The Nature of Christian Existence
Geoffrey J. Paxton
Geoffrey J. Paxton is an Anglican clergyman and principal of the Oueensland Bible Institute, Brisbane, Australia.
Editor's Note: We promised to publish some material on
the nature of Christian existence, presented by The Australian Forum in its 1973
visit to the United States. The following is a transcript of Professor Geoffrey
J. Paxton's talk to the students and faculty at Grace Bible Institute, Omaha,
Nebraska, November 6, 1973. This lecture was delivered with great vigor and conviction.
Geoffrey Paxton is a college president himself, and he understands students.
Those who think young
people will only listen to subjective, "romantic" evangelicalism should
have seen the rapt attention with which those students listened to real theology.
Professor Paxton took off his clerical coat, rolled up his evangelical sleeves
this address without notes, straight from the heart. We thought our
readers would enjoy this material more if we forego formal literary finesse and
reproduce the talk as given with the salt and pepper of Paxton's Australian idioms
and Down Under humor.
We want to talk about a subject that is extremely important. Therefore I want to make a special plea that you give me your undivided attention from beginning to end.
One of the great tragedies of the evangelical church today is that it stresses God's
work in us by the Holy Spirit to the near exclusion (and in some instances certainly the exclusion) of God's
work for us in Christ. But there is another tragedy that we would like to highlight. Not only does the evangelical church stress God's work in
us through the Spirit to the exclusion of God's work for us in Christ, but insofar as God's work for
us in Christ is imperfectly understood, God's work in us by the Spirit is wrongly presented.
What I am saying is no mean statement. We need to stress God's work for us in Christ, and we need to stress God's work in
us by the Spirit. But we need to stress God's work for us to the degree that the New Testament stresses God's work for
us, and we need to stress God's work in us in the way that the New Testament stresses it. We must have a New Testament understanding of what it means for God to be at work in the believer. We need to understand the way the New Testament talks about God's work in the believer. We need to understand the nature of Christian existence.
I want to make two introductory statements about Christian existence:
1. We in The Australian Forum believe utterly in the sovereignty
of God. But we must realize that God's sovereignty in creation and salvation
in no way diminishes the necessity of good works, evangelism, missions and great
activity in the life of the believer. Ultra-Calvinism (as it is called) — the
type of teaching which stresses the sovereignty of God in such a way that it
minimizes the responsibility of man, the teaching which stresses the greatness
of grace in such a way as to minimize the meaningfulness of human behavior —
is not Biblical and not Reformation. We ought to repudiate it forever from our
Properly understood, the sovereignty of God and the grace of God are a great
motivating force in Christian behavior, evangelism and missions.
2. When I say that we need to have a New Testament understanding of Christian existence, I not only mean to stress the necessity of Christian existence, the necessity of Christian behavior and good works. We also need to know what the New Testament teaches about the nature of Christian existence.
Distorted Views of Sanctification
Sanctification = Justification in Action
How are we to understand sanctification? That is a big question. Could I offer you a statement on it to think about?
We of The Australian Forum have no time for ultra-Calvinism. The Bible does
not teach it. When we say that the nature of Christian existence is sanctification,
that means action. There is a necessity for good works, for good behavior.
We ourselves are a work created in Christ Jesus for good works. How anyone
could deduce that you don't have to do good works because you are a Christian
is incredible to us! The Bible is full of the necessity for good works. So
sanctification is justification in action. Don't sing "Standing on the Promises" and just "sit
on the premises."
Yet we must stress more than the necessity of activity. Action is important. But we need to stress what sort of action it is. Please notice what I put on the board. Every word I say is carefully chosen.
(Justification in Action)
One of the big questions of theology is concerning the relationship between
justification and sanctification. I will tell you of a great mischief. It is
to confuse justification
and sanctification — to make the two synonymous. But I will tell you
of another great mischief. That is to entirely separate justification and sanctification
so that sanctification is regarded as optional for the believer.
Sanctification is not optional. We have met people in this country who have
said, "Surely you believe in 'once saved, always saved.' We ask, "What do you mean by that?" "Well," they reply, "if you have believed in Jesus and then fall away and don't do any good works or live as a Christian should, you will still have salvation." No
sir! The Bible teaches nothing of the kind. Calvin, bless his name, would
have had a seizure if he heard you say that. He would! Calvin believed in
the perseverance of the saints. He didn't believe in the perseverance of
the unbeliever. If you don't believe, and if you are not showing
that your belief is real by your behavior, you have absolutely no basis to
regard yourself as a child of God. Don't ever let the devil delude you about
this. The great promises and comforts of the Bible are for those who believe
and who show that Christ is theirs by their behavior day by day. We must
have none of this business of "faith for a moment will bring life for eternity." None
We say again: Sanctification is justification in action. It is a great mischief to confuse justification and sanctification. And it is a great mischief to separate them so that you think you can be justified while sanctification becomes optional.
I have a good friend who was a minister of religion. I think very highly of
him. He has repudiated the faith and is now involved in secular studies at
a university. He doesn't believe and makes no confession of Christ. A mutual
friend came to me and said, "Well, it is wonderful to know he is still the Lord's." Listen, brethren! My reply was this: "I
have absolutely no ground for saying he is the Lord's. The Bible never points
back to the fact that you once believed to prove that you are now saved.
If you are not believing, if you are not persevering in good works
and if you are not seeking the honor of God, you have absolutely no ground
to affirm that you are a Christian." Now
this man may repent and embrace Christ. But so long as he does not believe
and so long as he is not persevering in good works, I have not the slightest
ground for saying that he is a Christian.
So a great mischief is not only to confuse sanctification and justification,
but to separate them so that you think you can be justified and then regard sanctification as optional. Brethren, where do you get that? You don't get that from the Bible! You get it out of the crucible of someone's skull. You will pardon my stressing this. But this type of teaching that we find so widespread in the United States is a distress to us. To think that sanctification is optional! To stand on the promises and sit on the premises! To think that the Christian church is a mere convalescent home! It is an army. The Christian life is a warfare, a fight, a slog.
Sanctification = Justification in Action
The Distinctiveness of Christian Existence
I believe that one of the great tragedies of the evangelical misunderstanding of the nature of Christian existence is that Christian existence has lost its distinctiveness. Christian existence is unique. It cannot be reproduced on the face of the earth by anyone who is not a Christian. The world ought to be able to look at the Christian community and see an existence, a type of life in the community, that they can see nowhere else on the face of the earth. I want you to understand that.
I'll tell you why I think the Christian existence has been "de-distinctivized" today.
The Christian existence has lost its distinctiveness because sanctification
and justification have been separated. This is that type of mentality: "We
praise the Lord for justification. God has been marvelous in saving us through
Christ. We thank the Lord for the gospel. We praise His name for our conversion,
for our incorporation into Christ — we thank the Lord for that! But we
have to go on from there, brother! We leave the gospel there. It deals with
of the Christian life, but we need to go on to deeper and greater things. We
don't have to keep talking about the gospel. That is for the initiation of
the Christian. For the continuation we go on to the higher and deeper work
of sanctification." That
is the mentality, and the Bible knows nothing of it. It is a great tragedy.
At one college we had a student say to us, "Well, surely you don't just preach the gospel. There are other things in the Bible to preach about." We asked, "Is there a passage that doesn't talk about the gospel or is not relevant to the gospel in one way or another?" When challenged to give us an example, he wanted to change the subject, yet I wouldn't let him do it. "But surely there are other doctrines besides justification by faith," he said. "Surely you don't always preach the gospel. You can go on to other doctrines like prophecy and events in Israel, etc." I replied by asking, "Is there any doctrine that is not determined by the gospel?" He shook his head, saying, "Man,
you are making it difficult now."
I hope that student examines the implication of my question. There is no
passage in the Bible from Genesis to Revelation that does not in one way
or another deal
gloriously with the gospel of God — the redeeming, saving activity
of God for His people. There is not one doctrine in the Bible that does not in
or another — implicitly
or explicitly, directly or indirectly — talk about the doctrine
of God's saving
Christology. The doctrine of the person and work of Christ. Why, you would have to have a head on you like a block of cement not to see the relevance of salvation and grace for Christology.
Soteriology. The doctrine of salvation.
Eschatology. The doctrine of Last Day events. The gospel is as relevant for eschatology as for any other doctrine.
Pneumatology. The doctrine of the Spirit.
Theology. The doctrine of God's being and nature. How can you talk about theology without talking about the great grace of God in the work of the First Person of the Trinity sending the Second Person of the Trinity, and the Second Person of the Trinity offering Himself to God through the Third Person of the Trinity? How can you talk about these doctrines apart from the gospel?
So it is a great mischief to think that the gospel tells of the beginning of
our Christian life but then we go on to deeper and higher things. This thinking
is revealed in some of our churches when it is so often said, "In the morning we shall have a teaching service for the believer, and in the evening we shall have a gospel service for the unbeliever." If
there is no gospel in the morning service, it will be defective, and if there
is no teaching in the evening gospel service, it too will be very defective.
That is an utterly false distinction, a false dichotomy that the Bible knows
Justification in Action
Let me illustrate what I mean when I say that sanctification is justification in action.
What do we receive in justification? What do we receive in and through the gospel? Do not we receive God? Does not God come to us, make Himself known to us and bring us into His fellowship? Indeed He does. We receive God in the gospel. Now what does it mean to say that sanctification is justification in action? If sanctification is justification in action, then sanctification must be God in action. This means that we behave God-ly. The God that is perceived in sanctification is no different from the God that is received and perceived in justification. The God who comes to us in the gospel shows Himself through the behavior of the believer.
Do not we receive love in justification?
Has not love come to us, "For God
so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth
in Him . . . " We
receive the love of God, do we not? According to 1 John we receive the Love who
is God. Now how are we going to behave? You may say we can behave love-ly. (But
to put this into its adverbial form), we behave lovingly. Please note this: The
love that is demonstrated in Christian existence is no different from the love
that we receive in justification. It is no different from the love that we receive
in the gospel. Indeed, it is the love of justification. It is the love of the
Sanctification (Justification in Action)
So often the Christian community claim
to believe in the gospel and to have accepted God's justification, but their
entire life style bears little or no relation
to the gospel. There is little or no relation to justification. Sometimes they
get involved in intricate systems of building radiant Christian personalities.
They get involved in an intricate labyrinth of rules and principles on how to
deal with a pimple on the end of your nose or how to get rid of the "itty-bitty" bitterness
in your heart—about your mother-in-law or something like that. But the love of
the believer's existence is the love of justification, the love of the gospel.
It is not different from this.
(Justification in Action)
Do we not receive hope in justification? In sanctification we behave hope-fully.
Please note that the hope of sanctification is not different from the hope of
justification. The hope that peeps through the doors of unpretentious Christian
existence is not separated from the gospel. It is the gospel hope. So it is extraordinary
for me to hear a believer say, when asked, "Are you going to be received into God's kingdom at the end?" "I hope so." That is not justification hope, is it? Of course not! "I am trying my best. I'm getting prepared." Man,
a person needs the gospel if he talks like that.
In the gospel do we not receive Jesus
as Lord? The Bible says that if you will confess that Jesus is Lord and believe
in your heart that God has raised Him
from the dead, you shall be saved. (Can you meaningfully believe that Jesus is
Lord unless you believe that God has raised Him from the dead? A dead Lord is
no good.) We believe that Jesus is Lord. But how is this seen in our day-by-day
existence? How do we live so as to show this faith? We live as subjects.
It was the devil's trick to get Adam
to think that the way to live was as Lord. You live as a subject. You live day
by day, bowed down with the realization that
Jesus is Lord of the entire universe. He is the Lord of life, of death, of tragedy,
of exhilaration, of you, of me, of the birds, of the animals, of all. When you
live bowed down with the realization of Jesus' Lordship and that you belong to
Him, you are His property, believer. That is what it means to be a Christian.
You belong to Him. You are His property. You owe Him your allegiance day by day.
He has indelibly written into your being the mark of His ownership. When we live
as subjects day by day, people see our subjecthood, and they are pointed to the
Lordship of Jesus.
But do we not receive Jesus as Saviour in the gospel as well? Now here is the question. How is the Saviourhood of Jesus seen in Christian existence? Think about it! Don't rush in with a quick answer. If sanctification is justification in action, and if we receive Jesus as Saviour in the gospel, how are we to live as Christians? Remember that the Saviourhood of Jesus will be seen at the point of our daily behavior.
Christians must live as sinners. What do I mean by that statement? There is to be no point in your life when you confess yourself anything but a sinner. One of the constant characteristics of your existence is your confession of your sinnerhood. One of the constant characteristics of my existence is the confession of my sinnerhood. That is what John is saying in 1 John 1:9. We confess our sins, and God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins. A distinctive characteristic of Christian existence is the willingness to admit that we are sinners—whether we feel like sinners or not.
I am so sinful that I very seldom feel sinful. Once in about every fortnight1 I feel sinful. But the other times I don't feel sinful. I feel quite perfect. Sometimes I'll get a pain in the stomach, and that will make me feel like sin incarnate. And the feeling may not be directly attributable to sin at all.
You get up in the morning, and you say, 'Good morning, world. I have arrived." You
go to the breakfast table and down your breakfast. And somehow that material
which you poke into yourself gets mixed up in that labyrinth down there, your
eyes cross, and then the world has changed. You have to stagger into the lecture
room and hold yourself up. We are sinners whether we feel like it or not
(Justification in Action)
We are sinners despite what we think
of ourselves. I don't know whether American people are like us or not, but
we Australians are very biased toward ourselves.
If you are one of a dozen people in a room, you always think of the other
eleven being the culprits before yourself. Or maybe it is different here,
and you blame yourself immediately. We don't do that at home. As humans,
we are biased toward ourselves. We are always going to have a biased opinion
of ourselves. So you can't believe what you feel. You can't believe what
you think. You can't believe what your friends say about you either, because
they are biased. They are for you. You don't go to a very good friend for
him to tell you the truth about yourself. Friends who will tell you the truth
about yourself are as rare as hens' teeth. You can't take any notice of what
your enemies say either. They are biased too. So you can't believe what you
feel. You can't believe what you think. You can't believe what your friends
say about you. You can't believe what your enemies say about you. The only
way that you are going to know what you really are is by what God says about
you. The gospel message has come to you, beloved Christian, and come to me,
and it has told us that we are sinners. We must accept our sinnerhood by
faith. I accept the fact that I am a sinner by faith.
Faith is not feeling. Faith is not
sight. Faith is not the advice of friends. Faith is not the advice of enemies.
Faith is faith in the Word of God—despite what we feel, despite what we think,
despite what our friends tell us, despite what our enemies tell us.
All believers, at all times, never refuse to admit that they are sinners—and
sinners to the extent that the Bible tells them that they are sinners. So
I want none of this pretending, if you don't mind. If I sit next to you
want none of this pretending that you are a "goody-goody," for
you are going to make me feel very awkward. I'll feel awkward because: (1)
I'm not a "goody-goody." The Bible tells me this. And when I'm
not a "goody-goody" and I am sitting beside a "goody-goody," it
makes me feel quite out of this world. (2) I have a sneaking suspicion
that you are not a "goody-goody" either,
and I am going to think you are a hypocrite. So there must be real admission,
a real acknowledgment of sinnerhood. Why pretend otherwise?
You don't have to be a Christian to be a sinner, although you have to be
a Christian to acknowledge you are a sinner. But we live as forgiven sinners.
If you ever decide to get rid of your sin nerhood, at the same time get rid
of God's forgiveness. God only forgives sinners. Can you see what I am saying?
is important to have this embedded into our skulls. Why, you can stop the
of pretending. It might add ten years to your life. You may get through your
course with an A instead of a B if you really stop the burden of pretending.
That psychophysical drain will go away from you, and you will say, "Listen,
I'm a sinner. The sooner I really acknowledge it and stop pretending, the better.
I am going to start to live the gospel."
Let me illustrate this forgiven sinner with the example of Mephibosheth.
Remember Mephibosheth? He was a social derelict, an outcast and a cripple,
thrown out on the scrapheap. Because of King David's love for another, that
social outcast, that psycho-physical derelict, was brought to the king's
presence to sit at the king's table. Mephibosheth must have sat down in that
banquet hall bowed down with the mercy of the king's kindness to him. Do
you think Mephibosheth sat in that banquet hall looking around and thinking
who he was better than? Do you think he would have given the impression that
there was something in himself that made the king bring him to the banquet
table? He was bowed down with the king's kindness. Read also Ezekiel 1 6.
A little woman came to me after a meeting in Australia and said, "Mr. Paxton,
I have not long been converted. The group through whom I was converted said
that I ought to be a good witness to my husband. Now please tell me how I
can be a
good witness to my husband. I want to win him for the Lord."
"Indeed you must be a good witness," I replied, "and I will try to give you some guidelines. First, whatever you do, don't go home to your husband and give him the impression that now that you have become a Christian, you have become morally infallible. If you do that, he will do two things. (1) If he knows anything about his heart (and usually husbands do), he will first write off any possibility of his becoming a Christian. [Have you ever heard an unbeliever say, I couldn't live up to it"?
This shows that an unbeliever has a fundamentally wrong concept of Christianity.
Where did that concept come from? It must have come from the Christian community.]
(2) When you 'goof,' your husband will also do something else. (And believe
me, you will 'goof' sooner or later. You may go just perfectly for a week. Then
kids may get you down, the pressures will be very great, you will suddenly
explode, and there will be shrapnel all over the house. You are going to feel
because with that explosion your understanding of Christianity is going to
be blown right out of your life and out of the home.) As soon as your husband
you 'goof,' he will not only believe he could never be a Christian, but he
will write off the validity of your Christianity as well."
"Mr. Paxton," the woman gasped, "that's different from anything
I've ever been told. Then how am I going to witness to my husband?"
"You go home," I said, "and tell your husband you have discovered
that all those things he said about you in that quarrel he had with you, were
correct. That will knock him out on the floor for three minutes at least. And
while he is out, you can compose the rest of your sermon. When he opens his
eyes and rolls them about, tell him he didn't tell you half the truth. That was
he was either too kind or too ignorant. Confess that you are far worse than
he ever said. Tell him that you have discovered you are a wretched sinner, but
who has found forgiveness at the hands of a merciful God. Then you can tell
him that if he were to acknowledge his wretchedness and ask Jesus Christ to forgive
him and to become his Substitute, he too could find forgiveness at the hand
a merciful God. Then when you try to work for God's glory day by day and you
'goof,' you will only confirm the gospel. You can say, 'Lord, there it is again.
That's what You have forgiven. How can I ever grasp it!' "
The forgiveness of God is only meaningful in the light of an awareness of
our wretchedness. We show the Saviourhood of Christ by living as forgiven
Again the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Son of man, cause Jerusalem
to know her abominations, and say, Thus saith the Lord God unto Jerusalem;
Thy birth and thy nativity is of the land of Canaan; thy father was an Amorite,
and thy mother an Hittite. And as for thy nativity, in the day thou wast
born thy navel was not cut, neither wast thou washed in water to supple thee;
thou wast not salted at all, nor swaddled at all. None eye pitied thee, to
do any of these unto thee, to have compassion upon thee; but thou wast cast
out in the open field, to the lothing of thy person, in the day that thou
wast born. And when I passed by thee, and saw thee polluted in thine own
blood, I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, Live; yea, I said unto
thee when thou wast in thy blood, Live. Ezek. 16:1-6.
Any person who lives with this burning
into his mind will be bowed down with the mercy of God.
Sanctification is justification in action. There must always be action. But
it must always be the gospel in action. It must always be justification
in action. It must always be the grace of God in action.
Let us summarize the ground we have covered:
1. In justification we receive God. God comes to us by His Spirit.
We therefore live a God-ly existence. The God of justification is seen
at the point of the
believer's existence. The same God must be seen.
2. We receive love in
justification. We receive love in the gospel. The Holy Spirit has
poured the love of God into our hearts (Rom. 5:5).
The love-ing existence
must be the same love of the gospel. It is not a different
type of love.
3. We receive hope in justification. We receive hope in the gospel.
We live hope-fully. And the hope-ful existence we live is the same
hope as in justification.
4. Jesus comes to us as Lord in the gospel. We show the Lordship of
Christ in the gospel by living as subjects in our daily life. When
people see our
subjecthood, it points to Christ's Lordship.
5. In the gospel we receive Christ as Saviour as well as Lord. The
Saviourhood of Christ is seen in the forgiven sinnerhood of the believer.
We live constantly
acknowledging our sin, constantly owning up to the fact that we are
wretches, but constantly praising God for the fact that He has forgiven
us wretched sinners.
The Christian always remains two things: (a) He always remains a sinner
despite the fact that he fights against sin. (b) He constantly recognizes
that he is
a forgiven sinner.
The Big Three of Christian Existence
Now we want to deal with the three great characteristics of Christian existence — faith,
hope and love.
Let's Talk About Faith. There is no doubt about the distinguishing characteristic of Christian existence being faith. We receive faith in the gospel, do we not? Is faith not a gift of God? So if we receive faith in the gospel, if faith is the gift of God in the gospel, we ought to live faith-ful existences. We ought to live faith-fully. The faith of justification is expressed in the faithful existence of sanctification.
What is the distinctive characteristic of New Testament faith? Answer: You never go to faith itself for a distinctive characteristic. The distinctive characteristic of faith is that you go out of faith for its distinctive characteristic. Faith in the Bible is always affixed to the grace of God. The preoccupation of real faith is the grace of God. The preoccupation of Biblical faith is the mercy of God. The preoccupation of real, Biblical faith is the forgiveness of God in Christ. The preoccupation of real, Biblical faith is the love of God our Father. That is very important. So our whole life has to drip God's mercy. All our behavior, actions and attitudes are to represent the grace and mercy of God in the gospel.
You show me a man in the New Testament who is strong in faith, and his dominant
characteristic will be that he is strong in the grace of God. You show me a man
in the New Testament who is strong in faith, and I will show you a man who is
preoccupied with God's mercy for his life. You show me a man in the New Testament
who is strong in faith, and I will show you a man who is tickled red hot with
forgiveness of sins. The notion that after you become a Christian, faith leaves
grace — that faith leaves forgiveness and mercy and gets involved
in techniques for Christian advancement — is un-Biblical through and through.
you grow in faith, the more strongly you appreciate the grace of God. The more
strongly you grow in faith, the more strongly you appreciate the love of God
the Father and His mercy. That is very important. It is surprising to see the
number of Christian men and women you meet who are so intricately bound up in
labyrinth-like complexes of advancing Christian personality and yet know almost
nothing of the grace of God in Christ. They are not tickled pink with the gospel.
They have left the gospel at commencement point.
The next statement I will make is fundamental. If I had the ability to take a stamp and impress this statement into each one of you so that you would never forget it for a minute, I would be a delighted man. Faith in the New Testament is always faith in the grace of God. It is always faith in the mercy of God. It is always faith in the forgiveness of God in Christ. It is always faith in the love of God. Faith only and always has a vertical reference point. It is never faith in anything horizontal. It is not faith in the church. It is not faith in your conversion. It is not faith in your perseverance. It is not faith in good Bible teachers. It is not faith in your grasp of the Bible. It is not faith in anything horizontal. It is always faith in God. It is always faith in the grace of God, the mercy of God, the forgiveness of God, the love of God our Father. That is fundamental. I find people believing in their ability to persevere, Christians believing in their ability to maintain their walk with God. We find Christians directing their faith to horizontal reference points. The Bible knows nothing about this.
Here is another statement which could be the most fundamental I have made thus far: Faith is preoccupied with the love of God our Father. And this means that true, Biblical faith will be affixed to the love of God our Father in such a way that it comes to appreciate God. It comes to love God. This means that we will not want to hurt God. We will not want to sin. We will not want to go against Him. It is not Biblical to maintain the idea that a believer may go on in his sin because he realizes he has been converted and has become a child of God, and though he is out of temporal fellowship with God, he will no doubt come back into eternal fellowship with God when he dies. Faith in God is faith in the love of God our Father. Faith becomes so entranced with that love that we do not want to hurt Him. We don't want to go on in sin. We don't want to keep bringing shame to His name. The Bible knows nothing about the hypothetical notion that a believer can go on in sin and be out of temporal fellowship with God but still possess eternal fellowship with God. This dichotomy between temporal and eternal fellowship is an un-Biblical hypothesis.
The motivation for all our fighting against sin is faith in God, faith in what God has done for us. To understand what God has done for us in Christ melts our heart. When you come into vital, living relationship with someone you love, do you want to go on hurting that person? Of course you don't.
Let's Talk About Love. What is love? May I suggest that unless we are
able to state clearly what love is, we may as well use the word "gobbledygook." "Dear
brethren, let us 'gobbledygook' one another. He that 'gobbledygooketh' is born
of God, and he that doth not 'gobbledygook' is not born of God. How can a man
say that he 'gobbledygooketh' God if he does not 'gobbledygook' his brother."
We ought to be able to give concrete expression to what we mean by love. Christianity means something by love. Now what is it? Would you ever consider it possible that you loved someone while you behaved in an ungodly way toward him? Would you think it possible that while you behaved in a godly way toward him, you couldn't love him? Or you didn't love him? You would say that ungodly behavior can't be love, and you would say that godly behavior is love. And that is exactly what it is. Love in the New Testament is behaving in a God-ly fashion. Write it in your minds. How could you possibly behave in an ungodly way toward someone and call it love? On the other hand, how could you behave in a godly way toward someone and not call it love? God is love. To behave in a godly way is to behave in a love-ing way.
Now let me give you a statement on love. I have already said that sanctification
is justification in action. Now I say, Love is behaving toward each other as
God has and does behave toward us. That is what godly means. We behave the way
God behaves. Love is behaving toward each other as God has behaved toward us.
This takes love away from being an ooey-gooey feeling in the tummy. It is incredible
that when some folk talk about love, they always grab their tummy. I used to
think they had a pain. Love is as fussless and as down to earth as this — behaving
toward each other as God has behaved toward us.
How has God behaved toward us? There is a very real sense in which God does
not have direct fellowship with His people. Why do we say at the end of our
prayers, "Through Jesus Christ, our Lord"? Why do we pray, "For Jesus sake"? Why do we pray, In Jesus name"? We pray in this manner because we are constantly acknowledging that although our access is real, bold and confident, it is not a direct access. It is through Jesus. Now if we have fellowship with God through His Son Jesus, God has fellowship with us through Jesus. St. Paul declares, "There is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus." There is Someone between God and us. If love is behaving toward each other as God has behaved toward us, then we must see that God has behaved toward us through a Mediator. There is a very real sense in which God does not have direct fellowship with us. We are not Unitarians; we are Trinitarians. There is a terrible teaching going about in ecumenism which says that you can dispense with Christ, that you can have fellowship with God despite Christ, that you do not have to come to God through Christ. The Bible recognizes no fellowship with God apart from Christ. This is what we ought to echo home to the "ecu-maniacal" thinking
deluging our world. The exclusivity of Christ is in danger of being denied.
Love is behaving toward each other in and through Christ.
Love means having no direct fellowship with one another. That is right! Does God have direct fellowship with us? Should we then have direct fellowship with each other if God does not have direct fellowship with us? Of course not! We want to behave the way God behaves, don't we? Love is behaving toward each other through a Mediator. Love is the Mediator between man and man just as He is between God and man. If this is good enough for God, why isn't it good enough for us?
Now I'll tell you something that will rock you. The New Testament thinks of love in such a factual, fussless manner, that I earnestly believe, after several years of quiet and patient research, that the New Testament says love is behaving as a Christian. Love is behaving in Christ and through Christ The believer is one who is in Christ. The believer is one who has fellowship through Christ. The believer is one who has fellowship with his fellow believer through Christ. The believer is one who behaves toward his fellow man in exactly the way that God has and does behave toward him. We shouldn't think for a moment that we can behave toward our brother in a different way from the way God behaves toward us.
Why does God accept you? Because of Christ. Have you any right to accept yourself for any other reason? No! Why does God accept your brother? Because of Christ. Have you any right to accept him for any other reason? Have you the right to reject him if God accepts him?
What does it mean to love God? Sometimes I see pictures of people who are held
up as being great examples of loving God. They are depicted in great, ecstatic
trances, shaking their hands, faces or bodies convulsed as if "smitten by the wound of love." I am inclined to think it is pornographic. I really am. It wasn't without reason that that Presbyterian woman described the feeling of speaking in tongues as being like the exultation of the finished sex longing (which testimony we read yesterday). You don't have to look glassy-eyed and you don't have to shake all over to show that you love God. Let me ask you: What is the highest thing you can do for God? Can you do any more for God than trust Him? That is the very best thing you can do to let God be God. Love and trust are identical in life. It is because he is a believer that the believer loves God. That is why Paul says in Romans 8:28, "All things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose." You don't have to get "ooey-gooey" in the tummy to love God. I am not denying that this may be involved. But you must not think that the distinctive element in loving God is "ooey-gooeyism" in
This is serious. We have to pull ourselves back into Biblical thinking. In
reference to loving God, it simply means trusting Him. That is why Paul very
seldom speaks of loving God, and John very seldom speaks of faith in God.
Faith in God for Paul is the same as John's love for God. And love for God
is the same as faith in God for Paul. When you trust God, you love Him. It
may or it may not involve feeling. I think one of the most profound statements
ever given in the Bible is found in Job. We see Job sitting there with scabs
all over him. But he says, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him." That must delight the heart of God more than any lover could delight the heart of his beloved. "Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him." How
What does love mean for each other? Love toward each other is the outworking
of our faith toward God. That is why John said that you cannot say you love
God and hate your brother. If we love God, i.e., if we trust God, then the
outworking of this in the horizontal relationship will be that we love each
other. We always love our brother when we are trusting God. Paul says in
Galatians 5:6 that it is "faith working through love."
What does this mean in concrete terms? Faith in God is always faith in the life of Jesus. Do you believe that Jesus lived for Himself? Who did He live for? Jesus lived for me. That perfect life was on my behalf. This means that Jesus is the only good that I have. There is none good but One. Therefore we all have the one good.
Let's think of the implications of that. The good that Gloria has is the good that I have, and that is the same good as you have. If we all have the one good, it must mean that no one is superior. How can you be superior if your good is the same as my good? How can any of us be superior if we all have the one good? You can only be superior if you think you have a good apart from Christ. A fundamental tenet of Christian faith is the acknowledgment that we only have one good in Christ.
If no one is superior, then no one is inferior. No superiority. No inferiority.
Superiority and inferiority fly out the window in the Christian circle. This
is what the Bible calls "love." You see, my dearly beloved brother,
if I feel inferior to you, I deny the gospel, and if you feel superior to
me, you deny the gospel. You cannot live by faith and think you are superior
anybody. That is important.
Do you believe that Jesus died for your sins? Do you believe that He died for the sins of your brother? Do you believe He died for the sins of your Christian sister? Do you believe He took the responsibility for all believers' sins? Then why do you judge them? The only way you can condemn your brother or condemn your sister is if you cease to believe. So when you deal with your erring brother, though you may try to get him to see that the gospel has implications for the way he lives, though you may seek to bring his life into conformity with the gospel, you never hold him responsible for his faults. You believe that Jesus took that condemnation.
There is no superiority, no inferiority and no condemnation. That is not a
bad community to start with, is it? Acts 2:32 says that when Jesus ascended
into heaven, God gave Him the promised Holy Spirit. There is a very real
sense in the Bible in which the Holy Spirit belongs to Jesus. And by our faith
Jesus, all that He has and all that He is is ours. If we have faith in Jesus,
it means the Holy Spirit becomes ours by virtue of our faith in Christ. That
is why the Holy Spirit is called the Spirit of Christ. Jesus "owns" the Spirit, and all those who have their faith in Jesus, by virtue of that union with Him," own" what Christ "owns," i.e., in this respect, the Holy Spirit. What is the ministry of the Spirit? Is it to make one Christian an economy-class Christian and another a first-class Christian? The ministry of the Spirit is to highlight Christ's life so there is no superiority and no inferiority. It is to highlight His death so we may see that judgment is taken and we are not to meet out judgment on each other. The ministry of the Spirit is to expound the life and death of Jesus for the life and death of the believer. Paul can say, "Maintain the unity which the Spirit gives," because
when there is no one superior, no one inferior and no one condemning another,
we are not far away from being united. I wish we had a semester to discuss
what it means to be a Christian, to examine the radical implications for
simply saying that love is living as a Christian.
Let's Talk About Hope. Do you desire to be absolutely surrendered to God? [Audience indicates in the affirmative.] Did you desire to be absolutely surrendered to God before you were a Christian? [Audience indicates in the negative.] After you became a Christian, you desired to become absolutely surrendered to God. The reason why believers desire to become absolutely surrendered to God is because the Holy Spirit has made them that way. That is a characteristic of being a Christian.
There are some who teach that being a good Christian is being absolutely
surrendered to God, but I believe that being a good Christian is wanting to be absolutely
surrendered. You go out into the streets of this town, pick the healthiest,
happiest pagan you can find, bowl up to him and ask, "Do you desire to be absolutely surrendered to Jesus?" He
will think you are mad or drunk — or both. We desire to be absolutely surrendered
to Jesus. Doesn't it hurt us when we fail Him? Don't we constantly seek
not to hurt Him? That is all because of the Holy Spirit.
Do you know the great hope of the believer? It is that we are not going to fail God. The hope of the believer is that one day we are going to serve Him as graciously and as perfectly as He deserves. There is coming a day, says the Bible, when we will trust Him in such a way that it will mirror perfectly His love for us in Christ. Isn't that a wonderful hope?
Now I will tell you a great mischief. The mischief is to be told that we can
have absolute surrender here and now. I will tell you what happens if you
become absolutely surrendered now. You become proud that you are "absolutely surrendered." Insofar
as you are proud that you are absolutely surrendered, it shows that you
are not absolutely surrendered.
When an evangelist is low in accreditation stocks — low in converts — and
he wants to convince people that he is still a good evangelist, he ceases
the gospel and starts to call people to absolute surrender. "Do you
desire to serve God absolutely?" he asks. "Do you serve Him as
you ought to?" "No," his listeners respond. "Don't
you think He deserves your full commitment?" "Yes!" "Would
you not like to be absolutely surrendered?" "Indeed I would." "All
right, we are going to have a hymn. I want all those who want to be absolutely
surrendered to come out to the front." And
the sad thing is that if I had preached this way this morning, I would
have gotten at least a third of this gathering out here to the front. Two
would be amazing to me: (1) that the third would not see the error in this
and (2) that there would be two-thirds still sitting back there. With that
type of preaching, we all ought to be out here, for by virtue of the Holy
Spirit's work in us, we should all desire to be absolutely surrendered.
We must call ourselves out and out for Jesus every day. We must constantly exhort ourselves to be absolutely surrendered. We ought to call each other to absolute surrender, to full commitment. But we must never give each other the impression that we attain to it here and now. Calling believers to absolute commitment is to call believers to press on to the coming of the kingdom and perfection.
I want to say a few words about Romans 8. After a conference in Brisbane, Australia
not long ago, an iridescent, bossy little woman came up to me. She asked, "Brother Paxton, are you out of Romans 7 and into Romans 8?" "My dear woman," I replied, "I am not even preaching on Romans." "O brother," she continued, "are you out of the defeat of Romans 7 and into the victory of Romans 8? Are you out of the Spiritlessness of Romans 7 and into the Spirit-filled life of Romans 8?" So I replied, "Are you asking me, Does my life square with what the Bible says here in Romans 8?" "Precisely," she
answered. So I read Romans 8:18:
For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
"You are asking me if I am presently suffering and have unrevealed glory? Very much so!" I
said. Look also at verse 19:
For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.
you go up to a pagan and ask, "Can't you see that I'm a son of God?" We
are not even seen to be sons of God yet. Further, read verses 22 and 23:
We ourselves also groan within ourselves because we only have a small portion of the Spirit within us during this mortal existence. We must wait for the full harvest of blessing. Now look at verses 25 and 26:
For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.
But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it. Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit Itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
This is what Romans 8 says that real Christians have now:
1. Present suffering.
2. Unrevealed glory.
3. Not seen to be children of God.
4. Groaning inwardly.
5. The first fruits of the Spirit only.
6. Waiting for the second blessing — the second coming of Jesus,
the blessed hope.
We have only had time to introduce this subject of Christian existence.
We don't want you to agree with everything we say. When two minds think
alike on everything, one is redundant. What does the New Testament teach
on Christian existence? What does it mean to live by faith? What does it
mean to live by hope and to live in hope? Seek to come to grips with these
questions. Bask in the realism of the Bible and not in the fantasy of manmade
1 For those not acquainted with the term, fortnight means two weeks