The Reasoning of Faith
It may sound a little strange and harsh at first, but I believe, on a little meditation, it will be found that while reading the epistles of the New Testament, we might seasonably, and profitably, and to the great comfort of our souls, keep in mind the words of Manoah’s wife to her husband in Judges 13.
Manoah himself, at the time, was in fear, for he had seen God, and, as he said, he thought he should die. But his wife said to him, "If God were pleased to kill us, He would not have accepted a burnt-offering, and a meal-offering at our hand, neither would He have shown us all these things, nor as at this time have told us such things as these."
A very simple, beautiful, and convincing piece of reasoning. Faith is always the best reasoner, because it uses the arguments which God Himself suggests, as in this case. The simplicity of this woman is apparent all through the narrative. Her husband was rather a devout and good man, who walked more in a praying than in a believing mind; but she was more simple and confiding; inapt, I can suppose, to reason at all, save when the Lord, as here, supplied her with arguments.
Now, this has struck me that this very same believing reasoning, as I may call it, may well, and suitably, and comfortingly, be ours, when we read the epistles. For in them, we find (as Manoah's wife found in the words which the Lord had spoken to her) such wonderful secrets communicated to us, and such wondrous grace shown to us, that we can do nothing less than rest, as she did, in the blessed certainty of this, that our God has no purpose against us. In the epistles, we find ourselves brought into such near relationship to God, made acquainted with such deep secrets of His bosom, so encouraged to bring ourselves, our burnt-offerings, and our meal-offerings, to Him in a sanctuary of peace; that His purpose to pardon and save us finds no room to be questioned. The Lord would not, He could not, after the manner of the epistles, have set us in the place of children, and friends, and worshippers, and heirs, had He not set us in the place of safety and peace. The less is surely included in the better, as this simple-hearted woman reasoned for the encouragement of her husband.
And according to this, I may say, God Himself, in the epistles, treats pardon and acceptance very much in that way. It is rather assumed than taught. If the Spirit of God in the apostle Paul be recalled to the subject, it is because the heart of man is so disposed to return to the law, and to the elements and rudiments of the world, the religiousness of ordinances.
The question of pardon and justification suits the presence of God, as a Judge. It is before God in that character that such a question is to be argued and disposed of. But in the epistles, God speaks to us, His saints, rather as a Father; or, as from a sanctuary where He proposes to meet us as worshippers; or face to face, as a man would speak to his friend; or as the One who has set us with Himself in heavenly places. Surely He would not thus deal with us, if He purposed to "kill us," or to put us under law, and in the fear of judgment.
Indeed, the reasoning of the apostle at the close of Rom. 8 has exactly this character in it. Like Manoah's wife, the apostle reasons on what God has supplied, and he concludes (of course, I know under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) that the less is included in the greater. He challenges the inferior thing in the name, and in the certainty, and in the authority, of the superior; and this is what that simple-hearted woman did. She said, God will not kill us, because He has accepted our worship, and spoken to us. The apostle says, He who spared not his own Son, but gave Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who can lay anything to our charge, since God has justified us?
This is quite of the character of the word in Judges 13. And our place and privileges, as we read them in other epistles, entitle us to be bold after the same manner. Thus:
In Galatians, relationship is the leading thought. Divine righteousness is vindicated and asserted, it is true, but this is done as leading us to the great and blessed mystery of relationship, or that condition of children, the seed of the free-woman, in which we stand through grace.
In Ephesians, our personal, heavenly dignities in Christ are unfolded to us, forgiveness of sins, or redemption through blood being rather assumed or taken up by the way.
In Thessalonians, we are exhorted and encouraged on the ground of the Lord's coming and glory. But our interest in that glory is treated as a thing sure and settled.
In Hebrews, our place as worshippers is opened to us. We are taught to know ourselves within the veil, and that our proper service there is to be occupied with the sacrifices of thanksgiving and praise.
Thus we are, in these epistles, treated as either children, or heirs, or friends, or worshippers. We are looked at as in divine righteousness, or as in the adoption of sons, or as in heaven in Christ, or as in the sanctuary of peace and praise, or as expectants of glory. And surely each of these may well entitle us to ask ourselves, for the great comfort and establishment of our souls, would God have thus and thus spoken to us, would He have thus and thus brought us into relationship to Himself, would He have thus accepted offerings at our hands, had He purposed to "kill us" or had He purposed to put us under the threatenings of law, and the fear of judgment?