Christ Is All
Adapted from a Sermon by J.C. Ryle
"Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all." Colossians 3:11
What do you think of these words? They are short words, and quickly spoken; but they contain great things.
These three words are the essence and substance of Christianity. If your heart can really go along with them, it is well with your soul: if not, you may be sure you have yet much to learn.
Let us try to look into what sense “Christ is all;” and let me ask you, as you hear, to judge yourself honestly, so that you may not perish in the judgment of the last day.
I. First then, let us see how Christ is all in all the counsels of God concerning man.
There was a time when this earth did not exist. Solid as the mountains look,—boundless as the seas appears,—they once did not exist. And man, with all the high thoughts he now has of himself, was an unknown creature.
And where was Christ then?
Even then Christ was “with God, was God, and was equal with God.” (John 1:1; Phil. 2:6.) Even then He was the beloved Son of the Father: “You loved me,” He says, “before the foundation of the world;” I had glory with You before the world existed. (John 17:5, 24.) Even then He was the Saviour “foreknown before the foundation of the world,” (1 Peter1:20.) and believers were chosen in Him. (Ephes. 1:4.)
There came a time when this earth was created. Sun, moon, and stars,—sea, land, and all their inhabitants, were called into being, and made out of nothing. And, last of all, man was formed out of the dust of the ground.
And where was Christ then?
Hear what the Scripture says: “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” (John 1:3.) “By him all things were created, in heaven and on earth.” (Col. 1:16.) “And, “You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands.” (Heb. 1:10.) Can you wonder that the Lord Jesus in His preaching should continually draw lessons from the book of nature? When He spoke of the sheep, the ravens, the lilies, the fig tree, the vine,—He spoke of things which He Himself had made.
There came a day when sin entered the world. Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, and fell. They lost that holy nature in which they were first formed. They forfeited the friendship and favour of God. They became guilty, corrupt, helpless, hopeless sinners. Sin came as a barrier between themselves and their holy Father in heaven. And had He dealt with them according to what they deserved, there would have been nothing before them but death, hell, and everlasting ruin.
And where was Christ then?
That very day He was revealed to our trembling parents, as the only hope of salvation. The very day they fell they were told that the seed of the woman should yet bruise the serpent’s head,—that a Saviour born of a woman should overcome the devil, and win for sinful man an entrance to eternal life. Christ was held up as the true light of the world, in the very day of the fall, and never has any name been made known from that day by which souls could be saved, excepting His. By Him all saved souls have entered heaven, from Adam downwards, and without Him none have ever escaped hell.
There came a time when the world seemed sunk and buried in ignorance of God. After 4000 years the nations of the earth appeared to have clean forgotten the God that made them. Assyrian, Persian, Grecian, and Roman empires, had done nothing but spread superstition and idolatry. Poets, historians, philosophers, had proved that with all their intellectual powers they had no right knowledge of God, and that man, left to himself, was utterly corrupt. “The world did not know God through wisdom.” (1 Cor.1:21.) Excepting a few despised Jews in a corner of the earth, the whole world was dead in ignorance and sin.
And what did Christ do then?
He left the glory He had had from all eternity with the Father, and came down into the world to provide a salvation. He took our nature upon Himself, and was born as a man. As a man He did the will of God perfectly, which we all had left undone. As a man He suffered on the cross the wrath of God which we ought to have suffered. He brought in everlasting righteousness for us. He redeemed us from the curse of a broken law. He opened a cleansing fountain for all sin and uncleanness. He died for our sins. He rose again for our justification. He ascended to God’s right hand, and there sat down, waiting until His enemies should be made His footstool. And there He sits now, offering salvation to all who will come to Him,—interceding for all who believe in Him,—and managing by God’s appointment all that concerns the salvation of souls.
There is a time coming when sin will be cast out from this world. Wickedness will not always flourish unpunished. Satan will not always reign. Creation will not always groan burdened under the effects of sin. There will be a day of restitution of all things. There will be a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness will dwell, and the knowledge of God will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea.
And where will Christ be then? And what will He do?
Christ Himself will be King. He will return to this earth, and make all things new. He will come in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory, and the kingdoms of the world will become His. The heathen will be given to Him for His inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for His possession. To Him every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess that He is Lord. His dominion will be an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom that which will not be destroyed.
There is a day coming when all men will be judged. The sea will give up the dead which are in it, and death and hell will deliver up the dead which are in them. All that sleep in the grave will come out, and all will be judged according to their works.
And where will Christ be then?
Christ Himself will be the Judge. “The Father … has given all judgment to the Son.” “When the Son of Man comes in his glory … then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.” “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” (John 5:22; Matt. 25:31-32; 2 Cor. 5:10.)
And now consider: if you are one that thinks little of Christ, you are very unlike God. You are of one mind, and God is of another. You are of one judgment, and God is of another. You think it enough to give Christ a little honour,—a little reverence,—a little respect. But in all God the Father’s eternal counsels, in creation, redemption, restitution, and judgment,—in all these, Christ is “all”
Surely you would do well to consider these things. Do be warned. Do pay attention. It is not written for nothing, “Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.” (John 5:23.)
II. And now consider, in the second place, that “Christ is all” in the Bible.
In every part of both Testaments Christ is to be found,—dimly and indistinctly at the beginning,—more clearly and plainly in the middle,—fully and completely at the end,—but really and substantially everywhere.
Christ’s sacrifice and death for sinners,—and Christ’s kingdom and future glory, are the light you have to shine on any book of Scripture you read. Christ’s cross and Christ’s crown are the clue you have to hold on to, if you would find your way through difficult Scripture passages. Christ is the only key that will unlock many of the dark places of the word. Some people complain that they do not understand the Bible. And the reason is very simple. They do not use the key. To them the Bible is a mystery, just because they do not use the key.
It was Christ crucified who was set forth in every Old Testament sacrifice. Every animal slain and offered on an altar, was a confession that a Saviour was looked for who should die for sinners,—a Saviour who should take away man’s sin, by suffering in his place.
It was Christ to whom Abel looked when He offered a better sacrifice than Cain. He offered the firstfruits of his flock with its blood,— and in so doing showed his belief that without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins. (Heb. 9:22, 11:4.)
It was Christ of whom Enoch prophesied in the days of abounding wickedness before the flood. “Behold,” he said, “the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones, to execute judgment on all.” (Jude 15.)
It was Christ to whom Abraham looked when he dwelt in tents in the land of promise. He believed that in his seed,—in one born of his family,—all the nations of the earth would be blessed. By faith he saw Christ’s day, and was glad.
It was Christ of whom Jacob spoke to his sons, as he lay dying. He marked out the tribe out of which He would be born. “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet.” (Gen. 49:10.)
It was Christ who was the substance of the ceremonial law, which God gave to Israel by the hand of Moses. The morning and evening sacrifice,— the continual shedding of blood,—the altar,—the mercy-seat,—the high priest,—the Passover,—the day of atonement,—the scapegoat:—all these were so many pictures, types, and emblems of Christ and His work. God had compassion on the weakness of His people. He taught them Christ line by line, and as we teach little children by analogies and comparisons. It was in this sense especially that the law was a schoolmaster to lead the Jews to Christ.
It was Christ to whom God directed the attention of Israel by all the daily miracles which were done before their eyes in the wilderness. The pillar of cloud and fire which guided them,—the manna from heaven which every morning fed them,—the water from the rock which followed them,—all and each were figures of Christ.
It was Christ of whom all the judges were types. Joshua, and David, and Gideon, and Jephthah, and Samson, and all the rest whom God raised up to deliver Israel from captivity,—all were emblems of Christ. All were meant to remind the tribes of that far higher Deliverer who was yet to come.
It was Christ of whom David the king was a type. Anointed and chosen when few gave him honour,—despised and rejected by Saul and all the tribes.—persecuted and forced to flee for his life,—a man of sorrow all his life, and yet in the end a conqueror;—in all these things David represented Christ.
It was Christ of whom all the prophets from Isaiah to Malachi spoke. They saw through a glass darkly. They sometimes dwelt on His sufferings, and sometimes on His glory that would follow. They did not always mark out for us the distinction between Christ’s first coming and Christ’s second coming. They were sometimes moved by the Holy Spirit to write of the times of Christ crucified, and sometimes of Christ’s kingdom in the latter days. But Jesus dying, or Jesus reigning, was the thought you will ever find uppermost in their minds.
It is Christ, it hardly needs to be said, of whom the whole New Testament is full. The Gospels are Christ living, speaking, and moving among us. The Acts are Christ preached, published, and proclaimed. The Epistles are Christ written of, explained, and exalted. But all through, from first to last, there is but one Name above every other, and that is Christ.
And so ask yourself, what is your Bible to you? Is it a Bible in which you have found Christ? Is it a Bible in which “Christ is all?” If not, it must be feared that you have used your Bible to very little purpose. You are like the man who studied the solar system, and left out in his studies the sun, which is the centre of all. It is no wonder if you find your Bible a dull book.
III. We now consider in the third place, that “Christ is all” in the religion of all true Christians on earth.
First, in saying this we have to be careful not to obscure other truths. “Christ is all” and still the election of God the Father, and the sanctification of God the Spirit, are absolutely necessary in order to bring about the salvation of every one that is saved. “Christ is all” and still there is a perfect harmony and unison in the action of the three Persons of the Trinity, in bringing any man to glory, and all three cooperate and work together in his deliverance from sin and hell. And so every one who reaches heaven will ascribe all the glory of his salvation to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, three Persons in one God.
But at the same time there is clear proof in Scripture, that it is the mind of the blessed Trinity that Christ should be prominently and distinctly exalted, in the matter of saving souls. Christ is set forth as the “Word,” through whom God’s love to sinners is made known. Christ’s incarnation and atoning death on the cross, are the great cornerstone on which the whole plan of salvation rests. Christ is the way and door, by which alone approaches to God are to be made. Christ is the root into which all elect sinners must be grafted. Christ is the only meeting-place between heaven and earth, between the Holy Trinity and the poor sinful child of Adam. It is Christ whom God the Father has sealed and appointed to convey life to a dead world. It is Christ to whom the Father has given a people to be brought to glory. It is Christ of whom the Spirit testifies, and to whom he always leads a soul for pardon and peace. In short, it has pleased the Father that in Christ all fulness should dwell. What the sun is to this earth, that, Christ is, in true Christianity. Let us look into how this is so.
i) Christ is all in a sinner’s justification before God.
Through Him alone we can have peace with a Holy God. By Him alone we can be admitted into the presence of the Most High, and stand there without fear. In Him alone can God be just, and justify the ungodly.
How can any mortal man come before a pure and holy God?
Can we say that we have done our duty to God? Can we say that we have done our duty to our neighbour? Can we bring forward our prayers?—our regularity?—our morality?—our amendments?—our church-going? Will we ask to be accepted because of any of these? Which of these things will withstand God’s examination? Which of them will actually justify you and me? Which of them will carry us clear through judgment, and land us safe in glory? None, no not one of these! Take any commandment of the ten, and let us examine ourselves by it. We have broken it repeatedly.—We cannot answer God for one in a thousand. Take any of us, and look closely into our ways,—and we are nothing but sinners. There is only one verdict.—We are all guilty, —all deserve hell,—all ought to die. How can we ever come before God?
We must come in the name of Jesus,—standing on no other ground,—pleading no other plea than this, “Christ died on the cross for the ungodly, and I trust in Him.” .
The righteousness of Christ,—this is the only robe which can cover you and me, and enable us to stand in the light of heaven without shame. The name of Jesus is the only name by which you and I will be let through the gate of eternal glory. If we come to that gate in our own names, we are lost. If we come in the name of Jesus, it is a sure passport, and we will live.
The mark of the blood of Christ is the only mark that can save us from destruction. When the angels are separating the children of Adam in the last day, if we are not found marked with that atoning blood, we had better never have been born.
Let this be clear in your mind: Christ must be “all” to that soul who would be justified.—You must be content to go to heaven as a beggar,—saved by free grace, simply as a believer in Jesus,—or you will never be saved at all.
Is there a thoughtless, worldly soul among us this morning? Is there one who thinks to reach heaven by saying, “Lord have mercy on me,” without Christ?—If so, sadly, you are sowing misery for yourself, and unless you change, you will awake to endless misery.
Is there a proud, formal soul among us this morning? Is there any one thinking to make himself fit for heaven, and good enough by his own doings?—If so, sadly, you are building a Babel, and you will never reach heaven in your present state.
But is there a anyone here who is labouring and heavy-laden? Is there one who wants to be saved, and feels himself a vile sinner? To such an one it may be said, “Come to Christ and He will save you. Come to Christ and cast the burden of your soul on Him. Do not fear: only believe.”
Do you fear wrath?—Christ can deliver you from the wrath to come. Do you fear the curse of a broken law?—Christ can redeem you from the curse of the law. Do you feel far away?— Christ has suffered to bring you close to God. Do you feel unclean?—Christ’s blood can cleanse all sin away. Do you feel imperfect?—You will be complete in Christ. Do you feel as if you were nothing?—Christ will be “all in all” to your soul. Never did a saint reach heaven with any tale but this, “I was washed and made white in the blood of the Lamb.”
ii) But again, Christ is not only all in the justification of a true Christian, but He is also all in His sanctification.
Again, this is not for a moment to undervalue the work of the Spirit. But no man is ever holy until he comes to Christ and is united to Him. Until then his works are dead works, and he has no holiness at all.—First you must be joined to Christ, and then you will be holy. Without Him, separate from Him, you can do nothing. (John 15:5.)
And no man can grow in holiness except if he remains in Christ. Christ is the great root from which every believer must draw his strength to go forward. The Spirit is His special gift,—His purchased gift for His people. A believer must not only receive Christ Jesus the Lord, but walk in Him, and be rooted and built up in Him. (Col 2:6, 7.)
Would you be holy? Then Christ is the manna you must eat daily, like Israel in the wilderness of old.
Would you be holy? Then Christ must be the rock from which you must daily drink the living water.
Would you be holy? Then you must be ever looking to Jesus,—looking at His cross, and learning fresh motives for a closer walk with God, —looking at His example, and taking Him for your pattern. Looking at Him, you would become like Him. Looking at Him, your face would shine without your knowing it. Look less at yourself and more at Christ, and you will find besetting sins dropping off and leaving you, and your eyes enlightened more and more every day.
The true secret of coming up out of the wilderness, is to come up leaning on the Christ. (Cant. 8:5.) The true way to be strong, is to realize our weakness, and to feel that Christ must be all. The true way to grow in grace, is to make use of Christ as a supply for every minute’s necessities.
To try to be holy without Christ is to labour all in vain. It is to build up a wall with defective mortar. It is to begin at the wrong end. You must come to Christ first, and He will give you His sanctifying Spirit. You must learn to say with Paul, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Phil. 4:13.)
iii) But again, Christ is not only all in the sanctification of a true Christian, but all in His comfort in the present time.
A saved soul has many sorrows. He has a body like other men,—weak and frail. He has a heart like other men,—and often a more sensitive one too. He has trials and losses to bear like others,—and often more. He has his share of bereavements, deaths, disappointments, crosses. He has the world to oppose,—relations to bear with,—persecutions to endure,—and a death to die. And what will enable him to bear all this? Nothing but the encouragement there is in Christ. (Phil. 2:1.)
Jesus is indeed the brother born for adversity. He is “the friend who sticks closer than a brother,” (Prov 18:24) and He alone can comfort His people. He can be touched with the feeling of their infirmities, for He suffered Himself. He knows what sorrow is, for He was a man of sorrows. He knows what an aching body is, for His body was racked with pain. He cried, “All my bones are out of joint.” (Psalm 22:14.) He knows what poverty and weariness are, for He was often wearied and had no place to lay His head. He knows what family unkindness is, for even His brethren did not believe Him. He had no honour in His own house.
And Jesus knows exactly how to comfort His afflicted people. He knows how to pour in oil and wine into the wounds of the spirit,—how to fill up gaps in empty hearts,—how to speak a word in season to the weary,—how to heal the broken heart,—how to comfort us in sickness,—how to draw close when we are faint, and say, “Fear not, I am your salvation.”
We long for sympathy as a pleasant thing. There is no sympathy like that of Christ. Believer, in all your afflictions, He is afflicted. He knows your particular sorrows. In all your pain He is pained, and like the good Physician, He will not measure out to you one drop of sorrow too much. “When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul,” said David. Many a believer could say as much. “If the Lord Himself had not stood by me, the deep waters would have gone over my soul.”
How a believer gets through all his troubles is an amazing thing. How he is carried through the fire and water he passes through seems past comprehension. But the true account of it is just this,—that Christ is not only justification and sanctification, but consolation also.
Do you who want unfailing comfort? Look to Christ. In Him alone there is no failure. Rich men are disappointed in their treasures. Learned men are disappointed in their books. Husbands are disappointed in their wives. Wives are disappointed in their husbands. Parents are disappointed in their children. Statesmen are disappointed when they have place and power. But no man was ever disappointed in Christ.
iv) But as Christ is all in the comforts of a true Christian in the present time, so Christ is all in his hopes for the time to come.
Few men and women and children are to be found who do not indulge in hopes of some kind about their souls. But the hopes of the vast majority are nothing but vain dreams. They are built on no solid foundation. No living man but the real child of God,—the sincere, thoroughgoing Christian,—can give a reasonable account of the hope that is in him. No hope is reasonable which is not scriptural.
A true Christian has a good hope when he looks forward.—The worldly man has none. A true Christian sees light in the distance.—The worldly man sees nothing but darkness. And what is the hope of a true Christian? It is just this, that Jesus Christ is coming again,—coming without sin,—coming with all His people,—coming to wipe away every tear,—coming to raise His sleeping saints from the grave,—coming to gather together all His family, that they may be forever with Him.
Why is a believer patient? Because he looks for the coming of the Lord. He can bear hard things without murmuring. He knows the time is short. He waits quietly for the King.
Why is he moderate in all things? Because he expects his Lord soon to return. His treasure is in heaven. His good things are yet to come. The world is not his rest, but an inn. And an inn is not home. He knows that He that shall come, will soon come, and not tarry. Christ is coming, and that is enough.
And this, indeed, is a “blessed hope.” Now is the school-time,—then the eternal holiday. Now is the scattering,—then the gathering. Now is the time of sowing,—then the harvest. Now is the working season,—then the wages. Now is the cross,—then the crown.
People talk of their “expectations” and hopes from this world. None have such solid expectations as a saved soul. He can say, “My soul, only wait upon God; my expectation is from Him.”
And so, in all true saving religion, Christ is all,—all in justification,—all in sanctification,—all in comfort,—all in hope. Blessed is the one who knows it, and far more blessed is he that feels it too. Would that you would take a few moments to test your own self, and see what you know of it for your own soul!
IV. There is one more thing to add, and then we are done. It is that Christ will be all in heaven.
All men and women who reach heaven, will find that even there also “Christ is all.”
Like the altar in Solomon’s temple, Christ crucified will be the grand object in heaven. That altar struck the eye of everyone who entered the temple gates. It was a great bronze altar, thirty feet wide,—as wide as the front of the temple itself. (2 Chron. 3:4, 4:1.) So in a similar way Jesus will fill the eye of all who enter glory. In the midst of the throne, and surrounded by adoring angels and saints, there will be “the Lamb who was slain.” (Rev 13:8) And the Lamb will be the light of the place.
The praise of the Lord Jesus will be the eternal song of all the inhabitants of heaven. They will say with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain. … To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” (Rev. 5:12. 13.)
The service of the Lord Jesus will be one eternal occupation of all the inhabitants of heaven. We will serve Him day and night in His temple. Blessed is the thought that we will before long serve Him without distraction, and work for Him without weariness.
The presence of Christ Himself will be one everlasting enjoyment of the inhabitants of heaven. We will see His face, and hear His voice, and speak with Him as friend with friend. Sweet is the thought that whosoever may be missing at the marriage supper, the Master Himself will be there. His presence will satisfy all our wants.
And what a home heaven will be to those who have loved the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Here you live by faith in Him, and find peace, though you do not see Him. There you will see him face to face, and find He is altogether lovely.
But, tragically, how little fit for heaven are many who talk of “going to heaven” when they die, while they manifestly have no saving faith, and no real acquaintance with Christ. You give Christ no honour here. You have no communion with Him. You do not love Him. What could you do in heaven? it would be no place for you. Its joys would be no joys for you. Its happiness would be a happiness into which you could not enter. Its employments would be a weariness and a burden to your heart… Repent! and change before it is too late!
And now, we have seen how deep are the foundations of that little expression, “Christ is all.”
Much more may be said on the subject. It is by no means exhausted. We have barely walked over the surface of it. There are mines of precious truth connected with it, which have been left unopened.
We might consider how Christ ought to be all in a visible church. Splendid religious buildings, numerous religious services, gorgeous ceremonies, troops of ordained men, all, all are nothing in the sight of God, if the Lord Jesus himself in all his offices is not honoured, magnified, and exalted. That church is but a dead carcass, in which Christ is not “all.”
We might consider how Christ ought to be all in a ministry. The great work which ordained men are intended to do, is to lift up Christ. They are to be like the pole on which the bronze serpent was hung. They are useful so long as they exalt the great object of faith, but useful no further. They are to be ambassadors to carry good news to a rebellious world, about the King’s Son, and if they teach men to think more about themselves and their office than about Him, they are not fit for their place. The Spirit will never honour that minister who does not testify of Christ,—who does not make Christ “all.”
We might consider how language seems exhausted in the Bible, in describing Christ’s various offices. We might consider how figures seem endless, which are used in unfolding Christ’s fulness. The High Priest, the Mediator, the Redeemer, the Saviour, the Advocate, the Shepherd, the Physician, the Bridegroom, the Head, the Bread of Life, the Light of the World, the Way, the Door, the Vine, the Rock, the Fountain, the Sun of Righteousness, the Forerunner, the Surety, the Captain, the Prince of Life, the Amen, the Almighty, the Author and Finisher of Faith, the Lamb of God, the King of Saints, the Wonderful, the Mighty God, the Counsellor, the Overseer of Souls,—all these, and many more, are names given to Christ in Scripture. Each is a source of instruction and comfort for everyone who is willing to drink of it. Each supplies matter for useful meditation.
But hopefully, enough has been said to throw light on the subject and impress it on your mind. Hopefully, enough has been said to show the immense importance of the practical conclusions with which we will now end.
1. The first conclusion is: Is Christ all? Then learn the utter uselessness of a christless religion.
There are only too many churchgoers who know practically nothing at all about Christ. Their religion consists in a few vague notions, and empty expressions. “They trust they are no worse than others. They keep to their church. They try to do their duty. They do nobody any harm. They hope God will be merciful to them. They trust the Almighty will pardon their sins, and take them to heaven when they die.” This is about the whole of their religion!
But what do these people know practically about Christ? Nothing, nothing at all! What experimental acquaintance have they with His offices and work, His blood, His righteousness, His mediation, His priesthood, His intercession? None, none at all! Ask them about a saving faith,—ask them about being born again of the Spirit,—ask them about being sanctified in Christ Jesus. What answer will you get? It is as if your are speaking an alien language to them. You have asked them simple Bible questions. But they know no more about them experimentally, than a Buddhist or a Moslem. And yet this is the religion of hundreds and thousands of people who are called Christians all over the world!
If you are a person of this kind, I warn you plainly that such Christianity will never take you to heaven. It may do very well in the eye of man. But it will never comfort you. It will never satisfy your conscience. It will never save your soul.
I warn you plainly, that all notions and theories about God being merciful without Christ, and excepting through Christ, are baseless delusions and empty dreams. Such theories are as purely an idol of man’s invention. They are all of the earth, earthy. They never came down from heaven. The God of heaven has sealed and appointed Christ as the one and only Saviour and way of life, and all who would be saved, must be content to be saved by Him, or they will never be saved at all.
Please consider this carefully. I give you fair warning this day. A religion without Christ will never save your soul.
2. The second conclusion is: Is Christ all? Then learn the enormous folly of joining anything with Christ in the matter of salvation.
There are multitudes of churchgoers who profess to honour Christ, but in reality greatly dishonour Him. They give Christ a certain place in their system of religion, but not the place which God intended Him to fill. Christ alone is not “all in all” to their souls.— No! It is either Christ and the church,—or Christ and the sacraments,—or Christ and His ordained ministers,—or Christ and their own repentance,—or Christ and their own goodness,—or Christ and their own prayers,—or Christ and their own sincerity and charity, on which they practically rest their souls.
If you are a Christian of this kind, I warn you also plainly, that your religion is an offence to God. You are changing God’s plan of salvation into a plan of your own devising. You are in effect deposing Christ from His throne, by giving the glory due to Him to another.
It does not matter who it is that teaches you your religion, and on whose word you build. Whosoever adds anything to Christ, teaches you wrong.
It does not matter what it is that you add to Christ. Whatever you may practically add to Christ in the matter of salvation, you do Christ an injury.
Consider carefully what you are doing. Beware of giving to Christ’s servants the honour due to none but Christ. Beware of giving the Lord’s ordinances the honour due to the Lord. Beware of resting the burden of your soul on anything but Christ, and Christ alone.
3. The next conclusion is: is Christ all? Then let all who want to be saved, apply directly to Christ.
There are many who hear of Christ with the ear, and believe all they are told about him. They allow that there is no salvation excepting in Christ. They acknowledge that Jesus alone can deliver them from hell, and present them faultless before God. But they seem never to get beyond this general acknowledgment. They never fairly lay hold on Christ for their own souls. They are stuck in a state of wishing, and wanting, and feeling, and intending, and never get any further. They see what ministers of the gospel mean. They know it is all true. They hope one day to get the full benefit of it. But at present they get no benefit. The world is their “all.” Politics are their “all.” Pleasure is their “all.” Business is their “all.” But Christ is not their all.
If you are a person of this kind, I warn you also plainly, you are in a bad state of soul. You are as truly in the way to hell in your present condition, as Judas Iscariot, or Ahab, or Cain. Believe me, there must be actual faith in Christ, or else Christ died in vain, so far as you are concerned. It is not looking at the bread that feeds the hungry man, but the actual eating of it. It is not gazing on the life-boat that saves the shipwrecked sailor, but actual getting into it. It is not knowing and believing that Christ is a Saviour, that will save your soul, unless there are actual transactions between you and Christ.
Take the advice you have heard this morning, and act upon it at once. Stand still no longer, waiting for some imaginary frames of mind and feelings which will never come. Hesitate no longer, under the idea that you must first of all obtain the Spirit, and then come to Christ. Arise and come to Christ, just as you are. He waits for you, and is as willing to save as He is mighty. He is the appointed Physician for sin-sick souls.
Deal with Him as you would with your doctor about the cure of a disease of your body. Apply directly to Him, and tell Him all your needs. Take with you words this day and cry mightily to the Lord Jesus for pardon and peace. Tell Him that you have heard that He receives sinners, and that you are such. Tell Him you want to be saved, and ask Him to save you. Do not rest until you have actually tasted for yourself that the Lord is gracious. Do this, and you will find, sooner or later, if you are really in earnest, that “Christ is all.”
4. One last conclusion is this: Is Christ all? Then let all his converted people deal with him as if they really believed it. Let them lean on him and trust him far more than they have ever done yet.
Sadly! there are many of the Lord’s people who live far below their privileges. There are many truly Christian souls who rob themselves of their own peace and give up their own mercies. There are many who insensibly join their own faith, or the work of the Spirit in their own hearts, to Christ, and so miss the fulness of Gospel peace.
If you are a true believer, make sure that Christ is really and thoroughly your all in all. Beware of allowing yourself to mingle anything of your own with Christ.
Do you have faith? It is a priceless blessing. Happy indeed are those who are willing and ready to trust Jesus. But be careful to not make a Christ of your faith. Do not rest on your own faith, but on Christ.
Is the work of the Spirit in your soul? Thank God for it. It is a work that will never be overthrown. But beware, for fear that without your being aware, you make a Christ of the work of the Spirit. Do not rest on the work of the Spirit, but on Christ.
Learn to look more and more at the great object of faith, Jesus Christ, and to keep your mind dwelling on Him. So doing you would find faith, and all the graces, grow, though you may not be able to notice the growth at the time. He that would be a skilful archer, must look not at the arrow, but at the mark.
Sadly there is often a great amount of pride and unbelief still sticking in the hearts of most believers. Few seem to realize how much they need a Saviour. Few seem to understand how thoroughly they are indebted to Him. Few seem to understand how much they need Him every day. Few seem to feel how simply and like a child they ought to hang their souls on Him. Few seem to be aware how full of love He is to His poor, weak people, and how ready to help them! And few therefore seem to know that peace and joy which is to be had in Christ.
If you are a believer and your conscience tells you you are guilty,—change your plan, and learn to trust Christ more. Physicians love to see people coming to be consulted: it is their role to receive the sickly, and if possible to cure them. The advocate loves to be employed: it is his calling. The husband loves his wife to trust him and lean upon him: it is his delight to cherish her, and promote her comfort. And Christ loves His people to lean on Him, to rest in Him, to call on Him, to abide in Him.
Believer in Christ, do so more and more. Live on Christ. Live in Christ. Live with Christ. Live to Christ. So doing you will prove that you fully realize that “Christ is all.”
We come to a close with words once preached by John Owens before the English House of Commons, which are commend to our serious attention:—
“A man may lack liberty, and yet be happy, as Joseph was. A man may lack peace, and yet be happy, as David was. A man may lack children, and yet be blessed, as Job was. A man may lack plenty, and yet be full of comfort, as Micaiah was. But the one who is without the Gospel, is without everything that should do him good. A throne without the Gospel is but the devil’s dungeon. Wealth without the Gospel is fuel for hell. Advancement without the Gospel is but a going high to have the greater fall.
“Christ is all in all, and where He is not present there can be no good. Hunger cannot truly be satisfied without manna,—the bread of life which is Jesus Christ;—and what will a hungry man do without bread? Thirst cannot be quenched without that water or living spring, which is Jesus Christ and what will a thirsty soul do without water? A captive, as we are all, cannot be delivered without redemption, which is Jesus Christ;—and what will the prisoner do without redemption? Fools, as we all are, cannot be instructed without wisdom, which is Jesus Christ;—without Him we perish in our folly. All building without Him is on sand, which will surely fall. All working without Him is in the fire, where it will be consumed. All riches without Him have wings, and will fly away. A dungeon with Christ is a throne, and a throne without Christ a hell. All mercies without Christ are bitter, and every cup is sweet that is seasoned with a drop of His blood.
“He is the way: men without Him are Cains,—wanderers, vagabonds. He is the truth: men without Him are liars, like the devil of old. He is the life: men without Him are dead in trespasses and sin. He is the light: men without Him are in darkness, and go they know not where. He is the vine: men that are not in Him are withered branches, prepared for the fire. He is the rock: men not built on Him are carried away with a flood. He is the Alpha and Omega, the first and last,—the author and the ender,—the founder and the finisher of our salvation. He that does not have Him, has neither beginning of good, nor will have end of misery. Blessed Jesus! how much better were it not to be, than to be without you!—never to be born, than not to die in you! A thousand hells come short of this, eternally to be without Jesus Christ.”
May you and I be able to say amen to the spirit of this passage, and then it will be well with our souls.