Brother Beebe: I am an enquirer after the right way. Will you please give me your views on Luke 11:9,10, “And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh fmdeth: and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened.”
Yours, in hope of eternal life,
J.C. L. Miller.
Reply: The gracious encouragement given in this text to pray, and the assurance of the answer of prayer, is too plainly written to require much labor or argument by way of explanation. Yet plainly as the subject is stated to the enlightened child of God who honestly enquires after, and desires to know and walk in the truth as it is in Jesus, it is like all other scriptures, dark and obscure to the natural man who receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: and even the saints may be perplexed by the perversions of ignorant or designing men who handle the sacred word of God deceitfully, and darken counsel by words without knowledge. Those who, in defiance of heaven and contradiction of the express testimony of the scriptures, preach a conditional and work-mongrel doctrine of offers and pro-offers of grace, indiscriminately made to all mankind, often repeat the text under consideration as though it had been addressed alike to all, and represent the Savior as saying to carnal, graceless and dead sinners that they may have eternal salvation by asking for it; that the Lord has made the terms so easy as to bring the salvation of sinners within the reach of all men, and so cheap that all may secure by purchase an interest in the kingdom of God. But, if such a theory were true, would not salvation be attainable by works? If the sinner must do something to secure his salvation, however little that something may be, or however easily performed, the doing of it would be an indispensable condition, and his salvation or damnation would rest on his compliance with the terms; but such we know is not the case; for God has said of all who are saved, “And their salvation is of me, saith the Lord.” “By grace are ye saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast.” If salvation be of God, it is not of men; and if by grace, then it is not of works, otherwise grace is no more grace. The apostle informs us that all the promises of God are in Christ Jesus, Yea, and in him, Amen, to the glory of God by us. This being the case, to be interested in them, we must be in Christ as the branch is in the Vine. There are no gospel promises out of Christ, but unto the members of the body of Christ, who were chosen of God in him before the foundation of the world, are given exceeding great and precious promises, that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature (II Peter 1:4). For the promise is unto you and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.
In the chapter from which our subject is taken, one of his disciples said unto him, “Lord, teach us to pray,” etc. “And he said unto them,” that is, to his disciples, one of whom had asked for this instruction, “When thou prayest, say, Our Father,” etc. None but the children of God can, in truth, call God their Father. If he is indeed our Father, it is because our spiritual, immortal or eternal life, was with him from everlasting, and because he hath of his own will begotten us by the word of his power; and we are consequently born again, not of a corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the Word God, which liveth and abideth forever. To such, and only to such, gave he power to become the sons of God; even to them that believe on his name, which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. These are the children of God, and God is their Father. “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God (Romans 8:14).” “Now, if any man have not the spirit of Christ, he is none of his (Romans 8:9).” To be a son or child of God, and entitled to the privilege of calling God our Father is to be begotten and born of God, and to possess the Spirit of Christ; and but by that Spirit, and through that Christ alone can any man have access to God; for Jesus expressly declares, “No man can come unto the Father, but by me.” All his children are taught of God and every one that is taught of God cometh to Christ; while no man cometh unto Christ, except his Father which sent him draw them. It is, therefore, preposterous to pretend that Jesus was teaching any others to pray, but such as were by a spiritual birth qualified to worship God in Spirit and in truth, by praying with the Spirit and with the understanding also; for God is a spirit and can only be approached by the spirit, through Christ Jesus our Lord. We know not how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit helpeth our infirmities, and maketh intercession for us according to the will of God. To such as are born of God, led by the Spirit of God, and are followers of Christ is the distinguishing appellation, disciple of Christ given in the scriptures, for except we obey and follow him we cannot be his disciples, but “Then are ye my disciples indeed, if ye do whatsoever I command you.” To his disciples Jesus said,
And I say unto you. Are any so dull as to believe that this form of words means that he saith this to all mankind? Can these words without violence be applied to those to whom he had said, Ye shall seek me, and ye shall not find me, and ye shall die in your sins, etc.? “I say,” tis Jesus speaks. It is the voice of him who called the world into being, who speaks the word and it stands fast; who commands and it is done. There is power and majesty, grace and salvation in his word, for he says, “The words that I speak unto you they are spirit and they are life.” And when the word goes forth out of his mouth, it shall not return to him void of the word whereunto he hath sent it. Nor can his word miscarry. What he says to you does not mean somebody else. Well, what does he here say to his disciples? “Ask, and it shall be given you.” The disciple in asking, virtually acknowledges his need of that for which he asks, and his dependence of God to supply his needs. He acknowledges that the name of Father is a hallowed, or consecrated name expressive of vital relationship, and that he has confidence in his Father which is in heaven, that he is able and willing to supply all that he is led by the spirit of prayer to ask for. And the faith of the Son of God in the heart of the disciples lays hold of the blessed assurance that what he is so led to ask for shall be given to him. Not that all that our fleshy lusts may desire or prompt us to ask for is pledged to us in this sacred text; for we sometimes ask amiss, for things to consume upon our lusts, and then we ask and we receive not. God in great mercy to us withholds such things as would be injurious to us. But what we are taught by Christ to ask, in spirit and manner and form as expressed in the prayer in the context, from the second to the fifth verse of this chapter, in the spirit of that submission which says, thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth. When looking to God, day by day for daily supplies of temporal and spiritual support and subsistence, and when cherishing the same spirit of forgiveness to our enemies that we ask God to bestow on us. “And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have aught against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespass. But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses (Mark 11:25-26).” This last quoted scripture may explain to us why many of our prayers are shut out; especially when we are desiring that God should crush our enemies, and lavish his gifts on us and on our friends. “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which dispitefully use you and persecute you: That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: etc. (Matthew 5:44-45).” If God forgives us, only as we forgive those who trespass against us, what will be our fate? Do we mark iniquity against our neighbor, brother or fellow being, and ask God to blot out our transgressions? How vain are such prayers! Do we ask God to be merciful to our unrighteousness and remember our iniquities no more? Then let us not seek revenge on those we deem to be our foes. The word and spirit of our God must teach us what to ask for, how to ask, and in what spirit and in what name to approach our heart-searching and rein-trying God, and thus directed we shall ask, and God will hear, and we shall receive all that we ask for, for the Spirit of truth and holiness will not lead us to pray for any things that God will withhold from them that walk uprightly.
Seek, and ye shall find. Seeking not only implies a desire to find a cherished treasure, but also such qualifications as blind or dead men do not possess. To seek is to look or to search for something that is hidden; and in order to seek we must have life, and sight, but until quickened by the Spirit we are both dead in sins, and blind to everything of a spiritual nature. Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God; and that is the very first thing the children of God are commanded to seek for. “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things (temporal mercies) shall be added unto you (Matthew 6:33).” All that we require to seek is embraced in the kingdom of God and the righteousness of God. These we need, for under no other government can we be happy or at home, and in no other righteousness can we be holy and acceptable to God. But as the Kingdom of God is spiritual, the natural man cannot see it, or receive it; for it is only spiritually discerned. In that blessed kingdom we should be but aliens and strangers unless qualified for fellow-citizenship with the saints, by the righteousness of God. To seek for some popular religious establishment, called a church, and our own righteousness, requires no new birth, no circumcision of heart, of ears, or of eyes; for the world will recognize its own. But to seek successfully the Kingdom over which the blessed Jesus presides, and the flaming righteousness of God, without which we can in no wise be saved, requires that we shall be of him in Christ, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, sanctification and redemption.
Knock, and it shall be opened unto you. This familiar figure presents the prayers of the saints, as knocking at Mercy’s door. As the weary traveler would gain admittance in the house for rest, food and comfort approaches the door, and knocks for admittance, and as the child would come in to his father’s house and mingle with the children, and with them participate in the provisions and comforts of the family, so the heaven-born child of God seeks for the church of God, and approaching the door of the Sheepfold, (for he would not climb up some other way) he knocks, or gives the signal; saying perhaps in the language of the psalmist, “Come and hear, all ye that fear God, and I will declare what he hath done for my soul.” This kind of knocking never fails to receive a happy response, “Come in thou blessed of the Lord.” “Why tarry thou, arise and be baptized,” etc. Or if we apply this figure to our knocking at Mercy’s door, the result is certain, for God himself has promised to open the door to all such. This is attested by all the inmates of the house of God. For every one that asketh receiveth, and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. What child of God has ever been turned away empty when asking supplies at the throne of Grace, with the spirit and with the understanding, and in the name of Jesus? Not even Jonah when in the belly of hell, was unsuccessful in seeking his God with his face turned towards the holy temple at Jerusalem. And when we knock at the door of Mercy, how consoling is the assurance, given in the text, “To him that knocketh it shall be opened.”
“Enough, my gracious God,
Let faith triumphant cry,
My heart can on this promise live,
Can on this promise die.”
The subject affords great consolation to the humble, tried and trembling children of God, who feel that they have nothing in their hands to bring as an oblation or offering to God, to procure his favor, but unworthy to pronounce his sacred name. Hungry, thirsting, naked, destitute and helpless, Jesus bids them come; approach his mercy seat, come boldly to the throne of grace, to ask for mercy, and find grace to help in every time of need.
“Poor tempest-tossed soul, be still,
My promis’d grace receive.
‘Tis Jesus speaks! I must, I will,
I can, I do believe.”
September 15, 1864.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 6