Christ’s Triumph and Ours
The world today is looking for a note of optimism. The dark clouds of war hover ominously over the international scene. Political confusion, economic uncertainty, and social unrest produce anxiety and fear in various parts of the world. Amid all our scientific and technological progress, the twentieth-century man seems disillusioned with the promises of peace and security made by world reformers, and the patent medicines of a materialistic world seem to have given no relief to a wicked generation which is still like ‘the troubled sea’.
The faithful of Jesus Christ are also seeking a ray of hope. The more closely a man walks with God the more vexed and discouraged he must be with the spiritual decadence which blights our generation. Isaiah’s stinging indictment against apostate Israel seems to fit our own age, ‘For our transgressions are multiplied before thee, and our sins testify against us: for our transgressions are with us; and as for our iniquities, we know them; in transgressing and lying against the Lord, and departing away from our God, speaking oppression and revolt, conceiving and uttering from the heart words of falsehood. And judgement is turned away backward, and justice standeth afar off: for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter. Yea, truth faileth; and he that departeth from evil maketh himself a prey: and the Lord saw it, and it displeased him that there was no judgement’ (Isaiah 59:12-15).
Unfortunately, even the Church, in many instances offers little shelter from the awful spiritual dearth of the world. We have beautiful church edifices, good music, eloquent ministers, well-oiled church machinery, and church programmes organized to perfection; but, alas, where is our God? The tragedy of empty pews is exceeded only by the absence of Divine power and blessing upon our public services. From many pulpits the husks of a vain human philosophy are served rather than the pure manna from heaven. ‘Ichabod’ seems to be faintly written across the walls of our sanctuaries.
But in spite of these gloomy facts, there is no room for pessimism, doubt, or despair for the true servants of Jesus Christ. In fact, only the followers of Christ can face the present apostasy and the awful consequences, which evidently lie ahead, with hope and assurance. Although the night of sin and unbelief holds the world in its sway and the ranks of faithful men are small and scattered, this promise lightens up the horizon like the rays of the returning dawn, ‘He shall not fail, nor be discouraged’ (Isaiah 42: 4).
These words are obviously spoken of the great and glorious personage whom we know and adore, even Jesus Christ, the Messiah. Here we are assured in plain and unmistakable language of the ultimate triumph of Christ and his cause. This statement alone should be a rallying point of all the godly, a source of sanguine hope, and a banner to be borne in joyful expectation.
Many a soldier has entered the field of battle with at best only a slight ray of hope that he would be on the winning side. Yet this spark of hope fired him to gallant combat and spurred him to engage the enemy with a ferocity and determination beyond his strength. But what if he were assured beforehand that his army would surely prevail? What boldness and courage would carry him through the fray! No bitterness of temporary setback or keen suffering would daunt him. Inspired by the assurance of certain victory he would set his face flintlike to forge ahead.
Such is really the position of the Church of Jesus Christ.
Whatever apparent failures the cause of Christ may suffer in a given situation or era, or whatever agonies the Lord’s soldiers may endure in the heat of spiritual conflict, their toil, sacrifice, and fighting has no dubious outcome. Since Christ the Captain of their salvation shall not, cannot fail, they cannot. Confident that they will divide with their Lord the spoils of victory, they have no reason for despair.
This remarkable promise and prophecy by the ancient seer is glorious both in its direct interpretation and in its implications. Taken in its literal and primary sense it predicts the triumph of God’s Son in every phase of his career. Although he was born in obscurity, and though he spent his early years in a humble home and a despised community, he fulfilled in detail the end for which he was commissioned by his Father. Having announced that he came not to do his own will but to do the will of him that sent him and finish his work, he soon gave abundant evidence of his supernatural character and mission. Not only did he manifest his dominion over all phases of creation, even the infernal world, by his miraculous displays of power, but by an immaculate life he ‘magnified the law and made it honourable’. Even in death he achieved a mighty victory over all his foes. ‘It is finished’ was not the groan of a defeated demagogue but the victorious exclamation of the Sovereign Godman. His resurrection from the dead and ascension to the Father finally attested his divine mission and gave evidence that he had secured the salvation of those given to him. ‘He shall not fail’ reaches to the future time when all his enemies shall be made his footstool. Then he shall come in glory and power to judge the wicked and be admired in them that believe.
Such is the literal and primary meaning of the wonderful expression, ‘He shall not fail.’ Being the eternal son of God, one in nature and glory with the father, Christ is incapable of failure in his work. The events of his life both on earth and in heaven have justified this truth.
But if it is true that personally Christ cannot fail, it is also true that his truth cannot suffer defeat. It is impossible to separate Jesus Christ and the truths that bear witness to him. Satan well knows that an attack upon the truth of Christ is an attack upon the person of Christ; therefore the wily old serpent has employed every subtle tactic in his power to destroy the gospel of Jesus Christ and hinder its progress in the world. The great foundation truths of Christianity have been under incessant attack ever since they were first promulgated by Christ and his apostles, or for that matter ever since the first promise of redemption. Sometimes the enemies of the truth have been undisguised, wearing the apparel of atheism, agnosticism, and infidelity. At times, however, they have appeared in the very garments of light. Posing as friends of the faith, they were really sworn to destroy her by whatever method necessary. Judaical tradition, worldly philosophy, ecclesiastical corruption, and theological heresy have threatened in their turn to put out the light of the pure gospel. But in each generation the Lord has raised up gallant defenders of the faith.
When the leaven of Judaism threatened to destroy the truth of Christ, God had his Paul to sound the trumpet of grace. When the poison of Arianism spread through the ranks of the faithful, Athanasius arose to administer the orthodox antidote. Even when the hour of papal darkness was at its height, the Waldenses continued to bear the torch of truth. When the ‘lion’ of Rome seemed to hold unchallenged sway, an Augustinian friar named Luther bearded the beast in his den. When the Anglican church, only partially reformed, was about to fall to corrupt influence, a mighty host of Puritan divines defended the faith at dear cost. When the seeds of infidelity were reaping a tragic harvest, Whitefield, Toplady, Romaine, Newton and company shunned not to declare the whole counsel of God. When the chilly winds of German rationalism swept with devastating violence into the evangelical churches, the Spurgeons, Ryles, Warfields, and Machens mounted the ramparts of truth.
‘He shall not fail’ not only speaks of Christ and his truth but also of Christ’s Church. Christ can no more be separated from his Church than he can from his truth. That mystical body of Christ which is bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh cannot be destroyed or harmed. Though all the violence of hell has been pitted against the followers of Christ as they have appeared on earth, the Lord has protected them by his power and providence. Through the years the church has been beset by sundry trials and difficulties. Various persecutions from without and temptations from within have been used by the Prince of Darkness to overthrow the Church, yet Christ’s people have survived them all. Many have been the Church’s enemies, yet she has seen them buried in their turn. In each generation, though often little and insignificant in the eyes of carnal men, the Church has appeared, persecuted but not forsaken, cast down but not destroyed. She is a bush which though often burnt is not consumed. She is a fire that cannot be quenched, a ship which cannot be sunk, a city that cannot be destroyed. The safety of the Church as well as the truth for which she contends is made certain by the decree of heaven — ‘The gates of hell shall not prevail.’
Many Christians are inclined to fear that in our own age the fight of the faith is all but useless. ‘These are peculiar, trying times,’ we hear it said. ‘Iniquities and error abound, the faith which was once delivered unto the saints is forsaken and despised, our cause is all but lost.’ Some of the Lord’s people seem to suspect that though the cause of Christ survived the dark ages and the infidel eighteenth century, the T.V., Missile, Beatle age will witness her downfall. Though they might deny such a hopeless outlook, their despondent attitude betrays a spirit that borders on despair.
If such be the case with any of us, let us rally with fresh courage and hope behind the escutcheon of our triumphant Saviour who shall not fail. The God of the hills is also the God of the valleys. The sovereign God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is ours. The one who inspired and directed the Calvins, Edwards, and Spurgeons is still on the throne. His truth will yet prevail even today when multitudes are bowing down to the idols of materialism and heterodoxy. Sure, ‘the precious grain droopeth low,’ but the Lord of the harvest will yet send the rain if he can find an Elijah to cry unto him.
Perhaps the one thing the ‘faithful few’ need today more than anything else is courage and expectancy. The Lord has intervened in worse times than these. More than once the Lord has lifted up a standard when the enemy had come in like a flood. So cheer up, godly pastor, discouraged by lack of success; labour on, Christian worker, unrecognized by a scowling, unfriendly world; take heart, lonely missionary, toiling faithfully amid seemingly hopeless odds. Your cause shall prevail.
The Promises of God
Whatever position the twentieth century may have eschatologically, the promises of God are as sure as when the great of old claimed them. ‘Call unto me,’ says the Almighty, ‘and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.’ (Jeremiah 33:3). ‘Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you’ is still a part of holy writ. We have no right to doubt that if God’s people shall humble themselves before him and plead for an awakening, even today the parched ground will be watered with divine blessings. Let us pray with the psalmist that the exalted Son will gird his sword upon his thigh and in majesty ride prosperously because of truth and meekness and righteousness. Perhaps the present revival of evangelical literature and the hunger in the hearts of a few ministers and students is ‘a cloud the size of a man’s hand’: a token, a sign, a forerunner of good to come. Perhaps the long night of apostasy is spent and the day is at hand. Inspired by the truth of Christ’s triumph, let us give ourselves to expectant prayer and hopeful labour. Ours is a cause that cannot fail because the Christ, who has never lost a battle, leads us.
This article was first published in the July – August 1966 edition of the Banner of Truth magazine.
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