Genesis 4: 1-8
Hebrews 9: 26 (from “But now …)
Acts 14: 19-22
We had an impression this morning of the way in which God has acted in the presence of sin, and of all that has come in against God, because sin is against God; and of the way that God has wrought through this to establish what is for Himself. It is good to bear in mind that God is not surprised or taken aback by anything which has come in. A brother said this morning that His ways sub-serve His purpose. In fact, everything sub-serves the will of God. God will not have it otherwise. But He has used and allowed the incoming of sin to bring about His own purposes, His own will, His own designs. God is too great to be turned aside by anything, which has arisen against Him.
Mr Raven said that, if you look around in the world, and take account of the world that exists, you would draw the conclusion that the One who made it is either powerless or evil (FER vol 18 p203), because that is what the world is. You would come to that conclusion because the world is not a true expression of what God is. If God is the God of this world you say to yourself, ‘Well, He is either powerless to change it or He must like unrighteousness’. But neither is true. God has allowed the world to go on and Satan’s power to continue in order to bring about His own glory. Therefore the present time is a time of faith, a dispensation when persons are taken up by God in faith, because there are two lines that are going on in the world. There is a line in this world in which men are going on to destruction; that is the line of Cain. Then there is the line of Abel, which brings in Christ - a line of righteousness in which God is saving persons through divine mercy and bringing them to blessing and glory. This is not outwardly evident in the world, but God maintains that the gospel should be preached, not only so that we are to be a testimony to persons, but that men should see things in the light of God - not only as to what God will do to remedy the sinful state of all that is around, but what God can do in your soul; because sin has gone so far as to affect you and affect me.
At the end of Genesis 3 we see that sin had come in - Satan tempted Eve, and the sin that came in through Eve is extant. It came in through Eve, it affected Adam through her, and through them and their progeny it affected the whole world. It was not exactly that when Eve took of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil she was affected by the evil, but when she accepted Satan’s suggestion into her mind. As soon as Satan made the suggestion and she acknowledged it as being true, or even being possibly true, she believed Satan rather than believing God. I would say soberly that the current trend and power of this world is the suggestion of evil. Satan is not so stupid as to tell you that God is wrong, that He is a liar, but he is intelligent enough to suggest that God might not be right; and through that suggestion Satan leads men astray. ‘Maybe God is wrong’, Satan would say to you. ‘Maybe, it may just be that there is not a God’: Satan is using surreptitious and devious means to take the hearts of men away from God - marketing ploys, billboards, books, anything devised by man as away from God may have the suggestion of that in it. ‘It may be evolution is the way that things have happened. Maybe there was just a big bang and no God, just maybe. There are other things, you know, there is not just Scripture’ - Satan is using the power of suggestion to take control of men’s minds, of their lives. The gospel goes out in order that men may know that Satan’s suggestions are lies, and that God has established what is true. You will not find the truth in the world, dear friend. You will not find persons saying things that are absolutely true, but I can tell you this, that the Scripture contains that which is absolutely true. There is not suggestion in it. There is no power of evil, insidious influence and no trying to bring in some sort of marketing trick. God would speak to you tonight in the gospel to tell you what is absolutely true, because it involves Him. It involves His very nature, Himself, made known in Christ.
So sin came in chapter three of Genesis, and in chapter four we see God’s solution to it. He did not wipe out Adam and Eve and start again. He did not chastise them or bring about evil upon them. What He does is He brings in a righteous man. He brings in the answer. He brings in the means by which He is going to accomplish everything and that is in one righteous man, who died rather than be unrighteous: you can see in this that He points to Christ. There is no one who could take up the difficulties in this earth other than Christ. God brings in in Abel one righteous man and one righteous sacrifice, one that satisfies Himself. Can you see that God does not present problems or difficulties? He presents that which is absolutely true, and that is in Christ. And it is able to meet every matter. That is true of the greatest things in this world. It is true of the principle of sin, it is true of governments, it is true of the world’s difficulties, it is true of the very nature of mankind. It is true in my soul and it is true in your soul. Christ is able to meet every single matter. He is able to meet the whole sin principle and all that has arisen up against God. It has affected me and it has affected you; it has come into our very beings, and God would operate in view of removing it. It says that the blood of righteous Abel “is crying ... from the ground”. What a testimony! There is still a testimony no matter how much man would desire to get rid of it, a testimony in what Christ has done. That is, He was here where all men were unrighteous; He was here on this earth in absolute perfection. We spoke about it this morning: every day He gave fresh delight to the Father, every movement, every word bringing about delight for the Father. Here was a man upon this earth in whom God found absolute delight; who is, He says, “Altogether that which I also say to you” (John 8: 25), who was everything that God took delight in. “I am the way, and the truth, and the life”, John 14: 6. He was these things.
So God in Christ took up every matter, and Christ went to the cross and to the grave. He did not give a sacrifice such as Abel did here. He did not sacrifice of the flock and of the fat. He sacrificed Himself. He gave up Himself in His body on the cross: “who by the eternal Spirit offered Himself spotless to God”, Heb 9: 14. He “gave himself over into the hands of him who judges righteously”, and “himself bore our sins in his body on the tree”, 1 Pet 2: 23, 24. He did not go there in weakness; He went to the cross, and in victory He bore our sins. What a tremendous thing to lay hold of. Can you say that? In your own weakness and your unease of conscience, can you say that, ‘Christ bore my sins’? There are things that you are not able to do, dear friend, and bearing your sins is one of them. You cannot do anything in regard to your own sins. It says, “who himself bore our sins in his body on the tree”. He actually took them on Himself in those three hours of darkness. When men offered Him up in hatred, malice, and wickedness, and put him on the cross, God in those three hours of darkness met the whole matter of sin and sins in Christ’s body on the cross. It says, “He who, yea, has not spared his own Son but delivered him up for us all”, Rom 8: 32. God has taken up the matter in Christ, the righteous Man was slain; He sacrificed Himself for us, the One who, as having taken a place like us, and who as a Man should take up the needs and the transgressions of man, the transgressor. “He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities”, Isa 53: 5. Dear friend, can you say it for yourself?
Hebrews states, “once in the consummation of the ages he has been manifested for the putting away of sin by his sacrifice”. That was the first appearing of Christ when He came to this earth. He came here, God become flesh, to take up every matter. But it says here, that He was “manifested for the putting away of sin by his sacrifice.” It is great to get that into your soul, what Christ has done by His sacrifice. He came here in order to remove sin before the eye of God. I wonder if that has sunk into your soul, dear young friend. He has entirely removed the principle of sin before the eye of God forever - all that came in to offend God, to stand against Him and dispute His rights as a Creator. Where man had offended God, Christ came here to establish His rights and go on in obedience to the cross, and by that one sacrifice remove forever from before the eye of God all that offended Him. He has appeased God in regard to the whole principle of sin and satisfied God in regard to every single matter caused by that root principle. It says that: “for the putting away of sin”. You might say, ‘It has not been put away: I still see it in the world’. No, but it will be put away actually in His power in a future day, and Christ has effected this before the eye of God already. That is how great the sacrifice of Christ is.
Then it says, “it is the portion of men once to die” - dear friend, how sober that is - “and after this judgment”. Because of sin, that is the portion of men. Men go on in their sins and put these things aside: ‘Well, I have got a long time; I am only young’. It is sorrowful to see men about their daily business, and in speaking to men at work, to see the common disregard of God. Paul writes, “the mystery of lawlessness already works”, 2 Thess 2: 7. You think of that: what is going to head up in the man of sin in outright defiance against God is already operating, at the present time, operating against God. I shudder to see how openly man is defiant of God because all that awaits man on that line is judgment and death.
But it says, “thus the Christ also”. In regard to all this defiance of God, Christ has come in. He has come in to meet the matter, not in outright obliteration of all that stands against God, but in love for His fallen creature; He has been offered to bear the sins of many. Not every man, but many. So what is the difference? Have you put your faith and trust in Christ? Do you know yourself as one of the many? Do you know your sins are forgiven on account of the offering of Christ and His shed blood? Because if you do He shall appear to you the second time without sin for salvation. The Lord is coming again. You may put that off in your mind, men may do so, but He is coming again and this time He is not going to have to deal with sin. The whole matter has been settled and He is going to take those who are His own, those who belong to Him, to be with Himself. He will not have to take up the matter of their sinful state or history with them; that matter will have been settled with the blood of Christ. Think of those words on the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”, Luke 23: 34. Dear friend, I trust you can put your name in one of the many. Job is an example to us. For many years Job went on in a certain self-righteous state. He was a faithful and godly man, but there remained with him a certain self-righteousness. God put many things before him, largely in creation, but the children will remember the leviathan, which speaks of Satan and his power - the king of all the children of pride, chap 41. How great the leviathan is as created by God! God says, ‘What can you do against him?’. You cannot bait him, you cannot touch him with a spear, or fire: none of these things can touch him. He is saying to Job, ‘Against Satan you can do nothing’. He was bringing Job to an understanding that God has dealt with sin. If you will allow Him He will deal with it completely in you. He says to Job,
“Wilt thou draw out the leviathan with a hook,
and press down his tongue with a cord?
Wilt thou put a rush-rope into his nose,
and pierce his jaw with a spike?
Will he make many supplications unto thee?
or will he speak softly unto thee?
Will he make a covenant with thee?
wilt thou take him as a bondman for ever?
Wilt thou play with him as with a bird,
and wilt thou bind him for thy maidens?
Wilt thou fill his skin with darts,
and his head with fish-spears?”
He is saying, ’Satan is a wily foe’. Do you think you can play with him for a little while, do your own thing, and then turn to God when the time suits you? Do you think you can defeat Satan or play with him, such as you would play with an animal? Dear friend, he would have your soul in an instant. Satan would have you for himself. Do not think you can play with the world and touch the world’s things and draw back. Stay away from him! Keep clear of Satan, dear friend. He is too strong for you. It took Christ to deal with sin and sins. God says,
Lay thy hand upon him;
remember the battle, do no more!”
That is, remember the work of Christ and how God was able to defeat Satan in Christ. It took Christ to deal with that matter and it takes the power of God to deal with Satan in you. Do not trifle with these things. Touch them very, very lightly. The world will make a big play for you. You can lose your soul. What a terrible thing to gain the whole world and lose your soul.
The Acts of the Apostles give us a great history of the beginning of the course testimony in our dispensation. It is wonderful to read of these bright believers and how the gospel spread. Three thousand persons at once heard the gospel and believed and accepted Christ as their Lord. Many persons will turn to Christ tonight, I am assured of that, and will know their sins forgiven. The weight of their sins and their sinful history will be lifted from their shoulders tonight, as they turn on their knees to Christ and find Him a blessed forgiving Saviour. That is what happened to all these persons in the beginning of the Acts, and the gospel is spreading still in spite of all the persecution. Paul found that not only did he have a transaction with Christ in his conversion, but then one with Ananias. He had a transaction with Christ, then a further transaction with the brethren, JT vol 6 p63. And what a blessed matter, he found that not only was Christ his Lord but there were many others who knew Him in this way.
Here Paul was in his first great mission, in testimony moving out towards the Gentile nations under the direct guidance of the Holy Spirit, and going on in faith in the Lord he was stoned. The disciples drew him out of the city, supposing him to have died. Again he found that there was a blessed area, the circle of the saints, an area of love. I think the Christian circle is seen in John’s gospel in chapter 13. There was an area in the upper room where those who loved the Lord were gathered around Him. Outside were those that hated the Lord and were just about to crucify him. Inside is the Christian circle, and those who belong to it love the Lord Jesus and gather around Him, and support and love everything that is of Christ.
You find that there is love and life among those who love the Lord Jesus. Well, Paul finds that here. There is still a circle of persons, persons who encircle Paul. It does not say that the saints raised Paul. It says, “he rose up and entered into the city”. That is, there is life to be found there. There is an area where all the teaching of the Scriptures is held; where persons understand and appreciate Paul and his ministry and they hold it. They hold the truth of God. They are not influenced by a lie of Satan, the influence and the power of suggestion which holds the hearts of many, but rather by the truth of God, by the love of the Lord Jesus, and by the Holy Spirit in their hearts making these things real as we had in the reading today.
I would urge you to consider these things, that there is life and blessing and enjoyment in knowing your sins forgiven. God would give everything at the outset of the gospel. He would give the Holy Spirit to those who believe and to those that are obedient. He would bring you into an area where these things are known and enjoyed and appreciated, an area where you are looked after, an area where the saints would do everything for you. Heavenly light was given to Paul and preached to the Gentile nations - passed on to us and brought into this very country. Thank God it largely came to the western nations. It came to us, dear friend, the gospel came to us through God’s grace. We have been given the greatest light and the greatest blessings. The West has turned away from it in the greatest degree, but it is still available to us and there is an area of the love, enjoyment and appreciation of all the blessings of Christianity.
May we know these things in a real way; may you not go out of the room tonight without being assured of your salvation, and being assured of what line we are on: the line of righteousness, the line of Abel, and a line of righteousness through the work of Christ. May we be assured of these things for His Name’s sake.
13th April 2014