To help us consider Christ, I thought I would share a quote from Calvin. I came across this quote while reading Sinclair Ferguson’s new book, The Whole Christ. (Ferguson has translated these words of Calvin from Book 2, chapter 16, section 19 of the Institutes, 1559 Latin edition.)
“When we see salvation whole—its every single part is found in Christ, we must beware lest we derive the smallest drop from somewhere else. If we seek salvation, the very name of Jesus teaches us that he possesses it. If other Spirit-given gifts are sought—in his anointing they are found; strength—in his reign; and purity—in his conception; tenderness—expressed in his nativity, in which he was made like us in all respects, that he might feel our pain: Redemption when we seek it, is in his passion found; acquittal—in his condemnation lies; and freedom from the curse—in his cross is known. If satisfaction for our sins we seek—we’ll find it in his sacrifice. There’s cleansing in his blood. And if it’s reconciliation that we need, for it he entered Hades; if mortification of our flesh—then in his tomb it’s laid. And newness of our life—his resurrection brings and immortality as well come also with that gift. And if we long to find that heaven’s kingdom’s our inheritance, His entry there secures it now with our protection, safety too, and blessings that abound—all flowing from his kingly reign. The sum of all for those who seek such treasure-trove of blessings, these blessings of all kinds, is this: from nowhere else than him can they be drawn; For they are ours in Christ alone.”
Look to Christ! Look to Christ alone and live!
“Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him….” Hebrews 12:2, 3(a)
“….be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” — 2 Tim 2:1
Paul knew that Timothy was going to have to endure suffering for Christ, spend his energies preaching, pastoring, and training, and all the while, flee worldly temptations and fleshly desires as he pursues and exemplifies “righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.” (2 Tim 1:6-14, 2:3; 4:5; 1 Tim 4:11-16; 2 Tim 2:2, 4:1-2; 1 Tim 4:12, 5:11) How in the world could Timothy possibly survive much less succeed?: “Be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus.”
This was good news for Timothy and it is good news for us as we too are called to endure hardship, fulfill our vocations, and live holy lives. We can’t and don’t have to do it in our own strength, but in the strength that comes “by the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” The verb that Paul uses for “be strengthened” is in the imperative (command) and is in the present tense (on going action) and passive voice (happens to you) (Gordon Fee). In other words, Timothy is to be obedient by continually allowing God to strengthen him in the grace that is in Jesus. It is God’s to strengthen; it is Timothy’s to submit. It is God’s to empower; it is Timothy’s to yield. It is God’s to equip; it is Timothy’s to obey.
By constantly submitting, yielding, and obeying Timothy would experience the strengthening of God through the grace that is in Jesus. What is this grace of Jesus that brings the power of God to our lives for suffering, service, and sanctification? Well, for Paul, it is not some abstract notion but is something experienced and enjoyed because of the person and work of the Lord Jesus.
In 2 Corinthians 8:9 Paul wrote, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might beome rich.” God strengthens us as we believe and savor such glorious grace! Jesus, the eternal Son of God and high King of Heaven, took our poverty so that we could receive His riches. By his obedience even unto a cross-death, Jesus took our sin, guilt, shame, and punishment that we might receive his righteousness, joy, acceptance, and life. He was stripped that we may be clothed. He was accussed that we may be exonerated. He was condemned that we may be accepted. He was cast out that we may be brought in. He died that we may live. This gospel is surely strength for the soul for it is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom 1:16).
In Christ we have received grace upon grace. In Him we live in a whole new realm and sphere of grace that gives us standing before our God. “Through [Jesus] we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings….because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Rom 5:2-5). In Ephesians 2 Paul says that believers have been “seated…with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” In Christ we have an unshakebale standing before God and a seat in the heavenly places that nobody else can fill or remove!
God has revealed these things to us that we may know and keep knowing, believe and keep believing, and consider and keep considering them to be true of us as believers in Jesus. And, as we do (which is obedience to 2 Tim 2:1), God will strengthen us by the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
“Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” Hebrews 7:25
What a joy-inducing, hope-infusing, freedom-bringing verse this is for those who “draw near to God through [Jesus].” There are at least 3 soul-enriching truths here for the believer’s comfort, confidence, and continuation in Christ.
First, we are comforted in that salvation does not rest in our hands. Our salvation is not up to our abilities and power. The inspired text says, “he is able to save.” Our salvation rests in the sovereign Savior. The word of the gospel is not, “Do this and live,” but “Come to me.” He is able to save. We are weak. We are fickle. We are sinners. We would give out, grow weary, change our minds, lose our loyalty, and surrender to the flesh, except for this glorious truth: He is able to save!
Second, we can deal with our remaining sins, even frustratingly stubborn and besetting sins, with confident hope because “he is able to save to the uttermost.” The Lord Jesus saves completely. His work of salvation is a thoroughgoing and complete work of salvation. He won’t leave anything undone. To be sure, it is a progressive work of sanctification that will be brought “to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6), but it is also a present work that confidently leads us to share in our Lord’s victory over sin. There is no stain so dark that the blood of Jesus can’t cleanse it away. There is no habit so strong that the immeasurably great power of the resurrected Christ can’t overcome it. He is able to save to the uttermost!
Third, no matter how discouraging, dark, or desperate our present conditions are (whether due to sin or suffering, temptation or trial) we will continue in Christ “since he always lives to make intercession for them.” Before Peter denied Jesus, Jesus told him, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail” (Luke 22:31-32). Jesus knew that Peter would fall hard, so he interceded for Peter that he would be able to get back up and keep on going. Peter’s faith did not fail because Jesus had prayed for him. Jesus, our great High Priest, is praying for us, too. He “always lives to make intercession.” As true believers we will fall, even fall hard, but we will get back up and continue on in Christ for he is praying for us.
Beloved, fix your gaze not on yourself, your sin, or your circumstances but on your Christ–crucified, risen, and interceding. He is able!
Chuck Cook is the pastor of Grace Bible Church - Rolla.