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24 October, 2013

The Call Of Christ - Part 3

Arthur Pink

The honorable Capernaum is then compared with the dishonorable Sodom, which, because of its enormities, God had destroyed with fire and brimstone. It was in Capernaum that the Lord Jesus had chiefly resided upon entry into His public ministry, and where so many of His miracles of healing had been wrought. Yet so obdurate were its inhabitants, so wedded to their sins—that they refused to apply unto Him for the healing of their souls. Had such mighty works been done by Him in Sodom—its people would have been duly affected thereby and their city would have remained as a lasting monument of Divine mercy.
"But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for you" (v. 24). Yes, my reader, though you may hear nothing about it from the flesh-pleasing pulpit of this degenerate age, nevertheless there is a "Day of judgment" awaiting the whole world. It is "the Day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render to every man according to his deeds; it is the Day "when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my Gospel" (Romans 2:6, 7, 16). "For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good—or whether it be evil" (Eccl. 12:14). "The Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptation, and to reserve the unjust unto the Day of judgment to be punished" (2 Peter 2:9). 

The punishment which shall then be meted out—will be proportioned to the opportunities given and despised, the privileges vouchsafed and scorned, the light granted and quenched. Most intolerable of all—will be the doom of those who have abused the greatest advancements Heavenwards. "At that time Jesus said—I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children" (Matthew 11:25). The connection between this and the preceding verses, is most blessed and instructive. There the Lord Jesus intimates that the majority of His mighty works had produced no good effect upon those who saw them, that their beholders remained impenitent—so little influence had His holy and gracious presence exerted upon Capernaum, wherein He spent much of His time, that its fate would be worse than that of Sodom. But here Christ looks away from earth to Heaven—and finds consolation in the high sovereignty of God and the absolute security of His covenant. From upbraiding the impenitence of men, Christ turned to the rendering of thanks unto the Father.

A word of warning is needed, perhaps, at this point, for we are such creatures of extremes. In earlier paragraphs we referred to those who have substituted a sentimental Christ for the true Christ—yet the reader must not infer from this that the writer believes in a stoical Christ—hard, cold, devoid of feeling. Not so, the Christ of Scripture is perfect Man as well as God the Son, possessed therefore of human sensibilities, yes, capable of much deeper feeling than any of us, whose faculties are corrupted and blunted by sin. It must not be thought, then, that the Lord Jesus was unaffected by grief, when He pronounced the doom of those cities—or that He viewed them with fatalistic indifference as He found comfort in the sovereignty of God. Scripture must be compared with Scripture: He who wept over Jerusalem (Luke 19:41) would not be unmoved as He foresaw the intolerable portion awaiting Capernaum—the very fact that He was "the Man of sorrows" utterly precludes any such concept.
A similar warning is needed by hyper-Calvinists with fatalistic stoicism. "It seems plain then, that those who are indifferent about the spreading of the Gospel, who satisfy themselves with this thought, that the elect shall be saved, and feel no concern for unawakened sinners, make a wrong inference from a true doctrine, and know not what spirit they are of. Jesus wept for those who perished in their sins. Paul had great grief and sorrow of heart for the Jews, though he gave them this character, 'that they pleased not God, and were contrary to all men.' It well befits us, while we admire distinguishing grace to ourselves, to mourn over others. And inasmuch as secret things belong to the Lord, and we know not but some of whom we have at present but little hopes, may at last be brought to the knowledge of the Truth, we should be patient and forbearing after the pattern of our heavenly Father, and endeavor by every proper and prudent means, to stir them up to repentance, remembering that they cannot be more distant from God than by nature—than we were once ourselves" (John Newton.)
As perfect Man, the Lord Jesus felt acutely any lack of response to and the little measure of success which attended His gracious and arduous efforts: this is clear from His lament: "I have labored to no purpose; I have spent my strength in vain and for nothing" (Isaiah 49:4). Striking it is to observe how Christ comforted Himself: "Yet I leave it all in the Lord's hand; I will trust God for my reward" (Isaiah 49:4). Thus, both in the language of prophecy and here in Matthew 11:25, 26, we find the Lord Jesus seeking relief from the discouragements and disappointments of the Gospel—by retreating into the Divine sovereignty. "We may take great encouragement in looking upward to God, when round about us we see nothing but what is discouraging. It is sad to see how heedless most men are of their own happiness, it is comfortable to think that the wise and faithful God will, however, effectually secure the interests of His own glory" (Matthew Henry).
Christ alluded here to the sovereignty of God under three details:
First, by owning His Father as "Lord of Heaven and earth," that is, as sole Proprietor and Disposer thereof. It is well for us to remember, especially in seasons when it appears as though Satan is complete master of this lower sphere, that God not only "does as he pleases with the powers of heaven," but also "among the inhabitants of the earth," so that "none can stay His hand" (Dan. 4:35).
Second, by affirming, "You have hid these things from the wise and prudent": that is, the things pertaining to salvation are concealed from the apprehension of the self-sufficient and self-complacent, God leaving them in nature's darkness.
Third, by declaring, "and have revealed them unto babes"—by the effectual operations of the Holy Spirit a Divine discovery is made to the hearts of those who are made little and helpless in their own esteem. "Even so, Father; for so it seemed good in Your sight" expressed the Savior's perfect acquiescence in the whole.
"All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him" (Matthew 11:27). This verse supplies the immediate connecting link between the sovereignty of Divine grace mentioned in verses 25 and 26—and the offer and communication of that grace through Christ in verses 28-30. The settlements of Divine grace were made and secured in the Everlasting Covenant: the communication of the same is by and through Christ as the Mediator of that covenant.
First, we have here the grand commission which the Mediator received from the Father: all things necessary to the administration of the covenant were delivered unto Christ (compare Matthew 28:18, John 5:22, 17:2).
Second, we have here the inconceivable dignity of the Son: lest a false inference be drawn from the preceding clause, the essential and absolute Deity of Christ is affirmed. Inferior in office, Christ's nature and dignity is the same as the Father's. As Mediator Christ receives all from the Father—but as God the Son He is, in every way, equal to the Father in His incomprehensible and glorious Person.
Third, the work of the Mediator is here summed up in one grand item: that of revealing the Father unto those given to Him.

Thus the context of Matthew 11:28 reveals Christ in the following characters:
as the Upbraider of the impenitent; 
as the Pronouncer of solemn "woe" upon those who were unaffected by His mighty works; 
as the Announcer of the Day of judgment, declaring that the punishment awaiting those who scorned Gospel mercies should be more intolerable than that meted out to Sodom;
as the Affirmer of the high sovereignty of God who conceals and reveals the things pertaining to salvation as seems good in His sight; 
as the Mediator of the covenant; 
as the Son co-equal with the Father, and 
as the Revealer of the Father.