"Thou hast given a banner to them that fear Thee, that it may be displayed because of the truth" (Ps. 60:4).
It Illumines Our Otherwise Bedarkened Pathway
The Light of the Gospel
By Fred O. Blakely
"If our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them that believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them" (II Cor. 4:4; cf. v. 6; Lk. 8:12; I Cor. 1:18).
In his natural state, man is "darkness," as the Apostles indicate (Eph. 5:8; I Jn. 2:8), or abides in nature's night. He, thus, requires illumination from God, if he is to acceptably negotiate the journey of earthly life and arrive in heaven, to which he is called by the gospel. As the Lord Jesus observed, "He that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth" (Jn. 12:35). "O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself," well acknowledged Jeremiah: "it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps" (Jer. 10:23; cf. Prov. 16:9).
But--bless His Name!--God has abundantly provided for that dire state of His offspring. All of holy Scripture is enlightening, being inspired by Him (II Tim. 3:15-17). Hence, the representation given of it. "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path" (Ps. 119:105). "With Thee is the fountain of life: in Thy light shall we see light" (Ps. 36:9). "In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths" (Prov. 3:6).
In the gospel, however, this irradiation of humanity with Divine illumination reaches its climax and fullness for the temporal state. As God has now "spoken unto us by His Son" (Heb. 1:2), so has He also "shined in our hearts" by Him, "to give the light of the knowledge" of His glory as our complete sufficiency (II Cor. 4:6).
The Scriptural Declaration. Such, of course, is the emphasized representation of Scripture. "I am the light of the world," declared Christ: "he that followeth Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life" (Jn. 8:12; cf. ch. 1:4-5). Again, "I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth in Me should not abide in darkness" (ch. 12:46). The spiritual ignorance or darkness iu which anyone is living and walking, thus, can be traced to only one source: he does not believe in and is not following Christ.
The light-diffusing ministry of the Savior is stressed by the sacred writings. In his prophecy of John the Baptist's ministry, Zacharias proclaimed it. The forerunner was to "go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways; to give knowledge of salvation unto His people by the remission of their sins [cf. Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:14], through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the Dayspring from on high hath visited us, to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace" [Rom. 5:1-2; 14:17-18] (Lk. 1:76-79).
The Prophet Malachi, foreseeing the coming of Christ, heralded Him as the light-bringer. "Unto you that fear My Name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in His wings," he declared for Jehovah; "aI<.d ye shall go forth as calves from the stall [you shall go forth leaping like calves from the stall, RSV]. And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet" (Mal. 4:2-3).
Although the ultimate fulfillment of all this prophecy apparently is reserved for the consummation, it is certain that it has a firstfruit realization in the present life of the saints. The "Sun of righteousness" is now risen upon their spirits, "healing" them of the darkness of nature's night. And, in that healing or light, they "tread down the wicked," i.e., they both discern and reject the darkness of this world, as exuded by the immoral philosophy and practice and the erroneous religious doctrine proclaimed and widely embraced (f Jn. 2:20, 27; 4:1-6).
It is to be noted that Peter, with this and Zacharias' prophecy evidently in mind, promised the prophecy's fulfillment to those who would meet the conditions therefor. "Ye do well," he said, to "take heed" to the "sure word of prophecy," as "unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the Daystar arise in your hearts" (II Pet. 1:19; cf. Jn. 14:15-21; Gal. 4:19). The claim of those professing to have the indwelling presence of Christ, without their having taken due heed to the Scriptures that proclaim Him, and the conditions which they impose for the experience of that presence, is by these considerations exposed as false.
It is by proclamation of the gospel, it should be remembered, that people's eyes are to be opened. And it is by that illumination that they are to be turned "from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God" (Acts 26:18; cf. Col. 1:12-13). So Paul begat people "through the gospel" (I Cor. 4:15). That is, he proclaimed it in the power of the Spirit, the people believed and submitted to its demands upon them, and thus passed from darkness into light and "from death unto life" (I Jn. 3:14). That is how the life and light of God are imparted to people today-by the gospel, faithfully and effectively proclaimed. Let not the church forget that!
The Resultant Enlightenment. The results of spiritual enlightenment by the gospel are fully comprehensive of our present necessities. Those who continue to grope in the benightedness of personal alienation from Christ desperately need to know and recognize that basic reality.
The Subject of Salvation. The fundamental subject of individual acceptance by God-salvation-is completely illumined. That fact is peculiarly apropos to the needs of today's church, very much of which is not at all assured at this point. Being largely on a legalistic basis in their attempt to relate to God, they can only "hope," or actually wish, that they are received by Him, because of their religious activities. Lacking is the "full assurance of faith" and hope which the gospel, believed and obeyed, is designed by God to impart (Heb. 6:11; 10:22).
Yet it is "the knowledge of salvation" by the remission of sins that Christ brings to those who believe and obey Him, as Zacharias declared. Whoever's sins are forgiven is saved, as both the Ephesians and Colossians texts cited above make plain. Salvation is the forgiveness of sins, with the accompanying impartation by God of the Spirit as the confirmation of that salvation and sonship (Gal. 4:6).
Thus, the great prophecy of Zechariah. "Rejoice greatly, 0 daughter of Zion; shout, 0 daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: He is just, and having salvation" (Zech. 9:9). So has the grace of God "appeared, bringing salvation to all men" (Tit. 2:11, ASV). That salvation is not to be earned or wrought out by men. It-in all its amplitude and entire sufficiency-has been accomplished for us by the Lord Jesus, and brought to us by Him. "He that hath the Son," having received Him on the terms of the gospel, "hath life," which life unto God is salvation (I Jn. 5:10-12).
So has "the kindness and love of God our Savior," in the Person of His dear Son, "appeared," and provided for our salvation (Tit. 3:4). "Not by works done in righteousness, which we did ourselves, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit" (v. 5, ASV).
That, of course, was pursuant to God's "own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began" (II Tim. 1:9). The grace that brings the salvation "is now made manifest by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death [along with sin and its alienating power], and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel" (II Tim. 1:10; cf. I Pet. 1:18-21).
So are we to proclaim to "every creature" "the gospel of your salvation," as Jesus commissioned us to do (Mk. 16:15-16; Eph. 1:13-14). Christ reconciled the world unto God by His death and resurrection (II Cor. 5:18-19; cf. Eph. 1:9-10; Col. 1:20). It but remains for each individual to receive that reconciliation for it to become effective for him (Rom. 5:11; II Cor. 5:20). And God has ordained that the reception be prompted by preaching of the gospel of His saving grace (Acts 20:24; Rom. 1:16; I Cor. 1:21, 24).
A good approach to alien sinners in behalf of Christ becomes evident in view of this blessed situation. "Have you received your salvation in the Lord Jesus?" it could well be asked. One could then follow with a beseechment, after the manner of Paul, that the alienated one do so (II Cor. 5:10-11, 20).
The Issues of Life. The gospel's light equips one to cope with the issues and problems of life in the flesh. As David observed, in God's light "shall we see light" (Ps. 36:9). The "light of the glorious gospel of Christ" (II Cor. 4:4) is fully adequate to "guide our feet into the way of peace" and the measure of livability with the circumstances of our mortality which God has purposed that we have (Lk. 1:79).
In the light of the gospel, we are enabled to properly evaluate things and relationships. We see them in the perspective of eternity and, in that view of them, can better grapple with the otherwise perplexing and frustrating vexations of the present.
In His declaration of John 12:35-36, Jesus calls upon us to make that application of the light which He offers. "Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you: for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth. While ye have the light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light" (cf. I Th. 5:4-10).
"If we say that we have fellowship" with God, "and walk in darkness," declares John, "we lie, and do not the truth" (I Jn. 1:6). Professors of the faith who continue in spiritual darkness should carefully note that assertion. Light is promised to those who follow Christ. Those who do not have it, obviously, have not met the condition therefor.
The Experience of Death. The light of the gospel so irradiates "the valley of the shadow of death" (Ps. 23:4) as to dispel the shadows. Our Lord, in fact, has "abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light," as the Apostle says (II Tim. 1:10). By His death, He "destroyed him that had the power of death, that is, the Devil," and delivered "them who, through fear of death, were all their lifetime subject to bondage" (Heb. 2:14-15). As John would say, he who is in Christ that still is awed by the thought of death is not "made perfect" in either faith or love (I Jn. 4:18; cf. Col. 1:28; I Th. 3:9-10).
The concept of death as a shadowy valley was formed by the earthly view of it. That is how death appears from the mortal standpoint. It certainly is not the way it looks to the saint from the other side of death.
We know that is so because of God's attitude toward His children's death. He sees and evaluates things as they veritably are, not as they seem to be. "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints," we are told (Ps. 116:15). That, obviously, is because it brings them home to Himself, wholly divested of the encumbering flesh and Adamic nature, so that He may fellowship with and work through them uninhibitedly. To the extent that we have the Divine mind and view, death will also become precious to us. That is because by it we will go to be "present with the Lord" (II Cor. 5:8; cf. Phil. 1:21, 23), where we can attend upon Him without the distractions of the earthly life.
In His High Priestly prayer, the Lord Jesus revealed something more of God's view of the homegoing of the saints. "Father, I will that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am; that they may behold My glory, which Thou hast given Me: for Thou lovest Me before the foundation of the world" (Jn. 17:24). So does He seek both full vindication of His nature and office and to share the glory of them with His brethren. It is through death, as we have said, that we advance to that higher and fuller experience of His splendor (II Cor. 5:5-8). As we are single-heartedly devoted to the Savior, we share His desire that we be with Him where He is, to behold and more fully participate in His glory.
The Reserved Inheritance. When it comes to heaven itself, the gospel has opened it for us. We, by faith through the Spirit, in fact, have already been exalted thereto. No longer is the object of "the hope set before us" (Heb. 6:17-20) a far-off place or state, entirely removed from our present existence. Our citizenship is currently therein (Phil. 3:20, ASV; cf. I Pet. 2:11), and we dwell with the Father and the Son in those hallowed precincts.
The contemporary church very badly needs to know and recognize that such is the involvement of Hebrews 10:19·22, as well as other passages. By the sacrifice of Himself for our sins, Christ has opened the "new and living way" to God, and we are urged by Him, the Father, and the Spirit to fully avail ourselves of it, and "draw near" (cf. Eph. 2:1·7, 18; Col. 1:13-14; Heb. 12:28; Rev. 22:17).
Being and abiding in the enthroned Christ, we now, in firstfruit measure, partake of the celestial glory and experiences (cf. Jn. 17:22). So is the representation of Hebrews 6:1-6. We have been illuminated with heaven's light; tasted of its Gift to the world, which is Christ (Jn. 4:10; I Pet. 2:3); partaken of the Spirit "sent down from heaven" (I Pet. 1:12); experienced "the good word of God"; and been given to possess and wield a sampling of the otherworldly powers (vv. 4-5). The fact that such heavenly participation is foreign to the typical churchman's experience but demonstrates the deficiency of his faith, or his outright alienation from God. It shows that he has failed to share in new-covenant benefits.
"Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him," declared Paul, in citation of Isaiah 64:4 (I Cor. 2:9). "But God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit," he continued (v. 10). "Oh, how great is Thy goodness, which Thou hast laid up for them that fear Thee!" exclaimed David, in a like view of the situation; "which Thou hast wrought for them that trust in Thee before the sons of men" (Ps. 31:19).
The reference in all three of these texts is primarily to the ultimate blessing to be conferred upon the saints in heaven. Under the new covenant, however, an antepast or foretaste thereof-"a first course to whet the appetite"-is provided for them. In that sense-and that alone-can the declarations of David and Isaiah be said to foretell the present dispensation.
The Incumbent Responsibility. As the Lord Jesus im· plied, the coming of light imposes the responsibility to receive and walk in it (Jn. 12:35). The fact that we are "the children of light" and of "the day" mandates that we comport ourselves as such. Only so can we glorify "the Father of lights" and be used by Him to enlighten the bedarkened world (Jas. 1:17).
That simply means that we are to live and walk in the Spirit, minding the things thereof, not those of the world and the flesh (Rom. 8:4-6). As we do so, walking "in the light," as God "is in the light," we shall find the remedy for the cursed division that plagues the church, which is of the flesh, as well as the solution to many other difficulties that afflict us (I Jn. 1:5-7).
"Who is among you that feareth the Lord, that obeyeth the voice of His servant, and hath no light?" challengingly asks Isaiah. "Let him trust in the Name of the Lord, and stay upon his God," he counsels (Isa. 50:10). "O house of Jacob, come ye, and let us walk in the light of the Lord," is the Prophet's plea (ch. 2:5).
To the church of our time, we say the same. "Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee" (Isa. 60:1). Or, in Paul's version of that text, "Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light" (Eph. 5:14).
"Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning; and ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately" (Lk. 12:35-36).