Sermon 2950. True and Not True
A SERMON PUBLISHED ON THURSDAY, AUGUST 24, 1905.
DELIVERED BY C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON, ON LORD'S-DAY EVENING, MAY 23, 1875.
"Now we know that God hears not sinners." John 9:31.
I HAVE taken my text out of its context for a certain purpose. Part of the purpose will be answered immediately if I say howwrong it is to take any passage of Scripture away from that which comes before it, and that which follows after it-for youmay, if you are so inclined, prove anything you like from the Bible if you wrench a line from its context and hold it up byitself. You can, indeed, act in the same way with any other book. You may take an expression from any human being's writings,as some people do from these Divine writings, and make the author say what he never meant. That is how many treat the Wordof God. For instance, a man may say that he can prove from Scripture that God has forsaken and forgotten His people. By turningto Isaiah 49:14, we find that Zion, in an unbelieving fainting fit said, "The Lord has forsaken me, and my Lord has forgotten me." It wasnot true, but was one of the lies of unbelief. If you take from their context the words in Psalm 14:1, "There is no God," you will have the opposite of what David wrote, "The fool has said in his heart, There is no God." Ifyou pick out a sentence from the New Testament, without the context, you may say that Scripture declares that our Lord JesusChrist was a gluttonous man and a wine-bibber because His enemies falsely said so. And you may declare that it is your dutyto worship the devil, because Matthew records that he said to Christ, "Fall down and worship me." You see at once the absurdityand wickedness of wresting the Scriptures in that fashion.
Now take the words that I have chosen for my text, "We know that God hears not sinners." Who said that? A man who was bornblind, to whom Christ had given sight! And who believed it? A set of still blinder Pharisees! He was arguing with them andhe wished to convince them, so he used an argument which was especially suitable to them. It was their Pharisaic belief thatGod would not hear sinners. "Very well," he said, "but God has heard Christ and, therefore, according to your own belief,Jesus Christ, who has opened my eyes, cannot be a sinner." It was a capital argumentum ad hominen, as we say-an argument tothe men themselves. But we are not going to accept everything that this man said. We are not bound to do so, for he did notspeak under any sort of Inspiration. The Evangelist was Inspired to record what the man said, but we would be very foolishif we believed all that he said, shrewd as he proved himself to be.
Is it true that "God hears not sinners"? It is true and it is not true. It is true, most true as this man meant it, but itis utterly false in the sense in which some persons have understood it. So I am going to speak, first, upon how it is truethat God hears not sinners. And, secondly, upon how it is not true.
I. First, then, IT IS TRUE THAT GOD HEARS NOT SINNERS IN THE SENSE IN WHICH THIS MAN USED
THE EXPRESSION, namely, that if Christ had been an impostor, it is not possible to conceive that God would have listened toHis prayer and given Him the power to open the blind man's eyes-for that would have been, for God, the Just and the True-toset His seal to a lie, and that cannot be. The man was quite accurate in arguing, "If this Jesus of Nazareth is a deceiver,how is it that" (as the man supposed) "He has asked God to open the eyes of one born blind, and God has done it, thereby asgood as saying that this Deceiver was true?" It is not supposable that the Most High could have done anything of the kind!It can never be believed that God will listen to the prayers of men who ask Him to support their lies and assist them in thepropagation of that which is contrary to His own Kingdom. That was the primary sense in which, I have no doubt, the man meanthis statement-and in that sense it is true. God will back up the
right and the true, and stand by the Christ whom He, Himself, has sent-but He will not support imposture and falsehood!
In another sense it is true that "God hears not sinners," that is to say, He will hear none of us-no sinner among us, (andwho among us is not a sinner?) in and of ourselves. If heard, it must be through the interposition of the Mediator betweenGod and men, the Man Christ Jesus, for up to the immediate Presence of the thrice-holy God the guilty sinner cannot come byhimself. The fire of the Divine Holiness would burst forth and utterly destroy the presumptuous rebel who might attempt suchan intrusion! But Jesus meets us just where we are-we give our prayers into His hands and He perfumes them and cleanses uswith His own most precious blood-and then He presents both ourselves and our prayers before His Father's face. God could nothear those prayers of ours, neither could He have respect unto us or to our offering, apart from the mediation of Christ!He must-to use the language of one of our hymn-writers-"look through Jesus' wounds" on us and then, but not till then-canHe regard us favorably. As a matter of absolute justice, irrespective of the Mediator, God could not and would not hear anyprayer from any sinful being in the universe!
Our text is also quite true if we read it as meaning that God hears not wicked prayers. Perhaps someone asks, "What are wickedprayers?" There are many sorts, but I will only mention one or two kinds. Those are wicked prayers which men offer formally-Imean such as we often hear when solemn sounds are evidently uttered by thoughtless tongues- when men bow their heads in theposture of devotion, but their hearts are gadding abroad after vanity-when they bend the knee, morning and night, and repeata form, but there is no heart in it. All that is an insult and a mockery to the Most High. What would we think if somebodypresented a petition to us and asked us to listen to it, yet did not mean it, but merely mocked us with empty sounds? Unlessyour heart is in your prayer, it is a wicked one, and God will not answer it! He must hear it, but it will be only in indignationand He will say to you, "What have I done that you should thus provoke Me to My face and bring to Me mere empty shells whenthe kernel of the heart is altogether absent?"
That is also a wicked prayer which a man offers simply because it is the custom to offer it and there is something to be gainedby it. All attendance upon religious ordinances, for the sake of thereby getting pecuniary profit or social position, mustbe abominable in the sight of God-yet there are many who have a keen eye for the loaves and fishes that Christ or His Apostleshave to distribute-and they say a prayer for what they can get. And they would swear an oath for twice as much, or perhapsfor half as much, equally satisfied whichever they might do as long as the wages were pretty sure and liberal! It is detestablethat religion should ever be a hobbyhorse for gain or for position. We know that God hears not such prayers as those. Soundingbrass and a tinkling cymbal must be more musical in the ears than the mere chattering of formalists, or the pretended prayersof those who hope to gain thereby. He hears not prayers in which men sin as they pray and insult Him when they appear to bedevout.
It is quite certain, as you will see from various passages of Scripture which I will presently quote to you, that God doesnot and will not hear the prayers of those who continue in their sins even while they pray. There are thousands of personswho would very much like to go to Heaven and they are dreadfully afraid of going to Hell-but then if they do go to Heaven,they would like to take their sins with them-at least most of the way. They would cut their acquaintance just a few yardsbefore the brink of the River of Death, but they feel that they must keep those sweet sins of theirs! And yet they hope togo to Heaven! If this is what any of you are doing, be you sure of this, that God will not hear your prayers! He will hearyour supplications if you repent of and forsake your sins-but if you come before Him arm in arm with your sinful lusts, Hewill drive you from His Presence! A man prays for forgiveness, yet continues to drink to excess-can God answer a prayer ofthat kind? It cannot be! He will never pander to our base passions by allowing us to indulge in sin and yet to hope for mercy.I believe that there are many persons who do pray, after a fashion, for Divine Grace, Christ and Heaven-they have never yetobtained an answer and they never will as long as they continue to dally with their beloved sins! These must be given up!Even if they are like their right arms, they must be cut off, or like their right eyes, they must be plucked out, for it isutterly impossible to keep sin and yet go to Heaven! In this sense, "God hears not sinners."
Do you wish to be saved from sin? Do you pray to be saved from intemperance, from dishonesty, from lying, from unchastity?Do you ask to be saved from everything that makes you unlike your God? Then He will hear such prayers as those, but to prayfor pardon, yet continue to rebel-to pray for forgiveness, yet still go on to provoke Him-such a prayer as that must be astench in the nostrils of the Most High! You will find, in Isaiah's first chapter, 15th verse, that the
Lord says, "When you make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood." There is a similar passage in Jeremiah 14:12, where the Lord says concerning the people who would not turn from their evil ways, "When they fast, I will not hear theircry; and when they offer burnt offering and an oblation, I will not accept them: but I will consume them by the sword, andby the famine, and by the pestilence." "Thus have they loved to wander, they have not refrained their feet, therefore theLord does not accept them; He will now remember their iniquity and visit their sins."
Another true meaning may be attached to this passage, "God hears not sinners," that is to say, God does not hear hypocrites.Job knew this and so did his friends. It hardly needs a Revelation of God to make us know that is true! If a man tries toplay fast and loose with God-if he pretends to be the Lord's servant and, all the while he is the servant of sin-God willnot grant the request that is made by his double tongue. Listen to these words of Job-"What is the hope of the hypocrite,though he has gained, when God takes away his soul? Will God hear his cry when trouble comes upon him? Will he delight himselfin the Almighty? Will he always call upon God?" No. Hypocrites will not always call upon God and God will not always hearthem when they do call upon Him! I may truly say that He will neverhear them, for He abhors the sacrifice that is presentedto Him without the devout heart of the offerer.
We have further proof that our text has much truth in it if we think of another class of sinners that God will not hear, namely,the unforgiving. When we pray, "Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us," we expressly askthat God will not forgive us till we have forgiven our fellow men. You may kneel till your knees grow to be part of the veryfloor-you may weep till you make your bed to swim-but no answer of peace shall ever come from God to you as long as you retainone black malicious thought against your fellow man, however much he may have offended you! Perhaps this explains why someof you who have been awakened of late, have not been able to find peace with God. If it is so with you, my Friend, you mustfirst take your hands from the throat of your brother who owes you that little debt and then may you hope that God will allowyou to find mercy at His hands concerning your far greater debt to Him! Bring not your sacrifice unto the Lord, pollute notHis altar with it-no-dishonor not the floor of God's House by treading upon it while you cherish an unforgiving spirit! Goto your brother and say to him, "I freely forgive you for the wrong you have done me. Let this quarrel be ended, for I cannotmeet my God till I can first meet you, for, "He that loves not his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he hasnot seen?"
I may here remark, by the way, that God will not hear even His own people when they are living in known sin. You must havenoticed that remarkable declaration in Psalm 66:18-"If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me." Have you not found it so, my Brothers and Sisters who havebeen favored with the Presence of God? When you have backslidden, when you have grieved the Spirit of God, have not your prayersreturned empty to you? You used to ask and receive! When you kept up constant, familiar communion with the Most High, youhad but to express your desire and it was granted to you. But you grew cold, worldly, careless-and now, when you pray, itis like speaking into a bronze cauldron-your words reverberate, they resound in your own ears! But they do not reach the earsof God. You go to the Mercy Seat and groan, but you bring your requests away with you. They are not supplied and so, groaning,and groaning, and groaning yet again, prayer has become a toilsome task with you, for no answer follows your supplication!Ask the Lord to cleanse your heart, my Brother, then your power in prayer will come back to you. If you walk contrary to God,He will walk contrary to you-and your power in prayer will fail you when you in any way give place to sin. I do not thinkthat the blind man who had been cured by Christ meant that, but it is true, and it is necessary that I should mention it.
There is another class of sinners whom God will not hear. In Proverbs 28:9 we read, "He that turns away his ear from hearing the Law, even his prayer shall be abomination." That is to say, if a manwill not hear God, God will not hear him. You have a Bible, but you will not read it. Then, when you pray, you must not expectGod to give you audience. You will not attend the means of Grace when you might do so. If anybody tries to explain the Gospelto you, you tell him to hold his tongue, for you are determined not to know anything about the way to Heaven. Well then, Friend,you may say what you like about praying, but while God's Gospel is treated by you with such disrespect as this, you cannotexpect that God will grant your requests. Shut your ear to God and He will shut His ears to you! But incline your ear andcome to Him and, sinner as you are, your soul shall live, for God will hear you!
Further, God will not hear those who continue to harden their hearts against Him. There are some people who have often beenimpressed-and they have had great difficulty in throwing off those impressions. The battering-ram of the Gospel has been hammeringat the doors of some of your hearts and it has given such tremendous blows that you have thought that the door must be wrenchedfrom its hinges, and the posts must be torn from their sockets! But you have managed to strengthen your inside defenses andto keep up the barrier. Soul, let me solemnly warn you that you may do that once too often-you may put one bolt too many onthat door and, one of these days the Lord will turn away from you and say-"Because I have called and you refused. I have stretchedout My hands and no man regarded; but you have set at nothing all My counsel, and would none of My reproof, I also will laughat your calamity. I will mock when your fear comes." The Lord will not always strive with men! He waits long in matchlesspatience, but He will not always wait-the day shall come when the refusers shall cry, "Lord, Lord, open unto us," but He willsay, "Depart from Me! I never knew you." And they will hear the fatal sentence, "Too late! Too late! You cannot enter now."We know that God hears not sinners when once they depart out of this life. Once driven by death beyond the verge of mercy,once shut up in Hell, this man's words will be most emphatically true concerning them, "We know that God hears not sinners."
II. Having thus shown you that there are some senses in which this declaration is true, I am going onto the other side ofthe question and shall show you that THERE ARE SENSES IN WHICH THIS TEXT IS NOT TRUE, but the very reverse of true.
First, it is not true that God hears not those who have been, and still are, in a measure, sinful because, my Brothers andSisters, if He did not hear sinners, He would not hear any human being, for, "all have sinned and come short of the gloryof God." Solomon truly said, "There is no man that sins not." And David wrote, under the Inspiration of the Spirit, "Thereis none that does good, no, not one." We have all erred and gone astray from the right road. And when we approach God in prayer,we must feel this and confess it. It is not true, therefore, that the Lord does not hear those who have sinned-those who stillcall themselves sinners though they are saved by Sovereign Grace. Look at the long line of His people and note how He hasheard their prayers. Many beside David have said, "This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him and saved him out of all histroubles." Even after His people have gone astray from Him, He has heard them when they have repented and returned unto Him.The 51st Psalm is a sinner's prayer, is it not? Yet how graciously the Lord listened to it and restored His penitent servantto His favor! If I thought that God did not hear sinners, that is to say, those who have any sin-then would it be of no usefor me to open my lips in prayer, or to lift my eyes to Heaven! But, blessed be His name, not only has He heard some of us,sinners though we are, but He has washed us from our sins, clothed us with the righteousness of Christ and we are "acceptedin the Beloved!" And now when we plead with Him, we prevail! We delight ourselves in Him and He gives us the desire of ourheart. We still dare not say that we are not sinners, for though we strive after perfection and shall never be satisfied withanything short of it-and believe that we shall assuredly have it through Jesus Christ our Lord-yet we have not at presentobtained it. We labor after it, not as though we had attained it, or were already perfect, for we still confess that thereis iniquity about our holy things, unholiness in our holiness, unbelief in our faith and something to be repented of in ourrepentance. Yet the Lord graciously hears us, blessed be His name, so that it is not absolutely true that God hears not sinners.
Neither is it true that God does not sometimes hear and answer the prayers of unregenerate men. I am going to speak upon asubject as to which there may be a difference of opinion, but I cannot help that-I am merely relating what I regard as facts.While I was but a child and knew not the Lord in a saving sense, I was taught by my parents that God heard prayer and I distinctlyremember, as a boy, offering a prayer upon a very unimportant matter. If I were to tell you what it was, it would make yousmile, but to me, as a child, it was a very great matter and I prayed to God many times about it. I know that I was not thenborn-again, neither had I true faith in the Lord Jesus Christ-but I did devoutly believe that God would hear me, in that matter,and I asked Him again and again-and He gave me my desire. The result upon my mind was wonderfully beneficial, for it confirmedmy belief in the existence of God and helped to arm me against any doubts of the infidel kind that might afterwards assailme, for the first and what was to me a very remarkable answer to my prayers, always anchored me fast!
On one occasion, in my early ministry, I mentioned this circumstance when I was addressing some Sunday school children ina chapel where the Brethren were of the "very sound" sort-they believed in Calvinistic Doctrine, not as I do, reckoning sixteenounces to the pound, but allowing eighteen or nineteen ounces-and these extra ounces were not good for the people to feedupon! While I was speaking to the children, upstairs in the gallery were some of these divines and this remark of mine quiteshocked them. They considered me to be as bad as Andrew Fuller, and to them he was,
doctrinally, about the most horrible person that could be! So, outside the Chapel gate, I was assailed with questions aboutGod hearing the prayers of unregenerate people. I was very young at the time and was rather bothered by those old fellows,but I found a very valiant defender. A poor woman, wearing a red cloak, pushed her way into the throng and addressed the oldmen thus, "Fools, and slow of heart to believe what the Holy Spirit has written in the Word." I looked in astonishment ather, wondering what she was going to say. "Did you never read," she said, "that God feeds the young ravens which cry? Arethey regenerate? Do they pray spiritual prayers? Is it not the most natural prayer in the world that comes from a hungry youngraven? And if God hears them and satisfies their desires, do you not think that He will hear a man who is made in His ownimage, even though he is unregenerate?" The woman won the day for me and I went away rejoicing!
I know that God hears the sincere and earnest prayers even of unregenerate persons concerning common things. I read, yesterday,a story of Mr. Samuel Medley, of whose hymns we have many in our hymn books, especially that one about God's loving-kindness.Mr. Medley, in his younger days, was an officer on board one of his majesty's men-of-war. There was a very sharp fight inwhich a number of French vessels were destroyed and young Medley was busy taking the minutes upon the quarter deck. One ofthe officers, passing by the place where he was sitting, said, "Mr. Medley, you are wounded." He had not perceived it, butthe blood was streaming down his leg and he had to be taken down to the hospital. After the surgeon had examined him, he saidto him, "You will have to lose your leg. I am afraid you cannot live unless amputation takes place." Now Mr. Medley had agodly mother and father, and other gracious people in his family, but he was a godless, Christless sinner-as wild as he couldbe. Yet he turned his face to the wall of his little bedroom and sought the Lord to spare him that leg. When the doctor cameto him the next morning, he said, "I never saw such a case as this before. There has been more healing done in the last twelvehours than I ever knew to take place in a leg in my life! I think you will not need to have it off, after all." That remarkableanswer to prayer made a deep impression on young Medley's heart and I believe that biographies will show that, in many cases,God has heard the prayers of unregenerate persons because He meant to eventually save them-and hearing their prayers led themto believe in Him and helped them to exercise that real spiritual faith which brought salvation to their souls.
Let me say, however, that God sometimes hears the prayers of intensely wicked men out of no love to them. You remember howHe heard the cry of the children of Israel when they said, "Who shall give us flesh to eat?" The Lord sent them quails ingreat abundance but, "while the flesh was yet between their teeth before it was chewed, the wrath of the Lord was kindledagainst the people, and the Lord smote the people with a very great plague." Again and again, the Lord granted the requestsof Pharaoh, cruel Pharaoh, hard-hearted, proud Pharaoh who was afterwards destroyed in the Red Sea! Jehovah removed one plagueafter another from him, thus giving him (oh, dreadful thought!) an opportunity to exhibit the hardness of his heart and toincrease it by sinning against the answered prayer! I beseech any man or woman here who, though not yet converted, has askedGod for something and has received an answer to that petition, not to abuse that answer! I pray you to follow it up! It maybe that there are designs of matchless love in store for you and that loving you with an amazing love, even while you aredead in sin, God has given you a token that it is even so! But if, after having presented your request to the Lord and hadit granted, you continue to be His enemy and even grow worse, it may be that the next communication from God to you will bethe fatal sentence out of the lips of Infinite Justice, "You did pray to Me, but you never sought anything but temporal things.And now, since you have rejected Me and have not sought the treasures of My Grace, and have sinned against light and knowledge,I will depart from you and leave you to that final hardness of heart which will irrevocably seal your doom."
Finally-and here I want to throw the whole force of my message-it is not true that God will not hear sinners when they prayto Him for mercy, confessing their sins and believing in Jesus Christ His Son. I have known three or four persons, quite recently,who have been perplexed with this idea. They have said, "It is no use for us to pray, for God hears not sinners." My dearFriend, how can you, in the teeth of God's Word, believe that statement, understanding it in the sense you give to it? For,if it were so, we would be under the Law, not under the Gospel! And then it would be necessary for us to be righteous beforewe could ask God for anything-that is the teaching of Sinai, not of Calvary! It is the glory of the Gospel that God does hearsinners and that He does grant their requests! For you to say that He will not hear a sinner when he confesses his sin andforsakes it-and cries to Him for mercy-is to contradict the Gospel! Remember the
Gospel of Jesus Christ is not sent to the righteous, but to sinners! It is not meant for the good, but for the bad-for thosewho are unrighteous, ungodly-in fact, "sinners."
Look, for instance, at Manasseh who, "made Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to err, and to do worse than the heathen."The Lord rebuked him, yet he would not listen. But when he was carried away to Babylon, in his affliction, "He sought theLord, his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers, and prayed unto Him: and He was entreated of himand heard his supplication, and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom." Look also at the dying thief upon the crossand let not the thought that God hears not sinners ever enter into your heads! There was a sinner dying as a malefactor, yethe said to Jesus, "Lord, remember me when You come into Your Kingdom." And Jesus said to him, "Today shall you be with Mein Paradise." Never say that God hears not sinners! Have you not read the parable of the publican who "would not lift up somuch as his eyes unto Heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner"? God did hear him, but Hedid not hear the Pharisee who thanked God that he was not as other men were!
Do you say that God hears not sinners? Read again the familiar story of the prodigal son. Here he comes, fresh from the swine-trough,filthy without and within, ragged, disgraced. But he has scarcely had time to say, "Father, I have sinned," before he is heardeven more fully than he has prayed and the kiss of acceptance is on his lips and the best robe has covered him! It is a lie,concocted in the bottomless Pit, to say that "God hears not sinners." If they do but cry, "O God, forgive us for Jesus' sake,"He musthear them-it would be contrary to His Nature to turn away from them! Why, Sirs, to deny this is to fly in the faceof all the invitations and promises of the Word of God! Take this one, for instance, "Seek you the Lord while He may be found,call you upon Him while He is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him returnunto the Lord, and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon." What does that mean but thatGod invites sinners to pray to Him and bids them come to Him, plainly implying that He will not reject them? Then there isthat gracious invitation, "Come now, and let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are as scarlet, they shallbe as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool." Does that mean that God will not hear sinners?Why, my Lord Jesus came into the world on purpose to hear sinners-He came here to seek and to save sinners!
Last Friday night I was speaking at Moody and Sankey's meeting at Bow Road Hall and I used an illustration which I will usenow. I said that if somebody were to ring my doorbell at one or two o'clock in the morning, and I put my head out the windowand asked, "What do you want?" and the answer came, "My wife is very ill, and I have come to ask you to take her case intoyour hands," I would say, "Bless you, good man! I am not a doctor. Why have you come to me?" The man would not be welcomeat all, for it is not my business to prescribe for the sick! But there is another house, not very far from mine, where thereis a red lamp over the door-for there is a doctor living there. If the man will ring the bell at thathouse and say what hewants, he will be welcome and the doctor will say, "I will be there directly, for it is my business to try to heal the sick."
Now, my Lord Jesus Christ has, as it were, a red lamp over His door. He is the Physician for sin-sick souls! It is His businessto cure them. A doctor who never had any patients would be a poor doctor, would he not? And Jesus Christ (I say this withthe utmost reverence), could not be a great Savior if there were no great sinners! And He could not be a great Savior if therewere not a great many sinners to be saved! Anybody who is not a sinner cannot help Christ in this business. A man who is notill would have to say to a doctor, "I do not need your skill, for there is nothing the matter with me." But the man who isill is the one the doctor wants-and the more ill he is, the more does he add to the fame of the physician if a cure is workedupon him. As for you who think yourselves very good people, Christ does not want you! You do not want Him and He does notwant you. But you sinful people, you who know that you are sinners, you who, when I read my text, said, "Ah, that is a death-blowto all our hopes," you are the very people whom Jesus Christ wants! He came into the world to save sinners-just the sort ofpeople that you are! So let the news be published over the whole earth that whoever believes on Him is not condemned! He hasshed His precious blood for those who are condemned through sin, that the condemnation might pass away from them through theirbelieving on Him!
It is gloriously true that God hears sinners, all sinners who come unto Him through Jesus Christ, His Son! Let the blind mansay what he likes, we have tried it, and proved it for ourselves-and I hope that hundreds of you will prove, at this verymoment, that He doeshear sinners because He has heard you!
EXPOSITION BY C. H. SPURGEON:* LUKE24:49-53; ACTS 1:1-12.
Luke 24:49. And, behold, I send the promise of My Father upon you: but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with powerfrom on high. The promise of the Father was, as you know, the gift of the Holy Spirit. By this gift, our Lord's rising againinto Glory was celebrated. The Holy Spirit was the Heavenly largess of the great King by which He did honor to the returnof His Son to His ancient Throne. The Apostles and the other disciples were to wait for this gift. They might have to waitfor some days, but it is better to wait for Divine equipment than to go out to holy service in our own strength! All thatyou do will have to be undone unless it is done in the power of the Holy Spirit. "But tarry in the city of Jerusalem untilyou are endued with power from on high." Has that command ever struck some people who profess to be serving the Lord? Arethere not men who preach whom God never sent to preach? The best advice we could give them would be, "Tarry." Are there notsome who teach and some who take office in the church whom God has never endued with gifts or Graces for such work? Powerlessworkers stand in the way of true workers-they block up the path of those whom God sends to serve Him.
50. And He led them out as far as to Bethany. The ruling passion was strong in the hour of His departure. Well did He knowthat place, Bethany-the place of love where He had received a welcome such as He had experienced nowhere else on earth-wherelived Mary, Martha and Lazarus-there did He bid "Good-bye" to His disciples!
50. And He lifted up His hands and blessed them. He never had lifted up His hands to strike them, or to invoke curses uponthem. Those hands were filled with blessings and the last thing that was seen of Jesus by human eyes was His hands upliftedin the act of blessing!
51. 52. And it came to pass, while He blessed them, He was parted from them and carried up into Heaven. And they worshippedHim. Then they were not Unitarians-"They worshipped Him"-and there were angels present at the time who would have been sureto have rebuked them if it had been a wrong thing for them to worship Him. Indeed, they themselves, both as Jews and as Christians,would have felt in their inmost soul that they could not worship anyone but God-and Christ is God-so they did well to worshipHim.
52. And returned to Jerusalem with great joy. Back to the place of His murder-back to the place where they were likely tobe murdered themselves.
53. And were continually in the Temple, praising and blessing God. Amen. So bold were they that the very central spot forthe worship of Jehovah we made the place where Christ's Divine Sovereignty was proclaimed!
Acts 1:1-3. The former treatise have Imade, O Theophilus, ofall that Jesus began both to do and teach until the day in which He wastaken up, after He, through the Holy Spirit, had given commandments unto the Apostles whom He had chosen: to whom also Heshowed Himself alive after His passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the thingspertaining to the Kingdom of God. The Resurrection of Christ, as we have often said, is the best attested of all historicalfacts. There is not half as much reason to be sure that Napoleon Bonaparte was ever taken to St. Helena as to believe thatJesus Christ was raised up from the dead by the Glory of the Father. If the Resurrection of Christ is not credible, thereremains nothing credible in history! I go further than that, and say that the news of yesterday, which you read in this morning'spaper, you had no right to believe if you do not believe in Christ's Resurrection, for the evidence in its favor is not halfas strong as the evidence concerning the Resurrection of Christ from the dead. Remember that this feat was attested by menwho could not be deceived concerning it and who sealed with their blood, as well as with their unfaltering testimony, theirsolemn belief that they had touched Him, that they had spoken to Him, that they had listened to Him, that they had eaten withHim and had seen Him eat of a broiled fish and of a honeycomb after He rose from the grave. We know that Christ has risenfrom the dead! That is one of the great cornerstones of the Christian faith. Fall back on that in every time of doubt andyour fears will speedily disappear.
4-6. And being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promiseof the Father, which, said He, you have heard of Me. For John truly baptized with water; but you shall be baptized with theHoly Spirit not many days hence. When they therefore were come together, they asked of Him, saying, LORD, will You at thistime restore again the Kingdom to Israel? They had not got rid of their old ideas concerning a kingdom visible among men!They still clung to the idea of a temporal kingdom for Israel. There was a Kingdom already established by Christ, but in thesense in which they understood the word, they were sadly in error.
7-8. And He said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons which the Father has put in His own power Butyou shall receive power after the Holy Spirit is come upon you; and you shall be witnesses unto Me both in Jerusalem, andin all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. As indeed they were, for they went everywhere testifyingto what they had seen and heard-and very many were the conversions that followed. We need the same power to rest upon us,now, that rested upon them when the Holy Spirit came upon them!
9-10. And when He had spoken these things, while they beheld, He was taken up; and a cloud received Him out of their sightAnd while they looked steadfastly toward Heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel Luke wrote beforeconcerning the two men in shining garments who said to the women at the sepulcher, "Why do you seek the living among the dead?He is not here, but is risen." These two men in white apparel now ask an equally appropriate question-"Why do you stand gazingup into Heaven?"
11-12. Which also said, You men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into Heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up fromyou into Heaven, shall so come in like manner as you have seen Him go into Heaven. Then they returned unto Jerusalem fromthe mountain called Olivet which is from Jerusalem a Sabbath day's journey.
*[This Exposition belongs to last week's Sermon [#2949, Volume 51-OUR LORD'S POSTURE IN ASCENSION] but there was no spaceavailable for its insertion there, and no Exposition appears to have been given before the preceding discourse.]