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‘THE HEART’S DESIRE AND PRAYER’
‘Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.’
Observe, it begins with the ‘heart’s desire,’ and this issues in a prayer. The source of the prayer is in the recesses of the heart.
I. The Apostle’s desire.—I appeal to you, ‘Are you saved?’ Has that religion you profess given you peace with God? Has it brought you to know Christ as your Saviour? Many have just enough religion to make them miserable. Search and see what yours is. Has it brought you to Jesus?
II. Zeal without knowledge.—‘I bear them record, they have a zeal for God’—a noble testimony! Oh, to have a zeal for God! Would that we saw more of it. Would that there were less stagnation. But mark how the text goes on—‘but not according to knowledge.’ Do you not see it is possible to be very zealous about religion, and yet ignorant of God? Here were people who bore the high and holy name of Israel; people very religious, excessively zealous, and yet without God. How awful to think of religion without Christ; religion without a broken heart for sin; religion that has never taken man out of self into Christ. Religion without God—this is the terrible nightmare of multitudes. A zeal for God, but ignorant. What is your religion?
III. And what is the result of this ignorance?—‘They being ignorant of God’s righteousness’—Christ, the righteous One, coming into the world to take the place of the unrighteous one—‘they being ignorant’ of this, ‘ go about to establish their own righteousness.’ Man feels his need of a righteousness. He is not fit to stand before God. So he ‘ goes about’ his good deeds to quiet his conscience; he ‘ goes about’ his thoughts, comparing himself with an unreal standard. And what for? That he may get a righteousness on which he may rest. He tries to get a resting-place, but he cannot. And why? Because ‘they have not submitted themselves to the righteousness of God.’ ‘ Submitted’—it is the bending of the soul to something it never had before. It is accepting, as a little child, Christ as our righteousness, and renouncing for ever every other trust.
IV. The remedy.—‘Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.’ Here is the remedy. The first word answers it all— Christ. Christ is the end of the law, the end of everything. Come and take Christ, and then you have it. Christ is a great Saviour. Take this Saviour as yours; and do it now. Submit yourself. ‘Come, and He will in no wise cast you out.’
Rev. F. Whitfield.
‘If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt he saved.’
When St. Paul speaks of confession which is necessary to salvation, he means in part, and perhaps chiefly, that confession of faith which attended Adult Baptism. Now that Infant Baptism has become, and rightly become, the almost universal custom of the Church, the public confession has been transferred to a later age. It belongs to Confirmation.
I. Confirmation is an act by which a person who has come to years of discretion accepts and ratifies the covenant of his Baptism, renews the dedication of himself to God, and declares his faith in the promises and privileges into which his Baptism admitted him. This ‘confession’ then, which was once, and is still, properly, a part of Adult Baptism, now belongs to Confirmation. Till he is Confirmed, a person has never made himself a public ‘confession’ of Christ and of the Christian religion, before God and the world. Then he does it. Perhaps the only time in his life in which he ever does it before the Church. How pleasant this is in God’s sight, and how essential, appears from these words of our text—where you will observe that the outward ‘confession’ before the Church, and the inward faith, are bracketed together. This places ‘Confirmation’ in its true light, and shows its very great and paramount importance.
II. It is double Confirmation—confirming and being confirmed—you confirming the covenant of your baptism, and you are confirmed, if you come to it in faith—by the Holy Spirit, equally. Of the reason, then, and the propriety and duty of Confirmation, as the supplement of Infant Baptism, I can hardly conceive any doubt in any reasonable mind. I speak within bounds when I say that the experience of hundreds—whom I have myself known—could bear witness to the greatness and the reality of the blessing and the power which were found in Confirmation. Of course the benefit depends entirely on the truth and the earnestness with which it is done; but be it only real and done in faith, and no words can exaggerate the gain.
—Rev. James Vaughan.
‘I am afraid that most of us must plead guilty to the charge that we do not, in our ordinary habits of life, in our ordinary everyday conduct with one another, show “Whose we are, and Whom we serve,” by speaking of Christ and the great truths of the Christian religion. Could any common observer—would any chance listener, who came in, who met us in society, who sat with us in our family circle, discover that we are Christians? Even if we speak religiously, is it Christ of Whom we speak, and of His great salvation?’
‘Faith cometh by hearing.’
There is no doubt that by ‘faith’ here St. Paul means trust. This faith comes by hearing, hence the need of teaching and preaching.
I. Faith saves the soul.—Christ began His Ministry not with the Sermon on the Mount, but by ‘Repent ye, and believe the Gospel’ ( Mark 1:15). And study these texts and you will see how the blessings of the Gospel are limited to those who believe: John 3:14-15; Acts 10:43; Acts 13:38-39; Acts 16:30-31. ‘The just shall live by his faith,’ said the Hebrew prophet ( Habakkuk 2:4). Those words are quoted four times in the New Testament ( Romans 1:17; 2 Corinthians 5:7; Galatians 3:11; Hebrews 10:38). St. Peter writes of ‘precious faith’ (2 St. Peter Romans 1:1): it is a living thing that moves in the soul as the spirit of spring moves in the branches of the trees. Without faith in Christ morality becomes prudence or imprudence.
II. Faith changes the character.—It purifies the heart, it overcomes the world, and works by love. No doubt there are some who hear the Gospel all their lives and it seems to make no difference, but why? It is not mixed with faith in them that hear ( Hebrews 4:2).
III. Faith opens the lips.—‘I believed, and therefore have I spoken’ ( 2 Corinthians 4:13).
IV. Faith uplifts the life.—The religion of Christ brings Christ into daily duties and daily worries and transforms all.
V. Faith in Christ divides the world.—‘Some believed the things that were spoken, and some believed not’ ( Acts 28:24).
VI. Faith in Christ is a mark of God’s people.—Lay to heart our Lord’s solemn words: ‘But ye believe not, because ye are not of My sheep, as I said unto you’ ( John 10:26).
VII. Faith is the thing Christ will look for when He comes again: ‘When the Son of Man cometh, shall He find faith on the earth?’ ( Luke 18:8.)
—Rev. F. Harper.
(1) ‘When Dr. Moffat began his labours in Africa, one of his earliest converts was a chief called Africaner. This Africaner was the terror of the colony. He had the ferocity of a desperado, and wherever his name was pronounced it carried dismay. When Africaner was brought to the knowledge of the truth, it seemed such a great thing that it was described by those who knew him as the eighth wonder of the world.’
(2) ‘There is a story told of Heraclitus, the Greek philosopher, that after he became famous in the world some distinguished strangers sought his home, and when they came, instead of finding the sage intent on high discourse, they found the great man sitting before the kitchen fire warming himself, and conversing with his slaves. The strangers paused at the threshold in surprise, but he said: “Come in, come in; the gods are here also,” and the wise wit of the old teacher pointed the great truth which found such beautiful expression in the ministry of Jesus Christ.’
THE OUTSTRETCHED HANDS
‘All day long have I stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people.’
When we think of Calvary we see Jesus stretching forth His hands all the day to a disobedient and gainsaying people. Even when the nails had done their cruel work, and had torn the flesh of the Son of God, there were the hands outstretched lovingly as ever.
I. Those hands are outstretched now, and for you.—All the day long, ever since you were born, has Jesus stretched forth His hands to you.
II. Some of us, alas! have turned aside from those dear hands.—When they have knocked at the door of our house, we have not opened; when they pointed upwards, we have turned our eyes down to the ground. We have preferred the world’s caresses to the love of Jesus, the full-mixed cup of sinful pleasure to the bitter gall of penitence, the easy couch of self-pleasing to the hard cross of self-denial.
III. Shall we not learn the real nature of sin by gazing on the agony of mind and body which sin brought on the Son of God? Shall we not learn to hate sin for the future, not from the cowardly fear of its consequences, not from a shrinking dread of the judgment which follows it, but from the knowledge of what it cost our Saviour? When next the temptation comes upon you, pause and send your thoughts to Calvary; think of your wilful sins as thorns in the head of Jesus, as drops of agony forced from His brow, as nails in His hands—those hands stretched out to save you; as nails in His feet—those feet which ever went about doing good; as a spear in His loving heart. Shrink from sin which gave Jesus to the Cross, and shrink not from the cross of self-denial which shall join you to Him. Let the outstretched hands of Jesus lead you all your journey through.
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Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Romans 10". The Church Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent