MAN'S PART IN CURING HIS SIN
God treats man as an equal, so far as freedom is concerned, and demands man's co-operation in order that God may make him a new creature, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of God blamelessly, as did Zachariah and Elisabeth.
In order to be saved from committing sin, there must be a desire for such salvation amounting to the paramount craving of a
man's life. Jesus said, "Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled." He also compared the condition to a man who sold all he had in order to obtain this pearl of great price, saying, "The kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is a merchant, seeking goodly pearls; and having found one pearl of great price, went and sold all he had and bought it." A man who would possess God's uttermost salvation from all sin must "Seek it as silver and search for it as hid treasure." There is no doubt at all but what God supplies the power to live free from sin, to all who comply with the two conditions which I have just quoted from Jesus; but without this all consuming desire, on man's part, even God seems powerless to bring about this great result.
The only other condition necessary is what we call faith. That is to say, a man must believe what God has said in this behalf. The precepts of God all demand holiness of heart and life; and the promises of God all suggest or promise that adequate Divine power will be imparted to all who have the necessary desire, so that God's righteous
demands may be complied with. Thus "It is not by might, nor by power, but by My spirit, saith the Lord." "It is not of him that willeth nor of him that runneth, but of God that hath mercy." Even in the Old Testament it is promised to the faithful, that, "The Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart ...... to love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul:" and again, "And I will put a new spirit within you, and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh; that they may walk in My statutes and keep Mine ordinances and do them; and they shall be My people and I will be their God."
These promises, are samples of the full salvation promised by God, in the morning twilight of the unfolding of His great plan of redemption from sin, and they but prepare the elect of God for the noontide glory of that wondrous plan as revealed in Jesus, and for the glorious climax of that revelation under the dispensation of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus said that, on His departure from the earth, He would send the Holy Spirit to
abide forever with the children of God, and that on His advent He was to be to them all they needed to cause them to do the perfect will of God. He was to comfort them, to give them joy, to be power and wisdom and guidance; He was to do more for them than Jesus could do personally. In fact, He was to dwell in the heart of each believer so that every humble follower of Jesus would be man plus the Holy Spirit, for, said Jesus, "He dwelleth with and shall be in you," and Paul said later, "Know ye not that your bodies are the temples of the Holy Ghost? "A man thus indwelt of God, and having at his command all the power of the Infinite, becomes more than a match for sin, were it a hundred times more subtle and powerful than it is. If a man believes God and abandons himself absolutely to the power and keeping of God, resting upon the promises of God in that behalf, he will not be a committer of sin. I do not think, any mere man is equal to living a life free from sin, because countless numbers have tried it and failed; but when we consider that God has undertaken to do this for every one who exercises simple faith in Him, it is a different question. "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." I conclude then that man's part in the cure of his sin and his sinning, is to receive by faith the Holy Spirit and to walk in Him.
God certainly expects his children to live without willful sin, and, as I fully believe, to live without doing anything to displease Him. It is human to err, for ignorance is the lot of all mortals, but there is no sin in normal ignorance, although it proves that absolute perfection is an impossibility, but such perfection is not even desirable if it were possible. In fact, God himself is the only absolutely perfect being in the universe, and must always retain that distinction, and from that standpoint (Job 4 : 18), "He putteth no trust in His servants; and His angels He chargeth with folly," and (Job 15: 15) "The heavens are not clean in His sight."
I conclude, however, that God expects all his children to live in such a manner that all their thoughts, words and deeds will be well pleasing to Him and from the following considerations.
>From the work that Jesus came to do, The Angel said to Joseph, the husband of
Mary the mother of Jesus (Matt, 1:21), "And thou shalt call His name Jesus, for it is He that shall save His people from their sins." And John said
(I John 1:6,7) "If, we say we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: but if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanseth us from all sin; "and again (I John 3:5), "Ye know that He was manifested to take away sins; and in Him is no sin."
Sin is represented in the Scriptures as bondage, and Jesus said in so regarding it, "Whosoever sinneth is the servant of sin," and "If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed." Paul says (Rom. 8:2), "For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death." He also urges (Eph. 5:25), "Husbands, love your wives even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that He might sanctify it, having cleansed it by the washing of water with the word, that He might present the church to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish."
Paul's chief argument in the epistle to the Romans is to make clear the greatness of the sin of mankind and to demonstrate that the mission of Christ was to save mankind from their sins, that is to cure the disease of sin, and to keep them from sinning. I will quote two texts from a great number of the same purport (Rom. 6: 6), "Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away, that so we should no longer be in bondage to sin;" (v. 22) "But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto sanctification and the end eternal life."
The passages I have quoted are but samples of the many passages which unmistakably state that the mission of Jesus is to save His people from their sins, in the sense of curing them from inward sin, and keeping them from sinning. But as a matter of fact, this in the last analysis is all that the Bible does teach concerning the mission of Jesus.
The almost innumerable blessings which Christ procures for His people, including the taking of them to heaven, are but incidents in Christ's mission; but the formation, or the re-creation of character, the changing of sinners to saints, the reclaiming of rebels to be loyal to their King, the turning of the hearts of rebellious sons to obedience to their Father; this is the mission of Jesus, and all other blessings are actually conditional upon this being done. From the precepts of the Bible I argue that God expects his people to be blameless. (Phil. 2:15) "That ye may be blameless and harmless, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom we are seen as lights in the world."
There are two views of God's commandments to which I call attention; the one is, that they are a standard of perfection, with which we are to measure ourselves in order that we may see how far we are from measuring tip to them, and which in fact it is impossible for us ever to measure up to.
The other view is that while God's commandments are the standard of conduct, yet the standard is attainable and the commandments are to be kept; that they are just and equal, and fair and reasonable, and that every commandment implies the possibility if its being kept; and while it is admitted that men have not the necessary, natural power to keep them, it is held that God imparts supernatural power to all who will do His will.
It is perhaps unnecessary for me to say that I favor the last mentioned view, for it cannot be that God binds heavy burdens upon weak shoulders, or sets us tasks of impossible performance. To say so, would be little short of blasphemy, if men knew what they were talking about. John states (1 John 5:3)
"For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not grievous, But listen to the poetry, the pathos, and the music of these words as they fall from the lips of the Master: "Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." How different is this gracious declaration of God's nature and his reasonable demands, from the harsh God of a cruel theology, and the unreasonable demands which He is said to make.
God everywhere in the Bible demands holiness of he art and life; the ten commandments are meant to be kept and not to be broken, and every moral and spiritual precept God ever gave He means us to keep and not to break. He says," Be ye holy, for I am holy." God's standard for His people is a glad obedience to His laws, and this is what He expects, and for the accomplishment of which the Holy Spirit in the heart of the believer gives adequate power.
It would be outrageous for a Devil, much less for a just and loving God, to impose burdens that He knows cannot be borne, to set us tasks that cannot be performed, or to give us commandments that cannot be kept, and then to punish us for not doing what cannot be done. But such a monstrous belief concerning God, will no longer be held by Christians, when they once see its absurd and anti-Christian character.