God's Work crowned by Christians

Heb. 11:39,40.---' These all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise; God having provided some better thing for us, that they without [RV 'apart from'] us should not be made perfect.'

It is a good thing at times to reflect upon the audacity of the claims that are made in the New Testament. Here is a writer sending a message of encouragement to a small sect who had separated themselves from the Jews through faith in Jesus. They had cut themselves adrift from the great traditions of their nation, and this writer has taken them through their history, and recalled all the mighty heroes of the past, as a teacher might take a class of boys today through the National Portrait Gallery and show them men who have built this nation. So he takes them through this "portrait gallery," shows to them the builders of that national temple from which they thought they were cut away. It seems as if the argument should be: 'These are the heroes, and you are leaving them; they are the men who have made you, and you are apostates from them.' It seems as if he should have said: 'You need them. You cannot do without them, without their power, their example, their inspiration.' What he does say is, 'They need you. Without you they would not be made perfect. You have something they longed to have and never received. You have the promise to which they stretched out their hands in longing, in faith and in hope, and which they never found.'

Words like these are not alone in the New Testament, and yet if we think about them for a moment they are very strange and very wonderful. That, in point of time, a few Hebrews should dare to claim that they had in their hands the treasure for which the world had waited, the treasure which the world would never exhaust; that they were living in the last days of the world, the last spiritual stage of mankind! Yet to us who can look back over all these centuries, the boasts has been justified, and let us include in that word 'us' not only those who lived at that time, but all the Christian ages. We are one in the spiritual truth which we possess, in power which is given to us. We have not outgrown their Christ after all these years, and it can be said of us, as it could be said of them, that we hold in our keeping the treasure that men longed to find and did not find.

Obviously, it is true that in all these saints, prophets, and heroes had been a growth towards something, a development in the history of Israel, a development that was leading somewhere. There are people today who talk vaguely of 'progress' without any attempt to understand the thing before them towards which they may make progress. This writer maintains that all the saints, heroes, friends of God were waiting, incomplete, until something should come. That something, he says, is yours. They longed for it; you have it. Apart from you, they cannot be made perfect.

It is not as if these men were moving towards a new principle; they were always men of faith. But it was the crowning word that they needed, and this crowning word had come in Jesus Christ. It was the mighty act of God that they waited for, and the mighty act of God had been wrought in Jesus Christ. As we read the Old Testament, we cannot but be conscious that there is a sort of expectancy about it, an air of incompleteness. They are waiting. Sometimes as we read it seems as if they had reached the very limit, and could almost stretch out their hands and touch the Cross of Christ. And yet they do not take that last step. In the Book of Job and in the 53rd chapter of Isaiah you are very near the Cross of Christ. One step more and you will be their; but you are not quite there. The author is still waiting for the final word of God in Jesus Christ. And the picture here is given of this mighty cloud of witnesses looking on at the race, not simply to cheer you and me on, but waiting for us to come, waiting for our work to be done, that their work may be completed. They wait for the revelation of the sons of God. The Apostle Paul, in a great and somewhat difficult passage, represents not only mankind, but all created things, as waiting for something---waiting for the revelation of the sons of God.

The truth of the New Testament is that that for which they waited has come. It is here, now, always, forever. It is not simply the Apostles who claimed that; it is our Lord Himself. After praising John the Baptist, He said: 'Greatest of those that have passed; no prophet has been greater than he, but he that is but little in the kingdom of God is greater than he.' In the Gospels Christ spoke with the air of one who is bringing in the final age of mankind. That truth has been brought home to us in our day amidst a great many errors, by those who lay stress upon the teaching of Christ concerning the final things, upon what at the heart of it is but this---that the Apostles believed that they were living in the last age. You can interpret that in terms of time, if you like, but you need not. They were living in the same age---the age of Jesus Christ. It was the last age. If they thought the end was nearer than it has proved to be, it does not affect the main truth of their claim. Nothing between them and the end but Christ. There is nothing between us and the end---whenever that end may come---but Christ. 'Apart from us'---because we have found the one word for which they longed; we have taken that one step; we have come into the kingdom of which they dreamed, for which they looked and which they never saw. We have entered into it.

There are three steps in the Santa Scala which the race is slowly and painfully ascending: barbarism, where men cultivate the body, civilization, where they cultivate the intellect, holiness, where they cultivate the soul. There is for the whole race, for each nation, for every individual, the age of Homer, the age of Socrates, the age of Jesus. Beyond the age of Jesus nothing can be desired or imagined, for it runs on those lofty table-lands where the soul lives with God.

Do we really believe that we find Christ the final word of God---the great Redeemer---to His own age and to the end? If it were simple that Christ came to teach a new philosophy, we could not look back to any one point in time for that. But what Christ was and what He did was more that what He said. What He said was an application of great truth to the immediate need of the moment, and we can interpret that in our way and to meet our own needs. What Christ did was to create a new life, to bring a new birth to men, to bring a new order of beings, to lift them into His resurrection life, where they lived on another plane, where now, here, the Kingdom of God could be enjoyed and His power could be used. It was for that reason that they said, 'We live in the last days, in the last age, and there is nothing between us and the end but Christ. He is all-sufficient for us, and He will be all-sufficient for all men. Apart from us they cannot be made perfect, for we have found the one redeeming act of God and made it our own.'

Our Lord is the crown, no, the very substance of all Revelation. If He cannot convince the soul, no other can. The believer stakes all faith on His truth; all hope on His power. If the man of Science would learn what it is that makes believers so sure of what they hold, he must study with an open heart the Jesus of the Gospels; if the believer seeks to keep his faith steady in the presence of so many and sometimes so violent storms of disputation, he will read of, ponder on, pray to, the Lord Jesus Christ.

There are several burdens that lie upon us when we realize this fact. The first is that we are, whether we like it or not, called to be the trustees of God's final word to mankind in Christ Jesus. We have this given into our trust, and we must keep it. We shall never escape from it, however much we may try to do so; and with all the difficulty and apparent inequality of it we have to stand for this great truth, that God has entrusted to us a place in the story of the world such as He did not give to the prophets of the world before Christ, that to us is given the task to complete the work they began, and that without us they can never be made perfect. When you read of the cloud of witnesses around you, think of them as a cloud of witnesses waiting still unto God's purposes have been fulfilled in this world.

Then there comes the almost intolerable sense of sin in our hearts when we think of these things. Somehow we allow anything to come in between us and our calling in Christ Jesus---any of the passing things of the world we allow to rob us of the highest dignity that God ever gave to men, to rob us of it in such a fashion that it seems incredible to us. What sort of men should we be if we really believed that for us the end of the earth had come and that we had in our possession God's great last word, that we were living in the last spiritual stage of mankind? The Christ's voice says to us in our weakness and insufficiency, 'Thy strength can still be made perfect in weakness. I have called age after age since the day of My flesh to enter into this inheritance, and they have all refused it, and now I come to you. Will you also fail Me?' That is what Christ is saying to us in our generation. 'Will you also go away?' There is only one answer that the Christian heart can make. The task is impossible, the dignity is one of which we are utterly unworthy. The claim is almost ridiculous in the sight of all men. But I have it on the word of Christ. I believe it, and by His grace I will live for it. He says to us, 'Will you also go away? You of this generation, you can offer to Me the thing that I have longed for. Will you also go away?' We say, 'Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life.'

In Christ, timothy. maranatha