Sermon preached at Rye Lane Chapel on Sunday morning 18th September 1932
"The kindness and the love toward man of God our Saviour " Titus 3:4
You will notice that the order of the words in our text is somewhat different
from that in the Authorised Version.
In the original the three words "love towards man" are comprehended in one word. It is a word, which has been transported almost literally into our own language in the word "philanthropy." It means radically "love towards man." It would not be proper it seems to me, to dogmatise upon the difference between God's kindness and God's love towards man. It maybe that God's kindness is providential, but this much is certain, God's love is redemptive. It would be difficult to find a testimony in the New Testament to the love of God, which is not associated with the Lord Jesus Christ. Not only is it linked with the Lord Jesus Christ but also it is intimately related in particular to His work at Calvary. There maybe isolated texts which do not at once establish that relationship but speaking generally it maybe declared that the love of God towards man is set forth in the New Testament in Jesus Christ, and in particular in His work at Calvary. That is to say the love of God towards man is essentially redemptive. God brought His love to its consummation in the blood of His on for our eternal salvation.
That love toward man was provoked not by any eminently attractive element in man but by that deep passionate characteristic in God- His mercy. The action of man that could be in any sense acceptable to God would be moral. When man thinks of himself and judges himself he looks at his achievements, his science, his art, his literature, his knowledge, his inventions and looking so, most men are eminently satisfied with themselves. However God tests man by his moral and spiritual condition and there in that realm he is a hopeless failure. The bible is a mirror reflecting two great facts. It sets forth the exceeding love of God in redemption but it no less sets forth the exceeding sinfulness of man. And Paul implies here that when God saw the revolting condition of the heart of man in sin there was nothing in man to prompt such an awful price as the blood of Jesus Christ. It was not man's attractiveness, man's sterling qualities that induced Calvary; it was the mercy of God and the measure of His mercy is demonstrated in the length His love went for our salvation. I want you this evening to review this Divine philanthropy as it is revealed as an action of God and then as it operates through our response to it.
1)The Divine Philanthropy in activity:
The end of God's love is the regeneration of man and all that springs from it. Properly the love of God does not become active until regeneration. The word regeneration occurs in the New Testament only twice. In the other reference Matthew 19:28, it refers to world regeneration still in the future, but here it refers to the individual. It is, as its radicals indicate, a being born again. Our Lord declared to Nicodemus, "Ye must be born again." The man of the world stumbles at this truth but it has the Divine seal of our Lord and is infallible. Today men are seized of a sense of the futility of life. I met a man this week, not a believer, who assured me that in his view life as it was today with its worries, its needs and its anxieties was hardly worth living and he felt frequently that death was a most desired haven. Fundamentally world philosophy is pessimistic; it must be so. Actually it is, for outside of the Living Body of Christ, while there may be pious anticipations, there is nothing but perpetual disappointments. Is life worth living? This is a frequent question. What is the answer? The great value of being born in the flesh, the only value lies here being born of the will of man, we may by the grace of God be born again of the Life-giving Spirit and become partakers of the Divine nature.
If we are thus regenerated, life is abundantly worth living, no matter how great its privations and poverty. If we are not regenerated, born again, then life is an utter failure, no matter how great its wealth and position.A man being born again, God designs that he shall be entirely renewed. Just as he has grown from babyhood through to manhood in the flesh, so also being born again of the Spirit he does not continue as a babe in the Spirit, but grows into full manhood in the Holy Spirit, and that is achieved by the ministry of the Holy Spirit in him. The Holy Spirit is indeed the key to this mystery of regeneration. Even as He quickened Mary and brought forth the Son of God Incarnate, so He quickens the man dead in sin and brings forth a new life which He sustains, increases and perfects into the image of Christ, transforming the character.
The Spirit is sent forth, richly poured forth, says Paul, upon us by the Father. The Holy Spirit is God's gift to men. He comes to us because of our Saviour Jesus Christ who, on the ground of His atoning work at Calvary, has been exalted. The life principle of His exaltation is this, that He can invoke and communicate the very life of God to mortal men and women by the Holy Spirit. It is in this work of the Holy Spirit in bringing the life of God to birth in men, in sustaining it and increasing it, that God's love toward men is demonstrated and God's salvation finds its consummation. Let it not be forgotten: there is no Christian salvation without Christian character and there is no Christian character without the Christian salvation. There can be no true belief in Jesus Christ as Saviour, which does not receive the Holy Spirit to produce Christian character and Christ-likeness and there can be no Christ-likeness without acceptance of salvation in Christ our Saviour.
2 )The Divine Philanthropy Accepted:
You will notice that the verse says: "by the washing of regeneration." The word there means, " bath," and we may take it that here is a connection with the Christian rite of baptism. In the Anglican Church you have in the Book of Common Prayer the doctrine of baptismal regeneration. The vicar sprinkles a baby with water and declares it is thereby regenerated and made a child of God and an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven. If the parents neglect to have the child sprinkled by the vicar, the child is not an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven and if it dies is eternally lost. I need hardly say that the doctrine is destroyed by its very logic. If I thought that God determined the eternal future of a helpless baby of three months old by the question of a few drops of water, in the matter of which it could not decide or have any voice, then I should be bound to range myself on the side of my moral nature, fallen though it be.
Now let me say that Paul knew nothing about the sprinkling of infants. The Pope of Rome knows all about it, but amongst many other things, the Pope differs from Peter in this that Peter knew nothing about the sprinkling of infants to make them eternally saved. We shall see in the result that this is quite clear. If mere baptism saves them, salvation is not moral, it is mechanical, it is sacramental and not spiritual. It is contrary to that light which lighteth every man coming into the world. Paul himself clears the truth entirely in his letter to the Ephesians. Using this same word here translated "washing" and speaking, of the church he declared, (v. 25 26) " Husbands love your wives even as Christ also loved the church and gave himself for it; that He might sanctify it having cleansed it with the washing of water by the word." That is to say, the washing of water is not an empty sacrament, the meaning and significance of which is to be filled in by tradition and custom; on the contrary, the washing by water is in accordance with the Word. The cleansing water is in accordance with the cleansing Word. " Now ye are clean, " said our Lord to his disciples, "through the Word, which I have spoken unto you." In the New Testament that word of cleansing is through the precious blood of Jesus Christ; for "the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin."
What then is the washing of water? There would be no difficulty in this matter
had we not separated in practice two experiences that go together in the New
Testament. In the early church, when a man took Christ as his Saviour, confessing
his sins, he believed the promise of God that through the Lord Jesus he had
received the Holy Spirit. That Spirit being given for the express purpose of
transforming His life and character. Immediately he testified to the grace thus
received by being baptised. Every case of baptism in the New Testament will
demonstrate that fact; the bath of regeneration being that outward testimony
in the washing of the body to the fact of the inner experience of the Spirit.
Today you have Christians coming to the Table of the Lord who have never openly
confessed they have received the Life-giving Spirit through the blood of the
Lord Jesus Christ, but in the early church it was not so. Immediately faith
laid hold of the work of Calvary, the believer confessed that experience in
the washing of his body in pure water.
From the moment of baptism he desired that life should be wholly dedicated to the will of the Holy Spirit that he might be utterly renewed in spirit, sou1 and body, and in this solemn surrender, baptism of the water was accompanied by the baptism of the spirit. Such is the testimony of the Scripture, such the experience and witness of the early church. The Divine philanthropy found its response its in the hearts of those who yielded to the Spirit given out of Calvary that they might be clean in the image of the Lord who redeemed them. Cleansed within by the Spirit, they offered their bodies for that washing whereby it was declared that in the body the Spirit of the Glorified Christ should exercise His activity and achieve His will. Immersion, therefore was the practice of the Church, because as the whole character and spirit of the men was regenerated by the Spirit, even so, the whole body should be washed. Having thus confessed to the presence of the Life-givng Spirit indwelling the body through repentance and faith, and having been washed in water the disciple was received into the fellowship of the Lord's people and sat down at the Table of redeeming love. This is the meaning of our fellowship. To this every member on our Church Roll is pledged, and those hearts are contrary to it have no place in our assembly. This, no less, is the intention of those baptised tonight.
Let me speak a word to the unbaptised believer here in our midst. We are not preaching a mere meaningless ceremony, but declaring a witness bound up in the very heart of the Gospel. Let me invite you to the waters to the place where you should have immediately repaired when you took the Lord as your Saviour. Hesitate no longer!
May I speak a word no less to the unbeliever? God's love, His philanthropy is manifested in His glorious activity in the Holy Spirit transforming the character of men into the likeness of Christ. It is beyond the power of any mortal man to do this by himself. But by the precious blood of Jesus Christ our Exalted Lord, the Spirit is given to whosoever will, and in the hearts of those who receive Him, He will produce the very image of the Lord Who has redeemed us. May I most tenderly invite you tonight to Calvary, there to know your sins forgiven and the Holy Spirit given to indwell your heart. Having received the Spirit do you plunge the body beneath the waters that heaven may know and the world may know and the church may know, that spirit, soul and body you belong to Jesus Christ Saviour and Lord.
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