Sermon preached at Rye Lane Chapel 10th July 1932.
"Verily, I say unto you, he that believeth on Me, all that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do, because I go unto my Father. And whatsoever ye shall ask in My Name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son." John 14: 12-13.
This is a day when the ecclesiastical organisations of our country are deeply concerned about the feebleness of their impact upon society. It would serve no useful purpose to attempt the catalogue of expedients designed to transform that feebleness into strength. None of them is of any use whatsoever that ignores the deep principle here set forth in the text, and it is for me to apprehend by the Holy Spirit the truth here contained that it may be a life power in our own experience. It will come as a breeze from the hills to observe that the promise is to the individual who believes and applies to whatsoever he shall ask. This verse by itself is sufficient to sweep into eternal oblivion those pretensions of episcopacy and papacy, which seek to "reserve" the mysteries to earth-appointed ecclesiastics.
This verse is for him who believes on the Lord Christ. It is within the glorious possibility of every child of God here, whether your intellectual powers have had wide expansive culture or whether they were abruptly terminated at fourteen. We sin against the Holy Spirit when we unduly emphasise temporal considerations.
The deep challenge, however, which confronts us in the text is inescapable. Greater works possible through you or through me than He did! It seems incredible, and if it is true, what an awful withering condemnation of our modern Christendom! His words are emphatic; being introduced by that" Verily, verily" with which He so frequently prefaced the utterances He would have riveted on the memory of his children. We will therefore take His words prayerfully and earnestly in deep and earnest concern lest we miss the blessing. No man of the flesh can teach us of the mystery; we shall need Him who is for us the Spirit of truth and we shall need to be submissive and teachable.
One of the great lessons to be learned early in spiritual enlightenment is that God does not merely set before us objectives and goals but He indicates very clearly His particular method, unique and distinctive, by which the goal is to be reached, the purpose realised. For want of this clear understanding many Christians are found sharing a purpose with the world and united with the world in its method. Satan has been quick to seize the opportunity. He takes hold of the fleshly mind, spurs it with an ideal but holds it to methods outside of Calvary. And all too readily many sincere but unenlightened Christians use the methods of the world, hoping the purpose of Christ will be ultimately realised through them. That is a fatal delusion! It means the paralysis of Calvary, the deadliest design of Satan. There is no way into the greater works here intimated by our Lord except through the narrow way, which He indicates in this utterance. To that we must carefully attend.
Let us first of all, seek to understand the essential principle of our Lord's earthly ministry as it concerns His works. Upon this our Lord gives us light. Fundamental to His works is His relationship with the Father, "I am in the Father, and the Father in Me." That indicates a glorious union expressed most emphatically in the Father's infinite love for His Beloved Son and the Son's unquenchable love for the Father. The place of this intercommunion, this interpenetration of Being was the heart.
Out of this interpenetration, this indwelling of the Father, proceeded the works of the Son "The Father that dwelleth in Me, He doeth the works." It is as an indwelt Son that He is the executive of the Father's energy. This is God the Father working in the midst of common men and women through the Son, Who by reason of that life-union of nature, is the perfect agent of the Father's power.
As to the Son He was in perfect submission to the Father. Our Lord puts this very clearly on another occasion," Verily, verily I say unto you the Son can do nothing of himself, but what He seeth the Father do: for what things soever He doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise." Such was His obedience that, in the days of His flesh, He lived forth in perfect surrender the energy of the Father. This was the secret of His works.
Now the vital explanation of the greater works of the believer is to be found in that word " because." He Who has been indwelt by the Father for His mighty works now goes to the Father that the greater works may be done through the redeemed sinner. We shall find something here for our reflection and amazement. We can understand that Jesus should do such mighty works through the Father dwelling in Him, but how is it that the Ascended Christ can do more through us than the Father was able to do through HIM? This is indeed a mystery, first to stagger our faith and then to bow us down in deepest humility before the Glorified One. Oh, that we may receive it!
Let us then seek to understand the essential principle of the believer's activity.
Fundamentall to all spiritual growth and usefulness is this deep truth of the
eternal union of the believer with the Christ on the Throne. Union with the
Christ of Galilee was and ever will be an utter impossibility. But Jesus has
ascended, taking into the glory the body of our humanity and it has
been enthroned as very Deity. The writer to the Hebrews declares, "But unto the Son, He saith, Thy throne, 0h God, is for ever and ever; a sceptre of righteousness is a sceptre of Thy kingdom." He is no longer the Jesus of the flesh, but the Jesus Who has baptised His uncreated life in blood and in the victory of the Cross, shaken off the principalities and powers and united eternally the nature of God and man in Himself. The believer, apprehending Jesus by faith as his Saviour receives the Spirit and becomes by grace a partaker of the Divine nature, in living and eternal union with the Enthroned Christ who died for him at Calvary.
And even as the Father energises the Son and did His mighty works through Him, so the Glorified Son energises the believer and does His greater works through him. It is this we must desire earnestly to look into. Let us recognise that here we have a fact of revelation. "The Holy Spirit was not yet, because Jesus was not yet glorified." And Jesus could not be glorified until He had swept aside all Principalities and powers in His blood. It would seem as if sin was a power holding the might of Deity in check until Jesus broke the tyranny at Calvary, and in the flesh, by the Holy Spirit set free man and the Holy Spirit. We do well to keep very close to the word of Scripture, and therein we see the Father was working through an "emptied" Son, but in the believer the Exalted Son of Glorious Life and Victory works in the power of His Throne in the Heavenlies.
What then is the position of the believer? Paul makes it quite clear in his epistle to the Ephesians that he is already in Christ, in the heavenlies with Him, seated as He is seated. That is to say, all the victory and power secured by our Lord when He stripped Satan at Calvary and passed through into the glory, all His victory and power are available for the believer. It is as an enthroned believer indwelt by the Spirit of the Enthroned Lord, that we are in this world.
Two great activities follow and upon these the greater works depend. The Authorised Version gives us: "He that believeth on Me." The literal translation would be- "He that believeth into me." The believer must trust himself utterly and fully into the power of the enthroned Christ. Any trusting of the earthly Jesus, or any refusal to recognise the present exaltation of the God-Man, must be attended with feebleness in spiritual achievement. The call to all God's children is to a mighty, implicit trust which utterly confides in the Glorious One who had mastered Hell, triumphing over Satan in Calvary and whose Victory has been sealed in His present exaltation. And the believer must be sure no less according to the Word of God, as He is enthroned, so is the believer.
Life power is opened up in that faith and it is brought down in prayer. It is not enough to trust; we must pray. It is not enough to pray; we must be sure of His Throne and of ours with Him! But being sure, let us pray. He promises do whatever we shall ask in the way and power of the Throne. The difference this will make in our praying may be seen in two experiences of our Lord. In the Garden of Gethsemane, he was weighed down by the sin of the world and almost brought to death by exhaustion. So that to deliver Him an angel comes to strengthen Him in that Garden, Jesus pleads for the cup to pass while exclaiming, nevertheless, not My will but Thine be done. In that prayer Jesus is right close to our humanity. In His high priestly prayer, however, uttered in the full consciousness of His mediatorial rights in Calvary, He exclaims: "Father I will." Those awful contrasts have secrets too deep for our comprehension, but they serve our purpose. In the weakness of the flesh we plead, but in the mighty dynamic of the Spirit we shall will in the perfect will of the Father.
Here lies the secret of the greater works. The glorified Son will accomplish them through the believer humbled low before Him, and yet living in the consciousness of His life on the Throne with the Ascended Lord. He who trusts into Christ like that and prays in the consciousness of the sovereignty of the Indwelling Spirit will be an agent of those mighty works to the glory of the Father in the Son.
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