"Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous. And say, if we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. Ye serpents, ye generations of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of Hell?" Matt. 23:23-33.
The Lord Jesus never preached a bigger sermon in all His life. He was preaching to the greatest sinners He ever met and so He preached accordingly.
Here is an example for modern preachers. We need to be lion-like if we are to be Christ-like. Some preachers haven't any more backbone than a fishing worm. No preacher needs a piece of "boiled spaghetti" for a backbone. Mr. Pacifist, Mr. Middle-of-the-Roader, Mr. Self - Complacent - Mollycoddle, that gelatin-like gentleman says that we ought to be sweet and gentle and never offend anyone, yet no man ever lived that was more lion-like than Christ. Thus in this chapter, 12 times Jesus Christ calls His audience fools, blind guides, and hypocrites. Finally with the most scathing denunciation of all. He says concerning the unsaved of His day, "Ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?" (Matt. 23:33).
Jesus' audience was composed entirely of unsaved folk. The very fact that He said, "How can you escape the damnation of Hell?" proves that they were unsaved. To be sure they were religious leaders but that meant nothing in Jesus' day nor does it mean anything today. We have countless professors but very few possessors. Many have churchanity but few have Christianity. When Moses was leading the children of Israel out of Egypt, we read that a "mixed multitude" journeyed with Israel. Israel was the redeemed people of God. This mixed multitude knew nothing of the redemption but attracted by the miracles and manifestation of the supernatural, they journeyed along with the Jews. We have many, many thousands like them today who during the emotional excitement of a revival meeting have joined the church and have never known the meaning of redemption. It was this type of people that Jesus was dealing with in the chapter we have before us.
Jesus described them again in the parable of the tares sown among the wheat. "Then Jesus sent the multitude away, and went into the house: and his disciples came unto him, saying, Declare unto us the parable of the tares of the field. He answered and said unto them. He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man; the field is the world; the good seed are the children of the wicked one; the enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels. As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; and shall cast them into a furnace of fire; there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth" (Matt. 13:36-42). There are multiplied thousands today who as church members look like saints on the outside. They go to church with an air of piety. They sing sanctimoniously. They probably carry a song book and Bible under their arm whenever they go to God's House. Still their heart is far removed from God. They are tares the Devil's imitation Christians, which he plants along side of the genuine in order to deceive the world. It was to this crowd that Jesus said, "Ye generations of vipers (literally, you brood of snakes), how can you escape the damnation of Hell?"
As we read this chapter we notice many characteristics which Jesus gives of His audience. They were first of all teachers of the law. "The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat" (Matt. 23:2). Note the expression: "Sit in Moses' seat." This means that they were Moses' successors and thus were teachers of the law. Surely in this responsible place we should find saved persons. However our expectations are in vain. It reminds us of many hundreds and thousands today who are Moses' successors, namely preachers. Not everyone who calls himself a preacher is a God-called preacher and not all who prefix some ministerial title to their name, know the Lord. Fully nine-tenths of the preachers are unsaved if they believe what they preach, since they preach salvation by works or salvation by the city's water works instead of salvation by grace as taught in the Scriptures. But these unsaved preachers will come up to the bar of God unredeemed. Listen to Jesus' description of that scene. "Not every one that saith unto me. Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day. Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity" (Matt. 7:21-23).
These unsaved folk were strong believers in works. We have a description of their efforts, for Jesus said, "AH their works they do for to be seen of men" (Matt. 23:5). Like many moderns today, they thought their works would save. At least nine of every ten whom you meet are expecting to go to Heaven because of their works. Suppose you go out tonight and ask the first man you meet, "Are you saved?" He will answer, "I hope so," or "I think so." Ask him why he is expecting to go to heaven and he will say, "I am not a very bad man; I am doing the very best I can." You see he is depending upon what he is doing instead of the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. In Jesus' day there were many who expected that they might be saved by their doings. They even said to Jesus, "What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them. This is the work of God that ye believe on him whom he hath sent" (John 6:28,29). Thus you see that Jesus settled for once and all time the plan of salvation by declaring that it was not our works but His finished work that gives us salvation. Yet in spite of His teachings there are multiplied thousands who, like the audience to whom Jesus was preaching, are depending upon their works for salvation. Sometime ago one of the members of our church visited a woman in the hospital who had been an active church worker for years. In the course of the conversation the lady from our church said, "But you aren't afraid to die, are you? You're surely ready to meet the Lord." To which the other, an unsaved church member, said, "I don't think I have done enough yet to be saved." May God help those of our audience tonight who are listening, to realize that salvation is not something that we do, but something that Jesus Christ has done on the cross. "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast" (Eph. 2:8,9). "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). "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us" (Titus 3:5).
Those who composed Jesus' audience were also men of prayer. "Woe unto you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows' houses and for a pretense make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation" (Matt. 23:14). We usually think that if a man is a praying member of a church, that surely he is all right, and that he knows the Lord. Yet this is no proof of one's salvation. Read the spiritual pedigree of Cornelius as described in the book of Acts. "There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band; a devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to Cod alway" (Acts 10:1,2) One of his characteristics was that he "prayed to God alway." Still he was unsaved, for God said to him, "Send men to Joppa and call for Simon, whose surname is Peter; who shall tell thee words, whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved" (Acts 11:13,14). Though a man of prayer, God knew that he needed to be saved.
Several years ago I held a revival meeting for a Baptist church in Ashland. One Sunday night an old gentleman sitting next to the front seat gripped the bench in front of him, as we gave the invitation song, as though he were already slipping into the jaws of Hell. After the service I said to the pastor, "Did you see that man's reaction to the sermon tonight?" The pastor replied in the affirmative but said, "He's all right; he is one of the charter members of this church; he's been a member of Baptist churches for nearly 45 years and has been a deacon for over 40 years. Why, he is one of our praying members." The next night the pastor met me at the door of the church and said, "You were right, for before I got out of bed this morning that man who was so agitated last evening came to my home and told me he had never been saved in all his life until last night. He said he had been a church member but that he had never seen that Jesus on the cross paid for all sins past, present, and future until last evening." I dare say that we have in our audience tonight many hundreds who are praying church members but who know not the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Another characteristic of Jesus' audience is that they were personal workers. "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte and when he is made, ye make him two-fold more the child of hell than yourselves" (Matt. 23:15). I have always tried to show unsaved church members in my church or in any organization that they are lost. Sometime ago because I spoke to one who was a member of another church organization, I received a very scurrilous letter in which this verse which I have quoted was applied to me. I only wish that I were as zealous for my Master as these folk of whom and, to whom the Lord Jesus spoke. They were willing to "compass sea and land." That is, they were willing to go around the world in order to proselyte just one man. Truly they were the greatest personal workers of whom I have ever read. With such zeal and sincerity we think that they must be saved. But may I remind you that one is not saved by zeal and sincerity. "Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth" (Rom. 10:1-4). Though they were great personal workers Jesus said, "You are just a brood of snakes; how can you keep out of Hell!"
These folk further had great religious oaths and creeds. "Woe unto you, ye blind guides, which say. Whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he is a debtor!" (Matt. 23:16). They had a mental belief about great religious creeds. Still all that means but little. It is not head faith nor intellectual faith that saves, but a heart faith which brings redemption. "For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation" (Rom. 10:10). A man may believe all the ritual and rubric of his church, and yet be lost. He may know all that his church stands for and he may have memorized the "discipline," or the "findings of the presbytery,'' or the "tenets of the church," and after having memorized it he may still be a stranger to Christ. There are multiplied thousands of Catholics, Jews, Methodists, Presbyterians, Holiness, Campbellites, and Missionary Baptists who know everything their church stands for, but who know not the Christ of Calvary.
Jesus audience were also liberal givers. In fact they were tithe-payers. "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin" (Matt. 23:23). We usually think that if we can get a church member to bring his tithe to the Lord that surely he must be right with the Lord. When the Pharisee went into the temple to tell God of his goodness, one characteristic which he mentioned was, "I give tithes of all that I possess" (Luke 18:12). Yet Jesus' estimate was that he went down to his house condemned. Every man owes God one-tenth of his income. Still this has nothing whatever to do with his salvation.
Further, the outside life of those of Jesus' audience was clean. "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them. may be clean also. Woe unto you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outward appear righteous unto me, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity" (Matt. 23:25-28). Outwardly they looked all right. This is all that man asks for. But man can only see the outside. "For the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart" (I Sam. 16:7). You can whitewash a pig pen or a manure pile but it is still a pig pen or a manure pile. You can whitewash the outside of a typhoid pump but that does not affect the germs inside. A man's life may be scrupulously clean in the eyes of man and yet his heart may be exceedingly filthy in the sight of God. "Out of it (the heart) are the issues of life" (Prov. 4:23). Did not God declare concerning man's righteousness, "and all our righteousnesses are but as filthy rags?" (Isa. 64:6). If our best deeds look like filthy rags to God, what must our sins, our immoralities, and our evil deeds look like?
Those of Jesus' audience thus had many good characteristics which we have enumerated:
1. Teachers of the law.
2. Strong believers in works.
3. Men of prayer.
4. Personal workers.
5. They had great religious oaths and creeds.
6. Tithe payers.
7. Their outside lives were clean.
Yet there was something that they lacked, "And have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone" (Matt. 23:23).
They lacked judgment. They had failed to pass judgment on their sins. Every man needs to judge himself a sinner. A man does not like to call himself a vile wretch or a sinner. That was true of Jesus' audience. They had failed to judge themselves sinners in need of salvation.
They also lacked mercy. That is, they lacked the mercy or love of God in their lives. The word "mercy" as used in the Bible means "grace." We love to sing the old song:
"Amazing grace! how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
" 'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed!
"Thro' many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
'Tis grace hath bro't me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.
"When we've been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We've no less days to sing God's praise
Than when we first began."
These folk to whom Jesus was speaking had omitted the mercy or grace of God from their lives.
They likewise lacked faith. No man can ever be saved unless he judges himself a sinner and then by faith accepts the mercy or the grace of God as shown in the death of Jesus at Calvary. It is saving faith in Christ which brings redemption to us. "He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God"' (John 3:18). "Verily, verily, I say unto you. He that heareth my Word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life" (John 5:24).
Finally they lacked an inward cleansing. "Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also" (Matt. 23:26). I am sure that there are many, many within our audience who need such an inward cleansing. If we might see our hearts as God sees them tonight, many would be willing to heed the words of Jesus: "Marvel not that I said unto thee, ye must be born again" (John 3:7), "I tell you, nay: but except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish" (Luke 13:5).
Years ago D. L. Moody closed a revival meeting in Birmingham, England. As a young man bid him good-bye, he said, "I am coming to America sometime and hope to preach for you." Six months later he wrote from New York that he would be in Chicago on Wednesday night and hoped to preach for him at that time. It happened that Moody had to be out of town. He left orders for the young man to preach and told the deacons of his church to be ready for he did not believe the young man could successfully conduct the services to a conclusion. The young man came and preached from the golden text of the Bible, John 3:16. His audience was deeply stirred. He announced an after-service and a dozen responded. They asked him to speak the next night. A larger audience greeted him on Thursday evening when he used the same text of the evening before, and 20 were converted. Then on Friday night 30 were saved, when he preached from the same text again. When Mr. Moody returned on Saturday his wife told him of the glorious revival meeting they were having. He said, "Revival? Why I haven't planned for a revival meeting and I don't think that the deacons would plan for one without consulting me." She replied, "It seems that the Lord has planned one without consulting you or the deacons either. I want you to go down tonight and get converted yourself." This was a shock to Moody. It was like a flash of lightning out of a clear sky, or like a dash of ice water in one's face on a cold night. He said, "Wife, I have been preaching for 20 years. I have preached all over America; I have preached all around the world; don't you think I've got religion?" To this she replied, "That's just exactly what I think you have, and when you go tonight to the services you will understand." That night the young man preached again on John 3:16. And that night Moody was converted. Hitherto he had preached law and works. That night he saw the Truth that Jesus Christ had died for all of his sins and judging himself a sinner he accepted by faith Jesus work at Calvary. They asked the preacher to continue the meeting. The next day Sunday morning, he preached to 1800 people. For six weeks Harry Moorehouse continued this meeting until hundreds were saved.
Perhaps there may be some preacher in my audience tonight or some unsaved church worker who has been depending upon the law and upon his own works. Like Moody, may you tonight realize that Jesus on the cross fulfilled the law, satisfied God, and paid for all of your sine past, present, and future.
"Jesus Christ who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity" (Titus 2:14). "The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin" (I John 1:7).
May you tonight judge yourself a sinner and accept the mercy of God offered you at Calvary.
"But the angel of the Lord by night opened the prison doors, and brought them forth, and said. Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life" Acts 5:19,20
This text grows out of the second persecution, which was aimed at Jesus' infant church. It was instigated by the Sadducees. Through their efforts all of the apostles were put in jail. Immediately the Lord sent an angel who opened the doors of the prison, led the preachers out, and set them free.
Apparently this was God's answer to the Sadducees. They said in their doctrines, "There is no resurrection; there are no angels." But when they imprisoned the apostles for preaching the resurrection, an angel came from Heaven and loosed the apostles from prison. Thus God answered these enemies of His church.
Now that the apostles were freed, the angel gave them a charge a charge to preach. "Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life" (Acts 5:20).
The angels of God are much interested in the work of preaching. "Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into" (I Pet. 1:12). Note the expression: "Which things the angels desire to look into."
But this is nothing new. The angels have always been interested in this world and its events. That is, they are interested in the preaching of the Gospel. Away back in eternity when this world was created, the angels of God clapped their hands and shouted for joy. "When the morning stare sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy" (Job 38:7). They watched with evident interest as God fashioned man out of dust. From that time, the angels above and the angels below, angels of love, and angels of woe, concentrated their attention on the problems of man's earthly and eternal life. Then with horror, they listened to the fatal conversation between the serpent and Eve. If the angels of God can weep, how they must have wept when sin came. They heard the promise which God gave relative to redemption, when the Father banished Adam and Eve from Eden. "And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shall bruise his heel" (Gen. 3:15).
From that time on the angels have been peculiarly interested in the Doctrine of Redemption. When the Ark of the Covenant was made, as a part of the furniture of the Tabernacle, figures of golden angels were carved as bending over the mercy seat and looking down where the blood falls, as if studying the meaning of the blood shedding. When Solomon's Temple was built we read, "And the priests brought in the ark of the covenant of the Lord unto his place, unto the oracle of the house, to the most holy place, even under the wings of the cherubims. For the cherubims spread forth their two wings over the place of the ark, and the cherubims covered the ark and the staves thereof above" (I Kings 8:6,7). When the temple was built in the wilderness, under Moses' direction, on the veil which separated the Holy of Holies from the outer Holy place, the figures of the cherubims were placed, as if investigating the shedding of the blood. "And he made a veil of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen; with cherubims made he it of cunning work" (Ex. 36:35).
When we come to the New Testament we find that they are tremendously interested in all of its events, beginning with the announcement of Jesus' birth. It was an angel who announced Jesus' coming to Mary. "And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. And the angel came in unto her and said. Hail, thou are highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. And the angel said unto her. Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shall call his name Jesus" (Luke 1:26-31). It was the same angel that came to Joseph with a message announcing the birth of Jesus. "Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily. But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shall call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins" (Matt. 1:18-21). Was it not an angel who preached the first Gospel sermon of the New Testament when he said to the shepherds, ". . . Fear not, for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord" (Luke 2:10,11). Did not all the heavenly host join in a great angelic chorus to sing the first Gospel hymn at Jesus' birth? "And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying. Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men" (Luke 2:13,14). An angel sat at the foot of Jesus' cradle and warned Joseph to take Jesus into Egypt for safety. "Behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him" (Matt. 2:13). The angel kept close watch over the cradle during their stay in Egypt and it was an angel that led them when they left Egypt. "But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt. Saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they are dead which sought the young child's life" (Matt. 2:19,20). The angels were all about the tomb of Jesus and it was a shining angel who first announced His resurrection. "And behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow: And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men. And the angel answered and said unto the women. Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay" (Matt. 28:2-6). Even when Christ ascended, two angels spoke to the disciples saying, "Ye men of Galilee why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven" (Acts 1:11).
Thus we see that the angels have always been interested in the events of this world and particularly concerning the work of preaching. Now that Christ has ascended, the angels give this charge to the preachers: "Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life" (Acts 5:20).
The agents employed for the spreading of the Gospel though are men, not angels. Oh, the honor of being a preacher. It would seem that the angels, having been as interested in the work of redemption as they have, should be the ones chosen to the high honor. But not so! Ours, as preachers, is a work which angels can't perform. There is no office, no honor, and no position which can equal the work of a preacher. When Andrew Jackson was elected to the presidency, an office seeker who had worked for Jackson's election came to him for a position. Mr. Jackson said, "And what is your present' work?" When told that he was a preacher. Old Hickory said, "Man, go home and preach; if I were to give you my office it wouldn't be as great as the one you now occupy." Carey the missionary, had a son who professed to be called to the ministry. Later on, he accepted an appointment of an ambassadorship from England. Most folk consider this an honor. When Carey heard it he said "My son Felix has dwindled into an ambassador."
How wonderful it is to think that the agents who are employed for the spreading of the Gospel are just preachers mere human beings. However imperfect as we preachers are, we are better preachers than the heavenly host with their perfect angelic righteousness. It is true that we preachers cannot sing with their celestial melody nor can we charm you with eloquence. But we do have a sympathy which they cannot feel, since they have not known the infirmities of man.
And now please note that these angels who have always been so interested in the preaching of the Gospel, though they can't preach, go to church to hear the agents whom God has employed for the spreading of the Gospel. "For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels" (I Cor. 11:10). That is, because of the presence of the angels. "To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God" (Eph. 3:10). The "principalities and powers in heavenly places" are the angels. They go to church to learn. Do you not imagine that the angels often wonder when they attend our services? When we recall that our commission of preaching was given by an angel to Jesus' preachers, why don't we carry out their charge more effectively than we do? Do they not often say, "Why do preachers neglect to preach? Why do they preach as though asleep? Where is their zeal for Christ in carrying out the charge we gave them?" Then they note men so eager in politics and business, yet negligent of souls. Are they not amazed when they behold the church split into factions which minimizes the power of the preacher as he tries to carry out their charge? Do they not say, "Why do they fuss?" Surely many times when they go to church to learn, they go away saying, "Oh, that God would let us preach!" Beloved, these angelic hosts must often feel ashamed of us. May I address myself now to any preacher in our audience or Sunday school teacher: "I charge you by the angels of God who are not permitted to touch this Holy work of teaching and preaching: 'preach the word; be instant in season and out of season.' "
It is interesting to notice what it was that the angels said for us to preach. "All the words of this life" (Acts 5:20). Life! The same word which is translated elsewhere eternal salvation or everlasting life.
Then I and all other preachers are to preach everlasting life. We are not to preach a religion that you can get today and lose tomorrow but rather everlasting life. Surely it is everlasting life for every saved sinner can never lose his salvation since he is kept by the power of God. "Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to prevent you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy" (Jude 24). "You who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time" (I Pet. 1:5). "Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them" (Heb. 7:25). "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). These texts teach us that the power to keep lies outside the sphere of personal ability, and that God keeps us from the power of external, internal, and infernal agencies. When the jewel of my soul is surrendered to God's keeping. He is responsible for my eternal security.
"Firm as His throne the promise stands,
And He can well secure,
What I've committed to His hands,
Till the decisive hour."
I would be unsafe to attempt to walk the streets of any town with $1,000 in my pocket. I hand it through the bank window to the cashier and he keeps it since he has the ability to do so. I haven't the power to keep my salvation, since the Devil is stronger than I, but I can commit myself unto God, who is "able to keep." The day that I was saved, I thus committed my soul to Him. Then do I realize: "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit" (Rom. 8:1).
This life which we are commanded to preach is made everlasting by the covenant between God and Christ which secures the righteous. "Then thou spakest in vision to thy Holy one, and saidst, I have laid help upon one that is mighty: I have exalted one chosen out of the people. Also I will make him my first born, higher than the kings of the earth. My mercy will I keep for him forevermore and my covenant shall stand fast with him. His seed also will I make to endure forever, and his throne as the days of heaven. If his children forsake my laws, and walk not in my judgments; if they break my statutes and keep not my commandments; then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes. Nevertheless my lovingkindness will I not utterly take from them, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail. My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips" (Psa. 89:19,27-34). This covenant was made with Christ before the foundation of the world. When His children go astray. He promises chastisement and yet declares He will not withdraw His lovingkindness nor suffer His faithfulness to fail.
When a believer is saved. He possesses eternal life. "Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that believeth on me hath everlasting life" (John 6:47). "And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent" (John 17:3). "Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that heareth my word and believeth on him that sent me hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life" (John 5:24). "And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die" (John 11:26). "And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is his Son. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God" (I John 5:11, 13). The life Christ gives us is eternal never ending. Forty-three times in the New Testament "everlasting" qualifies the life we receive when we receive Christ. Then it is a 43-0 hope that the believer is eternally secure. In Matt. 25:46, "everlasting" describes the punishment of the wicked. In Rom. 16:26, "everlasting" describes the duration of Christ in glory. In II Peter 1:11, "everlasting" describes the duration of Christ's kingdom. Then as long as the wicked are punished, as long as God exists, and as long as Christ's glory exists, and as long as Christ's kingdom continues, just that long the believer has eternal life. If the punishment of the wicked can have an end, if God can have an end, and if Christ's glory and kingdom have an end, then the believer can perish. In view of this shall we not write in letters of gold across the heavens, that all may read: ETERNAL SALVATION!
"The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to his foes;
That soul, tho' all Hell should endeavor to shake,
I'll never, no never, no never forsake!"
How can we ever forget this charge of the angel? Eternal life! Doubtlessly there are many of my audience who are preaching apostasy and are telling their congregation that it is possible for one to fall away, and be eternally lost after he has been eternally saved. The devil was the first preacher of apostasy when he lied to God, saying that Job would apostatize under his difficulties. God proved through Job that the Devil lied when he preached apostasy. Some day God will prove through each saved believer that every preacher of apostasy is a liar.
Isn't this something to make us rejoice? Just to think that the angel who have always been so interested in this world and its events, particularly God's plan of redemption, though they are not permitted to preach, yet they say to us whom God has commissioned: "Preach everlasting life." Shall we ever cease to thank God for calling us into such an elevated position? What rejoicing it will bring to that individual who has been faithful to the charge of the angels when he meets them face to face around the throne of God.
WHEN THE ANGELS SING
"There is singing up in heaven such as we have never known.
Where the angels sing the praises of the Lamb upon the throne,
Their sweet harps are ever tuneful and their voices always dear,
Oh, that we might be more like them while we serve the Master here!
"Holy, holy is what the angels sing,
And I expect to help them make the courts of Heaven sing,
But when I sing redemption's story, they will fold their wings,
For angels never felt the joys that our salvation brings.
"But I hear another anthem blending voices clear and strong,
'Unto Him that hath redeemed us and has bought us,' is the song;
'We have come through tribulations to this land so fair and bright,
In the fountain freely flowing He hath made our garments white.'
"Then the angels stand and listen for they cannot join that song,
Like the sound of many waters, by that happy, blood-wash'd throng,
For they sing about great trials, battles fought and vict'ries won,
And they praise their great Redeemer who hath said to them, 'Well done.'
"Holy, holy, is what the angels sing,
And I expect to help them make the courts of Heaven ring,
But when I sing redemption's story, they will fold their wings,
For angels never felt the joys that our salvation brings.
"So, although I'm not an angel, yet I know that over there
I will join a blessed chorus that the angels cannot share;
I will sing about my Saviour who upon dark Calvary,
Freely pardoned my transgressions, died to set a sinner free.
"Holy, holy, is what the angels sing,
And I expect to help them make the courts of Heaven ring,
But when I sing redemption's story, they will fold their wings,
For angels never felt the joys that our salvation brings."
Just a further word. In a moment you will be through with this message. Through with it until the morning of eternity. The question is: Are you sure you possess everlasting life? If not, then you need to heed the words of Jesus, "Verily, verily, I say unto you. He that believeth on me hath everlasting life" (John 6:47). May God help you now to trust Jesus' death for your life and may you come to know that your past, present, and future sins are paid for by His death at Calvary.