Believers Complete In Christ
A Sermon by William Tiptaft (1803-1864).
“And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.”
(1st Corinthians 6:11)
My brethren, these words have been encouraging to the most profligate. If the blood-thirsty Manasseh, Mary Magdalene, and the persecuting Saul were made fit for heaven, who can tell where a work of grace may be wrought? The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth to the utmost all who are brought to know their real need of a Saviour, and knowing His cleansing blood, they will acknowledge that salvation is of grace. Paul says, “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God”; and he then says, “Such were some of you.” He does not say that they are now so. He speaks of a very particular religion: “But ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” In the first chapter he addresses them: “To them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints,” and the apostle says, “I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ,” and he also says, “God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of His Son Jesus Christ our Lord.”
My brethren, can ministers of Christ address you as “sanctified in Christ Jesus,” and “called to be saints”? Then you must have a very particular religion, that but few are blessed with. You stand on high ground, through grace, and have cause to be kept humble. Paul says, “For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?” (1st Corinthians 4:7). There is no room for boasting; grace makes all the difference.
How much is contained in those words, “Called to be saints”! Here we have set forth the effects of divine calling. Paul says to Timothy, “Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling” (2nd Timothy 1:9), as the effects and fruits would be manifest. A mere profession of religion, without feeling, will not allow a man to say how he is called to be a saint. We want to find the fear of God, real repentance, real faith and real prayer; and such who can say that they are “called to be saints,” will be much tried about all their evidences. True faith will be tried. Such paths of trouble, sorrow and distress work for good to the LORD’s people, and make them profitable hearers. If a man stands on high ground, unexercised, we doubt whether he is blessed with grace, which shall be tried. The LORD’s people are a tried and afflicted people, and through much tribulation they must go to glory. The one hundred and seventh Psalm describes their various afflictions and troubles, and their deliverances which caused gratitude. How they repeated again and again these striking words: “Oh that men would praise the LORD for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men!”
Real religion cannot be learnt in the heart, except God’s mighty power is put forth, which makes the difference between possessors and mere professors. They can know but little of real religion, if they are not willing to tell what God has done for their souls. What a great change had taken place with these ungodly Corinthians, and it was described in a particular way: “But ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.”
My brethren, if you can say that you are blessed with such a religion, can you say that ministers of Christ could say, with Paul, “I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ”? Ministers of truth are glad to see real signs of a divine calling, so that they may give you the right hand of fellowship, seeing the fruits of grace. Paul has set forth a similar warning in different parts of Scripture; but more particularly in the fifth chapter of Galatians, in the fifth chapter of Ephesians, and also in Colossians: “Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: for which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience” (Colossians 3:5-6).
We are all by nature dead in trespasses and sins. We cannot go to heaven without the good work begun. Paul says, “You hath He quickened.” No new birth, no real religion. What are we to think of ministers, and old professors among the dissenters who are not exercised what this work of grace on a sinner’s soul is! Those who ridicule the new birth and the work of the Spirit on a sinner’s soul seem to be in an awful state. Paul gives a dreadful account to Titus of the fallen state of man. He then says, “But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; that being justified by His grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:4-7). Now, my brethren, who profess to know what this washing is, Christ says, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). There is no real washing but in the fountain opened for uncleanness.
“Dear dying Lamb! Thy precious blood Shall never lose its power,
Till all the ransomed church of God Be saved, to sin no more.”
For all the elect people of God, Jesus Christ has shed His blood, and they are sure to be in heaven. John says, “Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood” (Revelation 1:5). All those who can really use such language should not envy the rich and great, if they are penniless, for they are far richer, having an enduring substance. Without shedding of blood there is no remission of sins (see Hebrews 9:22). David says, in the fifty-first Psalm, “Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.” “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.”
Not many want to be washed throughly from their iniquity, and to be cleansed from their sin. But these ungodly Corinthians were brought to know their vileness and guilt, or they would not have wanted to know how they were to be saved. They were real seekers, as all must be who come to Christ. Whether the most ungodly or Pharisees, they must know the plague of the heart. Whoever have been ignorant of that, have never prayed aright, or really believed. “The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, is from the LORD” (Proverbs 16:1). All who are favoured to know that they are washed, must have been sensible sinners, and have cried for mercy. When Jesus Christ is earnestly sought sorrowing, and is found, He is precious, and you can speak well of His holy name. The strongest language of praises suits your soul. What a very great mercy to have such divine enjoyments, and to value them above gold and silver! Christ is precious, we really love Him, and He shall have our praises.
“But sure no ransom will take place, Except the costly work of grace,
Which Jesus Christ has wrought. His precious blood and righteousness Is made our peace and glorious dress,
And free salvation brought.”
Paul thanked God always on their behalf for the grace of God which was given them in Christ Jesus. No work of grace, no real religion; all must perish who die destitute of grace. What a favoured people they are who have authority to say, “But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul” (Hebrews 10:39). A grain of saving faith is worth more than all the gold in the world. The apostle says, “But ye are washed,” drawing a distinction between the godly and ungodly. What a solemn declaration it is in Peter’s second Epistle: “The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished” (2nd Peter 2:9).
My brethren, how the apostle says, not only, “Ye are washed,” but also, “Ye are sanctified.” What a great doctrine is the doctrine of sanctification! How deep, mysterious and wonderful is that great work of God the Holy Ghost on sinners’ souls! You will stand in the great day if you have experienced that great change. “The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of His calling, and what the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of His mighty power” (Ephesians 1:18-19).
None can go to heaven without being sanctified. So that all the ministers and hearers who are not blessed with this good work begun must perish in their sins, and sink into endless torments; but alas! how few you can find that you can really hope have been blessed with such proofs of the LORD’s lovingkindness. How few in this dark county could you find that could give any proof of the divine calling. If you doubt the declaration, search for those who have experienced the change, so that you may address them, “But ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” When ministers preach the glorious gospel, they are highly favoured if the Spirit of truth will bear testimony, so that the ungodly may be brought to know the sanctifying power of the Holy Ghost; so that they may thank God for the grace of God given to them. All preaching must be in vain if God withhold His blessing.
My brethren, what a solemn subject this is about being sanctified! Ministers of truth in their right minds do not want to deceive people. Soul blood stains deep! How can you make out that you are so greatly blessed? Do you hope that for years you have had the fear of God? If you can make out that you are blessed with that rich treasure, what blessings belong to you, as well as to the real saints! But if you profess to have such a treasure, are you sufficiently grateful to God? The LORD’s people will be led to bless God for their mercies and blessings, temporal and spiritual.
“Mercies of providence and grace Flow from Thy bounteous hand;
These claim incessant songs of praise, And fervent love demand.”
You, my brethren, who are rightly taught by the Spirit of God, and have been blessed with a sound repentance, and have also been brought into the liberty of the gospel, knowing the forgiveness of your sins, can you say how you have blessed God for being interested in Christ’s prayer? John 17: “Sanctify them through Thy truth: Thy word is truth.”
“And He said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:15-16).
In Acts 13 we read, “And as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.” What solemn words are those respecting the man which had not on a wedding garment! “And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless. Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. For many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:12-14).
“The soul that fails, draws back and faints, And walks the ways of God no more, Proves that he never was a saint,
And makes his own destruction sure.”
Christ says, “I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which Thou hast given Me; for they are Thine. And all Mine are Thine, and Thine are Mine; and I am glorified in them.” (John 17:9-10) “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on Me through their word; that they all may be one; as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in Us: that the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me” (John 17:20-21). With what a blessed declaration the Lord Jesus concludes the chapter! May the LORD’s people realise more of the love of God through the preaching of the glorious gospel. “And I have declared unto them Thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith Thou hast loved Me may be in them, and I in them.” What fervent love the apostles had for Christ, and how they wished to preach that others might be brought to love Him! If a preacher has no charity as described in 1 Corinthians 13, he is in an awful state. No gifts can be compared with that best of blessings, love.
“We pray to have our faith increased, And O, celestial Dove!
We pray to be completely blessed With that rich blessing, love.”
What great love the Apostle Paul had when he says, “And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there: save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me. But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:22-24).
My brethren, can you say how deeply you are exercised whether you are sanctified? How those called among the Ephesians and Colossians gave proofs of their calling by having faith in Christ, and love to all the saints. Can you say that you have faith in Christ, and love to the saints? Can they talk to you, and can you talk to them about your trials, afflictions and sorrows, as well as the consolations of the gospel? God’s children are described in this manner in the Old Testament: “Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon His name. And they shall be Mine, saith the LORD of hosts, in that day when I make up My jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him” (Malachi 3:16-17).
“When saint to saint, in days of old, Their sorrows, sins, and sufferings told, Jesus, the Friend of sinners, dear,
His saints to bless was present there.”
My brethren, do you love the truth? and have you received it in the love of it? Can you say that you believe that the “gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance”? (1st Thessalonians 1:5). If you say you have had such blessed proofs of a work of grace, you will have the work tried: “Many are the afflictions of the righteous,” but the LORD will deliver them. God’s children must buy the truth, and must find very many difficulties and trials in the narrow way to heaven.
My brethren, the apostle also says to the Corinthians, “But ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” How certain it is that all will be in heaven that are justified, for their sins have been laid on Christ, and His righteousness is imputed to them. Paul says to the Romans, “Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification. Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” It is “in the name of the Lord Jesus” that we are washed, that we are sanctified, and that we are justified, and “by the Spirit of our God.” These are striking words: “By the Spirit of our God.” How little the Spirit’s work is preached in this dark day of profession, either in churches or chapels. There is very little searching preaching, separating the precious from the vile. What an alarming and searching chapter is the first of Galatians to God-fearing ministers! “For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ” (verse 10).
A century ago, England had two faithful preachers; their labours were great, their success in calling souls was great, and their sufferings and persecutions were great. When the gospel is preached faithfully, it will surely give offence, and the minister and his hearers will be hated and despised. Very many people love smooth things, and a minister is tried about being faithful. If a minister contend that there is something great in real religion, and that few comparatively are fit for the great change, he will give offence. If we are to be in heaven, we must be made fit for heaven, and that by the Spirit’s teachings, so that we may know the washing, sanctifying and justifying “in the name of the Lord Jesus.”
You that wish me to encourage you as being in the narrow way to heaven, can you say, “Now He which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God; who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts”? (2nd Corinthians 1:21-22). Those who have such an experience are contending for the realities of religion. Can you say that you have that experience, as to be considered washed, sanctified and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God? You did not come to know such a religion without repentance; you have had a broken heart, and a contrite spirit, so that you begged for mercy from necessity. You have had the Word of God come with power, so that you wanted to know how a sinner was to be saved, and that sinner was yourself. You have had the divine calling, bringing you among the saints, and in time you could find what blessings belonged to such; but you felt yourselves unworthy of the name.
The Apostle Paul exhorts them to be prayed for in the last chapter of the Ephesians: “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.” Christ “gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-12). There are many and great blessings for the real saints, and for those who fear God.
My brethren, do you profess to have such a blessed experience of the sanctifying power of the Holy Ghost, so that you are comforted with many portions of Scripture? The LORD “will keep the feet of His saints” (1st Samuel 2:9). “O love the LORD, all ye His saints: for the LORD preserveth the faithful, and plentifully rewardeth the proud doer” (Psalm 31:23). “O fear the LORD, ye His saints: for there is no want to them that fear Him” (Psalm 34:9). “For the LORD loveth judgment, and forsaketh not His saints; they are preserved for ever” (Psalm 37:28); and, “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints” (Psalm 116:15). What blessings, mercies and favours belong to such characters as those who fear God, and are real saints! What debtors all such are to the grace of God for saving them, and also for restraining them!
If we hold with the communion of saints and the forgiveness of sins, we contend for real religion. How few you can meet with who know the pardoning love of God shed abroad in their hearts, or any sweet enjoyment in the communion of saints. When the five cities were destroyed, there was but one God-fearing man. If God-fearing people were searched for now, they would be scarce; many might presume, who were destitute of such a blessing; and many might fear and tremble, and yet stand. It is a narrow way to heaven, and but few are in it. How few you can find that are really concerned about their souls; if there be no blossoms, there will be no fruit. “And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?” (1st Peter 4:18).
Nearly all the LORD’s people are to be found among the poor and needy: “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called” (1st Corinthians 1:26). Let six well-taught men go to Cambridge, and search for those who know a work of grace on their souls; they would not find many among the respectable, noble, great and learned. How very many are satisfied with their portion here! Many children of God may envy them, like Asaph: “Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end. Surely Thou didst set them in slippery places: Thou castedst them down into destruction” (Psalm 73:17-18). What a very great mercy to be among the outcast, despised and persecuted in the narrow way to heaven, rather than to be at ease in Zion! “I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead” (Revelation 3:1).
The LORD’s people are poor and needy, have many wants and many troubles, much to pray about, and various cases for ministers of truth to describe: they find that they have the world, the flesh and the devil to contend with, which makes them to know what difficulties must attend their path. Their afflictions and troubles wean them more and more from this vain world, and if God would but shine on their souls, that they might have a fresh proof of their interest in the covenant of grace, they would be willing to die. What a very great mercy for those who have a religion to make them fit for the great change! They may say,
“A few more days, or months, or years, In this dark desert to complain;
A few more sighs, a few more tears, And we shall bid adieu to pain.”
How very awful is the difference between those who die in Christ, and those who die out of Christ! How precious is that real faith in Christ; a grain of it is worth more than the world! My brethren, if you profess to be favoured with such a religion, that you shall die in Christ, what blessed proofs have you had of your love to Christ, and Christ’s love to you? Did you ever ask Christ this favour: “Set me as a seal upon Thine heart, as a seal upon Thine arm: for love is strong as death”? (Song of Solomon 8:6).
My brethren, those blessed with real faith in Christ and real love to the brethren have cause for much gratitude and praise. Afflictions and troubles you will surely meet with. You may ask,
“Is this, dear Lord, that thorny road Which leads us to the mount of God? Are these the toils Thy people know, While in this wilderness below?
“’Tis even so; Thy faithful love
Does all Thy children’s graces prove; ’Tis thus our pride and self must fall That Jesus may be All in all.”
Trials and afflictions have been blessed to my soul; it is in the furnaces and fires we learn our profitable lessons. God scourgeth every son whom He receiveth:
“Then help me by Thy grace to bear Whate’er Thou send to purge my dross; If in His crown I hope to share,
Why should I grudge to bear His cross?”
All present are in the broad way or in the narrow way. This must be a solemn declaration for those who are exercised about their souls, and want a better experience before they die. Those who are not exercised about their souls are certainly in the broad road. What grace may do for your souls before you die, it is not for me to say. Those of you who hope that God has blessed you with a religion of the right sort, may you be more grateful, and may your last days be your best. May you love Christ more and more; may you live more with a singleness of eye to His glory. If we are fit for the great change, we are greatly favoured. What debtors we are to grace! and what a Friend we have in the precious Saviour! All real lovers of Him shall surely be in glory.
“O that my soul could love and praise Him more, His beauties trace, His majesty adore;
Live near His heart, upon His bosom lean; Obey His voice, and all His will esteem.”
“Not unto us, O LORD, not unto us, but unto Thy name give glory, for Thy mercy, and for Thy truth’s sake” (Psalm 115:1).