by C. H. Spurgeon
“And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All power is given to me in heaven and in earth. Go therefore, and teach all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit: teaching them to observe all things whatever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world. Amen.” —Matthew 28:18-20.
The change from “the man of sorrows” before his crucifixion to the “Lord over all” after his resurrection is very striking. Before his Passion he was well known by his disciples, and appeared only in one form, as the Son of man, clad in the common peasant’s garment without seam, woven from the top throughout; but after he had risen from the dead he was on several occasions unrecognised by those who loved him best, and is once at least described as having appeared to certain of them “under another form.” He was the same person, for they saw his hands and his feet, and Thomas even handled him, and placed his finger in the print of the nails; but yet it would seem that some gleams of his glory were at times revealed to them, a glory which had been hidden during his previous life, except only when he stood on the Mount of Transfiguration. Before his death, his appearances were to the general public — he stood in the midst of Scribes and Pharisees and tax collectors and sinners, and preached the glad tidings; but now he appeared only to his disciples, sometimes to one, at another time to two, on one occasion to about five hundred brethren at once, but always to his disciples, and only to them. Before his death his preaching was full of parables, plain to those who had understanding, but often dark and mysterious even to his own followers, for it was a judgment from the Lord upon that evil generation that seeing they should not see, and hearing they should not perceive. Yet with equal truth we may say that our Lord before his death brought down his teaching to the comprehension of the uninstructed minds which listened to it, so that many of the deeper truths were only slightly touched upon because they were not able to bear them as yet. Until his crucifixion he veiled the effulgence of many truths, but after his resurrection he spoke no more in parables, but introduced his disciples into the inner circle of the great doctrines of the kingdom, and as it were showed himself face to face to them. Before his death the Lord Jesus was always with his followers, and even the secret places of his retirement were known to them, but after he had risen he came and went among them at irregular intervals. Where he was during many of those forty days who among us can tell? He was seen in the garden upon Olivet, he walked to Emmaus, he comforted the assembly at Jerusalem, he showed himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, but where did he go when, after the various interviews, he vanished out of their sight? They were in the room alone, the doors were shut, and suddenly he stood in the midst of them; again he called to them from the seashore, and on landing they found a fire of coals kindled, and fish laid on them, and bread; his appearings were strange, and his disappearings equally so. Everything indicated that, after he had risen from the dead, he had undergone some marvellous change, which had revealed in him what had been concealed before, though still his identity was indisputable.
It was a great honour to have seen our risen Lord while yet he lingered here below. What must it be to see Jesus as he is now! He is the same Jesus as when he was here; those memorials as of a lamb that has been slain assure us that he is the same man. His real manhood sits glorified in heaven, and it is capable of being beheld by the eye, and heard by the ear, but yet how different. Had we seen him in his agony, we should all the more admire his glory. Dwell with your hearts very much upon Christ crucified, but indulge yourselves very often with a sight of Christ glorified. Delight to think that he is not here, for he is risen; he is not here, for he has ascended; he is not here, for he sits at the right hand of God, and makes intercession for us. Let your souls travel frequently the blessed highway from the sepulchre to the throne. As in Rome there was a Via Sacra along which returning conquerors went from the gates of the city up to the heights of the Capitol, so there is another Via Sacra which you ought often to view, for along it the risen Saviour went in glorious majesty from the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea up to the eternal dignities of his Father’s right hand. Your soul will do well to see her dawn of hope in his death, and her full assurance of hope in his risen life.
Today my business is to show, as far as God the Spirit may help me, first, our Lord’s resurrection power; and secondly, our Lord’s mode of exercising the spiritual part of that power as far as we are concerned.
I. OUR LORD’S RESURRECTION POWER. “All power is given to me in heaven and in earth.”
At the risk of repeating myself, I should like to begin this point by asking you to remember last Sunday morning’s sermon, when we went to Gethsemane, and bowed our spirits in the shadows of those grey olives, at the sight of the bloody sweat. [See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 1199, “The Agony in Gethsemane” 1190] What a contrast between that and this! There you saw the weakness of man, the bowing, the prostrating, the crushing of the manhood of the Mediator; but here you see the strength of the God-man: — he is clothed with omnipotence, though still on earth when he spoke words he had received a privilege, honour, glory, fulness and power which lifted him far above the sons of men. He was, as Mediator, no more a sufferer, but a sovereign; no more a victim, but a victor; no more a servant, but the monarch of earth and heaven. Yet he would never have received such power if he had not endured such weakness. All power would never have been given to the Mediator if all comfort had not been taken away. He stooped to conquer. The way to his throne was downward. Mounting upon steps of ivory, Solomon ascended to his throne of gold; but our Lord and Master descended so that he might ascend, and went down into the awful depths of unutterable agony so that all power in heaven and earth might belong to him as our Redeemer and Covenant Head.
Now think for a moment of these words, “All power.” Jesus Christ has given to him by his Father, as a result of his death, “all power.” It is only another way of saying that the Mediator possesses omnipotence, for omnipotence is only the Latin of “all power.” What mind shall conceive, what tongue shall set in order before you, the meaning of all power? We cannot grasp it; it is high, we cannot attain to it. Such knowledge is too wonderful for us. The power of self-existence, the power of creation, the power of sustaining what is made, the power of fashioning and destroying, the power of opening and shutting, of overthrowing or establishing, of killing and making alive, the power to pardon and to condemn, to give and to withhold, to decree and to fulfil, to be, in a word, “head over all things to his church,” — all this is vested in Jesus Christ our Lord. We might as well attempt to describe infinity, or map the boundless as to tell what “all power” must mean; but whatever it is, it is all given to our Lord, all put into those hands which once were fastened to the wood of shame, all left with that heart which was pierced with the spear, all placed as a crown upon that head which was surrounded with a coronet of thorns.
“All power in heaven” is his. Observe that! Then he has the power of God, for God is in heaven, and the power of God emanates from that central throne. Jesus, then, has divine power. Whatever Jehovah can do Jesus can do. If it would be his will to speak another world into existence, we should see tonight a fresh star adorning the brow of night. If it were his will at once to fold up creation like a worn out vesture, lo the elements would pass away, and those heavens would be shrivelled like a scroll. The power which binds the sweet influences of the Pleiades and looses the bands of Orion is with the Nazarene, the Crucified leads out Arcturus with his sons. Angelic bands are waiting on the wing to do the bidding of Jesus of Nazareth, and cherubim and seraphim and the four living creatures before the throne unceasingly obey him. He who was despised and rejected by men now commands the homage of all heaven, as “God over all, blessed for ever.”
“All power in heaven” relates to the providential skill and might with which God rules everything in the universe. He holds the reins of all created forces, and impels or restrains them at his will, giving force to law, and life to all existence. The old heathen dreamed of Apollo as driving the chariot of the sun and guiding its fiery steeds in their daily course, but it is not so: Jesus is Lord of all. He harnesses the winds to his chariot, and thrusts a bit into the mouth of the tempest, doing as he wills among the armies of heaven and the inhabitants of this lower world. From him in heaven emanates the power which sustains and governs this globe, for the Father has committed all things into his hands. “By him all things consist.”
“All power” must include — and this is a practical point for us — all the power of the Holy Spirit. In the work which lies nearest our heart the Holy Spirit is the great force. It is he who convicts men of sin, and leads them to a Saviour, gives them new hearts and right spirits, and plants them in the church, and then causes them to grow and become fruitful. The power of the Holy Spirit goes out among the sons of men according to the will of our Lord. As the anointing oil poured upon Aaron’s head ran down his beard, and soaked into the skirts of his garments, so the Spirit which has been granted to him without measure flows from him to us. He has the residue of the Spirit, and according to his will the Holy Spirit goes out into the church, and from the church into the world, to the accomplishment of the purposes of saving grace. It is not possible that the church should fail for lack of spiritual gifts or influence while her heavenly Bridegroom has such overflowing supplies of both.
All the power of the sacred Trinity, Father, Son, and Spirit, is at the command of Jesus, who is exalted far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but in what is to come.
Our Lord also claimed that all power had been given to him on earth. This is more than could be truly said by any mere man; no one of our mortal race may claim all power in heaven, and when they aspire to all power on earth it is only a dream. Universal monarchy has been striven for; it has seldom, if ever, been attained; and when it seemed within the clutch of ambition it has melted away like a snowflake before the sun. Indeed, if men could rule all their fellows, yet they would not have all power on earth, for there are other forces which scorn their control. Dreadful diseases laugh at the power of men. The king of Israel, when Naaman came to him to be healed of his leprosy, cried, “Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man sends to me to heal a man of his leprosy?” He did not have all power. Winds and waves, moreover, scorn mortal rule. It is not true that even Britannia rules the waves. Canute, to rebuke his courtiers, places his throne at the margin of the tide, and commands the billows to take care that they do not wet the feet of their royal master; but his courtiers were soon covered with spray, and the monarch proved that “all power” was not given to him. Frogs and locusts and flies were more than a match for Pharaoh; the greatest of men are defeated by the weak things of God. Nebuchadnezzar, struck with madness and living with cattle, was an illustration of the shadowy nature of all human power. The proudest princes have been made to feel by sickness, and pain, and death that after all they were only men, and often their weaknesses have been such as to make all the more apparent the truth that power belongs to God, and to God alone, so that when he entrusts a little of it to the sons of men, it is so little that they are fools if they boast about it. See, then, before us a wonder. A man who has power over all things on earth without exception, and is obeyed by all creatures, great and small, because the Lord Jehovah has put all things under his feet.
For our purposes it will be most important for us to remember that our Lord has “all power” over the minds of men, both good and bad. He calls whomever he pleases into his fellowship, and they obey. Having called them, he is able to sanctify them to the highest point of holiness, working in them all the good pleasure of his will with power. The saints can be so influenced by our Lord, through the Holy Spirit, that they can be impelled to the most divine ardours, and elevated to the most sublime moods of mind. Often I pray, and I do not doubt the prayer has come from you too, that God would raise up leaders in the church, men full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, standardbearers in the day of battle. The preachers of the gospel who preach with any power are few; still John might say, “You do not have many fathers.” More precious than the gold of Ophir are men who stand out as pillars of the Lord’s house, bulwarks of the truth, champions in the camp of Israel. How few are our apostolic men! We want again Luthers, Calvins, Bunyans, Whitfields, men fit to denote eras, whose names breathe terror in our foes’ ears. We have dire need of such men. Where are they? Where will they come from? We cannot tell in what farmhouse or village smithy, or schoolhouse such men may be, but our Lord has them in store. They are the gifts of Jesus Christ to the church, and will come in due time. He has power to give us back again a golden age of preachers, a time as fertile of great divines and mighty ministers as was the Puritan age, which many of us consider to have been the golden age of theology. He can send again the men of studious heart to search the word and bring out its treasures, the men of wisdom and experience rightly to divide it, the golden mouthed speakers who, either as sons of thunder or sons of consolation, shall deliver the message of the Lord with the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven. When the Redeemer ascended on high he received gifts for men, and those gifts were men outfitted to accomplish the edification of the church, such as evangelists, pastors, and teachers. These he is still able to bestow upon his people, and it is their duty to pray for them, and when they come, to receive them with gratitude. Let us believe in the power of Jesus to give us valiant men and men of renown, and we little know how soon he will supply them.
Since all power on earth is placed in Christ’s hands, he can also clothe any and all of his servants with a sacred might, by which their hands shall be sufficient for them in their high calling. Without bringing them out into the front ranks he can make them occupy their appointed positions until he comes, clothed with a power which shall make them useful. My brother, the Lord Jesus can make you eminently prosperous in the sphere in which he has placed you; my sister, your Lord can bless the little children who gather at your knee through your means. You are very feeble, and you know it, but there is no reason why you should not be strong in him. If you look to the strong for strength he can endue you with power from on high, and say to you as to Gideon, “Go in this your might.” Your slowness of speech need not disqualify you, for he will be with your mouth as with Moses. Your lack of culture need not hinder you, for Shamgar with his ox goad struck the Philistines, and Amos, the prophet, was a herdsman. Like Paul, your personal presence may be despised as weak, and your speech as contemptible, but yet like him you may learn to glory in infirmity, because the power of God rests upon you. You are not constrained in the Lord, but in yourselves, if constrained at all. You may be as dry as Aaron’s rod, but he can make you bud and blossom, and produce fruit. You may be as nearly empty as the widow’s cruse, yet he will still cause you to overflow towards his saints. You may feel yourself to be as near sinking as Peter amid the waves, yet he will keep you from your fears. You may be as unsuccessful as the disciples who had toiled all night and taken nothing, yet he can fill your boat until it can hold no more. No man knows what the Lord can make of him, nor what he may do by him, only this we do know assuredly that “all power” is with him by whom we were redeemed, and to whom we belong. Oh, believers, resort to your Lord, to receive from his fulness grace for grace. Because of this power we believe that if Jesus willed he could stir the whole church at once to the utmost energy. Does she sleep? His voice can awaken her. Does she restrain prayer? His grace can stimulate her to devotion. Has she grown unbelieving? He can restore her ancient faith. Does she turn her back in the day of battle, troubled with scepticisms and doubts? He can restore her unwavering confidence in the gospel, and make her valiant until all her sons shall be heroes of faith and put to flight the armies of the aliens. Let us believe, and we shall see the glory of God. Let us believe, I say, and once again our conquering days shall come, when one shall chase a thousand, and two shall put ten thousand to flight. Never despair for the church; be anxious for her, and turn your anxiety into prayer, but always be hopeful, for her Redeemer is mighty and will stir up his strength. “The Lord of Hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.” Degenerate as we are, there stands one among us whom the world does not see, whose shoe’s latchet we are not worthy to unloose: he shall again baptise us with the Holy Spirit and with fire, for “all power is given to him.”
It is equally true that all power is given to our Lord over all of mankind, even over that part of the race who rejects and continues in wilful rebellion. He can use the ungodly for his purposes. We have it on inspired authority that Herod and Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together to do whatever the Lord’s hand and counsel previously determined to be done. Their utmost wickedness only fulfilled the determinate counsel of God. Thus does he make the wrath of man to praise him, and the most rebellious wills to be subservient to his sacred purposes. Jesus’ kingdom rules over all. The powers of hell and all their hosts, with the kings of the earth, and the rulers meet and take counsel together, and all the while their rage is working out his purposes. Little do they know that they are only drudges to the King of kings, scullions in the kitchen of his imperial palace. All things do his bidding, his will is not thwarted, his resolves are not defeated; the pleasure of the Lord prospers in his hands. By faith I see him ruling and overruling on land and sea, and in all deep places. Guiding the decisions of parliaments, dictating to dictators, commanding princes, and ruling emperors. Let him only arise, and those who hate him shall flee before him; just as smoke is driven, so he will drive them away; just as wax melts before the fire, so shall all his enemies perish at his presence.
Concerning sinful men in general, the Redeemer has power over their minds in a manner wonderful to contemplate. At the present moment we very much deplore the fact that the current of public thought runs strongly towards Popery, which is the alias of idolatry. Just as, in Old Testament history, the people of Israel were always breaking away after their idols, so it is with this nation. The Israelites were cured of their sin for a little while, as long as some great teacher or judge had power among them, but at his death they turned aside to worship the queen of heaven or the calves of Bethel, or some other visible symbols. So it is now. Men are mad after the idols of old Rome. They are turning the old churches into temples for idols, and building new ones on all sides. Idol temples are becoming as numerous in London as in Calcutta. The worshippers and priests call themselves Christians, but they might better call themselves wafer worshippers or adorers of a fetish made of flour and water, for that is nearer to the truth. Well, what next? Are we despairing? God forbid that we should ever despond while all power is in the hand of Jesus. He can turn the whole current of thought in an opposite direction, and that very speedily. Did you not observe when the Prince of Wales was ill some months ago that everyone paid respect to the doctrine of prayer? Did you not notice how the Times and other newspapers spoke very believingly as to prayer? At this moment it is fashionable to pooh pooh the idea of God’s hearing our requests; but it was not so then. A great philosopher has told us that it is absurd to suppose that prayer can have any effect upon the events of life; but God only has to visit the nation with some judgment severely felt by all and your philosopher will become as quiet as a mouse. In the same way, I am firmly persuaded that, by one turn of the wheel of Providence, the Popery which is now so fashionable will be made, as it has been before, a red rag to set mobs rioting, and my lords and ladies, instead of hastening to the Pope, will be most anxious to disown all connection with the whole concern. To my mind it matters very little which way these fine folks go at any time, except that they are the straws which show which way the wind blows. I repeat it, the current of thought can readily be turned by our Lord; he can as easily manage it as the miller controls the stream which flows over his wheel, or rushes past it. The times are safe in our Redeemer’s management, he is mightier than the devil, the Pope, the infidel, and the ritualist, all put together. All glory be to him who has all power in earth and heaven.
So too, our Lord can give, and he does give to the people an inclination to hear the gospel. Never be afraid of getting a congregation when the gospel is your theme. Jesus, who gives you a consecrated tongue, will find willing ears to listen to you. At his bidding deserted sanctuaries grow crowded, and the people throng to hear the joyful sound. Indeed, and he can do more than that, for he can make the word powerful to the conversion of thousands; he can constrain the frivolous to think, the obstinately heretical to accept the truth, and those who set their faces like a flint to yield to his gracious sway. He has the key of every human heart; he opens, and no man shuts; he shuts, and no man opens. He will clothe his word with power and subdue the nations by it. It is ours to proclaim the gospel, and to believe that no man is beyond the saving power of Jesus Christ. Doubly dyed, yes, sevenfold steeped in the scarlet dye of vice, the sinner may be cleansed, and the ringleader in vice may become a pattern of holiness. The Pharisee can be converted — was not Paul? Even priests may be saved, for did not a great multitude of the priests believe? There is no man in any conceivable position of sin, who is beyond the power of Christ. He may be gone to the uttermost in sin, so as to stand on the verge of hell, but if Jesus stretches out his pierced hand, he will be plucked like a brand out of the burning.
My soul glows as I think of what my Lord can do. If all power is given to him in heaven and in earth, then this morning he could convert, pardon, and save every man and woman in this place; indeed, he could influence the four million of this city to cry, “What must we do to be saved?” Nor could he only work in this city, but throughout the whole earth: if it seemed good to his infinite wisdom and power he could make every sermon to be the means of the conversion of all who heard it, every Bible and every copy of the Word to become the channel of salvation to all who read it, and I do not know in how short a time the cry would be heard, “Hallelujah, for the Lord God omnipotent reigns.” That cry shall be heard, rest assured of that. We are on the conquering side. We have with us One who is infinitely greater than all who can be against us, since “all power” is given to him.
Brethren, we have no doubts, we entertain no fears, for every moment of time is bringing on the grand display of the power of Jesus. We preach today, and some of you despise the gospel; we bring Christ before you, and you reject him; but God will change his hand with you before long, and your despisings and your rejectings will then come to an end, for that same Jesus who went from Olivet, and ascended into heaven, will so come in like manner as he was seen to go up into heaven. He will descend with matchless pomp and power, and this astonished world which saw him crucified shall see him enthroned; and in the very same place where men dogged his heels and persecuted him, they shall crowd around him to pay him homage, for he must reign, and put his enemies under his feet. This same earth shall be gladdened by his triumphs which once was troubled with his griefs. And more. You may be dead before the Lord shall come, and your bodies may be rotting in the tomb, but you will know that all power is his, for at the blast of his trumpet your bodies shall rise again to stand before his terrible judgment seat. You may have resisted him here, but you will be unable to oppose him then; you may despise him now, but then you must tremble before him. “Depart you cursed,” will be to you a terrible proof that he has “all power,” if you will not now accept another and a sweeter proof of it by coming to him who invites the labouring and heavy laden to partake of his rest. “Kiss the Son, lest he is angry, and you perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled only a little. Blessed are all those who put their trust in him.”
II. I have, secondly, by your patience, to show our LORD’S USUAL MODE OF EXERCISING HIS GREAT SPIRITUAL POWER.
Brethren, the Lord Jesus might have said, “All power is given to me in heaven and earth; then take your swords and kill all my enemies who crucified me.” But he had no thoughts of revenge. He might have said, “These Jews put me to death, therefore go immediately to the Isles and to Tarshish and preach, for these men shall never taste of my grace,” but no, he expressly said, “beginning at Jerusalem,” and ordered his disciples first to preach the Gospel to his murderers. In consequence of his having “all power” his servants were told to disciple all nations. My brethren, the method by which Jesus proposes to subdue all things to himself appears to be utterly inadequate. To teach, to make disciples, to baptise these disciples, and to instruct them further in the faith! Good Master, are these the weapons of our warfare? Are these your battle axe and weapons of war? The princes of this world do not contemplate conquest like this, for they rely on monster guns, ironclad ships, and engines of death dealing power. Yet what are these except proofs of their weakness? Had they all power in themselves they would not need such instruments. Only he who has all power can work his bidding by a word, and dispense with all force except that of love.
Notice that teaching and preaching are the Lord’s way of displaying his power. Today they tell us that the way to save souls is to deck out an altar with different coloured silks and satins, variable according to the almanac, and to array priests in garments of various colours, “of assorted colours of needlework, on both sides, suitable for the necks of those who take the spoil,” and to make men wear petticoats, dishonourable to their gender. With these ribbons and embroideries, joined with incense burning, posturing, and incantations, souls are to be saved! “Not so,” says the Master, but “Go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” Do any of you fear that, after all, the preaching of the gospel will be defeated in this land of ours by these new editions of the old idolatry? God forbid. If there were only one of us left to preach the gospel, he would be a match for ten thousand priests. Only give us still the tongue which is set on fire by the Holy Spirit, and an open Bible, and one solitary preacher would rout the whole rabble of your monks and friars and father confessors, sisters of misery, and nuns, and pilgrims, and bishops, and cardinals, and popes: because preaching and teaching and baptising the disciples are Christ’s way, and priestcraft is not Christ’s way. If Christ had ordained sacramental efficacy it would succeed, but he has ordained nothing of the kind; his mandate is — All power is given to me in heaven and earth, go, therefore, disciple, baptise, and then still further instruct in the name of the Triune God.
My brethren, remember who the men were who were sent on this errand. The eleven who were foremost were mostly fishermen. Does the omnipotent Jesus choose fishermen to subdue the world? He does, because he needs no help from them; all power is his. We must have an educated ministry, they tell us; and by “an educated ministry” they mean, not the ministry of a man of common sense, clear head and warm heart, deep experience, and large acquaintance with human nature, but the ministry of mere classical and mathematical students, theorists, and novices, more learned in modern infidelities than in the truth of God. Our Lord, if he had wished to employ the worldly wise, might certainly have chosen an eleven in Corinth or in Athens who would have commanded general respect for their attainments, or he could have found eleven learned rabbis near at home; but he did not want such men: their vaunted attainments were of no value in his eyes. He chose honest, hearty men who were childlike enough to learn the truth, and bold enough to speak it when they knew it. The church must get rid of her notion that she must depend on the learning of this world. We cannot have a word to say against a sound education, especially an education in the Scriptures, but to place learned degrees in the place of the gift of the Holy Spirit, or to value the present style of so called culture above the spiritual edification of our manhood, is to set up an idol in the house of the living God. The Lord can as well use the most illiterate man as the most learned, if it so pleases him. “Go,” he said, “you fishermen, go, and teach all nations.” Carnal reason’s criticism on this is, — a feeble method to be worked out by feebler instruments!
Now let it be noted here that the work of preaching the gospel, which is Christ’s way of using his power among men, is based only upon his having that power. Listen to some of my brethren; they say, “You must not preach the gospel to a dead sinner, because the sinner has no power.” Just so, but our reason for preaching to him is that all power is given to Jesus, and he commands us to preach the gospel to every creature. “But when you tell a sinner to believe, you do not have the power to make him believe.” Truly so, nor do we dream that we have, for all power lies in Christ. Neither in the sinner is there power to believe, nor in the preacher power to make him believe, all power is in our Lord. “But do you think,” they say, “that your persuasions will ever make a man repent and believe?” Certainly not. The power that leads men to repent and believe does not lie in rhetoric or in reason, or in persuasion, but in him who says, “All power is given to me in heaven and in earth.” I tell you this, if my Lord and Master should ask me to go tomorrow to Norwood cemetery and order the dead to rise I would do it with as much pleasure as I now preach the gospel to this congregation; and I would do it for the same reason which now leads me to urge the unregenerated to repent and be converted; for I regard men as being dead in sin, and yet I tell them to live, because my Master commands me to do so: that I am right in acting this way is proven by the fact that while I am preaching sinners do live; blessed be his name, thousands of them have been quickened into life. Ezekiel had to cry, “You dry bones, live.” What a foolish thing to say! But God justified his servant in it, and an exceedingly great army stood upon their feet in what was once a large graveyard. Joshua’s men were bidden to blow their trumpets around Jericho — most absurd thing to blow a trumpet to topple city walls — but they came down for all that. Gideon’s men were asked simply to carry lamps within their pitchers, and to break their pitchers, and stand still and cry aloud, “The sword of the Lord and of Gideon,” — a most ridiculous thing to hope by this means to defeat the Midianites, — but they were defeated, for God never sends his servants on a fool’s errand. It pleases God by the foolishness of preaching to accomplish his divine purposes, not because of the power of preaching, nor the power of the preacher, nor any power in those preached to, but because “all power” is given to Christ “in heaven and in earth,” and he chooses to work by the teaching of the Word.
Our business, then, is just this. We are to teach, or as the Greek word has it, to make disciples. Our business is, each one according to the grace given, to tell our fellow men the gospel, and to try and disciple them to Jesus. When they become disciples, our next duty is to give them the sign of discipleship, by “baptising them.” That symbolic burial portrays their death in Jesus to their former selves and their resurrection to newness of life through him. Baptism enrols and seals the disciples, and we must not omit or misplace it. When the disciple is enrolled, the missionary is to become the pastor, “teaching them to observe all things whatever I have commanded you.” The disciple is admitted into the school by obeying the Saviour’s command concerning baptism, and then he goes on to learn, and as he learns he teaches others also. He is taught obedience, not to some things, but to all things which Christ has commanded. He is put into the church not to become a legislator or a deviser of new doctrines and ceremonies, but to believe what Christ tells him, and to do what Christ asks him to do. Thus our Lord intends to set up a kingdom which shall break in pieces every other; those who know him are to teach others; and so from one to the other, the wondrous power which Christ brought from heaven shall spread from land to land. See, then, my brethren, your high calling, and see also the support you have in pursuing it. In the vanguard behold “all power” going out from Christ! In the rearguard behold the Lord himself, — “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world.” If you are enlisted in this army, I charge you to be faithful to your great captain, do his work carefully in the way which he has prescribed for you, and expect to see his power displayed to his own glory.