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JESUS THE SON OF GOD, PROVED BY HIS RESURRECTION.
And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.—Rom. i. 4.
ST. Paul, in the beginning of this Epistle (according to his custom in the rest) styles himself an apostle, particularly called and set apart by God for the preaching of the gospel; the main subject whereof was “Jesus Christ our Lord,” who, as he was, according to his Divine nature, “the eternal Son of God;” so, according to his human nature, he was not only the Son of man, but also the Son of God. “According to the flesh (that is, the weakness, and frailty, and mortality of his human nature) he was the Son of David;” that is, of his posterity by his mother, who was of that house and line. “Made of the seed of David, according to the flesh,” (ver. 3.) But “according to the Spirit of holiness” (that is, in regard of that Divine power of the Holy Ghost, which was manifest in him, especially in his resurrection from the dead) he was demonstrated to be the Son of God; even according to his human nature; “declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.”
All the difficulty in the words is concerning the meaning of this phrase; of Christ’s being “declared 49to be the Son of God.” The word is which most frequently in Scripture does signify, predestinated, decreed, determined; but likewise signifies, that which is defined, declared, demonstrated, put out of all doubt and controversy: and in this sense our translation renders it. As if the apostle had said, that our Lord Jesus Christ, though, according to the frailty and weakness of his human nature, he was of the seed of David; yet, in respect of that Divine power of the Holy Ghost, which manifested itself in him, especially in his resurrection from the dead, he was “declared to be the Son of God, with power;” that is, mightily, powerfully demonstrated to be so; so as to put the matter out of all dispute and controversy.
And, therefore, following our own translation, I shall handle the words in this sense, as containing this proposition in them;—that the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead, by the Holy Ghost, is a powerful demonstration that he was the Son of God.
And it will conduce very much to the clearing of this proposition to consider these two things:
First, Upon what account Christ, as man, is said to be “the Son of God.
Secondly, In what sense he is said to be “declared to be the Son of God” by his resurrection from the dead. The consideration of these two particulars will fully clear this proposition, and the apostle’s meaning in it.
First, Upon what account Christ, as a man, is said to be “the Son of God.” And for our right apprehension of this matter, it is very well worthy our observation, that Christ, as man, is no wherein Scripture said to be “the Son of God,” but with relation to the 50Divine power of the Holy Ghost, some way or other eminently manifested in him; I say the Divine power of the Holy Ghost, as the Lord and Giver of life, as he is called in the ancient creeds of the Christian church. For as men are naturally said to be the children of those from whom they receive their life and being; so Christ, as man, is said to be the Son of God, because he had life communicated to him from the Father, by an immediate power of the Spirit of God, or the Holy Ghost. First, at his conception, which was by the Holy Ghost: the conception of our blessed Saviour was an immediate act of the power of the Holy Ghost, overshadowing, as the Scripture expresses it, the blessed mother of our Lord: and then at his resurrection, when, after his death, he was, by the operation of the Holy Ghost, raised to life again.
Now, upon these two accounts only, Christ, as man, is said in Scripture to be “the Son of God.” He was really so upon account of his conception; but this was secret and invisible; but most eminently and remarkably so, upon account of his resurrection, which was open and visible to all.
1. Upon account of his conception by the power of the Holy Ghost. That, upon this account, he was called the Son of God, St. Luke most expressly tells us, (Luke i. 35.) where the angel tells the Virgin Mary, that the Holy Ghost should come upon her, and the power of the Highest should overshadow her, and therefore that holy thing, which should be born of her, should be called the Son of God. And this our Saviour means, by the Father’s sanctifying him, and sending him into the world; for which reason, he says, he might justly call himself the Son of God: (John x. 35, 36.) “If ye called them gods, 51unto whom the word of God came, and the Scripture cannot be broken: say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest, because I said, I am the Son of God?” If there had been no other reason, this had been sufficient to have given him the title of the Son of God, that he was brought into the world by the sanctification, or Divine power, of the Holy Ghost.
2. Christ is also said in Scripture to be the Son of God, and to be declared to be so, upon account of his resurrection from the dead, by the power of the Holy Ghost. His resurrection from the dead is here in the text ascribed to the Spirit of holiness, or the Holy Ghost. And so in other places of Scripture: (Rom. viii. 11.) “If the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you:” and, (1 Pet. iii. 18.) “Being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit; that is, he suffered in that frail mortal nature which he assumed, but was raised again by the power of the Holy Ghost, of the Spirit of God which resided in him. And upon this account he is expressly said, in Scripture, to be the Son of God. (Psal. ii. 7.) “I will declare the decree; the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee:” to which, perhaps, the apostle alludes here in the text, when he says, that “Christ was decreed to be the Son of God, by his resurrection from the dead.” To be sure, these words, “this day have I begotten thee,” St. Paul expressly tells us were accomplished in the resurrection of Christ; as if God, by raising him from the dead, had begotten him, and decreed him to be his Son. (Acts xiii. 32, 33.) “And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers, God hath fulfilled the 52same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second Psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee.”
He was the Son of God before, as he was conceived by the Holy Ghost; but this was secret and invisible, and known only to the mother of our Lord: and therefore God thought fit to give a public and visible demonstration of it, so as to put the matter out of all question; he declared him in a powerful manner to be his Son, by giving him a new life after death, by raising him from the dead; and by this new and eminent testimony given to him, declared him again to be his Son, and confirmed the title which was given him before, upon a true but more secret account, of his being conceived by the Holy Ghost.
And as our Saviour is said to be the Son of God upon this twofold account, of his conception by the Holy Ghost, and his resurrection to life by the Spirit of God; so the Scripture (which does solicitously pursue a resemblance and conformity between Christ and Christians) does likewise, upon a twofold account (answerable to our Saviour’s birth and resurrection), call true believers and Christians the children of God; viz. upon account of their regeneration, or new birth, by the operation of the Spirit of God; and upon account of their resurrection to eternal life, by the power of the same Spirit.
Upon account of our regeneration, and becoming Christians by the power and operation of the Holy Spirit of God upon our minds, we are said to be the children of God, as being regenerated and born again by the Holy Spirit of God: and this is our first adoption: and for this reason the Spirit of God conferred 53upon Christians at their baptism, and dwelling and residing in (hem afterwards, is called the Spirit of adoption; (Rom. viii. 15.) “Ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby you cry, Abba, Father;” and (Gal. iv. 5, 6.) believers are said to “receive the adoption of sons; God having sent forth the Spirit of his Son into their hearts, crying, Abba, Father;” that is, all Christians, forasmuch as they are regenerated by the Holy Spirit of God, and having the Spirit of God dwelling in them, may with confidence call God Father, and look upon themselves as his children. So the apostle tells us, (Rom. viii. 14.) “That as many as are led (or acted) by the Spirit of God, are the sons of God.”
But though we are said to be children of God upon account of our regeneration, and the Holy Spirit of God dwelling and residing in Christians; yet we are eminently so, upon account of our resurrection to eternal life, by the mighty power of God’s Spirit. This is our final adoption and the consummation of it; and therefore, (Rom. viii. 21.) this is called “the glorious liberty of the sons of God,” because by this we are for ever “delivered from the bondage of corruption;” and by way of eminency, the adoption; viz. the redemption of our bodies.
We are indeed the sons of God before, upon account of the regenerating and sanctifying virtue of the Holy Ghost; but finally, and chiefly, upon account of our resurrection by the power of the Divine Spirit. So St. John tells us, that then we shall be declared to be the sons of God, after another manner than we are now: (1 John iii. 1.) “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God.” “Now 54we are the sons of God (that is, our adoption is begun in our regeneration and sanctification), but it doth not yet appear what we shall be;” we shall be much more eminently so at the resurrection. “We know, that when he shall appear, we shall be like him.”
But the most express and remarkable text to this purpose, is Luke xx. 35, 36. where good men, after the resurrection, are for this reason said to be the children of God, because they are the children of the resurrection. “But they who shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage; neither can they die any more; for they are equal to the angels, and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection.” For this reason they are said to be the children of God, because they are raised by him to a new life; and to be made partakers of that which is promised to them, and reserved for them. For all that are raised by the power of God out of the dust of the earth, are not therefore the children of God; but only they that have part in the blessed resurrection to eternal life, and do inherit the kingdom prepared for them. Not those who are raised to a perpetual death, and the resurrection of condemnation. These are not the children of God; but the children of wrath, and the children of perdition.
But the resurrection of the just, is the full and final declaration, that we are the children of God; not only because we are restored to a new life, but because, at the resurrection, we are admitted to the full possession of that blessed inheritance which is purchased for us, and promised to us.
And the Spirit of God, which is conferred upon believers in their regeneration, and afterwards dwells 55and resides in them, is the pledge and earnest of our final adoption, by our resurrection to eternal life; and upon this account and no other, is said to he the earnest of our future inheritance, and the seal and confirmation of it. (Eph. i. 13.) “In whom also, after that ye believed, ye were sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance, until the redemption of the purchased possession;” that is, the Holy Spirit of God, which Christians were made partakers of, upon their sincere belief of the Christian religion, is the seal and earnest of our resurrection to eternal life; as the apostle plainly tells us, in that remarkable text, (Rom. viii. 11.) “If the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies, by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.”
I have been the longer upon this, because it serves fully to explain to us those obscure phrases, of the seal and earnest, and first fruits of the Spirit, which many have mistaken to import some particular and spiritual revelation or impression, upon the minds of good men, assuring them of their salvation. Where as the apostle intended no more by them, but that the Spirit of God, which dwells in believers, enabling them “to mortify the deeds of the flesh, and to bring forth the fruits of the Spirit,” is a pledge and earnest to us of a blessed resurrection to eternal life by the power of the Spirit of God, which now dwells in ns, and is the same Spirit which raised up Jesus from the dead. And in this chapter, the Spirit of God is said (ver. 16.) to “bear witness to our spirits,” that is, to assure our minds, “that we are the children of God;” that is, that we are his children now, and consequently heirs of a glorious 56resurrection to eternal life: for so it follows in the next words, “And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may also be glorified together.” And this being glorified together with Christ at the resurrection, he calls, (ver. 19.) “the manifestation of the sons of God.” Thus you see how, in conformity to the Son of God, our elder brother, we are said to be the sons of God, because we are now regenerated, and shall, at the last day, be raised up to eternal life, by the power of the Spirit of God. I proceed to the
Second thing I propounded to speak to, for the clearing 1 of these words; namely, In what sense Christ is to be “declared, or demonstrated, to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead.” By which the apostle means these two things:
1. That by his resurrection from the dead he was approved by God to be the true Messias, and vindicated to the world from all suspicion of being a deceiver and impostor. And consequently, in the
2. Second place, That hereby God gave testimony to the truth and divinity of his doctrine.
1. By his resurrection from the dead, he was approved by God to be the true Messias, foretold by the prophets, and expected at that time by the Jews, and sufficiently vindicated to the world to be no deceiver and impostor.
And for our fuller understanding of this, we are to consider these two things:
(I.) What the apprehensions and expectations of the Jews were concerning the Messias. And,
(2.) What the many crimes were which they laid to our Saviour’s charge, and for which they condemned him.57
(1.) What the apprehensions and expectations of the Jews were concerning the Messias. And it is very plain from the evangelical history, that they generally apprehended these two things of him: that the Messias was to be the Son of God, and the King of Israel; and, therefore, that our Saviour, by affirming himself to be the Messias, did call himself “the Son of God,” and “the King of Israel.” John i. 41, Andrew tells his brother Simon, u we have found the Messias.” Ver. 45, Philip tells Nathanael, “we have found him of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write;” that is, the Messias. Ver. 49, Nathanael upon discourse with our Saviour, being convinced that he was the Messias, owns him in these terms; “Rabbi, thou art the Son of God, thou art the King of Israel.” John vi. 69, Peter declares his belief that he was the Christ, or the Messias, in these words; “We believe and are sure, that thou art the Son of the living God.” This appears likewise from the high priest’s question to him, (Matt. xxvi. 63.) “Art thou the Christ (that is, the Messias), the Son of the living God?” or, as it is in St. Mark, “the Son of the blessed;” compared with Pilate’s question, “Art thou the King of the Jews?” And when he was upon the cross, some reviled him under the notion of the Son of God; (Matt. xxvii. 40.) “If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross:” others, under the notion of the King of Israel; (ver. 42.) “If he be the King of Israel, let him come down from the cross.” From all which it is plain that the Jews expected and believed, that the true Messias was to be the Son of God, and the King of Israel; and who ever was not so, was a deceiver and impostor. But our Saviour affirmed himself to be the true 58Messias, and the Son of God. Now God, by raising him from the dead, did abundantly vindicate him to the world from all suspicion of imposture; and gave testimony to him, that he was all that he said of himself; viz. the true Messias, and the Son of God.
Which will further appear, if we consider (2dly), What were the crimes which the Jews laid to our Saviour’s charge, and for which they condemned him; and they were mainly these two—that, by giving himself out to be the Messias, he made himself King of Israel, and the Son of God. Of the first of these they accused him to Pilate, hoping by this accusation to make him guilty of sedition against the Roman government, for saying that he was the King of Israel. Of the other, they accused him to the chief priests, as being guilty of blasphemy, in that, not being the Messias, he called himself the Son of God. And upon this they laid the main stress, as being a thing that would condemn him by their law. They charged him with this in his life time, as appears by those words of our Saviour, (John x. 36.) “Say ye of him whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest, because I said, I am the Son of God?” And when he was arraigned before the chief priests, they accused him of this, and he owning this charge, “that he called himself the Son of God,” upon this they judged him guilty of death. (Matt. xxvi. 65, 66.) “Then the high-priest rent his clothes, and said, He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witness? behold, now ye have heard his blasphemy. What think ye? They answered, He is guilty of death.” And when Pilate told them, that he found no fault in him, they still instance 59in this as his crime, (John xix. 7.) “We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God/
Now, this being the crime which was charged upon him, and for which he was crucified, and put to death; God, by raising him up from the dead, and taking him up into heaven, gave testimony to him, that he was no impostor, and that he did not vainly arrogate to himself to be the Messias and the Son of God. God, by raising him from the dead, by the power of the Holy Ghost, gave a mighty demonstration to him, that he was the Son of God. For which reason he is said, by the apostle, (1 Tim. iii. 16.) to be “justified by the Spirit.” The Spirit gave testimony to him at his baptism, and by the mighty works that appeared in him in his lifetime; but he was most eminently and remarkably “justified by the Holy Ghost, by his resurrection from the dead;” God hereby bearing him witness, that he was unjustly condemned, and that he assumed nothing to himself, but what of right did belong to him, when he said he was the Messias, and the Son of God. For how could a man that was condemned to die for calling himself the Son of God, be more remarkably vindicated, and more clearly proved to be so, than by being raised from the dead, by the power of God?
And, 2dly, God did consequently hereby give testimony to the truth and divinity of our Saviour’s doctrine. Being proved by his resurrection to he the Son of God, this proved him to be a teacher sent by him, and that what he declared to the world was the mind and will of God. For this none was more likely to know, and to report truly to mankind, than the Son of God, who came from the 60bosom of his Father. And because the resurrection of Christ is so great a testimony to the truth of his doctrine, hence it is that St. Paul tells us, that the belief of this one article of Christ’s resurrection is sufficient to a man’s salvation; (Rom. x. 9.) “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” The reason is plain, because the resurrection of Christ confirmed the truth and divinity of his doctrine; so that the belief of our Saviour’s resurrection does, by necessary consequence, infer the belief of his whole doctrine. That God raised him from the dead, after he was condemned and put to death for calling himself the Son of God, is a demonstration that he really was the Son of God; and if he was the Son of God, the doctrine which he taught was true, and from God.
And thus I have shewn you, how the resurrection of Christ from the dead, is a powerful demonstration that he was the Son of God.
All that remains, is briefly to draw some practical inferences from the consideration of our Saviour’s resurrection.
First, To confirm and establish our minds in the belief of the Christian religion, of which the resurrection of Christ from the dead is so great a confirmation. And, therefore, I told you, that this one article is mentioned by St. Paul, as the sum and abridgment of the Christian faith; “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus Christ, and believe in thy heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” The belief of our Saviour’s resurrection doth, by necessary consequence, infer the belief of his whole doctrine; for he 61who believes that God raised him from the dead, after he was put to death for calling himself Son of God, cannot but believe him to be the Son of God; and consequently, that the doctrine which he delivered was from God.
Secondly, The resurrection of Christ from the dead assures us of a future judgment, and of the recompences and rewards of another world. That Christ was raised from the dead, is a demonstration of another life after this; and no man that believes the immortality of our souls, and another life after this, ever doubted of a future judgment; so that, by the resurrection of Christ from the dead, God hath given assurance unto all men of a future judgment, and consequently of the recompences and rewards of another world.
The consideration whereof ought to have a mighty influence upon us, more especially to these three purposes:
1st, To raise our minds above the present enjoyments of this life. Were but men convinced of this great and obvious truth, that there is an infinite difference between time and eternity, between a few days and everlasting ages; would we but some times represent to ourselves, what thoughts and apprehensions dying men have of this world, how vain and empty a thing it appears to them; how like a pageant and shadow it looks, as it passeth away from them; methinks none of these things could be a sufficient temptation to any man to forget God and his soul; but, notwithstanding all the present delights and allurements of sense, we should be strongly in tent upon the concernments of another world, and almost wholly taken up with the thoughts of the vast eternity which we are ready to enter into. For 62what is there in this world, this vast and howling wilderness, this rude and barbarous country, which we are but to pass through, which should detain and entangle our affections, and take off our thoughts from our everlasting habitation, from that better, and that heavenly country, where we hope to live and to be happy for ever?
2dly, The consideration of the rewards of another world should comfort and support us under the troubles and afflictions of this world. The hopes of a blessed resurrection are a very proper consideration to bear us up under the evils and pressures of this life. If we hope for so great a happiness hereafter, we may be contented to bear some afflictions in this world; because the blessedness which we expect will so abundantly recompense and outweigh our present sufferings. So the apostle assures us; (Rom. viii. 18.) “We know that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us.” The consideration whereof was that which made the primitive Christians to triumph in their sufferings, and in the midst of all their tribulations to “rejoice in the hopes of the glory of God;” because their sufferings did really prepare and make way for their glory. So the same apostle tells us, (2 Cor. iv. 17, 18.) “Our light afflictions, which are but for a moment, work for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; whilst we look not at the things which are seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
3dly and lastly, The assurance of our future reward is a mighty encouragement to obedience and a holy life. What greater encouragement can we 63have than this, that all the good which we do in this world will accompany us into the other? That “when we rest from our labours, oar works will follow us?” That when we shall be stripped of other things, and parted from them, these will still remain with us, and bear us company? Our riches and honours, our sensual pleasures and enjoyments, will all take their leave of us, when we leave this world; nay, many times they do not accompany us so far as the grave, but take occasion to forsake us, when we have the greatest need and use of them: but piety and virtue are “that better part which cannot be taken from us.” All the good actions which we do in this world will go along with us into the other, and, through the merits of our Redeemer, procure for us, at the hands of a gracious and merciful God, a glorious and eternal reward; not according to the meanness of our services, but according to the bounty of his mind, and the vastness of his treasures and estate.
Now, what an encouragement is this to holiness and obedience, to consider that it will all be our own another day; to be assured that whoever serves God faithfully, and does suffer for him patiently, does lay up so much treasure for himself in another world, and provides lasting comforts for himself, and faithful and constant companions, that will never leave him nor forsake him?
Let us, then, do all the good we can, while we have opportunity, and serve God with all our might; knowing, that no good action that we do shall be lost and fall to the ground, that every grace and virtue that we exercise in this life, and every degree of them, “shall receive their full recompence at the resurrection of the just.”64
How should this inspire us with resolution, and zeal, and industry in the service of God, to have such a reward continually in our eye; how should it tempt us to our duty, to have a crown and a kingdom offered to us, “joys unspeakable and full of glory, such things as eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man?” And “such are the things which God hath laid up for them who love him heartily, and serve him faith fully in this world.”65
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