Recent Incidents of Persecution


Uttarakhand, India, April 30 (CDN) — Police arrested Pastor Jaswant Singh after extremists from the Hindu Jagrang Manch (Hindu Awareness Platform) filed a complaint against him of forceful conversion on April 25 in Rooria, Haridwar. A source told Compass that the extremists disrupted the prayer meeting of a house church service the pastor was leading, insulted the Christians’ faith and accused Pastor Singh of forcibly converting people. Police arrived and arrested Pastor Singh under Sections 107 and 10 of the Criminal Procedure Code for security and “keeping the peace,” and he was sent to Roorkie district jail. The pastor was released on bail the next day.

Karnataka – Police on April 19 detained Christians after local extremists filed a false complaint of forcible conversion against them in Hagare village in Hassan district. The Global Council of Indian Christians reported that a Christian identified only as Venkatesh invited two Christians, Guru Gowraiah and Puttuswamy Bhadraiah, to a prayer meeting at Basavaraj Pura. At about 7 p.m. a group of local extremists led by Hindu nationalists identified only as Mohan and Thammaiah disrupted the meeting, verbally abused the 20 people present and falsely accused Gowraiah and Bhadraiah of forcible conversion. Halebeedu police arrived and arrested Gowraiah and Bhadraiah. A police inspector identified only as Ramachandran M. told Compass that they were questioned and released after the complaint against them proved false.

Uttar Pradesh – Police arrested two Christians after Hindu extremists filed a complaint against them of making derogatory remarks against Hindu gods on April 15 in the Mohan area of Unnao. The Evangelical Fellowship of India reported that police arrested Budhi Ram and Vijay Phule of the Church of God as they were leading a prayer meeting. The two Christians were taken to Hassan Ganch police station and released on bail the next day. The Christians denied making any derogatory remarks against Hindu gods.

Chhattisgarh – Police on April 15 arrested four Christians in Bhilai after Hindu nationalists filed a complaint against them of forcible conversion in Bhilai. The Global Council of Indian Christians reported that a group of young members of the Brethren Assembly were distributing Christian literature when a mob of nearly 40 Hindu nationalists from the extremist Bajrang Dal and Dharam Sena attacked them. The Christians suffered cuts and bruises. Police arrived and took both parties to the police station. The All India Christian Council reported that on hearing the news of the attack, local Christian policeman G. Samuel went to help and was also hit with a false allegation of forceful conversion under Chhattisgarh’s “anti-conversion” law. The Christians were released on bail on April 22.

Karnataka – Hindu extremists on April 12 stopped a prayer meeting and accused Christians of forceful conversion in Chandapur, near Bangalore. The All India Christian Council reported that the intolerant Hindus beat the Christians, who sustained minor injuries. Police refused to file a complaint by the Christians.

Kerala – Hindu extremists from the Bajrang Dal accused a Christian media team of forceful conversion and beat them on April 12 in Perambra, Calicut. The All India Christian Council reported that the extremists attacked the media team of the Assemblies of God church while they were screening films on Jesus and a documentary on cancer. After the film ended, the enraged extremists stoned the house of a pastor identified only as Ponnachen and accused him of forceful conversion. They further threatened to set the pastor and his vehicle on fire if he screens Christian films again.

Karnataka – About 50 Hindu nationalists from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh attacked a house meeting of an Indian Pentecostal Church on April 11 in Horalhalli, Kanakapur, on the outskirts of Bangalore. The All India Christian Council reported that the Hindu extremists barged into the church’s worship service and accused Pastor K. Subhash of forceful conversion, threatened to beat him and warned him against leading any future house meeting services. Officers arrested Pastor Subhash, and he was released only after the station police inspector warned him not to conduct any future house church meetings while telling the extremists not to disturb the Christians.

Karnataka – Hindu extremists accompanied by police roughed up 12 pastors and accused them of forceful conversion on April 5 in Karmoda, Kodagu. The Global Council of Indian Christians reported that the mob stormed into the Christians’ meeting in the home of a Christian identified only as Vijay and took them to Ponnampet police station. After questioning, the Christians were charged with uttering words intending to hurt the religious feelings of others, defiling a place of worship, intent to insult the beliefs of others, intention to provoke a breach of peace and criminal intimidation and sent them to Virajpet jail.

Chhattisgarh – Police arrested three Christians based on a complaint of forceful conversion by Hindu nationalists on April 4 in Durg. The Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI) reported that police arrested Pastor Premlal Chhatriys and two Christians identified only as Umabai and Sulanbai of the Evangelical Christian Church of India. The Hindu extremists had encouraged a Hindu woman, Agasia Bai, to file the complaint as she had attended the church twice last year seeking healing for her sick daughter. In February her daughter died, and the Hindu nationalists massed at Bai’s house and forced her to write a police complaint against the Christians of forceful conversion, according to EFI. She submitted a complaint claiming that the Christians had offered her 5,000 rupees (US$112)to convert and another 5,000 rupees after conversion, and that a pastor identified only as Chhatriys had forced her to eat beef on her two visits to the church in July of last year. With area leaders’ intervention, the Christians were released on bail on April 6.

Chhattisgarh – Hindu nationalists from the Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council) disrupted Easter Sunday worship (April 4) of a Church of North India in Parsapani, Bilaspur, and accused pastor Bhaktu Lakda and others of forceful conversion. The Evangelical Fellowship of India reported that the extremists tore Christian pictures, seized Bibles and other gospel literature and beat the Christians. The Hindu extremists were accompanied by some local residents. Police arrived and made an inquiry. 

Uttarakhand – A mob of Hindu extremists accused Pastor Vinay Tanganiya of forceful conversion and beat him on March 30 in Barkote. The general secretary of the Christian Legal Association, Tehmina Arora, told Compass that the pastor, who also runs a school, fled to Barkote police station after the Hindu extremist mob beat him, but police refused to take his complaint and threatened to beat him further. The pastor was badly bruised.

Kerala – Police on March 29 detained a pastor and an evangelist along with their family members, including a 4-month-old baby, on false charges of denigrating Hindu gods in Ambalavayal police station in Wayanand. The Global Council of Indian Christians reported that the Hindu extremists, accompanied by police officials, stopped the Christians on their way back home after the screening of a gospel film in the Madakara area and started beating them. Pastor Eassow Varghese and Baiju P. George had obtained permission from the villagers to screen the film. The villagers testified that the allegations of the Hindu extremists were baseless. Police also seized the Christians’ film projector and van. After four hours, the Christians and their family members were released without charges.

Andhra Pradesh – Hindu extremists on March 25 disrupted a prayer meeting and beat Christians for their faith in Kadim, Alidabad. The All India Christian Council reported that the extremists, led by Anjane Yulu, stormed into the prayer meeting as church members were singing. The extremists beat two pastors identified only as John and Prabudas of the Indian Evangelical Team, as well as other church members, and verbally abused them for their Christian activities. The Christians sought the help of the village head, but the intolerant Hindus continued to beat them even in his presence. Police refused to take the complaint of the Christians.

Report from Compass Direct News 

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CHRIST THE WAY, THE TRUTH, AND THE LIFE: Robert Murray McCheyne


“Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by Me.” JOHN 14:6

 

IT is the saying of an old divine, that God often orders it, that when He is in hand with the greatest mercies for us, then we are most of all sinning against Him; which He doth to magnify His love the more.

In the words I have read, we find an example of this.  At no time did the heart of Jesus overflow with a tenderer and more sovereign love to His disciples, than when He said, “Let not your heart be troubled.”  They were troubled by many things.  He had told them that He was going to leave them; He had told them that one should betray Him, that another should deny Him, that they should all be offended because of Him that very night; and perhaps they thought He was going from them in anger.  But whatever the cause of their trouble was, Jesus’ bosom was like a vessel full to overflowing, and these words were the overlipping drops of love: “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in Me.”  Surely such words of confiding tenderness were never whispered in this cold world before; and oh, then, think how cold, how dark, how dull is the question with which Thomas breaks in upon the heavenly discourse: “Thomas saith unto Him, Lord, we know not whither Thou goest; and how can we know the way?”  And yet how condescendingly does Jesus bear with their cold-hearted dulness!  How lovingly does He begin the very alphabet of salvation with them, and not only answers, but over-answers Thomas, – gives him more than he could ask or think.  He asked about the way and the place; but Christ answers: “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by Me.”

Regarding this, then, as a complete description of  the gospel salvation, let us go over the different parts of it.

I.   Christ is the Way. – “I am the way: no man cometh,”  etc. The whole Bible bears witness that by nature we have no way to the Father.  We are by nature full of sin, and God is by nature infinitely holy, – that is, He shrinks away from sin.  Just as the sensitive plant, by its very nature, shrinks away from the touch of a human hand, so God, by His very nature, shrinks away from the touch of sin.  He is everlastingly separate from sinners; He is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity.

(1)  This was impressively taught to Adam and the patriarchs.  As long as Adam walked holily, God dwelt in him, and walked in him, and communed with him; but when Adam fell, “God drove the man out of paradise; and He placed at the east of the garden of Eden, cherubim, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.”  This flaming sword between the cherubim was a magnificent emblem of God, – the just and sin-hating God.  In the bush, He appeared to Moses as a consuming fire; in the temple, He appeared between the cherubim in the milder glory of the Shechinah; but here He appeared between the cherubim as a sword, – a just and sin-hating God.  And I beseech you to remark, that this flaming sword turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.  If it had not turned every way, – if it had left some footpath unglared across, – then Adam might have stolen in by that footpath, and made his own way to the tree of life. But no; whatever avenue he tried, – however secret, however narrow, however steep and difficult, however silently he crept along, – still this flaming meteor met him, and it seemed to say, “How can man be just with God?   by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh living be justified.”  Well might Adam sit down, wearied with the vain search for a pathway into life; for man by nature has no way to the Father.

But Christ says, “I am the way.”   As He says in Psalm xvi., “Thou wilt show Me the path of life.”  No man could find out this path of life; but Jesus says: “Thou wilt show it Me: in Thy presence is fulness of joy; at Thy right hand are pleasures for evermore.”  Jesus pitied the poor sons of Adam vainly struggling to find out a way into the paradise of God, and He left the bosom of the Father, just that He might open up a way for us into the bosom of the Father.  And how did He do it?  Was it by escaping the vigilance of the flaming sword?  No; for it turned every way.  Was it by exerting His divine authority, and commanding the glittering blade to withdraw?  No; for that would have been to dishonour his Father’s law instead of magnifying it.  He therefore became a man in our stead, – yea, became sin.  God caused to meet on Him the iniquities of us all.  He advanced in our stead to meet that fiery meteor – He fell beneath its piercing blade; for He remembered the word of the prophet, which is written: “Awake, O sword! against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the Lord of hosts.”

And now, since the glittering blade is bathed in the side of the Redeemer, the guiltiest of sinners – whoever you be, whatever you be – may enter in over His bleeding body, may find access to the paradise of God, to eat of the tree of life, and live for ever.  Come quickly, – doubt not; for He says, “I am the way.”

(2) The same fact – that man has by nature no way to the Father – was impressively taught to Moses and the people of Israel.

When God condescended to dwell among the children of Israel, He dwelt peculiarly in the holiest of all – the innermost apartment of the Jewish temple.  There the visible token of His presence rested between the cherubim, at one time described to us as a light inaccessible and full of glory, at another time as a cloud that filled the temple.  But this innermost apartment, or holiest of all (or secret place, as it is called in the Psalms), was separated from the holy place by a curtain or veil; and through that veil no man was allowed to pass, lest he should die, except the high priest, who entered in once in the year, not without blood.  Now, no picture could express more plainly that the way into the holiest was not made manifest, that no sinful man has any way of coming into the presence of God.

But Jesus says, “I am the way.”  Jesus was grieved that we were shut out from the holiest of all – from the presence of God; for He knew by experience that in that presence there is fulness of joy.  But how did He open the way?  Did He pull aside the veil, that we might steal in secretly and easily into the presence of the Father?  No; but He offered Himself an offering to satisfy divine justice and reconcile us to God.  “He said, It is finished: and bowed His head, and gave up the ghost.  And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain, from the top to the bottom.”  It is finished: the punishment of the law is borne, the demands of the law are answered, the way is finished, the veil is rent from the top to the bottom! Not a shred of the dreadful curtain now remains to intercept us.  The guiltiest, the vilest sinner of you all, has now liberty to enter in through the rent veil, under the light of Jehovah’s countenance, – to dwell in the secret of His tabernacle, to behold His beauty, and to inquire in His temple.

And now, my friends, is this your way of coming to the Father?  Christ says, “I am the way; no man cometh unto the Father but by me.”  If, then, you will still keep to your own way, whatever it be, – whether it be the way of tears, or penances, or vows of amendment, or hopes that God will not deal strictly, – if you will not be warned, you will find in the judgment day that the cherubic sword turned every way, and that you are left a prey to the consuming fire.

But oh, if there be one soul that can find no peace in any self-righteous way, – if there be one of you who find that you are lost in yourself, – behold, Christ says to you, “I am the way,”  as He says in another place, “I am the door.”  It is a full, free, and open way, and it is a way for sinners.  Why wait a moment longer?  There was once a partition wall between you and God; but Christ hath cast it down.  God was once angry; but His anger is turned away from this blessed path.  In Christ He is ever well pleased.

II.  Christ is the Truth. – The whole Bible, and the whole of experience, bear witness that by nature we are ignorant of the truth.  No doubt there are many truths which an unconverted man does know.  He may know the truths of mathematics and arithmetic, – he may know many of the common every-day truths; but still it cannot be said that an unconverted man knows the truth, for Christ is the truth.  Christ may be called the key-stone of the arch of truth.  Take away the key-stone of an arch, and the whole becomes a heap of rubbish.  The very same stones may be there; but they are all fallen, smothered, and confused, – without order, without end.  Just so take Christ away, and the whole arch of truth becomes a heap of rubbish.  The very same truths may be there; but they are all fallen, – without coherence, without order, without end.  Christ may be called the sun of the system of truth.  Take away the sun out of our system, and every planet would rush into confusion.  The very same planets would be there; but their conflicting forces would draw them hither and thither, orb dashing against orb in endless perplexity.  Just so take Christ away, and the whole system of truth rushes into confusion.  The same truths may be in the mind, but all conflicting and jarring in inextricable mazes; for “the path of the wicked is as darkness; they know not at what they stumble.”  But let Christ be revealed to an unconverted soul – let it not be merely a man speaking about Christ unto him, but let the Spirit of God reveal Him, – and there is revealed, not a truth, but the truth.  You put the key-stone into the arch of truth; you restore the sun to the centre of the system.  All truth becomes orderly and serviceable in that mind.

Now he knows the truth with regard to himself.  Did the Son of God really leave the bosom of the Father to bear wrath in our stead? – then I must be under wrath.  Did the Lord Jesus become a servant, that He might obey the will of God instead of sinners? – then I must be without any righteousness, – a child of disobedience.

Again, knowing Christ, he knows the truth with regard to God.  Did God freely give up his Son to the death for us all? – then, if I believe in Jesus, there is no condemnation to me.  God is my Father, and God is love.

My friends, have you seen Christ, who is the truth?  Has He been revealed to you, not by flesh and blood, but by the Spirit of our God?  Then you know how true it is that in Him “are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge,” – that He is the “Alpha and Omega,”  the beginning and the ending of all knowledge.  But if you have not seen Christ, then you know nothing yet as you ought to know; all your knowledge is like a bridge without a key-stone – like a system without a sun.  What good will it do you in hell that you knew all the sciences in the world, all the events of history, and all the busy politics of your little day?  Do you not know that your very knowledge will be turned into an instrument of torture in hell?  Oh, how will you wish in that day that you had read your newspaper less and your Bible more, – that, with all your getting, you had got understanding – that, with all your knowledge, you had known the Saviour, whom to know is life everlasting!

III.  Christ is the Life. – The whole Bible bears witness that by nature we are dead in trespasses and sins  – that we are as unable to walk holily in the world, as a dead man is unable to rise and walk.

Both Scripture and experience alike testify that we are by nature dead in trespasses and sins; and yet it is not a death in which we are wholly inactive, for in it we are said to walk according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air.

This truth is taught us impressively in that vision of the prophet Ezekiel, where he was carried out by the Spirit, and set down in the midst of an open valley full of dry bones; and as he passed by them round about, behold, there were very many in the open valley, and lo! they were very dry.

Just such is the view which every child of God gets of the world.  The dry bones are very many, and they are very dry; and he asks the same question which God asked of Ezekiel: “Can these bones live?”  Oh yes, my friends; and does not experience teach you the same thing?  True, the dead cannot know that they are dead; and yet, if the Lord touch your heart, you will find it out.  We prophesy to dry bones; for this is the Lord’s way; – while we prophesy, the breath enters in.  Look back over your life, then.  See how you have walked according to the course of this world.  You have always been like a man swimming with the stream, – never like a man swimming against the current.  Look into your heart, and see how it has turned against all the commandments: you feel the Sabbath to be a weariness, instead of calling it a delight and honourable.  If ever you tried to keep the commandments of God, – if ever you tried to keep your eyes from unlawful desires, your tongue from words of anger or gossiping or bitterness, your heart from malice and envy and covetousness, – if ever you have tried this, and I fancy most unconverted men have tried it, – if ever you have tried this, did you not find it impossible?  It was like raising the dead.  Did you not find a struggle against yourself?  Oh, how plain that you are dead – not born again!  Marvel not that we say unto you, Ye must be born again.  You must be joined to Christ, for Christ is the life.  Suppose it were possible for a dead limb to be joined into a living body so completely that all the veins should receive the purple tide of living blood, – suppose bone to join on to bone, and sinew to sinew, and nerve to nerve, – do you not see that that limb, however dead before, would become a living limb?  Before, it was cold and stiff and motionless, and full of corruption; now it is warm and pliable, and full of life and motion.  It is a living limb, because joined on to that which is life.  Or suppose it possible for a withered branch to be grafted into a living vine so completely that all the channels should receive the flow of the generous sap, do you not agree that that branch, however dead before, becomes a living branch?  Before, it was dry and fruitless and withered; now it is full of sap, of life, and vigour.  It is a living branch, for it is joined to the vine, which is its life.  Well, then, just in the same way, Christ is the life of every soul that cleaves to Him. He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit.  Is your soul like a dead limb – cold, stiff, motionless, and full of corruption?  Cleave you to Christ, be joined to Him by faith, and you shall be one spirit, – you shall be made warm and vigorous and full of activity in God’s service.

Is your soul like a withered branch – dry, fruitless, and withered, wanting both leaves and fruit?  Cleave you to Christ; be joined to Him, and you shall be one spirit.  You will find it true that Christ is the life; your life will be hid with Christ in God.  You will say, “I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.’

Remember, then, my unbelieving friends, the only way for you to become holy is to become united to Christ.

And remember you, my believing friends, that if ever you are relaxing in holiness, the reason is, you are relaxing your hold on Christ.   Abide in me, and I in you; so shall ye bear much fruit.   Severed from me, ye can do nothing.

HEAVENLY THINGS: John 3:9-15


Last week we considered the necessity of the new birth, without which not only is entrance into the Kingdom of God impossible, but even beginning to understand the Kingdom of God in its most elementary stages is impossible.

We saw that Jesus cut right through all the rhetoric of Nicodemus and drove straight at the most important need that this man had, indeed that any man, woman, and child has – that of the new birth. Yes, this man was a Pharisee, and a very important one at that, yet he was also outside the Kingdom of God, and stood in great need of this new birth as wrought within a person by the Holy Spirit.

No man, woman or child can ever hope to enter the Kingdom of God if they have not personally experienced this new birth – it is an absolute necessity. Without it there is no spiritual life, and has therefore no ability to enter the Kingdom of God.

This man had no idea of what Jesus was speaking about – it just all seemed too impossible to him. How could such a thing as being born again be possible, ‘How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born (3:4)?’

By his very answers to Jesus, both in verse 3 and in verse 9, Nicodemus proved to all human history from that time forward, that indeed his greatest need, as Jesus had said to him, was to experience the new birth, for ‘the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned (1 Cor 2:14).’

As a Pharisee, and as an important teacher within Israel, Nicodemus should have known this most important truth already. This truth of the necessity of the new birth was of course not absent from the Old Testament from which Nicodemus taught, and we considered for a moment an example given in Ezekiel 36, and verses 26 and 27, ‘A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.’

With the Old Testament full of such allusions to the new birth, and with various types and illustrations of it, Jesus rebuked Nicodemus, ‘Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things (3:10)?’ These are things that someone who is teaching the Bible ought to know, indeed to have experienced, yet he knew nothing of them – he had no spiritual life to understand these realities.

This is no small matter – the most elementary, the most basic teaching concerning entrance into the Kingdom of God, the most necessary prerequisite to being able to keep the statutes of God successfully, was not known by the one who taught the common people within the land! What hope have such people got when their leaders don’t even know the truth!

And what a sad state it is, when the very ones who are charged with the responsibility of teaching people the truth as regards deliverance from sin, and entrance into the Kingdom of God, who are also accountable to God for what they teach, do not know the most basic of Biblical truths – to enter the Kingdom, you must first be born again from above. You cannot begin to move in the right direction without this new birth.

How many will perish for want of a faithful teacher, both then and now? The truth is not taught anymore, even in our own land – people perish, while they yet think they have the Kingdom of God in their very hands, while in reality they have not even experienced the new birth. They are told to repeat simple statements, or simple prayers, to utter strange sounds called tongues, to carry out certain rituals or observances – and with the completion of such things they are assured of a mansion in Heaven. It’s a tragedy, truly it is.

Nicodemus and his fellow Pharisaic teachers were teaching an entrance into the Kingdom based upon the merit of human effort and obedience, a system devoid of any saving merit whatsoever – and yet this is what they taught.

They had no real spiritual idea as to what they were doing. They were prepared to ‘compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves (Mt 23:15).’

What the Pharisee’s taught was in complete contrast to the testimony of Jesus, of the prophets, and of John the Baptist; for while the Pharisee’s taught what was the product of mere human interpretation and invention, Jesus said, ‘Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness (3:11).’

When Jesus speaks there is an air of certainty, an authority that the Pharisee’s knew nothing of. This was a word to be trusted, a word that had real clout – for it was truth, and came from a source that is absolutely trustworthy, not the product of mere human invention.

And when I speak to you concerning this truth, I come with similar authority, not because I’m something special, but because I come with the very same words of Jesus – the authority is still in the words, ‘We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen …’

Jesus continues, ‘If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things (3:12)?’ If Nicodemus did not believe and understand the earthly things, what hope did he have of believing and understanding heavenly things?

What is Jesus talking about here? What are the earthly things that Nicodemus didn’t believe? The context points us to the answer – surely it is what Nicodemus has already rejected, what Jesus had already said.

Yes, being born again is a spiritual matter and is clearly from above, yet that which Jesus has already said must be what Jesus is referring to as an earthly thing in this verse. There is nothing else that he has yet pointed to, it must be this. He has said nothing else up to this point, except stressing the need of the new birth.

But it is not so much the new birth that is earthly, though it be something which happens within a person, and occurs on the earth. The way that Jesus sought to teach Nicodemus about the new birth, with these various simple earthly illustrations, in order to simply explain the truth being taught is what Jesus means here. Jesus says in effect, ‘Nicodemus, if you can’t understand these simple illustrations that I have used to point to the truth, then there is no way known that you will understand the truth simply stated without the illustrations.’

The idea behind all this is that these things are basic things – how can you understand anything further if you can’t get what I’ve already told you, and pointed to with earthly pictures and illustrations? If you can’t even get beyond these illustrations regarding the basics, then you won’t understand the bare facts of spiritual life, and how to enter in upon it. If I state them without the illustrations – that is well and truly beyond you.

Though the Old Testament clearly speaks of this truth concerning the new birth, and though it should have been obvious by Nicodemus’s inability to keep the law that he proclaimed as the way to salvation, Nicodemus still could not see the reality of the new birth, and of its need. All screams out to Nicodemus of the need of some other way – yet he will not believe. And why, because he can’t work it out in his own mind, because it doesn’t seem possible to him.

These people would rather persist with there flawed methods of achieving entrance into the Kingdom, then to accept the way of one whom even they recognized as ‘a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him (3:2).’

What is it that you are sticking to this morning – will you continue to stick to methods and ways of salvation that are based upon the interpretations, inventions, and wisdom of man – things that you are able to accept in your own mind? Or will you believe what the Lord Jesus Christ has to say? What is more believable to you?

Do you think you have the way of salvation worked out? Is your little system right? Perhaps it’s a system of belief you have inherited from family, friends, or some religious teacher – is it right? Have you been in the presence of God and had it approved by Him?

‘And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven (3:13).’

Well Jesus has been in heaven, in fact He came from there. He knows the way of life, and He tells it as it is. If there is anyone who has the words of life, surely it must be Jesus. He is the only one who has had such special access to the Father, who indeed is God Himself.

‘Are you prepared to rest all your faith and hope for eternity upon those teachings that you have received Nicodemus? Have any of those men whose teaching you accept above mine ever been to heaven, into the very presence of God, and there received their doctrines and theology? They haven’t been there have they?’ So runs the argument to Nicodemus.

No one on earth has gone into the Presence of God and received the ability to teach the heavenly truths, not one. Not one person has been and done that. To teach heavenly, spiritual things you need first hand information, and that’s received from God Himself – its right outside the experience of man until its revealed to him by God.

But Jesus has come from there, the Son of Man who has come from the very Presence of God has most certainly been there; don’t you think what He has to say is more trustworthy, and that it should be heeded to? Don’t you think that you ought to pay more attention to what Jesus has to say then to the doctrines of men?

And we could quite obviously apply this same idea to every other teaching couldn’t we? Does what you believe and teach measure up to the teaching of Jesus in this Book? If it doesn’t then it should be dropped.

The phrase that is in the text at this point in verse 13, ‘which is in heaven’, is thought to be an addition to the text that was not in the original text, it being absent from the oldest existing manuscripts. But whether it be there or not, it does nothing to add to, or take away from the point that Jesus is making here, ‘I alone have trustworthy information about entrance into the Kingdom.’

If Jesus says something about how one is able to enter into the Kingdom of God, then what he has to say should surely be listened to – who cares what anyone else has to say, whether it be Billy Graham, Louis Palau, or Kevin Matthews. If Jesus says entrance is upon such and such a condition, then you had better believe that it is upon those conditions.

And I would ask you this morning – are you prepared to back the flawed interpretations and inventions of men rather than the truth taught by the Son of Man? The Pharisaic method of earning their place in the Kingdom by their obedience and their own merits was no good – and all methods of obtaining the Kingdom today by human effort and merit is of no value either.

It matters not whether it be by some form of church ritual, be it baptism, the Lord’s Supper, or Church attendance; whether it be some form of attempted obedience to the Word of God; even whether it be a dependence upon the exercise of faith itself – these things will not grant you entrance into the Kingdom – its God’s way, or its no way!

And here Jesus moves on from the new birth to that which follows on after that, to further teaching on how one enters into the Kingdom of heaven. If there has been no new birth, then this next stage will never happen.

To be able to move onto the next stage, that first stage that man is aware of, he must first be born again from above. And though he may not be immediately aware of this new birth having occured within him, this next stage he will be aware of.

‘And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life (3:14,15).’

What is God’s way for entrance into the Kingdom of God – it is the way that has been foretold in the Old Testament illustration of Numbers 21:4-9. Let’s just read that for a moment:

‘And they journeyed from mount Hor by the way of the Red sea, to compass the land of Edom: and the soul of the people was much discouraged because of the way. And the people spake against God, and against Moses, Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? for there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul loatheth this light bread. And the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died. Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD, and against thee; pray unto the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people. And the LORD said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived (Num 21:4-9).’

Here as usual the people had sinned against God, and to punish them the Lord God sent serpents in among them to bite them and kill them. The snakes were the just consequence of their sin, and an expression of the wrath of God against sin.

The only escape open to the people of Israel was to look at the serpent that Moses had made, placed on a pole, and lifted up for all to see. This was God’s way of escaping the wrath that had come upon the people of Israel – if you didn’t look at the serpent, it mattered not what else you did, you died.

Now this illustration was used by Jesus to teach an important truth to Nicodemus – that the only way into the Kingdom of God was by Jesus, in a similar way as recorded in this Old Testament story from Israel’s history.

In order to escape the wrath of God that abides upon men, women and children because of sin, men do not need the inventions of men, but the provision of a way of escape provided by God Himself, and Jesus was that provision.

As the serpent on the pole was lifted up, and set up in a prominent place so that everyone could look at it and live, and thereby escape the wrath of God that had descended upon the people in the form of these snakes; so to Jesus would be lifted up as God’s provision for men so that they might escape the eternal wrath of God for sin.

As the people of Israel looked at the bronze serpent as God’s means of escape, so to people would need to look at Jesus by faith in order to escape God’s wrath.

Salvation is not to be found in any human method, but only in the method that God has set down for salvation. If those people bitten by the snakes had decided to set themselves on finding some anti-venom serum, they would have died. If they decided that they would try some religious activity in order to pacify God, they would have died. There was but one way to escape open to them, to look at the God-appointed means of escape.

And this is the point of the illustration from the Old Testament; Jesus is the only God-appointed means to escape the wrath of God, and to gain entrance into the Kingdom of God.

‘And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me (Jn 12:32).’ ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me (Jn 14:6).’

The clear teaching of this Gospel, and of the Word of God, is that Jesus alone is the way of entrance into the Kingdom of God. He is the way to eternal life, the Kingdom life – He and no other. And so you see in this place, the Northlake’s Reformed Baptist Church, we will teach and preach no other way of salvation but ‘Jesus Christ and Him crucified (1 Cor 2:2)’, ‘Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved (Acts 4:12).’

‘And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent (Jn 17:3).’

If you are to know this eternal life, then you need to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as the way to the Kingdom, and to rest in Him as that way. There is no other name given as a way of salvation – not from God there isn’t.

As the people of Israel needed to first believe in the promise of the bronze serpent being the way that God would restore them to health, before they actually looked in its direction – so it is with Christ.

To exercise faith in Christ is to believe that the way to salvation through Christ is true, and then to act upon that belief with confident action. That is the belief that is needed.

But I might not yet have experienced the new birth? The new birth is something that you are unable to perform, the Holy Spirit works it within a person, and you are not called upon to perform it.

But you are called upon to believe, ‘what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house (Acts 16:30,31)’

If you believe, then you can rest assured that you have also experienced the new birth, for without that you could never have believed. If you believe then the Kingdom is yours, you have eternal life, you have already experienced the new birth.

It is a promise not only of the Kingdom life to come, but entrance into that life already – for you already have it, you are already part of that heavenly kingdom.

But of course, if you do not believe then the obvious implication of this verse is that you will perish – not annihilation, but everlasting punishment in Hell.

So far in John 3 then we have seen the necessity of the new birth, and the way of entrance into the Kingdom as being Christ Himself. Next week we will consider more of this important passage, and just how Jesus is the way of entrance into the Kingdom.

FAITH AND ASSURANCE: Bishop J. C. Ryle


READER,

If you are a thoughtless, careless man about your soul, you will take no interest in the subject of this tract. Faith and assurance are mere names and words to you: they are neither land, nor money, nor horses, nor dress, nor meat, nor drink: like Gallio, you care not for them. Alas, poor soul! I mourn over you. The day will come when you will think differently.

Reader, if you really desire to go to heaven, and to go there in the Bible way you will find the subject of this tract of the deepest importance. Believe me, your own comfort in religion, and your peace of conscience, depend exceedingly on understanding the matter about which I am going to speak. I say then, that faith in Christ, and a full assurance of being saved by Christ, are two distinct things.


A man may have saving faith in Christ, and yet never enjoy an assured hope, like the Apostle Paul. To believe, and have a glimmering hope of acceptance, is one thing; to have joy and peace in our believing, and abound in hope, is quite another. All God’s children have faith: not all have assurance. I think this ought never to be forgotten.


I know some great and good men have held a different opinion: I believe that many excellent ministers do not allow the distinction I have stated; but I desire to call no man master. I dread as much as anyone the idea of healing the wounds of conscience slightly; but I should think any other view than that I have given a most uncomfortable gospel to preach, and one very likely to keep souls back a long time from the gate of life.


I would not desire to make one contrite heart sad that God has not made sad, or to discourage one fainting child of God, or to give a soul the impression that you have no part or lot in Christ, except you feel assurance. I do not shrink from saying, that by grace a man may have sufficient faith to flee to Christ, really to lay hold on Him, really to trust in Him, really to be a child of God, really to be saved; and yet to his last day be never free from much anxiety, doubt, and fear.


“A letter,” says an old writer, “may be written which is not sealed; so grace may be written in the heart, yet the Spirit may not set the seal of assurance to it.”


A child may be born heir to a great fortune, and yet never be aware of his riches, live childish, die childish, and never know the greatness of his possessions.


And so also a man may be a babe in Christ’s family; think as a babe, speak as a babe, and, though saved, never enjoy a lively hope, or know the full privileges of his inheritance.


Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ a man must have, beyond all question, if he is to be saved. I know no other way of access to the Father: I see no intimation of mercy excepting through Christ. A man must feel his sins and lost estate, must come to Jesus for pardon and salvation, must rest his hope on Him and on Him alone. But if he only have faith to do this, however weak and feeble that faith may be, I will engage, from Scripture warrants, he shall not miss heaven. Never, never let us curtail the freeness of the glorious gospel, or clip its fair proportions. Never let us make the gate more strait, and the way more narrow, than pride or love of sin have made it already. The Lord Jesus is very pitiful and of tender mercy. He does not regard the quantity of faith, but the quality He does not measure its degree, but its truth. He will not break any bruised reed, nor quench any smoking flax. He will never let it be said that any perished at the foot of the cross. “Him that cometh unto Me,” He says, “I will in no wise cast out” (John vi. 37). 1


Yes, reader! though a man’s faith be no bigger than a grain of mustard seed, if it only brings him to Christ, and enables him to touch the hem of His garment, he shall be saved: saved as surely as the oldest saint in paradise; saved as completely and eternally as Peter, or John, or Paul. There are degrees in our sanctification: in our justification there are none. What is written is written, and shall never fail: “Whosoever believeth on Him,” not whosoever has a strong and mighty faith, “Whosoever believeth on Him shall not be ashamed” (Rom. x. 11).


But all this time, I would have you take notice, the poor soul may have no full assurance of his pardon and acceptance with God. He may be troubled with fear upon fear, and doubt upon doubt. He may have many a question and many an anxiety, many a struggle, and many a misgiving, clouds and darkness, storm and tempest to the very end.


I will engage, I repeat, that bare simple faith in Christ shall save a man, though he may never attain to assurance; but I will not engage it shall bring him to heaven, with strong and abounding consolations. I will engage it shall land him safe in harbour, but I will not engage he shall enter that harbour under full sail, confident and rejoicing. I shall not be surprised if he reaches his desired haven weather-beaten and tempest-tossed, scarcely realising his own safety till he opens his eyes in glory.


Reader, I believe it is of great importance to keep in view this distinction between faith and assurance. It explains things which an inquirer in religion some times finds it hard to understand.


Faith, let us remember, is the root, and assurance is the flower. Doubtless you can never have the flower without the root; but it is no less certain you may have the root and not the flower.


Faith is that poor trembling woman who came behind Jesus in the press and touched the hem of His garment (Mark v. 25). Assurance is Stephen standing calmly in the midst of his murderers, and saying, “I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God” (Acts vii. 56). Faith is the penitent thief crying, “Lord, remember me” (Luke xxiii. 42). Assurance is Job sitting in the dust, covered with sores, and saying, “I know that my Redeemer liveth” (Job xix. 25). “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him” (Job xiii. 13).


Faith is Peter’s drowning cry as he began to sink: “Lord, save me!” (Matt. xiv. 30). Assurance is the same Peter declaring before the Council, in after times, “This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts iv. 11,12).


Faith is the anxious, trembling voice: “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief” (Mark ix. 24). Assurance is the confident challenge: “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? Who is he that condemneth?” (Rom. viii. 33, 34).


Faith is Saul praying in the house of Judas at Damascus, sorrowful, blind, and alone (Acts ix. 11). Assurance is Paul, the aged prisoner, looking calmly into the grave, and saying, “I know Whom I have believed,” “There is laid up for me a crown” (2 Tim. i. 12; iv. 8).

Faith is life. How great the blessing! Who can tell the gulf between life and death? And yet life may be weak, sickly, unhealthy, painful, trying, anxious, worn, burdensome, joyless, and smileless to the very end.

Assurance is more than life. It is health, strength, power, vigour, activity, energy, manliness, and beauty.

Reader, it is not a question of saved or not saved that lies before us, but of privilege or no privilege, it is not a question of peace or no peace, but of great peace or little peace, it is not a question between the wanderers of this world and the school of Christ, it is one that belongs only to the school, it is between the first form and the last.

He that has faith does well. Happy should I be if I thought all readers of this tract had it. Blessed, thrice blessed are they that believe: they are safe; they are washed; they are justified. They are beyond the power of hell. Satan, with all his malice, shall never pluck them out of Christ’s hands. But he that has assurance does far better, sees more, feels more, knows more, enjoys more, has more days like those spoken of in Deuteronomy, even “the days of heaven upon the earth” (Deut. xi. 21). 2

Reader, whoever you may be, I exhort you never to be satisfied with anything short of a full assurance of your own salvation. With faith, no doubt, you must begin, with simple, child-like faith: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” But from faith go on to assurance. Rest not till you can say, “I know Whom I have believed.”

Believe me, believe me, assurance is worth the seeking. You forsake your own mercies when you rest content without it. The things I speak are for your peace. It is good to be sure in earthly things; how much better is it to be sure in heavenly things!

Make it then your daily prayer that you may have an increase of faith. According to your faith will be your peace. Cultivate that blessed root more, and sooner or later, by God’s blessing, you may hope to have the flower. You may not perhaps attain to full assurance at once: it is good sometimes to be kept waiting; we do not value things that we get without trouble. But though it tarry, wait for it. Seek on, and expect to find.

 

FOOTNOTES:

1 “He that believeth on Jesus shall never be confounded. Never was any; neither shall you, if you believe. It was a great word of faith spoken by a dying man, who had been converted in a singular way, betwixt his condemnation and execution: his last words were these, spoken with a mighty shout ‘Never man perished with his face towards Jesus Christ.'”  Traill.

2 “The greatest thing that we can desire, next to the glory of God, is our own salvation; and the sweetest thing we can desire is the assurance of our salvation. In this life we cannot get higher than to be assured of that which in the next life is to be enjoyed. All saints shall enjoy a heaven when they leave this earth: some saints enjoy a heaven while they are here on earth.” Joseph Carlyle. 1658.