Friday, January 18, 2008

Puritan Reading, Bruised Reed - Chapter 13

Grace Shall Reign

Why? Because Jesus Christ is victorious!

Sibbes spends the first couple of pages of this chapter reiterating the basis for our victory in Christ. Some of these may not be familiar to the casual student of Scripture, and include:

1. Christ has conquered all and is over all.
2. We encounter many enemies, and the 'bigger they are the harder they fall".
3. The Spirit of truth and the truth of the Spirit both abide forever.
4. Because we have the promise we have the possession of the victory.
5. Christ is a King who has a kingdom that will never end.
6. Christ's purpose is to destroy the works of the devil, both for us and in us.

We can rejoice in all of these, but we often wonder why we do not yet possess the victory which we have been promised. Sibbes devotes the next section of this chapter answering the following objection: If this is so, why is it thus with the church of God, and with many a gracious Christian? The victory seems to be with the enemy. (pg. 94) Why does it appear that the devil, the flesh, and the world have overpowering influence in our lives?

The following arguments may be difficult to understand, but all show the complex nature of God's providence.

First, Christ suffered, and as His servants we are also called to suffer.
Second, victory comes by degrees, bit by bit, event by event. Not at once but in process.
Third, what appears to be a defeat often leads to a greater victory.
Fourth, sometimes going back is needful for going forward. Seeds lie dormant (and "rot") prior to sprouting.

In the end, we see His strength perfected in our weakness. Even in the midst of our difficulties we know that He is with us as we find him at work in us in the following ways:

1. We experience Christ's ways.
2. Our religious reason exceeds our natural reason.
3. We are true enough to Him that our hopes and fears do not sway us from Him.
4. His truth is more precious than our own lives.
5. Even when granted liberty to choose other governance we choose His reign over us.
6. We see order and not chaos in our lives.
7. We choose Christ over either earthly loss or gain.
8. We find ourselves practicing duties pleasing to Christ.

Does this all come at once? No:

To make this clearer, and help us in our trial, we must know that there are three degrees of victory: first, when we resist though we are foiled; second, when grace gets the better, though with conflict; and third, when all corruption is perfectly subdued. When we have strength only to resist, we may know Christ's government in us will be victorious, because what is said of the devil is true of all our spiritual enemies, `Resist the devil, and he will flee from you' (James 4:7); because `Greater is he that is in you', who takes the part of his own grace, `than he that is in the world' (1 John 4:4). And if we may hope for victory from bare resistance, what may we not hope for when the Spirit has gained the upper hand? (pg. 99-100)

Grace SHALL reign, Christ IS victorious.

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