Isaiah 45:18-24 (to “strength”)
Romans 5: 6-10
1 Corinthians 2: 9-10
I was struck this week by reading this verse in Isaiah 45, “And there is no God else beside me; a just God and a Saviour, there is none besides me”. I would just like to say a few words about that. We referred indirectly to this chapter during our reading, and it speaks prophetically as to what God was going to complete with Cyrus in bringing back the people of Israel to Jerusalem to build the temple. This brings out in a very interesting and attractive way what God has done, and what God is doing in His own ways and in His own wisdom. I just wanted to say a few words in relation to this thought “a just God and a Saviour”.
I started to read in verse 18 where it speaks of the way that God has created the earth and the heavens. It says, “God himself who formed the earth and made it, he who established it, - not as waste did he create it: he formed it to be inhabited”. It is a remarkable touch here, “not as waste did he create it”; God does not work like that. So you can read in the beginning of the Bible, in Genesis, how God has formed the worlds by His word, the way He has placed man in the creation; and how He has blessed him in the midst of the garden. You can read too the way failure came in and how man sinned. It is important to take account of that in the preaching, in relation to the fact that God is a just God, God is righteous. It says here, “I am Jehovah, speaking righteousness, declaring things which are right”. God is holy and you can see that all through the scriptures in the way that God acts. Everything He does is in perfection, everything is holy and right, and marked by righteousness. That is God; therefore when sin came in, man’s place could not be any more in nearness to God, could not be any more in the garden; he was cast out. You get a strong reference in Genesis 6 as to what sin means to God. It says, “Jehovah repented that he had made Man on the earth, and it grieved him in his heart. And Jehovah said, I will destroy Man, whom I have created, from the earth - from man to cattle, to creeping things, and to fowl of the heavens; for I repent that I have made them”, v 6, 7. I think that gives us an impression of what sin means to God, what it meant for God that man had sinned. He looked on the earth, and He could take account of the sinful state of man, and of the wickedness of man’s ways and of man’s heart. And that is true for every man, everyone in this room - the preacher first - is marked by that, by a sinful state and a sinful condition. We can but sin, and cannot please God. God in His righteousness cannot tolerate sin. Sin is not a state that God can tolerate in His own presence, because God is holy and His ways are perfect. Therefore, as you can see with the flood, judgment had to come in. Judgment had to be exercised and, as a result of sin and the sinful state of man, death has come in and all have to die. That is the truth and everyone has to take account of that; and also of the fact that everyone will have to do with God - sinners or saved, all will have to do with God.
So you come to have to do with God in the preaching. It speaks here in Isaiah 45 as to this fact in verse 23, “I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness and shall not return, that unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear”. God is the Creator and God is above all. God has created all things and has power over all things; and therefore all will have to do with Him. All will have to recognise that He is God and He has this place. He has that power, and He is the One who has created all things. He is the One who is holy; He is a just and righteous God; and all will have to recognise that. But the wonder of the gospel is that, although the state of the sinner means there is nothing that we can do from our side to please God, or cover in any way the distance that has come in by way of sin, God is also known as a Saviour. It says here, “And there is no God else beside me; a just God and a Saviour”. I was touched in relation to that in verse 20, “They ... pray unto a god that cannot save”. That is the characteristic of men who have created gods for themselves. It speaks here of a graven image carved out of wood. These are gods that cannot save. They are not real, they do not exist, but God is a Saviour God, as has been referred to, and “there is no God else beside me; a just God and a Saviour”. I would like to say a few words in relation to God as a Saviour, and the wonder that this has not compromised in any way His righteousness or that He is a just God. It says in v 22, “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else”. This is the message of the gospel, this is what comes out, this is the glad tidings. A Saviour is presented and the message can be extended to all - it says, “all the ends of the earth”; “Look unto me, and be ye saved”.
This brings me to the scripture I have read in Romans 5. It is a very touching scripture indeed in relation to salvation, bringing in also what God has provided from His own side. He has provided a Saviour. We could do nothing from our side, we could not provide anything that would be able to satisfy God, to satisfy His righteousness as to the matter of sin or our sinful state. But the wondrous thing is that God has acted from His own side. That is one thing you can see the whole way through the scriptures, particularly in relation to the people of Israel. They are a striking example of the way God works from His own side. You see that in God taking up persons, individuals, right from Adam on, Noah, and then Abraham. Then you have Isaac and Jacob, and then the people of Israel taken from Egypt and so on. It is the way God has worked from His own side to secure souls. He has worked with souls, and He has worked with people, to secure what is for Himself. That is what He continues to do. You can read about the first days of the church, and the apostles, how things were secured and God has acted from His own side right unto this day; but the central point to all this is how God has acted as a Saviour God. And so here we have this wondrous expression, “for we being still without strength, in the due time Christ has died for the ungodly”, and then it goes on to say, “For scarcely for the just man will one die, for perhaps for the good man some one might also dare to die; but God commends his love to us, in that we being still sinners, Christ has died for us”. That is the greatness of the gospel! While God would look at the earth and see only men characterised by a sinful state who can do nothing else but sin, God has intervened from His own side to provide a Saviour and that Saviour is the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. He is the Son of God. He came upon this earth, and He was sent. You can read about it in Hebrews - it is touching as to the way He has come in. It says, “wherefore coming into the world”, Heb 10: 5. What a wonderful matter that the Lord Jesus has come into the world. He came not only to live but to die, He came to take up the matter of sin, and He came to settle it to God’s perfect satisfaction. You can read all through the gospel about the way that the Lord Jesus Christ was the only Man in whom God found His delight. He was the only One that walked in perfection, He was the only one whose every movement, everything He did, was Godward and pleasing to Him. Sin did not characterise Him; He was perfect and holy the whole way through. What a wonderful matter. How perfect was the humanity of the Lord Jesus Christ. You can contemplate that reading through the gospels and the references in many other scriptures too; the perfection of the humanity of the Lord Jesus. He was one over whom death had no power. Death had no power over Him in the way it has over us. It is upon us as a penalty, as a result of our state of sin. But it was not upon the Lord Jesus; He was perfect. The voice could be heard out of heaven, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I have found my delight: hear him”, Matt 17: 5. What a wondrous matter that such a voice could be heard. It brings out the perfection of the Lord Jesus, the way He was accepted in the perfection of His humanity. That means that He was the only One who could be the perfect offering to settle to God’s righteousness the matter of sin. And so He came here to die: “in the due time, Christ has died for the ungodly”.
It says, “but God commends his love to us, in that we being still sinners, Christ has died for us”. What took place there on the cross was that God’s judgment as to sin came upon the head of the Lord Jesus. It came upon Him. We cannot go into the fullness of what that meant. Darkness was over the land: the human eye could not behold what was taking place there, but God’s judgment as to sin was fully exerted upon the Lord Jesus - what a matter. God has been fully satisfied as a result. He was the perfect Offering, He was the only One who could take up the whole matter of sin to cover the whole of the distance; the entire matter of sin. It meets the sins of those that put their trust in Him, but the entire matter of sin is also met so that God’s righteousness can be maintained; judgment against sin has been exerted. What a matter, God’s righteousness has been maintained and as such God can now present a Saviour, and God can now forgive. We sang in our hymn at the beginning of forgiveness, and what a matter it is that God can forgive. God can forgive the sinner, and God loves to forgive the sinner - He can forgive on the basis of the work of the Lord Jesus Christ because the judgment against sin has been borne by the only One who could bear it.
What a matter of contemplation it is too that the only One who could bear it, came to do so. He was perfect, He was the only One who could take it up and He came to do so. He came for souls that were far away, that were in a state that was most displeasing and hateful to God, a sinful state - what a matter. I just desire that this would come into our souls afresh, this great matter of the way that God has moved in His love. It says, “but God commends his love to us”. You might say, ‘Well, why? Why would God have moved in such a way? Why would God have moved for me as a sinner?’ We referred to the condition and sinful state at the beginning of Genesis, and that God repented; well, why would God move in that way, why would He go to the extent of providing a Saviour from His own side? His own beloved Son would be there on the cross bearing the judgment. Well that is His love: you touch God’s love there. God is love, and that is the wondrous matter, that God commends His love to us. It is a testimony, a witness to the greatness of God’s love, that the Saviour, His own beloved Son, was hanging upon the tree while we were still yet sinners, and in a sinful state.
But the greatness of it is also, dear friends, that the Lord Jesus was then in the grave for three days and three nights. The work was complete as He was raised from among the dead. Death could not hold Him and the victory is complete. And as a result of His resurrection, and His ascension to sit down at the right hand of the Father, the gospel can go out. A Saviour is provided in the gospel, and souls can put their faith and trust in Him.
These things are simple and I trust that everyone here has put their faith and trust in the Lord Jesus. The Saviour is presented in the gospel, and God is a Saviour God. He is able to save. It is not as it says in Isaiah a god that cannot save; but the God that we know is a God that can save. He has done everything so that He could forgive and that souls could be saved today. It says here, “Much rather therefore, having been now justified in the power of his blood, we shall be saved by him from wrath”. The judgment day comes, and the day draws to a close when the gospel is preached. This dispensation will come to a close and the opportunity given to souls to come and to be saved will not be any more . Souls that do not know the Lord Jesus as their own Saviour will have to do with God and they will have to do with God as a just and righteous God; and as a judge. God’s righteousness means that souls who have not accepted the opportunity to put their faith in the Saviour will need to be confined, and that place is the lake of fire, Rev 20: 14. So that is the first thing from which the soul can be saved, the coming wrath. He can have full faith and confidence in his soul that his place for eternity will be in the full acceptance of the Lord Jesus Christ before the Father. What a place, what a message indeed, and what a salvation that souls should be saved by Him from wrath; and it says “in the power of his blood”. Oh, what a touching expression! I think one of the most striking references to the blood is with the people of Israel in Egypt, when it was applied to the lintel and on the door-posts. When the angel of God saw the blood he passed over the house and judgment was not exerted in that house, Exod 12: 23. Well, that speaks of the power of the blood, and the power of the blood of the Lord Jesus, shed once for all. It is able to save all that put their faith and trust in Him; what a power there is in the blood as illustrated for the people of Israel. The angel of God can pass over the house when he sees the blood. What a thing! So it says here “we shall be saved by him from wrath”.
But it goes on to say as well, “For if, being enemies, we have been reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much rather, having been reconciled, we shall be saved in the power of his life”. We spoke of being justified in the power of His blood, and now saved in the power of His life. There is a practical side too to salvation. There is the fact that the soul can rest assured that he is saved as to the coming wrath, and that his place will be with God in eternity, but there is a practical side to salvation too. As the dispensation goes on, and time goes on, the believer can find too that he can be saved in the power of Christ’s life and live here - not any more according to sin and guided by sin and the sinful condition of man, but “in newness of life”, chap 6: 4. He is going on in the power of the life of the Lord Jesus Christ, and knows what it is to live for God. That which the sinner could never do before, that is, to live for God, the saved soul can come to know. I think we have touched something of that, in the practical sense of it, what it is to live for God. What a wondrous matter it is for the sinner who could only sin, who could only do what was hateful to God, that he can now live for God and know what it is to come into relations with divine Persons, come to know the Saviour for himself as a Person. It is not some distant assurance. It is blessed that you should know that you are saved for eternity, but come to know Him in nearness today, as your own Saviour. Know that Person that came here to die, whose love constrained Him to go to the cross, and to go there for me and for you. What a matter it is that you can come to know divine Persons.
That takes me on to the next scripture I read in Corinthians. They are remarkable verses. “Things which eye has not seen, and ear not heard, and which have not come into man’s heart”; well, that is what God does. His thoughts - and you can read that in Isaiah as well - are so much higher than ours, Isa 55: 9. God’s ways are so great, and God has acted from His own side, in His own wisdom according to His own time to bring souls to salvation, to provide a Saviour to bring souls to salvation to secure what is for Himself. So it says here, “which God has prepared for them that love him”. What a touching verse it is, what comfort it gives to the soul indeed, to know that God has prepared things for them that love Him. What a wondrous matter. Do you know that, that God has prepared things for you, that God has a place for you, God has a house and God has a place there? What a wondrous matter it is that God has prepared a place for you. He would like you to take it up today, and to know and to come into the enjoyment of it now. It is not only for a day to come - this will take place without doubt; but that you should know the blessedness of what God has prepared for you today. So it says here, “but God has revealed to us by his Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God”.
The scripture goes on to speak of the greatness of what the Spirit can do, and that is the next blessing of the gospel, dear friend. You can have the blessed assurance in the blood of the Saviour, that you are saved from your sins and that you can be reconciled with God, fully accepted as the Lord Jesus has been, who is now seated at God’s right hand. What a witness to the full acceptance of the work of the Lord Jesus; and that can be your portion. But God desires to bless you with His own Spirit so that you can enter into the enjoyment of what He has prepared for you today. He is available; He is a gift, a gift of God, the Spirit of God. What a wondrous matter that He should have come. I did not read that but it just precedes the passage in Romans 5, that “the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which has been given to us” v 5. Just ask, and God will gladly give you of His Spirit. You may possess the blessed Holy Spirit, a divine Person, who has taken His abode in the hearts of the saints. He has come from the place of the exaltation of Christ in order to work in the souls of those that have been redeemed. What a wondrous matter. May each one in this room be certain as to the fact that he has received the Holy Spirit, to get to know the service of this wondrous Person for himself, and come into the enjoyment of what God has prepared for him. What power to know there is in the Holy Spirit. It says here, “for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God”. What a matter. There is no limit to what the Spirit of God can make you enter in to, and this is the way; it is through Him. We owe all that we can enjoy today to the Holy Spirit and His blessed presence among us and He can lead you on to live for God. What a wondrous matter.
So these are just simple thoughts, dear friends, and I trust that each one would have a fresh impression tonight as to the way God has worked from His own side. God is a just God and a Saviour, and He has provided from His own side a Saviour to meet our state, our sinful state, and to bring us into what He has prepared for us. He has given His own blessed Son, and He would like to give us of His Spirit too, and He would like us to enter more and more in to these matters, and to take up all that He has prepared for us. May He bless the word.
27th December 2010