Secret Service Theologian



1.How a Sinner Can Be Saved
2. Significance of the Passover
3. Fullness of Our Redemption
4. God’s Provision for the Way
5. Recognizing My Need
6. Receiving His Provision
7. Justification and Sanctification Through Redemption
8. Change of Dispensation
9. Doctrine of the Gospel
10. Sonship and the New Birth
11. Christendom and the Judgment
12. Hope of the Christian
13. The New Apostasy
Scripture Index

"A certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was; and when he saw him, he had compassion on him." Luke 10:33 "What shall I do to inherit eternal life?" The question was framed by a professional theologian, to test the orthodoxy of the great Rabbi of Nazareth. For evidently it was rumoured that the new Teacher was telling the people of a short road to Heaven. And the answer given was clear - no other answer, indeed, is possible; for what a man inherits is his by right - eternal life is the reward and goal of a perfect life on earth. A perfect life, mark - the standard being perfect love to God and man. And this being so, no one but a Pharisee or a fool could dream of inheriting eternal life, and the practical question which concerns every one of us is whether God has provided a way by which men who are not perfect, but sinful, can be saved. And the answer to this question is hidden in the parable by which the Lord silenced his interrogator’s quibble, "Who is my neighbour?" Here is the story. (Luke 10:30-35)

A traveller on the downward road to the city of the Curse fell among thieves, who robbed and wounded him, and flung him down, half dead, by the wayside. First, a priest came that way, and then a Levite, who looked at him, and passed on. Why a priest and a Levite? Did the Lord intend to throw contempt upon religion and the law? That is quite incredible. No; but He wished to teach what, even after nineteen centuries of Christianity, not one person in a thousand seems to know, that law and religion can do nothing for a ruined and dead sinner. A sinner needs a Saviour. And so the Lord brings the Samaritan upon the scene. But why a Samaritan? Just because "Jews have no dealings with Samaritans." Save as a last resource, no Jew would accept deliverance from such a quarter. Sin not only spells danger and death to the sinner, but it alienates the heart from God. Nothing but a sense of utter helplessness and hopelessness will lead him to throw himself, with abject self-renunciation, at the feet of Christ. Not that man by nature is necessarily vicious or immoral. It is chiefly in the spiritual sphere that the effects of the Eden Fall declare themselves. Under human teaching the Fall becomes an adequate excuse for a sinful life, But the Word of God declares that men are "without excuse." For although "they that are in the flesh cannot please God," they can lead clean and honest and honourable lives. The "cannot" is not in the moral, but in the spiritual, sphere. For "the mind of the flesh is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God." (Romans 8:7, 8, R. V.)

This affords a clue to the essential character of sin. In the lowest classes of the community sin is but another word for crime. At a higher level in the social scale it is regarded as equivalent to vice. And in a still higher sphere the element of impiety is taken into account. But all this is arbitrary and false. Crime and vice and impiety are unquestionably sinful; but yet the most upright and moral and religious of men may be the greatest sinner upon earth. Why state this hypothetically? It is a fact; witness the life and character of Saul of Tarsus. Were the record not accredited by Paul the inspired Apostle, we might well refuse to believe that such blamelessness and piety and zeal were ever attained by mortal man! Why then does the Apostle call himself the chief of sinners? Was this an outburst of wild exaggeration, of the kind to which pious folk of an hysterical turn are addicted? It was the sober acknowledgment of the well-known principle that privilege increases responsibility and deepens guilt. According to the "humanity gospel," which is today supplanting the Gospel of Christ in so many pulpits, the man was a pattern saint. In the judgment of God he was a pattern sinner. And just because he had, as judged by men, attained pre-eminence in saintship, Divine grace taught him to own his pre-eminence in sin. With all his zeal for God, and fancied godliness, he awoke to find that he was a blasphemer.

What a blasphemer! Who would care a straw what a Jerusalem mob thought of the Rabbi of Nazareth? But who would not be influenced by the opinion of Gamaliel’s great disciple? An infidel has said that "Thou shalt not steal" is merely the language of the hog in the clover, to warn off the hogs outside the fence. And this reproach attaches to all mere human conceptions of sin. Men judge of sin by its results; and their estimate of its results is coloured by their own interests. But all such conceptions of sin are inadequate. Definitions are rare in Scripture, but sin is there defined for us. It may show itself in transgression, in failing to come up to a standard. But essentially it is lawlessness; which means, not transgression of law, nor absence of law, but revolt against law - in a word, self-will. This is the very essence of sin. The perfect life was the life of Him who never did His own will, but only and always the will of God. All that is short of this, or different from this, is characterized as sin. Here it is not a question of acts merely, but of the mind and heart. Man’s whole nature is at fault. Even human law recognizes this principle. In the case of ordinary crime we take the rough and ready method of dealing with men for what they do. But not so in crime of the highest kind. Treason consists in the hidden thought of the heart. Overt acts of disloyalty or violence are not the crime, but merely the evidence of the crime. The crime is the purpose of which such acts give proof. Men cannot read the heart; they can judge of the purpose only by words and acts.

But it is not so with God. In His sight the treason of the human heart is manifest, and no outward acts are needed to declare it. The truest test of a man is not conduct, but character, not what he does, but what he is. Human judgment must, of course, be guided by a man’s acts and words. But God is not thus limited. Man judges character by conduct, God judges conduct by character. Therefore it is that "what is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God." And this brings us back to the case of Paul. Under the influence of environment, and following his natural bent, he took to religion as another man might take to vice. Religion was his speciality. And the result was a splendid success. Here was the case of a man who really "did his best," and whose "best" was a "record" achievement. But what was God’s judgment of it all? What was his own, when he came to look back on it from the Cross of Christ? Surveying the innumerable hosts of the sinners of mankind, he says, "of whom I am chief." And this, as already urged, because his unrivalled "proficiency" in religion had raised him to the very highest pinnacle of privilege and responsibility, and thus proved him to be the wickedest and worst of men. "But I obtained mercy," he adds. Not because he had sinned "ignorantly in unbelief "; for that plea counts for nothing here, though it led the Lord to extend further mercy to him on his repentance. He was twice mercied, first by receiving salvation, and next in being called to the Apostleship; for it is not God’s way to pull blasphemers into the ministry.

But the mercy of his salvation was only and altogether because "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." (1 Timothy 1:15) He had no other plea. The Apostle Paul’s case only illustrates the principle of Divine judgment, as proclaimed by the Lord Himself in language of awful solemnity. The most terrible doom recorded in Old Testament history was that which engulfed the Cities of the Plain. And yet the Lord declared that a still direr doom awaited the cities which had been specially favoured by His presence and ministry on earth. The sin of Sodom we know. But what had Capernaum done? Religion flourished there. It was "exalted to Heaven" by privilege, and there is no suggestion that evil practices prevailed. The exponents of the "humanity gospel," now in popular favour, would have deemed it a model community. They would tell us, moreover, that if Sodom was really destroyed by a storm of fire and brimstone, it, was Jewish ignorance which attributed the catastrophe to their cruel Jehovah God. The kind, good "Jesus" of their enlightened theology would have far different thoughts about Capernaum! "But I say unto you," was the Lord’s last warning to that seemingly happy and peaceful community, "it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the Day of Judgment, than for thee." (Matthew 11:24)

What, then, we may well ask, had Capernaum done? So far, as the record tells us, absolutely nothing. Had there been flagrant immorality, or active hostility, the Lord would not have made His home there; nor would it have come to be called "His own city." (Matthew 4:13; 9:1; cf. Mark 2:1) And had there been aggressive unbelief, the "mighty works" which He wrought so lavishly among its people would have been restrained. Thoroughly respectable and religious folk they evidently were. But "they repented not," that was all. That such people should be deemed guiltier than Sodom, and that the champion religionist of His own age should rank as the greatest sinner of any age, here is an enigma that is insoluble if we ignore the Eden Fall - that "degrading dogma," as it is now called, of the corruption of our nature - and the teaching of Scripture as to the essential character of sin. It was not that these men, knowing God, rejected him, but that they did not know Him. "He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not." "But," the record adds, "as many as received Him, to them gave He the right to become children of God." On receiving Him, or, in other words, on believing on His name, they were "born of God." (John 1:10-13, R.V.) If sin were merely a matter of wrong-doing, if it was not "in the blood, if our very nature was not spiritually corrupt and depraved by it - a new birth would be unnecessary. A blind man does not see things in a wrong light; he cannot see them at all. And man by nature is spiritually blind. He "cannot see the Kingdom of God," much less enter it. He must be born again. But there is more in sin than this. It not only depraves the sinner, but it brings him under judgment. Guilt attaches to it. Salvation, therefore, must be through redemption, and redemption can only be by blood.
Go To Chapter Two

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