A Sermon Delivered On Sunday Morning, September 21, 1862, By Pastor C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.
He has made us accepted in the beloved. (Eph 1:6)
1. “The beloved!” This was a golden name which the ancient Church in her most joyous moments was accustomed to give to the Anointed of the Lord. When the time of the singing of birds was come, and the voice of the turtledove was heard in her land, her love note was sweeter than either bird or turtledove, as she sang “My beloved is mine and I am his: he feeds among the lilies.” Always in her song of songs does she call him by that delightful name, “My beloved!” Even in the long winter when idolatry had withered the garden of the Lord, her prophets found time to cease from uttering the thunders of judgment, to lay aside the burden of the Lord for a little while, and to say, as Isaiah did, “Now I will sing to my well beloved a song of my beloved concerning his vineyard.” Though the saints had never seen his face, though as yet he was not made flesh, nor had dwelt among us, nor had man beheld his glory — the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth, yet he was the consolation of Israel, the hope and joy of all the chosen, the beloved of all those who were upright before the Most High. Brethren, in the summer days of the Church, let us not fail to call Christ our beloved. Both in our prayers and songs in public, and in those nearer and dearer approaches which we make to him in private, when we may use more tender epithets than we would venture to do in a mixed assembly, we are accustomed to speak of Christ as the best beloved of our soul, and to feel that he is very precious to us, the “chiefest among ten thousand, and the altogether lovely one.” So true is it that the Church loves Christ, and claims him as her beloved, that the apostle dares to defy the whole universe to separate her from the love of Christ, and declares that neither persecutions, distress, affliction, peril, or the sword, have been able to do it; indeed, he joyously boasts, “In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who has loved us”; and he concludes his bold utterance by declaring that he is 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.” We think we should not be trespassing into the realms of imagination, if we ventured to say that Christ is also the beloved of the angels. To him cherubim and seraphim continually cry; for in that thrice repeated strain, there is a word for the second person of the Trinity, as well as for the first and the third: “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of hosts.” And, certainly, the blood bought call him their beloved, for their incessant strain is, “To him who loved us and washed us from our sins in his blood, to him be glory for ever and ever.”
2. Yet, my dear friends, the main reason why Christ is thus doubtless called by the Holy Spirit “the beloved,” is because he is the beloved of the Father’s heart. “This,” said the mysterious voice from heaven in the midst of the waters of Jordan, “this is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” And again, at the resurrection of Lazarus there came the same voice from heaven, announcing the perpetuity of the Father’s love. None of us can tell how dear Jesus must be to his Father. We have, however, abundant proofs of the fact that he is very near to him, for he is privy to all his Father’s counsels. Christ was never absent from the counsels of the Most High. “When there were no depths, I was brought forth; when there were no fountains abounding with water. Before the mountains were settled, before the hills I was brought forth: while as yet he had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the highest part of the dust of the world. When he prepared the heavens, I was there: when he set a compass upon the face of the depth: when he established the clouds above: when he strengthened the fountains of the deep: when he gave to the sea his decree, that the waters should not pass his commandment: when he appointed the foundations of the earth: then I was by him, as one brought up with him; and I was daily his delight, always rejoicing before him.” “Let us make man,” God said, “in our own image,” — calling Christ into creation’s work. “Without him was not anything made that was made,” is the declaration of John the apostle. Besides this, we know that everything which is done by the Father by his divine decree is that he may glorify his Son; while, on the other hand, the Son lived and died, and lives again so that he may glorify the Father. Such is their mutual interest in one another that we cannot suppose a closer relationship, nor a love more intense than what exists between the Father and the Son. It would be foolish and ridiculous for me to attempt to dive into the incredible depths of the divine unity. We know that the Father is one with the Son, and that Jesus is one with Jehovah. The unity of essence is a well so deep, that I cannot expect to find its bottom; and the love which springs up from this essential unity must be more deep and profound than the wit of man can guess, or than the language of man can utter. I repeat the confession of our ignorance, it is impossible for us to form even a guess of the intensity of the affection that must exist between the eternal Father and Jesus Christ, his Son; since their essential union from which this affection springs is a doctrine beyond our comprehension, and is meekly to be received by our faith. Certainly we know that the term “beloved” was never so full of meaning, human word never became so divinely rich as when God himself, by the Holy Spirit, applied it to Jesus the beloved of the Father.
3. No more, however, concerning this word “the beloved,” except that I trust there are many of us here who can thus address our covenant Head. Yes, he is very dear to us. We love him because he first loved us. The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, and it has kindled in our poor souls an undying flame, which neither life nor death shall quench, but which shall burn brighter and brighter until it consumes flesh and self, and we shall be all aflame with love for Christ.
4. Now, dear friends, having thus brought forward the title of Christ, I shall, in dependence upon the Eternal Spirit, call your attention, first of all, to the words “in the beloved,” or “positive union”; secondly, to the words “accepted in the beloved,” or glorious condition; and then to the whole text, “he has made us accepted in the beloved,” or divine operation.
In the Beloved
5. I. First then, here is a matter most worthy of your best and profoundest thoughts — “IN THE BELOVED,” or, POSITIVE UNION.
6. A thousand sermons would never exhaust the theme of the union of the Church with Christ. No divinity is sound which does not recognise this; and no experience can be very profound which does not lead the soul more clearly and more fully to rejoice in this most glorious truth. Probably it is a doctrine more suitable to advanced Christians than to young believers; but where the Lord enables the heart to feed upon it, it will be found to be food at once nourishing, delicious, satisfying, and strengthening. Those who feed upon it will be found like Daniel and his companions, to be fairer in countenance and fatter in flesh than any others.
7. 1. In explaining this positive union, let us begin by saying “in Christ,” — that is, in his heart, and in his heart from all eternity. With prescient eye Christ beheld his people before they were yet formed. He looked forward through eternity and the rolling years of time, and he foresaw that God would make man, and that man in Adam would fall and be ruined. His eye looked over all the sons of Adam, and selected those whom he saw fit according to the counsel of his will: and these at once were put into his heart to be his darlings, his favourites for ever and ever. It was not in time that Christ first wrote the names of his people upon his heart: it was a time before all times, when there was no day except the Ancient of Days; when creation’s first year had not commenced; when all things slept in the mind of God as a thought, but had not come forth from his hand as a deed. [We look upon the rocks with their long deposits of sand and shells: we go deeper down and see the long ages that must have passed while the stony strata were being formed; we wonder at the period that the aqueous and igneous rocks must have occupied in their formation; and sometimes we are staggered at the thought of what a great thing time is. We find we cannot grasp the idea of “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”; it is so far back that the wings of our imagination flag before they reach it as a resting place. But there was an eternity before all this; and all these ages are but as the drop of a bucket compared with the deep and bottomless sea of the eternity of God.]1 Yet, when we fly back into the dread eternity, where thought is lost and mind fails, we discover in the heart of Christ eternal thoughts of love towards his children. Is it not a joy that can make your spirits dance, like David before the ark, that we are always Jesus’ beloved ones, always in the heart of him whose heart was afterwards in the fulness of time pierced for us? Has he not said, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with the bands of my kindness I have drawn you.” “As the Father has loved me, even so I have loved you.” That is, without beginning; ever since there was a Father and a Christ. It would be blasphemy to suppose that God’s love for Jesus was not always existent, or that Christ had a beginning in the Father’s affections. Even from that time Jesus had chosen his people, and they were in his heart. Beloved, just as they were in his heart; so they have been in his heart ever since. When they fell in Adam they did not fall out of Christ; when they lived in this world a life of iniquity, yet still there was his great love by which he loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses and sins. When they scorned his grace, defied his love, trampled on his cross, and despised his blood, yet still they were never from his heart erased for they had been engraved there too deeply by the nails, for sin to destroy the remembrance. And now, today, now that we are continually backsliding, nothing has been able as yet to tear us from his heart. We are there, and we shall be there, in death’s dark gloom and in eternity’s mysterious splendour — dear to Jesus still, for is it not written, “He hates divorce?” “Having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them to the end.” So, then, beloved, we are in Christ in the sense that we are in Christ’s heart, and we always were so if we are his people.
In Christ’s Book
8. 2. But, secondly, we are also in Christ’s book. Having loved us, we were chosen in him and elected by his Father. We were not chosen separately and distinctly, and as individuals alone and apart. We were chosen in Christ. As Watts puts it well —
Christ, be my first elect, he said;
Then chose our souls in Christ our Head.
9. By Christ’s love we were one with him. The Father’s election chose the whole Christ, both the head and the members too. Christ can well say, “In your book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there were none of them.” We all know that Christ is elect and precious; that God singled out the humanity of Christ from many thousands of forms that he might have created, and ordained that the seed of the woman — the child that was born in Bethlehem, and laid in the manger — should become the body and the human soul which should be taken into union with divinity. Here was election; and just as Christ was thus chosen both in the divine and human natures, so are all his people chosen — chosen in him. Blessed fact! the same register which includes Christ as firstborn, includes all the brethren; and until the flames of hell can consume the record which certifies Christ as the Son of God, our sonship in Christ towards God must remain safe from all the attacks of Satanic craft. Disprove Christ’s Sonship, and you disprove ours. Prove the union of Christ with God as his Son, and since Christ’s people are in him, you prove their sonship too. Look down the red roll which God wrote with his eternal finger, according to the counsel of his will, and you see the names of all who should enter into eternal life; they are all there secure, because the first one is secure; and until the pen of hell can run through the first one in the catalogue, it shall never be able to run through any of the others, for there stand the names of all the elect, covered, protected, and defended, by the name of Christ, which stands at the head. We are in that book which is sealed with seven seals, which no one except the Lion of the tribe of Judah has prevailed to open.
In Christ’s Hand
10. 3. Thirdly, we are in Christ’s hand. We are in Christ’s heart as our heavenly lover. We are in Christ’s book as the medium of our election. We are in Christ’s hand as our surety. You will remember, beloved, when Laban gave up his flock to Jacob, Jacob took them upon the condition of suretyship. Jacob said to Laban “What was torn of beasts I did not bring to you; I bore the loss of it; you required it from my hand, whether stolen by day, or stolen by night.” Now, all those who the Father gave to Christ were bestowed upon Christ as a surety, and on the last great day, God will from the Redeemer’s hand require the souls of all who were given to him. He is the great Shepherd of the sheep, responsible as the Mediator, responsible to him who possesses all in all. Sponsor for his people, surety for all the chosen, he stands at this hour before the eternal throne. And do you think, beloved, he will lose us? Never! He has made us the choicest objects of his care. Shall his eye sleep? Shall his heart forget? Shall his hand grow weary? Shall he lose the force and strength which he possessed from antiquity? He has sworn by himself that he will bring us safely to the Father — will he be defeated? He has said, “I give to my sheep eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” And shall the infernal lion rend what he has deigned to keep? What! shall he put his hand upon his people and shelter them there, and clutch them as the choicest treasure and the rarest jewel that he ever had, and shall death or hell unlock his fingers or wrench his chosen from his mighty grasp? Who shall defeat Omnipotence, or pluck the sinner from the Almighty grasp? Rejoice, believers, you are saved just because you are in the hand of Christ. I marvel at those who try to slip from that text, “No one shall pluck them out of my hand,” and think that souls can be lost after that: for the text does not allow for any other meaning than their safety. “They shall never perish,” and “I give to them eternal life,” are plain, literal, positive statements, which no one can misunderstand. Happy are the men who are thus in Christ.
In Christ’s Loins
11. 4. But, fourthly, we are in Christ’s loins. This may convey a thought somewhat different from being in Christ’s hands. All of us were in the loins of Adam, and have all sprung from him by natural generation. Adam was our federal head. All his acts were representative acts. While he was obedient we were obedient in him. Had he continued obedient, we his descendants should have been partakers of the privileges which accrue to obedience. Adam offended; we offended in him. Being the inheritors of his nature we have partaken of his original corruption; and being moreover in him as our representative, we became partakers of his condemnation. In Adam all die. “By the offence of one man condemnation came upon all men.” As being then in the loins of Adam we fell; and we should have fallen into everlasting perdition, if we as God’s chosen had not been also in the loins of Christ. But all the chosen were in the loins of Christ from old eternity; so that what he has done he did for them. When he obeyed the law and made it honourable, they are regarded before God as having kept the law and having honoured it in every jot and tittle. When he hung upon the tree, the chosen who were in him were virtually suffering the wrath of God. Justice looks upon the chosen as though they themselves had suffered all that Christ suffered, as though they had drunk the wormwood and the gall and had descended into the lowest depths. When he was buried we were buried with him; for we are dead with Christ to the world, and buried in baptism with him to death. When Christ ascended from the tomb we rose in him. He rose again, not as a private individual, but for our justification. Virtually every elect soul rose from the eternal death of its deserved perdition in the day when Christ startled the keepers and rolled away the stone. And when Christ ascended up on high we ascended in him. We entered up with him into the spheres; and we are risen with Christ today, and made to sit with him in heavenly places even in Christ Jesus. Today, beloved, the language of the psalmist is more true than he thought concerning man, “You made him to have dominion over the works of your hands, the fowl of the air and the fish of the sea, and whatever passes through the paths of the seas.” We do not see all things yet put under man on earth; but we see Jesus, who as the representative man sits in heaven, triumphant over all things, having all things put for ever under his feet; and representatively under our feet too, since we are in Christ. Just as the apostle Paul argues concerning Levi, that Levi is inferior to Christ; for he says, “Abraham was less than Melchizedek, for without doubt the less is blessed by the greater, so also Levi was less than Melchizedek, for he was in the loins of Abraham when Melchizedek met him.” So beloved, just as Levi was in the loins of Abraham and paid tithes to Melchizedek so we were in the loins of Christ and paid the debt due to divine justice, gave to the law its fulfilment, and to wrath its satisfaction. In the loins of Christ we have passed through the tomb already, and have entered into what is within the veil, and are made to sit down in heavenly places, even in him. Today the chosen of God are one with Christ and in the loins of Christ.
In the Person of Christ
12. 5. Just as we are in the heart of Christ, in the book of Christ, in the hand of Christ, and in the loins of Christ, there is yet another thought dearer and sweeter still. We are in the person of Christ, for we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. When the Spirit of God comes into the sinner and convicts him of sin, that sinner is led to look to Christ only for his salvation, Christ then becomes to him the way and the life. By the mysterious operations of the quickening Spirit the sinner begins to live a spiritual life. Now, in the moment when the spiritual life was first given, there commenced in that soul a vital and personal union with the person of Christ Jesus. There had always been in that soul a secret mystical union in the divide purpose; but now there comes to be a union in effect, and the soul is in Christ from that hour, in a sense in which it never was before. Oh, do you understand what it is to be in Christ vitally? Beloved, no explanations can set this forth. “The natural man does not discern the things which are of the Spirit of God.” These are things which must be known experientially by each man for himself. Have you felt a life in you that is far superior to the vital principle which you inherit from your parent? Have you known that regeneration has given you another existence which natural generation did not confer upon you? Have you felt principles alive within which no education could have developed, and which no persuasion could have implanted? Do you have within you the living and incorruptible seed of God, which abides for ever? Have you been made partakers of the divine nature, having “escaped that corruption which is in the world through lust?” Have you been begotten again to a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead? If so, the life in you is Christ in you the hope of glory; and your life is sustained by the fact that you are one with Christ, and suck the nourishment of your life from him just as the branch draws from the trunk the sap by which it is invigorated and made to live.
I can do nothing without thee,
My strength is wholly thine;
Wither’d and barren should I be
If sever’d from the vine.
I trust, brethren, that we are in union with Christ, not in theory, but in fact; not as a matter of doctrine, but as a matter of experience, until we can say, “Christ is in me, and I am in him; the life that I live in the flesh is no more I, but Christ who lives in me.”
13. “In the beloved,” then, is a thought which is not very easy for us to bring out in so short a time.
14. Now, I want to put you to the test this morning, by appealing to you all whether you know anything about this. A great many will say, “Well, it is a very odd thing, we do not understand it.” Take heed to yourselves, then; deal honestly with your spirits; inasmuch as you do not know what it is to be in Christ, then you are without Christ; and then you are without hope, and there remains nothing for you except a fearful looking for of judgment and of fiery indignation. No man outside of Christ can be saved. In Christ the branch lives; but divided from Christ, men gather up the useless branches and cast them into the fire and they are burned. Come, now, I want to test you. The first question I ask you, to ascertain whether you are in Christ, is this — “Is he all your dependence?” For the union of the saint with Christ is illustrated by the union of the stone with the building. Now, the stone in the building lies upon the foundation; there it rests and abides, being cemented firmly to it. Do you rest upon Christ? I ask you, is he all your trust? There is a blessed text in one of the prophets, “I will fasten him as a nail in a sure place, and they shall hang upon him all the glory of his Father’s house, as well the cups as the flagons, they shall all hang on him.” So do you hang on him? Can you feel today that without a falsehood all your trust is set on him, that you bring from him all your standing, all your confidence, all your peace? If so, let us hope that your union is a true one. And if it is so, then, just as I have sometimes seen stones in the old walls of Roman castles, which could scarcely have been separated from the wall, even by gunpowder itself, without the blasting of the wall too; so it is with you, unless the foundations can be removed you cannot be moved, for if you depend on him by a living faith, you are so a part of Christ that the living stone has grown into the living foundation, and you never can be separated from him in time or in eternity. Another question. If you are in Christ today, then you bring forth some fruit for him; for Christians are represented as being in Christ, as the branch is in the vine. “Every branch in me,” said Christ, “that bears fruit, he purges it so that it may bring forth more fruit.” What do you say? What are your fruits? Is there humility of mind? Holiness? Do you seek to walk like Jesus did? My dear hearers, this is a very sharp question to ask you, but I ask you personally, for by your works you must be judged on the last great day. His servants you are whom you obey; if you give yourselves up to the pleasures of this world, to the lusts of the flesh, to your own selfishness, then you are the servants of sin. “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked.” “Whatever a man sows that shall he also reap.” Do you by the Spirit bring forth fruits of the Spirit? Do you walk and act as the elect of God, having a heart of mercy and compassion? Do you have a single eye for Christ’s glory, and do you live for his service? If so, then thanks be to God, no pruning knife shall cut away the branch that brings forth fruit. It is the branch which brings forth no fruit, which is not in Christ vitally, that is to be severed, cast away; but if you are in him bringing forth fruit for him, then you shall bear fruit to eternal life for evermore.
15. Another question; “Do you love Christ? Does your heart go out after him? Do you pant to be in his arms? Is his company your heaven, is his absence your hell?” Remember, another illustration which is used, is the union of the husband with the wife. Marriages that are made in heaven are cemented not by gold or beauty, but by love. In Christ there is an infinite love towards his people, insomuch that he left his Father and cleaved to his wife, and both of them became one flesh. “This is a great mystery,” said Paul, when he spoke concerning Christ and his Church. Are you wedded to him by an affection which no time can alter except it is to deepen it? Are there ties which bind your heart to him, which torture and racks cannot sever? If there is, then you are married to one who will never divorce you, one who will never leave you a widow, for your Maker is your husband and he loves faithfully; one who calls you his Hephzibah, his soul delights in you; and he calls your land Beulah, for he has married it. Is there such a union? Are you thus in Christ? Then a last question, and I will leave this point. “Is there a life in you? Is Christ the life of your spirit?” If you tell me you have nothing more in you than what nature gave you, then you are in nature’s death. There is a supernatural life which is imparted by the Holy Spirit. Hence, we read in Scripture that believers are one with Christ as the members are one with the head. They are one in living union; if you cut away the head, the whole body dies. Indeed, and notice that the head dies too. So Christ is one with us if we are really his; because he lives we shall live also; if we die Christ dies, and if Christ lives we live; and since he lives for ever to make intercession for us, our eternal life is sure. But, oh, we must have this life. “Unless a man eats my flesh,” says he, “and drinks my blood, there is no life in him,” as if there could not be spiritual life until Christ himself was there, and if Christ is there then he becomes life to our souls.
Accepted in the Beloved
16. II. I now turn very briefly to our second point. The text tells us we are “ACCEPTED IN THE BELOVED.”
17. To be brief, and yet explicit, let me notice that I think the acceptance here meant, includes first of all, justification before God. We stand on our trial. When we stand in Christ we are acquitted; while standing in ourselves the only verdict must be condemnation. The term “acceptance,” in the Greek, means more than that. It signifies that we are the objects of divine complacency. When God looked upon the world of old, he said it was “very good”: and when the Lord looks upon his people in Christ, he says the same. But, I think if there could be anything better than very good, he would say his people in Christ were better than the work of his own hands, since they do not wear a created righteousness, but the righteousness of the Creator, Jesus Christ himself. They are, then, accepted by his justice, and they are viewed with complacency by his holiness. But this is not all. When it is written, “Accepted in the beloved,” it means that those accepted are the objects of the divine delight. Friends, whenever I get to this thought, (and many a time in this house of prayer I have gotten to it) I always feel inclined to sit down and let you think it over, for it is such an extravaganza of divine grace that we, worms, mortals, sinners, should be the objects of divine love. When princes wed with beggars the world marvels; but when God sets his affections upon sinful men and women in Christ, oh, this is the wonder of wonders! Even the angels might desire to look into it. I do believe that when we have been in heaven ten thousand years, this will still be a subject of rapture and surprise, that he should ever have found anything in us in which he could take delight! To pity us, to show mercy to us, that I can understand; but to love us! — the big heart of God to love a creeping thing like man! the infinite soul of the Most High to pour itself out on such a lowly, worthless creature as man! the everlasting God who fills all in all, to concentrate as it were, the powers of his Spirit and set it all upon a creature that his own hands has made! — a creature that had revolted and rebelled, and at the best is still worthless! Oh! sing of this, you spirits before the throne; we cannot speak of it today as we wish to. All this is “in the beloved.” We are not accepted anywhere else but “in the beloved.” Let me show you that this is the best way in the world to be accepted. Each of us knows it is the only way; but even if there would be another, it is the best way. Suppose we could be accepted in ourselves. Adam was while he was obedient — he was accepted in his own works. Indeed; but how soon he fell! and then his acceptance fell too. He stood on his own feet, and therefore he soon fell to the ground. Suppose you and I had kept the law up until now. I think I hear you say, “Oh, I wish I had! I wish I could come before God as a perfectly righteous man.” Oh soul! you would not be half as safe as you are now in Christ. But if I had no sin, yet I would ask that I might be in Christ, for I might have sin some day, and then down would go the goodly structure. For what is built upon a fallible creature is built upon the sand; and if the structure had so far been without one rotten timber, yet, since its basis is the will of man — and that might change — damnation might shortly overtake us. After all, we would have done better, surely, to stand in Christ, who cannot fall. Now, I know some professors, who seem to me to stand in their own experience, to be accepted in their own experience. At least, that is their apprehension. Just now they had such visits from Christ’s faith, such gleams of his love; and now they think God accepts them, for they feel so high, so heavenly minded, so drawn above the earth! The next day I have seen these same people feel their souls cleave to the earth, and they have said, “Now, I am not accepted.” Oh that these beloved ones would only know that God never accepted them in their experience he accepted them in Christ; and he never can reject them until he rejects them in Christ, which cannot be, since he cannot reject Christ. I wish that they would see that their “ups” make them no higher before God, and their “downs” make them no lower — that all their high joys do not exalt them, and all their low despondencies do not really depress them in their Father’s sight, but that they stand accepted in one who never alters, in one who is always the beloved of God, always perfect, always complete, always without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing. Blessed faith, that walks above experience! Joyous trust that in the darkest nights still sings of heaven’s unclouded noon, and in the midst of blackness and vileness consciously felt, still boasts of pardon bought with blood, of righteousness complete and without flaw!
18. The Arminians say our being accepted before God, if I understand it properly, is also an acceptance in our graces. This is the English of their doctrine of falling away. While a man walks worthily, God accepts him; if he walks sinfully, then God does not accept him any more. Those of you who like this way of being accepted, may choose it; for my part, I feel there is nothing can ever satisfy the craving of my spirit but an acceptance which lies utterly and wholly outside of me, and only and entirely in Christ Jesus. Why, brethren, we would be accepted one day and not accepted the next; indeed, more, we might be accepted one minute and not accepted the next. If it depended on anything whatever in our walk, or in our work, we would be in the covenant and out of the covenant fifty times a day. But I suppose the Arminians have a difference between sin and sin. Surely, they must have the old Romish distinction between venial and mortal sin; for if sin puts a man outside of Christ, I wonder when he is in, since we are sinning day by day. Perhaps there is a certain quantity of sin required to do it; then that is only the old Romish dogma revived; some sins, mortal on the Arminian theory, so as to put a man out of grace, and other sins venial, so that they can keep in grace and sin too. I glory in my God that I know —
Once in Christ in Christ for ever,
Nothing from his love can sever.
If my good works had put me into Christ, then my bad works might turn me out of him; but since he put me in when I was a vile and worthless sinner, he will never take me out, though I am still a vile and worthless sinner.
Unchangeable his will,
Though dark may be my frame;
His loving, heart is still
Eternally the same:
My soul through many changes goes,
His love no variation knows.
19. Now, Christian, I want you this morning, to rejoice in this: you are accepted “in the beloved.” You look within, and you say, “There is nothing acceptable here!” Man, look at Christ, and see if there is not everything acceptable there. Your condition depresses you, but look to Jesus and hear him cry, “It is finished!” Will not that death note reassure you? Your sins trouble you; but remember they were laid upon the scape goat’s head of old, and they do not exist any more, for he has cast your sins behind his back, and thrown them into the depths of the sea.
In your Surety you are free!
His dear blood was shed for thee!
With your Saviour’s garments on,
Holy as the Holy One.
While you still have to bear groans, and doubts, and fears; to fight with corruption, and to wrestle with temptation, you are still accepted in the beloved. Never accepted in yourself; never anything but a condemned sinner in yourself; never anything except accursed both by God, and by the law outside of Jesus. But in Christ never accursed; in Christ never condemned; for he who believes in him is not condemned, and he who does not believe is condemned already, because he does not believe on the Son of God. “Accepted in the beloved!” This sentence seems to me to be such a mouthful; it is a dainty all your own. Let it lie in your mouth like a wafer made with honey. “Accepted in the beloved!” How I pity you who cannot say this. How I rejoice with you who can! You have troubles, you say: what are your troubles? You are accepted in the beloved. You tell me you have to fight with flesh and blood: what of that, as long as you are accepted in the beloved? But you are so poor, you say, and you have to go home to a miserable meal today: but then, how rich you are, you are accepted in the beloved. The devil is tempting you: never mind, he cannot destroy you, for you are accepted in the beloved. Even the glorified souls are not more accepted than we are. They are only accepted in heaven in the beloved, and so are we. I have often thought that if the children of God could fall from grace on earth, they could certainly fall from glory in heaven. What is there that keeps them holy in heaven? Is it their own will? If so, the heavenly saints may become hellish fiends. Brethren, it is Christ that keeps them; they are in Christ, therefore they cannot fall: so we are in Christ, therefore we shall never fail nor fall away, but we shall endure to the end.
20. III. Now, one minute upon the last point; that is, DIVINE OPERATIONS. “He has made us accepted in the beloved.”
21. Do you not see, beloved, the whole way through, it is all by God and not by man. It was Christ who at first put us in his heart to be accepted there. It was the Father who put us in his book according to the good pleasure of his own will to be accepted there. It was Christ who took us into his hand, according to his suretyship engagement, so that we might be accepted there. It is Christ that took us into his loins, begetting us again to a lively hope that we might be accepted there. And it is grace that has united us to the person of Christ so that we may stand accepted there. You see it is all by God from first to last. Jonah learned sound divinity when he went into the whale’s belly, for he said, “Salvation is from the Lord.” And before the throne of God in heaven they always sing sound theology, for a part of the song is, “Salvation to God and to the Lamb.” Not of man, neither by man; not by the will of man, nor blood, nor birth; but according to the counsel of him who works all things according to the good pleasure of his will. Sinner! does that suit you? You who are not in Christ in your own experience, does that suit you? It ought to do so. If you had to put yourself into Christ you could not do it. Men and women, if God asked anything of you to qualify you for Christ, you could not do it. But he asks nothing of you whatever. His mercy comes to you, not when you have made yourselves alive, but while you are still dead. It comes to you, not merely when you seek it, but it first seeks you and makes you seek it.
No sinner can be
Beforehand with thee;
Your grace is most sovereign,
Most rich, and most free.
This is the good point about it, that it is most free. And this is the gospel I am sent to preach to you this morning: — “He who believes on the Lord Jesus Christ has everlasting life.” Sinner, if you trust in Christ this morning, that act of faith shall be a point of union between you and Christ, and you shall be in him vitally. Trust Christ, then, soul. “Well,” you say, “I have nothing; I have no reason to be satisfied, for I have no good works; but here evidently is a plan of salvation that does not need anything from me. I accept it.” Say in your heart this morning, “If the Lord had asked any doings, or willings, or feelings from me in order that I might be in Christ, such a lost soul as I am, I could do none of these things; but when he tells me to believe in Christ, my soul perceives that he is able to save, and I know Christ is willing, and therefore I will trust him today.” Soul, if you have done this, you are in Christ, you are accepted in the beloved this morning. There may be a man who came in here a drunkard or a thief, that may yet go out of this place accepted in the beloved. There may have come in here a woman of ill repute, but if she believes in Christ she shall go out accepted in the beloved. She came in here condemned by her own conscience, she shall go out justified if she believes in Christ. If you can see Christ die and trust him, and if you can see Christ risen and trust him; if you can see him pleading and can trust him, then you are one with him — God has made you accepted in the beloved. Oh, precious salvation that comes all the way to where you are. Wherever you are, as long as you are not in torments and not in hell, this salvation comes to your door. May God give you grace to lay hold of it now, or rather that it may lay hold on you: and then you say,
I do believe, I will believe
That Jesus died for me,
That on the cross he shed his blood
From sin to set me free.
And if you believe in him, your eternal life is certain, because you are one in him, and “accepted in the beloved.”