28 February 1957, at Kaohsiung, Taiwan.
I expect that you remember that on one occasion when our Lord Jesus was here on the earth, He was standing by the sea shore and the multitude pressed so much upon Him that He got into a boat and pushed out a little way from the shore and began to teach the multitude. And when He had finished speaking, He said to the owner of the boat, "Launch out into the deep and let down your nets." Peter, who was the owner of the boat, said "Lord, we have toiled all night and have caught nothing, but at Thy word, I will let down the net." And then they were not able to bring the net in because of the multitude of fish.
Now, I am not going to talk to you about that this afternoon, but I just want to say that we are going to do some fishing in deep waters and I hope that we shall bring something back. Our deep waters are in the eighth chapter of the letter to the Romans. We read from verse 28:
"And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
I am sure that you will all agree
that those are very deep waters and that there is a great
multitude of fish in those waters! I am only hoping that we
shall be able to bring some of them out this afternoon.
We are going to take verse 31, "What then shall we say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?" The disciple is saying some very great things. That is what he means by "these things". "What shall we say to these things?" and we are just going to look at "these things". They are all gathered up into this question: "If God be for us, who shall be against us?"
I am going to ask one question and try to answer it. How is God for us? You see what the apostle has been saying; explaining how God is for us.
God chose you in Christ before the world was.
First of all, he takes us right back before the creation of the world, before ever you and I had a being here in this world, and he tells us that God was for us then. He teaches us that God knew us before ever this world was. God knew us before we had a being in this world and because He knew us, He chose us. In the beginning of his letter to the Ephesians the Apostle Paul said, "We were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world." Well, these waters are so deep that we really cannot understand them, but there is one way of explaining that.
You see, God does not live in time. There is no such thing as "time" with God, there is no past, and present, and future with God, God lives outside of time and all time is present time with God. That may be a difficult thing for you to understand, but it is not so very difficult. I wonder if ever you have had an anaesthetic? I remember some years ago, I had to have a little operation and they gave me what they called "gas" and I went right away, I went on a tremendous journey. In my unconsciousness I went a long, long way. I knew the country I went to and in this car I took this long journey, seeing everything for mile after mile, and to have actually done that, would have taken me hours. But suddenly I woke up and I said, "How long have I been asleep?" "Oh, about fifteen seconds!" All that had taken place in fifteen seconds – a thing that would have taken me hours if it had actually happened to me. Well, I had got right outside of time, it had ceased to be a governing factor in my life so that many hours were all crowded into just fifteen seconds.
That is only a poor illustration, but what a tremendous lot can happen when you get outside of time! Five, six, seven thousand years in the future are present to Him and we who live in time cannot understand that very well. But before ever this world was created, God knew that we would be here, and He knew exactly how He would act. He knew that the Gospel would be preached to us, and He knew what we would do about it, and because He knew what we would do, He arranges things accordingly. That is what the Apostle is saying here. God was for us before ever we had a being. God was for us before this world was. It is a very great thing to realize that we were in the mind of God before we ever came into this world and God decided everything before we came and we have come into something that God had already prepared.
The Word of God speaks about works that were afore prepared that we should walk in them. It is a tremendous thing to realise that God from eternity has been for us. That is what the Apostle said in the first place. But then we know what has happened in the course of history. We know what Adam did, and we know how Adam involved us in his sin, and how Adam gave away all that great purpose of God. You notice how the Apostle is speaking here about His purpose: "Those who are the called according to His purpose." God had a great purpose in His mind in creating man and He made man for that great purpose. Now, Adam gave that purpose away and he involved all the race in that condition, and that means our having lost the purpose of God.
Well, we know the terrible story of man's sin and man's spiritual loss. It is the dark and tragic background of this world's history, but that only brings us to the second way in which God is for us.
2. God came into this world Himself to find you.
God intervened in the history of this world and God broke right into this world. He came here in the person of His Son to seek and to save that which had been lost. God came right in here into this world to recover man for His purpose. The coming of God's Son was God intervening in the history of this world to show that He is still for us.
There is this one thing that must impress us. We so often speak about man seeking God. There is a great deal of talk about man in search of God; but what we should realize is that God has always been in search of man. It is God who has taken the initiative in this matter of seeking, and God as the great Seeker has come into this world in the person of His Son. It was God's Son who said, "The Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost." The real movement begins from God's side and that is of course the most blessed thing.
We here this afternoon would not be the Lord's people if it had just been that we were seeking the Lord. We belong to the Lord because He first sought us. Any movement of our hearts toward Him was the result of His movement toward us. He said, "Ye did not choose me but I chose you." John said, "We love Him because He first loved us." And God therefore is for us by coming into this world to find us.
3. God has worked out redemption for you.
But then the third thing God showed is that He is for us not only by seeking us, but by redeeming us. That word "redemption" brings a picture before our eyes. It is the picture of the slave market. All the slaves in the market have been sold into bondage and there comes along somebody who pays the price for their liberty. That is the meaning of the word "redemption". It just means to buy back again. The Word of God says that we were sold under sin, we were bondsmen to sin, we were the slaves of sin, and Jesus came to redeem us from all iniquity, to redeem us back to God.
In the book of the Revelation, we have the great picture of a mighty multitude of those who have been saved and they are all singing the song of redemption. And this is what they sing, "Unto Him that loves us and loosed us from our sins by His own blood". They are speaking about redemption unto God. They were bought back for God by the blood of Jesus. God is for us by that great work of redemption. It is what Paul calls justification, but we are not going to stay with the full meaning of all these things. We have mentioned three ways in which God is for us. Now we come to number four.
4. God has called you.
"Whom He justified, He also called." I like the way in which it is put. The work of redemption was done for us and then we were called to enjoy it. "He called us..." God has shown that He is for us by calling us.
Do you want to know that God was for you before the foundation of the world? Do you want to know why God came into this world in the person of His Son? Do you want to know why the great work of redemption was done? Do you want to know that all those three things relate to you personally? Do you want to be able to say, "God chose me in Christ before the world was. God came into this world Himself to find me. God in the person of His Son has worked out redemption for me." How can we know that all that is true? The answer is here in number four: "He has called us."
If you and I have heard the call, if we have felt the power of His call, if we have responded to His call, then there is all that other behind the call. That very call carries with it all that we have just said. The call includes this tremendous thing; that God is for us.
I suppose most of you here this afternoon would have said, "I heard the call". You might put it in this way, but what it amounts to is that God calls you into the fellowship of His Son and the call carries with it the tremendous truth that God is for us. Our very salvation shows that God is for us. Now we take the next step. Number five.
5. God provides for you.
How is God for us? Having called us by His grace, He has made every provision for us to come to the realization of His eternal purpose. The Apostle said, "My God shall supply everything that you need according to His riches in glory by Jesus Christ." In his letter to the Colossians, he speaks about all the Divine fullness being in Christ and then he said, "You are made full in Him." In the letter to the Ephesians, he puts it this way, "He has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in Christ Jesus."
Let us retrace our steps. God had a great purpose in His heart. He made man for that purpose, but man lost the purpose, then God came in to recover man for that purpose. God brought man back again. He redeemed him for His purpose and then God called man to let him know what He had done for them. And then God made every provision for man to realise the Divine purpose. We can have everything that is necessary to bring us to the realisation of God's eternal purpose. So God is for us by providing for us.
Now number six.
6. God gives you the power and energy.
God is for us by putting the power within us to go right on to His purpose. Some of you will recognize that I am only using Scriptures in my own words. The Apostle Paul spoke about the power that works in us and the exceeding greatness of His power which is toward us who believe. It is God who works in us, and yet again working in us that which is well pleasing in His sight. We are not left to do these works. There is the working of Divine energy in us. If we depart from the way of the Lord, that energy departs from us.
If things become so difficult and we feel we cannot go on, that energy urges us on. I am quite sure that some of you here know something about that. How many times have you been tempted to give up; how many times have you felt that you could not go on any longer? It may be that you have come to a time when you said, "I cannot go any further..." but you have gone on. You have not gone on because you have such a strong will, it was not because you determined to go on. You have gone on because you have a greater strength than your own strength working in you.
Many of us have had experiences when we have gone down very low, but again and again the Lord has brought us up and sent us on. I think it was when I was here last time that I illustrated this. Someone used to say that a Christian is a piece of cork in the water. If you push the piece of cork under it always comes up again a little further on. It is getting further on and further on every time you push it down. It is a very simple illustration, but it is true in a Christian's life. Sometimes we seem to be pushed under, but we come up again and this time we are further on in our Christian life.
You remember what the Psalmist described, "Rejoice not against me, my enemy; for though I fall, yet shall I rise." The Christian always comes up again. If any of you are under this afternoon, you are going to come up again because God is for you and God provides that He is for you by bringing you up every time. The perseverance of the Christian is the Divine miracle of the Christian life.
And then we come to number seven.
7. God always finishes what He begins.
"He that began a good work in you shall perfect it unto the day of Jesus Christ." That is how we know that God is for us. If God begins something, He never gives it up. That is what the Bible shows from beginning to end. God begins, then things go wrong, but God comes in again, and then they go wrong again, and then God comes in again. It is like that all through the Bible. He always finishes what He begins. The end of the Bible is God's great victory.
So we come to these wonderful words, let us read them again, read them in the light of what we have just said. Read them in the light of verse 31, "What shall we say then to these things? If God is for us, who is against?" Then we have this: "Who shall separate us from the love of God? Shall tribulation or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Nay, in all these things, we are more than conquerors through Him who loves us." You see what that said. Love is stronger than tribulation. The Love of God is stronger than persecution. The Love of God is stronger than anguish. The Love of God is stronger than famine. It is stronger than nakedness; it is stronger than peril; it is stronger than the sword... put that all together and this Love is stronger than all these things. That is how God is for us.
From eternity to eternity, through all times, through all troubles, through all sufferings, God is for us. What shall we say then to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? Now I only ask you to go right back and read this chapter again. It is the great chapter of how God is for us. May we be strengthened by these words and I hope that you are going home with some fish in your basket.