Brother Beebe: - I wish you would write a discourse on the last chapter of Luke, twenty-sixth verse: “Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?”
Webster Co., KY., August 1, 1862.
REPLY: Saints and angels may well be amazed at the idea of the blessed Christ of God appearing in the character of a sufferer, and it is not surprising that the two disciples with whom he was conversing when he uttered the words above written, recoiled at the thought that wicked men had been permitted to crucify their Lord and Master. Like all others of the disciples, they could only understand the profound mystery so far as it was opened by revelation to their comprehension. They knew that they had loved him dearly, that they had trusted in him as the Messiah that was to come, and they verily believed that he was the long looked for Deliverer that was to redeem Israel, but how much he was to suffer in the accomplishment of that work they did not realize. They had witnessed his arrest, his trial and his conviction, they had probably followed, perhaps afar off, to the place of execution, saw his writhing agony on the cross, heard his bitter groans, and heard him cry, “My God! my God! why hast thou forsaken me?” Ah, well they knew that he was crucified, dead and buried, but that he was indeed risen again from the dead they did not know. True they had been astonished at a report of some women who were early at the sepulcher, who averred that he had risen, but how could they rejoice in a risen Jesus until as such he manifested himself to them? So it still continues to be with the disciples of Jesus, for now we know only in part, we see only as through a glass darkly, but the blessed prospect looms up before us, that as soon as that which is in part shall be done away, we shall see face to face, and know even as we are known.
But our brother desires us to discourse on the text: “O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?” We do not understand the Redeemer to call his disciples fools by way of reproach, or as implying impatience with their infirmities, but to chide their despondency and dispel their doubtings. A fool is simply a person who is destitute of understanding, and this was their case on that occasion, for if they had comprehended the matter, if they had known that thus it behooved him to suffer and to rise again from the dead on the third day, that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name to Jews and Gentiles, and that this dreadful suffering was now accomplished, that sin and death and hell were vanquished, that the church of God was now redeemed from all iniquity, that now his mediatorial glory was about to break forth in heavenly radiance, instead of desponding they would have rejoiced with joy unspeakable and full of glory.
“And slow of heart to believe.” The apostle says, “With the heart man believeth unto righteousness.” That is, in regard to spiritual things. Carnal or nominal professors of religion may believe their respective creeds with their heads, with their carnal minds and with their natural powers, as evidence is presented, and they may be quick to believe, for they are under no restraint. We see them eager to drink in delusion that suits their carnal lust, and hurriedly they embrace the doctrine of men, because they love it, and because it requires no grace, no teaching of the Holy Spirit to instruct them; but the children of God can only lay hold of the evidences on which their belief in Christ is predicated, by faith, and their faith is not of themselves, it is the gift of God. And it is the work of the Spirit of truth to present the evidences of eternal things to their faith, and they are such fools they can only believe and understand what they are taught of God by his Spirit, for they have not a particle of wit or wisdom, only what is treasured up for them in him who of God is made unto them wisdom, for in him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. They feel and confess that they are slow to believe all that the prophets have written. They were not without confidence in the prophets of the Lord, and undoubtedly believed some of the things which the prophets had written, but they were slow or tardy in believing all. We do not suppose the two disciples disbelieved or doubted what the prophets had written in predicting the coming of One who should redeem Israel, for they referred to that promise, as one bound to their hearts, and although they might confidently believe many things thus written in the Old Testament, their understanding of the Scriptures was so limited that they were slow to believe it all. But what the prophets have written is one undivided and unbroken testimony, beautiful and glorious in its harmony and identity; hence Jesus, fully understanding their deficiency, applied the proper and only corrective. He began at Moses, that is, with the five books of Moses, with which the Old Testament begins, and beginning also with all the prophets, he expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. So we perceive, fools though these dear disciples were, as also all his disciples still are, (for if any man would know anything he must first become a fool, that he may be wise,) yet they lacked no wisdom or knowledge that Jesus did not possess. When we consider the amount of instruction contained in the discourse of Jesus, embracing all that Moses and the prophets had written concerning himself, together with all that was contained in the other Scriptures on the same subject, all comprised in his discourse to them, is it any wonder that their hearts were inflamed, and burned in them, while he talked with them by the way, and opened to them the Scriptures? These Scriptures had not only predicted his advent to the world, but they had also testified before hand his sufferings, and the glory that should follow. The prophets themselves did not understand all the glory of their prophecy; there were some things sealed up from their understanding, as Peter says, They sought diligently “what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand of the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.”
We come now to the appeal which Christ made to the disciples: “Ought not Christ to have suffered these things?” On no such grounds as could justify Pilate in passing the sentence of death upon him, for he had acknowledged that he found no cause of death in him, nor ought he to have suffered in any sense that could justify the Jews and Romans to conspire against him. He was holy, harmless and separate from sinners; he had done no injury to any man, but to the contrary, he had healed the sick, cleansed the lepers, given sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf; he had fed the hungry, and ministered comfort to the afflicted; he had raised the dead, and cast out devils. Was there anything in this to justify their malice? He had invaded no rights claimed by earthly monarchs or potentates, he had paid tribute and custom according to their laws, and taught his disciples to imitate his example. Then why ought he to suffer these things? His enemies watched him diligently, and constantly lay in wait to find some cause of complaint that they might accuse him, but all in vain, for it cost them large sums of money to suborn witnesses to testify falsely against him, that they might procure his arrest. But although he was holy, innocent and pure, though there was no guile found in his mouth, although the eternal Father from the skies had proclaimed that he was his beloved Son, in whom he was well pleased, still we are, from Christ’s own words, assured that there was necessity for him to suffer these things, for in the forty-sixth and forty-seventh verses of the same chapter he said unto them, “Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” As it was written thus in the Scriptures, and the Scriptures containing the important record were written by inspiration of the Holy Ghost, it is very evident that the grounds on which it behooved Christ to suffer were to be found in the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, and that his being finally delivered up to these sufferings was in fulfillment of what God’s hand and counsel had before determined should be done. By a careful comparison of what was written aforetime, with the testimony of the New Testament, and the record of the fulfillment of what was written, we learn that the necessity of Christ’s sufferings was indispensable for the redemption and salvation of his people. In pursuance of the purpose and grace of God, which he purposed in himself before the world began, Christ was set up, or given to be the Head over all things to his church, which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all. Such was the relationship between Christ, in his mediatorial Headship over his body, the church, that all demands of the law and justice of God upon the church were assumed by him, and it was upon this, and on no other ground that we can conceive of, that it behooved him to suffer these things. That people whom the Father gave him, in their earthly nature have all sinned, and were all by nature children of wrath, even as others. But God who is rich in mercy, for the great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with him. Thus we perceive that the astonishing display of mercy and grace in the redemption of his people proceeded from the great love wherewith God had loved them in Christ Jesus before the foundation of the world, and that love was so great, so strong and so immutable, that our apostasy in Adam and our being dead in sins did not change or abate it. For God hath commended his love towards us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Truly this love is stronger than death, but in contemplating the unavoidable necessity of Christ’s sufferings we must take into consideration the principles of law and justice which were involved, for in this lies much of the mystery of our salvation, how God could be just and the justifier of them that believe in Jesus. No mortal wisdom could suggest a plan that would secure the salvation of sinners, without infringing the justice of God. The law would not admit of the substitution of an innocent sufferer for the transgressions of the guilty, unless there was some just and righteous ground of responsibility involved on the part of the sufferer. Husbands are in law responsible for the debts contracted by their wives, parents for children, etc., but in criminal cases these relations will not hold the innocent responsible, there must then be found a relationship still nearer; we know of no law that will exempt the head from responsibility for the acts of the body, or members of the body. On this principle then we conclude the law could justly look to Christ as Head and Surety for his body, the church, and certain it is that “The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” “Surely, he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he was brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sins of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” The foregoing testimony from the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah illustrates the subject better than volumes of uninspired comments, showing upon what principle it was just for the dear Redeemer to suffer, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God. As the Shepherd he laid down his life for his sheep; for as they were his sheep before they had transgressed, justice demanded the ransom at his hands. He so stood related to and identified with his flock, that all their sins were laid on him, and he was numbered with the transgressors, and the extent of his atonement is forever settled. “For the transgression of my people [saith God] was he stricken.” And by his stripes we are healed. The ground then on which he “ought to suffer,” was not that we as transgressors had any claim on him for anything good or bad that we had done, or intended to do, but it was as these Scriptures clearly show, by the grace of God, and not the will or works of men, that he tasted death for God’s people; himself bearing our sins in his own body. Thus it behooved or became Christ to suffer. “For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the Captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.” (Heb. 2:10) “For by one offering he hath perfected forever them that are sanctified.” (Heb. 10:14) His sufferings were indispensable, not only for bringing many sons unto glory, but also to prepare his entrance into the glory that was to follow. “Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?”
We presume the glory into which Christ was to enter was the glory of his mediatorial triumph over death, hell and sin, in the perfect redemption of his people, the organization of his kingdom, the ascension to his throne in Zion, and that revenue of praise which must redound to his great name to everlasting. It is true he had a glory with the Father before the world began, and as we understand, the glory of eternal deity was his in common with the Father, from everlasting, but his endurance of sufferings was not required to precede his possession of that glory. John says, “We beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” And the saints of every age have a revelation of this when God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, shines in their hearts, to give them the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. For he is the brightness of his Father’s glory, and the express image of his person. The glory of which he speaks in our text we conclude must be that of which he spake in his address to the Father, (John 17:22-24) the glory the Father gave him, and which he has given to his people. It must, we think, refer especially to his mediatorial glory, and that particularly which he has secured by the accomplishment of all the work which the Father gave him to do. The glorious triumph of the Son of God over all enemies, his endless victory over all opposing powers, was to be followed by his resurrection from the dead, his ascension up on high, his leading captivity captive, and the reception of his kingdom, his coronation and his throne, will all be comprised in that glory which he was to enter. Before the organization of his kingdom in her gospel beauty, the subjects required to be redeemed from their captivity, and their redemption could only be effected by his sufferings, hence we are told that he for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down on the right hand of the majesty on high. Thus in the majesty on high he has entered the glory which he had with the Father before the world began. While the things which he had to suffer intervened between him and the consummation of his glory, he was found in fashion as a man, took on him the form of a servant, learned obedience and was obedient even unto death. But the joy was then before him, and he passed through the depths of deep waters without faltering, and like Jacob, when serving Laban for Rachel, the anticipated bride, made the years of servitude seem as but a few days. So the blessed Savior anticipated the glory that was to follow his sufferings. High seated now upon his imperial throne, his people are not only redeemed from the curse and dominion of the law, and the lawful captives thus delivered, but the Spirit of immortality is sent down in his name to quicken and call all the trophies of his triumph, and his people are made willing in the day of his power. Vested now with all the power of heaven and earth, he gives repentance unto Israel and forgiveness of sins. Repentance and remission are now preached in his name, and his arm is made bare for salvation, and his arm shall rule for him: behold, his reward is with him and his work before him. He gathers now his sheep with his arm and carries them in his bosom, and they all know experimentally, when he opens the eyes of their understanding, what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of his power to usward who believe, according to his mighty power.
In view of all this, ye trembling saints, as ye wade through the bitter waters of affliction, consider him who endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be weary and faint in your mind. He has laid up in heaven for you a crown of unfading glory, and you are called to know the fellowship of his sufferings and to be conformed to his death. Look steadfastly then to the mark of the prize of your high calling, and press on, your suffering days will soon be ended, your sighing and sorrowing soon shall cease, and God will wipe away all your tears. If it behooved Christ to suffer first and then to enter his glory, shall we complain of the sufferings of the present time, when so well we know that our light afflictions, which are but for a moment, do work for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory?
“His way was much harder and rougher than thine,
Did Christ your Lord suffer, and wilt thou repine?”
Sept. 1, 1862.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 5
Pages 249 – 257