“Mighty to save” Isaiah 63:1.
It is one of the mysteries of the Christian religion, that we are taught to believe that Christ is God, and yet a man. According to Scripture, we hold that he is “very God,” equal and co-eternal with the Father, possessing, as his Father cloth, all divine attributes in an infinite degree. He participated with his Father in all the acts of his divine might; he was concerned in the decree of election, in the fashioning of the covenant; in the creation of the angels, in the making of the world, when it was wheeled from nothing into space, and in the ordering of this fair frame of nature. Before any of these acts the divine Redeemer was the eternal Son of God. “From everlasting to everlasting he is God.” Nor did he cease to be God when he became man. He was equally “God over all, blessed for evermore,” when he was “the man of sorrows, acquainted with grief,” as before his incarnation. We have abundant proof of that in the constant affirmations of Scripture, and, indeed, also in the miracles which he wrought. The raising of the dead, the treading of the billows of the ocean, the hushing of the winds and the rending of the rocks, with all those marvellous acts of his, which we have not time here to mention, were strong and potent proofs that he was God, most truly God, even when he con descended to be man. And Scripture, most certainly teaches us, that he is God now, that he shares the throne of his Father that he sits “high above all principalities and powers, and every name that is named,” and is the true and proper object of the veneration, the worship, and the homage of all worlds.
We are equally taught to believe that he is man. Scripture informs us that, on a day appointed, he came from heaven and did become man as well as God, taking upon himself the nature of a babe in the manger of Bethlehem. From that babe, we are told, he did grow to the stature of manhood, and became “bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh,” in everything except our sin. His sufferings, his hunger, above all, his death and burial, are strong proofs that he was man, most truly man, and yet it is demanded of us by the Christian religion, to believe, that while he was man he was most truly God. We are taught that he was a “child born, a son given,” and yet, at the same time, the “Wonderful, the Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father.” Whosoever would here clear and right views of Jesus, must not mingle his natures. We must not consider him as a God diluted into deified manhood, or as a mere man officially exalted to the Godhead, but as being two distinct natures in one person.
First, we shall consider that what is meant by the word, “to save;” secondly, how we prove the fact that he is mighty to save;” thirdly, the reason why he is “mighty to save;” and then, fourthly, the inferences which are to be deduced from the doctrine that Jesus Christ is “mighty to save.”
I. First, then, WHAT ARE WE TO UNDERSTAND BY THE WORDS “TO SAVE?”
Commonly, most men, when they read these words, consider them to mean salvation from hell. They are partially correct, but the notion is highly defective. It is true Christ does save men from the penalty of their guilt; he does take those to heaven who deserve the eternal wrath and displeasure of the Most High, it is true that he does blot out “iniquity, transgression, and sin,” and that the iniquities of the remnant of his people are passed over for the sake of his blood and atonement. But that is not the whole meaning of the words “to save.”
Now, it means vastly, I had almost said, infinitely more than this. “To save” means something more than just delivering penitents from going down to hell. By the words “to save” I understand the whole of the great work of salvation, from the first holy desire, the first spiritual conviction, onward to complete sanctification. All this done of God through Jesus Christ. Christ is not only mighty to save those who do repent but he is able to make men repent; he is engaged not merely to carry those to heaven who believe, but he is mighty to give men new hearts and to work faith in them, he is mighty not merely to give heaven to one who wishes for it, but he is mighty to make the man who hates holiness love it, to constrain the despiser of his name to bend his knee before him, and to make the most abandon d reprobate turn from the error of his ways.
By the words “to save,” I do not understand what some men say they mean! They tell us in their divinity that Christ came into the world to put all men into a salvable state to make the salvation of all men possible by their own exertions. I believe that Christ came for no such thing that he came into the world not to put men into a salvable state, but into a saved state; not to put them where they could save themselves, but to do the work in them and for them, from the first even to the last. If I believe that Christ came only to put you, my hearers, and myself into a state where we might save ourselves, I should give up preaching henceforth and for ever, for knowing a little of the wickedness of mens hearts, because I know something of my own knowing how much men naturally hate the religion of Christ I should despair of any success in preaching a gospel which I had only to offer, its effects depending upon the voluntary acceptance of it by unrenewed and unregenerate men. If I did not believe that there was a might going forth with the word of Jesus, which makes men willing in the day of his power, and which turns them from the error of their ways by the mighty, overwhelming constraining force of a divine and mysterious influence, I should cease to glory in the cross of Christ, Christ, we repeat, is mighty, not merely to put men into a salvable condition, but mighty absolutely and entirely to save them.
Our Lord is not only mighty to make men repent, to quicken the dead in sill, to turn them from their follies and their iniquities. But he is exalted to do more than that: he is mighty to keep them Christians after he has made them so, and mighty to preserve them in his fear and love, until he consummates their spiritual existence in heaven.
We do believe that God never begins a good work in a man without finishing it, that he never makes a man truly alive to spiritual things without carrying on that work in his soul even to the end by giving him a place amongst the choirs of the sanctified. We do not think that Christs power dwells in merely bringing me one day into grace, and then telling me to keep myself there, but in so putting me into a gracious state, and giving me such an inward life and such a power within myself that I can no more turn back than the very sun in the heavens can stay itself in its course, or cease to shine. Beloved, we regard this as signified by the terms “mighty to save.” This is commonly called Calvinistic doctrine, it is none other than Christian doctrine, the doctrine of the holy Bible, for despite that it is now called Calvinism, it could not be so called in Augustines days; and yet in Augustines works you find the very same things. And it is not to be called Augustinism, it is to be found in the writings of the apostle Paul. And yet it was not called Paulism, simple for this reason, that it is the expansion, the fullness of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
II. HOW CAN WE PROVE THAT CHRIST IS “MIGHTY TO SAVE?”
We will give you the strongest argument first; and we shall need but one. The argument is, that he has done it. We need no other, it were superfluous to add another. He has saved men. He has saved them, in the full extent and meaning of the word which we have endeavored to explain. But in order to set this truth in a clear light, we will suppose the worst of cases.
The best proof you can ever have of Gods being mighty to save, dear hearers, is that he saved you.
But now it is asked, “WHY IS CHRIST MIGHTY TO SAVE?” To this there are sundry answers. First, if we understand the word “save,” in the popular acceptation of the word, which is not, after all, the full one, though a true one if we understand salvation to mean the pardon of sin and salvation from hell, Christ is mighty to save, because of the infinite efficacy of his atoning blood. Sinner! black as thou art with sin, Christ this morning is able to make thee whiter than the driven snow. Thou askest why. I will tell thee. He is able to forgive, because he has been punished for thy sin. If thou dost know and feel thyself to be a sinner, if thou hast no hope or refuge before God but in Christ, then be it known that Christ is able to forgive, because he was once punished for the very sin which thou hast committed, and therefore he can freely remit, because the punishment has been entirely paid by himself. Whenever I get on this subject I am tempted to tell a story; and though I have told it times enough in the hearing of many of you, others of you have never heard it, and it is the simplest way I know of setting out the belief I have in the atonement of Christ.
The fourth point was, WHAT ARE THE INFERENCES TO BE DERIVED FROM THE FACT THAT JESUS CHRIST IS “MIGHTY TO SAVE?”
It is not the minister, it is not the preacher, but the God who first designs the salvation, and afterwards uses the preacher to work it out.
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible