Paul A Gray

Luke 22: 20

Acts 2: 32-33

Romans 8: 31-39; 12: 1-2

         I want to say something about the extensiveness of divine giving; we cannot really measure it.  We spoke in the reading about the love of God and we were reminded that God is love; we could not measure that.  Indeed, we have a hymn that says so:

         O God of love, how measureless

               Thy thoughts to us are shown!              

         More precious they than tongue can tell,

               Their fulness none have known.

                         (Hymn 35)

We could not say what the limit of the love of God is, because it has no limit.  And we could not limit His thoughts either. 

         Paul quotes from an Old Testament prophet, Isaiah, “who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counsellor?”, Rom 11: 34.  We cannot limit the thoughts of God.  And indeed if I may quote another hymn writer, who speaks of God’s glory:

         E’en in its thoughts of boundless grace

         It leaves us all far, far behind; 

         The love that gives with Christ a place,

         Surpasses our poor feeble mind!

                  (Hymn 120) 

If it was left to man to say what the greatest thought should be, man would always fall short because he would be constrained by his own limitations and weakness; but God’s thoughts are unconstrained by limitation and weakness, because God is God and His thoughts are thoughts of love.

         That is why I have read this first scripture in Luke because this refers to the cup, and speaks about the blood of Jesus being poured out for you: poured out.  The Lord says it is “shed” in Matthew and in Mark, but here He says it is poured out.  We read in John 19 that one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately there came out blood and water, v 34.  The answer of love to the hatred of man was the immediate pouring out of the blood and water.  And why was it necessary?  Why does the Lord say here in Luke 22 that the blood is poured out for you, when the scripture teaches us that the blood is for God?  The blood is for God and, by the shedding of the blood of Jesus, the demands of God’s righteousness were met.  You could not meet them, and I could not meet them.  And each of us is a sinner, so what was to be done?  Jesus would die and shed His blood.  It says of Him that He suffered “the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God”, 1 Pet 3: 18.  The apostle Paul comments, “perhaps for the good man some one might dare to die; but God commends his love to us, in that, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us”, Rom 5: 7-8.  So the blood is for God, but it was poured out for us because we could do nothing to save ourselves.

         How great the love of God is that it would reach out, not to persons who had loved Him or pleased Him, but to persons who had offended Him, who had defied Him, who had gone on in self-will and been ignorant as to His thoughts.  And yet He would reach out to such, and He would do so in Christ, in Jesus, a Man who came near.  You think of Jesus reaching out to sinners.  In Mark 1 there was a leper (v 40), and we know that lepers were to be shunned; one would stay away from a leper.  We have had to wear a mask, and we have to avoid coming into contact with persons who have contracted a virus.  In these former days it was not a matter of wearing a mask; persons stayed away from lepers and had nothing to do with them, and if you came near them the lepers were obliged to say that they were unclean, Lev 13: 45.  That is like us in our sins: we are unclean.  We are unclean on account of our sins, and it says in Isaiah the prophet, “your iniquities have separated between you and your God”, chap 59: 2.  So what does God do?  Does He tell us only that we are far away because of our sins?  No, He draws near to us in Christ.  When this leper is in the presence of Jesus, Jesus does not despise him, He does not stand back from him; but it says that He touched the leper.  And the note in Mark’s gospel says, ‘to touch freely,’ ‘handle’, v 41.  No sinful man would dare to handle a leper for fear of defilement, but Jesus was sinless and He could reach out and touch the leper, and He wants to reach out and touch you.  He handled him freely; He puts His hand on him.  Maybe that man had not known the touch of another for months or even years, and here was a man who would come near and put his hand on him.  He had said to Jesus, “If thou wilt thou canst cleanse me”.  And what does Jesus say?  He says, “I will, be thou cleansed”. Now why could He say that?  Well, that was the Creator speaking, and the Bible says of the Creator, “…he spoke, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast”, Ps 33: 9.  “I will”, that is to say, He spoke and it was done.  “Be thou cleansed”, and thus He commanded and it stood fast.  He had a right to do that because He is the One who would shed His own precious blood in order to redeem that leper.  And He has done it for you. 

         It tells us in Leviticus 14 of the law of the leper in the day of his cleansing.  Among the things that were to be taken were two living birds.  One bird was to be killed in an earthen vessel over running water, and I would like to make an application of that to the scripture in Hebrews that says of Jesus, “who by the eternal Spirit offered himself spotless to God”, Heb 9: 14.  He came into a prepared vessel, that is to say He took manhood’s form, and He died; He offered Himself spotless to God.  The living bird was killed over running water, and yet there was another living bird.  It says it was let loose in the open field.  I would like to apply that to the day when Peter and John and Mary came to the tomb and the voice to them is, “He is not here, but is risen”, (Luke 24: 6); “Why seek ye the living one among the dead?”, v 5.   That is like the living bird that has been let loose in the open field.  How the Lord felt the constraint of things.  He says, “I have a baptism to be baptised with, and how am I straitened until it shall have been accomplished!”, Luke 12: 50.  But now He is not straitened; He is let loose in the open field; He is out of death!  He is out in triumph and glory!  But He went the way of suffering for you and for me. 

         If the leper was to be cleansed that work had to be done.  It says also in Leviticus 14 that three things are to be taken, cedarwood and scarlet and hyssop.  These speak of features of Christ that gave pleasure to God.  Consider the cedarwood, the dignity of a blessed Man even in the presence of those who abused Him.  They blindfolded Him and struck him and spat on Him (Mark 14: 65); They said, “prophesy … Who is it who struck thee”, Matt 26: 28.  We also read that He said, “If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil; but if well, why smitest thou me?”, (John 18: 23.): the perfect dignity of a Man under immense pressure there in the sight of God. 

         The scarlet - there was something outstanding about Christ.  Men could not put their finger on it exactly.  Some would say, “Never man spoke thus, as this man speaks”, John 7: 46.  Others would say, “‘He does all things well”, Mark 7: 37.  It says of some that they wondered.  And even when He was on the cross itself the centurion said, “Truly this man was Son of God”, Matt 27: 54.  There was something distinctive about Him, the Godhead glory shining through that human veil.

         And then there was the hyssop - a lowly plant, “…the hyssop that springs out of the wall”, 1 Kings 4: 33.  He says, “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the heaven roosting places; but the Son of man has not where he may lay his head”, Matt. 8: 20.  It says too of Jesus that He was “wearied with the way he had come”, John 4: 6.  It tells us after the temptations that He was hungry, Matt. 4: 2.  And it tells us at the grave of Lazarus that He wept, John 11: 35.  He was humble in every circumstance, and feeling the sorrows of others, and never thinking first for Himself: "the hyssop that springs out of the wall”.  And these blessed features blended together perfectly, in a perfect Man who pleased God.  And yet there was a bird that was killed in the earthen vessel over running water.  “He shall take it, the cedarwood, and the scarlet, and the hyssop, and dip them and the living bird into the blood of the bird that was killed over the running water; and he shall sprinkle upon him that is to be cleansed from the leprosy seven times, and he shall pronounce him clean, and shall let the living bird loose into the open field”, Lev 14: 6, 7.  The Lord could say to the leper, “be thou cleansed” because He was going to provide the blood that would be sprinkled in order to cleanse him.  And He has provided the blood for you, for your cleansing, involving suffering that we could not measure or fathom.

         Locally we have been reading recently in Jonah, and Jonah speaks of the spirit of Christ formed in a person. 

         The weeds were wrapped about my head.

         I went down to the bottoms of the mountains;

         The bars of the earth closed upon me for ever,

                   chap 2: 5, 6.

This would help us to understand how Jesus felt the depth of that suffering, including the suffering at the hands of man.  In Psalm 22 it speaks of dogs (v 16), and the bulls (v 12), referring to the character of the persons who were there when the Lord was taken in view of His crucifixion.  But far more deeply, He felt His suffering at the hands of God, and the fact that God Himself forsook Him on the cross; He was alone as made sin, made the very thing that He had recoiled from.  He had said, “My Father, if it be possible let this cup pass from me”, Matt 26: 39.  What it contained was so awful that He recoiled from it.  It speaks of it, its indescribable nature, in Psalm 41 - “A thing of Belial”, v 8.  It is an awful thing that could barely be described and the verse says that it “cleaveth fast unto him”.  The very thought of being made sin, what He abhorred, was awful, and yet God made Him to be sin, and He was forsaken.  He did it for God, and He did it for you and for me, in order that that blood might be made available in all its cleansing power. 

         He “has been raised for our justification”, Rom 4: 25.  So extensive is the giving that there is nothing that can be added to it.  I have spoken before of Naaman the Syrian in 2 Kings 5, and we come to the point when he turns away in a rage, v 11.  He had been told what to do: “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times … and thou shalt be clean”, v 10.  And it says that he turned and went away in a rage.  He says to his servants, “Are not the the Abanah and the Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? may I not wash in them and be clean?”, v 12.  He says, ‘We have better rivers at home’!  But his servants drew near to him, and I think that they must have been fond of him, because they said to him, “My father, if the prophet had bidden thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? how much rather then, when he says to thee, Wash and be clean?”, v 13.  There is no great thing left to be done because it has already been done; it has been done by Jesus on the cross and it cannot be added to.  All you have to do is accept it.  “How much rather then, when he says to thee, Wash and be clean?”.  So “he went down, and plunged himself seven times in the Jordan … And his flesh became again like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean”, v 14.  Have you known the cleansing power of the blood of Jesus? 

         In Acts we have another pouring out.  This time it is the pouring out of the gift of the Holy Spirit; that has not been held back either.  What a wonderful thing to consider that there is a divine Person who has come here, not as the Lord did in manhood’s form, but now the Spirit is here dwelling within believers on earth, and He has stayed for two thousand years.  And if I may say reverently of a divine Person, He has never once complained, despite all that has happened; the Spirit has been grieved; the Spirit has been quenched at times.  It is part of our history that each of us would have to acknowledge, but He has gone on.  The hymn writer speaks of ‘the Spirit’s gentle grace’, Hymn 288.  He has gone on in grace.  If you do not have the Spirit, ask, because God wants to give you the Spirit.  I know it has been taught, and it is right teaching, that the gift of the Spirit is not to be treated as automatic; but I can say certainly from scripture that it is God’s desire for you that you should have the Spirit.  And He gives His Spirit to those who ask (Luke 11: 13), and He gives His Spirit to those who obey Him, Acts 5: 32.  In the glad tidings what is being looked for is obedience to the word of God.  “Believe on the Lord Jesus and thou shalt be saved”, Acts 16: 31.  Just be obedient to that!  It is no more complicated than that. 

         Romans sets it out thus: “… believe in thine heart that God has raised him from among the dead”, chap 10: 9.  Just believe it; it is as simple as that.  The only thing that stands between you and the acceptance of Jesus Christ as Saviour is your own will.  There is nothing else in the way.  Forsake your own will.  “There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof is the ways of death”, Prov 14: 12.  But I am not preaching death; we preach blessing and salvation and life eternal.  God says through Moses, “I set before you this day a blessing and curse” (Deut. 11: 26) - referring to mount Gerizim and mount Ebal.  Moses refers again to blessing and cursing in Deuteronomy 30, and he does not say choose between them: he says, “choose then life” (v 19), and that is the message of the glad tidings: “choose then life”.  Believe on the Lord Jesus, accept the gift of the Holy Spirit, receive the Holy Spirit; give Him place in your life.  When it tells us about it in type about the place that the Spirit has in Numbers 21, it speaks, “Well which princes digged, which the nobles of the people hollowed out at the word of the lawgiver, with their staves”, v 18.  You have to make way for the Spirit; there is a hollowing out.  You have to get rid of things; you need to make way for the Holy Spirit, but what blessing there is in doing so.  “He has poured out this”, Peter says, “which ye behold and hear”, Acts 2: 33.  You can see the effect of the Spirit in persons; you can hear the effect of the Spirit in persons: a divine Person is waiting to have place with you. 

         We referred to Romans 8 in the reading; and I want to mention this word, “He who, yea, has not spared his own Son … how shall he not also with him grant us all things?”.  What are these “all things”?  Well, the Lord Jesus Himself says to the Father, “the glory that thou hast given me I have given them”, John 17: 22.  That is the glory of sonship.  He speaks in Romans of having your fruit unto holiness, chap 6: 22.  Holiness, we have been taught, is by love; it is not conferred; it is not given.  Holiness comes by the experience of the love of divine Persons.  So that is another thing that God would grant us.  And He would grant us light.  You may have heard your brethren talk about light, and you might think that is something for older persons.  It is not.  Light is sovereign: it is a gift from God.  The very fact that you believe on the Lord Jesus is light in itself, saving light, blessing light.  God delights to reveal more and more and more of His thoughts to us.  The Spirit receives of the things of Christ and announces them to us, John 16: 15.  It speaks in 1 Corinthians 2 of the things “which God has prepared for those that love him”, v 9.  What has God prepared for you?  Well, the Lord has prepared a place for you.  God has prepared Scripture for you.  The Spirit empowered those who wrote these verses that we have in our hands.  He has prepared a place for you, not just in glory but here, a place amongst believers.  It is not for me to tell believers where to go, but I will tell you with absolute certainty that I believe that I am in the place where the Lord would have me to be.  I would encourage you to remain with those where the Lord has set you.  It is for your blessing; it is for God’s glory.

         So, “how shall he not also with him grant us all things?”.  You have everything with Christ; you have nothing without Him.  There is not something worth having that does not involve Him.  I just leave that with you. 

         And then these words of encouragement: “It is God who justifies: who is he that condemns?”.  The enemy will condemn you; he will tell you that you have not done a very good job.  And he will certainly cause you to make mistakes if he can, and then when you have made them he will remind you about them.  But we have the Spirit who provides power to resist: “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you”, James 4: 7.  It also says in scripture “youthful lusts flee”, 2 Tim 2: 22.  It does not say avoid them: it says, “flee”.  If you stand still they will catch you.  Flee!  It is important.  We need to learn to flee from things that are harmful.  It takes some of us a lot longer than it should, and I am speaking about myself not about anybody else.  We need to learn to flee from what is harmful.

         “It is Christ who has died, but rather has been also raised up; who is also at the right hand of God; who also intercedes for us”.   As the Spirit is helping us here on earth so Christ is interceding for us in heaven.  There is a whole blessed system of divine supply and power active for your blessing.  What has God withheld?  There is nothing now separating us from the love of Christ; or separating us from the love of God.  Paul comes to it that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ, or from the love of God.  He goes through a process in Romans 8, in the latter half of the chapter.  Firstly he says, “I reckon”.  The reckoning involves intelligence.  You think about something and you say, ‘Yes, that must be true’.  I reckon.  Then he says, “I know”.  So that means he has proved it.  He has proved it to be true.  But then he says, “I am persuaded”.  It is a great thing to be persuaded, to be sure.  And do you know how we become sure?  We become sure by faith and by experience.  In nearly sixty years of experience I can tell you that the Lord has never let me down once.  I have let Him down, but He has never let me down. 

         A believer called George Matheson wrote:

         O love that will not let me go,

         I rest my weary soul in Thee.

         I give Thee back the life I owe,

         That in Thine ocean depths its flow

                  May richer, fuller be.

So much He has given for us.  What are we going to give to Him?  That is why I read in Romans 12.  “Present your bodies a living sacrifice”: that is what God is looking for.  We read of the compassions of God, the God who gave His Son, the God who poured out the gift of the Holy Spirit - the writer is saying now, “Present your bodies a living sacrifice … which is your intelligent service”.  The Spirit is the One who gives us power for intelligent service.  “And be not conformed to this world”; the world.  It is interesting and worth noticing that the world desperately desires that nobody should be required to conform to anything: you should do whatever you like.  But actually conformity to the world is exactly that; it is doing your own will, and that is what is involved here: “Be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind”.  We are given the capacity to think differently by the gift of the Spirit.  “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind”.  And if we exercise the gift of the Spirit to help us in how we think we come to what it says in Ephesians 4: 23, “renewed in the spirit of your mind”.  It is not only that you have the capacity to think differently, but characteristically you think differently from the world, and that is a wonderful thing.  “Renewed in the spirit of your mind”: what a blessing. 

         Well, “that ye may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God”.  At no point does it say that the will of God will give you an easy life.  But it is good and it is acceptable and it is perfect.  The Lord Jesus is the example in that as He is in everything else.  He loved the will of God.  He says that through the psalmist, “thy law is within my heart”, Ps 40: 8.  He found it acceptable even when it came to the matter of the cross.  He says, “not my will, but thine be done”, Luke 22: 42.  God’s will was acceptable to Him despite the cost.  And for Him the will of God was perfect.  He says, “I do always the things that are pleasing to him”, John 8: 29. 

         Well, I trust that we may be encouraged and blessed for the glory of God and for His Name’s sake.


22nd March 2022