shall be changed. Unbelief shall wither away. Truth shall be known too late by myriads! The world with all its trifles and shadows shall be thrust aside. Eternity with all its solemn realities shall begin. All this shall begin at once, without notice, without warning, without note of preparation. ‘That day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap!’

The servant of God must surely see that there is only one state of mind which befits the man who believes these things. That state is one of perpetual preparedness to meet Christ. The Gospel does not call us to retire from earthly callings, or neglect the duties of our stations. It does not bid us to retire into hermitages, or live the life of a monk or a nun. But it does bid us to live like men who expect their Lord to return! Repentance toward God, faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ, and holiness of conduct — are the only true habitual preparations required. The Christian who knows these things by experience — is the man who is always ready to meet his Lord.

Let us learn, lastly, from these verses — the special duties of believers in the prospect of the second coming of Christ. Our Lord sums up these duties under two great heads. One of these two is watchfulness. The other is prayer. ‘Watch therefore,’ He says, ‘and pray always.’

We are to ‘watch.’ We are to live on our guard like men in an enemy’s country. We are to remember that evil is about us, and near us, and in us — that we have to contend daily with a treacherous heart, an ensnaring world, and a busy devil! Remembering this, we must put on the whole armor of God, and beware of spiritual drowsiness. ‘Let us not sleep as others do,’ says Paul, ‘but let us watch and be sober.’ (1 Thessalonians 5:6.)

We are to ‘pray always.’ We are to keep up a constant habit of real, sincere prayer. We are to speak with God daily, and hold daily communion with Him about our souls. We are to pray especially for grace to lay aside every weight, and to cast away everything which may interfere with readiness to meet our Lord. Above all, we are to watch our habits of devotion with a godly jealousy, and to beware of hurrying over or shortening our prayers.

Let us leave the whole passage with a hearty determination, by God’s help, to act on what we have been reading. If we believe that Christ is coming again — then let us get ready to meet Him. ‘If we know these things — happy are we if we do them.’ (John 13:17.)”

Providence and the Birth of Christ

Call to Worship December 23 2018

Expository Thoughts on the Gospel of Luke

J.C. Ryle Matthew 1:18-25

“These verses begin by telling us two great truths. They tell us how the Lord Jesus Christ took our nature upon Him, and became man. They tell us also that His birth was miraculous. His mother Mary was a virgin.

These are very mysterious subjects. They are depths, which we have no line to fathom. They are truths, which we have not mind enough to comprehend. Let us not attempt to explain things which are above our feeble reason. Let us be content to believe with reverence, and not speculate about matters which we cannot understand. Enough for us to know, that with Him who made the world nothing is impossible. Let us rest in the words of the Apostles’ Creed: ‘Jesus Christ was conceived by the Holy Spirit, and born of the Virgin Mary.’

Let us observe the conduct of Joseph described in these verses. It is a beautiful example of godly wisdom, and tender consideration for others. He saw the ‘appearance of evil’ in her who was his espoused wife. But he did nothing rashly. He waited patiently to have the line of duty made clear. In all probability he laid the matter before God in prayer. ‘He who believes shall not be in haste.’ (Isaiah 28:16.)

The patience of Joseph was graciously rewarded. He received a direct message from God upon the subject of his anxiety, and was at once relieved from all his fears. How good it is to wait upon God! Who ever cast his cares upon God in hearty prayer, and found him fail? ‘In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.’ (Prov. 3:6.)

Let us observe the two names given to our Lord in these verses. One is JESUS: the other EMMANUEL. One describes His office; the other His nature. Both are deeply interesting.

The name JESUS means ‘Savior.’ It is the same name as Joshua in the Old Testament. It is given to our Lord because ‘He saves His people from their sins.’ This is His special office. He saves them from the guilt of sin, by washing them in His own atoning blood. He saves them from the dominion of sin, by putting in their hearts the sanctifying Spirit. He saves them from the presence of sin, when He takes them out of this world to rest with Him. He will save them from all the consequences of sin, when He shall give them a glorious body at the last day. Blessed and holy are Christ’s people! From sorrow, cross, and conflict they are not saved. But they are saved from sin for evermore. They are cleansed from guilt by Christ’s blood. They are made fit for heaven by Christ’s Spirit. This is salvation. He who cleaves to sin is not yet saved.

Jesus is a very encouraging name to heavy-laden sinners. He who is King of kings and Lord of lords might lawfully have taken some more high-sounding title. But He does not do so. The rulers of this world have often called themselves Great, Conquerors, Bold, Magnificent, and the like. The Son of God is content to call Himself Savior. The souls which desire salvation may draw near to the Father with boldness, and have access with confidence through Christ. It is His office and His delight to show mercy. ‘For God didn’t send his Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through him.’ (John 3:17.)

Jesus is a name, which is peculiarly sweet and precious to believers. It has often done them good, when the favor of kings and princes would have been heard of with unconcern. It has given them what money cannot buy, even inward peace. It has eased their wearied consciences, and given rest to their heavy hearts. The Song of Solomon speaks the experience of many, when it says, ‘your name is oil poured forth.’ (Cant. 1:3.) Happy is that person, who trusts not merely in vague notions of God’s mercy and goodness, but in ‘Jesus.’

The other name in these verses is scarcely less interesting than that just referred to. It is the name which is given to our Lord from his nature, as ‘God manifest in the flesh.’ He is called EMMANUEL, ‘God with us.’

Let us take care that we have clear views of our Lord Jesus Christ’s nature and person. It is a point of the deepest importance. We should settle it firmly in our minds, that our Savior is perfect man as well as perfect God, and perfect God as well as perfect man. If we once lose sight of this great foundation truth, we may run into fearful heresies. The name Emmanuel takes in the whole mystery. Jesus is ‘God with us.’ He had a nature like our own in all things, sin only excepted. But though Jesus was ‘with us’ in human flesh and blood, He was at the same time very God.

We shall often find, as we read the Gospels, that our Savior could be weary, and hungry, and thirsty–could weep, and groan, and feel pain like one of ourselves. In all this we see ’the man’ Christ Jesus. We see the nature He took on Him, when He was born of the Virgin Mary.

But we shall also find in the same Gospels that our Savior knew men’s hearts and thoughts–that He had power over devils–that He could work the mightiest of miracles with a word–that He was ministered to by angels–that He allowed a disciple to call Him ‘my God,’–and that he said, ‘Before Abraham was I am,’ and ‘I and my Father are one.’ In all this we see ’the eternal God.’ We see Him ‘who is over all, God, blessed forever. Amen.’ (Rom. 9:5.)

Would you have a strong foundation for your faith and hope? Then keep in constant view your Savior’s divinity. He in whose blood you are taught to trust is the Almighty God. All power is His in heaven and earth. None can pluck you out of His hand. If you are a true believer in Jesus, let not your heart be troubled or afraid.

Would you have sweet comfort in suffering and trial? Then keep in constant view your Savior’s humanity. He is the man Christ Jesus, who lay on the bosom of the Virgin Mary, as a little infant, and knows the heart of a man. He can be touched with the feeling of your infirmities. He has Himself experienced Satan’s temptations. He has endured hunger. He has shed tears. He has felt pain. Trust Him at all times with all your sorrows. He will not despise you. Pour out all your heart before Him in prayer, and keep nothing back. He can sympathize with His people.

Let these thoughts sink down into our minds. Let us bless God for the encouraging truths which the first chapter of the New Testament contains. It tells us of One who ‘saves His people from their sins.’ But this is not all. It tells us that this Savior is ‘Emmanuel,’ God Himself, and yet God with us, God manifest in human flesh like our own. This is glad tidings. This is indeed good news. Let us feed on these truths in our hearts by faith with thanksgiving.”

Paul the Apostle

Call to Worship Decembver 16 2018

Expository Thoughts on the Gospel of Luke
J.C. Ryle Luke 21:10-19
“We should notice, for one thing, in this passage — Christ’s prediction concerning the nations of the world. He says, ‘Nation will be raised up against nation — and kingdom against kingdom. There will be violent earthquakes, and famines and plagues in various places — and there will be terrifying sights and great signs from Heaven.’
These words no doubt received a partial fulfillment in the days when Jerusalem was captured by the Romans, and the Jews were led into captivity. It was a season of unparalleled desolation to Judea, and the countries round about Judea. The last days of the Jewish dispensation, were wound up by a struggle which for bloodshed, misery, and tribulation, has never been equaled since the world began.
But the words before us have yet to receive a more complete accomplishment. They describe the time which shall immediately precede the second coming of Jesus Christ. The ‘time of the end’ shall be a time of war, and not of universal peace. The Christian dispensation shall pass away like the Jewish one — amid wars, tumults, and desolation, amid a general crash of empires and kingdoms, such as the eyes of man have never yet seen.
A thorough understanding of these things is of great importance to our souls. Nothing is so calculated to chill the heart and dampen the faith of a Christian — as indulgence in unscriptural expectations. Let us dismiss from our minds the vain idea that nations will ever give up wars entirely, before Jesus Christ comes again. So long as the devil is the prince of this world, and the hearts of the many are unconverted — so long there must be strife and fighting. There will be no universal peace before the second coming of the Prince of peace. Then, and then only, ‘They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.’ (Isaiah 2:4.)
Let us cease to expect that missionaries and ministers will ever convert the world, and teach all mankind to love one another. They will do nothing of the kind! They were never intended to do it. They will call out a witnessing people who shall serve Christ in every land — but they will do no more. The bulk of mankind will always refuse to obey the Gospel. The nations will always go on quarreling, wrangling, and fighting. The last days of the earth — shall be its worst days. The last war, shall be the most fearful and terrible war that ever desolated the earth.
The duty of the true Christian is clear and plain. Whatever others do — he must give all diligence to make his own calling and election sure. While others are occupied in national conflicts and political speculations — the Christian must steadily seek first the kingdom of God. So doing, he shall feel his feet upon a rock — when the foundations of the earth are out of course, and the kingdoms of this earth are going to ruin. He shall be like Noah, safe within the ark. He shall be ‘hidden in the day of the Lord’s anger!’ (Zephaniah 2:3.)
We should notice, for another thing, in this passage — Christ’s prediction concerning His own disciples. He does not prophesy smooth things, and promise them an uninterrupted course of temporal comfort. He says that they shall be ‘persecuted,’ put in ‘prison,’ ‘brought before kings and rulers,’ ‘betrayed,’ ‘put to death,’ and ‘hated by all men — for His name’s sake.’
The words of this prophecy were doubtless intended to apply to every age of the Church of Christ. They began to be fulfilled in the days of the apostles. The book of Acts supplies us with many instances of their fulfillment. They have been repeatedly fulfilled during the last eighteen hundred years. Wherever there have been disciples of Christ — there has always been persecution, more or less. They will yet receive a more full accomplishment before the end comes. The last tribulation will probably be marked by special violence and bitterness. It will be a ‘great tribulation.’ (Revelation 7:14.)
Let it be a settled principle in our minds, that the true Christian must always enter the kingdom of God ‘through much tribulation.’ (Acts 14:22.) His best things are yet to come! This present world is not our home. If we are faithful and decided servants of Christ — then the world will certainly hate us, as it hated our Master. In one way or another, true believers will always be persecuted. No consistency of conduct, however faultless; no kindness and amiability of character, however striking — will exempt a believer from the world’s dislike, as long as he lives.
It is foolish to be surprised at this. It is mere waste of time to murmur at it. It is a part of the cross — and we must bear it patiently. The children of Cain will hate the children of Abel — as long as the earth continues. ‘Marvel not, my brethren,’ says John, ‘if the world hates you.’ ‘If you were of the world,’ says our Lord, ‘the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world — therefore the world hates you.’ (1 John 3:13; John 15:18, 19.)
We should notice, lastly, in this passage — Christ’s gracious promise to His disciples. He says, ‘but not a hair of your head shall perish.’ Our blessed Lord well knew the hearts of His disciples. He saw that the prophecy He had just spoken, might well make them faint. He supplies them with a cheering word of encouragement, ‘But not a hair of your head shall perish!’
The promise before us is wide and comprehensive, and one which is the property of all believers in every age. A literal interpretation of it is clearly impossible. It cannot apply to the bodies of disciples. To say that, would be contradictory to the obvious fact that James and other apostles died violent deaths. A figurative interpretation must evidently be placed upon the words. They form a great proverbial saying. They teach us that whatever sufferings a disciple of Christ may go through — his best things can never be injured. His life is hidden with Christ in God. His treasure in Heaven can never be touched. His soul is beyond the reach of harm. Even his vile body shall be raised again, and made like his Savior’s glorious body at the last day.
If we know anything of true religion — then let us lean back on the words of the glorious promises in every time of need. If we believe in Christ — then let us rest in the comfortable thought that Christ has pledged His word that we shall never perish. We may lose much by serving Christ — but we shall never lose our eternal souls. The world may deprive a believer of property, friends, country, home, liberty, health, and life. It has done so in innumerable cases from the days of Stephen to the present time. The roll of the noble army of martyrs, is a very long one.
But there is one thing the world cannot do to any believer. It cannot deprive him of his saving interest in Christ’s love. It cannot break the union between Christ and his soul. Surely it is worth while to be a thorough-going believer! ‘I am persuaded,’ says Paul, ‘that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature — shall be able to separate me from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.’ (Romans 8:38-39.)”