A Sermon preached at the first Annual Meeting of the Cherith Trust, June 23rd, 1973, at Cave Adullam Chapel, Blackheath, Birmingham, and published by request.
“For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking 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.
This epistle was written for the purpose of strengthening the faith of Titus, in his labours amongst those to whom God had sent him, and particularly with the purpose of directing Titus in the right way of establishing a God-given order in the churches to whom he ministered. So we find that Paul spent considerable time in laying out those principles which will govern the behaviour and action of the churches and particularly the necessary qualifications to be seen in those who bear office in the churches. So, for instance, in the first chapter we read of the bishop who must be blameless (v.7) and then in the following chapter we read of those different groups of people which you will find in any healthy church of Jesus Christ. There are the aged men (v.2), the aged women (v.3), the young women (v.4) and the young men (v.6). To all these groups of people, whether office bearers or humble members of the church, Paul has a word of counsel and direction as he writes to his friend Titus. Then, as he comes to the closing verses in the second chapter, he makes plain the grand motive behind such life and behaviour. We shall never live according to the precepts of the gospel unless we have in our hearts the power of the gospel. It is an absolute impossibility, not one of us will ever find a right spirit working within unless we possess that life which comes from Jesus Christ. And so we have in these verses the great foundation which must lie beneath all true Christian life and profession.
Paul emphasizes that Christian life is essentially twofold; on the one hand there is need to be much concerned with doctrine, those holy truths which we believe and profess, but he also shows us, as also James particularly shows us in his epistle, that faith without works is dead (Jas. 2, 26). We may profess many great truths, we may be very orthodox in our religious profession, and yet be devoid of the life of the gospel. Your profession and mine will be tested on this twofold principle; do we believe the truth, and does the truth influence us in a truly scriptural way? It is a searching examination. I hope that God by His Spirit might
cause you much concern as to what you believe and as to what effect those beliefs have upon your life and behaviour. Be sure of this that if you don’t believe the truth you are not right, and if the truth does not have an influence upon you, you are still not right. I find these epistles, particularly the preceptive parts deeply humbling: I find, as I read them through my spirit has to respond to the Word of God like this, and I say “Guilty, Lord
I’m guilty, I have been found out again”. May God bless us all with true repentance!
Now, says Paul, “the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men.” The preaching of the gospel throughout the world was according to the command of Jesus Christ. It was a command given to His faithful followers, those He had appointed and ordained to be His apostles; and He commissioned them to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature, so that there is a preaching of the Word to all kinds and conditions of men throughout the world. Now I am sure that one of the concerns in setting up this Cherith Trust is a right concern that in every scriptural way the truth shall be maintained and proclaimed. But then we come immediately to the point already stressed; the grace of God may appear as a doctrine, you may have set before you the wonderful grace of our God that bringeth salvation, but you may not possess that salvation, for it is certainly true that many who have heard of the grace of God, and many who have known in their minds the way of salvation have never been influenced so as to be taughtÂ—the verse says “teaching us”. “The grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men”, but the distinctive, separating doctrine of this verse is that it teaches. Has it taught you? What have you been taught? What do you know? Not just with your mind so as to accept it as a logical point, so as to accept it as an intellectual decision but what powerful influence has the Word of truth had upon you? What influence has the message of salvation had upon you? You say you are saved? I will tell you how to test whether you are saved or notÂ—read the twelfth verse, “Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and wordly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world”. There is the test. It is not just to say “I believe that the Lord has saved me, I know that I am saved, I know that Jesus is my Saviour.” It is to bear evidence in your life that He is. This is the proof, and if there is not this evidence we fail the test given to us in these verses. “O!”, someone will say, “we don’t believe in perfection in the flesh.” No! neither did Paul, neither did he teach it to Titus, but he did teach Titus, and intended that through Titus the churches of Crete should be instructed in this, that the great proof
of real religion is to be seen in the real influence of that religion upon our lives.
Do you deny ungodliness? You might point a finger at others who you think are ungodly and say “Well, I am not like them”. That
should be very humbling, but that is not denying ungodliness. It is when the finger is pointed at your own heart, then you begin to understand what denying ungodliness is. “And worldly lusts”, that “we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world”. I leave you to read through these two chapters again to see how frequently Paul speaks about sobriety. Now the influence of the gospel on many today is to encourage them to give vent to all manner of wild enthusiasms. It seems that people measure the amount of a person’s religion by the amount of noise that he can make. That is no measure of real godliness. The measure of real godliness is to live soberly. And to make a practical point thereÂ—a sober consideration of the place that God has appointed for us in life, the way in which He has blessed us with natural blessings, the way in which He has prospered us in providence, should give rise to a sober concern as to how we are using what He has given us. “Soberly”Â—there is a restraint upon the heart of God’s people, they are not a licentious people, they are not free to do as they willÂ—they are wholly to be subject to God, to His Word and to His grace, and that will make them sober people. You are not free to spend your money just as you choose if you profess the name of Christ. It is not your own, indeed the Scriptures go even further than that and say “Ye are not your own” (1 Cor. 6, 19). You have a right to nothing!
Well now, this life described by the apostle Paul is a life which has a glorious conclusion. And it is a life in which those who are living it will feel many times a very real comfort with regard to the future. Can you look forward with any sense of comfort? This Trust is set up specifically to relieve the distress of those who are in difficulties before the end of life; they may have no relatives left to care for them, they may be completely dependent upon the sympathetic care of others. If we then could tell them there is provision made for such care, if we could assure them that when they can no longer care for themselves, there will be a place, a congenial place for them, that would relieve their minds. But how much greater is this blessing, “looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” (v.l3). Can you look forward like that? I believe one reason why so many cannot look forward to that blessed hope is because the twelfth verse is missing from their lives. They know that things are not right in their lives;
they know that things are not straight between them and God. Would you dare to have shown, before the searching eye of the Judge of all men, every single thing in your life, every aspect of your life? You say “No, I am afraid of this, and afraid of that”. Rightly, because you know in your conscience that all is not right. Now if there is the burden of guilt on your conscience in certain matters, you can’t be looking forward to that blessed hope and the glorious appearing of the great God, because you know that when that great appearing takes place, the One who
appears is appointed to be the Judge both of quick and dead, and nothing can be hidden from His eyes. Paul could look forward with quiet confidence; he knew that when that day came it would be a blessed day for him because his sins were forgiven, and he was concerned to have a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men.
In connection with these points it is evident that if every person faced the full consequences of the Word of God there would be very many fewer people in homes of the kind proposed in this Trust. If a man will not care for his own, the Scripture says, he “is worse than an infidel” (I. Timothy 5, 8). The setting up of this Trust is not to relieve people of their responsibilities, the first responsibility is upon you to care for your own. Do remember that, because we shall be brought into question in our hearts about these matters. Have we, to the fullest extent of the abilities and strength that God has given us, cared for our own, and not pushed off our responsibilities on to some charitable Trust? This charitable Trust is therefore for those who have none of their own to care for them. So let not the setting up of such a Trust be a cause of sin in anyone’s lifeÂ—it could be, if you sent away your old relatives in their last days into the care of some home or institution because it’s difficult, it’s not very convenient, it’s hard work, or because they have got rather old and perhaps senile and hard to manage. The Word of God does not go into details like that. It is only when conditions are absolutely impossible that believers will consider sending their loved ones into such homes. So, in that sense, the Cherith Trust is the last resort, or should be, except for the very few cases where people are left without anyone of their own family to care for them. How will you face this great King when He appears with His glory, and power, and majesty? Will you be able to answer all questions of that kind? Are you “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour, Jesus Christ”?
We come now to the verse I particularly wanted to speak of “Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works” (v.l4). There are three distinct parts of this text. First of all a great gift, “Who gave himself for us;” secondly, a great work, “that he might redeem us from all iniquity.” and thirdly, a great purpose, “and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.”
Right at the outset I must speak a word to those who are younger. You have already been involved in a concern about the Cherith Trust. I want to ask you a simple question. Why are you concerned about it? Why have you done the things that you did do? Why do you want to do more? “Well,” you say, “because we think it is a good thing”. Yes, that is right, it is! “We think it is a good thing that old people should be cared for.” That
also is right. But you have not come to the real reason, and that is what I want you to think about now. The Bible makes it clear that you can do nothing that is acceptable in the sight of God unless it is done for a right reason, and with a right motive. Maybe some of you young people think that if you do a lot of good things in your life. God will be kind to you at the end, but that is not what the gospel tells us. It tells us that we can never do anything that is good unless God blesses us first. You have to have a new heart before you can do a right thing. Jesus makes this very plain. He said “Marvel not that I said unto thee. Ye must be born again” (John 3, 7). Now, that must be your first and great concern. Has your heart been changed so that you do the things that you do for the right reason? Paul had a right reason for he said Jesus Christ “gave himself for us”.
Think of that gift, think of how great that gift isÂ—He gave Himself. He who was the glorious, eternal Son of God. Think of that contrast, for in these few words we have great contrasts. There is “Himself” and there is “us”. Now He is the eternal Son of God, and it is He HimselfÂ—the eternal Son of God, and then “us”, us who are sinners, us who are but creatures. Paul and Titus owed everything to Him. And here is another contrast. He is the Saviour Jesus Christ, and that means that He was God here on earth. He was God manifest in the flesh, and in His holy life we see everything that is perfect and good, and remember that everything that Jesus did in the whole of His perfect life was done for the right reason. Set beside His holy life my unholy life; set beside the glorious obedience of His life my sinful disobedience. Set the humility of Jesus Christ against the pride of my sinful life, and then read these words again. He “gave himself for us”. And what could you give in return? You have nothing to give! “What shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matt. 16, 26). Can you measure the value of your soul? I can’t measure the value of your soul, nor of mine. There is no value we can place upon a soul. But your soul is forfeited; it is condemned, it is under a sentence of death, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezekiel 18, 4). Well, if you cannot measure the value of your sin-ruined soul, how can you measure that value of Jesus Christ? Judas valued Him at thirty pieces of silver! I went into one chapel a good number of years ago now, and they gave out the collection at the end of the service for the previous Lord’s Day, and I suppose I ought not to have been doing it really, but I looked round and counted the number of people who were there, and divided the number of people into the collection, and I got six old pennies each. It wasn’t even thirty pieces of silver all together! If your religion doesn’t cost you anything, it is not worth anything, one good man said. And if your religion doesn’t cost you anything, I am sure you don’t understand these simple words “Who gave himself for us”. The whole of Himself, His whole sacred person was given for His people. He humbled
Himself, He was born of a woman. He went to the end of the law for righteousness. He endured, and at last even humbling Himself to the death of the cross He yielded up His holy life. “Who gave himself”.
“What think ye of Christ? is the test
To try both your state and your scheme;
You cannot be right in the rest,
Unless you think rightly of Him.” (J. Newton.)
I hope that those who have given themselves to the work of this Trust have counted the cost. But how can you really count the cost of a thing like this in a right way? Only when you measure the cost against this, “Who gave himself for us”. Who, then, are these people? Well, the Scripture describes them in different ways. He died for His sheep; He died for sinners; He died for us. And God alone, by His blessed Spirit, can give you the testimony in your own heart so that you can say “He died for me”. “He gave Himself for me”.
Those who work in Homes for elderly people do their work in different ways. Some work because they are paid for it, some because they have nothing else to do, but some do it because they want to. Some do it for a right reason, they have first given themselves to the Lord, and then they have given themselves to those who are the Lord’s people. There is the right order; first they gave themselves to the Lord. But someone may say “I’m such a worthless sinner” and they would be right! You will never enrich Christ; no, never, but Christ will enrich you. Isaac Watts expresses the truth exactly when he saysÂ—
“Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were an offering far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all!”.
I shall never forget being in one of those crisis points in my own lifeÂ—it was a crisis, it made a complete change in my life and in that deep concern it was as though the Lord said to me “Behold, My hands and My feet”. I could then see what He gave, I looked again at His hands and His feet, and saw the measure of His giving; He gave Himself and He gave His all.
Now to consider the second part of the verse, “that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” “For a good man”, says the apostle, “some would even dare to die”. (Rom. 5, 7). I think some have very nearly done that as they have laboured for the sick and suffering, they have so given themselves to their work that we could say they shortened their lives. “For a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (v.8) That is the measure of His love.
Now we have the great price paid, it is the price of redemption. What is the price of redemption? Why, it is simple, friends, it is life for life, that’s the price of redemption. Life for life!! “That he might redeem us”. The very word itself tells us that those He redeemed are held in a terrible bondage, they are slaves, they are wretched, they are worthless, and yet to redeem them the cost is infinite. It is said of the Levitical sacrifice that the whole significance of the sacrifice is that “it is the blood that maketh atonement for the soul”. (Leviticus 17, 11). Redemption’s price is in the life’s blood of the Lamb of God, “Behold, the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world”, says John the Baptist (John 1, 29). It is the redemption of those who are bound to iniquity and are bound under iniquity. What a price that is!
With redemption there is not only price, but there is power. The one who redeems must have a rightful authority to redeem. So the Saviour had the rightful authority to redeem; to bring His own people out from the bondage of iniquity, and from beneath the burden of the consequences of that iniquity. “That He might redeem us from all iniquity”.
This thought is very closely related to the earlier comment I made about doctrine and life. The doctrine of redemption which we profess as Particular Baptists is very distinctiveÂ—that Christ died with the intention and purpose of redeeming the elect and no other. That was the distinctive purpose, indeed it was the whole of His divine purpose in salvation. But there may be such emphasis laid upon that aspect of redemption that we forget He redeemed us from all iniquity, so that sin should not have dominion over us, so that we should be under grace and not under the law, so that we should be set free to serve Him with a willing heart. No longer are we the servants of Satan, as the Lord said to the Pharisees “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do” (John 8, 44). But Jesus came to redeem His people from that slavery, and to profess only part of Christ’s redeeming work is like that man who went to his house and swept it and polished it, then he went and got seven other spirits worse than himself and they went in and lived there, and the last state of that man was worse than the first. No friends, it is this redeeming from all iniquity that is so important. If we know anything of the price and anything of the power, the effect upon our hearts will not be that we unwillingly turn from sin because we are afraid of its consequences, but that we willingly turn from it because we hate it. We willingly turn from it because we love the One who has redeemed us. “That he might redeem us from all iniquity.”
Lastly we come to the great purpose; “and purify unto himself a peculiar people”. Did you notice in the chapter read this afternoon (Malachi 3) what the Lord said He will do for the
sons of Levi (v.3). Let me explain that verse very simply. We read that the Lord shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and He shall purify the sons of Levi, that they might offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness. Now the sons of Levi were those charged with priestly responsibility in the Old Testament order of things, and they represent, in a prophetic sense. all true believers. All true believers are made kings and priests unto God. (Revelation 1, 6). Now, the Lord sits as a refiner and purifier of silver and the refiner of silver sits with his bellows and blows the fire until it is hot enough to melt the silver. Once the silver is melted the scum rises to the top, and he takes off the scum until the silver is pure enough for him to see his own reflection in it.
How does the Lord purify His people? He purifies His people by the influence of His Word. Has your life been condemned by the Word of God? Has your life been so influenced by the Word that it has been reformed by the Word of God? Has something you indulged in had to go because of the influence of the Word of God? If so. He is purifying unto Himself a peculiar people by writing His law in your heart, leading you to see the truth of His words “Wherefore come out from among them and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing, and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty”. (2 Cor. 6, 17-18). He is purifying unto Himself a peculiar people by the holy influence of His blessed SpiritÂ—the Holy Spirit. Do you know what it is to love holiness for its own sake, or should I say, to love holiness for a holy Jesus’ sake? You have been determined to do something perhaps, your mind is absolutely set upon this particular thing that you are going to do and as you have gone on your way there has been such a revelation in your very heart of Christ in His love and mercy, in His condescension, in Hi.s sufferings, in His dying upon the tree, it has absolutely turned your way upside down, and you have said “No, I cannot go that
way now. I know it is wrong.” This is the Lord purifying unto Himself a peculiar people.
Have you ever felt the influence of the gracious command of Jesus Christ in your heart and conscience and has it come time and time again back to you “This is the way” and you have struggled against it and said “No, Lord, not for me”? Then you try to stifle these convictions in your mind, and you try to fill your life with other interests only to find God speaks again “This is the way, walk ye in it”. The hymnwriter talks about “pricking thorns to hedge their way”, and you have pushed against the thorn hedge and have got scratched, and you realize, when your soul is sore and bleeding, this is the wrong way, and He says
in your heart again “This is the way, walk ye in it”. So the Lord purifies and refines His people.
“Purify unto himself a peculiar people”. I used to think when I was a boy that peculiar meant strange; I used to think they dressed peculiarly. I certainly thought they talked peculiarly, and very often I thought they acted peculiarly. My father explained to me what this means. It means they are a distinctive people, as distinctive as this, the Lord said you shall know a tree by the fruits of itÂ—as distinctive as that! You can tell to whom they belong by the life they live. “A peculiar people”. They are a peculiar people because they are a chosen people; they are a peculiar people because they are a sanctified people; they are a peculiar people because they are strangers and pilgrims, and they are looking for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. They are a peculiar people because they are not of the world even though they live in it.
“Zealous of good works”. Now you may feel overburdened with exhortations today, but 1 feel thisÂ—the more clearly in your heart you know of that great gift, and the more deeply you feel the cost of that great redemption, the more willing you will be to hear exhortations. “Zealous!” A man who is zealous is pressing on, like Paul when he says “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” O! there are so many zealous people about today in their business, in their occupation, in their home, in their family, they are zealous in so many things, they give their time, their energy and their money for these things, but they are not zealous of good works.
Compare that with the last verse of the previous chapter. “They profess that they know God”. You would expect such people to be zealous of good works, but Paul says, “in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate”. (Titus 1:16). There is the contrast.
What shall I say to close? Just thisÂ—Paul saw something of the wonder of the redeeming, saving love of Jesus Christ and he exclaims “The love of Christ constraineth us”. (2 Cor. 5, 14). This is the motive for all real works, all good works. Are we “Zealous of good works”, zealous for the glory of God; zealous for His holy name; zealous for the good of His people; zealous for His cause on the earth? This is costly in time, in energy and in inward emotional resources. You may sometimes feel overwhelmed, overburdened, but then remember He was so zealous that He gave Himself. Â—Â—Â—Â—Â—Â—Â—Â—Â—Â—
The Cherlth Trust has been formed with the intention of providing a home for elderly believers in the West Midlands Area of England. This Trust needs financial support and is warmly commended to you as worthy of your prayerful and practical interest. Details of the Trust may be obtained from the Secretary, Mr. T. U. Barber, Lyndon, 45, Jews Lane, Dudley, Wares. DY3 24H. Any gifts should be sent to the Treasurer, Mr. W. A. Detherid^e, High Meadow, 29, Crumpfields Lane. Webheath, Redditch, Wares. B97 5PN.