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"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)

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  • « Not Pursuing Justice | Main | Book Review: The Expository Genius of John Calvin. By Dr. Steven Lawson »

    Images of the Savior (21 – The Accusation of Partnership with Beelzebub)

    And if I cast out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore, they shall be your judges. But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the Kingdom of God has come upon you. – Matthew 12:27-28

    It is an immutable principle of justice that, the devastation attendant upon the folly of rejecting an offered gift or mercy must be in proportion to the freeness with which it is offered, and the greatness of its substance; and likewise, the guilt which inheres in slanderously accusing any man is in exact proportion to that man's greatness and righteousness. Let us lay this principle to heart – for if we have been offered the freest gift of mercy, a gift so vast that all the heavens raining down blessings for all eternity could never exhaust its riches, then woe, woe, woe to us if we should refuse it! The greatness of our folly would then be unequaled by all the dark and superstitious abominations wrought by all the heathen tribes of the world, throughout all of time – and the destruction which should come upon us in result of our immense folly would be too great and terrible to express. And ah, if we should be confronted with the person of Jesus, who alone possesses all the greatness of God wrapped up in all the meekness of a spotless Lamb – who has all the treasures of the boundless Godhead to give to us, and all the demeanor which should encourage us to come and take them up freely, however unworthy we may be – then what shall our fate be, if we have despised such a One? If he who at all offended that earthly king Ahasuerus found himself trembling in fear of his life (Esther 7:5-6), then how should we fear who have spit in the face of the King of kings? “If he who rejects the Law of Moses dies without mercy at the mouth of two or three witnesses, of how much worse punishment do you suppose he will be considered worthy, who has trampled upon the Son of God, and considered the blood of the covenant with which he was sanctified unclean, and reviled the Spirit of grace” (Hebrews 10:28-29)? In the account at hand, we see an unequaled gift of mercy offered by an incomparably great man – and we see the fearful result of despising so great a gift. Let us be careful that we are not among the ranks of those who blaspheme the Spirit of grace, or all the terrors of divine judgment will rain down upon our heads with immense and eternal fury!

    How well did Isaiah prophesy of Christ the words which Matthew recorded for us just before our account (Matthew 12:17-21; Isaiah 42:1-4), and how marvelously did our Savior fulfill his words! Truly, this man Jesus walked the earth with the love of the Father and the power of the Spirit abounding upon him, and truly did he use his time among men to bring the victorious judgment of the gospel to them, so that even the Gentiles might hope in his Name; truly, he walked meekly and quietly among mankind, and was so gentle among them all that the slightest smoldering of hope in his gospel-promises was not quenched by his demeanor; truly, he filled the world with his healing mercies, not considering the most bruised and broken reed unworthy of his restorative touch. And the most poignant display of these truths came when he delivered a blind and dumb demon-possessed man, so that the dumb spoke and the blind saw. Where could have been found a more terribly bruised reed than this? He was helpless in the power of Satan, unable to look for the cure with his eyes, or to ask for the cure with his mouth – even as the rest of us bruised children of Satan, who are blinded by his lies, and helplessly under his authority (II Corinthians 4:3-4). In this demonstration of mercy, let us observe three things: first, Jesus was immeasurably great – for he was able even to bind and defeat that great enemy of mankind, the Devil, and so free those captives most securely in his grasp; second, he possessed the greatest treasure that could ever be given, and that is, deliverance from Satan's kingdom, with its eternal portion of darkness and captivity, disease and despair, hatred, wrath, sickness, and pain; and third, he offered this gift most freely and gently, not terrifying this helpless man with his greatness nor demanding anything from him in exchange, but healing him by his own grace alone. Let us remember that our case was just as his, and that we who have received the gospel-gift of Jesus were likewise blessed with the greatest power working the mightiest wonder in the meekest and most comforting way. There is no other man like Jesus, and there is no other gift like that which he gives to the most miserable men.

    But now, we must look ahead to those men who, having seen all the greatness and meekness of Jesus, and the vastness and freeness of his gift, chose to slander him instead of embracing him with all his gospel-riches. When they saw this mighty miracle, they said, “This man does not cast out demons except by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons”. Let us consider Jesus' response to their foolish blasphemy.

    First, he showed the folly and inconsistency by which they accused him. How foolish to suppose that Satan could further his kingdom by casting himself out, freeing his own captives, and dividing himself against himself. No kingdom so acting can long survive. These Pharisees, blinded by their jealousy, were thrust into the depths of ridiculous folly in order to circumvent the confession which right reason demanded, at this display of Jesus' healing power. Furthermore, they were compelled to the grossest self-contradiction, claiming that those among them who cast out demons did so by the Name of God – but this man, who cast out more than they all, and with greater ease and authority, yes, and even in his own Name – he must be casting out demons with demonic power. See what foolishness and blatant inconsistencies proud men are willing to offer, rather than accept God's free gift of grace?

    Then, after having destroyed their wicked cavils, Jesus gives them the true doctrine to which his mighty works gave witness; and that is, that Jesus had overcome Satan and his Kingdom, he had brought down to earth the unstoppable and all-powerful Kingdom of God, and he was now in the process of snatching hopeless men from their kingdom of bondage and darkness, and giving them citizenship in his marvelous Kingdom of freedom and light.

    Next, he applied this truth which much force and precision, laying bare their own wicked thoughts and deeds. It is an unexceptional truth that all men are either in the Kingdom of God or the kingdom of Satan. All are either slaves to sin and free from righteousness, or else free from sin and blessed slaves of righteousness, who cannot but do good, and who rejoice to do so (see Romans 6:15-23). Furthermore, it is unexceptionally the case that those who are Satan's captives will overflow in wickedness, by their words and deeds; but those who are in God's Kingdom will overflow in truth and mercy. A good tree cannot produce only foul fruit, and a foul tree cannot at all produce good fruit. Inasmuch as these men were overflowing with hatred and slander, they were showing that they were prisoners of Satan's kingdom, and opposed to God and his Messiah.

    And finally, he turned this poignant application to a most terrible condemnation. They had despised the greatest of all men and rejected the greatest of all gifts – and their punishment would be eternal and inescapable. There was nothing to be offered other than what they had already rejected; and having judged themselves unworthy of so free and vast a gift, they had nothing left to await, “but a fearful expectation of judgment, and an insatiable fire which will soon devour those who are opposed” (Hebrews 10:27). Christ is the greatest of men, indeed very God in human flesh; who can accomplish a greater victory than that which he accomplished? His freely-offered gift includes in its essence every good and delightful gift, indeed the eternal joy of fellowship in the very presence of God; what good thing is left to give to those who reject the gospel? And finally, the Spirit of God brings this gift and this power to the very doors of a man's heart, presenting it before him with all gentleness and grace; who will offer this gift, when they have slandered and blasphemed even the Holy Spirit? So Jesus solemnly testified that, having rejected this most blessed of all gifts, wrought by the mightiest and humblest of all men, and testified to with the greatest clarity and power, through the ministry and operation of the Holy Spirit, by whose power Jesus carried out all his ministry; these Jews were finally and forever condemned. No mercy remained. The day of salvation had set upon them, and oh, what horrors of darkness the coming night possessed!

    O reader, has the Spirit of God whispered in your soul his words of conviction and truth, offering to you the matchless comfort and grace of the gospel-work of Christ, obtained when he crushed the head of the Serpent with all power, and arose victorious from the grave with the keys of death and hell in his hand (Revelation 1:17-18)? Oh, do not despise this grace! Oh, do not say in your heart, “A little longer, and then I shall come.”! If you do not heed the Spirit's working now, whose offer will you accept later? If you do not find this gift of mercy satisfying now, what good thing is left to offer, which you have not already rejected? If you are not touched with the power of Jesus' mercy, who shall be strong enough to deliver you from the power of his wrath? O reader, the day of salvation may at any time decline, and what eternal horrors of fury and terror must then confront you, I could never express. Is not Jesus altogether lovely, and as great as he is meek and gentle? Is not the gospel the greatest good that could ever be met with? Then do not despise this Savior and reject his gift, or the greatness of your folly and the vile depths of your blasphemy against the Spirit's offers will abound forever to your eternal misery and destruction.

    Posted by Nathan on May 8, 2007 09:39 AM

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