Interlude : ‘The blessing of the LORD.’

Before we look at some more aspects of ‘the Gospel Standard way’, we must pause briefly to show what the true blessing of the Lord is, as opposed to the mere ‘experiences’ that many in the churches seem to be seeking or relying upon. We have said that with some it seems that the blessings, words, and manifestations they think they have received really form the foundation of their hope for eternity, instead of Christ and his blood alone. So in keeping with our principle of looking at the actual words the Spirit uses when inspiring the writers in holy scripture – how they are used and in what context – we should gain clear understanding of what the true blessings are.

The scriptures declare, ‘A faithful man shall abound in blessings’, Prov. 28:20. Here the writer is saying that the man established in the way of faith – or, of the faith – shall abound in spiritual prosperity; thus one firmly established in the doctrine of the gospel and of Christ abounds in a saving knowledge of the same. And this is exactly what Paul says in Ephesians 1:3: ‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ…’ Here we immediately notice that these blessings are said already to have been received – he is speaking in the past tense, ‘hath blessed us.’ The following verses reveal that far from the blessings of the children of God, or rather, the sons of God[1], being feelings and manifestations, it is evident that they are all based on the work of God in Christ, and that, in the mind and purpose of God, has been toward them, according to the riches of his grace, from before the foundation of the world. In other words, the blessings of the child of God are first and foremost positional, they are to be found in Christ, and in their union with him; which union, as far as God reckons it, has existed from all eternity.

And what blessings these are! The blessings of Election and Sanctification, verse 4; Predestination and Adoption, verse 5; The Reception of Grace and Acceptance in the beloved – implying Justification, verse 6; Redemption and the Forgiveness of Sins, verse 7, etc. These are the sure and immutable blessings of the sons of God ‘in Christ’. Next we notice that these blessings are actually to be found ‘in heavenly places’. The blessings are before God in heaven and not just in an experience that we have, say, in the tingling sensations of the flesh[2]; and they are to be found in Christ crucified, buried, risen, ascended, seated, glorified and reigning, and in their union with him in these things, Gal. 2:20, Eph. 2:5-7, Rom. 6, Rev. 20:6.

But as this is the position they are in, how can they actually know of these blessings in experience, and thus be kept from mere presumption; for there are many, as we have alluded to above, who will read the words of scripture just referred to and rejoice in them without the slightest warrant to do so; for the actual experience of all those to whom these words do apply has not once been found in them. Well, in principle, I believe the true blessings of the Lord’s people can be summed up in two statements that are found in the Psalms; and they are the blessings which do indeed spring from election, and also from chastening.

In Psalm 65:4,5 David says, ‘Blessed is the man whom thou choosest, and causest to approach unto thee, that he may dwell in thy courts: we shall be satisfied with the goodness of thy house, even of thy holy temple. By terrible things in righteousness wilt thou answer us, O God of our salvation’; and Psalm 94:12 reads, ‘Blessed is the man whom thou chastenest, O LORD, and teachest out of thy law’.

The first of these speaks of ‘the man whom thou choosest’ ‘approaching unto thee’; and the second of the man chastened of the LORD, being taught out of his law. These truly are real ‘experiences’ passed through, well beyond mere doctrinal thoughts which foment in the brain. What a blessing election is! As all are natural enemies of God from the womb, and are born with a ready will to sin, rebel, and seek out the realms of darkness; how else could any one be saved unless they were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world? And the experience of the elect? They are, in time, found ‘approaching unto the Lord’, calling upon him, and receiving answers ‘by terrible things in righteousness’; all as a result of the chastening hand of the Lord as the sinner is taught his sinnership under the law. How absent this testimony is amongst many today who say that they have received some sort of blessing from the Lord; and how vastly different it is from the experience of those who simply ‘pray to Jesus’ – never thinking that the Lord must actually answer them – claim the promises, and go on their way rejoicing.[3] Such people often quote 1 John 1:9 and say that because they have confessed, God has forgiven. But the confession is not the forgiveness; being forgiven, and that forgiveness being communicated to the soul, is the forgiveness.

But those under real conviction of sin experience a real felt vileness before a great and holy God; a cowering from the face of him who sitteth upon the throne of his righteousness; they witness to a confession far above and beyond the cliché which, in some quarters, so readily rolls off the tongue, ‘I’m a poor sinner’, which usually ends there; and have a longing that the Lord would indeed answer their cries. Even though in one sense it is true to say that all are sinners, in reality it is also true that few really feel themselves to be such in the depths of their being, especially under the sounding of the curses and condemnation of a broken law. We can all talk – or write – about these things, but how many of us know of them in experience?

But those who are truly blessed – and their blessed experiences – can best be summed up in the doctrine which Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount; for there we read that ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, they that mourn, the meek, and they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness; who being filled, are further blessed, being merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers, and they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake…’ Yea, ‘Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake’, saith Jesus, ‘Rejoice and be exceeding glad: for great is [present tense] your reward [where?] in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you’, Matt. 5:3-12. Therefore those who are ‘in Christ’, who are united to Christ, and who, thus, possess all those ‘spiritual blessings’, are those manifestly poor in spirit, etc. now, in this life. And therefore they are the ‘blessings’ to look for, rather than meltings and manifestations.

I want to seek to drive this home. In the denomination one found to be ‘poor in spirit’ – whether really or imagined – will be led to think that he needs some sort of manifestation of God’s love to his soul to release him from this feeling of poverty; and if he receives it then he will be blessed indeed. But the scripture, and the doctrine of the gospel, clearly declares that the man’s poverty of spirit is his blessing. Listen again to what Jesus teaches: ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit’, not, ‘Blessed will the poor in spirit be when I visit him with a sweet manifestation of love to his soul.’ Again, in seeking to lead the people to look for these blessings of ‘a blessed experience’, the preaching actually fails to teach ‘the poor in spirit’ that he is already blessed, and that if his poverty of spirit has come about as a result of a genuine work of God in his soul – stripping him of all his self-righteousness, pride, and hopes of ever attaining to salvation by his own works, acts of repentance or attempts to believe – then all the ‘spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ’ are already his! After all Jesus did say, ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’.

Again, hearken to the ‘blessings’ of the psalmist in Psalm 32: ‘Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile.’ There is the description of the man’s blessed state, being in Christ, and solely by his work upon the cross. This is called ‘being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus’, Rom. 3:24-26.

And what was David’s experience which assured him that he could testify thus? He answers with this testimony: ‘When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long. For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer. Selah.’ David was under conviction of sin, but was refusing to acknowledge it before God and confess it. The result? He got worse and worse. The law and conscience smote him continually, so that even his physical health began to suffer. He was groaning, nay, roaring in his sin, but would not relent, would not turn. But the Lord didn’t leave him, he pressed him sore, heavier and heavier the Almighty hand pressed him down, lovingly(!) grinding the unrepentant rebel into the dust; and it was as if the sinner’s very life was ebbing away – after all, what moisture can be found in the burning heat of summer? – there’s your wilderness again. But when the end came, and all last efforts to stay independent of his Creator had failed, then he kept silence no longer; ‘I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid’ – as if the LORD hadn’t been aware of it anyway! – ‘I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah.’ Well of course Jehovah forgave the iniquity of his sin, for all that come to him in such a way will always receive forgiveness and mercy freely!

But on what grounds had he come? Notice David didn’t confess his sin merely to ‘God’, but to ‘the LORD’, that is, to Jehovah. Therefore, although heavy laden under the almighty hand, he hadn’t come begrudgingly to some impersonal deity, but he’d come seeking mercy from One he knew and believed in. For who do we know as Jehovah in the way of faith? Why, ‘Jehovah our righteousness’ – Jesus Christ. David, then, had seen ‘Jesus Christ, and him crucified’ by revelation, and had believed on him by faith, causing him thus to cry unto him and confess his sin, Rom. 10:13,14a. Psalm 32 then is nothing other than the outworking of ‘the gospel of your salvation’, ‘the gospel of the grace of God’, of ‘the blessing of the gospel of Christ’, Rom. 15:29. And this is the ‘blessing’ of the child of God, declared in a free justification by the blood of Christ alone, Rom. 5:9, Isa. 53:11. Now, dear reader, is David’s experience yours? Is this what your ‘blessings’ have issued in? Read the rest of Psalm 32. Can you, by the grace of God, say as much? Do you know what the psalmist is confessing? Then you are blessed indeed, and you are rich – ‘the riches of his grace.’ Therefore, ‘Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, ye righteous: and shout for joy, all ye that are upright in heart.’

But if your ‘blessings’ have not led you into these things, then they are nothing but idols, false hopes, which could easily have been manufactured by Satan; therefore cast them away, for if you remain a stranger to a knowledge, at least, of your poverty of spirit, of your sinnership before God, then they are false, are nothing but vanity, count for nothing, breed presumption, and are a sandy foundation upon which to build an ‘experience’ that you think will stand you in good stead on that day. Oh, turn, repent, and seek the grace of God to be manifest to you, in you; that grace of God that bringeth a true heavenly salvation, which, when it is brought, far from leaving its recipients wallowing in some supposed blessed ecstasy for a while – before it wears off and leaves them in darkness again – actually teaches them to ‘deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, to live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world’: and causes them ‘to look for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works’, Titus 2:11-14.

The man made wise unto this salvation can truly say, ‘The blessing of the LORD, it maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with it’, Prov. 10:22. No sorrow? What sorrow can there be for those raised from the dead – sin, sins and the curse having been forever put away – and seated in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus? None whatsoever. For to them the LORD says, ‘I know the thoughts that I think toward you… thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end’, Jer. 29:11. Yes, their blessings are in heaven ‘beyond this wilderness’ (Bunyan), and they have a blessed and peaceful end.

But the margin of the above verse looks beyond just an expected end, for it tells of ‘an end and expectation’! Indeed ‘our conversation’, writes Paul, as well as our blessings, ‘is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself’, Phil. 3:20,21. What an expectation!

O, look up! Look beyond this world with all its cares, and look to Christ alone, to the King whom the LORD has set in Zion, the hill of his holiness; for there is all your hope, all your salvation, all your expectation, and all your blessing. Yea, for ‘Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: that the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith’, Gal. 3:13,14.

Therefore, Rejoice in the Lord, my brethren and sisters. Rejoice in the Lord alway, and again I say, Rejoice!

 

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[1] The word translated ‘the adoption of children’ in Eph. 1:5 should be ‘the adoption of sons’. God begets sons specifically in the new covenant; see part vii below.

[2] It seems that one of the great desires of those who are seeking ‘experiences’ is to be able to testify with the apostle that, after their ‘blessing’, they ‘didn’t know whether they had been in the body, or out of it’, cp. 2 Cor. 12:1-3. But nowhere do we read of Paul placing any ‘hope’ on his ‘visions and revelations’, as though somehow they counted towards his certainty of salvation. Christ was all his hope and salvation; and, anyway, this blessing that he received was only mentioned fourteen years after it had occurred, and that to show that it was one thing in which he would not glory! See context.

 [3] Someone said to me recently, ‘I felt so bad, but asked God to forgive me…’ To which I replied, ‘And did he answer?’ ‘Well, no; but I did ask!’ And that was seemingly the end of the ‘trouble’ she felt for having been ‘bad’.

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