NO MARVELS!

Arthur Pink, 1952
 

"If you see oppression of the poor, and perversion of justice and righteousness throughout the land do not marvel at the matter." Ecclesiastes 5:8

In the midst of his soliloquizings and moralizings, King Solomon interjected an occasional counsel or exhortation: "Moreover, I saw under the sun that in the place of justice, there was wickedness; and that in the place of righteousness, wickedness was there also." (Ecclesiastes 3:16), and he bids his readers not to be surprised or stumbled thereat.

It was a timely word, for such passages as Job 12:6 and 21:7; Psalm 73:2-12; Jeremiah 12:1 show that the Old Testament saints were deeply exercised over
the prosperity of the wicked and the adversity of the righteous. Solomon, therefore, seeks to remove this stumbling-block and prevent their taking offence at, or murmuring against, God's divine government.

Fallen human nature being what it is, we should not think it strange that the strong oppress the weak, or that justice should be corrupted by those in high places. Man is made to reap the bitter harvest of his apostasy from God.

Yet, however perplexed we may be over the success which so often rewards the workers of iniquity, let us be assured that nothing escapes the notice of the Most High God, that He "regards" and has wise reasons for permitting the frequent miscarriage of human justice by the magistrates and rulers of earth. There is One infinitely above to whom they must yet render an account, and from whom they will receive "a just recompense of reward." (Hebrews 2:2)

"But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. They are free from the burdens common to man; they are not plagued by human ills. Therefore pride is their necklace; they clothe themselves with violence. From their callous hearts comes iniquity; the evil conceits of their minds know no limits. This is what the wicked are like always carefree, they increase in wealth.
Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure; in vain have I washed my hands in innocence. When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me until I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny! Surely You place them on slippery ground; You cast them down to ruin. How suddenly are they destroyed, completely swept away by terrors!" Psalm 73

 

"Do not marvel that I said unto you, You must be born again" John 3:7

Nicodemus was baffled by Christ's statement that "unless a man is born again, he cannot enter the kingdom of God" (John 3:3). Though a master in Israel, he was unable to grasp our Lord's meaning.

The new birth is indeed a marvel, for it is a miracle, a supernatural thing.

The new birth is a marvel of divine GRACE for it is entirely unmerited by those who experience it. Furthermore, it is unsought and undesired by them (Isa 65:1).

The new birth is a miracle of divine WISDOM that the Holy One should act in mercy unto a vile rebel, and lift up the beggar from the dunghill and set him among princes (1 Samuel 2:8), without compromising His justice or sullying any of His perfections.

The new birth is a marvel of divine POWER that one who is dead in trespasses and sins should be quickened into newness of life for that is an even greater display of God's might than is the raising of a physical corpse.

But, if regeneration is such a wonderful thing, then why did Christ say to Nicodemus, "Do not marvel that I said unto you, You must be born again" (John 3:7)? He was not forbidding him to be amazed and awed at the new birth itself, but was rebuking him for his dullness in failing to see the necessity of it.

The imperativeness of the new birth is evident from the fact that man is a fallen creature. Originally he was made in the image and likeness of God (Gen 1:26), fitted to enjoy fellowship with Him. But upon his apostasy, he was alienated from his Maker, became unsuited unto the Holy One, and fled from Him. The natural man is totally depraved, a slave of Satan, dead in sin, and, therefore, it is no marvel that he needs to be born again. He is devoid of any love to God, any delight in Him, any relish for heavenly things, any ability to perform spiritual acts. A miracle of grace, then, must be wrought upon him before he is qualified to enter the Father's house. Heaven is a prepared place for a prepared people, for those who have been made "fit to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light" (Col 1:12), for without holiness no man shall see the Lord (Heb 12:14).

An unregenerated person would be entirely out of harmony with the ineffable purity of the celestial courts, and could no more enjoy their company and activities, than could a deaf man an oratorio, or a blind man the beauties of an exquisite sunset. A spiritual kingdom requires a spiritual nature, and in order to the acquisition of that, the natural man must be regenerated divinely regenerated, for the creature can no more quicken himself than he could give himself a natural being.

Why not? Because regeneration is no mere outward reformation, process of education, or even religious cultivation. No, it consists of a radical change of heart and transformation of character; the communication of a gracious and holy principle, producing new desires, new capacities, a new life. Then, marvel not that in order thereto, a man must be born from above.

 

"For as the Father has life in himself; so has he given to the Son to have life in himself; and has given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man. Do not marvel at this." John 5:26-28

It should occasion us no surprise to be informed that the Father has invested the Mediator with the right to execute judgment in connection with both the present and the future order of things in the churches now (Rev 2:3), and in His kingdom then (Mat 13:41). Not because the Father has relinquished the government, but that He is pleased to bestow this high honor upon His Son.

Christ has been elevated to the utmost conceivable dignity, and had conferred upon Him the glory of adjudicating at the grand Assize, and this because He is "the Son of man." It is the just recognition of His voluntary abasement. Because He became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross, God has "highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow" (Phi 2:9-10). Even now, He is seated at the right hand of the Majesty on high, and is upholding all things by the word of His power (Heb 1:3).

But the authority to dispense judgment in the last great day is the culminating point of His exaltation, the suitable recompense of His curse-bearing life and death. This makes manifest the Father's valuation of Christ acquits Him from the charge of blasphemy in making Himself equal with God (Mar 14:64; John 5:18), and demonstrates that He is "over all, God blessed forever" (Rom 9:5).

God "has appointed a day in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he has ordained" (Act 17:31). What a stupendous undertaking that will be! All mankind summoned will be before His tribunal for each one to receive according to his works. The discharge of such an office calls for one who is possessed of infinite integrity and justice, of omniscience also, for he must be capable of reading the secrets of the heart and bringing to light the hidden things of darkness, acquainted with all the circumstances of each life.

In John 5:27, Christ affirmed that the Father has committed all judgment unto Him because He is His Son. Here, He adds, "because he is the Son of man." Because the Son of God assumed human nature, tabernacled here in the same, He was despised and rejected. How fitting then that the slighted One should occupy the place of supreme authority. At His first advent, He was in the form of a servant (Phi 2:7), at His second, He will be seen as the King of kings! (Rev 19:16).

Formerly, He invited men to repentance then, He comes to take vengeance on the scorners of His grace. There, fishermen were His ambassadors, here, angels are His attendants. Then, He stood before human tribunals now, He sits upon the throne of His glory. "Marvel not at this" (John 5:28), for the same was promised Him before He became incarnate (Dan 7:13-14). It is suitable that the Judge should be visible and men be sentenced by one in their own nature. Full proof will be given that He is qualified for such a task, for "All that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth" (John 5:28), and then will it be universally known that He is none other than the Almighty clothed with flesh and blood!

 

"For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. Do not marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light" (2 Corinthians 11:13-14).

The devil is the prince of duplicity as well as of wickedness. He has always worked secretly, endeavoring to hide his true identity.

When beguiling Eve, he did so through a serpent (Gen 3:1).

When he appeared to accuse Job, he waited until a day when "the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them" (Job 1:6).

When he sowed his tares, he did so at night, "while men slept" (Mat 13:25) not thistles, but imitation wheat!

When he betrayed Christ into the hands of His enemies, he employed an apostle and used a kiss for the sign (Mat 26:48).

He is the arch-imposter, "who deceives the whole world" (Rev 12:9), and in so doing he assumes many characters, and plays many parts.

In the religious world, he appears not as the dragon of darkness, but as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14) light being the emblem of purity and blessedness. He pretended to have regard for the authority of Scripture, and quoted from it when tempting Christ (Mat 4:6).

He never shows himself openly for what he really is. Therefore, we need not be astonished that his ministers sail under false colors, occupy pulpits, and pose as the champions of the truth. They are as zealous and industrious in their labors as are the servants of God. Often they are of unblemished moral character, of apparent piety and real love for souls. Yet are they "wolves in sheep's clothing" (Mat 7:15). But they do not deceive God; He will yet unmask them and consign them to the everlasting burnings.

 

"Do not marvel, my brethren, if the world hates you" (1 John 3:13). Rather should we be amazed if it were otherwise, especially in view of Genesis 3:15. If the world despised and rejected the Head we cannot expect that it will fawn upon His members. He has plainly warned us to the contrary, John 15:18-21. The unregenerate hate the regenerate because their lives condemn them.