New Year’s Day Sermon.
Thou shalt call his name Jesus; for it is he that shall save his people from their sins.
This is the commandment which Joseph of Nazareth received from an angel concerning the name of the Son which should be born of the Virgin Mary. The words are recorded by Matthew (1. 21).
The name Jesus means a Saviour. Mary’s Son should be a Saviour, and therefore He should receive this name. He should save, not only provide postponement of the punishment for sins, nor alleviate the anguish for sins, but He should save His people.
It was to His people that this salvation should be granted. When we learn that Jesus should be a Saviour from sins, we are also enabled to understand what sort of a people it was that He should save, namely, a people of sinners. But where is there a people without sins? It was, then, the whole human race which constituted this people. For this reason Jesus is not called the son of Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob, but the Son of Man. He came to save the human race in general.
The Saviour should grant salvation from the very greatest want and distress; for He should save His people from their sins, from the transgressions of God’s law, from God’s wrath, and from the perdition of the soul. He should grant a perfect salvation, so that the punishment for sins should be remitted, the sinful desires be overcome, and the very seat of corruption be eventually uprooted, for He should be a Saviour from sins.
Mark this, O sinner, that this benefaction consists in salvation from sins. Jesus is not a Saviour unto sin. He has not in His redemption given us license to sin. Nor is He a Saviour in sin, remitting the punishment, but leaving a person in the bonds of sin. No, He is a Saviour from sins, to the end that the sins shall be abandoned when forgiven, and that the conquering power of Jesus’ resurrection shall overcome the sinful desires, when the comforting power of His suffering and atonement shall overcome the pangs of conscience, for Jesus is a Saviour from sins.
I propose to develop this matter still further and to point out the comfort which is obtainable in the Saviour’s name, but let us first pray that even on this occasion He may be unto us a Saviour, so that the Word of God which shall be spoken may work unto salvation, that the bondservants of sin may desire Him unto deliverance and flee to Him for refuge, and that by Him they may be granted eternal salvation. To this end let us unite in the Lord’s prayer, “Our Father, etc.”
OUR COMFORT IN THE NAME OF THE SAVIOUR.
1. The comfort obtainable in the name of Jesus, the Saviour.
2. How this comfort can be obtained.
We are here to speak of the comfort that can be obtained in the name of Jesus, the Saviour.
The comfort lies principally in the reference of the evangelist to the fact that this name had been given to our Saviour by the angel, who announced to Mary that she should give birth to a Son, for then was also announced that Jesus should possess such attributes as would enable Him to be a Saviour from sins, according to the interpretation of His name given to Joseph and set forth in our introduction. When Gabriel the angel announced to Mary that she should give birth to a Son, whom she should call Jesus, he also said, “He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Most High: and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David: and He shall reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of His kingdom there shall be no end.” A man like this could be all that we have heard in the introduction, a Saviour from sins.
Jesus is a Saviour from the want and distress of sin, and we have the comforting assurance that He has come to save sinners.
Jesus is a Saviour from the debts of sin. Our debts can now be forgiven, for Jesus has taken them upon Himself and has paid them all. By His circumcision Jesus subjected Himself to the whole law, not only the Decalogue, but to all the enactments in the Pentateuch. The pain Jesus then suffered was a beginning of all the suffering which He should endure as a punishment for sins. A sinner can therefore be delivered from his sins, however many they may be, for Jesus has paid for them all, being “the propitiation for our sins and for the whole world.” A sinner can be delivered from his sins, however great they may be, yea, it they were red as scarlet, they shall he as white as snow, for “the blood of Jesus, shed for you, cleanseth from all sin.” Yea, in Gethsemane the burden of sin weighed Jesus down with His face to the ground, and on the cross it wrung from His heart a bitter cry; but the burden of the sins of the world, though grievously heavy, was borne by the Lamb of God, and cast away, when He arose in glory from His tomb.
Jesus is a Saviour from the threats and condemnation of the law and from the anguish thereby caused in the conscience. The Word of God threatens with anguish every soul that works evil. This anguish must be felt in the soul, either in eternity by those who shall be condemned, or in this life at the time of spiritual awakening. It was from this anguish for sins that Jesus wrought redemption, when He delivered us from the curse of the law. When Jesus permitted Himself to he circumcised, He subjected Himself to the law, as Paul the apostle expresses it; “God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law.” The threats of the law were fulfilled, when Jesus suffered the punishment for sins; and thereby He redeemed us from the curse of the law. When a person is made free from the curse, by virtue of the redemption in Christ, he is also delivered from the anguish caused by the curse of the law. Jesus has fulfilled all the requirements of the law. If we have our share in the Saviour who has fulfilled the law, we need not fear, though condemnation is pronounced upon all who have not fulfilled the law.
Jesus is a Saviour from the power of sin. He proved victorious in His temptations, and so we need not be subject to sin. We, too, can continually be victorious, until the power of sin shall be entirely overcome in death. In His circumcision Jesus began to assume the obligations pertaining to His mediatorial office, and in His baptism He assumed them entirely. Thereupon followed His temptations. As the second Adam Jesus advanced to be tempted by the devil, and He was victorious, where the first Adam fell. Jesus stood in our stead and was victorious on our behalf. He purchased for us power unto victory over all temptations to sin. No man need be a bondservant of sin. The Son of God can make you free indeed. He “gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity.” No one need permit himself to be overcome by the devil, for Jesus has “brought him to nought,” and God can “deliver us out of the power of darkness.” No one need be subdued by the world, for Jesus has “overcome the world,” and He can “deliver us out of this present evil world.” The most deeply rooted sins must yield to the power of His grace. The most violent temptations can be resisted by a redeemed soul. The most cunning devices to lead a believer astray are frustrated by Jesus, who protects His own, turns their simplicity into wisdom, and their earnestness into an unconquerable power unto victory.
Jesus is a Saviour even from earthly want and distress, for these are results of sin.
Physical distress follows upon sin. As soon as Adam had fallen into sin, such distress was announced. The ground was cursed. It became less fertile, necessitating hard labour and anxiety, “In toil shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life.” The Lord has not been pleased to remove all earthly difficulties. He has left hardship as a chastisement unto repentance for those who are not converted and as a trial for the believers.
Nevertheless, in as much as Jesus has wrought salvation from the punishment for sins and, hence, also from all real injury, He saves His own from much earthly distress, and many a time, in the midst of their suffering, He saves them from the worst part of all physical distress, namely, sickening worry, and enables them to heed the apostolic injunction, “In nothing be anxious.” He strengthens their arms of faith so that they are enabled to “cast their anxiety upon Him.” During all their tribulations, Jesus grants unto each and every one of His believers the same experience as Jacob had and of which he bore testimony, saying, “The angel which hath redeemed me from all evil.”
Eventually, He saves them in a blessed death from all manner of evil. Then their tears are wiped away, never to flow any more. “Neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain, any more.” “The Lord will deliver me from every evil work, and will save me unto His heavenly kingdom.”
We are here to show how this comfort in the name of Jesus, the Saviour, can be obtained.
Circumcision was a ceremony to be performed, not only in the case of Jesus, but in the case of every one who should belong to the people of God. Every one who should have a part in the Messianic redemption should be circumcised, as Jesus the Messiah was circumcised. Concerning this circumcision Paul teaches that it does not consist in any external ceremony, but “circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit.” This is accompanied with a painful change, quite as keen as that caused by the “circumcision, which is outward in the flesh.” So long as this change exists in the soul, it is as real a mark that the person thus transformed belongs to the spiritual Israel or the people of God, as the outward circumcision in the flesh was a mark of fellowship with the children of Israel or God’s people of old.
A person obtains comfort in the name of Jesus, if he submits to the pain of the spiritual circumcision, which belongs to repentance. The infant boys in ancient Israel were adopted into the old covenant of grace without any expressed consent on their part, just as the children of the New Testament are adopted into the same covenant of grace, without any assent on their part being required. But if a person of more mature age desired to be adopted into the commonwealth of Israel, he had to submit to the pain caused by circumcision, just as Abraham himself had to, before he could become the ancestor of the woman’s Seed, which had been promised, destined to bruise the serpent’s head, and in which all the nations of the earth should be blessed. A similar condition appertains to each and every one who would become a partaker of the blessing which Jesus the Saviour has purchased. One must submit to the spiritual circumcision which takes place in conversion, when the Word of God like a “two-edged sword pierces even to the dividing of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow.” Indeed, a man cannot himself work repentance for sins and thus bring about his conversion. He must not, however, evade nor disdainfully oppose and thrust away the sword of the law: when the Holy Spirit would thereby sever the bands of sin which hold him a captive to the evil one. Nor dare he endeavor, with amusements and human comforts, to heal the wounds, which result when the Holy Spirit tries to crush his stony heart with the hammer of the law. When a person does not cease using the Word, though he perceives how it disturbs and worries his mind, the Holy Spirit leads everything to the end that the sorrow for sin shall, without causing any injury, be sufficient for God’s purpose.
The Holy Spirit enables a person thus prepared by the word to receive comfort in the name of Jesus and to accept Him as a personal Saviour. This acceptance is made by faith, for John the evangelist teaches that “Jesus gave the right to become children of God to them that believe on His name.” It is the character and nature of true faith to accept Jesus as a Saviour from sins which are painfully perceived. This faith begins rather as a longing, poured out in prayer, than as a certainty expressing itself in praise. Nevertheless, the certainty is there, and by virtue thereof a person looks for comfort not yet received, and expects it confidently, with humble submission to God’s pleasure, saying with the prophet Micah, “I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against Him, until He plead my cause.” Even as the sinner did not, during his spiritual awakening, dare to flee from the chastising arm of the Almighty; so neither does he now venture to thrust back the hand of God which offers comfort in the name of the Saviour, promising forgiveness in His atonement and eternal life in His redemption.
With such a faith follows a continuing change in a person’s spiritual condition, which becomes a constant evidence that he belongs to the people of God and that he has a part in the salvation which Jesus has purchased, and hence he also finds abiding comfort in the name of the Saviour.
In the first place, this change brings the comforting assurance that one is saved, saved from all sins, saved from the wrath of God, saved from the curse of hell, saved from the power of Satan, and that one shall be saved in the midst of all temptations, saved from want and distress, saved in death unto eternal life,
In the second place, this change in conscience also brings a change in one’s mind and heart, so that one becomes like a child, without the opposition of any misinterpretations, evasions, or contradictions, laying bare one’s inner life to the eyes of the omniscient God, to receive the impressions of the reminders and corrections of the Holy Spirit, to the end that He might thereby “guide me with His counsel and afterward receive me to glory.”
Jesus is such a Saviour, and He grants such comfort, as has here been set forth. No doubt, you are anxious to receive the comfort, and I do not begrudge you the good fortune, for it is indeed not easy to be a sinner without a Saviour. It will not suffice, however, to entertain this comfort in your thoughts, if God has not put it into your heart, for then, perchance, you might lack it in times of adversity and, worst of all, in the time of death, when you need it the most. It you wish to avoid such a calamity, get better acquainted with Jesus, for He will teach you to know yourself as lost and to know Him as a Saviour. Call on Him, and He will answer you; seek refuge in Him, and He will receive you.
If you have learned to know how wretched, corrupted, lost, and condemned you are, then there is help for you in Jesus, for He is a Saviour for precisely such as you. He has been pleased to hear such a name as has reference to sins, from which He should save His people, in order that you might know and understand that sinners and their Saviour belong together. He has already saved you from blindness and carelessness. It is for your Saviour’s sake that the Holy Spirit has opened the eyes of your understanding and quickened your slumbering conscience from the stupor of false security. Your Saviour has begun the good work in your heart and will continue it, if you abide in His Word and use it with diligence and care.
If you have already enjoyed His blessing, so that you are free from your anxiety for sin and from the fear of hell, then you verily belong to the people of God, the spiritual Israel, the congregation of saints. Then there shall also appear in you marks of the spiritual circumcision. If Jesus has become your Saviour from the debts of sin; He has also become the Saviour from their power. If He has delivered you from your anxiety, you must also let Him deliver you from your former habits in sin, unto the glory of God. As He has begun to rule in your conscience over the fear of death, so He will also prove prevailing in your life over everything contradictory to the Word of God and enable you to escape from it. The devil may indeed lead you into error and thereby make you like a stranger before God, but unexpected tokens of mercy will soon restore the former confidence. By the experience of God’s mighty help, your heart will, take courage at the approach of every distress incident to this present life. Like David, meeting Goliath, you are going to be able to say, “Thy servant smote both the lion and the bear: and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like as one of them. The Lord that delivered me out of the paw of the lion and the bear, He will deliver me out of the hand of the Philistine.” The Lord has delivered you from the lion and the bear, from the devil and from sin. The cares of life cannot he greater than one of the spiritual foes whom you have already conquered. Through Jesus you shall be able to conquer everything, for He has Conquered it all.
Lord Jesus, Thou wast pleased to become the Saviour of Thy congregation when, by suffering and death, Thou didst establish it upon Thyself as a Rock of Salvation. Be a Saviour unto us still, so that the gates of hell may not prevail against Thy church, whether by force or deceit. Grant us Thy grace, lest in peaceful days we may leisurely slumber, or in days of persecution yield to the enemy. Guard us against every deceitful enlightenment, and against false zeal. Be a Saviour to our King also, and save him from manifest and secret dangers. Be a Saviour to our country and help us from the ravages of war and from the domination of foreign nations. Be a Saviour to our city; protect us from misfortunes and save us from all distress, for Thy name is Jesus. Be our Jesus also and grant us Thy grace.
Amen, Lord Jesus, Amen.