“This is the heart of the gospel” by Herman Bavinck

“There is one mediator between God and humanity, the true God-man Jesus Christ.

This is the heart of the gospel.”

–Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics: Sin and Salvation in Christ (Ed. John Bolt, and Trans. John Vriend; vol. 1; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006), 3: 237.

“He humbled Himself to become man” by J.C. Ryle

“The New Testament begins with the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. No part of the Bible is so important as this, and no part is so full and complete.

Four distinct Gospels tell us the story of Christ’s doing and dying. Four times over we read the precious account of His works and words.

How thankful we ought to be for this! To know Christ is life eternal. To believe in Christ is to have peace with God. To follow Christ is to be a true Christian.

To be with Christ will be heaven itself. We can never hear too much about Jesus Christ.

The Gospel of St. Matthew begins with a long list of names. Sixteen verses are taken up with tracing a pedigree from Abraham to David, and from David to the family in which Jesus was born.

Let no one think that these verses are useless. Nothing is useless in creation. The least mosses, and the smallest insects, serve some good end. Nothing is useless in the Bible.

Every word of it is inspired. The chapters and verses which seem at first sight unprofitable, are all given for some good purpose, Look again at these sixteen verses, and you will see in them useful and instructive lessons.

Learn from this list of names, that God always keeps His word. He had promised, that in Abraham’s seed all the nations of the earth should be blessed. He had promised to raise up a Saviour of the family of David. (Gen. 12:3; Isaiah 11:1.)

These sixteen verses prove, that Jesus was the son of David and the son of Abraham, and that God’s promise was fulfilled.—Thoughtless and ungodly people should remember this lesson, and be afraid. Whatever they may think, God will keep His word.

If they repent not, they will surely perish.—True Christians should remember this lesson, and take comfort. Their Father in heaven will be true to all His engagements.

He has said, that He will save all believers in Christ. If He has said it, He will certainly do it. “He is not a man that He should lie.” “He abideth faithful: He can not deny Himself.” (2 Tim. 2:13.)

Learn next from this list of names the sinfulness and corruption of human nature. Observe how many godly parents in this catalogue had wicked and ungodly sons.

The names of Roboam, and Joram, and Amon, and Jechonias, should teach us humbling lessons. They had all pious fathers. But they were all wicked men.

Grace does not run in families. It needs something more than good examples and good advice to make us children of God.

They that are born again are not born of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:13.) Praying parents should pray night and day, that their children may be born of the Spirit.

Learn lastly from this list of names, how great is the mercy and compassion of our Lord Jesus Christ. Think how defiled and unclean our nature is; and then think what a condescension it was in Him to be born of a woman, and “made in the likeness of men.”

Some of the names we read in this catalogue remind us of shameful and sad histories. Some of the names are those of persons never mentioned elsewhere in the Bible. But at the end of all comes the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Though He is the eternal God, He humbled Himself to become man, in order to provide salvation for sinners. “Though he was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor.”

We should always read this catalogue with thankful feelings. We see here that no one who partakes of human nature can be beyond the reach of Christ’s sympathy and compassion.

Our sins may have been as black and great as those of any whom St. Matthew names. But they can not shut us out of heaven, if we repent and believe the gospel.

If Jesus was not ashamed to be born of a woman, whose pedigree contained such names as those we have read today, we need not think that He will be ashamed to call us brethren, and to give us eternal life.”

–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Matthew (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1856/2012), 2-3. Ryle is commenting on Matthew 1:1-17.

“This Intercessor stretches out His hands of blessing” by Joel Beeke

“One of the great functions of a priest was to pronounce God’s blessing, or benediction, upon his people. Melchizedek, “the priest of the most high God,” blessed Abraham, the covenantal father of all the faithful (Gen. 14:18–20), and did so as a type of Christ (Ps. 110:4; Heb. 7:1, 6–7).

The Lord chose the Aaronic priests to bless Israel in his name (Deut. 10:8; 21:5), saying, “The Lord bless thee, and keep thee: the Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: the Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace” (Num. 6:22–26).

The core elements of this priestly blessing, “grace” and “peace,” now flow from the Father and the Son to His people, as the greetings in the New Testament Epistles abundantly affirm.

Some theologians have considered blessing to be a distinct third function of priests after sacrifice and intercession. Aaron blessed the people after making sacrifices and again after going into the tabernacle to intercede (Lev. 9:22–23). Other theologians have seen the priestly blessing to be an aspect of intercession.

The blessing was a prayer that invoked God’s name upon His covenant people so that God would bless them (Num. 6:27). “The priests the Levites arose and blessed the people: and their voice was heard, and their prayer came up to his holy dwelling place, even unto heaven” (2 Chron. 30:27).

What is clear is that Christ blesses his people as their Priest. Just before Christ ascended into heaven, “he lifted up his hands, and blessed” his disciples (Luke 24:50–51), just as formerly “Aaron lifted up his hand toward the people, and blessed them” (Lev. 9:22). Peter, citing God’s promise to bless all nations by Abraham’s seed, says, “God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities” (Acts 3:25–26).

God’s blessing through Christ is covenantal. Sinners are under God’s curse for breaking the commandments of his law (Gal. 3:10). In his redeeming sacrifice, Christ received the curse of God’s law, absorbing its full fury in his sufferings while perfectly obeying the law, so that his believing people are delivered from the curse (Gal. 3:13; 4:4). They receive the blessing promised in the covenant with Abraham “through Jesus Christ” by faith (Gal. 3:14).

God’s curse against lawbreakers hangs over all the good things that they receive in this world (Deut. 28:15–19), mingles sorrow into all good (Gen. 3:17–19), and one day will take all good away from unrepentant sinners (Luke 6:24–25; 16:24–25). However, Christians may pray to their Father for their “daily bread” (Matt. 6:11), “that of God’s free gift we may receive a competent portion of the good things of this life, and enjoy his blessing with them.” The ability of believers to enjoy earthly goods with God’s blessing presupposes that he is pleased with them (Eccl. 9:7–9).

Therefore, the goodness of all God’s providences toward his elect comes to them through Christ’s intercession (Rom. 8:28, 34). Paul says, “My God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by [or “in”] Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19).

The core of God’s blessing is justification and the grace of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 3:8, 14). Owen observed that the work of the Spirit is the “purchased grace” that Christ won by his obedience and sufferings. Christ obtains the Spirit for his people by his intercession: “I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever” (John 14:16). The fullness of the Spirit’s new-covenant ministry depends on the glorification of the Son (7:39). Christ himself sends us the Spirit from the Father’s side (John 16:7).

By these spiritual graces, the reality and efficacy of Christ’s invisible intercession in heaven is demonstrated on earth, for we have received the Holy Spirit and know the fruit of Christ’s intercession in our lives, as Perkins said. The best evidence that Christ prays for us in heaven is the Spirit’s work to make us pray on earth.

The exaltation of our great High Priest signals the fulfillment of the covenant of grace and the inauguration of the last days (Heb. 1:2–3; 9:26). Murray said, “Jesus as high priest is the surety and mediator of the new and better covenant.… The new covenant brings to its consummation the communion which is at the heart of all covenant disclosure from Abraham onwards: ‘I will be your God, and ye shall be my people.’ … The heavenly high priesthood of Christ, means, therefore, that Christ appears in the presence of God … to plead on the basis of what he has accomplished the fulfilment of all the promises.”

Therefore, Christ’s intercession unlocks all grace and glory for his people. In union with Christ, they are blessed by the Father with “all spiritual blessings” (Eph. 1:3).

The intercession of our Lord Jesus is a boundless field full of flowers from which we may draw sweet nectar for our souls. Let us consider some of the riches of knowing our Intercessor by God’s grace.

First, we must allow this doctrine to form in us constant reliance on the exalted Christ. We must run the race set before us, “looking unto Jesus” (Heb. 12:2; cf. Col. 3:1). Brown said that Christ’s intercession glorifies him, for “in this way believers have an immediate dependence on Christ for ever.” Let us look to him for every grace.

Second, Christians may find here strong consolation and hope. Christ’s entrance into heaven as our forerunner confirms the unbreakable promise of God that he will bless his people (Heb. 6:17–20). If Christ’s death reconciled us to God when we were his enemies, much more will his living ministry deliver us from the wrath of God (Rom. 5:10). We can exult in hope.

Third, believers should look to Christ’s intercession for confidence in our justification. Christ was raised for our justification and intercedes to deliver us from condemnation (Rom. 4:25; 8:33–34). His appearing before the face of God confirms that his blood sacrifice has expiated the guilt of our sins once for all (Heb. 9:24). We should assure our consciences with this doctrine.

Fourth, knowing Christ as the Intercessor can encourage quickness to confess sin to God. Rather than remaining silent when God convicts us of sin (Ps. 32:3–5), let us immediately confess our sins with faith in Christ’s propitiation and intercession, for God “is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9; 2:1–2).

Fifth, the doctrine of Christ’s intercession increases expectation and comfort in prayer. What is more comforting in trials than to go to a friend who knows how we feel and how to help us? Christ sympathizes with us perfectly. “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:15–16).

Sixth, given that all spiritual blessings come to us through Christ’s intercession, we should learn to exercise trust in Christ for the grace of the Holy Spirit. Let us never separate the Spirit from Jesus Christ, for he is the Spirit of God’s Son (Gal. 4:6). Whether we need the Spirit’s power to mortify sin (Rom. 8:13), his fruit for works of love and self-control (Gal. 5:22–23), or his gifts to serve the church effectively (1 Cor. 12:7, 11), let us drink of his living water by exercising faith in the exalted Christ (John 7:37–39). Believers overcome trials, even unto martyrdom, by “the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:19). Owen said, “The great duty of tempted souls, is to cry out unto the Lord Christ for help and relief.”

Seventh, the more God’s children meditate upon Christ’s intercession, the more they will increase in assurance of ultimate salvation and blessedness. We will be purged of legalistic perfectionism and rest in his perfection. We will learn to recognize all our good desires and good works as fruit of his priestly work. Then we will be able to rejoice and exult, for our Intercessor is able to save us completely (Heb. 7:25).

As long as this Intercessor stretches out His hands of blessing, we may be sure that the true Israel will prevail over its enemies (Ex. 17:8–13).”

–Joel R. Beeke and Paul M. Smalley, Reformed Systematic Theology, Volume 2: Man and Christ (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2020), 2: 1099–1103.

“God’s chosen instrument for doing good to souls” by J.C. Ryle

One of the principal works which the apostles were commissioned to take up was preaching.

We read that our Lord ‘sent them to preach the kingdom of God,” and that “they went through the towns preaching the Gospel.’ (Luke 9:6)

The importance of preaching, as a means of grace, might easily be gathered from this passage, even if it stood alone. But it is but one instance, among many, of the high value which the Bible everywhere sets upon preaching.

It is, in fact, God’s chosen instrument for doing good to souls. By it sinners are converted, inquirers led on, and saints built up.

A preaching ministry is absolutely essential to the health and prosperity of a visible church.

The pulpit is the place where the chief victories of the Gospel have always been won, and no Church has ever done much for the advancement of true religion in which the pulpit has been neglected.

Would we know whether a minister is a truly apostolical man? If he is, he will give the best of his attention to his sermons.

He will labor and pray to make his preaching effective, and he will tell his congregation that he looks to preaching for the chief results on souls.

The minister who exalts the sacraments, or forms of the Church, above preaching, may be a zealous, earnest, conscientious, and respectable minister; but his zeal is not according to knowledge. (Romans 10:2)

He is not a follower of the apostles.”

–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1858/2012), 1: 222-223. Ryle is commenting on Luke 9:1-6.

“The gentleness and condescension of Christ” by J.C. Ryle

“Let us mark, lastly, in this passage, our Lord Jesus Christ’s readiness to receive all who come to Him.

We are told, that when the multitude followed Him into the desert, whither He had retired, ‘He received them, and spoke unto them of the kingdom of God, and healed them that had need of healing.’ (Luke 9:11)

Unmannerly and uninvited as this intrusion on His privacy seems to have been, it met with no rebuff from our Lord. He was always more ready to give instruction than people were to ask it, and more willing to teach than people were to be taught.

But the incident, trifling as it may seem, exactly tallies with all that we read in the Gospels of the gentleness and condescension of Christ.

We never see Him dealing with people according to their deserts.

We never find Him scrutinizing the motives of His hearers, or refusing to allow them to learn of Him, because their hearts were not right in the sight of God.

His ear was always ready to hear, and His hand was always ready to work, and His tongue was always ready to preach.

None that came to Him were ever cast out. Whatever they might think of His doctrine, they could never say that Jesus of Nazareth was “an austere man.”

Let us remember this in all our dealings with Christ about our own souls. We may draw near to Him with boldness, and open our hearts to Him with confidence.

He is a Saviour of infinite compassion and lovingkindness. He will not break the bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax. (Isaiah 42:3)

The secrets of our spiritual life may be such as we would not have our dearest friends know. The wounds of our consciences may be deep and sore, and require most delicate handling.

But we need not fear anything, if we commit all to Jesus, the Son of God.

We shall find that His kindness is unbounded. His own words shall be found abundantly true: ‘I am meek and lowly of heart, and ye shall find rest to your souls.’ (Matthew 11:29)

Let us remember this, finally, in our dealing with other people, if we are called upon to give them help about their souls.

Let us strive to walk in the steps of Christ’s example, and, like Him, to be kind, and patient, and always willing to aid.

The ignorance of young beginners in religion is sometimes very provoking. We are apt to be wearied of their instability, and fickleness, and halting between two opinions.

But let us remember Jesus, and not be weary. He received all, spoke to all, and did good to all.

Let us go and do likewise. As Christ deals with us, so let us deal one with another.”

–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1858/2012), 1: 227-228. Ryle is commenting on Luke 9:7-11.

“When Christ is the physician nothing is impossible” by J.C. Ryle

“Let us mark, in these verses, the absolute power which the Lord Jesus Christ possesses over Satan. We are told that he “commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man,” whose miserable condition we have just head described.

At once the unhappy sufferer was healed. The “many devils” by whom he had been possessed were compelled to leave him. Nor is this all.

Cast forth from their abode in the man’s heart, we see these malignant spirits beseeching our Lord that He would “not torment” them, or “command them to go out into the deep,” and so confessing His supremacy over them.

Mighty as they were, they plainly felt themselves in the presence of One mightier than themselves. Full of malice as they were, they could not even hurt the “swine” of the Gadarenes until our Lord granted them permission.

Our Lord Jesus Christ’s dominion over the devil should be a cheering thought to all true Christians. Without it, indeed, we might well despair of salvation.

To feel that we have ever near us an invisible spiritual enemy, laboring night and day to compass our destruction, would be enough to crush out every hope, if we did not know a Friend and Protector.

Blessed be God! The Gospel reveals such an One. The Lord Jesus is stronger than that “strong man armed,” who is ever warring against our souls. The Lord Jesus is able to deliver us from the devil.

He proved his power over him frequently when upon earth. He triumphed over him gloriously on the cross. He will never let him pluck any of His sheep out of His hand. He will one day bruise him under our feet, and bind him in the prison of hell. (Rom. 16:20; Rev. 20:1-2)

Happy are they who hear Christ’s voice and follow Him! Satan may vex them, but he cannot really hurt them! He may bruise their heel, but he cannot destroy their souls. They shall be “more than conquerors” through Him who loved them. (Rom. 8:37)

Let us mark, finally, the wonderful change which Christ can work in Satan’s slaves. We are told that the Gadarenes “found the man out of whom the devil was departed, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed, and in his right mind.”

That sight must indeed have been strange and astonishing! The man’s past history and condition, no doubt, were well known. He had probably been a nuisance and a terror to all the neighborhood.

Yet here, in one moment, a complete change had come over him. Old things had passed away, and all things had become new. The power by which such a cure was wrought must indeed have been almighty.

When Christ is the physician nothing is impossible.

One thing, however, must never be forgotten. Striking and miraculous as this cure was, it is not really more wonderful than every case of decided conversion to God.

Marvellous as the change was which appeared in this demoniac’s condition when healed, it is not one whit more marvellous than the change which passes over every one who is born again, and turned from the power of Satan to God.

Never is a man in his right mind till he is converted, or in his right place till he sits by faith at the feet of Jesus, or rightly clothed till he has put on the Lord Jesus Christ. Have we ever considered what real conversion to God is?

It is nothing else than the miraculous release of a captive, the miraculous restoration of a man to his right mind, the miraculous deliverance of a soul from the devil.

What are we ourselves? This, after all, is the grand question which concerns us. Are we bondsmen of Satan or servants of God? Has Christ made us free, or does she devil yet reign in our hearts? Do we sit at the feet of Jesus daily? Are we in our right minds?

May the Lord help us to answer these questions aright!”

–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1858/2012), 1: 205-207. Ryle is commenting on Luke 8:26-36.

“The miracle of miracles” by Joel Beeke

“Every miracle of personal salvation rests upon the person of Christ, who is the miracle of miracles.”

–Joel R. Beeke and Paul M. Smalley, Reformed Systematic Theology, Volume 2: Man and Christ (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2020), 2: 860.