By Elmer Ellsworth Shelhamer
Text: "He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested that he might destroy the works of the devil." 1 John 3:8.
Jesus Christ made a blessed success of everything he undertook. And what did he undertake? When he left his Father's home in bright glory and came to this earth and took upon himself the nature of man, he became like unto us. He came with this object -- that he might make null and void the works of the devil. He came that he might fix us up in such a shape that he could present us to the Father in as good a condition as when we originally came from his loving hand.
Now, if he cannot do this, then the work of the Atonement is a failure. I want to notice tonight, if God will help me, the scope of Redemption. We desire to glance at it as far as our finite minds can comprehend. Atonement means, "at-one-ment" with the Father again. Holiness means, wholeness, or completeness. Righteousness, means rightness, or right relationship.
Shall we go back into the misty aeons of the past? Way back into the cabinet of God before he stood with his back against nothing and spake this world into existence? Way back when the Triune God contemplated the making of a world -- yes, a system of worlds and, in connection with that contemplation, considered the creation of man?
I read in the first chapter of Genesis something like this: "God said, let us make man in our image." Jesus Christ was with the Father from all eternity. Some people do not understand the doctrine of the Trinity. It is simple: you are a triune being -- spirit, soul and body. This light in the room is a trinity -- the body of the light, the heat of the light and the illumination of the light.
There is no doubt that long. before God contemplated the creation of man, in his omniscience he foreknew all things; he understood and could look down the annals of time and knew exactly how this wonderful being (man) would turn out. There is a vast difference, however, between God's foreknowing a thing and his willing, or planning it to be so. We become confused when speaking of the foreknowledge of God. Strictly speaking, with God there is no foreknowledge. With him, everything is present, for he lives from all eternity to all eternity.
When the idea of the creation of man was conceived, God desired him to be perfectly happy, but knew that in order to be so, man would have to have the power of volition -- the right of choice. He also knew that this power would presuppose the possibility to sin. Hence, we can imagine Him saying:
"Suppose after the creation of man, he misuses the power we give him and chooses in the wrong direction? What shall we do about it?"
At that period there was silence in heaven for half an hour. Presently, with a meekness of expression unsurpassed by any, with a compassion and magnanimity never expressed by another, as a lamb offering himself for the slaughter, Jesus Christ stepped forward and in that secret council chamber I hear him say,
"Let us make man in our image and should he disobey and disappoint us, I will become sponsor for him, I will buy him back, I will redeem him."
So Jesus Christ was in the mind of Trinity a Redeemer long before man was created.
Satan did not as a fallen angel, slip up on God Almighty and work a trick upon him that God had not formerly considered possible. God did not create man and then allow the devil to upset and mar his original plan. God was not like a botch carpenter who spoils a good piece of material then asks, "What can I do with it so it will not be entirely wasted?"
God did not create man for a toy for Satan. He was not put to his wits end to know how to remedy matters. He took this into consideration before man was created. We read, Jesus Christ was a "Lamb slain from the foundation of the world."
At the appointed time he was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried. The third day he rose from the dead, ascended into heaven and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
When your pastor announced the speaker's coming, some of you may have wondered, "How does he look?" Or, "What kind of a voice has he?" Later on, the time came when I walked upon this platform and became manifest to you.
So it was that the antediluvian and the patriarchial world looked forward to the coming of the Messiah and expressed their faith in him by willing sacrifices of the best of their flocks and herds. But the time finally arrived when the Savior became manifest -- came into the world, and I hear him say:
"Father, I have come to fulfill thy will. I have come to pay the pledge I made with thee before the creation. I have come to fulfill that covenant and redeem man." Or, as David wrote, "Lo I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me. I delight to do thy will, O my God." Ps. 40:7,
Shall we now consider what Christ's coming implied? It implied three things:
I. He came to break the power of Sin over man.
II. He came to eliminate the sin principle from man.
III. He came to heal the body as well as the soul.
I. He came to break the power of sin over man. When I speak of sin in its abstract form, the unsaved are apt to ask, "what is meant by sin?" Well, I will take your definition, sinner friend, instead of our own. What do you mean by sin?
One man says: "I know what has affected my life and made me unhappy." What is it?
"O I would give a great deal if I would never get angry again! I am a slave to my temper and often fly into a rage and swear. Do you mean to say that if I look to Jesus Christ, the propitiation for my sins, that I will never get angry again?"
That is exactly what I am preaching. Jesus Christ was manifested to break the power of all sin (and that includes anger) so that you will have victory over your anger and never give way to it again.
A woman says: "That is nor the sin that troubles me. The thing that has affected my life is holding a grudge-a bitter feeling against people who have injured me. Do you mean to say that I can love those who have talked about me? that I will feel kindly toward my enemies?"
That's exactly what I mean. Jesus Christ can break the power of hate over you so that when you hear the names of those who have injured you, instead of feeling bitter toward them, you will feel like saying, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do."
Another says: "That is not my trouble! Do you mean to say that if I will seek Jesus Christ tonight, he will break the power of drink and other bad habits, so that I will never crave liquor, morphine, or tobacco again?"
That is exactly what I mean. He is a mighty Savior. He is a mighty Redeemer. He made a blessed success of everything he undertook. He is not a brass Jesus on a string of beads around your neck. He is a resurrected Lord. He is a creator of a world and a system of worlds. Surely He can handle your case.
Another person speaks up and says: "My trouble is that I am crazy over novels, story papers and dances. I just can't let them alone! Do you mean to say that Jesus Christ, with one stroke, will break off the shackles of sin so that I will never care to go to a movie, or a dance again? and never have the least inclination to read story papers?"
Exactly! He will let you go free. You will not need to strain yourself up and say, "Now, I must be good! I have professed religion, but at the same time there is something in me that wants to go to these places. Never mind! When I go to another city where I am not known, I am going to give myself a treat."
No, my friend! Jesus Christ can free you so that if you were on the other side of the globe where nobody knew you and if you had an opportunity to look at an ungodly picture and feast your eyes and your mind upon trash, you will not have the least disposition to do so.
II. He came not only to break the power of sin over us but he came to eliminate the nature of sin out of us. It means more to take out the root than to cut down the tree. In regeneration Jesus Christ cuts the tree down. In entire sanctification he takes the root out. God planned not only to suppress carnality, but he planned its elimination and eradication. It is a greater work on the part of God to take sin out of one soul, root and branch than to save a dozen souls.
Jesus Christ will never rest satisfied with you and you ought not to be satisfied with yourself, until he can look at you and feel that everything has been eliminated from your nature contrary, to his nature.
Jesus Christ will never rest until he sees the travail of his soul and is satisfied -- that every plant in you that the Heavenly Father hath not planted shall be rooted up.
All you need to do is furnish the yes and he will furnish the grace. All you need to do is to furnish the willingness and he will furnish the ability.
If we had to deliver ourselves from the carnal mind, it would be a job beyond finite ability, but since the work is of the Holy Ghost, if we are as clay in the hands of the potter, He will make us into vessels that angels and archangels will delight to look upon.
I remember when a boy working on a farm near Pittsburgh, Pa., more than forty years ago, there was a spot on the old hill field about two rods north of a slippery elm tree where I broke tugs and single-trees. As I was plowing, I hit the root of an old chestnut stump. These stumps last many years without decomposing. Of course I could not see it but could quickly feel it. The moment I hit it something broke and the plow handles hit me in the ribs and knocked me down the hill; then I became angry and did not act nice.
That was over forty years ago, but if I should plow there tomorrow, when I drew near that slight elevation, I would say, "Whoa -- steady now! S-t-e-a-d-y!!"
Why? Because there is an old root there. It is well to know the location of the roots, but better to have them removed.
It is well to realize there is a carnal snag somewhere and slow up, but better to have it taken out. That is what Jesus Christ came to do -- not only cut down the tree of sin, but remove the root.
Another time we cleared some timber-land. Finally we came to a sweet gum, when my father said, "I don't know what to do with this gum tree. It is so knotty and gnarly; it is too green to use for fire wood; we can't make lumber of it, because the boards would warp in every direction. The only thing it is good for is mall-heads and we don't need a hundred of them. If we cut it down we can't burn it; we would have to drag it off and dump it in a gully. I think we will girdle it."
This meant that down one-half foot from the ground, he cut around the tree with an axe, about eighteen inches higher, another girdle was cut. He then took the bark out between the rings. "Now it will die," he said.
But that Spring the leaves were almost as green as before and shaded the corn for three or four rods in every direction. The next Spring when we wanted to plant, father said, "We shall have to cut it down after all. There is enough life (carnality) left in the branches of the tree to make leaves anyway." So we cut it down and dragged it off.
Now what happened? There was so much sap (carnality) in the roots that all around the stump, came up little gum sprouts five or six feet tall. Away out for a rod or so in every direction the young gum trees were coming up.
So one day father said, "I am getting tired of fooling with this old tree. We will jerk it out by the roots!" We got the stump puller with a big log chain which we fastened to the main root of the old stump. My business was to drive the horses. The old chain tightened and the horses stopped. Father said, "Keep them going, Elzie, she's a coming!" You could hear the old roots cracking and finally out came the ugly thing like a big black spider, mud and dirt. It left an awful hole, but was soon filled up and we had an easy time raising big crops right where that old stump' once stood.
That is what Jesus Christ intends to do. "For this purpose He was manifested." Not only to cut the tree of sin down, but to take out the root.
Again, I was taught to work in a blacksmith shop. I thought to myself when I was seeking religion, "What will I do? If I go back into the blacksmith shop tomorrow and try to make a successful weld, or, if something goes wrong, the first thing I know I will swear. If somebody takes my tongs or my hammer about the time I want to use them I will rave. If I am putting a shoe on a horse and the horse acts contrary, or goes to sleep on my long back and switches me in the face, I will kick him across the shop with one foot and back with the other and yell, 'Stand still!' "
While seeking salvation these thoughts came, "If I lose my religion I will have to come back to the altar and go through this same process again." After three days seeking God's smile I was wonderfully converted. The tree of sin was cut down in my life. For three months I was singing and shouting, day and night, and you couldn't have preached to me a second work of grace. I believe souls ought to get so soundly converted that they do not feel the need of Holiness for several months. They feel that the bottom of heaven has dropped out into their souls -- that they are saved, sanctified, and almost glorified.
But, I also remember one sultry day when I was shoeing a big lazy horse, and the sweat was pouring off. I was working hard to get in at least five nails before I let his foot down so the shoe would not get out of place. He fell asleep on my back and I said, "Stand up here!" I was not the least provoked. I had to speak positively to make the horse mind. In a moment he was bearing down again and I was hammering nails for all that was in it. He did this several times, when he was annoyed by a fly, and switching this way and that, finally hit me in the eyes. The sensation was as though a handful of red pepper had been thrown into my face.
"O, but that hurts!" I grabbed his bit and said, "You need an old fashioned kicking," and was about to give it to him when suddenly the blessed Holy Ghost arrested me and said, "That's the way you used to do." Then I dropped the bit and can see myself now going over into the corner and crawling behind an old barrel, where I knelt in prayer. "O, Jesus, help me! I almost gave that horse an awful kicking!" A volcano of anger boiled up inside so that I felt like eating that horse without salt. "What is this thing in me? I thought I was saved. Like lightning that thing boiled up. Jesus have mercy!" After prayer he gave me the sweet kiss of reconciliation, but told me that I ought to get rid of that awful thing. Now, I was ready to listen to the preaching of holiness as a second work of grace. I was ready to read anything on the subject.
Finally, the Holy Ghost -- the great stump puller -- fastened onto the sin of my heart and extricated carnality. Since then I have not been troubled with the roots of bitterness. Jesus came, not only to cut the tree down, but to take the root out; not only to break the power of sin and to eliminate the nature of sin, but,
III. To harmonize our humanity with his divinity. He is a complete Savior. He will never let up on us until he has wrought a complete work. Not only deliverance from sin and carnality, but deliverance from disease. Let us not belittle, but magnify the power of Christ. If you have not as yet experienced His healing power, you must at least say that the provision is made for soul and body. I fear we who profess to be orthodox, do not get all out of the atonement, simply because some people magnify healing out of proportion with entire sanctification. That does not say that we should go to the other extreme and minify this precious truth. Of course healing is in the atonement with every other blessing and should be given its proper place. It was invariably the custom of our Lord, upon entering a new community not only to preach, but heal the sick. If many ministers were not too wise and dignified, above what is written, they might have larger crowds and more success, if they did likewise. Jesus was our Great Example and we are always safe in following him.
Jesus! the name that charms our fears,
And bids our sorrows cease;
'Tis music in the sinners' ears,
'Tis life, and health and peace.
He breaks the power of canceled sin,
He sets the prisoner free,
His blood can make the foulest clean;
His blood availed for me.
He speaks and listening to his voice,
New life the dead receive;
The mournful, broken hearts rejoice;
The humble poor believe.
Hear him, ye deaf his praise, ye dumb,
Your loosened tongues employ;
Ye blind, behold your Savior come;
And leap, ye lame, for joy.
-- Charles Wesley