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September 12th, 2008, 06:50 PM
Confidence, Certainty, and Cheer
by Dr. J. Vernon McGee
Published and distributed by
Thru the Bible Radio Network
P.O. Box 7100
Pasadena, California 91109-7100
When Paul the apostle arrived in the city of Philippi to begin his ministry in Europe, he received
very bad treatment. The entire city seemed to turn against him. He was arrested, seems to have
been tried by the citizens of the town, was delivered into the hands of a jailer, beaten within an
inch of his life, and put into the very darkest part of the dungeon.
The treatment that Paul received at the hands of the people of Philippi may give the impression
that there could be no strong ties of friendship between Paul and the people there. But the
facts are that the church in Philippi became closer to the apostle Paul than any other. He enjoyed
a more intimate relationship with that body of believers than with any other of the visible
churches he established. There were strong ties of love and fellowship. It is beautiful to behold,
and it is worthy of our emulation. They loved him, and he loved them.
Paul went to Philippi on his second missionary journey. It was the proper place to begin in
Europe. The city of Philippi had been named for King Philip of Macedonia. It was primarily a
Greek city, then the great Augustus Caesar of Rome made it a Roman colony. (In this epistle,
Paul says several things that are not understood unless you recognize that Philippi was a Roman
colony.) Therefore, in the city of Philippi there were Romans, Greeks, Jews, and Asians — it
was a cosmopolitan colony. For that reason, it was a good place to test the gospel in Europe.
Socially, the city of Philippi drew a higher type of person to the church. In other places, there
were many slaves, but there seemed to be more freedom in Philippi. The upper strata of society
was reached with the gospel, and, apparently, many were won from all the different races. When
Paul came to the city, a very remarkable businesswoman named Lydia was his first convert. And
then the Philippian jailer — a brutal and cruel Roman politician — came to know the living
There were, of course, other members of this Philippian church whose stories we do not
know. They were a people very close to the apostle Paul. They followed him in his journeys and
ministered to him time and time again. But when Paul was arrested in Jerusalem, they lost sight
of him for two years. They did not know where he was. Finally, they heard that he was in Rome
in prison. The hearts of these people went out to him, and immediately they sent their pastor,
Epaphroditus, with a gift for the apostle Paul. They also sent a word of comfort and sympathy,
expressing their love and affection for him.
So Paul wrote a thank-you note, which is the Epistle to the Philippians that we have today. In
this epistle, there is no doctrine to declare. There is no error to correct, no conduct to rebuke.
There is no problem to solve, no difficulty to handle. Paul just writes about Christian living at
the highest level.
When Epaphroditus arrived with the gift and letter from the Philippian church, I think Paul
asked him, “How are things getting along among the believers there?” He may have asked about
each individual, for he seems to have known many of them by name. Epaphroditus probably
said something like, “Things are coming along nicely, and God is blessing. But we have one little
problem — two women in the church aren’t speaking to each other.” That was not a major
problem, but it was there, and Paul dealt with it.
There was friction between two women in the church — Euodia and Syntyche. Paul mentioned
it near the end of his letter: “I beseech Euodia, and beseech Syntyche, that they be of the
same mind in the Lord” (Philippians 4:2). I’ve often wondered what the background was to this.
I’ve always suspected that Euodia was president of the missionary society and Syntyche was
president of the choir. (I have a friend in the ministry who says that when the devil was cast out
of heaven, he fell into the choir loft!) What may have happened was that both Euodia and
Syntyche had arranged to use the church parlor on Tuesday afternoon at 2:00. The conflict was
not noticed until both groups arrived at the same time. One wasn’t willing to give way to the
other, and it caused a problem for a little while. I think it got straightened out all right, but
Euodia and Syntyche didn’t work in harmony after that. The relationship was strained.
An old Scotch elder once got up to read the fourth chapter of Philippians — he was not what
you would call a trained man, and his pronunciation was rather faulty. When he reached this
verse, he read, “I beseech Odious and Soontouchy that they be of the same mind.” Although the
pronunciation was bad, his interpretation was unusually good because, frankly, when you bring
together Ms. Odious and Ms. Soontouchy you are going to have trouble — I don’t care who
they are. Apparently, that is what happened in the church at Philippi. Paul mentioned it briefly,
but he moved on with warm words regarding his personal relationships, feelings, and close ties.
Paul’s affection for these folk at Philippi is evident all through his letter. I want to notice how
Grace be unto you, and peace, from God, our Father, and from the Lord Jesus
Christ. (Philippians 1:2)
That was his accustomed introduction, and you will find it in all his epistles. Grace comes first,
and peace always follows. One is the cause, and the other is the effect. “Grace” was the great
word of the Roman world. It is the Greek word charis, a word of introduction and greeting. You
could have heard it all over the ancient Roman world. Two men would meet, and they’d say,
“Charis,” to greet each other. The Hebrew word of greeting was shalom, “peace.”
Paul brought these two words together, and someone has said that he Christianized them. I
wouldn’t say that, but I do think that Paul gave them a new meaning, and they’ll never be the
same again. Grace speaks of that declaration of God’s love for us, and the result of the reception
of the love of God is to know the peace of God. But grace always comes first.
I thank my God upon every remembrance of you. (Philippians 1:3)
Actually, the meaning is even stronger — “I thank my God for all the remembrances of you.”
This is wonderful. Every now and then, some kind brother will include this verse in a letter to
me. I always feel as if today it’s stereotyped, something we like to say. But when Paul said it to
believers at Philippi, he meant it. Isn’t it wonderful to be among a people like these believers
were? Paul said, in effect, “Any time, anywhere in the Roman Empire, when Philippi comes to
mind, I do not think of that jail. I think of you believers who are there, and I thank God for
you.” What a wonderful thing that is!
He wasn’t through, for he then said:
Always in every prayer [literally, every petition, for it’s very direct here] of mine for
you all making request [supplication or petition] with joy. (Philippians 1:4)
These people were on the prayer list of the apostle Paul.
He said something else here — I must call attention to it.
Even as it is right for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart….
Isn’t that lovely? Paul said, “I carry the church in Philippi in my heart.” The other day a man
showed me his wife’s picture in his watch. She’s dead now, but I am sure he still carries her picture because he carries her in his heart. Paul did not have a watch, but he said, “I carry you in
my heart.” Lovely, personal relationship, is it not?
He was still not through. Notice that he said:
For God is my witness, how greatly I long after you all in the tender mercies of
Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:8)
The King James Version uses the word “bowels” instead of “tender mercies.” Now, don’t be
afraid of that term “bowels.” It is considered crude today, but it’s not that at all. Even psychologists say that motivation and the feeling of affection takes place down in that area.
In other words, Paul said — and what a beautiful thing it is — “I long after you all in deep
affection, the heart affection, of Christ. Just as Christ longs for you, I long for you.” Someone
has said that Paul had the heart of Christ, and that is exactly what God wants us to have today.
Such a relationship is the beauty and the wonder and the glory of this epistle.
In the introduction to his letter, Paul talked about three things: confidence, certainty, and cheer.
Being confident of this very thing, that he who hath begun a good work in you will
perform it until the day of Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:6)
The first word, “being,” is causative and is better translated as “since” — “Since I am confident
of this very thing.” Confidence is something that comes to a person who has trusted Christ and
become His child. “Being confident [or, since I am confident] of this very thing, that he who
hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (emphasis added).
The word for “perform” means “to perfect.” Dr. R. C. Lenski translates it, “He will finish it
up.” Dr. M. R. Vincent translates it, “He will carry it through.” The word is the Greek epiteleo,
and from that word we get “telescope,” “telephone,” and “telegram” — that which goes from
here to the end. God is able, Paul says, to perform it, to perfect it, to complete it. If God has
begun a good work in you, He will complete it. You can count on His bringing you right
through to the end — to the day of Jesus Christ, which is the Rapture of the church!
So the confidence is there and so is the certainty.
Some people today are confident, but you look at that in which they are confident, the content
of it, and you know it will never come to pass. There is no certainty there. Paul said that the
child of God could have confidence and certainty.Philippians 1:6 became my life verse when I finished college, and I wish I had known it 4 before. Oh, that I had the power to convey to you what this verse has meant to me and what it could mean to you!
Some years ago, my wife and I drove up through Oklahoma. We turned off at a little place by
the name of Atoka on Highway 75, and we went through a place called Coalgate. They ought to
take that one off the map, because it’s going to be out of existence before long! But you can
look right across those fields and hills and look over and down a road into a town in which I
lived as a boy. That town has never and will never become famous. Nevertheless, it’s still there,
and my dad is buried there.
As I looked down that road, I went back in memory to the time I was fourteen years old. My
dad had died, and I remember getting on my bicycle one morning, riding out to his grave, and
kneeling there. I didn’t know very much — I shudder when I think of the ignorance of this
country boy at that time — but I knelt there, and in the best way that I knew how, I told God
that I wanted to serve Him. I didn’t know what it meant, I didn’t know anything of what it
would involve, but I knew that I wanted to serve Him.
When I looked down that road, I reaffirmed that again to God. I do it now with a little more
intelligence. I want to serve Him. I look back to that day (and, friend, that’s been a long time
ago) when I knelt there, and I’m here to testify that down through the years, God has made good
on Philippians 1:6 — “Being confident of this very thing, that he who hath begun a good work
Oh, how I failed Him after that, how I got into sin! And I never shall forget how a pastor told
me about the peace of God that comes to a sinner who will trust Christ. Oh, what that meant to
my heart and my life at that time!
I have not walked by faith as I should have walked. I went through college discouraged. It
was during the time of the great Depression, and I thought that I would never be able to finish
one year after the other. When I completed my senior year and took my degree, my roommate
found me sitting on the edge of the bed and feeling hopeless. He said, “What’s the matter? You
look like you’ve lost your best friend!” I said, “I’ve lost everything. God brought me up to this
moment, but I can’t go to seminary. I don’t have a dime. I’m going out this afternoon and hitchhike back to Nashville, Tennessee, my home.”
Then the telephone rang, and I went to the phone. Two dear little widowed ladies from
Memphis, Tennessee, were calling. They said, “We want you to come over because we have
something for you.” Well, they had sent me a tie for graduation, and I thought that was their
gift. So I went over that afternoon, and when I went in, I could see it was formal because they
were all dressed up. They looked like they had walked out of antebellum days. They wore those
big high collars with cameos at the throat. We sat down and exchanged a few pleasantries. Then
they said, “You are going home?”
“Are you going to school next year?”
“I don’t know.”
One of them got up, wiped away a tear, came over, and handed me an envelope. She said, “I
present this to you in the name of my husband,” and then went back and sat down.
Then the other one got up, came over, and handed me an envelope, and she said, “I present
this to you in the name of my husband.”
Then they said, “We know you are in a hurry, and you want to get going, so we will just let
you go now. This is all that we wanted to do.”5 I thanked them, and as I left that home with those big white pillars, I shall never forget how I got around the corner just as quickly as possible to open those envelopes. I opened the first one, and in it was a check for $250.00! I opened the second one, and there was another check for $250.00! Now if you are old enough to remember the Depression, you may remember how much $500.00 was during those years! It was just this side of a million dollars, that’s what it was! I’ve never had as much money in my life as I had that day.
That night, the Sunday school class had a farewell banquet for me, and they gave me
$100.00. So then I had $600.00! That was the money I used to attend seminary the next year.
That night at the banquet, someone gave me this verse: “Being confident of this very thing, that
he who hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” I’m here to
say that He has made that promise good. Over three quarters of a century have gone by, and He
has made it good.
Now, friend, God has brought you up to this day. Has He blessed you, has God been good to
you up to this moment? Then why do you think He is going to let you down now? He says,
“Since I have begun a good work in you, I will perform it, I will perfect it, I will complete it
until the day of Jesus Christ.” My friend, how wonderful our God is! There is confidence. There
Now in closing, I want to notice the cheer that is in store for the believer.
The Philippians loved Paul, and they wrote him a note of sympathy, cheer, and comfort. I
imagine that it read somewhat like this: “Poor Paul, we are so sorry that the Romans have put
you in jail. You have been such a blessing to the Gentiles, but now you are in prison and can’t
go out to preach the gospel anymore.” Notice Paul’s response:
But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto
me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel. (Philippians 1:12)
That word “furtherance” is an amazing word in Greek. It was used by the Roman army when
they went out into the impenetrable forests of Europe — where my ancestors (and maybe yours)
were hiding at that time. When the Romans went out into those forests, they had with them a
group that were known as pioneers. These pioneers went ahead of the army, cutting a way
through the forests in order that the Roman troops might advance. That is the figure of speech
that Paul used here. He was saying, “I want you to know that the things that have happened to
me have been like pioneers, cutting the way through the impenetrable forests to get the gospel
out.” Isn’t that amazing?
You say, “Paul, you mean to tell me that being put in prison has actually made the gospel
move out where it wouldn’t go before?” Yes, that’s what he meant. How can that be? Well, he
explained that two things were happening. First, “My bonds in Christ are manifest in all the
palace, and in all other places” (Philippians 1:13).
When the Lord Jesus waylaid the apostle Paul on the Damascus Road, He said that Paul
would go to the Gentiles and bear God’s name before kings. Now, up to the time he was arrested,
he had not had an audience with rulers. But after he was arrested, he stood before kings and
other rulers. As you know, Paul was a Roman citizen and had appealed his case to Caesar,
6 which placed him in custody with an unusual group of prisoners. We are told in the Book of
Acts that he was kept, actually, in his own hired house. However, he was chained to a guard,
and these guardsmen belonged to the patricians, not the plebeians, of Rome. They were known
as the Praetorian Guard of Caesar. They were the ones who were in the palace and in the Senate
and in the higher echelons of Rome. Paul had never been able to reach that group before, but
then he was chained to members of this imperial guard. Can you imagine anything more wonderful than having your congregation chained to you? The soldiers had to take turns, of course.
They worked certain shifts, and Paul had a member of the Roman nobility chained to him at all
times! What do you think Paul talked about? He talked about Christ, of course. I imagine that
many of these guardsmen, when the next fellow came on duty, would say, “Hurry and unchain
me; let me out of here — this fella’s trying to convert me!” And some of them were converted.
Paul led them to Christ. “The things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the
furtherance of the gospel” (Philippians 1:12).
That’s not all —
And many of the brethren in the Lord, becoming confident by my bonds, are much
more bold to speak the word without fear. (Philippians 1:14)
When Paul the apostle went through the Roman Empire, he’d come to a place like Antioch in
Pisidia or Ephesus or Philippi, and he would preach Christ. When he preached, men were won
for Christ. As they became believers, the issue was then — as it is today — “Go ye into all the
world, and preach the gospel” (Mark 16:15). Somebody would say to a man who was then a
Christian, “Why don’t you get busy and preach the gospel?” He would respond, “I’ll tell you
why. Have you ever heard the apostle Paul preach? Well, I want to tell you that when I hear him
preach, I know that he does it so much better than I ever could, I just don’t feel like saying anything.
As long as he is out preaching the gospel, I have nothing to say.”
Then one day word was flashed through the Roman Empire (when I say “flashed,” there was
no radio news, no rapid means of communication, but the news went by word of mouth from
place to place), “Paul the apostle is now the prisoner of Nero in Rome! It looks as if he’ll never
be free again.” And men all over the Roman Empire who had heard the gospel and believed in
Christ took to the highways and to the fields, saying, “Now we are going out and preaching
Christ, because Paul the apostle can’t go anymore.” By the very fact that he was in prison, literally
hundreds of missionaries took to the Roman roads to preach the gospel, so that Paul the
apostle was multiplied hundreds of times. Paul said to the Philippians, “I want you to know that
what’s happened to me has happened for the furtherance of the gospel.” It had not hindered but
actually had enhanced it.
There was something more that Paul couldn’t see in his day, but which you and I see. We
wouldn’t have the Epistle to the Philippians, we wouldn’t have the Epistle to the Ephesians, nor
would we have the Epistle to Philemon if Paul had not been in prison. As a prisoner, he had
time to write these epistles. Otherwise, they would never have been in existence. May I say to
you, the things that happened to him certainly resulted in the furtherance of the gospel!
Some, indeed, preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will: the
one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my
bonds; but the other, of love, knowing that I am set for the defense of the gospel.
7 (Philippians 1:15-17)
Actually, these were some people who apparently were jealous of Paul, and they criticized
him. They didn’t like that he went into the synagogues and preached. They thought he ought not
cooperate with everyone. But Paul was not critical of them; he wrote, “Some, indeed, preach
Christ even of envy and strife.” And I think that most criticism in the contemporary church can
be summed up in these two words: envy and strife. Those are the things that prompt critics
today. My beloved, if the gospel is being preached, let’s rejoice.
Note Paul’s reaction:
What then? Notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is
preached; and in that I do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice. (Philippians 1:18)
Now this word translated “rejoice” and “joy” is a marvelous word. It has in it the meaning
“cheer.” Actually, it means “courage.” Our Lord used it when He said:
These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world
ye shall have tribulation [trouble]: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.
“Be of good cheer” is a word of courage, and it is the same word that Paul used in Philippians
1:18. And, by the way, it is the same thing that Paul heard in the storm when the Lord appeared
to him before the shipwreck.
And the night following the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul;
for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at
Rome. (Acts 23:11)
“Be of good cheer.”
So, you see, it didn’t make any difference to Paul what happened to him, just so Christ was
preached. The reason was that he had this philosophy:
For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. (Philippians 1:21)
I wish I could say to you that I’ve come to that high level of living. For me to live Christ, to die
gain. Don’t you see that you cannot hurt a man like that?
Finally Nero, mad as he was, sent in the executioner to Paul. Since Paul had led some of
those fellows to the Lord, the soldier may have gone very reluctantly. I imagine that the conversation went something like this: “I am sorry, Paul, that we have to do this, but you know Nero!” I am pretty sure Paul’s reply would have been, “It’s all right — actually, I want to thank you. I want you to know that for me to live is Christ, but to die is gain.”
“Gain” is always more of the same thing, and in this case more of the same thing is Christ.
Paul had said to the Philippians:
For I am in a strait between two, having a desire to depart and to be with Christ,
8 which is far better. Nevertheless, to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.
(Philippians 1:23, 24)
But the time had come to be with Christ, where he most wanted to be. The best thing that can
happen to a Christian is for the Lord to come. And that may happen soon, I do not know. But I
do know this: the next best thing that can happen to a Christian is to die. Yes, it is! “For to me
to live is Christ, and to die,” Paul said, “is gain.” So he said to the executioner, “Go back and
thank your master, Nero, for me, because he’s doing me a favor. I’m about to get dividends on
my investment. I’ve lived for Christ, and I’m going now to be with Him.”
My friend, as I said before, you can’t hurt a man like that! John Milton wrote a marvelous
poem in which a slavemaster says, “I’ve whipped that slave, and he thanks me. I can’t hurt him,
but he’s hurting me.” Oh, if you and I could get above the smog of this world and learn to live
for Christ, there would be cheer and joy in our lives today. Confidence, certainty, and cheer for
the child of God.9
September 13th, 2008, 03:56 PM
For ye are all the sons of God
by faith in Christ Jesus.
Faith + 0 = Salvation
Dr. J. Vernon McGee
Thru the Bible Radio Network
P. O. Box 7100
Pasadena, California 91109
Unless noted otherwise, all Scripture references
are from the New Scofield Reference Bible.
Printed in the United States of America
Our subject could also be called “Faith Minus Works Equals
Salvation.” If you want the equation (we’re told in mathematics
that things equal to the same thing are equal to each other), it would be:
Faith + 0 = Faith - Works
The Epistle to the Galatians comes from the heart of Paul, and
in it he is defending the greatest doctrine that we have: Justification
by faith, or salvation by the grace of God. This is the epistle that
gripped Martin Luther. As an Augustinian monk, he spent nights
lying on a cold slab, wearing a hair shirt, fasting, and doing many
other things. One time he was going up Sancta Scala in Rome, ascending
the stairs on his knees, and it came to him (because he had
been studying the Epistle to the Galatians) that man was not justified
by works – certainly not by the things he was doing; that works
could not bring him into a right relationship with God; that God
had made it very clear that He justifies men by faith alone. So this
man rose from his knees to go out into Europe and proclaim a
gospel that drove back the darkness of the Dark Ages, took the
chains and shackles from the minds and hearts of the multitudes
of Europe, and brought in what we call today European civilization.
In our day, this great civilization has gone by the board – it’s
through, and it can be restored only by the preaching of the great
doctrines that Paul enunciated in this epistle.
Not only did the Epistle to the Galatians move Martin Luther,
but it also began the great spiritual movement that was led by the
Wesleys. John Wesley came to America as a missionary to the Indians,
but his mission was a failure. Returning to England in discouragement,
he said, “I came to America to convert Indians, but who
is going to convert John Wesley?” Back in London, walking down
Aldersgate Street one night, he heard singing coming from an
upstairs window. He found the stairway, went up, and discovered
it was a meeting of the Friends, the Quakers, the followers of
George Fox. He took his place in the back of the little auditorium
and listened to a message from the Epistle to the Galatians. Later,
John Wesley wrote in his journal, “As he read and spoke from the
Epistle to the Galatians, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt
that I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and there
was given me there an assurance that He had taken away my sins, even mine.”
What is this great truth that has so moved the men of the past
and which today is the only thing that can move America or even
the world? (I personally do not believe a revival is going to come
in by the methods of organizations or by a man. I think it can come
today only by preaching again these great truths that have long
since gone into oblivion and silence in the churches of America.)
Well, Paul stated it very succinctly in the Epistle to the Romans when he said:
But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that
justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for [that which it
is not] righteousness.
The only way God can accept a sinner and make him righteous
is through faith in Jesus Christ. That’s the great truth that is being
left out today. God refuses to accept law-keeping. He refuses to
accept good works. The very moment someone says, “I do this or
that, which is necessary for my salvation, and I’m depending on
it,” he means two things: that he is trusting his works and that he
is not trusting Christ. And there is only one conclusion that can be
drawn: He is not saved at all. That is strong language, and I would
never say a thing like that, but Paul says it here in this epistle. Salvation
is only by faith in Christ.
After all, what works do you and I have to offer to God? It is
like the little boy whose father was doing some building in the
backyard. The little fellow got his hammer and nails and wanted
to help. He began driving in nails where they didn’t belong and
using a saw where he shouldn’t be sawing. His “helping” was not
really acceptable. As much as the father loved the little fellow, he
couldn’t accept his work. It could not be used. Do you think God
can take your good works for your salvation when He has already
declared us sinners? God, therefore, refuses to accept law-keeping.
The Mosaic Law, actually, never was given to save men. Paul calls
it a “ministration of condemnation” and a “ministration of death”
(see 2 Corinthians 3:7, 9). The Law was given to show men that
they are lost sinners. Listen to Paul:
Wherefore, then, serveth the law? It was added because of
[for the sake of ] transgressions, till the seed should come to
whom the promise was made….
That seed, Paul says later on, was Christ. The Law was temporary
– it was given merely as a temporary measure, and it was given for
the sake of transgressions. Therefore, the Law cannot remove sin.
Rather, it reveals sin. It was not given for salvation at all. It was
given to show us that we are sinners. It reveals the fact that man
is not a sophisticated sinner or a refined or trained sinner, as some
folk would have you believe today; but man is a sinner in the raw,
a sinner by nature. The Mosaic Law reveals this to us.
Let me use a very homely illustration. Don’t be shocked if I take
you into the bathroom for a few moments. I’m sure you have in
your bathroom a mirror. And I’m sure that under the mirror you
have a washbasin. That mirror is there to reveal your condition.
You look in that mirror and it reveals a smudge on your face. It
will not remove it. A great many people today are using the mir-
ror of the Ten Commandments or the Sermon on the Mount to
try to remove the smudge. It won’t do it. If you go into your bathroom,
look in the mirror and see you have a dirty face, you don’t
rub your face against the mirror. If you do, and a member of your
family sees you doing it, they are apt to make an appointment for
you with a psychiatrist to talk over your condition. That’s not the
way it’s done. Yet our churches today are filled with people who
are rubbing up against the Mirror, the Word of God, hoping they
will be able to remove their sin by contact. Many people today are
saying, “My religion is the Sermon on the Mount.” Very candidly,
the Sermon on the Mount as a religion is making more hypocrites
today than anything I know of – because you know you’re not keeping
it. If you are honest, you know you are not living by it. But it
does reveal to you that you come short of the glory of God. And
down beneath that Mirror there is a washbasin.
There is a fountain filled with blood
Drawn from Immanuel’s veins;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood
Lose all their guilty stains.
– William Cowper
God has a place to take away sins, but it is not the Law. It is
Christ, through the shedding of His blood, who paid the penalty
for your sin. It is your trust and faith in Him that saves you; nothing
else can. Now there is something else that is said here about the Law:
Wherefore, the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto
Christ, that we might be justified by faith.
“Schoolmaster” is the Greek word paidagogos, which doesn’t mean
schoolteacher at all. It means a servant or a slave who was part of
a Roman household. Half of the Roman Empire was slave. Of the
120 million people, 60 million were slaves. In the home of a patrician,
a member of the Praetorian Guard, or the rich in the Roman
Empire, were slaves that cared for the children. When a child was
born into such a home, he was put in the custody of a servant who
actually raised him. He put clean clothes on him, bathed him,
helped him blow his nose when it was necessary, and paddled him
when he needed it. When the little one grew to a certain age and
was to start to school, this servant was the one who got him up
of a morning, dressed him, and took him to school. That is where
he got the name of paidagogos – paid has to do with the feet, and
we get our word “pedal” from it; agogos means “to lead.” It means
that he took the little one by the hand, led him to school, and
turned him over to the schoolteacher. This servant, the slave, was
not capable of teaching him beyond a certain age, so he took him to school.
Now what Paul is saying here is that the Law is our paidagogos.
The Law said, “Little fellow, I can’t do any more for you. I now
want to take you by the hand and bring you to the cross of Christ.
You are lost. You need a Savior.” The purpose of the Law is to
bring men to Christ – not to give them an expanded chest so they
can walk around claiming they keep God’s commandments. You
know you don’t keep them; all you have to do is examine your own
heart to know that. This is the great truth that has been surrendered
in this country today.
Our educational system teaches the opposite. Let me give you a
quotation from an outstanding educator:
Where education assumes that the moral nature of man is
capable of improvement, traditional Christianity assumes
that the moral nature of man is corrupt or absolutely bad.
Where it is assumed in education that an outside human
agent may be instrumental in the moral improvement of
man, in traditional Christianity it is assumed that the agent
is God, and even so, the moral nature of man is not
improved, but exchanged for a new one.
That is a tremendous statement. And we have seen the working
out of it in our educational philosophy. Look on any campus today
and you will see what we are producing. May I say to you that our
educational system is certainly in question in this hour in which
we live. Our approach and philosophy have been altogether wrong.
God says that man is lost and must be saved. This is the thing that is all important.
Now I know that a great many people today keep up a front.
Let me give you the example of a contemporary who has passed
across the stage in recent history. He is Ernest Hemingway. A great
many looked up to him, especially our literary lights. This fellow
tried to appear to be a Jack London. He went out and shot wild
game, he was interested in bullfights, he was the great big swaggering
type. Yet down underneath, as Edmund Wilson, his biographer,
put it, was “the undrugable consciousness that something was
wrong.” Any man who is honest today knows down deep in his
heart that something is wrong.
Some time ago Gordon Lindsay made a study of the Stone-Age
people out in New Guinea and Myanmar (formerly Burma).
Let me pass on to you his conclusions:
The notion of primitive man possessing some inner peace
which we civilized people have somehow lost and need to
regain is a lot of nonsense. Your average New Guinea native
lives not only in fear of his enemies but in terror-struck dread
of the unknown. Malevolent spirits, especially those of ancestors,
are all about him.
Man never gets away from that which is down deep in his heart.
Dr. O. Hobart Mowerer, a research professor of psychology at the
University of Illinois, is the author of a book entitled The Crisis in
Psychiatry and Religion. He also taught at Yale and Harvard and is
the past president of the American Psychological Association. He
is widely known as a researcher, teacher, and lecturer. Notice what he states:
The Freudians, of course, recognize that guilt is central to
Neurosis. But it is always the guilt of the future. It is not
what the person has done that makes him ill but rather
what he wishes to do but dares not. In contrast, the emerging
alternative, or more accurately, the re-emerging one,
is that the so-called neurotic is a bona fide sinner. And his
guilt is from the past and is real, and that his difficulties
arise, not from inhibitions, but from actions which are
clearly prescribed, socially and morally, and which have
been kept carefully concealed, unconfessed and unredeemed.
A psychologist at the University of Southern California who
attended my Bible study several years ago told me one night as he
was leaving the auditorium, “Dr. McGee, you ought to emphasize
the guilt complex more than you do. That guilt complex is as much
a part of you as your right arm – and you can’t get rid of it. What
the psychologist does is change it from one spot to another, but he
doesn’t remove it. The only place I know to remove the guilt is at
the cross of Christ.” That is where you bring your sins, my beloved.
You don’t have to put up a front today and say, “I’m So-and-so.”
Well, God says you are a so-and-so sinner, and He gives you this remedy:
Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though
your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though
they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. (Isaiah 1:18)
Oh, to face reality today! There are multitudes in our churches
who are doing nothing in the world but covering up. You don’t
have to cover up. Be real. Be genuine. You might just as well tell
God about your sins. He already knows. He knows you through and through.
Martin Luther said, “God creates out of nothing. Therefore,
until a man is nothing, God can make nothing out of him.”
Your best resolutions must wholly be waived;
Your highest ambitions be crossed.
You never need think you will ever be saved,
’Til first you’ve learned you are lost.
– Author unknown
When you realize this truth, you can be saved. We have had too
much “easy-believism.” Little wonder our churches have become
full of folk who do nothing in the world but blow a trumpet. They
are like the Pharisee who patted himself on the back in his prayer
by saying, “God, I thank thee that I am not as other men are,” then
he began to brag about what he did (see Luke 18:9-14). Our Lord
said that such a man gets nowhere with God. His prayers die in the rafters.
Now Paul mentions three things that faith in Christ does for us
which the Mosaic Law could never do, that religion cannot do,
and that the church cannot do.
1. The Nature of Sons of God
First of all, only faith in Christ can make us legitimate sons of
God. Will you listen to this:
For ye are all the sons of God by faith in Christ Jesus.
Notice the word is “sons,” not children. It is the Greek huios, meaning
“legitimate sons.” How do you become a son of God? By faith
in Christ Jesus. There is no other way. You are a legitimate son of
God by faith in Christ Jesus.
Back in the Old Testament you do not find God calling the Old
Testament saints “sons.” Israel as a nation was called a son, but individuals
were not. Although David was a man after God’s own
heart, God spoke of him as “David, my servant.” That was the
language used in the Old Testament.
When our Lord confronted the religious man, Nicodemus, He
said, “Ye must be born again” (see John 3:3). And Nicodemus was
genuine; he was obedient to the Law. As a Pharisee he fasted twice
a week, he gave a tenth of all he possessed, and he did everything
else required of a Pharisee. He was religious to his fingertips, but
our Lord said to him, “You can’t even see the kingdom of heaven
until you have been born again. Religion won’t help you.”
The most damnable heresy that is in this world today, and it has
hurt our nation more than anything else, is the teaching of the universal
fatherhood of God and the universal brotherhood of man.
That is not taught in the Word of God. We have spent billions of
dollars throughout the world trying to appease rascals on the basis
that they are our brothers. Our Lord made it very clear when the
religious Pharisees came to Him claiming, “We have one Father,
even God.” He said, “Ye are of your father the devil” (see John 8:
41-44). Now since Christ said that, evidently somebody couldn’t
claim God as Father. Evidently there were some who were not His
children – and there are a great many today, also. You become a
child of God only through faith in Jesus Christ.
He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But
as many as received him, to them gave he power [the right,
the authority] to become the children of God, even to them
that [do no more nor less than simply] believe on his name.
(John 1:11, 12)
That is the way you become a son of God.
2. The Position of Sons of God
Now faith in Christ does something else that religion won’t do,
the church can’t do, nor can the works of the Law or any little
thing you go through. That is to give you the position of a son of
God. This is a little technical – follow me closely.
Now I say that the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth
nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all.
In the phrase, “the heir, as long as he is a child,” the word for
“child” is nepios, which means an immature child. As such, he is
no different from a servant “though he be lord of all.”
Now let’s go back to the Roman home again and look at this
little fellow. He is born into a good Roman family, but a servant
takes care of him. And if you saw him running around with the
other children, you’d never know he was the heir. You would not
know that he was the son of the father of the household. He grows
up “under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father” (Galatians 4:2).
The age of accountability was not an established age level, but it
was determined by the individual father. I think the father would
know best. I know some boys who are mature when they are sixteen,
some at eighteen, and some mature at twenty-one or older.
In a Roman home it must have worked something like this. Suppose
the father is a centurion in Caesar’s army. Caesar carries on a
campaign way up in Gaul, pushing back the frontier of the Roman
Empire. (Gaul is where my ancestors were and, believe me, they
were heathen and they were fighters, and Caesar’s army had trouble
with them.) So this centurion is gone from home for several years
as the army puts down these northern barbarians. But finally the
father returns home. He goes in to shave, and all of a sudden you
hear him yell out, “Who’s been using my razor?” Well, I tell you,
all the servants come running because he is the head of the house.
They say to him, “Your son.” He says, “You mean to tell me that
boy is old enough to use a razor? Bring him here.” So they bring
him in – he’s a fine strapping boy – and the father says, “Well, now
we must have the toga virilis, and we’ll send out invitations to the
grandmas, grandpas, aunts, and uncles.” So they all come in for the
ceremony of the toga virilis, and that day the father puts around the
boy a toga, a robe. That is what our Lord meant in His parable of
the prodigal son: “Put the robe around him, and put a ring on his
finger” (see Luke 15:22). The ring had on it the signet of his father,
which was equivalent to his signature and gave him the father’s authority.
You could see that boy walking down the street now with
that robe on. The servant better not say anything to correct him
now, and he’d better not try to paddle him. In fact, the son will be
paddling the servant from here on, because he has now reached the
age of a full-grown son. That is what Paul meant when he went on to say:
Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under
the elements of the world [under the Law]. But, when the
fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made
of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were
under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.
Now “adoption” has nothing to do with going to an orphans’ home,
seeing a precious little child, and then taking legal steps to make
him your own. That was not “adoption” in the Roman Empire.
Adoption was when the man took his own son and made him a
full-grown son. And the day when God saves us, we are brought
into the family of God as full-grown sons.
That truth may not mean anything to you, but it means everything
to me – and it has in the past. I went to seminary with an
awful inferiority complex. I was not brought up in a Christian
home where I saw a Bible or heard a prayer – I knew nothing.
And when I got to seminary the other fellows knew it all – at least
that’s the impression they gave me. I’ve never met so many smart
fellows. They knew the Bible, could quote verses, and they were
very pious too. I didn’t even know the books of the Bible. And, I
tell you, it disturbed me. So I began to learn the books of the Bible.
The reason I wrote the book, Briefing the Bible*, with outlines of
every book, was that I determined to know every book of the Bible.
Then one day someone told me that I was not just a babe but that
I was a full-grown son. Anything any mature saint could understand
in the Word of God, I could understand because that mature
saint would need the Holy Spirit to teach him, and I would too.
That was a tremendous revelation to me and a great comfort in those early days.
God brings us in as full-grown sons so we can understand spiritual
truth! And if you don’t understand it, it is your fault because
He has made every arrangement for you. He has made you a fullgrown
son. To me the greatest tragedy in our churches today is the
number of Bible ignoramuses who are there. They are not able to
find their way around in the Bible at all. Notice what Paul says in this connection:
But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard,
neither have entered into the heart of man, the things
which God hath prepared for them that love him.
This verse is used, as you know, at funerals with the idea that poor,
dear So-and-so didn’t hear or see much here, but he has gone up
yonder where he can hear and see the things of God. Now I grant
you that this truth is in the Bible – “For now we see in a mirror,
darkly; but then, face to face” (1 Corinthians 13:12) – but this is
not what 1 Corinthians 2:9 is saying. God wants us to understand
spiritual truths down here because “God hath revealed them unto
us by his Spirit” (1 Corinthians 2:10). Most of our learning comes
through the ear-gate, the eye-gate, and what the psychologist calls
cognition. That is how we learn today. But if we are going to get divine truth:
But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit; for the
Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.…
But 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 Corinthians 2:10, 14)
3. The Experience of Sons of God
Faith in Christ, not works of the Law, gives the experience of sons
of God. There are those today who think experience does not
enter into salvation, that it has nothing to do with your salvation.
But if you’re saved, faith in Christ will give you an experience.
Many of us tend to play down experience. However, there is a
sadness that has come over the saints in this country today. And
there are many who need to have the experience of the Spirit of
God making real in their lives that they are sons of God, making
real to them that in spite of circumstances they are still children
of God. Now I recognize the danger in experience.
Let me share this little poem with you:
Three men were walking on a wall,
Feeling, Faith, and Fact,
When Feeling had an awful fall,
And Faith was taken aback.
So close was Faith to Feeling,
He stumbled and fell too,
But Fact remained and pulled Faith back,
And Faith brought Feeling too.
– Author unknown
If you are a child of God through faith in Christ, there is an experience.
Now the believer never reaches the place of sinless perfection in
this life. I wish we did. Being a pastor would be a lot easier if we
had sinless perfection today. But we don’t have it. There have been
men who in their desperation have reached out for it. The greatest
preacher, I suppose, this country ever produced was Paul Rader.
Thousands of people came to Christ through his ministry. Dr.
Charles Fuller was one of them. He told me that he sat behind
the last pillar in the church when Paul Rader preached. He put
his head down on his arms and right where he was sitting he accepted
Christ. Many other well-known men accepted Christ through
the evangelistic efforts of Paul Rader. He was a great preacher. But
he was accused of preaching sinless perfection. He was not guilty
of the charge, but he did give that impression because he said some
unusual things. One of the things he said was, “That old nature
you have is just like a dead cat. Reach down, get it by the tail, and
throw it from you as far as you can!” And everyone in the audience
said, “Amen,” because everybody wants to get rid of the old dead
cat. Now maybe you’re a little disgusted with Vernon McGee –
you’d be surprised what I think of him. I’d like to get rid of the
old nature, but it follows me around all the time. On one occasion
Dr. Chafer said to Paul Rader when he made that statement, “Paul,
you forget that old cat has nine lives! He’ll just come right back and
you’ll have to throw him away again and again.” Now, my beloved,
the believer never reaches perfection. We are always God’s foolish
little children, filled with ignorance, stubbornness, sins, fears, and
weaknesses. We are never wonderful; He is wonderful. We never
reach that place. But we do experience the Spirit of God bearing
witness with our spirit that we are the children of God.
Paul says that the Spirit of God cries, “Abba, Father” –
And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his
Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.
This word Abba was not translated. The translators, very wisely, I
think, did not attempt to put it into English. It is too personal. It
means “my daddy.” And you don’t talk that way about God, friend,
regardless of how intimate you try to get with Him. You don’t talk
that way to Him. He is high and holy. But the Spirit of God can
do that, and it is the Spirit of God who will witness to a child of
God of the Father’s closeness and tender care. He does this especially
in times of darkness and crises that come to us down here.
John Paton, a missionary living among cannibals in the New Hebrides,
told of how he buried his lovely wife with their newborn
baby, and sat guard over the graves for days to keep the cannibals
from digging up the bodies. He said, “I would have gone mad if
Christ had not made Himself real to me.” My friend, I think He
will make Himself real to you.
If I may be personal – and the reason I use this personal illustration
is that many who read this are going through the same experience.
When I was told I had cancer, I’ll be honest with you, I
couldn’t believe it. Now I could believe that you could have cancer,
but I never thought I could have it. My doctor told me I would
have to go to the hospital. So I went to the hospital and lay down
in a bed. I had been a preacher for many years, and in rather a professional
manner I had gone into hospitals to visit folk. I would
pat them on the hand and say, “God will be with you.” I prayed
for them, then I would walk out. But they had to stay there. A
preacher friend came in late that first evening. I shall never forget.
He prayed one of the most wonderful prayers I ever listened to,
and how I appreciated it! Then he got up and left. But this time I
was not walking out – I had to stay there. So I rolled over with my
face to the wall and I said, “Lord, I’ve been in this hospital a hundred
times, and I’ve told everybody else to trust You. Now I want
to know whether that’s real or not.” I want to testify to this, friend, He became real.
There are multitudes of people who will testify to this also, for
they have had the same experience. For example, in Houston, Texas,
a family drove fifty miles to the banquet at which I was speaking.
They said to me, “We were Roman Catholics and we turned in
faith to Christ when you were teaching Romans.” In Sarasota,
Florida, a couple told me, “We have a son who has turned his back
on us and against God. We have been rebuking ourselves and have
even felt that we are no longer saved, but, thank God, it is faith
plus nothing.” My friend, He gives the experience. The Law cannot
give that to you, only faith in Christ can give it to you.
This message is not pabulum; it is not milk and mush. I’m not
the milkman. It might give you Christian colic today, because this
is meat. But we need to know in this hour that it is only faith in
Christ that can save us – faith plus nothing.
Now I want to conclude with the strongest statement of all.
Paul, at the end of Galatians 4, says,
Nevertheless, what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman
and her son [that was Hagar and her son Ishmael];
for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son
of the freewoman. So then, brethren, we are not children of
the bondwoman, but of the free. (Galatians 4:30, 31)
Will you hear me now – oh, this is important! If you are trying to be
saved by trusting Christ plus the Law, Paul says you are not saved.
Behold, I, Paul, say unto you, that if ye be circumcised,
Christ shall profit you nothing. (Galatians 5:2)
You can be saved only by trusting Christ. You have to make up your
mind whether you’ll trust Christ or whether you will go by the legal
route. You have to trust Him completely. You can’t carry a spare tire
by saying, “Well, you know, I have church membership” or “I say
my prayers.” My friend, if you are trusting these things to get you
to heaven, you are not saved, you cannot be saved. It is only when
you look to this wonderful Savior and trust Him wholly and totally.
I close with another homely illustration. Our daughter came to visit
us while we were in Florida, and we wanted to return to California
by train. That was the time when passenger trains were being phased
out. We tried to get a train route to California, but it seemed as
though we would have to go halfway around the world to get there.
So we had to come back by plane. When we got the tickets, I said,
“Wouldn’t it be nice if we could go by train and plane at the same
time – sit in the plane and put our feet down in the train!” (I would
feel much safer with my feet in the train, I assure you.) But that’s
absurd. If we go by plane, we go by plane; if we go by train, we go
by train. They have made no arrangements for passengers to sit in a
plane and put their feet down in a train. My friend, neither has God
any arrangement for you to be saved by faith and by law. You have to
choose one or the other. If you want to go by law, then you can try it
– but I’ll warn you that God has already said you won’t make it.
My friend, are you going to heaven? How are you going? You can’t
travel both ways. You have to decide whether you are going to
trust Christ or whether you are going to try to make it another way.
If you try another way, I say with Paul, “Christ shall profit you
nothing.” But if you will trust Him, cast yourself upon Him, He
will save you. You don’t have to do anything. All I did was board
that plane and tighten my seat belt according to instructions –
when they started feeding us, I had to loosen it – but that is all in
the world I had to do. Everything else was done for me. And, friend,
Christ has done everything for our salvation. It is your trust in Him
that saves you. And, oh, let me tell you how wonderful it is this
moment to know I am saved. When I look at Vernon McGee I
get so discouraged. But I’m looking to Christ today. I’m looking to
Him, and I wish I could sing the “Hallelujah Chorus.” It’s wonderful
to know that Vernon McGee is saved. Thank God he is saved by
faith in Christ! That’s the way, the only way, He can save you.
It is faith plus nothing.
September 20th, 2008, 10:30 AM
How You Can Have the Assurance of Salvation
By J Vernon McGee
Published and distributed by
Thru the Bible Radio Network
P.O. Box 7100
Pasadena, California 91109-7100
He that hath the Son hath life; and he that
hath not the Son of God hath not life. These
things have I written unto you that believe on the
name of the Son of God, that ye may know that ye
have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the
name of the Son of God. (1 John 5:12, 13)
Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of
God; and everyone that loveth him that begot loveth
him also that is begotten of him. By this we know that
we love the children of God, when we love God, and
keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that
we keep his commandments: and his commandments are
not burdensome. For whatever is born of God overcometh
the world; and this is the victory that overcometh the
world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the
world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?
This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus
Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And
it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is
truth. For there are three that bear record in heaven, the
Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three
are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth,
the Spirit, and the water, and the blood; and these three
agree in one. If we receive the witness of men, the
witness of God is greater; for this is the witness of God
which he hath testified of his Son. He that believeth on
the Son of God hath the witness in himself; he that
believeth not God hath made him a liar, because he
believeth not the record that God gave of his Son. And
this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life,
and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath
life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.
These things have I written unto you that believe on the
name of the Son of God, that ye may know that ye have
eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the
Son of God. And this is the confidence that we have in
him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he
heareth us; and if we know that he hear us, whatever we
ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired
of him. If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not
unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for
them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death;
I do not say that he shall pray for it. All unrighteousness
is sin, and there is a sin not unto death. We know that
whosoever is born of God sinneth not, but he that is
begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one
toucheth him not. And we know that we are of God,
and the whole world lieth in wickedness. And we know
that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an
understanding, that we may know him that is true; and
we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ.
This is the true God, and eternal life. Little children,
keep yourselves from idols. Amen. (1 John 5)
There is a gift that I would like to present to every Christian. It
cannot be packed in excelsior, wrapped in brightly colored paper,
tied with polychrome ribbon, or sealed with good wishes. It
cannot be purchased with silver or gold. It is more valuable than
all the treasures of this world. All the gold in all the nations of the
world could not suffice as a down payment. It is not a material
gift of this secular world but a real gift of the spiritual realm. It is
intangible, but it is of inestimable and intrinsic value. Many who
are rich would pay a handsome sum to possess it. Multitudes
strive for it but find it just out of reach. As we face a future filled
with fear and foreboding, it might appear as a will-o’-the-wisp. It
is desperately and devoutly desired but seldom attained.
The world lists this gift as peace of mind, as a feeling of security
that all is well for the future. Psychology defines it as a wellintegrated
personality freed from frustration. Scripture is more
specific. The Bible sets forth this gift as a knowledge, a certainty,
and an assurance concerning one’s personal relationship to God.
Simply stated, it is the assurance regarding one’s salvation.
Can we know experientially that we are saved and that we are
the children of God? For years, my soul was tossed on the
troubled sea of uncertainty and insecurity. Finally, there dawned
upon my darkened mind the light of Philippians 1:6 –
Being confident of this very thing, that he who hath
begun a good work in you will perform [perfect] it until
the day of Jesus Christ.
It was then that the sun of Scripture rose with many shafts of
light and penetrated the dark recesses of fears and doubts. I pray
that I may be given wisdom and power to convey to your fearful
heart the assurance of your salvation, if it is not already your
present possession. For those who have experienced the assurance
of salvation, perhaps these few words will stabilize and strengthen
the fabric of your faith. Assurance is your rightful possession, and
God wants you to have it as your portion.
First of all, we need to distinguish between one’s eternal security and
his assurance of salvation. The line of demarcation must be clearly
drawn if we are to enter experientially into the joy of salvation.
Eternal security is an objective fact; assurance of salvation is a
Eternal security is not in the realm of experience, and therefore is
totally independent of a person’s feelings; assurance of salvation is
truly an experience – an inner consciousness and confidence that
a right relationship exists between the soul and God.
Eternal security rests upon certain objective facts that are
established and sure; it depends upon God’s faithfulness. A simple
illustration will clarify this point. The Battle of Bunker Hill is a
fact in American history. You and I did not experience the Battle
of Bunker Hill, and our feelings are, therefore, no guide to the
accuracy of history concerning it.
Eternal security rests upon what God says:
He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son
of God hath not life.
(1 John 5:12)
The most wonderful statement in the Bible (or out of the Bible,
for that matter) is Romans 8:1 –
There is, therefore, now no condemnation to them who
are in Christ Jesus….
In conjunction with this verse are verses 33 and 34 of the same
Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect?
Shall God that justifieth? Who is he that condemneth?
Shall Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again,
who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh
intercession for us?
The throne of God is behind every sinner who has trusted in
Jesus. Christ’s work of redemption is adequate enough to secure
the perfect salvation for the sinner who trusts Him. If not, then
the work of Christ was of no avail, and it was not a finished
transaction but must be written down as “unfinished business.”
However, He, as it were, wrote over His cross, “It is finished”
God is offering eternal life – everlasting life – to those who
believe in Christ. It is not temporary or uncertain. It is not paid
for on the installment plan. It is a gift the moment one believes,
but for longer than a moment – for eternity.
You may or you may not have the assurance of this salvation
that God offers as everlasting life. An anomalous situation exists
today. Some Christians believe in the security of the believer but
do not themselves have the assurance of their salvation; “My
brethren, these things ought not so to be” (James 3:10), but they do exist.
God wants you to know that you are His child through faith in
But as many as received him, to them gave he power
[the right] to become the children of God, even to them
that believe on his name; who were born, not of blood,
nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of
(John 1:12, 13)
It is not honoring to Him for you to have misgivings, doubts,
and a lack of assurance. “Maybe” and “perhaps” should not be in
the vocabulary of a born-again Christian when the matter of
salvation is the subject. It is not a “hope so” but a “know so”
salvation that God offers. It is always described as everlasting or
eternal life; it is not temporary or conditional. Listen to God
and be assured:
He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the
Son of God hath not life. These things have I written
unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God,
that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye
may believe on the name of the Son of God.
(1 John 5:12, 13)
Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of
faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil
conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.
This is not the language of uncertainty. There is a remarkable
passage in this connection expressed in Isaiah 32:17 –
And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the
effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance forever.
The righteousness mentioned here is not man’s, but it is the
righteousness of God revealed in the gospel. This is the
righteousness of Christ, which is made over to us and gives us
a standing before God. It cannot be improved upon because it
is perfect, and it cannot be disturbed because it is given to the
lost sinner who trusts in Jesus.
God wants all who trust the work in Christ to come to a place
in experience where each can say with confidence, boldness, and
much assurance, but with true humility:
…I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that
he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him
against that day.
(2 Timothy 1:12)
To fall short of this goal is to miss the best that He has for us. It
reveals a defect in our understanding and in our appreciation of
His “so great salvation” (Hebrews 2:3).
A very simple and homely illustration will show that God wants
us to enjoy and be assured of our salvation. Traveling by air is
something I do only in an emergency. Candidly, I have never
enjoyed an airplane trip; I lack assurance and confidence in this
method of travel. Pictures of train wrecks and statistics of
highway fatalities do not increase my relish for air travel.
A trip from Los Angeles, California, to Phoenix, Arizona, only
made matters worse. On the way over and on the way back, the
trip to me was hazardous. It was a summer Saturday morning on
the way over. The intense heat of the desert was threading its way
into the cool fog of Southern California between the San Jacinto
and San Gorgonio mountains. The plane hit rough air and began
to bounce around. Then the pilot found that the higher he went,
the rougher it got; he leveled off and went through the pass at
what appeared to be about 10,000 feet. At times, the plane would
drop, and it seemed to me that it would never stop. I grabbed the
seat in front of me and held on for dear life. Of course, the seat
in front of me was dropping just at fast as the one in which I was
sitting! A fellow traveler aboard, who had been around the world
by air several times, stated that this was the roughest trip he had
ever experienced. I concurred with him thoroughly, for it surely
was my roughest trip – and, as I felt then, my last trip by air.
Across the aisle from me sat a man who was a former pilot. He
was asleep by the time the plane took to the air. He was merely
annoyed at all the disturbance and turned over and went back to
sleep. He had flown many missions over Germany during World
War II. When we landed and commented on the rough trip, he
simply smiled and confessed that he had enjoyed it all. Frankly, I
did not enjoy one minute of it.
Now, I was as safe as that man. Whatever security the plane
offered was mine as well as his. We both had faith enough to enter
the plane, but he had the faith, understanding, and experience to
enjoy the trip. He had assurance, but I did not. What could have
been a pleasant experience for me was a sad ordeal!
My friend, God wants you to enjoy your salvation. His “plane”
cannot fall, and you do not have to hold on to the seat in front of
you. He holds you!
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they
follow me. And I give unto them eternal life; and they
shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out
of my hand. My Father, who gave them to me, is greater
than all, and no man is able to pluck them out of my
He never lets go. Now sit back, relax, and enjoy your salvation.
Someone has said, “All the way to heaven is heaven.”
Why Do We Doubt?
There are many reasons why believers do not have the assurance
of their salvation. Let us look at some of the principal ones.
Some are frightened souls who received the gospel in trembling
and fear. The gospel was presented partially, and they were not
told that they could have any assurance. There is always a serious
doubt whether folk like this have ever been saved. The instability
and inconsistency of the lives of many who live in the atmosphere
of uncertainty do not reveal a thoroughgoing conversion. It is
interesting to note what Paul wrote to the Thessalonians
concerning the preaching of the gospel in their city:
For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also
in power, and in the Holy Spirit, and in much
assurance, as ye know what manner of men we were
among you for your sake.
(1 Thessalonians 1:5)
The gospel that produces changed lives comes in much assurance.
Many who lack assurance are sincere, but they have actually never
been born again.
While I was a pastor in Pasadena, California, an attractive young
couple who had come to us out of a liberal church spoke to me
one Wednesday evening after the service and exclaimed with great
joy, “We have received the assurance of our salvation tonight!”
The next Wednesday evening they came down smiling after the
service and said, “Correction, please. We did not get the assurance
of our salvation last week; we got saved.”
They were thrilled as they related their experience in going
home the week before and getting down on their knees and
actually receiving Christ as Savior; this experience gave them
assurance. This is the manner in which God intends the gospel to
come to men and women – “in much assurance.”
Some depend upon an emotional experience, and they do not
have the knowledge of their salvation. The gospel has not been
given to them accurately, and they merely rest upon an emotional
upheaval. If the experience was significant, then they fall back
upon it to fortify their faith. When the emotional experience
wears thin and there is not much to rest upon, then doubts and
uncertainty creep in to make the heart disturbed. Many of these
people do not know the assurance that there is in the gospel:
That their hearts might be comforted, being knit
together in love and unto all riches of the full assurance
of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the
mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ.
Again, permit me to resort to a personal experience to clarify
this point. One Easter Sunday, two couples came forward at the
invitation. One couple was overcome with emotion; the other
couple was stoical. The elders who dealt with them could not get
a clear statement from the emotional couple because they were
weeping so. The contrast was so great that some even doubted the
genuineness of the couple who shed no tears. However, time
proved that emotion was no indication of a real experience of
conversion, for the emotional couple were pulled out of one ism
shortly after that incident and then became involved in a second
ism. The couple who seemed to have no emotional experience at
all grew in grace and the knowledge of Christ. It became a joy to
see them take their regular places in the services of the church.
This couple had the “full assurance of understanding” from the
Unconfessed sin in the life of a believer is the greatest single
factor in robbing one of the assurance of salvation. God wants us
to have the full assurance of faith; this comes experientially
through fellowship with God. Sin breaks our fellowship, and this,
in time, sets up a chain reaction that breaks our assurance.
If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in
darkness, we lie, and do not the truth.
(1 John 1:6)
We can bluff our way through before others by putting up a front
that all is well. But underneath, doubts begin to gnaw like little
foxes at the fringe of our faith, and we actually feel that we are
not really God’s children. We dread the light because it makes us
more conscious of our doubts. God is still our Father nonetheless,
and a conviction of sin is pretty good evidence. We have lost our
fellowship – not our salvation.
The Christian should come to the light, which is the Word of
God. It reveals our sin, but it also shows us the remedy. The
blood of Christ is still potent, and it is the basis of forgiveness for
the sins of a child of God.
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have
fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus
Christ, his Son, cleanseth us from all sin.
(1 John 1:7)
The believer who walks in the light and discovers sin in his life
knows that the blood of Christ keeps on cleansing him from sin;
consequently, he goes in confession to Him:
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us
our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
(1 John 1:9)
Immediately, fellowship is restored for the sinning saint. The
family fellowship is resumed and confidence and assurance are
restored. You see, the child of God is always disturbed by sin in
his life, as he knows it breaks fellowship with God. In fact, the
line of demarcation is drawn at this point between God’s children
and the devil’s offspring:
In this the children of God are manifest, and the
children of the devil: whosoever doeth [practices] not
righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not
(1 John 3:10)
Deliberate and continual sinning, without remorse or without
repentance, is a clear indication that one has not come into the place
of sonship. The child of God is distressed, disturbed, and distraught
by the presence of sin. He hates the sin in his life and longs to be
delivered from it. The presence of sin robs him of his assurance. The
legitimate child of God can never compromise with the sin in his life.
How You Can Have the Assurance of Salvation by Dr. J. Vernon McGee
How Can I Know?
Having listed the main things that rob a person of the assurance
of salvation, let’s look at some things that are evidence of salvation.
Desire to Obey
The child of God longs to obey God and to please Him:
And by this we do know that we know him, if we keep
(1 John 2:3)
This desire to obey God gives him an assurance that he is a son
of God.He wants to know the will of God, and therefore he wants to
know the Word of God. So he goes where he can hear the Word
Oh, how love I thy law! It is my mediation all the
day…. I hate vain thoughts, but thy law do I love….
I rejoice at thy word, as one that findeth great spoil.
(Psalm 119:97, 113, 162)
He finds that he not only has an appetite for the Word of God,
but he also begins to understand it, and thereby growth takes
But he that is spiritual judgeth [understands] all things,
yet he himself is judged [understood] of no man. (1
There are other tests that indicate to a trembling but trusting
heart that he or she is a child of God. God urges us to make the
tests so that we may have assurance:
Examine yourselves, whether you are in the faith; prove
yourselves. Know ye not yourselves how Jesus Christ is
in you, unless you are discredited?
(2 Corinthians 13:5)
Reality in Prayer
A reality in prayer is evidence that we are children of God.
There is a very remarkable statement in this connection made in
the third chapter of 1 John:
And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall
assure our hearts before him. (v. 19)
As the child of God approaches the Father, a holy boldness
confirms the heart. This is not presumption – it is the assurance
that a child has in approaching a father. However, sin or some
other impediment may make us hesitant and reluctant to
approach the Father. God does not hear us because of our
reluctance but because of Christ, and He hears us regardless of
For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our
heart, and knoweth all things. (v. 20)
Nevertheless, when our hearts are rightly related to Him, then
there is a confidence given to us:
Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we
confidence toward God. (v. 21)
Furthermore, when we are in His will, there are added tokens that
we are His children:
And whatever we ask, we receive of him, because we
keep his commandments, and do those things that are
pleasing in his sight. (v. 22)
Answered prayer is an argument that one is a legitimate child
of God. The prayer life of the believer is vital in assuring the
soul of salvation.
Love for the Brethren
A love for the brethren and a passion for the souls of men are
evidence that we are children of God. One of the most convicting
and confirming facts sealing assurance to the heart is love of the
brethren. Scripture is positive at this point:
We know that we have passed from death unto life,
because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his
brother abideth in death.
(1 John 3:14)
Animosity and hatred in the heart will rob the child of God of
assurance. Malice toward another Christian produces bitterness
of soul and is therefore not a fertile soil to cultivate assurance.
Malice is condensed anger. Lack of love for another believer robs
more Christians of real enjoyment and satisfaction in the
Christian life than perhaps any other single factor. It not only
blights the soul of the Christian, but it also destroys any public
By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye
have love one to another. (John 13:35)
To love other believers is not elective:
These things I command you, that ye love one another.
Do not let a little root of bitterness rob you of assurance. Make
things right with other believers.
Not only will the believer love those within the Christian
fellowship, but there will also be a desire for those outside the
fold to come to a saving knowledge of Christ. It is impossible
for Christ, the One who died for sinners, to be in the heart and
there not be a longing for the salvation of sinners. A sterile and
frigid Christian is not likely to experience the sweetness and joy
of full assurance, but a vital Christian, who knows something of
the Savior’s compassion, will find the joy of belonging and an
Conscious of Being His Child
A consciousness that we are children of God comes to the soul and
says that we are the sons of God. This is the gracious work of the
Spirit of God and not the product of psychological presumption.
By this know we that we dwell in him, and he in us,
because he hath given us of his Spirit.
(1 John 4:13)
This does not mean that we are conscious of the presence of the
Holy Spirit, but it does mean that we are conscious of the work
of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit does not speak of Himself,
but He speaks of Christ:
Nevertheless, when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he
will guide you into all truth; for he shall not speak of
himself, but whatever he shall hear, that shall he speak;
and he will show you things to come.
Part of the work of the Holy Spirit is to make us conscious that
we are the children of God.
The Spirit himself beareth witness with our spirit, that
we are the children of God.
There is a counterfeit humility going the rounds today, and it
sounds very pious, but it does not have the ring of the genuine.
Some say that we are to grovel in the dust and act like worms –
this is the modern way of putting on sackcloth and ashes. It is
true that we are sinners; there is no good within us, no good
comes out of us, and we have nothing in which to glory save the
cross of Christ. Nevertheless, the Holy Spirit does not bear
witness with our spirit that we are the “worms” of God. No, He
encourages us when we are in times of weakness and trembling,
and in spite of all our failure says that we are the children of God.
A remarkable thing is stated in the following verse:
For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to
fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption,
whereby we cry, Abba, Father.
The word Abba is an untranslated Aramaic word. The translators
of the first English Bibles, who had great reverence for the Word
of God, who believed it was indeed the Word of God, would not
translate it. Abba is a very personal word that could be translated
“my Daddy.” We don’t use this word in reference to God because
of the danger of becoming overly familiar with Him. But the
Spirit affirms it and causes us to realize that God is our very own
Father through regeneration and by adoption.
While I was praying one morning shortly before Christmas, my
little seven-year-old daughter tiptoed into the room and placed a
letter before me. Since I was getting nowhere in my prayer, I
paused to read the contents of the letter that she had scribbled in
her childish hand (see opposite page).
Before Christmas, a father always comes into his proper position
in the home and is treated with due respect. Nevertheless, the
letter caused me to drop to my knees and be conscious anew and
afresh that God was my Father. I cried out in joy, “You are my
Father, and I love You. You have been gracious to me, and I know
You always will.” The veil was removed from my eyes, and my
soul was flooded with a fresh consciousness that I was a son of
God. This was the gracious work of the Spirit of God.
There is an experience of salvation for the child of God that
he does not have to seek. It will come, for it is impossible for the
Holy Spirit to regenerate a sinner and for Christ to dwell in the
heart and there not be a corresponding experience.
Dr. George Truett told a story out of his long and fruitful
ministry at First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas. One day he
had the sad office of conducting the funeral of a young wife
and mother from his congregation. After the service, friends
gathered around the young husband and the little girl who
were left. The friends urged the father to go with them to their
homes for a few days. He refused with the statement that he
would have to face the reality of life without his wife and,
therefore, he would begin at once. He took the little girl back
to the lonely house where everything in it reminded him of his
wife. The little girl, sensing that something was wrong but not
old enough to appreciate the situation, kept calling for her
mother. The child did not make it any easier by constantly
reminding the father that he was not feeding her or putting
her to bed as her mother was accustomed to do. When the
father had finally tucked the little one in bed and gone off to
bed himself, thinking the little girl was asleep, he cried aloud
in his anguish of soul, “Oh, God, it is dark down here.”
The child, who was not asleep, began to cry and said, “Daddy, it
is dark over here, too. Take me in bed with you.” The father took
the little one in bed with him and attempted to soothe her
sobbing. Then she reached over in the darkness and felt the face
of her father. “Daddy,” she said, “I can go to sleep if your face is
toward me.” Being assured that his face was toward her, she soon
dropped off into peaceful slumber.
The anxious father thought over this incident and the simple
faith of the child in him. Then he cried out again, “Oh, God, it
is dark down here, but I can bear it if I know Your face is toward
me.” Soon he, too, was sound asleep. The Holy Spirit, in a time
of darkness and emergency, confirms to the sad spirit of the child
of God that he is a son of God and that the heavenly Father does
not have His face averted from His own.
When Did I Believe?
Perhaps these words have not been convincing to many anxious
souls because they cannot establish, with any degree of certainty,
a moment in time when they had a transforming experience with
God. But there does not have to be a date for a “second birthday.”
Multitudes are kept in uncertainty because they hear others testify
to a day, a moment, and a place when they passed from death to
life. If you have had such an experience, it certainly must be
gratifying. But many others have not been that fortunate; yet
they, too, are born-again believers.
If I may be permitted a final personal reference, this is my
experience. I have never been able to put my finger on the
moment that I was converted. As a boy, I went to an altar under
a brush arbor, but no one thought to speak to me about my soul
or to explain the way of salvation. The devil formerly used this to
disturb my mind when I heard someone testify to a transforming
experience. That master of doubt and deception would lean over
my shoulder and whisper, “How do you know that you have
Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer gave me the solution to this problem
in a class lecture when I was in seminary, and the devil does not
disturb me on this score anymore. Now I say to him, “Perhaps
you are right. I may never have accepted Christ in the past. But
you are witness that here and now I accept Him with all my
heart. Now I am a child of God.” If this has been your difficulty,
then I beseech you to accept Christ this very moment – assure
your heart and have the peace of God.
Do not look for an experience! Do not probe your feelings!
Do not use psychoanalysis! Believe God! Take Him at His Word!
Trust His faithfulness!
“Let God be true, but every man a liar”
Christ says, “Him that cometh to me I will in no
wise cast out”
(John 6:37).Will you come?
He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the
Son of God hath not life.
(1 John 5:12)
September 20th, 2008, 10:50 AM
Mr. McGee! :thumb
September 20th, 2008, 01:59 PM
MP3 downloads of 5-year series:
September 28th, 2008, 09:13 AM
Darkness and Light: The Day of the Lord
by Dr. J. Vernon McGee
Published and distributed by
Thru the Bible Radio Network
P.O. Box 7100
Pasadena, California 91109-7100
But of the times and the seasons, brethren,
ye have no need that I write unto you. For
yourselves know perfectly that the day of the
Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For
when they shall say, Peace and safety, then
sudden destruction cometh upon them, as
travail upon a woman with child, and they
shall not escape. But ye, brethren, are not in
darkness, that that day should overtake you
as a thief.
(1 Thessalonians 5:1-4)
The Day of the Lord was the high hope and the far-off goal of
the Old Testament. It was that toward which the entire Old Testament
program was moving. Everything in time and creation looked
forward to and moved toward that day. The Old Testament closed
without it being realized, and up to today the Day of the Lord has
not yet come.
The Old Testament closes with almost a sundown of the nation
Israel. The people were drugged to an unconsciousness of sin. They
were in a spiritual stupor with no conviction, which is the lowest
state of sin. The last word of the Old Testament is a curse, but it
does not close with only a curse. It closes with a great hope that
although the sun has gone down and it is very dark, there is coming
a new day – the Day of the Lord – and the Sun of righteousness
who will usher it in:
But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness
arise with healing in his wings....
But when we come to the New Testament, we find even there
that the Day of the Lord had not come. In Paul’s first letter to
the Thessalonians, we read that this Day of the Lord was still in
But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need
that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that
the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.
(1 Thessalonians 5:1, 2)
So when Paul wrote this in about A.D. 51, the Day of the Lord
was still in the future, and after almost 2000 years, it is yet future.The expression “the Day of the Lord” occurs five times in the
Book of Joel, a very brief prophecy, and all other prophets make
reference to this momentous period of time, some using the terms
“the day” or “the great day.” You will find that references to the
Day of the Lord occur seventy-five times in the Old Testament.
It became such a familiar phrase and was such an understandable
subject of the Old Testament that by the time of Zechariah, one
of the last of the prophets, you will find that he could use the term
“in that day” and it was understood that he meant the Day of the
Lord. It was the great theme of the Old Testament.
The New Testament does not drop the subject at all. It does not
ignore the subject nor does it change it. Both Paul (in 1 and 2
Thessalonians) and Peter (see 2 Peter 3:3-10) address it. Now Paul
and Simon Peter may have disagreed at Antioch about whether to
eat certain meats or not and on other minor points, but they did
not disagree on this all-important subject. The Day of the Lord
was still a very important part of the program of God.
I believe that if you understand what the Day of the Lord is and
get the picture that is set before us in the Word of God, you are
well on the way to becoming a student of prophecy. In fact, you
can become an authority in the field of eschatology.
When Will It Come?
Now, the question arises: Is it possible to identify this period
known as the Day of the Lord? Can we define it? Can we get it
out of the realm of the nebulous and tenuous? Can we avoid thinking
of it as a vague theory and a spurious theology as is done today,
even in many of our seminaries? I find it interesting to note that
this theme has not been featured in any of the Christian journals
that have come to my desk during the past few years. They have
almost ignored this subject altogether. Our young people in manyof our so-called Christian schools are not taught these fundamental
truths of what the Day of the Lord really means.
Now what about the boundaries to the Day of the Lord? Can
we place it in the parenthesis of time? How can we fit it into the
program of God?
Well, the Day of the Lord has definite reference to the return of
Christ to the earth to establish His kingdom. That is made very
clear when you turn to Old Testament prophecy. I have already
referred to the prophecy of Zechariah. Now let’s read this important
section of his prophecy. Note the language carefully:
Behold, the day of the LORD cometh, and thy spoil shall be
divided in the midst of thee. For I will gather all nations
against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and
the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the
city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people
shall not be cut off from the city. Then shall the LORD go forth,
and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the
day of battle. And his feet shall stand in that day upon the
Mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and
the Mount of Olives shall cleave in its midst toward the east
and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley;
and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north,
and half of it toward the south.
Here is a remarkable prophecy, a prophecy that says, “Behold,
the day of the Lord cometh….” Note that it says in verse 4 that
included in this day is the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.
He is coming to the earth – it says specifically that His feet
shall stand on the Mount of Olives.
These verses tell us this much: We know that the second coming
of Christ to the earth to establish His kingdom is part of the Day of the Lord. This great event is so important that actually many
very fine expositors begin the Day of the Lord with this second
coming of Christ to the earth at the end of the Tribulation period.
The Scofield Reference Bible presents that viewpoint. The greatest
teacher I ever sat under, Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer, taught that. But
there is one small change I will make in that view: I think the Day
of the Lord begins before Christ’s second coming, and I trust I’ll
be able to sustain that thesis.
The Day of the Lord is associated by the prophets with the millennial
kingdom that is to be established on this earth. In fact, the
kingdom is equally as great a theme of the Old Testament as is the
Day of the Lord. Therefore, the Day of the Lord includes the kingdom.
However, I think the Day of the Lord is the all-inclusive term,
while the kingdom is the smaller term.
And the LORD shall be king over all the earth; in that day
shall there be one LORD, and his name one.
Then the verses following give actual details as to where they will
begin to measure the land in that day, and Jerusalem is to become
the very center. Our Lord called it the city of the great king, and
our Lord shall be king in Jerusalem in that day. So now we know
that the Day of the Lord includes the second coming of Christ when
He establishes His kingdom, and it also includes His kingdom.
Now we need to see that the New Testament confirms this. When
you turn to 2 Peter, you will find a confirmation:
But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in
which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and
the elements shall melt with fervent heat; the earth also, and
the works that are in it, shall be burned up.
(2 Peter 3:10)
The Day of the Lord includes the millennial kingdom up to the
establishment of the new heavens and the new earth. It extends
therefore to the new heavens, the very beginning of eternity future.
70th Week of Daniel
When studying in the Book of Daniel, we find a great deal of information
pertaining to the future of the nation Israel. Most significant
is the “70 weeks of Daniel”* in chapter 9. Daniel was one of the
Jewish captives in Babylon, and to him God gave some specific information
– including actual dating – as to the end of their captivity,
return to Israel, and their rebuilding of Jerusalem. That fits into secular
history from 445 B.C. to 397 B.C. and was literally fulfilled.
Then, the second period consisted of 430 years – from 397 B.C.
until Christ came. And we find that the very day He marched into
Jerusalem, presenting Himself as the Messiah, was the exact fulfillment
of this. According to the lunar calendar which Israel followed,
it was right up to the very minute!
After the 483 years, there is a time break, and two events of utmost
importance take place: “Messiah [will] be cut off ” – this was
the crucifixion of Christ. Also Jerusalem would be destroyed by
the “people of the prince” who would come later on (Daniel 9:26).
This was fulfilled when the Romans under Titus destroyed Jerusalem
in A.D. 70.
God’s revelation to Daniel had nothing to say about the church
age – it wasn’t necessary to mention it. He was saying that there were 490 years that pertained to Daniel’s people, which is the
nation Israel. Today there are seven years (the seventieth week)
of this period that have not yet taken place.
Now when you come to the New Testament, you’ll find that
something has been added, that the church is brought before us.
We learn that after Messiah was cut off, He rose from the dead
and ascended back to heaven. He sent the Holy Spirit on the Day
of Pentecost and there took place something new: the calling out
of a body of believers called “the church.” And the calling out has
been going on for almost 2000 years.
The next thing on God’s program we call the imminent coming
of Christ for His church. We found out that Paul, in effect, said
to the Thessalonian Christians who were weeping for their loved
ones who had died, “Sorrow not, even as others which have no
hope. Of course you sorrow, but you have a hope!” (See 1 Thessalonians
For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout,
with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God;
and the dead in Christ shall rise first; then we who are alive
and remain shall be caught up together with them in the
clouds, to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we ever be
with the Lord.
(1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17)
Those who believe that Jesus died and rose again (verse 14) will go
with Him immediately to heaven. And in heaven there will take
place the judgment for believers at the judgment seat of Christ to
see whether they are to receive a reward or not (2 Corinthians 5:10).
But, you see, momentous things will be happening on the earth
during that period. The Great Tribulation will take place, designated
in the Old Testament as the “seventieth week of Daniel.” It is
the seven-year period yet to run that will complete the 490 years
of the prophecy God gave to Daniel. It pertains to the nation
Israel, and it will be concluded by the return of Christ to the
earth as Zechariah chapter 14, verse 4, says: “His feet shall stand
in that day upon the Mount of Olives.”
Now you can understand that when Christ calls His own out of
the earth and into the air to meet Him, His feet won’t be touching
the Mount of Olives. His taking of His church out of the world
is the event we call the Rapture of the church.
Then there will take place the Great Tribulation here on earth,
and at the end of that period Christ will return to establish His
kingdom on this earth. During those seven years, the earth will
have been under a world dictator who will combine both religion
and politics. He will bring the ecumenical movement under one
head, and only he himself will be worshiped as god. Paul’s epistle
reveals this fact, so does John in the Book of Revelation, and in
the Old Testament Daniel confirms it. This world dictator, called
the Antichrist, will show himself as god in the temple of God. He
also will be the political ruler, the dictator of the entire world. No
one can break his rule on this earth except Christ at His second
coming. The Lord Jesus Christ will come in judgment to establish
His kingdom, and that kingdom will last for 1000 years. His coming
to the earth is the Revelation of Jesus Christ.
The Rapture is the great theme of 1 Thessalonians, while the
Revelation, meaning Christ’s second coming to the earth, is the
theme of 2 Thessalonians. And the interesting thing is that all of
this is called the “Day of the Lord” in the Bible.
Now we have something else to look at here that is very important
for us to see. We can now put down our pegs and say that the
Day of the Lord does not begin with the return of Christ to the
earth at His Revelation, but it begins at the Rapture when He
takes His church out of the world – because we’re told very definitely that the Day of the Lord comes without warning at all. You
see, the Bible has given signs to look for that will indicate the coming
of Christ to the earth, but there are no signs for the Rapture
of the church.
The Day of the Lord begins when the church leaves the earth,
and that triggers the Great Tribulation Period on the earth. The
Day of the Lord does not begin therefore with the return of Christ
to the earth; rather, it begins with the Rapture.
Evening Begins the Day
Now I want you to notice something very interesting. The Hebrew
day always began with sundown; it never began with sunup. Have
you noticed even in Genesis, the very first chapter, how carefully
that is given to us? It says, “The evening and the morning were
the first day…. The evening and the morning were the second
day....The evening and the morning were the third day…. “ Also,
the Day of the Lord begins in darkness – at sundown. That may
change the thinking of some for this reason: A great many people
think the Day of the Lord means the coming of Christ to establish
His kingdom. My beloved, the prophets make it very clear
that this is not what they are talking about at all.
I turn now to the prophecy of Joel, and note this language
Blow the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy
mountain. Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble; for
the day of the LORD cometh, for it is near at hand; a day
of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick
darkness, like the morning spread upon the mountains; a
great people and a strong; there hath not been ever the like,
neither shall be any more after it, even to the years of many
(Joel 2:1, 2)
Our Lord Himself took that expression and called it the Great
Tribulation. He said,
For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the
beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.
And except those days should be shortened, there should no
flesh be saved [that is, survive].
(Matthew 24:21, 22)
There would be nothing like it before, nothing like it afterward.
And Joel said that the Day of the Lord begins with darkness and
gloominess. It begins with the Great Tribulation Period, a time of
darkness, just as the Hebrew day must begin.
This is the whole tenor of Scripture. You will find that all the
references to the Day of the Lord identify it with judgment. Listen
to this language in the Book of Ezekiel:
For the day is near, even the day of the LORD is near, a
cloudy day; it shall be the time of the nations.
Do you notice what Ezekiel said? “The day of the Lord is near,
a cloudy day.” He agrees with Joel. Now notice the language used
Wail; for the day of the LORD is at hand; it shall come as a
destruction from the Almighty.…Behold, the day of the LORD
cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the
land desolate; and he shall destroy the sinners out of it.
(Isaiah 13:6, 9)
The Day of the Lord, you see, is always associated with judgment.
That is the way you find it in the Word of God.
Now I turn to what is probably one of the most remarkable prophecies
on this subject that we have in the entire Bible. It’s found in
the first chapter of the little prophecy of Zephaniah:
The great day of the LORD is near, it is near, and hasteneth
greatly, even the voice of the day of the LORD; the mighty
man shall cry there bitterly. That day is a day of wrath
[and the Great Tribulation is called a day of wrath], a day
of trouble and distress, a day of waste and desolation, a
day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick
darkness, a day of the trumpet and alarm against the
fortified cities, and against the high towers. And I will
bring distress upon men, that they shall walk like blind
men, because they have sinned against the LORD; and their
blood shall be poured out like dust, and their flesh like the
dung. Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to
deliver them in the day of the LORD’S wrath, but the whole
land shall be devoured by the fire of his jealousy; for he
shall make even a speedy riddance of all those who dwell
in the land.
You see, it is a time of judgment. The great day of His wrath is
come, and it’s the time of judgment upon the earth. This is the
picture the Bible presents to us. Joel confirms it again:
And the LORD shall utter his voice before his army; for his
camp is very great; for he is strong who executeth his word;
for the day of the LORD is great and very terrible, and who
can abide it?
And then again in the third chapter:
Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision; for the day
of the LORD is near in the valley of decision.
Now, my beloved, all of these references relate the Day of the
Lord to a period of judgment. It would be very easy to give you
cross-references that show the direct application to the Great Tribulation
Period, because in the Book of Revelation the Great Tribulation Period has all of these things in it. Therefore the Day of
the Lord will begin with night – the night of delusion, distress,
But it is always God’s plan to move from darkness to light –
always. We find His first recorded words in the Book of Genesis
when He moved into this earth after some great catastrophe took
place. He said, “Let there be light” (see Genesis 1:2, 3). Where
there is darkness, God moves in with light. Where there is sin, He
moves in with salvation. It is His method. And though the great
Day of the Lord opens with judgment, it leads to light, if you
please. There is both darkness and light in the Day of the Lord.
Now I want to reaffirm this. The Day of the Lord comes without
warning. We noted in all those passages the thought of its coming
quickly. This doesn’t mean it is coming soon, but when it comes,
it strikes suddenly! If the Lord Jesus took the church off this earth
tonight (I say this to you very carefully), I am convinced that the
Day of the Lord would break on this earth tomorrow. It would
You see, at the Rapture when God removes the church (which
has lost much of its influence, but it does have some) He would
also remove something else – a Restrainer. The Holy Spirit is the
Restrainer, and He would still be in the world but not restraining
evil. Today He is holding back evil in order that the gospel might
continue to go out, and He will do that up to the very moment
the church leaves the world. Then, when that takes place, evil will
break like a great flood or a dam giving way, and a flood of evil
and of great judgment will come over this earth.
Now, the return of Christ to this earth to establish His kingdom
has signs connected to it. However, there’s not a sign given to us
for the time of the Rapture when He takes His own out of the
world, which may be at any moment. It can take place at any time, and no man can set a date. We can’t even say it may be
soon. We do not know. Somebody said to me, “Well, it may be
this year that He will come.” I said, “Don’t say that, because the
minute you begin to talk about dates, you contradict the Lord
Jesus who said, ‘In such an hour as ye think not the Son of man
cometh’ (Matthew 24:44).”
When He takes the church out of the world, that is called the
Day of Christ. “Being confident of this very thing, that he who
hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of
Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6) – that is the great hope that is before
As we have already seen, the Day of the Lord begins when Christ
takes the church out of the world. And though it begins in darkness,
it is certainly light for those who were taken out – that is,
the children of God. It is the end of the pilgrim pathway down
here for them. The Day of Christ ends at the Rapture, and the
Day of the Lord begins at that point.
In the prophecy of Hosea, there are some wonderful verses that
speak of this period but are not identified as such. Note the picture
that’s given here:
For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a
king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and
without an image, and without an ephod, and without
That’s the period we’re living in today. It has been true now for many
years that Israel has not had a place of sacrifice. Then God says,
Afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the
LORD their God, and David, their king; and shall fear the
LORD and his goodness in the latter days.
So when Christ comes to this earth to establish His kingdom, this
verse will be fulfilled.
The Day of the Lord, I trust you can see, is a technical term; it
is also a theological term that embraces many momentous acts of
God. You and I today are living in the day of salvation, but that
doesn’t mean a 24-hour day. It doesn’t really have reference to time
but to a particular period. And that day of salvation for us ends
when He takes the church out. Then the Day of the Lord begins.
What a picture is presented to us here.
Let me give you someone else’s very fine definition of the Day
of the Lord. This is the definition of Dr. J. Dwight Pentecost,
from his book, Things to Come:
It is thus concluded that the Day of the Lord is that extended
period of time beginning with God’s dealing with Israel
after the rapture at the beginning of the tribulation period
and extending through the second advent and the millennial
age unto the creation of the new heavens and the new
earth after the millennium.
The Day of the Lord, we see, begins with the Rapture which
happens “in the twinkling of an eye” (1 Corinthians 15:52). Then
comes the Great Tribulation. And the Day of the Lord extends
through the seven years of the Great Tribulation Period (Revelation
6 – 18) and the return of Christ to the earth (Revelation 19)
when He returns to establish His kingdom. Then in Revelation
20, Satan is bound while Christ reigns one thousand years on the
earth. Satan is then released for a little while – and don’t ask me
why, I don’t know.
Someone asked the late Dr. Chafer, “Why in the world, when
God gets Satan bound, does He release him for a little while?” And
Dr. Chafer gave his characteristic answer, “You tell me why God
released him in the beginning, and I’ll tell you why God releases
him again for a little while.” Well, God has let him loose today,
that’s for sure. And during that future day when Satan is loose for
a brief period, he will lead a rebellion that God will put down.
The Great White Throne, the place of God’s final judgment, is
brought before us in Revelation 20:11-15. The Tribulation saints,
at this point, have been resurrected and are with the Lord Jesus
during His millennial reign. Prior to the Great White Throne, we
see that the lost dead are resurrected and “small and great” stand
My friend, there are many people who say, “I’ll take my chances
before God.” When I talked to a man in Altadena, California,
several years ago, he said to me, “McGee, you don’t need to talk
to me about these things. I’ve listened to you on the radio. I don’t
agree with you. I think God is merciful, and I’ll take my chances
with Him. I’m a good man. I pay my honest debts.” Well, that
man is going to be there at the Great White Throne, and he’s
going to have an opportunity to tell the Lord that he paid his
But I tell you, it’s not going to be a pretty sight to stand before
the One who has nail-pierced hands and hear Him say, “But I
loved you so much I died for you. You, a sinner – lost, without
hope. I bore your sins in My own body to pay the penalty for your
sin. Why did you reject Me?” May I say to you, friend, paying
your honest debts is going to look mighty small in that day. If
you’ve come to Christ and accepted Him as your Savior, of course
you pay your honest debts! But just paying your honest debts won’t
get you into heaven – that’s for sure.
All the lost appear there before the Great White Throne, and
the curtain closes with these fateful words:
And whosoever was not found written in the book of life
was cast into the lake of fire.
Then, after that final judgment, we find that eternity begins, and
the new heavens and the new earth come into view (Revelation
Let me repeat: The Day of the Lord begins with the Rapture of
the church and embraces everything from the Great Tribulation
to the creation of the new heavens and the new earth. This is the
tremendous picture that is presented to us in the Word of God.
You see, God makes it very clear that no Scripture, no prophecy,
is to be interpreted by itself. Listen to what He says,
Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of
any private interpretation.
(2 Peter 1:20)
In other words, Peter is saying this: You are not to lift out one
little prophecy (the way many of the cults do today) and build a
doctrine on it. You are not to interpret it apart from other references
to the same subject because no prophecy is of any private
interpretation. You don’t interpret it by itself. It has to fit into God’s
program of prophecy, you see. Therefore, the great Day of the Lord
is one of the great terms in the Word of God. And when the Bible
mentions it, you know it is speaking of this entire period, including
all of it. We can put the boundaries on it – beginning at the
Rapture of the church and what takes place on the earth, then ending
with the beginning of eternity. Therefore, you and I need today
to interpret the present in terms of the future.
Watch and Wait
I think that we’re living in a day when the attitude toward the
future is becoming different. There has never been a time when
so much attention was given to it. People years ago paid very
little attention to the future, but now it is important to us. We
find that the serious thinkers of the world are pondering and
speculating in terms of the future. Should not God’s people also
think in those terms? Our Lord urged us to do so, if you please.
The fact of the matter is, one of the great injunctions that He
has given us is to stay alert and watch. I want you to notice what
He had to say in the Olivet Discourse as He was speaking of His
coming to the earth to establish His kingdom:
Watch, therefore; for ye know not what hour your Lord
doth come. But know this, that if the householder of the
house had known in what watch the thief would come, he
would have watched, and would not have allowed his house
to be broken into.
(Matthew 24:42, 43)
Is the Lord Jesus coming as a thief for the church? No. It is not
the thief we’re looking for. We’re “looking for that blessed hope,
and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior, Jesus
Christ” (Titus 2:13). You’ll notice that this is the very thing Paul
deals with when writing to the Thessalonian believers:
For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so
cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say,
Peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon
them, as travail upon a woman with child, and they shall
not escape. But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that
day should overtake you as a thief.
(1 Thessalonians 5:2-4)
My beloved, our Lord will not come for His church as a thief.
But when He comes to the earth to establish His kingdom, He
will come as a thief, breaking into this world, interfering with
men’s little plans and programs.
Several years ago, I decided to make a study of the Hebrew word
for “watch and wait.” I thought it was a single word, but I found
out there are seventeen words in the Hebrew that are translated
by the English words “watch” and “wait.” It’s amazing how many
ways you can watch and wait. Let me illustrate.
It’s the beginning of hunting season, and a man gets a deer license.
He goes out into the woods of Utah, climbs up on a mountain,
and waits there and watches. At every sound of movement he
hears out there in the woods, he raises his gun. It better not be
another hunter, because he’s apt to shoot him – but he’s waiting
there for a deer to appear. That’s one way to wait and watch.
Then later you can see him down at the airport, pacing up and
down, and you say, “I see you’re waiting and watching again.” He
says, “Yes, I’m waiting for the plane to come in. My mother-inlaw’s
coming out from Iowa to visit us for the holidays. The plane
is two hours late, and I do not have time to waste waiting for her!”
So he paces up and down. That’s another way to wait and watch,
And then you meet him a couple of days later, during the Christmas
rush, down here at the corner of Seventh and Hope Street.
Again you see him pacing up and down and looking at his watch.
He’s waiting. You step up to him and say, “What in the world is
the matter?” He says, “Well, I’m waiting for my wife. She’s already
forty-five minutes late!” Now that is different from waiting up
yonder in the mountains for a deer! He’s waiting differently again.
My friend, you can wait in many different ways.
The world does not want Christ to come; they’re in rebellion
against Him. But He’s going to break through one of these days. And before He does, He’s going to take His own out of the world.
And they are watching and waiting, “looking for that blessed hope,
and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior, Jesus
Christ” (Titus 2:13). The minute that Christ takes His church out
of the world, the Day of Christ – the period of His grace – ends.
No longer will He be calling the church out of the world, because
the church shall be with Him.
Then there takes place the time of His wrath. The great Day
of the Lord is darkness, not light, and the Great Tribulation
breaks on the earth with a world dictator who will establish an
ecumenical movement and a world political movement.
Nothing can deter it except the return of Christ. He will break
through like a thief, intruding into this world, establishing His
kingdom on this earth. It will be a period in which He will
reign on this earth for a thousand years. It ends by the new
heavens and the new earth being established and with those
who are His own living in the New Jerusalem.
This is God’s program, my beloved. The Word of God tells us
that we know not what a day will bring forth, but every child of
God knows that we have a wonderful Shepherd and that we can
never be taken out of our Shepherd’s hands – either in time or
in eternity. It is reassuring to know that our Shepherd has a
program for the future. This gives hope, purpose, and direction
to life. I do not know about you, but for me it adds a great deal
of color to the drabness of living down here on this earth. It is an
incentive today to live for God.
What about the future for you? Suppose Christ does come this
year. Unless you are trusting Him as your Savior, there is nothing
ahead of you but the day of judgment that will take place on
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten
Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but
have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the
world to condemn the world, but that the world through
him might be saved.
(John 3:16, 17)
My beloved, today is the day of salvation.
Now I’m going to let the Apostle Peter conclude this message on
the Day of the Lord with the information that God gave him on
this great subject:
Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days
scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where
is the promise of his coming? For since the fathers fell
asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning
of the creation.
For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word
of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing
out of the water and in the water, by which the world
hat then was, being overflowed with water, perished.
But the heavens and the earth which are now, by the
same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against
the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.
But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one
day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand
years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning his
promise, as some men count slackness, but is longsuffering
toward us, not willing that any should perish, but
that all should come to repentance.
But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night,
in which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat; the earth
also, and the works that are in it, shall be burned up.
Seeing, then, that all these things shall be dissolved, what
manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy living and
godliness, looking for and hasting unto the coming of the
day of God, in which the heavens, being on fire, shall be
dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?
Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new
heavens and a new earth, in which dwelleth righteousness.
Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things,
be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without
spot, and blameless. And account that the longsuffering
of our Lord is salvation….
(2 Peter 3:3-15)
September 28th, 2008, 12:31 PM
excellent!!:thumb'love J. Vernon McGee:nod
September 28th, 2008, 05:52 PM
excellent!!:thumb'love J. Vernon McGee:nod
One of the best!
I have his entire thru the bible commentary series! :thumb
Genesis - Revelation (http://www.amazon.com/Thru-Bible-1-5-5-Set/dp/078520041X/ref=pd_bbs_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1222642309&sr=8-1)
September 28th, 2008, 08:09 PM
I have many of his books from the Bible but not all.. slowly I buy one or 2.
June 30th, 2009, 09:57 AM
Can anyone recommend Mr. Vernon Macgee's "thru the bible" series? Is his teaching reliable? Is there a better alternative...Someone who goes vs. by vs. through the whole bible?
Sorry if I posted in the wrong section.
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