"Is not this the Carpenter?" Mark 6:3.
On the twelve parapets of a bridge in Austria are twelve images of Christ, in which He is represented as being occupied in various vocations, such as, Jesus the farmer, Jesus the physician, Jesus the carpenter, and others. In entering the city, men bow in worship before the image which represents their craft. It is my desire that we may bow before Jesus the Carpenter.
A big lump supposedly of stone lay for centuries in a shallow brook in North Carolina. People in passing, saw only an ugly lump, and passed on. A poor man saw a heavy lump, something good to hold his door ajar, and took it home. A geologist saw it and found a lump of gold, the largest ever found east of the Rockies. Many looked upon Jesus in such a way: some see a Galilean peasant; some, a beautiful life; others see only a man; while a few, with eyes that are lighted with Divine light, behold Him as the Divine architect, carpenter, and builder of all things. Jesus' work before He came to this world and since His departure was, and is, a work of building. In order that His thirty-three years of earthly ministry might harmonize with His Pre-incarnate and Post-incarnate work. He must of necessity be a carpenter while in the flesh. If He had been anything else, God's plan could not have been fulfilled completely.
Jesus as a carpenter built the world. "All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made" (John 1:3). You will notice that this verse refers to the creative acts of God. Please remember the words of Jesus: "I and my Father are One" (John 10:30). The God of the Old Testament is the Christ of the New, so that even though the name of Christ does not occur in Gen. 1:1, it is His creative acts that are described. "For by him (Jesus) were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers; all things were created by him, and for him" (Col. 1:16). "God hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds" (Heb. 1:1, 2).
I believe that this world was created and all things therein by the Lord Jesus Christ. Evolution can never explain the riddle of the universe. A lad came rushing home to say, "Now I know where horses come from; Mr. Shultz, the blacksmith makes them." When his father remonstrated, the boy said, "I saw him make one." The father said, "Did you see him make a whole horse?" To which the boy replied, "No, I did not see him make a whole one; I saw him finishing one up; he was just nailing the shoes on when I passed by." That is just like evolution. At best it is but a system of guesses.
"Don't be discouraged, poor little fly,
You'll be a chipmunk, by and by
You'll be a full grown chimpanzee.
Next, I see with prophet's ken
Then in the great sweet by and by,
Well be angels, you and I.
Why should I swat you, poor little fly?
Prophetic chum of my home on high.
That's what Darwin says, not I."
Just look about for Jesus' work as a carpenter. View the world as His creation. He built every spring that ripples in the sunlight; every stream, great and small; every lake that mirrors the glory of the down-looking moon; the swelling whitecaps of all the oceans and the seas. He built every mountain which adds its grandeur to the world. He made the rock-ribbed canyons of the west, the peaceful valleys of the east. The hand that built the hardy redwoods of California is the hand that built the gentle maples of Ohio. The mesquite bush of Mexico, the cactus of Arizona, the bluegrass of Kentucky, and the date palm of the sands of the Sahara are all built by the self-same carpenter. The designer of the universe fashioned the common limestone as well as the expensive marble and granite. Every rose that sheds its perfume on the desert air, each slender violet that peeps from beneath the snow, and each hardy, golden sunflower, Jesus built them all.
Turn your telescope toward the heavens. Behold the gentle moon of the night as it placidly beams upon earth and water below. Notice each tiny star, the golden sentinels of the night. Note with Job the sweet influences of the Pleiades and Orion. View the sun as a great ball of fire in its travels from the eastern to the western horizon daily, and then turn away to say with the Psalmist, "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handy-work" (Psa. 19:1). Surely David must have been thinking of Jesus as carpenter when he said, "When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; what is man, that thou art mindful of him?" (Psa. 8:3, 4). Every ray of sunlight, every color of the rainbow, and every tint of the sun-kissed sky tells us of Jesus the designer of the universe.
Turn your telescope toward the interior of the earth. See there the gold, silver, iron, coal, diamonds, platinum, and quartz. Sometimes it occurs in pockets; sometimes as dust; again, it is in nuggets; and at other times it occurs in strata, but always the handiwork of God is seen.
Look at the life of the waters, with its hundreds of specie of fish. Some beautiful, others hideous; some game, some timid; some, monstrous in size, while others are so small they must be magnified 400 to 500 times to be seen; some with fins, others finless; some, useful for food, some the rankest of poison. Yet, each bears the marks of having come from the hand of God.
Even in the animal world we behold Jesus' work as carpenter. Compare the slow-footed tortoise with the swift-footed hare; the shrieks of the noisy jackass with the musical "baa" of the sheep; the agility of the monkey with the clumsiness of the elephant; the usefulness of the cow with the uselessness of the warthog; the ferocity of the lion with the gentleness of the lamb. Each is built exactly as Jesus drew the design.
The birds that fly in the heavens show many marked differences. The crimson breast of the robin, the sweet songs of the oriole, the chirping of the chic-a-dee, the destructiveness of the catbird, and the singing of the canary were all alike planned by the hand of an all-wise Creator.
Then, study the capstone of creation man himself. Five colors, hundreds of languages, thousands of diversities, and millions of habits differentiate the 1,500,000,000 of the human family and Jesus Christ made us all. There are those who have been troubled believing that God created the world and all that is therein. No so with me. When I see the beauty and homogeneity of it all I would have trouble believing that it came otherwise. Sir Isaac Newton, the Christian scientist, had a friend who was an avowed infidel. Newton had a mechanic make a replica of the solar system in miniature. The central, large gilded ball represented the sun; Mercury, Earth, Venus, Uranus, Saturn, and other planets were arranged so that by turning a crank, the sun would revolve and the planets revolve about it. The infidel friend began to admire it and said to Newton, "Who made it?" Newton said, "Nobody." The infidel quickly turned and said, "Evidently you did not understand me; I said, 'Who made it?'" Newton said, "Nobody." The man said, "I'm no fool; I know that someone had to make it." Newton said, "This is but a poor imitation of the grander system which we know; you will not believe but that this had a maker, yet you are willing to say that the original came into being without either designer or maker."
Jesus as carpenter built the Bible. Twenty-six hundred times the Old Testament prophets and five hundred twenty-five times the New Testament writers assert that their words are the words of God. Numerous statements occur such as, "The Lord spoke unto Moses," "Thus saith the Lord," or "Now the word of the Lord came unto Jonah." "For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit" (II Pet. 1:21). "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness" (II Tim. 3:16). "And Moses . . . said unto them. These are the words of which the Lord hath commanded" (Ex. 35:1).
When Columbus discovered the Orinoco River, someone said that he had discovered an island. He replied, "No such river flows from an island. That mighty torrent must drain a continent." It is thus with the Bible. No man could have written it if he would and no man would have written it if he could. It must have come from Jesus.
The Bible was written on two continents and was printed in three languages; its composition extended through 16 centuries. It was written by forty men at different times and places and under the most varying circumstances. It was written in tents, deserts, cities, palaces, and dungeons. It was written by kings, judges, priests, prophets, physicians, patriarchs, prime ministers, herdsmen, scribes, soldiers, and fishermen. Yet in spite of all these differences, it is one Book, with one system of doctrine, one code of ethics and one plan of salvation. Suppose we were to select forty men of different walks of life today to write a book on theology or church government, and were to put them in different rooms. Their completed book would be so diverse that it would take steel binding to hold it together. The differences of the writers would be even far greater if they were separated by centuries as were the Bible writers. Yet in the case of the Bible, there is unity and harmony. It is a volume of sixty-six books written with such perfect accord and unison that we know that it must have been Jesus Himself who placed the words in the mouths of the prophets. Many human mouths and hands spoke and penned the words of the Bible, but behind all was Jesus' guiding, overruling and controlling.
Shall we suppose that there is a man upon the earth who has lived for 6,000 years and that he has been thrown into the sea to be drowned; he has been compelled to drink every deadly poison; he has been locked in prisons and dungeons and has been bound in iron chains; he has been crucified until his friends thought him dead; hundreds of times he has been burned at the stake, yet he lives. Such a person would be a superman. This is precisely the treatment which the Bible has received. Does this not prove that the Bible is superman? The fact that it lives despite all opposition, unmistakably proves that it is not of man but of God and that Jesus the carpenter built the Bible.
You can find evidences of Jesus as the builder of the Bible in the entire book.
In Genesis, He is Shiloh and seed of woman.
In Exodus, He is the Passover Lamb.
In Leviticus, He is the High Priest.
In Numbers, He is the Star out of Jacob.
In Deuteronomy, He is prophet like unto Moses.
In Joshua, He is captain of the Lord's host.
In Judges, He is the messenger of Jehovah.
In Ruth, He is our Kinsman.
In Samuel, He is the Lord and seed of David.
In Kings and Chronicles, He is the Lord of lords and King of kings.
In Ezra and Nehemiah, He is Lord of Heaven and earth.
In Esther, He is the mighty God, who cares for His people.
In Job, He is our risen Redeemer.
In Psalms, He is the perfect all-in-all.
In Proverbs, He is the wisdom of God.
In Ecclesiastes, He is the preacher.
In Song of Solomon, He is fairest among ten thousand.
In Isaiah, He is the suffering servant.
In Jeremiah, He is the Lord our Righteousness.
In Lamentations, He is the Man of Sorrows.
In Ezekiel, He is high priest of God on earth.
In Daniel, He is the ancient of days.
In Hosea, He is the risen Son of God.
In Haggai (and other minor prophets). He is the desire of the nations.
In Malachi, He is the Sun, our Righteousness.
In Matthew, He is the King of the Jews.
In Mark, He is the perfect servant.
In Luke, He is the man whose name is the Branch.
In John, He is the Son of God.
In Acts, He is the ascended Lord and Christ.
In Romans, He is the Lord of our Righteousness.
In Corinthians, He is first fruits from the dead.
In Galatians, He is author of Paul's apostleship.
In Ephesians, He is the head of the church.
In Philippians, He is the believer's pattern.
In Colossians, He is the fullness of the godhead bodily, or the All-in-all.
In Thessalonians, He is the Coming One.
In Timothy, Titus, and Philemon, He is the sovereign of
His servants; the Head of His churches.
In Hebrews, He is our great High Priest.
In James, He is the Lord of Glory.
In Peter, He is the chief comer stone and the example of suffering.
In John, He is the Advocate for His little children.
In Jude, He is the keeper from Apostasy.
In Revelation, He is the coming one.
S. D. Gordon tells of a Christian lady whose age began to tell on her memory. Though she had been a great Bible student, eventually all of it went from her memory save only, "I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day" (II Tim. 1:12). As her last days continued all she could remember of this passage was, "That which I have committed unto Him." And on her deathbed all she could recall was "Him" and she kept saying this to herself "Him, Him, Him." She had lost the whole Bible but one word, but she had the whole Bible in that one word.
Jesus as carpenter built the church. "And Jesus answered and said unto him. Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee that thou are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matt. 16:17, 18). In spite of these words of Jesus, there are many heretical and hetrodoxical souls who say that the church was founded on the day of Pentecost. I do not think that it can be too strongly argued that Jesus built the church in the days of His flesh. On the day of Pentecost 3,000 souls were added to the church. "Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls" (Acts 2:41). If one says that he is going to add $100 to his bank account, it argues and implies that he now has a bank account. Accordingly since 3,000 souls were added on the day of Pentecost, then surely the church was in existence before that memorable day.
Shortly after Jesus first mentioned the church. He gave to it a rule of discipline. "Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him. alone: if he shall hear thee thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican" (Matt. 18:15-17). He does not say that this was the rule of discipline for the future church nor for the church that was to be organized at Pentecost. Rather He said, "Tell it unto the church," as it to imply emphatically that the church already existed.
In prophecy it is stated of Jesus, "In the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee" (Heb. 2:12). The only time that Jesus ever sang in the church was when He instituted the Lord's Supper, at which time it was said, "And when they had sung a hymn they went out unto the Mount of Olives" (Mark 14:26). Please remember that this was not only prior to the day of Pentecost; but it even antedated His death.
Do not the Scriptures likewise tell us that the Apostles were in the church before Pentecost. In fact the first members of His church were the Apostles. "And God hath set some in the church, first apostles" (I Cor. 12:28). These were chosen in the beginning of Jesus' ministry which would emphatically say to us that Jesus built His church in the days of His personal ministry.
Jesus as carpenter built the inter-world bridge. I mean by this, the bridge which spans the chasm between Heaven and earth. Note these Scriptures, "For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures" (I Cor. 15:3). ". . . And without shedding of blood is no remission" (Heb. 9:22). "For he hath made him who knew no sin; to be sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him" (II Cor. 5:21). "Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed" (I Pet. 2:24). "For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God" (I Pet. 3:18). Such a bridge spanning earth and heaven had been prophesied since the fall of man in the Garden of Eden. When Christ died upon the cross, that bridge was completed, for Jesus who was God in the flesh, the perfect man, the perfect God, joined heaven and earth which had become separated at the Garden of Eden.
When the famous Brooklyn bridge was constructed two architects were prostrated. One was slain by his toils, the other became a life invalid. To build the inter-world bridge required the death of the Divine architect. The blood of Jesus had to be spilt.
The first time I visited Niagara Falls I was tremendously interested in the tradition concerning the Seneca Indians who once lived in the neighborhood of Niagara Falls. Each year they made an offering to propitiate the Spirit of the falls. The offering was a beautiful maiden. On a bright moonlight night, in a white canoe, filled with flowers, deer, and fruits, she would push out into the stream, and the current would carry her to her death. The daughter of the chief was chosen one year. As the Indians waited in their canoes just above the precipice over which the water drops, the old chief saw the current carrying his daughter swiftly to her destruction. With a few swift strokes of his paddle he brought his own canoe along side that of his daughter. There was a look of infinite love, a swift embrace and both went over the falls together. He loved his daughter too much to see her take the death journey alone; that was real love. But the story lacks the superlative element. It would have been far better had the chief stepped into the boat and died for his daughter. It may be fine to die with another, but far better to die for another. That was what Christ did. When humanity's boat was about to drift over the falls. He placed the feet of the doomed race safely on shore and went down into the rapids alone, thus bridging the gulf between earth and heaven and destroying the chasm which separated God and man.
Jesus as carpenter is building Heaven now. "Let not your heart be troubled. Ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you, I go to prepare a place for you, and if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself: that where I am, there ye may be also" (John 14:1-3). The Lamb who built the inter-world bridge has gone away to build for each of the elect, a mansion in Heaven. If you are one of God's elect, then the title to it is yours; you are absolutely sure of it; no one can prevent you from inhabiting it; what a glorious day it will be when you cross its threshold.
Jesus is now selecting, marking, preparing and finishing that home for you. A Sunday School teacher asked what was Jesus' work while on earth. Someone said, "He was a carpenter." "And what did he build?" was asked, "Why houses, I suppose." "And," said an old saint, "Thank God, He is still building them; He is preparing a mansion for me."
When the Franco-Prussian War broke out a young lieutenant of the Prussian army told the girl he loved that when he returned he would take her to the home that he would provide for her. When the war was over and the troops returned to Berlin in triumphant procession, Julie stood by her gate waiting for her lover who was sleeping beneath the sod of a foreign land. "But he must come: he said he would," she kept saying to herself. So she watched for forty years in all kinds of weather, day by day. Then her mind was turned; she fell ill waiting for him, was carried to the hospital where she died. Thank God, Jesus is providing a home for us and will not disappoint us! His coming is made possible by His going, for He said, "If I go, I will come again" (John 14:3).
Are you ready for His coming? If not, then heed the words of Jesus, "Repent ye, and believe the gospel" (Mark 1:15).
"For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified." Rom. 8:29, 30.
The whole Bible from Gen. 1:1 to Rev. 22:21 pulsates with the infinite greatness and majesty of God. In the Scriptures man is minified and God is magnified. This is much in contrast with modern theology, for much of our preaching today glorifies man and puts God in a very insignificant place. Some time ago, a popular preacher announced for his subject one Sunday morning, "God's Duty to Man." Ah, dear me, as if God owed man anything! And who is man? Who are you? Who am I? Just one of 1,500,000,000 like you that inhabit the globe today. Not very big are you? Just one out of 1,500,000,000. And what is this globe? Just a small part of the universe and so small at that, that if the sun were hollowed out, you could pour 1,200,000 earths like ours into it and there would still be room to rattle around. And what is the sun? Just one of 350,000,000 known suns and stars. And God made them all.
Do you wish your size stated with mathematical accuracy? Divide one by 1,500,000,000; and that by 1,200,000; and that by 350,000,000; and that by infinity; and that's you! And how great is God? Multiply one by 1,500,000,000; and that by 1,200,000; and that by 350,000,000; and that by infinity; and that's God!
Oh, how mighty is God and how puny is man! Perhaps no Scripture more clearly teaches this than does our text, for it breathes, and throbs, and swells with the majesty of God. "For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified and whom he justified, them he also glorified" (Rom. 8:29,30).
I like to think of our text as a great chain of five golden links, fastened in eternity past, stretched through time, and anchored in eternity to come, each link magnifying God.
The first link is God's Foreknowledge. "For whom he did foreknow" (Rom. 8:29). This is the very thing which man lacks. As an example, who knows what the weather may be like tomorrow. We may be able to give a shrewd guess as to the future but one thing is positive we lack knowledge. What man lacks. God possesses. "Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world" (Acts 15:18).
Every event of our lives is known to God; and was known even before the world began. In the days of His flesh, Jesus declared that He knew the time and manner of Simon Peter's death. "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, when thou wast young, thou girdest thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shall be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God" (John 21:18,19). Jesus in this passage declared the manner of Peter's death as that of crucifixion, and the time of it, when Peter should be old. Since Jesus knew the time and manner of Simon Peter's death, I am led to believe that He likewise knows the time and manner of death of each of us. In fact there never is an event in our lives that He does not foreknow.
"God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.
"Deep in unfathomable mines
Of everlasting skill,
He treasures up His bright designs,
And works His sov'reign will.
"Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy, and shall break
In blessings on your head.
"Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.
"His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flow'r.
"Blind unbelief is sure to err,
And scan His works in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain."
The second link of this text is Predestination. "For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate" (Rom. 8:29). Predestination and election! What words are these! So seldom are they heard today in the average church that they sound as though we had borrowed a phrase from some dead language of the past.
Predestination! What a marvelous doctrine, though little taught today! Why before the foundation of the world. God chose some to Salvation. "I am sought of them that asked not for me; I am found of them that sought me not: I said. Behold me, behold me, unto a nation that was not called by my name" (Isa. 65:1). "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain" (John 15:16). ". . . and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed" (Acts 13:48). "According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world" (Eph. 1:4). "But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren, beloved of the Lord because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth" (II Thess. 2:13). "Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit" (I Pet. 1:2).
God has through the ages worked on the basis of election. God chose Abel, and rejected Cain. God chose Shem as the line through which the Messiah must come; at the same time He rejected Ham and Japheth. God chose Isaac and rejected Ishmael. God chose Jacob and rejected Esau. "As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated." "Nay but, 0 man, who art thou that replies! against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it. Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour and another unto dishonour? What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction; and that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy; which he had afore prepared unto glory" (Rom. 9:13 . . . 20-23). God chose Abraham alone and rejected all his idolatrous relations. "Hearken to me, ye that follow after righteousness, ye that seek the Lord: look unto the rock whence ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence ye are digged. Look unto Abraham your father, and unto Sarah that bare you: for I called him alone, and blessed him, and increased him" (Isa. 51:1, 2).
God chose the Jews for His people as a nation. Read Gen. 12:1-3. The Egyptians were far wiser. The Chaldeans were more ancient. Yet God chose Israel. Why? "For Jacob my servant's sake, and Israel mine elect, I have even called thee by thy name: I have sumamed thee, though thou hast not known me" (Isa. 45:4).
God has gathered out in the past 1000 years practically all His own from the Anglo-Saxon race. The Chinese practice a nobler system of morality. India has thrice America's population. Why hast He chosen thus? "Even so. Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight" (Matt. 11:26).
There are many objections offered by the carnal man to the doctrine of predestination. Often do we hear it said that it is so mysterious. I am ready to grant that it is beyond the power of man to understand it. However, there are many things which we can never grasp. I cannot understand why God permitted sin. I cannot understand the many inequalities of the human race. I cannot understand the procreation of life. I cannot understand how God saves. I cannot understand why that hogs, cows, geese and sheep eat grass and yet it produces bristles, hair, feathers and wool on the back of each respectively. I can only bow before God to hear Him say, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts neither are your ways my ways, for as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts" (Isa. 55:8,9).
Again there is the objection concerning the doctrine of election that God is unjust. May I remind you that salvation isn't a matter of justice but of grace: "For by grace are ye saved through faith" (Eph. 2:8). If we received justice we would all spend eternity in Hell. It is best that God should elect some then that all should perish. It is also objected, why preach the gospel since God has elected some to be saved. We are to preach it because God commanded us to do so. "And he said unto them, go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature" (Mark 16:15). Preaching is the means God uses for the saving of His elect. "It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe" (I Cor. 1:21). Since I do not know who the elect are, it is my duty to preach the gospel to all as though each man were one of God's elect and then wait on God to do the saving.
The third link in this chain is that of God's Calling. "Moreover, whom he did predestinate, them he also called" (Rom. 8:30) In a general sense God calls every one. "That was the true light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world" (John 1:9). However, there is an effectual call which only the elect hear. Through His goodness God calls sinners to Him. "Or despiseth thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?" (Rom. 2:4). Likewise He uses the Bible. "Say unto them, as I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, 0 house of Israel?" (Ezek. 33:11). Sometimes He uses our troubles to call us. I once conducted a funeral of a little babe that had left its baby clothes to live with God. After we had heaped up the little mound, the grief-stricken father of the little babe said, "Tell me pastor will I ever see my darling baby again?" God had thus given that little grave a voice and it was calling that hardened man to repentance. A few years ago in listening to the radio, a news commentator told of a vessel which overturned, throwing the only occupant of the small boat into the water when he was returning home at the close of his day's fishing. It was very dark and in the water he became confused and began swimming in the wrong direction. Just then his daughter came out of the door of his home and called to her father, not knowing of his plight in the water. When the light shined out through the open door and he heard the voice of his daughter he turned and swam to shore. If she had not called, he would have died. So it is with us. If God had not called us, each of us would perish in Hell.
The fourth link of this chain is Justification. "Whom he called, them he also justified" (Rom. 8:30). Long years ago we find Job saying, "I know it is so of a truth: but how should man be just with God" (Job 9:2). What Job was grasping at and desirous to know, we learn through the New Testament Scriptures. "And by him all that believe are justified from all things from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses" (Acts 13:39). "Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law" (Rom. 3:28). "Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified" (Gal. 2:16). "Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth" (Rom. 8:33).
Justification is just the opposite of condemnation. Each of us who are redeemed by the Blood of Jesus Christ are justified sinners. We are not sinners paroled but we are sinners justified. The fact and fear of condemnation are gone.
How we do rejoice when we learn that that which has been justified by God can never be condemned by man or the Devil. "For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom. 8:38, 39).
The fifth link of this glorious chain is Glorification. "And whom he justified, them he also glorified" (Rom. 8:30). In eternity past God foreknew us and elected us unto Salvation. In time God calls and justifies those whom He has foreknown and elected. But in eternity to come He will glorify all those whom He foreknew and elected in eternity past and called and justified in time.
Glorification! What a wonderful doctrine! All fleshly nature and habits will be gone from the body of each of the redeemed. There will be nothing to tempt nor clog. "And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly" (I Cor. 15:49). "Who shall change our vile body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself" (Phil. 3:21). "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is" (I John 3:2).
What a marvelous text is this which we have been considering: foreknowledge, election, calling, justification and glorification. How can all this come to pass and who is it that brings it to pass? It is none other than the Lord Cod. Thus we are compelled to say that salvation in every respect is an act of God. There is no room for human effort, no place for priestly meditation, no room for good works on the part of man, nor is there any place for religious ordinances and services.
Long years ago a disobedient prophet named Jonah went to school in the belly of a whale where he learned what we choose to call, "whale belly theology." When he had graduated and hung up his sheepskin, he just knew one text, "Salvation is of the Lord" (Jonah 2:9). May God grant that you, too, might learn that it is "God that justifies" and may you trust His Son now as your Saviour for time and eternity.
"The stars shall shine for a thousand years
A thousand years and a day;
But God and I shall live and love,
When the stars have passed away."
"There is a God in Heaven." Daniel 2:28
There was a time in this world's history when there was no true church. Can you imagine a world without a true New Testament church? There was a time when there was no Bible. When we consider the comfort, the joy, and the instruction which it gives, it seems pathetic to us to think there was a time when there was no Bible. There was a time when there was no sin. Originally man was placed in the Garden of Eden with perfect human righteousness. When man was living in the Garden without sin, dwelling in constant fellowship with God, the sweetest music that could ever fall on human ears tell on Adam's when God spoke to him face to face and he heard God's voice. There was a time when there was no man. Imagine, if you can, an earth with no man to till the soil. Not even one of the 1,500,000,000 of earth's population existed then. There was a time when there was no Devil. When we recall the tragedy, the wreck and the ruin wrought in the human family, the earth, and the Church of Jesus Christ, how we rejoice that once upon a time there was no Devil. There was even a time when there was no earth. Actually this world did not exist. So accustomed are we to it that it seems almost impossible for us to imagine that there could have been a time when the earth was not. Though there was a time when there was no church, no Bible, no sin, no man, no Devil, no earth, there never was a time when there was no God. For God has always existed. "Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God" (Psa. 90:1,2).
A wise man one day was asked, "What is God?" Realizing the profundity of the question and the importance of his answer, he requested time for mediation. At the end of one day, he declared that the subject was too vast and asked that the time be extended to three days. At the end of three days the answer was the same, that the subject was too deep for him to comprehend it in so short a time and requested six days for meditation. At the end of the six days he asked for two weeks. At the end of two weeks he asked for a month, and at the end of a month he asked for a year, and at the end of a year he asked for a life time. The subject was simply too vast and too profound for the mind of man to comprehend.
In view of the vastness of this subject we approach with timidity the question, "Is God dead?"
The infidel answers this question with an emphatic affirmative to declare that God is not only dead but there is no God and that never has there been a God. How such a one can live in this world and still deny the existence of God is beyond my comprehension! Over at North Benton, Ohio, there lived an infidel, notorious for his blasphemy of God and his dishonest dealings with man. He held a mortgage on pretty nearly everyone's property in that section. Through his dishonest financial dealings, he amassed quite a fortune. When he attended services
at the little Presbyterian church house at North Benton on rare occasions, his presence caused a frigidity to come over the entire congregation. Before his death he decided to build a tomb for himself. Wanting an inscription for the door of this tomb he went to a poet in that section and paid him $10 in advance for a suitable small poem which would be placed on the door of his vault. A few days later the poet delivered him the following lines:
"This is the grave of Chet Bedell,
Here lies his body, his soul's in Hell."
Somehow the infidel seemed to think that that was an unsuitable poem and sued the poet for the recovery of the $10. The court returned the verdict in favor of the poet, who in turn sued the old infidel for libel and won a judgment of $50,000 against him. This experience dampened his spirit as to the vault and he then decided to build a monument in life-size form which he erected in the cemetery in North Benton, Ohio. The monument depicts him with his feet trampling on the Bible and in one of his upraised hands is a scroll with these words, "Universal Mental Liberty." Before he died he wrote in his will, "If there be any truth in the Bible or in the things which I have denied; let my grave be inhabited by snakes." When he had died and they started to dig his grave the workman had to kill several snakes. When his body was lowered into the grave a snake fell down in the grave along side the casket. From that time on the grave has apparently been a mound which has been infested by snakes. All around the base of his monument are the holes where they enter the ground to live beneath his monument. It is not uncommon for one to find snakes on top of the ground stretched out on his grave at any time during the summer days. When I visited the community wherein this infidel formerly lived and began to inquire for the cemetery and Chet Bedell's grave, a native grinned and said: "You are looking for snakes aren't you?" Another a little later on said, "Well if old Chet Bedell asked for snakes he sure got them." I gathered from this experience when I visited North Benton, Ohio, three years ago that God had answered this infidel who declared that God was dead and who blasphemously said that there was no God.
Here's the question we have before us, "Is God dead?" The agnostic says, "I don't know." The skeptic says, "I doubt if He is alive; I think that He is dead; I am not positive; I am in a fog of doubt." The materialist says, "I believe in only material things; I have no time for spiritual things in my life; therefore, there is no God; God is dead."
Suppose we observe our church members for an answer to the question, "Is God dead?" Frankly, if we judge by the life which the average church member lives we must conclude that God is dead. The majority of church members think nothing of staying away from the house of God with only the slightest pretext or perhaps no excuse at all. Many go camping and picnicking on the Lord's Day. The lives of many are filled with the filthiest of sins. Gross immorality characterizes the lives of many who are supposed to be God's own. Sins too vile for the lips of modesty to mention are often found in the weekday lives of many church members. Many of them are worldly beyond description. They go into places of sin. They drink and dance and attend theaters with no thought of conscience. The weekday lives and the Sunday experience of most professors are poles apart. Very few live sacrificial lives. You have doubtlessly heard of:
"Old Deacon Horner, who sat in the comer
When the collection plate passed by;
He put in a cent, heaved a sigh of content
And said, 'What a good Christian am I.' "
How truly he characterizes many church members today!
To the English nobility. Lady Barclay illustrated Sunday Godliness and Monday Godlessness with a little mechanical bird so contrived that by the raising of the lid the bird would sit up and sing and then when the lid was closed, it went back into its house of darkness until opened again.
Many professors, but not possessors of Christ, come into God's House with an air of piety, with a song book and Bible under their arms on the Lord's day and in a sanctimonious whine sing, "My Jesus I love Thee." On Monday morning back they go into their little box of darkness and all the good intentions of their feeble lives are lost in oblivion until they emerge on the next Lord's Day. Truly from all appearances the average church member says to the world, "God is dead," for surely he could not believe very strongly that God is alive in him and then live during the week as he does. Theoretically, he may believe that God is alive, but actually he does not walk before the world as though God were living within Him.
However, in spite of the answer of infidels, agnostics, skeptics, and materialists and contrary to our observation of Christian professors, I want to answer emphatically, that God is alive.
Nature proves the existence of God. Everywhere in nature we find order, beauty, symmetry, law, and design, conclusively proving the existence of an intelligent Creator of the material realm. There can be no design without a designer, no beauty without one to make beautiful, and no order without one to establish it. Suppose you take out your watch and look at it for a moment while I ask you a simple question, "Did your watch have an intelligent maker?" Without a moment's hesitancy you would answer that it did. The very shape of it, the numbers in orderly procession from one to twelve, the works within the case, and the makeup naturally forces you to conclude that it had an intelligent maker. However, suppose that I might tell you that you are mistaken; that the watch did not have an intelligent maker but that the atoms and molecules which constitute the watch danced about in space until by a fortuitous chain of circumstances, they came together in their present shape and style. Just what would you think of this speaker, if I were to speak thus to you? You would doubtless say, "That man may be a graduate of the best schools but he is a fool." And in plain words you would be telling the truth. But what is this watch in its grandeur of makeup, in comparison with this world in which we live? If your watch had an intelligent maker, surely this world must have possessed One too. Even the human body in its structure is far more intricate, complex, and delicate in its makeup. If the watch had an intelligent maker, how much more must your body have had One too?
To revert to my illustration of your watch: If I were a teacher in the public schools and were to say that the atoms of the watch danced about until by a fortuitous chain of circumstances they came together into their present shape, you would probably think that I needed a good strong mind cure. However, if I were a teacher in the public schools and were to tell your children that the atoms and molecules of this world danced about for centuries of time until by a fortuitous chain of circumstances they came together into their present shape the world and all things therein you would say, "My, ain't he smart, let's give him a raise in salary." Surely this old world is round and funny.
I remember a few years ago in between my Freshman and Sophomore years in college it became necessary for me to secure employment in order that I might get back to school in September. I couldn't find a position so I began to look for a job. The only thing I could find was construction work on a public highway. When I walked up to the boss and asked him for a job, he looked me over and said, "I have a team of mules in the barn that are standing idle; they've killed every colored man that has driven them. If you want to take a chance on your life, I will give you 40 cents an hour to drive them." I wasn't very anxious to gamble with my health but I did need the 40 cents, so I went to the bam determined to harness the team. I opened the door cautiously and pushed my head inside just in time to have a pair of mule heels fly through space barely fanning my face and striking against the side of the barn. I closed the door at once. Life was mighty sweet to me that morning too sweet to gamble away at 40 cents per hour. Presently I decided that I needed work badly enough to make a second attempt, and with the bridle in hand I started back into the barn. One of the mules laid his ears back and rolled his eyes wickedly around in my direction and started for me. I began to think that perhaps the mules were color blind and couldn't tell the difference between me and a colored man. After nearly a halt morning's effort I had the mules harnessed and ready to put to work. My team and another were hooked to the plow. The driver of this other team took up the reins to drive and I took hold of the handlebars to plow. We had plowed about ten minutes when we struck a thorn root which nearly threw me over the plow. With an axe the root was quickly dispatched and we continued our plowing. When we had finished, the man who had cut the root for us came to me and with his penknife split the root's outer bark. Then he peeled the inner layers of bark one by one, nine of them in number, if I remember correctly, as yellow as gold, and as fine as tissue. When he had finished. his eyes filled with mist as he said, "Preacher, it seems to me there is enough of the love of God shown in God's protection of this thorn root to convert the whole world." I heartily agree that nature proves that God is not dead. Long years ago the Psalmist David slipped out of his tent one evening to turn his face toward the pale blue Syrian sky above him. He saw the moon as it took its place in the heavens and the stars come out one by one, as the golden sentinels of the night; then he wrote, "When I consider thy heavens, the works of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which then hast ordained; what is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?" (Psa. 8:3, 4). In the early morning David viewed the world about him and the heavens above him and wrote, "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handywork" (Psa. 19:1).
The events of our own lives prove that God is alive. A few years ago there came a depression, a financial panic, which engulfed not only our country but the whole world as well. Following in March, 1936, the Ohio River stood at flood stage for its entire length of nearly 1,000 miles, for the first time in the history of civilized man that it stood at flood stage for its entire length, at one time. When this passed, then came that terrible cyclone and tornado through Mississippi and Georgia which brought thousands of dollars of financial loss, as well as the loss of many, many lives. Then the greatest dust storm ever experienced, 1,500 miles in length, began moving eastward from the west. Who of our listeners do not recall the drought of the summer of '36, when the ground become chapped, pastures became dust and the entire country was experiencing a great fire hazard because of the drought? All of these events passed by to give rise to the flood of January, 1937, the disaster of which is remembered all too well by my audience. Where I am standing tonight, on the second floor of our church building, the water stood 34 inches in depth. Then came the school house explosion in Texas. Truly the parents of this entire country sympathize with those grief-stricken parents in Texas over the explosion of the school building and the many, many little lives that were snuffed out without a moment's warning. Somehow after each of these events, I can hear the voice of the Lord saying, "Yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the Lord" (Amos 4:11). Most assuredly do each of these events prove that God is alive.
Further, the believer knows that He is alive because he can feel His presence. "For the which cause I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day" (II Tim. 1:12). "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. The spirit himself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God" (Rom. 8:14, 16). A minister saw a lad running along one day holding on to a string gazing up into the air. When he asked the lad as to his occupation, he received the reply, "I am flying my kite, sir." To this he replied, "But I don't see any kite." "Neither do I, sir, but I can feel its pull," said the boy. So it is with a believer. He can not see God but he can feel His pull.
I know that God exists because I can feel His presence. My personal experience with Him is enough to convince me that God is not dead but alive. I am thinking now of an exceedingly close friend. Suppose you were to try to convince me that that friend did not exist. You might by some system of philosophy prove his nonexistence. When you had finished your argumentation I might not be able to put my finger upon the weak spot of your argument but I would still know that that friend existed because of my personal experience with him. You might try to convince me that God does not exist and when you have finished with your argument I may be unable to put my finger upon the weak spot thereof, but I would still know that God exists because of my experience with Him.
Prayer is one experience which proves the existence of God. During the World's Fair in Chicago several years ago, Mr. Moody was carrying on a campaign which cost a great many thousands of dollars. A little group met one day to plan and assist and pray with Mr. Moody about the work. As they sat down to eat, Mr. Moody said, "We need $7,000 today for the work. I have already received $1,000 but before we eat I propose that we pray and ask God for the other $6,000." So with simple childlike faith Mr. Moody presented this problem to the Father. About an hour later after the little group had finished their luncheon and completed their plans for the day, a boy came in with a telegram in his hand. Mr. Moody read it and handed it to Reuben Torrey to read aloud. This was what it said: "Mr. Moody, your friends in North Field had a feeling that you needed money in Chicago. We have just taken up a collection and there is $6,000 in the basket." North Field as you know is a short distance from Boston. It is nearly a thousand miles from Chicago. That morning, as a service was coming to a close in North Field, someone proposed that they take a collection for Mr. Moody's work in Chicago. Others voiced their opinion and it seemed unanimous that Mr. Moody was desperately in need of funds. How are we to account for the fact that 1,000 miles away God put it on the hearts of 3,000 people to respond to the tune of $6,000? There is only one way whereby it can be explained: God lives! The believers know He is alive by their intimate experience with Him.
How many times God has proven Himself alive in my own life in response to prayer! There is a restaurant over in Lexington, Kentucky, where I used to eat quite often when passing through town. I used to walk up to the counter and give my order to the girl standing behind it, who in turn called my order back through a little hole, about two feet square. Suppose I were to order my favorite dinner, fried chicken, corn bread, buttermilk, and pumpkin pie. She would immediately call this order back through that hole in the wall and within a few minutes time it would be set up and she would hand it out to me. I never saw anyone behind that hole in the wall but I know that someone was back there for as soon as I gave my order the food was handed out. Prayer is just such an aperture in the sky. I go to God and voice to Him my petitions. The answer comes back. I can not see God but I know He exists because He answers prayer.
Therefore, since God exists you need to heed the words of the prophet: "Prepare to meet thy God, 0 Israel" (Amos 4:12).
And how do you prepare to meet God? There is only one way. "Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me" (John 14:6). There is only one door. "I am the door; by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved" (John 10:9). There is no salvation in any other save only in Jesus who died for our sins. "Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:1). ". . . and without shedding of blood is no remission" (Heb. 9:22).
Several years ago when I first came to this church as pastor, I visited a dying man in Ashland. His disease had destroyed all the red corpuscles in his blood. The pillow upon which he lay was no whiter than the flesh which lay upon it. I saw the doctor one evening take a healthy friend of mine and make a blood transfusion. Within a few minutes the hitherto colorless cheeks assumed a rosy glow. A few days later when I visited him that healthy blood had been burned away and his cheeks were colorless again. A second and third transfusion was made with the same results. Finally we took him out to the cemetery and lowered him thus within the grave. When the service was ended I turned away thinking how that human blood had failed. His own blood had failed him, the blood of three friends had failed him but thank God the Blood of Jesus Christ never fails. How we rejoice tonight that God still lives and that since Jesus Christ died for our sins you can live too by trusting the shed blood of our precious Redeemer. May the grace of God lead you tonight to saving faith in Jesus Christ.
"Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy wounded side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure,
Save from wrath and make me pure.
"Not the labor of my hands
Can fulfill Thy law's demands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
These for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and Thou alone.
"Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress;
Helpless, look to Thee for grace;
Vile, I to the fountain fly,
Wash me. Saviour or I die.
"While I draw this fleeting breath,
When my eyes shall close in death,
When I rise to worlds unknown,
And behold Thee on Thy throne,
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee."