“From the cradle to the cross He obeyed the will of God from the heart” by Robert Murray M’Cheyne

Inquiry: What good is it to me that Christ is free from guilt?

Answer: Christ is offered to you as your Saviour.

There is perfect obedience in Christ, because He hath gone to the Father, and we see Him no more.

When He came to this world, He came not only to suffer, but to do— not only to be a dying Saviour, but also a doing Saviour— not only to suffer the curse which the first Adam had brought upon the world, but to render the obedience which the first Adam had left undone.

From the cradle to the cross He obeyed the will of God from the heart.

When He came into the world, His word was: “Lo! I come; in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will, O God; yea, thy law is within my heart.” (Psalm 40:6-8)

When He was in the midst of His obedience, still He did not change His mind. He says: “I have meat to eat that ye know not of: my meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.” (John 4:32)

And when He was going out of the world, still His word was: “I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.” (John 17:4)

So that it is true what an apostle says; that He was “obedient even unto death.” The whole law is summed up in these two commands—that we love God and our neighbor. Christ did both.

(1.) He loved God perfectly, as God says in Psalm 91:14:“Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him; I will set him on high.”

(2.) He loved His neighbor as Himself. It was out of love to men that he came into the world at all; and everything he did and everything he suffered in the world, was out of love to his neighbor.

It was out of love to men that he performed the greatest part of his obedience, namely, the laying down his life. This was the principal errand upon which he came into the world.

This was the most dreadful and difficult command which God laid upon him, and yet he obeyed. But a short while before he was betrayed, God gave him an awful view of his coming wrath, in the garden of Gethsemane.

He set down the cup before him, and showed that it was a cup without any mixture of mercy in it; and yet Christ obeyed: his human nature shrank back from it, and he prayed: “If it be possible let this cup pass from me;” but he did not waver one moment from complete obedience for he adds: “Nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.”

Now this is the obedience of Christ, and we know that it is perfect.

(1.) Because he was the Son of God, and all that he did must be perfect.

(2.) Because he is gone to the Father. He is ascended into the presence of God. And how did the Father receive him?

We are told in the 110th Psalm. A door is opened in heaven, and we are suffered to hear the very words with which God receives his Son: “The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies my footstool.” (Psalm 110)

So, then, God did not send him back, as one who had not obeyed perfectly enough. God did not forbid him his presence, as one unworthy to be accepted; but God highly exalted him—looked upon him as worthy of much honor—worthy of a seat on the throne at his right hand.

Oh! how plain that Christ is accepted with the Father! how plain that his righteousness is most lovely and all divine in the sight of God the Father.

Hearken, then, trembling sinner! this righteousness is offered to you.

It was wrought just for sinners like you, and for none else; it is for no other use but just to cover naked sinners. This is the clothing of wrought gold and the raiment of needlework. This is the wedding-garment—the fine linen, white and clean.

Oh! put ye on the Lord Jesus. Why should you refuse your own mercies?

Become one with Christ, by believing, and you are not only pardoned, as I showed before, but you are righteous in the sight of God; not only shall you never be cast into hell, but you shall surely be carried into heaven—as surely as Christ is now there.

Become one with Christ, and even this moment you are lovely in the sight of God—comely, through his comeliness put upon you. You are as much accepted in the sight of God as is the Son of Man, the Beloved, that sits on his right hand.

The Spirit shall be given you, as surely as he is given to Christ. He is given to Christ as the oil of gladness, wherewith he is anointed above his fellows. You are as sure to wear a crown of glory, as that Christ is now wearing his.

You are as sure to sit upon Christ’s throne, as that Christ is now sitting on his Father’s throne. O weep for joy, happy believer!

O sing for gladness of heart: “For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.’ (Romans 8:38:39)”

–Robert Murray M’Cheyne, “Sermon LXXI,” The Works of the Late Rev. Robert Murray McCheyne, vol. 2 (New York: Robert Carter, 1847), 2: 418–419.

“The formal and principal act of justifying faith” by Francis Turretin

“The nature of faith cannot be rightly perceived unless these two things are known: (1) of what acts it consists; (2) what is its object…

The fifth is the act of reception of Christ or of adhesion and union, by which we not only seek Christ through a desire of the soul and fly to Him, but apprehend and receive Him offered, embrace Him found, apply Him to ourselves and adhere to and unite ourselves to Him.

For as God freely offers His own Son in the gospel to the sinful soul, burdened and cast down and broken by a sense of his sins, and Christ offers Himself with all His benefits and the fulness of salvation residing in Him, so the soul (firmly persuaded of the fulness of salvation in Christ, seriously flying to Him and earnestly desiring communion with Him) cannot help embracing with the highest freedom of the will that supreme good offered, and the inestimable treasure, selling all for Him (Mt. 13:44), resting upon Christ as the sole Redeemer and delivering and making himself over, and so firmly retaining Him that he is prepared to lose anything else rather than reject Him.

This is the formal and principal act of justifying faith, usually termed “reception”:

“As many as received Him” (i.e., “who believed on His name,” Jn. 1:12); believers are said “to receive the gift of righteousness” (Rom. 5:17); “to receive Christ” (Col. 2:6); “I found him whom my soul loveth: I held him, and would not let him go” (Cant. 3:4); sometimes “meat and drink” (Mt. 5:6; Jn 6:51); the “putting on of Christ” (Gal. 3:27).

And because the soul thus apprehending Christ reclines upon Him and rests upon and cleaves to Him, faith is also sometimes described as an act of “reclining” (Ps. 71:5; Isa. 10:20; 48:2; 50:10; Mic. 3:11); as also an act of adhesion and binding closely, and of the most strict union by which we are bone of His bone and flesh of His flesh and one with him; and Christ Himself dwells in us (Eph. 3:17) and we in Him (Jn. 15:5).

From this union of persons arises the participation in the blessings of Christ, to which (by union with Him) we acquire a right (to wit, justification, adoption, sanctification and glorification).”

–Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, ed. James T. Dennison Jr., trans. George Musgrave Giger, vol. 2 (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 1992–1997), 2: 560, 563.

“The dear love of my Savior” by Richard Sibbes

“Oh, what should water my heart, and make it melt in obedience unto my God, but the assurance and knowledge of the virtue of this most precious blood of my Redeemer, applied to my sick soul, in the full and free remission of all my sins, and appeasing the justice of God?

What should bow and break my rebellious hard heart and soften it, but the apprehension of that dear love of my Savior, who hath loved me before I loved Him, and now hath blotted out that hand-writing that was against me?

What should enable my weak knees, hold up my weary hands, strengthen my fainting and feebled spirit in constant obedience against so many crosses and afflictions, temptations and impediments, which would stop up my way, but the hope of this precious calling unto glory and virtue?”

–Richard Sibbes, “A Glimpse of Glory,” The Works of Richard Sibbes, Volume 7 (ed. Alexander Balloch Grosart; Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1639/2001), 7: 495.

“A righteousness that is able to cover the sins of millions of worlds” by Thomas Goodwin

“In the gospel, and work of redemption, we see a righteousness of that breadth that is able to cover the sins of millions of worlds; of that length that it reacheth to eternity, and no sin in God’s people can wear it out or nullify the virtue of it.

And those attributes which God accounts His greatest riches and greatest glory, (Rom. 9:23), even His mercy and free grace, which He intends most to exalt, never saw light till now.

The doctrine of salvation by Christ being the stage, wherein only it is represented, and elsewhere it is not to be seen, and upon it acts the greatest part, for all passages in it tend to this, to shew, as, that ‘by grace we are saved,’ (Eph. 2:5) and therefore, the whole work of salvation is called ‘mercy,’ (1 Peter 2:10) all God’s ways to His people are mercy, (Ps. 25:10), the whole plot and frame of it is made of mercy, and therefore the doctrine of the gospel is called grace, (Titus 2:10-11).

Mercy manageth the plot, gives all other attributes, as it were, their parts to act.

Mercy enters in at the beginning, acts the prologue in election.

And mercy, giving Christ, continues every part of it, sets all a-work, ends the whole in glory.”

–Thomas Goodwin, “The Glory of the Gospel,” The Works of Thomas Goodwin, Volume 4 (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage, 1861/2021), 4: 230-231.

“Our curse, our righteousness, and our blessedness” by Thomas Brooks

“The first Adam, falling away from God by his first transgression, plunged himself into all unrighteousness, and so in wrapped himself in the curse (James 1:24).

Now Christ the second Adam, that He may restore the lost man into an estate of blessedness, He becomes that for them which the law is unto them, namely, a curse.

Beginning where the law ends, and so going backward to satisfy the demands of the law to the uttermost, He becomes first a curse for them and then their righteousness, and so their blessedness.”

–Thomas Brooks, “The Golden Key to Open Hidden Treasures,” The Works of Thomas Brooks, Volume 5, ed. Alexander Balloch Grosart (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1866/2001), 5: 147.

“Believers can and will become holy because in Christ they are holy” by Herman Bavinck

“Naturally, God is the Almighty One, and He could, had He wanted to, have perfectly sanctified all His children in the moment of regeneration. But that apparently was not His will; in the recreation He does not deny Himself as Creator.

All the life of the creature is born, grows up, and only gradually reaches its maturity. Because the spiritual life is actually life it comes to be and it develops in this same way.

God does not inject the righteousness and holiness of Christ into us mechanically, or pour it out as one does water into a vessel, but He works it out in us in an organic way. Hence the one detail does not conflict with the other when the Scripture constantly presents the matter as though the believers must become that which they are.

The kingdom of heaven is a gift of God (Luke 12:32) and yet it is a treasure of great worth which must be sought after (Matt. 6:33 and 13:46). The believers are the branches of the vine, and they can, accordingly, do nothing without Christ, and yet they are told in His word to remain in Him, in His word, and in His love (John 15:1ff).

They were elected in Christ from before the foundation of the world, and yet they must be diligent to make their calling and their election sure (Eph. 1:4 and 2 Peter 1:10). They have been sanctified by the one sacrifice of Christ, and must nevertheless follow after sanctification, without which no man shall see the Lord (Heb. 10:10 and 12:14).

They are complete, and nevertheless require constant perfecting and establishment (Col. 2:10 and 1 Peter 5:10). They have put on the new man, and must nevertheless constantly put him on (Eph. 4:24 and Col. 3:10).

They have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts, and must nevertheless still mortify their members which are upon the earth (Gal. 5:24 and Col. 3:5). It is God who works in them both to will and to do according to His good pleasure, and yet they must work out their salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12–13).

These data do not conflict with each other. The one is simply the ground and guarantee of the other. Because sanctification, like the whole of salvation, is the work of God, we are admonished, obliged, to a new obedience, and we are also qualified for it.

He grants abundant grace not that we should instantly or suddenly be holy and continue to rest in this holiness, but that we should persevere in the struggle and remain standing.

He hears our prayers but does it in accordance with the law and order which He has fixed for the spiritual life. Hence we are always of good courage, for He who has begun a good work in us will finish it until the day of Jesus Christ.

The believers can and they will become holy because in Christ they are holy.”

–Herman Bavinck, The Wonderful Works of God (trans. Henry Zylstra; Glenside, PA: Westminster Seminary Press, 1909/2019), 484-485.

“The Christian ethic” by Herman Bavinck

“The Christian ethic is none other than the one briefly and pointedly comprised in the ten commandments and which, for the rest, is illuminated and interpreted throughout the whole of Scriptures.

In those commandments the love of God stands in the foreground, but the love of the neighbor is the second law, like unto the first.”

–Herman Bavinck, The Wonderful Works of God (trans. Henry Zylstra; Glenside, PA: Westminster Seminary Press, 1909/2019), 479.

“The chain of salvation cannot be broken” by Herman Bavinck

“After Paul in his letter to the Romans has first dealt with the subject of justification (Romans 5:1ff) he proceeds in chapter 6 to the subject of sanctification (Romans 6:1ff). Just as there were later on, so there were in the days of the apostles certain people who thought that the doctrine of free justification would affect the moral life unfavorably.

They feared that people, prompted by such a confession, would proceed to sin in order that good might issue from it and grace be made to abound (Rom. 3:8 and 6:1). Paul refutes this charge and says that it is impossible for those who have died to sin to live in it any longer (Rom. 6:2).

He proves this by pointing out that the believers who by their faith have received the forgiveness of sins and peace with God have also by witness of their baptism been buried with Christ in His death and been raised with Him to a new life (Rom. 6:3–11).

For Paul believers are always persons who have not only accepted the righteousness of God in Christ unto the forgiveness of their sins, but also have personally died and been raised in the communion with Christ, and therefore are dead to sin and alive in God (Gal. 2:20; 3:27; Col. 2:12). In other words, the death of Christ has justifying power not only but also sanctifying power (2 Cor. 5:13).

And the faith which has the true stamp upon it accepts Christ not only as a justification but also as a sanctification: in fact, the one is impossible without the other. For Christ is not to be divided and His benefits are inseparable from His person.

He is at the same time our wisdom and our righteousness, our sanctification and our redemption (1 Cor. 1:30). Such He became for us of God and as such He was given us by God.

The sanctification which we must share, therefore, lies perfectly achieved in Christ. There are many Christians who, at least in their practical life, think very differently about this.

They acknowledge that they are justified through the righteousness which Christ has accomplished, but they maintain or at least act as though they hold that they must be sanctified by a holiness that they must themselves achieve.

If this were true, then we, in flat contradiction of the apostolic testimony (Rom. 6:14; Gal. 4:31; 5:1 and 13), would not be living under grace in freedom but under the bondage of the law.

However, the evangelical sanctification is distinguished just as well from the legal one as the righteousness of God revealed in the gospel is distinguished, not in its content but in the mode of sharing it, from that which was demanded by the law.

It consists of this: that in Christ God gives us the perfect sanctification along with the justification, and that He gives us this as an internal possession through the regenerating and renewing operation of the Holy Spirit.

Sanctification is therefore God’s work, a work of His righteousness and of His grace at the same time. First He reckons Christ and all His benefits to our account, and thereupon He shares Him with us in all the fulness that is in Him.

For it is He who circumcises the hearts (Deut. 31:6), who takes away the heart of stone and supplants it with a heart of flesh (Ezek. 12:19), who pours out His Spirit upon them (Joel 2:28), who creates a new spirit within them (Ezek. 11:19 and 36:26), who writes His law in their hearts, causes them to walk in His ways and makes them His people. (Jer. 31:33; 32:38; Ezek. 36:27 and 28)

The matter is, if possible, put even more strongly in the New Testament where we read that the believers are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:10), a new creature (2 Cor. 5:17 and Gal. 6:15), and the work of God (Rom. 14:20).

There the believers are also called God’s husbandry and God’s building (1 Cor. 3:9; Eph. 2:20; Col. 2:7; 1 Peter 2:5), and there we are told that all things are of God (2 Cor. 5:18).

When they were buried with Christ and raised with Him, they were also washed and sanctified (1 Cor. 1:2; 6:11; Titus 3:5), and they continue to be sanctified in the future (John 17:17; 2 Cor. 3:18; 1 Thess. 5:23; Eph. 5:26; Titus 2:14; and Heb. 13:20–21) until they have been wholly conformed to the image of the Son. (Rom. 8:28; 1 Cor. 15:49; and Phil. 3:21)

The chain of salvation cannot be broken because from beginning to end it is the work of God. He whom He has known, called, and justified, him He has also glorified (Rom. 8:30).”

–Herman Bavinck, The Wonderful Works of God (trans. Henry Zylstra; Glenside, PA: Westminster Seminary Press, 1909/2019), 457-459.

“The Lord is close to those who have bruised their hearts” by Augustine of Hippo (A.D. 354-430)

God is most high, yet near.

I will cry to God Most High. If He is most high, how can He hear your crying?

‘My confidence is born from experience,’ the psalmist replies, ‘because I am praying to God, who has dealt kindly with me. If He dealt kindly with me before I sought Him, will He not hear me now that I am crying out to Him?’

The Lord God dealt kindly with us by sending us our Savior Jesus Christ, to die for our misdeeds and rise for our justification. (Rom. 4:25)

And for what kind of people did God will His Son to die?

For the godless. The godless were not seeking God, but God sought them.

He is “most high” indeed, but in such a way that our wretchedness and our groans are not far from Him, for the Lord is close to those who have bruised their hearts.

I will cry to God Most High, to God who has dealt kindly with me.”

–Augustine of Hippo, Expositions of the Psalms 51–72, trans. Maria Boulding, ed. John E. Rotelle, vol. 17, The Works of Saint Augustine: A Translation for the 21st Century (Hyde Park, NY: New City Press, 2001), 17: 108–109. Augustine is commenting on Psalm 57:2.

“Saving faith is not the enemy of good works” by Michael Horton

“Saving faith is not the enemy of good works, but their only possible source.

We never offer up our good works to God for salvation, but extend them to our neighbors for their good. As a result, everyone benefits.

God, who needs nothing from us, receives all of the glory; our neighbors receive gifts that God wants to give them through us; and we benefit both from the gifts of others and the joy that our own giving brings.

Reverse this flow, and nobody wins. God is not glorified, neighbors are not served, and we live frustrated, anxious, joyless lives awaiting the wrath of a holy God.

The gospel produces peace and empowers us to live by faith. We live no longer anxious, but secure and invigorated because we are crucified and raised with Christ.

We are no longer trying to live up to the starring role we’ve given ourselves, but are written into the story of Christ.

We have nothing to prove, just a lot of work to do.Good works are no longer seen as a condition of our union with Christ, but as its fruit.

We are no longer slaves, but the children of God– co-heirs with Christ, our elder brother.

The first question and answer of the Heidelberg Catechism summarizes this faith well:

Q. What is your only comfort in life and death?

A. That I am not my own,
but belong with body and soul,
both in life and in death, 
to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ. 
He has fully paid for all my sins with His precious blood,
and has set me free from all the power of the devil.
He also preserves me in such a way
that without the will of my heavenly Father not a hair can fall from my head;
indeed, all things must work together for my salvation.
Therefore, by His Holy Spirit He also assures me of eternal life
and makes me heartily willing and ready
from now on to live for Him.

As God’s creatures, made in His image, we are ‘not our own’ already in creation. Yet our redemption doubles this truth.

Created by God and saved by His grace, I am truly ‘not my own, but belong– body and soul, in life and in death– to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.'”

–Michael Horton, Ordinary: Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless World (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2014), 41-42.