The Centrality of Christ and Spiritual Warfare
We are heralds of a message that repentance is always timely: Repent, confess, mortify sin – experience renewed cleansing and restoration. Delight in God again, find new wonder and gratitude as you commune with Him; have the joy of your salvation restored.
But how do most of our parishioners live in the private world of their spiritual lives? What lies behind the guarded shutters of their souls? Beneath their quiet desperation and patterns of spiritual defeat is a fear that if their rebellion, and weakness, and failure were to come into the full light of God’s gaze, they would be devastated.
As a result, they shore up the little hovel that conceals their depravity with self-protective strategies to defend against judgment. Beneath that stiff upper lip is a proud, but fearful spirit that won’t take the “risk” of running to the atonement one more time.
It’s needful, but humbling to wake each day with the intent of facing our utter dependency upon Christ. The Apostle Paul reminds us in Galatians 3:27 that, “You have clothed yourselves with Christ.” When believers lose their wonder at God’s grace, it’s often because they have been seeking to clothe their souls with something other than Christ.
The Priority of a Clear Conscience – Acts 24:15-16
The conscience is a warning device planted in your soul by God. It warns you when sin approaches. It accuses you when you violate God’s laws and will not let you off the hook. Your conscience bears witness that you are under God’s moral authority and God’s moral government. Every time it holds court, it reminds you that you are accountable to God and will someday give an account of your life. The conscience is nothing less than God’s moral mark upon us – evidence that we are made in the image of a righteous God.
The conscience tells us of the presence of God in our innermost being. It brings peace and delight to us when we are in fellowship with our holy God.
There are cautions that go with the conscience – it is a fragile faculty that can be overridden, bribed, and lied to. Therefore, Scripture has a number of warnings that are associated with the conscience. When a person consistently sins willfully or presumptuously, the conscience can be hardened over time like scar tissue (1 Tim 4:2). Scripture reserves its most severe warnings for those who live as traitors to their consciences (Rom 1:28-32).
I. Those with a clear conscience CHERISH the hope of the resurrection (v. 15). Paul has an eye on the next life, the future state. His faith is grounded upon the expectation of his future existence with the Lord, therefore his worship has the right end and goal. By contrast, those who turn aside to heresy have a regard for this world, not God’s approval (note Acts 20:29-30).
All of Paul’s desire is toward God, not the world. One could accurately say that heaven is his religion. His hope is directed at God’s power and promise that he shall share in the resurrection of the just. What’s Paul’s aim? It is for a joyful and happy resurrection (as opposed to shrinking away from Him in shame at His coming – 1 Jn 2:28). His sights are set on a city whose Builder and Maker is God (Heb 11:14-16).
The just shall rise to a resurrection of joy by virtue of their union with Christ. God’s Word is to be depended upon; He has the power to perform it – that is our hope and our dependence (Phil 3:20-21). The just live by faith in Christ (Rom 1:16-17). The resurrection joins Paul’s Gospel faith to the expectation of the Patriarchs, for they maintained a national hope of the resurrection. (Even Job who predated the patriarchs speaks of his own hope of the resurrection -- Job 14:14).
APPLICATION: The future resurrection of the just and the unjust is most clearly revealed in the Gospel. All of our religion has an eye to the resurrection BECAUSE all of our Christian life is preparation for it.
II. Those with a clear conscience WORK at keeping it in a blameless state (v. 16).
“In view of this,” “Therefore” – is causal – those who CHERISH the hope of the resurrection strive for a clear conscience (1 Jn 3:3). Those with eternal values lack no motivation to maintain a blameless conscience. A solid hope drives practical Christianity. Paul’s Christian walk shows consistent devotion to God. His conscience is void of offense toward God and man.
The “mystery of the faith” is best held by those with a pure conscience (1 Tim 3:9). Our faith has an element of mystery because the God of the universe became a man in order to deliver us from sin. This glorious mystery can only be truly understood by those who are effectually being delivered from sin. The man with a defiled conscience cannot speak with authority about this mystery. Paul gives a stern warning in 1 Timothy 1:19 -- those who reject a clear conscience will experience a “shipwrecked” faith.
Paul’s ambition is to be on good terms with his conscience so that he has no cause to question his integrity before God or man. APPLICATION: Paul is our example. He’s as careful not to offend his conscience. He exercises great care in his relations with his conscience – he treats it as he would a best friend with whom he has daily fellowship.
“I do my best, I drill, I practice, I exercise myself,” – it is my constant business to discipline myself to live under this rule. I will not allow my flesh to set the standard for my behavior, but keep an eye on peace with my own conscience. (Sins of weakness need to be dealt with, but it is the sins of presumption (abiding in willful sin) that bruises, wounds, wastes, and hardens the conscience.
The believer needs renewed acts of faith and repentance in order to maintain a pure conscience (Heb 9:14). “How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?”
Our maintenance of the conscience is closely tied to the Gospel. Robert Haldane asserted in his Romans commentary, “No sin can be crucified either in heart or life unless it first be pardoned in [the] conscience.”
Paul’s obedience was not ascetic or legalistic in nature, it was “grace-motivated.” His diligence in practicing this spiritual discipline of caring for his conscience was animated by Christ’s constraining love (2 Cor 4:14). The mercies of God are behind our consecration as well (Rom 12:1-2).
APPLICATION: The conscience is like a governor – we must be careful not to do or think anything sinful against God or neighbor and break the law of love thereby (2 Cor 8:21). If you look for the resurrection of the dead and life in the world to come, then your consideration of the future state should engage you to be universally conscientious in the present state. You must assiduously avoid the “short-circuits” that will keep you from proper maintenance of the conscience. The short circuits are as follows: 1.) Going to others with your troubled conscience instead of to God. 2.) Comparing yourself to others morally so that you will look favorable. 3.) Nursing injuries and offenses you have received at the hands of others.
III. Those with a clear conscience RESPOND to conviction with ongoing repentance (v. 25).
This verse captures the impression Paul made upon this great, but wicked man. Felix reasons and then trembles, “If these things are true, I am ruined. What will become of me in the next world? I’ll be condemned in the judgment to come.”
Without a new course of life, Felix will be undone forever. This is the searching, startling, convicting Word of God at work – it can, when commissioned by the Holy Spirit, strike terror into the proud and daring sinner (it sets before the sinner his wickedness and the terror of the Lord).
When God awakens the natural conscience it can be filled with horror and amazement at its own defilement, danger, and moral deformity. Felix struggled to escape these impressions. (EXAMPLE: Like reading a danger sign illuminated by a lightning flash – first there is a blinding abundance of light then there is none. Felix preferred the absence of light. The light of God’s Word had briefly lit up the sign; it read, “You are lost!”)
He tells Paul to go away for the present. Felix is startled, but not changed by the Word of God. He fears consequences, but is still in alliance with sin.
APPLICATION: Felix provides a negative example of our third principle. He did just the opposite of the Philippian jailer who asked, “What must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30). Felix does the polar opposite.He loses all the benefit of his conviction by not turning it into repentance. The devil blinds people to the fact that, “Now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor 6:2). Our task as believers is to never waste conviction. We must turn it into repentance if we are to maintain a clear conscience. In the obedient believer, affections are constantly being conformed to the truth of God’s Word; that is ongoing repentance stated in positive terms.
24:26 – Here we get to peer into Felix’s heart. Besides living with an adulteress whom Felix had taken from her husband, we also find out in this verse (v. 26) that Felix loved money more than justice. The reason he didn’t release Paul is because he was hoping to make some money off of him. Whether from Paul’s friends who would pay for release, or accusers who would pay for conviction, Felix was coveting mammon. He never called for Paul to enquire of Christ, but only to line his own pockets.
Oh the danger of trifling with conviction. You think you can get grace when you please – millions have discovered to their eternal ruin that the Spirit no longer strives with them; they have been hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. (EXAMPLE: Samson said to himself after his hair was shorn and he was bound, “I will free myself as before” – but the Lord had departed from him. It cost him his two eyes and his freedom, he became a grinder in prison and the laughing stock of the Philistines until his death.)
CONCLUSION: The conscience is not merely the product of social conditioning or child-training – it is God’s moral mark upon us. It is the very seat of God’s throne in the soul. Therefore loyalty to your conscience is directly related to loyalty to God.
Every time your conscience holds court, it is a reminder of the great court date – the day of the Lord, judgment day – the resurrection of the just and the unjust.
A day is coming when the conscience of each person will either be the source of joy, bliss, peace, and confidence OR it will be the worm that never dies. For the person who rejects Christ, the conscience will rise up and take its eternal revenge against its ungrateful owner.
(EXAMPLE: In my work with college students, many are shocked to hear that the torments of damnation are already in “seed form” in the consciences of those who will die lost.) How important it is to preach to our own consciences what Paul preached to Felix. Namely, righteousness, self control, and the judgment to come.
We’ve seen that the conscience will not stay blameless of its own accord. Diligence is required. These three practices of cherished hope, diligent work, and an ongoing response of repentance are necessary for the maintenance of the conscience.
To keep a pure conscience, we must stay close to the cross of Jesus Christ. Take the Lord with you wherever you go – keep short accounts with Him. Be exceedingly faithful to your conscience – do not betray it.
Believers have infinite resources for cleansing of conscience. Our Savior was slain that believing sinners might have purified consciences. The Spirit points to the blood – He brings the value of the atonement into the present. He desires that you be delivered from a troubled, halting state into the liberty of cleansing. Let us make it our practice to run to the atonement when conscience accuses.
Conscience is a precious gift from God – it is a barometer of your communion with Him. Let us determine as Paul did to keep it free from all offense.
The Blood of Christ; our Conquering Weapon
Our battle is not with flesh and blood. It is with principalities and powers in the heavenly places (this refers to the entire realm of spirit beings). Satan’s power, energy, swiftness, and wisdom all combine to make him a most formidable foe.
He deludes, deceives, blinds, buffets, and beguiles—he has thousands of years to perfect his craft. He is the father of lies (Jn 8:44). He is always in a posture of one in waiting to ambush the unwary. He hides in the shadows; he waits for those who are not on watch. He actively looks for those who are not on the alert—who have left off the means of grace (the Word, fellowship, and prayer).
The saint cannot be passive in this battle (1 Pet 5:8-9). The saint is to conduct himself with a sober spirit (guarding against both neglect and moods of passion in which our flesh can carry us away).
The believer is commanded by God to resist the devil. Passivity is not an option. To not fight; or cease to fight is to be overcome. We must be on watch—girding up the loins of the mind always being ready for action (1 Pet 1:13).
Satan has a tried and true method of operation—a modus operundi. He preys upon those who have let their guard down. He is an incurable opportunist—always looking for someone to devour.
You are to be strong in someone else’s strength (Eph 6:10); not in your own strength. The evil one is like a chess master—he thinks many moves ahead. He plans his temptations to coincide with your successes and failures; your moods; and the company you keep.
He sails with the wind and the tide. If you are experiencing a time of success; he will tempt you to pride; to presumption. He saves his solicitations to discouragement and despondency for other occasions. He has particular temptations that accompany times of prosperity; and a host of other temptations to launch in times of suffering.
The most powerful weapon in our arsenal is the Blood of Christ.
Our strategy for victory is taken from Revelation 12:10-11. They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb. The saints are allied in this fight of the ages; they utilize the same mighty weapon—the blood of the Lamb.
We preach Christ crucified. The death of the Son of God is our conquering weapon. If Jesus had not died; we would have no conquering weapon by which to overcome the devil.
‘Sinner, Jesus Christ died to clear away your sin’—this is the vital, central point of the Gospel. The death of Christ is the death of sin and the defeat of Satan. Thus the death of Christ is the believer’s hope and assurance of victory.
They overcame by the blood of the Lamb. That is, Christ’s blood was shed in a substitutionary manner—the blood of God’s Lamb sacrificed for us. The chastisement of our peace was upon Him—this is substitution; the just for the unjust.
His vicarious death was the satisfaction of God’s justice. Under God’s moral government; sin must be punished. It was punished in the death of Christ. Therefore the propitiation Christ accomplished is the hope of men. Every speck of His suffering was vicarious.
His death is effective to take away sin; to take away the tremendous load of transgression off of the elect; to cancel out the dreadful debt of the law; and to secure forgiveness. By His resurrection—all He did in His death was accepted by the Father—Christ’s resurrection secured our justification.
We cannot hear these truths too often; we have an amazing capacity to forget the Gospel
The tribulation saints of 12:10-11 overcame the devil and the beast by the blood of the Lamb. In the heat of battle, when their own lives were on the line—that is when they overcame by the blood of the Lamb.
Do you see how clear this is—the blood of the Lamb is not just for our admiration—it is not just the theme of hymns which we sing in church. No, the blood of the Lamb is for holy warfare. It was given with the divine intent of being our weapon.
So much spiritual warfare takes place on the battlefield of conscience. The blood of Christ speaks of better things than the blood of Able—because the blood of Christ is able to speak peace to the troubled conscience.
Oh, that is no small feat; for your conscience functions as a courtroom in miniature. Nothing can bring lasting pervasive peace to your conscience but the blood of Christ (Heb 12:24; 10:22; 9:14).
It is not the kind of peace that takes its ease. No, this peace is designed to produce backbone; holy boldness; militancy for the Gospel.
This blood was shed to arm the saints for warfare. It is our conquering weapon to overcome sin and Satan. It is a mighty weapon able to subdue sin; to withstand temptation; to produce holiness; to strengthen purity.
Since your battle is in the heavenlies and your weapon is the blood of Christ and your foe is Satan; there are applications and strategies for battle that every saint and minister of the Gospel must practice.
The fulfillment of your marching orders as well as your success in battle depend upon keeping Christ your Commander in your sights. Looking unto Jesus is our strategy. We see the immensity of His victory.
I. You must regard Satan as truly overcome and vanquished by Christ. By faith you are to grasp your Lord’s victory as your own. Christ expects you to participate in His victory—regarding His victory as your own victory. Because it was in your nature that He triumphed over the enemies of your soul.
He smote the serpent with a death blow to the head. He has made His people overcomers by His own overcoming (Gen 3:15). We are circumcised by His circumcision. We are crucified by His cross. We are buried with Him and risen with Him in His resurrection. He is your Head—as members of His body, you did in Him what He did.
By union with Him; we participate in His life (Jn 1:16). By union with Him; we are on the receiving end of all of the benefits. In his divinity and perfect humanity; He is our perfect complement. For all we need to be—He is (Heb 7:25-27).
Therefore He has become our Perfecter. He is conforming us to His own image—by reason of our union with Him. From His own Person; He fills us with the resources necessary to be perfected.
Believers have experienced the new circumcision by Christ (2:11-13)
V. 11 – Spiritual Circumcision is: 1.) inward, not outward; 2.) it divests or delivers a person from the former dominion of the whole body of carnal affections (the love of sinning); 3.)Christ is the Author of spiritual circumcision; not Moses (not by the work of man; but by God).
Spiritual circumcision results in a complete spiritual change (new desires; a new saving knowledge of God; new bias against sin; etc.) O.T. circumcision foreshadowed a reality which was not present until Christ. That spiritual reality is a new heart by reason of regeneration and union with Christ.
V. 12 – Faith receives Christ who alone justifies on the basis of His Person and work. Faith is not righteousness, or even a substitute for the absolute righteousness required by God—faith is the empty hands of a believing soul reaching out to the One who justifies the ungodly on the basis of mercy alone.
The man who trusts in Christ has righteousness which is of God by faith (Phil 3:9). It is the righteousness of God precisely because God provided it. (EX. Bunyan sought to illustrate this principle by the relation of the chick safely hidden under the hen’s wings—protection; warmth; safety tight around us—but the feathers are not our own.)
Baptism pictures the grave of the old man. Remember, the ‘old man’ is what we were in Adam; what we were before salvation—just a mass of sinful; self-willed desires.
When a new believer goes down into the waters of baptism and sinks into the baptismal waters; it depicts the burial of his old life of corrupt affections.
It pictures him being identified with Christ—so that Christ’s death and burial becomes the ‘tomb’ of that man’s guilt and sin (baptism is a picture of our participation in Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection). As the believer is lifted from the baptismal waters, it symbolizes the newness of resurrection life (leaving the old sin-dominated life behind). (See Rom 6).
V. 13 – Just as in Ephesians 2; Paul states of every believer was once dead in sin. At that time, in our spiritual deadness, we had an obstinate—most stubborn heart of stone that was characterized by the pollution of sin and by defiled desires. The uncircumcised heart describes the heart of a person who is not yet born again (still unregenerate; and unchanged—in a natural state—ruled by a carnal or fleshly mind).
But you have been brought to life in Christ. His resurrection is your resurrection; you’ve been raised from spiritual death. By the Spirit’s work; you are sharing in His new life—and that has broken you away from your past life.
He has entirely forgiven you. He has pardoned forever all your sin—though you were morally bankrupt and disobedient. He has poured out pardoning grace upon you. That He might gain His loving dominion over you (the whole man) and your willing obedience to Him.
The perfect triumph of Christ (2:14-15)
V. 14 – Here Paul drives another stake through the heart of false teachers’ doctrine. For Paul proclaims to us that believers are cleared of all debt to God. That mountain of indebtedness we owed God—we were helpless to discharge. That signed acknowledgement of our moral debt to God was a perpetual witness against us—but Christ cancelled that debt by His death.
By Christ’s death for us; He effectively rubs out—blots out—effaces the remembrance of our debt and obligation. We all know that our consciences were aware of that debt to God. But Christ has cancelled that debt so that our consciences might have peace and tranquility before God.
Thus, it is for our comfort; our protection; our joy; our thanksgiving; our peace that we study how Christ interceded for us and removed our indebtedness. The Scripture says that the bond against us wastaken out of the way and cancelled by being nailed to the cross! Oh what news that is. The charges against me have been torn up; cast aside; destroyed by Christ’s death. That document with its ordinances that were hostile to us was destroyed.
It was cancelled out because of my Substitute took my just penalty and punishment. He was willing to have the charges against me fastened to Him self. That debt was tied to Him so that it might not have any more power over us. I love what Luther said about Christ becoming our Substitute:
Thus, with the sweetest names Christ is called my Law, my sin, and my death. He became the Law to the Law; sin to sin; death to death, in order that He might redeem me from the curse of the Law, justify me, and make me alive. So Christ is both: While He is the Law, He is liberty, while He is sin, He is righteousness, and while He is death, He is life. For by the very fact that He permitted the Law to accuse Him, sin to damn Him, and death to devour Him, He abrogated the Law, damned din, destroyed death, and justified and saved me. (Do you think Luther understood substitution?)
Because Christ was nailed to the cross, our debt was perfectly and completely forgiven. By Christ’s crucifixion; God nails the accusation against us to the cross of Jesus. On that day in Jerusalem; the accusation against Christ was nailed above His head on that cross. But our text would have us know and believe that in the mind of God the accusation against you was also nailed to that cross.
V. 15 – But God is doing something in the spirit realm; in the cosmic realm by removing this debt against us. He is stripping principalities and powers. The whole kingdom of darkness is losing their primary tool. For men and women are kept in bondage, slavery, fear, and servitude by this damning indictment being held over their heads. Think about it—Satan makes men slaves by the fear of death (Heb 2:14-15). The devil is the invisible coroner at every lost man’s death bed. He keeps unsaved men in his grip through fear, guilt, and superstition.
He thought death and hell were on his key ring. But Christ’s victory on Calvary’s tree proved to be a triumphant defiance of demonic power over mankind. The weapons of those blackmailing powers have been snatched away. When Jesus broke the power of cancelled sin and blotted out our indebtedness—He was subjugating demonic powers who had the power of indictment.
The very instrument of their hostility was turned against them—Christ defeated and disabled them. But who at the time regarded failing battered Jesus to be the greatest Victor who ever lived? No one but God did. During His passion and indescribable sufferings; Jesus was assailed by the powers of darkness. They gathered at the cross to hurl their venom. Jesus appeared helpless and at their mercy.
But He rose victorious. He stripped the angelic powers of their dignity and strength. He vindicated His sovereign might and authority over principalities and powers. But He did more—He makes a public display of them.
God through Christ exposes to the watching universe of angels the utter helplessness of evil powers. He makes a public display that exposes these spirit beings to ridicule. He makes an example out of them—He shows their true character. The language in this verse would be immediately recognizable to a first century reader. It pictures a conquered army with its officers—trudging along impotently in chains being led through the streets in a victory parade.
Oh the magnitude of Christ’s conquest—His victory is yours. The Savior who loves you has subjected hostile demonic powers to Himself—they are now impotent to harm you. (He who originally created them upright has defeated these fallen beings.) The devils who deal in accusations against us can no longer come up with a charge that sticks because the document that attested to your guilt has been destroyed.
You must be strengthened by grace so as to become brave enough to fight a vanquished foe. We overcome sin, death, hell, and the devil in the Person and work of our Lord.
Looking unto Jesus (Heb 12:2 – looking away from one thing to concentrate upon another—that is to be the practice of the saints—fixing our eyes on Him). Let the eyes of your heart look upon your conquering Savior and be encouraged by the sight of the victory wrought in your nature. We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us (Rom 8:37). You must see Satan as vanquished by Christ if you are to overcome your foe.
II. If you are to overcome Satan in the heavenly realm; you must overcome him as the accuser. How often he plants accusations in the sensitive hearts of the saints. Haven’t you heard there accusing memories that shock and startle the conscience? Haven’t you heard charges and accusations which bid you to visit the memory of former sins and retry the case all over again?
The evil one knows that by his blaming and shaming and pointing, he can conjure up black memories of the sins of our youth. “How can you be a child of God?” he reasons. “Your life as a professed Christian is nothing but a sham; a heap of hypocrisy; better characterized as apostasy.”
As the accuser, he plants thoughts which can be crippling reminders of past sins and failures; remorse about our barrenness; coldness; defeat; and compromise. He lets us come to pessimistic conclusions about ourselves.
As Thomas Hooker said, “Satan begins the accusations, then lets us take over beating ourselves up—we take it from there; doing his work for free.” We’ll look at the mountain of evidence and be tempted to take sides against our own soul and the gracious work God has done there.
These assaults can be overwhelming like a flood when the evil piles up evidence and accusations against us. The saint can be staggered by these accusations. “How can I face God with the foul remembrance of these iniquities filling my mind and conscience?” Now is your opportunity to overcome by the blood of the Lamb. An onslaught of accusations is your signal to engage in spiritual warfare—to overcome.
You were born for battle—remember you have an Advocate as well as an accuser. Your advocate is also in the heavenlies. He pleads the merits of His own blood on your behalf. He lives to make intercession for you—for He shed His blood in order to discharge you of your debt. By His cross—He assumed our liabilities.
In order to get the victory—you must know that the accuser’s cruel voice is silenced by the blood of the Lamb. The blood tells of the infinite God who accepts the sacrifice that He Himself has provided.
The propitiation is the manifestation of God’s love for you. By Christ’s atoning sacrifice, divine justice was accomplished against your sins. Now divine justice decrees you clear—absolved of your sins because the Lamb of God became a curse for His people. This is the source of your victory over the accuser in the heavenlies.
The conscience is like a courtroom; it was created to come up with verdicts; verdicts of guilty or not guilty. But unlike an earthly courtroom with fallible judges; your courtroom of conscience is connected to the courtroom of God. (In other words, the justice achieved in your conscience is not justice at all unless it agrees with the justice of God.)
This puts the work of our Savior into bold relief. Because in the final analysis, nothing can satisfy your conscience except that which ultimately satisfied the absolute holy justice of God.
Dear people—nothing can bring tranquility; peace, and silence to the conscience but the death of the God-man in your place. You must preach this truth to yourself; because in our carnal reasoning and instincts—we will seek cures for conscience outside of Calvary.
Learn to say it, “Nothing will satisfy my conscience; but that which satisfies my God—the death of His Son in my place.” Make certain you do not run anywhere but to the atonement. There is no conquering weapon but the blood of the Lamb.
Draw all comfort from the atonement; not from inward feelings and inward disputations. Hide only in the wounds of Christ. Do not seek to balance your conscience by works and by law—for if you do so, the law will turn on you when you fail to measure up. (Satan would like nothing more than to evict the Gospel and enthrone the law in its place in your conscience.
Augustine remarked that the conscience of the redeemed is intended by God to be the palace of Christ, and the temple of the Holy Spirit.
Take confidence that your Advocate and Defender will repel the charges brought against you. We are assured from Romans 8:31-34 that no charges brought against us will stick. “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son , but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the One who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.”
“It is God who justifies.” (The setting is the Law court of God. No charge can be brought against the Christian, because God has already pronounced a verdict of not guilty.) Who can successfully accuse whom God has declared righteous? The Judge has already dealt with all the charges against us in the death and resurrection of Christ. (Self- justification is futile.)
It requires fresh acts of faith and fresh views of the Savior and the Gospel in order to bring the court of conscience in line with the court of heaven (our already justified state). Our sense of judgment is like a pursuing pack of hounds – but God is greater than our hearts and knows all things (1 Jn 3:18-22).
Consider how many “verdicts” are in competition in our hearts: the verdict of others who are disappointed in us; the verdict of our own legal-prone hearts; the verdict of the evil one who accuses us.
Christ’s intercession involves the presenting of the merits of His work on behalf of the saints. Christ defends by intercession – this is proof of His power to save His people from condemnation. The charges of all enemies are only worthy of contempt (whether
personal adversaries, demons or Satan). : God is for us in justification, God is for us in Christ dying, Christ is for us in Christ interceding.
Our heavenly Advocate continually pleads the merits of His blood on our behalf. (EX. As one theologian said, “If we could get the blood of Christ into their consciences, we could empty out our nation’s mental institutions.”) How we need to hear about Christ’s intercession. Our hearts are prone to legality (earning favor, managing guilt), and unbelief.
We must learn to run to Christ’s atonement each day. When things go wrong, sorrow takes possession. These verses support and sustain us. We tend to miss God’s care in our trouble.
But this section of Scripture is intended to arm us from top to bottom against anxiety and fear. (Note: fear of judgment is behind so much of our stress. Christ’s expiation abolished the condemnation of God for believers.
Every accuser will be overcome by the invincible argument of the blood of the Lamb. Your conscience is wired for strict justice—even to the point of being suspicious of mercy and compassion. Your conscience will not rest unless it sees justice done in regard to your sins.
This is one reason why a regular commemoration of the Lord’s Table is so vital. When we remember our Lord giving us His flesh and blood—we are renewed—we display to our consciences the divine justice accomplished against our sins in the death of Christ.
Your conscience needs to see justice done—not just in a general sense—but in your specific case. God’s absolute justice has been satisfied in your case. God’s verdict at Calvary must be the number one verdict in your conscience. Only then will boldness replace fear and timidity.
III. Believers must overcome the enemy in regard to access to God. The accuser of the brethren seeks to hinder us from bold and free access to God. The evil one harasses; he assaults with thoughts of care, guilt, heaviness—all to make us hesitant to readily draw near to God.
The accuser insinuates that your soul’s dwelling place has been in the world and the flesh more than in God—therefore, there is nothing left for you to do but mourn your miserable distance from God. (All accusations are insinuations which suggest that we are not eligible for God’s love, blessing, and favor.)
It is at this moment that you must reckon the fact that you are brought near by the blood of Christ. Take hold of the promise that you have boldness to enter the holy place by the blood of Christ.
Practice preaching to yourself crystal clear Gospel logic—that is where the victory lies. Let your heart take courage—allow your heart to consent to God’s love. See God’s desire to display His Son as the propitiation for your sins.
The cross of your Savior has removed your sin which was the obstacle to favor with God—but that obstacle has been taken away. The cross has forever set aside the issue of eligibility for God’s love and favor. The cross has cleared away every barrier to a love relationship with God in Christ.
Your Father in heaven does not want you in a state of spiritual paralysis and estrangement from Him. Look to Christ again to see that your full favor was procured when your transgressions were removed at Calvary.
Plead the propitiation that you might draw near with confidence. Hide in Christ’s wounds; seek refuge in nothing else—overcome through the blood of the Lamb—plead the atoning sacrifice. The cross gives you full permission to keep going to God for grace with the full expectation of receiving that grace.
How we need to look at the Savior – for the accusing verdicts appear to disqualify us for the blessing and favor of God. Our passage teaches us that God’s verdict in Christ silences all other verdicts!
We must learn to feed upon the redemptive truth of Christ our Substitute so that our hearts are strengthened by grace. We will have the victory in our consciences when we learn to make a habit of consenting to have Christ as our Representative and Protector who hides us from judgment.
Our consciences attract blame, shame, and condemnation like a magnet attracts iron filings. Praise God for the glorious provision of ongoing forgiveness in the new covenant.
Let’s determine to honor the Lord to our own comfort by running to the atonement for cleansing. Sin can’t be put to death unless we know that it has been forgiven in our conscience. Only then is its control by means of guilt truly broken; only then will we know the liberty God intends for His children.
IV. Overcome in heavenly places before the throne of God BEFORE you go forth to serve the Lord. You are surrounded by people who desperately need your ministry. The Word of the cross in your mouth is mighty to defeat evil among your fellow men.
In your ministry you must pass on the practice of making the blood of Christ your conquering weapon. You must know experimentally the benefits of Christ’s blood in your own conscience. You must become accustomed to having the Great Physician apply His healing blood to your conscience. Your spiritual power is tied to this—if you preach His blood—you must know the benefits of His blood if your message is to have power.
This is why the battle must be fought above first. You must overcome in order to serve. Get the verdict of the Gospel in your own conscience first.
You must prevail at the Mercy Seat in secret—then in the pulpit and the byways. Christ must be appropriated as the Physician of your soul before you can commend Him to men as their Physician.
The blood of Christ is not only our argument to defeat accusations; the blood of Christ is our guarantee of the new covenant. The blood of the Lamb shed for us gives us the confidence to take possession of all of our covenant blessings.
Like a new bride who is filled with self-consciousness about the imperfections that may make her unlovable—the blood of Christ clears away every inner protest which would suggest we are ineligible or disqualified for the love of our Heavenly Bridegroom.
We fear that what remains of sin in us makes us unlovable to God. Learn to preach the Gospel of Christ to yourself—the blood of Christ totally qualifies us for our Heavenly Husband’s love. His blood removes all disqualification. Dear pastor—you cannot qualify yourself for Christ’s love. Cease trying. Luther confessed that in his lower nature he was a merit monger—always looking for something in himself and his duties to commend him unto God.
Honor God by insisting that His verdict at Calvary shall be the chief verdict in your conscience.
V. Overcome by laying hold of the sufficiency of God from the throne of grace. Our main business is to bear witness with the blood in the power of the Spirit. We have life—we owe our life to the crucified One—who in His sovereign mercy has enabled us to look to Him that we might live.
The cross is the wisdom of God and the power of God. The blood of the cross drives out error; it softens hearts; it overcomes despair; it reveals the bitterness and noxiousness of sin; it overcomes every form of sin and vice; it cleanses from all filth; it stirs to love and obedience (this is the use of the blood of the Lamb in the lower sphere—in our preaching of the Gospel).
We must exhibit greater courage in order to win victories. Some who profess Christianity are too timid to speak of Christ’s blood even in godly company! They love themselves too much to get into trouble by their religion. How, therefore, can they be of the noble band spoken of in Revelation who loved not their lives unto the death.
Pastors and ministers take note—God will not do anything by us unless we are true friends of the cross of Christ. If we are untrue to the cross out of fear of man; our ministry will be neutralized.
It is folly to live for the respect of men. We need backbone, fixedness, and self-denial. We must be willing to be made nothing for Christ’s sake. Be a faithful witness of His blood—your hope is there. Because the Gospel of Jesus Christ is God’s irreversible verdict concerning the sins of the elect.
The way a man deals with his conscience reveals how he deals with God
“A good conscience is the palace of Christ; the temple of the Holy Ghost; the paradise of delight, the standing Sabbath of the saints.” St. Augustine.
“Conscience is well-bred and soon leaves off talking to those who do not wish to hear it.” Samuel Butler.
“No flattery can heal a bad conscience, so no slander can hurt a good one.” Thomas Watson.
In the final analysis, the man with a sleepy, self-justifying conscience manifests a compromised loyalty and devotion to Christ. A man cannot deal untruthfully with his conscience without dealing untruthfully with the Lord. Double dealing with one’s conscience belies a lack of submissive toward Christ.
Puritan divines commonly exhorted their parishioners to “Be kind to the Holy Spirit.” The Spirit works with our consciences in such an intimate manner that He literally is willing to give permission to the saint or withhold it for certain activities that are within the confines of Scriptural precepts. He is willing to lead us if we are in the habit of listening to Him, and if we are in the habit of being transparent with him and submissive toward Him in matters of conscience.
The Puritans understood that submission to God’s Spirit (be kind to the Spirit) was tied to His intimacy in leading and comforting. The submissive man will have more of the Spirit’s comfort than an imperious believer who implicitly trusts his own decisions.
The humble man who trembles at God’s Word will experience God’s presence (Is 66:1-2). God condescends to take special notice of our repenting and self-confrontation, He takes delight in the sacrifices of a broken spirit (Ps 51:17).
The godly man leaves off his quarrel with others that he might quarrel with his own iniquity in the presence of God. The godly man throws out excuses for his sin. He humbles himself without turning to rationalizations for his failures. He does not raise himself from humiliation prematurely, he lets God’s grace raise him up at the right time, after a season of humbling (James 4:6, 10).
The fear of man may tempt us to compromise principle. The failings of others may tempt us to self-righteous comparisons with others. The godly man listens assiduously to his conscience; he knows that his fear of God and comfort in God are closely tied to the spiritual discipline of maintaining a clear conscience. As Thomas Brooks once said, “A good conscience and a good confidence go together.”
God makes His abode with the humble (Is 66:1-2). A key mark of that humility is a readiness to afflict oneself over personal sin. When we cast ourselves upon God in this manner there is a sweet communion with Him as we allow Him to be our Justifier instead of attempting to justify ourselves.
Part of a soldier’s discipline is readiness for every possible circumstance of battle and total familiarization with his weapon. The Christian soldier engaged in spiritual warfare cannot afford to have vague and sketchy thoughts about the blood of Christ.
He must train himself to think in tight logical patterns—bringing his intellect in line with the truths of Christ as displayed in the Gospel. A superbly well-trained soldier is immediately put to work training other soldiers for battle.
(EX.) Christian bookstores are filled with How To books—with new methods for success. I think of the words of Sinclair Ferguson who upon entering a Christian bookstore waded past row after row of books about methods for successful Christian living only to find a little stack of dusty titles about Christ in the back of the store.)
Our age is the age of the disconnect. We know that a gap exists between our professed beliefs and our daily walk and practice. The wider that gap—the more legitimacy to the charge of hypocrisy. What a ‘beach head’ for condemnation.
Fear involves punishment it says in 1 Jn 4:18. Guilt and fear are always bedfellows. The difference between the prophet who stayed under a death threat for preaching (Jeremiah) and the prophet who ran away and was found and killed is a clear conscience (Jer 26).
Nehemiah said to his people that his enemies’ plan was for him to be frightened, act accordingly and sin. Nehemiah rejected the rumor as unbecoming for a godly man to react to it (Neh 6:8-16). Nehemiah refused to be controlled by fear.The devil is the invisible coroner who enthusiastically documents the passing of each lost soul into hell. He is the enslaver (who enslaves through fear – Heb 2); he is the accuser.