by The Rt. Rev. Daniel R. Morse
The exceeding greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: and has put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that fills all in all. Ephesians 1:19-23
To believe on the Lord Jesus Christ with all our heart is one of the simplest things imaginable. Yet, to bring the human mind to exercise simple faith in Jesus is a work of the most astounding power. To bring down the pride of man, to subjugate his will and to captivate his passions, so that he shall cheerfully accept that which God presents to him in the person of Christ Jesus, is a labor worthy of a God. The blessed Spirit of God is always the secret Author of faith; it is not of ourselves, it is the gift of God. St. Paul twice uses the strongest words which could be employed to set forth the Almighty power exhibited in bringing a soul to believe in Jesus, and in bringing that believing soul onward till it ascends to heaven.
We have first of all this expression, “The exceeding greatness of his power;” and then we have on the other side of the word “Believe,” these words, “According to the working of his mighty power.” The apostle was not content to say, “You believe through the power of God,” nor “through the greatness of that power,” but “through the exceeding greatness of his power.” The teaching of this passage is that the bringing of a soul to simple faith in Jesus, and the maintenance of that soul in the life of faith, displays an exercise of omnipotence such as God alone could put forth.
Let us never forget that the salvation of a soul is a creation. Now, no one has ever been able to create a fly, nor even a single molecule of matter. We know how to fashion metal or plastic into different forms; but to create the minutest atom, is utterly beyond our ability. God alone creates.
Now, in every Christian there is an absolute creation—“Created anew in Christ Jesus.” “The new man, after God, is created in righteousness.” Regeneration is not the reforming of principles which were there before, but the implanting of something which had no existence before. Since the new life created are the most glorious of all God’s works, I may say most boldly, that in the bringing of any man to believe in Christ, there is as true and proper a manifestation of creating power, as when God made the heavens and the earth.
Further than this, there is more than creation—there is destruction. No man can destroy anything. Since the world began, not a single particle of matter has ever been annihilated. You may cast matter into the depths of the sea, but there it is; it still exists. Cast it into the fire, and the fire consumes it: but either in the ash or in the smoke, every atom survives. Fire does not destroy a single particle. It is as great an exercise of divinity to destroy as it is to create.
Know that the Lord is God alone—
He can create and he destroy.
In the regeneration of every soul there is a destruction as well as a creation. The old nature has to be destroyed—the stony heart has to be taken away out of our flesh; and the day shall come when sin shall be utterly destroyed. When the morning stars sang together because a world was made, creation was their one theme. God made the world out of nothing. That was an easy task, compared with making a new heart and a right spirit, for “nothing” at least could not oppose God. But here, in salvation, God had to deal with opposition that he has to fight and to destroy; and when that has been reduced and overcome, then comes in the creating power by which we are made new creatures in Christ Jesus; so that it is a double miracle, something more than creation: it is creation and destruction combined.
The work of salvation is most truly a transformation. You who have been made new in Christ Jesus, know in your own hearts how great that transformation is. What a difference between a sinner and a saint, between “dead in trespasses and sins,” and made alive by God’s grace! If God should suddenly speak to the Atlantic Ocean, and command it to be wrapped in flames, we should not even then, see such a manifestation of his greatness as when he commands the human heart, and makes it submissive to his love.
Remember, too, as if this were not enough, that the conversion of a soul is constantly compared to raising the dead. How great the miracle when the dry bones in Ezekiel’s vision suddenly became a great army! Greater still is the work of might when dead souls are quickened, and made to serve the living God. Indeed, it is not only the first act of conversion which displays God’s power, but the whole of the Christian life, until we come to perfection, that is a clear display of the same power. The Christian life is like walking on water. As Peter walked on the waves and did not sink so long as his faith looked to Jesus, so the believer every day, in every footstep that he takes is a living miracle.
The apostle declares to us by the Holy Ghost that the very same power which raised Jesus Christ from the dead and exalted him to the highest heaven is seen in the conversion and preservation of every individual believer.
Now, we shall first notice the analogy; secondly, we shall consider the reason of it; and thirdly, we shall observe the inferences which come from it.
I. The Analogy
In examining the wonderful picture before us, we begin with Christ in the grave, by noticing that it was in Christ’s case a real death. Those loving hands have taken him down from the cross. Tenderly the women have wrapped him about with spices and fine linen, and now he is about to be put into the tomb. He is assuredly dead. The heart has been pierced; blood and water have both freely flowed. Lift up the pierced hand and it falls at once to his side. The foot has no power of motion. Take up the corpse, and put it into the tomb—this is no trance, but most certainly death.
So is it with us; by nature we are really dead. We were dead in trespasses and sins. Try to stir the unconverted man to spiritual action, and you cannot do it. Lift up his hand to good works, he has no power to perform them. Try to make the feet run in the ways of righteousness; they will not move an inch. The fact is that the heart is dead. The living pulse of spiritual life has long ago ceased. The man is absolutely and entirely dead as to anything like spiritual life. There he lies in the grave of his corruption, unless God is gracious.
You see the parallel holds. We, too, in the same manner as Christ was raised from the dead, have been made to live in newness of life, even as the Master himself said, “As the Father raises up the dead, and quickens them; even so the Son quickens whom he will.”
I do not know whether I have brought forth the parallel completely. If you view our Lord as descending in his agony so deep, and then behold him in his glory so high; if by combining judgment and imagination, hope and fear, you can get some glimmering of a thought of how low the Savior went, and how loftily he climbed, then you may transfer that to your own state, for the same power is at work today, has been at work, and will be at work in you, to lift you up from equal depths to equal heights, that in all things you may be like unto Christ; and having been like him numbered with the transgressors, you may like him obtain the lot and the heritage to reign for ever and ever at the right hand of the Majesty in the heavens.
II. The Reason for This
Why does God put forth as much power towards every Christian as he did in his beloved Son? I believe the reason is not only that the same power was required, and that by this means he gets great glory, but the reason is this—union. There must be the same divine power in the member that there is in the head, or else where is the union? If we are one with Christ, members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones, there must be a likeness. Note, first, that there cannot be a true living body at all—unless the limbs are of the same nature as the head. If here were a dog’s foot, and there a lion’s mane, and yet a man’s eyes and a human brow, you could never conceive of it as a body of God’s creation; you would look upon it as a strange monstrosity, a thing to be put out of sight, or to be hauled around on a trailer in a cage for fools to gaze at; but certainly not as a thing to display God’s wisdom and power. Thanks be unto God, he will not have a perfectly glorious head allied to members in which the divine energy has never been seen. The same power which sparkles about the head must shine in the members.
This is not the most forcible mode of putting it. Let us notice that if all the members were not like the head and did not display the same power it would not be glorious to God. Some of the old tapestries were made at different times and in different pieces, and occasionally the remark is heard, “That part of the battle-scene must have been wrought by a different needle from the other. You can see here an abundance, and there a deficiency of skill; that corner of the picture has been executed by a far inferior artist.” Now, suppose in this great tapestry which God is working—the great needlework of his love and power—the mystical person of Christ—that we should say, “The head has been made, we can see, by a divine hand; that glorious brow, those fire-darting eyes, those honey-dropping lips are of God, but that hand is by another and an inferior artist, and that foot is far from perfect in workmanship.” It would not be glorious to our Great Artist; but when the whole picture is by God himself we see that he did not begin what he could not finish.
Note again, that it would not be glorious to our head. I watched a few months ago, the stained glass window in the process of being installed in St. Matthias in Katy. I think the great person of Christ may be compared to that cathedral window made by Tiffany. Imagine that the artists had put in the head of the chief figure in the most beautiful glass that ever human skill could make, but imagine for an instant that the workers afterwards found that their money failed them, and they were obliged to fill in the rest with common glass. There is the window, there is nothing but a head in noble colors, and the rest is, perhaps, white glass, or some poor ordinary blue and yellow. It is never finished. What an unhappy thing, for who will care to see the head? But when all the rest of the picture has been made with just the same costly material as the first part, then the head itself shall be placed in a worthy position, and shall derive glory as well as confer glory upon the body.
Moreover, to conclude this point, the loving promise of our Lord will never be fulfilled (and he will never be contented unless it be), unless his people do have the same power spent upon them as he has. What is his prayer? “I will that they also, whom you have given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory;” and then he adds, “The glory which you gave me I have given them.” You know how the union stands—“I in them, and you in me.” We must be like our Head. Is he crowned—we must be crowned too. He is a good husband; he will enjoy nothing without his spouse. When she was poor, he became poor for her sake; when she was despised, he was spit upon too; and now that he is in heaven, he must have her there. If he sits on a throne, she must have a throne too; if he has fullness of joy, and honor, and glory for ever—then so must she. He will not be in heaven, and leave her behind; and he will not enjoy a single privilege of heaven, without her being a sharer with him. For all this reason, then you see it is clear why there should be the same power in the believer as there was in Christ.
III. What Are the Inferences from All This?
The first inference is this—what a marvelous thing a Christian is. I am by doubting and fearing led to look down upon myself as despicable, but when I reflect that the Eternal has exerted the whole of his omnipotence in me, and will continue to exert it till he brings me to himself—Lord, what is man! How near have you brought him to yourself, so that now there is no creature between God and man! God first made man as a creature far distant but yet second, as an adopted and regenerated being, brought as near to God as a son is brought to a father; and who shall tell how near this may be? Let us love and bless God who has done thus much for us.
Then, secondly, why should I doubt God’s power for others? If God has put forth so much power to save me, cannot he save anyone? The might which brought Christ from the dead and took him to heaven is such a tremendous power that it surely can bring the worst sinner to Christ. Let me pray, then, for the chief of sinners; let me encourage the vilest to believe in Jesus, for there is ability in Christ to save such.
Again, why should I ever have any doubts about my ultimate security? Is this irresistible power engaged to save me? Then I must be saved. Does the devil vow that he will destroy me? Do my corruptions threaten to overwhelm me? You enemies of my soul; I laugh you to scorn. If God be with us, who can be against us?
The Lord bless you with his mercy, for Christ’s sake. Amen.