John C Gray

Ephesians 2: 8

Romans 5: 15-17

Luke 11: 13

Galatians 4: 4-7

         Everybody likes to receive gifts.  Times come round, birthdays and the like, and children, especially, look for something as well as a card.  Young people are always alert to see how many times in the year they can establish a proposal to get a gift.  You do not get many gifts in the world; mostly it is demands.  We live in a time when God is not demanding.  We live in a time when God is giving.  There is much in the economy, in the administration of men, that demands that we pay this and we pay that.  There is no sense in that of getting a gift.  You rarely get a gift from the government.  If you pay too much you get it back, but it is not a gift.  It is just your right.  But the gospel brings something totally different. 

         The first thing that we read about was the gift of faith: “For ye are saved by grace, through faith; and this not of yourselves; it is God’s gift”.  Do you have faith tonight, dear hearer?  Do you have faith in your soul?  You listen to the glad tidings concerning the Lord Jesus, and you get light as to the way that He has gone to Calvary’s cross to bear the wrath of God for sins, but have you had that light stream into your soul?  Does it affect your mind?  Does it affect your conscience, young people?  If you are in doubt, you can ask for faith.  It is a wonderful thing that God has gifts in His favour.  He has gifts to dispense in His favour.  He has a gift for each one of us tonight, every one.  Even if you have known the Lord Jesus for many, many years, God is impressing you with the gifts that He has at His disposal, able to dispense them in the glad tidings that there might be faith in your soul.  We live in a time when men are doubting.  Faith never doubts.  Do you ever doubt, dear fellow-believer?  Do you ever have doubts in your soul?  “Faith is the substantiating  …” - it makes them substantial - ”of things hoped for” (Heb 11: 1), and brings us into the unseen world where Jesus is.  How wonderful that is!  Jesus is in glory tonight, of course.  That is what we preach in the glad tidings.  He has completed the work that He was given to do, and now God is satisfied, and He has enthroned Him at His own right hand, on His own throne, in glory.  Well, do you have faith to believe that?  The teaching of Romans is the teaching of the glad tidings: “if thou …shalt believe in thine heart that God has raised him from among the dead”, chap 10: 9.  That is faith.  Faith does that.  Do you believe that?  It is a time for believing, a time for the activity of faith, God’s gift, given in grace.  We are in the dispensation of grace.  The whole two thousand years has involved that God is not reckoning to men their offences, but holding the world, provisionally, as reconciled to Himself (2 Cor 5: 19), waiting that you might answer in faith and believe on the Lord Jesus.  How great that is!  It is God’s gift, the gift of faith.

         I start with that.  I think it is a wonderful matter that believing is an expression of faith.  When God gives faith, a person sees they are all wrong; he is a sinner.  What do you do?  There is only one thing that God asks for in the glad tidings.  He is not asking for your money; He is not asking for your property; He is not asking for anything else material; He is asking for repentance.  That means that you get down on your knees and you tell God you are a sinner.  You come to that.  Come to it that it is no use; you cannot go on.  Your pride in your heart might lead you to go on for quite a long time.  We see that in examples in the Scriptures, like Saul of Tarsus.  When he was converted, the Lord said to him, “it is hard for thee to kick against goads” (Acts 26: 14); that is, that his conscience had been affected long before, and he resisted it.  Have you resisted it, the light of Christ in your soul?  Dear young friend, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ!  How simple it is!  The glad tidings are provided that everyone can understand it and everyone can accept it and everyone can come into the joy of it.  How wonderful and great that is, that faith operates that we might believe.  And then you “confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord” (Rom 10: 9); that is, that while before you were under the domination and bondage of sin and Satan, you get freed from that because you find that Jesus has cleared the ground for you.  Have you found all that, dear young friend?  Are you quite sure, are you quite convinced, that by faith you believe on Jesus because He has borne the penalty?

         When you come to Romans you find more references to “gift”.  Firstly, it speaks about “the free gift in grace”.  What do you think that is?  Then later on it says, “the free gift of righteousness”.  God has many gifts.  The first thing about your sins is that you need to have your eyes on Jesus, have your eyes on the One who came into the manger, the Man who went to the cross.  Every person here knows the story so well, but it is a great matter whether you believe it or not, that Jesus went to the cross so that the wrath of God would be exhausted, the wrath of God in relation to sin, the whole sin question taken up and, if you believe, your sins cleared entirely before the eye of God.  My sins are gone.  I thank God for that.  I look around all the dear believers here and see that their sins are effaced, wiped out, the slate clean, never to be remembered any more; but what about you, dear young friend?  The Lord Jesus bore the wrath of God and died.  He went into death.  He bore that penalty, suffered that, suffered the curse, suffered the ignominy of it, suffered the shame of it; and He felt it all because He was a holy Person.  God would never have accepted a sin-offering unless it had been perfect.  The Jews were encouraged to offer offerings and that has been taken up in idolatry by many religions, but God would never accept any offering unless it was perfect.  Jesus was the perfect Sin-offering.  How wonderful it is to contemplate that, to think that here was a Man who was sinless.  Each of the main writers of the New Testament bear witness to that. Peter says, “who did no sin” (1 Pet 2: 22): not a single one.  You think of your life, dear fellow-believer, dear young person, think of your life and what you have done wrong before the eye of God.  It is not just that we have done wrong to our parents, or done wrong to somebody else, but it is what we have done wrong to God; but Jesus “did no sin”.  Paul says, “Him who knew not sin”, 2 Cor 5: 21.  Think of that!  Think of the mind of Christ and the purity of it, the holiness of it, the spotless character of it: “knew not sin”.  And John says, “in him sin is not”, 1 John 3: 5.  That is that the vessel there was a holy vessel.  We sometimes sing that:

         Holy vessel of God’s pleasure.

                   (Hymn 30). 

“Him who knew not sin”: how great, how full!  What a perfect offering Jesus offered on the cross, ready for my acceptance!

         And having gone into death He shed His blood.  That is very important.  The whole price that God demanded was the life of Christ.  Now the witness of the giving of His life was the shedding of His blood.  He gave that.  We sometimes sing that:

         Thy blood love’s answer gave

                   (Hymn 230).

He did it in love.  Everything that God has by way of gifts is in His love.  He does it in love.  So we come to this matter here; the Lord Jesus, having done the work of atonement, rose again in mighty power that God might show that the work of atonement was completed.  God raised Him by His power and by His love.  What a wonderful thing that Jesus was seen by so many persons in that new condition in which He was, a new condition in which He could come in and go out in a spiritual body that was seen by lovers of His own.  We were speaking about John 21 today; there was Jesus on the shore, all the food ready.  The Lord had everything under control.  He is a great Person!  Would you not like, dear young friend, to come to know Jesus, believe on Him, trust in Him, come in repentance, confess your sins?  It is a great matter because in it you will find eternal life.  Your life in this world is one thing.  “It is even a vapour, appearing for a little while, and then disappearing”, James tells us (chap 4: 14); sixty, seventy, eighty, ninety years - still it will vanish away, but believing on the Lord Jesus Christ leads to eternal life.

         Now, I want to say about this “free gift in grace”.  There had been an offence.  God has been offended by the introduction of sin into His universe, firstly, by Satan in pride, and, secondly, by man in disobedience, but Jesus has come in in the very opposite of that.  He came in in lowliness, into lowly circumstances, and He came in to “undo the works of the devil” (1 John 3: 8); that is, that He “humbled himself, becoming obedient even unto death, and that the death of the cross”, Phil 2: 8.  How great and wondrous that that would be so, and in that God found great satisfaction, in the movements of divine love.  By the offence of the one many have died.  That is the penalty that is on us, governmentally, because of sin, but the grace of God over-abounds.  That is what the believer comes to see.  I think this ”free gift in grace” includes the forgiveness of sins.  John says, “I write to you, children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name’s sake”, 1 John 2: 12.  Now, dear young friend, do you know that?  Are you sure about it?  Everyone of responsible age needs to make sure that they are clear about it, “your sins are forgiven you for his Name’s sake”.  What a wonderful matter that is!  It is “the free gift in grace”, God not demanding.  God has a fine supply because Jesus has been to the cross and is risen again.  He has a fine supply of forgiveness, “the free gift”, the gift of forgiveness on the basis of repentance and believing.  It says, “For if by the offence of the one death reigned by the one, much rather shall those who receive the abundance of grace …”.  Have you received that, dear friend?  It is “the abundance of grace”, not the abundance of demand, but “the abundance of grace”? 

         But when we come further down there is the important matter of “the free gift of righteousness”.  Well, as I have said, God was offended by sin and the principle of righteousness was challenged by Satan and by man’s disobedience.  God’s righteousness was invaded.  Sin is an attack against God, but Jesus has overcome that.  How?  Because He has borne the penalty on the cross and died and shed His blood.  God says, ‘Now, I have re-established my righteousness’.  He has put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.  How great that is!  What a clearance!  Are we all in the joy of that, the joy of the clearance, “the free gift of righteousness”?  Now, that applies to you, every believer.  You have “the free gift of righteousness”.  Do you believe that Christ is your righteousness?  You could not appear before God otherwise.  Christ is your righteousness, established at the cross, and in His rising again.  Now, that is a great matter because it gives you confidence, not just confidence before the eye of God, but confidence that you can face up to anything as you go through this world in your responsible life because you know in your heart of hearts that by believing on the Lord Jesus, He has given you the gift of righteousness.  Is there anyone here that does not believe that, that they are blameless before the eye of God, “holy and blameless before him in love”, Eph 1: 4?   How can that be?  It could only be because you have been given “the free gift of righteousness”.  What a wonderful matter that is!  I hope we are all in the joy of it.  I hope we live in the joy of it.  I hope we are all in the full gain and understanding of what “the free gift of righteousness” is because it is a great matter to “reign in life by the one Jesus Christ”. 

         How can you “reign in life”?  Well, that is where the gift of the Holy Spirit comes in.  We read about it: “If therefore ye, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much rather shall the Father who is of heaven give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?”.  That is another gift, the gift of the Holy Spirit.  It is a great matter that we should “reign in life by the one Jesus Christ” in the power of the Spirit of God.  Earlier in the chapter in Romans where we read, it says, “the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit”, v 5.  It is a gift.  Dear young person, if you believe, are you sure you have the Holy Spirit?  Is your life changed?  Your life would change because it brings you into the understanding of Jesus enthroned in glory on high.  It gives you the understanding that God is towards you favourably, that God wishes to give you the very best, give you everything that will satisfy your spiritual desire and prepare you for heaven.  That is another wonderful matter.  These are the Lord’s own words and I will say, too, to believers that it is very interesting that this is said to the disciples.  Jesus is not speaking here to Pharisees. ”If therefore ye, being evil”: he is talking to the disciples.   Do we know how to give good gifts to our children?  The greatest thing is for them to have the gift of the Holy Spirit, as enjoying forgiveness of sins and “the free gift of righteousness”.  It is a great matter, the gift of the Holy Spirit, coming down at Pentecost when the Spirit came to the assembly for the first time.  It says here that the Spirit is given “to them that ask him”.  Wonderful thing the Lord Jesus should bring this into His ministry.  There are other scriptures which bear on it, of course, quite clearly.  When Peter gave his first preaching, they were all affected in their conscience and their hearts.  They realised they were sinners and had to do something.  “What shall we do, brethren?”, they said.  He said, “Repent, and be baptised, each one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for remission of sins,” - that is forgiveness of sins, they are written off - “and ye will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit”, Acts 2: 37, 38.   The Holy Spirit comes in immediately in Peter’s preaching.  Well, these are great and wonderful things that lead us into reigning “in life by the one Jesus Christ”.  Are you reigning in life or are you struggling in your spiritual life?  Do not let us struggle in our spiritual lives!  Let us “reign in life by the one Jesus Christ”.  We do that by the power of the Spirit given to us as a gift, God’s gift.

         Finally, in Galatians, we have the gift of sonship.  “God sent forth his Son … that he might redeem those under law, that we might receive sonship.”  What a gift that is!  He has called us sons.  You say, ‘Yes, well, I have been a sinner and I have had my sins forgiven and I would like to be here in testimony for the Lord Jesus, but I am just a nobody; I am just a bondman’.  No, you are not!  You are a son, brothers and sisters.  There will be no male and female in heaven, “all God’s sons by faith in Christ Jesus”, Gal 3: 26.  What a gift that is, “that we might receive sonship”: receive it!  Great and wonderful gift to enjoy that!  Why should we enjoy that gift, and where do we enjoy that gift?  We enjoy it, beloved, especially at the Supper where we remember the Lord Jesus and the way that He has gone through death into new life in resurrection and into the glory, and we enter into the service of God in praise and song.

         Oh dear friend, have your eyes lifted up!  Lift up your eyes!  There is so much in this world that drags people’s minds down.  God has gifts to give tonight.  I would hate to think that there would be anyone that would go away and be without salvation before the Lord comes.  How sad it would be!  Persons of responsible age, that is.  But all of us, let us see that we understand that God is in grace dispensing favour and blessing and gifts, and all these favourable gifts are based on His beloved Son’s great redemptive work that He has accomplished by the shedding of His blood, the giving of His life.  Not only will it embrace, as we often say, saints of the present time, saints of the assembly, but the redemptive work of Christ will bring Israel onto the ground of redemption and be in a proper state before God; and other families like the heavenly saints of the Old Testament brought in on the basis of the blood of Christ, and saints in the time of the tribulation - saints of every dispensation brought in. 

         God is entreating persons that they should repent.  We were reading that in the Acts.  He is entreating persons, enjoining people.  That means that God is concerned that persons do not believe.  God is really concerned about it.  He “enjoins men that they shall all everywhere repent”.  Why?  Because He has set a day for judgment for those that do not believe and the Judge is Jesus Christ.  Now is the time to meet the Lord Jesus as a Saviour, as One who can forgive your sins, give you the gift of righteousness, the gift of faith coming in, and the gift of the Holy Spirit and the gift of sonship.  May none of us miss it for His Name’s sake!


10th June 2012