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23 October, 2013

The Call Of Christ - Part 2

Arthur Pink

"Come unto Me." Who is it that issues this call? Christ, you reply. True—but Christ in what particular character? Some may ask, "Exactly what do you mean by that?" This—was Christ here speaking as King, commanding His subjects; as Creator, addressing His creatures; as the Physician, inviting the sick; or as Lord, instructing His servants? Does someone reply, "Such distinctions confuse, are beyond me; sufficient for me, to regard this as the Savior offering rest unto poor sinners." But do you not yourself draw a distinction in your mind, between the Person of Christ and the Office of Christ? and do you not distinguish sharply between His office as Prophet, as Priest, and as King? And have you not found such distinctions both necessary and helpful? Then why complain if we are seeking to call attention to the varied relations which our Lord sustains, and the importance of noting which of these relations He is acting in, at any given time. It is attention to such details as this, which often makes all the difference between a right and wrong understanding of a passage.

In order to answer our query—In what particular character did Christ here issue this call "Come unto Me"; it is necessary for us to look at the verses preceding. Attention to the context, is one of the very first concerns for those who would carefully ponder any particular passage. Matthew 11 opens with mention of John the Baptist having been cast into prison, from which he sent messengers unto Christ acquainting Him with his perplexity (vv. 2, 3). Thereupon our Lord publicly vindicated His forerunner and magnified his unique office (vv. 4-15). Having praised the Baptist and his ministry, Christ went on to reprove those who had been privileged to enjoy both it and that of His own ministry—because they did not profit from either ministry; yes, had despised and rejected both the one and the other. So depraved were the people of that day, they accused John of being demon possessed, and charged Christ with being a glutton and a drunkard! (vv. 16-19).

In verses 20-24, we have one of the most solemn passages to be found in Holy Writ, recording as it does, some of the most fearful words which ever fell from the lips of the incarnate Son of God. He unbraided the cities wherein most of His mighty works were done, and that, because "they repented not" (v. 20). Let it be duly noted by those who seem to delight in picturing our Lord as a spineless and effeminate person, who was incapable of uttering a syllable that would hurt the feelings of anyone—a caricature of maudlin sentimentality manufactured by Romanists—but since fostered increasingly by many in the ranks of Protestantism—that the Christ of Scripture refused to gloss over the perversity of the people, instead, charging them with their sins. And let Antinomians also observe that, so far from the Christ of God ignoring human responsibility or excusing men's spiritual impotency—He held them strictly accountable and blamed them for their impenitency.

"Willful impenitency is the great damning sin of multitudes who enjoy the Gospel, and which (more than any other) sinners will be upbraided with, to eternity. The great doctrine that both John the Baptist, Christ Himself, and the Apostles preached, was repentance; the great thing designed both in the 'playing the flute' and in the 'mourning' was to prevail with people to change their minds and ways, to leave their sins and turn to God; but this they would not be brought to. He does not say, because they believed not—for some kind of faith many of them had, that Christ was a 'Teacher come from God'—but because they 'repented not'—their faith did not prevail to the transforming of their hearts and the reforming of their lives. Christ reproved them for their other sins—that He might lead them to repentance—but when they repented not, He upbraided them with that as their refusal to be healed. He upbraided them with it, that they might upbraid themselves, and might at length see the folly of it, as that which alone makes the sad case a desperate one and the wound incurable" (Matthew Henry).

The particular sin for which Christ upbraided them, was that of impenitency, the special aggravation of their sin was that they had witnessed most of Christ's miraculous works, for it was in those cities that the Lord had for some time been residing, and where many of His miracles of healing had been performed. Now there are some places which enjoy the means of grace more plentifully and powerfully than others. As certain parts of the earth receive a much heavier rainfall than others—so certain countries and particular towns in them have been favored with purer Gospel preaching and more outpourings of the Spirit than others, for God is sovereign in the distribution of His gifts both natural and spiritual. And "unto whoever much is given, of him shall much be required" (Luke 12:48). The greater our privileges and opportunities—the greater our obligations, and the stronger the inducements we have to repent—the more heinous is impenitency, and the heavier will the reckoning be. Christ keeps note of His "mighty works" done among us—and will yet hold us to an account of them.

"Woe unto you, Chorazin! woe unto you, Bethsaida!" (Matthew 11:21). Christ came into the world in order to dispense blessing—but if His person is despised, His authority rejected, and His mercies slighted—then He has woes in reserve—and His woes are of all, the most dreadful. But how many who attend church, now hear anything at all about this? O the treachery of the modern pulpit, its abounding unfaithfulness! It has deliberately taken the line of least resistance, and sought only to please the pew—guiltily withholding what is unpalatable and unpopular. How often was this writer told, even twenty years ago, "our people would not tolerate such plain speaking" and, "preaching of that kind would empty our church," to which we replied, "far better close your church altogether, than keep it open for the purpose of deceiving souls!" And souls are deceived if a sentimental Christ is substituted for the Scriptural Christ; if His "Beatitudes" of Matthew 5 are emphasized, and His "Woes" of Matthew 23 be ignored.

In still further aggravation of their sin of impenitency, our Lord affirmed that the citizens of Chorazin and Bethsaida were worse at heart, than the Gentiles they despised, asserting that had Tyre and Sidon enjoyed such privileges as had been theirs, they had "repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes." Some of the blessings which Christendom despises would be welcomed in many parts of heathendom.

It is to be noted on the one hand, that this passage does not stand alone—see Ezekiel 3:6, 7; and on the other that the repentance here spoken of by Christ is not necessarily one which leads to eternal salvation. Still more solemn, are the solemn words of Christ recorded in Matthew 11:23, 24. There He announces the doom of highly-favored Capernaum. Because of the unspeakable privileges vouchsafed its inhabitants, they had been lifted Heavenwards—but because their hearts were so earth-bound, they scorned such blessings, and therefore they would be "brought down to Hell." The greater the advantages enjoyed—the more fearful the doom of those who abuse them; the higher the elevation—the more fatal the fall from it.