“God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
The scribes and Pharisees had built up a wall of separation between their nation and every other people. They passed by the publicans and sinners, as though communication with them would bring upon them some moral defilement. Imagine their contempt of Christ when he received publicans and sinners and ate with them. The Lord desired to break down the wall of separation; for he loved the souls who had never known a better way. He is no respecter of persons, and willeth not the death of any sinner, but would that all men might come unto him and live.
In this age, as then, there are lost sheep to be sought and saved. There are many who need personal labor. No prophet, like John the Baptist, has cried out the message of warning to them. No one has pointed them to “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” But this is not because the Lord has no interest in these souls who are ready to perish, represented as lost sheep. But the Lord is not chargeable with any neglect on his part. Look to Calvary and answer decidedly, No, no. The Lord has made every provision to save men in giving his Son. Jesus thought it not robbery to be equal with God, for in him dwelleth all the fullness of the godhead bodily. When he claimed the highest prerogatives, he did not make an empty boast. Yet when he was among men, he did not call together a concourse of people, and sound a trumpet before him, and command attention. The great Teacher came in simplicity, though he was the light of the world. He taught the people in plain, simple words, which all could understand. He said, “As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father. . . . My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. I and my Father are one.” “All things that the Father hath are mine.” With the familiarity and ease of eternal habitude, Jesus lays his hand on the throne of God.
In giving Jesus to the world God gave all heaven in one gift. Then why is it, when God has left nothing undone that could be done, that there are not more brought from darkness to light?–It is because the human will does not cooperate with the divine intelligences. If the Lord’s will and way were carried out, humanity would be reached through humanity, and every lost prodigal would be brought home, and saved through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, who tasted death for every man. Sin would no longer exist. But it is humanity that bars the way. It is for lack of the copartnership of man, because of rebellion, that the way is blocked up. The revelation of God’s truth comes to us through human agents. Christ came to the world as the Son of Man. This was the only way in which he could reach humanity. Jesus enters into humanity, that through his power and grace humanity may become partaker of the divine nature. “Ye are laborers together with God.” Man must cooperate with Jesus Christ, and through earnest endeavor work out his own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God that worketh in us to will and to do of his good pleasure. Man works out what God works in, not by means of finite endeavor, but by the strength imparted through the divine nature. Those who are building up a Christlike character, will not, cannot, withhold their interest from the work of aiding Christ in seeking and saving that which is lost.
The Jews looked upon the whole world as cursed, and Satan claimed the world. He claimed the publicans and sinners as his own subjects, but Christ came to dispute his claims and challenge his usurped authority. In this work man is brought into cooperation with God, and is to work as God works for the salvation of fallen men. What are we individually doing to let our light shine forth to others? It is the neglect of men in failing to cooperate with Jesus that leaves the world so long unreclaimed. Jesus has said of his followers, “As Thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I sent them into the world.” As Christ represented the Father, so he has commissioned his believing ones to represent him in character. We are to show forth his self-denial and self-sacrifice, and to establish his kingdom in righteousness. We are to speak the words that Christ has spoken, and do the works that Christ has done. The work of Christ was not to destroy, but to save. He gave his disciples lessons that are of the highest value; for through their words many are to come to the knowledge of Bible truth, and teach others also the lessons which they have learned. The disciples were to know that they were not simply combating the influence of finite enemies, but that they were also contending with demons. Light and darkness were in opposition, truth and delusion, good and evil, heaven and hell. Satanic supernatural agencies were united with evil men to corrupt and destroy.
The publicans and sinners, so despised by the Pharisees, were drawn to Christ, and their hearts were awakened to ask, “What is truth?” The Pharisees, closed their eyes and their ears lest they should see and hear and be converted from the error of their ways, and thus be saved. Heavenly intelligences watched the battle with awe and reverence. As those who are lost, and bound by Satan, struggle to burst the bands that enchain them, they are led to fly to Christ, the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. The sinful, repenting soul becomes hopeful, follows Jesus, and catches the words from his lips. Heaven looks upon the scene with rejoicing; but the scribes and Pharisees look on with lowering brow and with sneering, contemptuous words.
What a contrast is the attitude of the Pharisees to that of the angles! The angels look upon Jesus as the Commander of heaven, the Son of the highest, and see him contending with the prince of darkness. The prize for which they are battling is the human soul, for which Christ has come to die, that he may redeem the lost. It is well to contemplate the divine condescension, the sacrifice, the self-denial, the humiliation, the resistance the Son of God must encounter in doing his work for fallen men. Well may we come forth from contemplation of his sufferings, exclaiming, Amazing condescension! Angels marvel as with intense interest they watch the Son of God descending step by step the path of humiliation. It is the mystery of godliness. It is the glory of God to conceal himself and his ways, not by keeping men in ignorance of heavenly light and knowledge, but by surpassing the uttermost capacity of men to know. Humanity can comprehend in part, but that is all that man can bear. The love of Christ passes knowledge. The mystery of redemption will continue to be the mystery, the unexhausted science and everlasting song of eternity. Well may humanity exclaim, Who can know God? We may, as did Elijah, wrap our mantles about us, and listen to hear the still, small voice of God.