By Henry Mahan
I do not know how much importance can be attached to this nor whether it is of any importance at all, but the word of the Lord came to Jonah saying, 'Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it' (Jonah 1:2). Then after he fled from the presence of the Lord, sailed to Tarshish, was swallowed by the fish, and uttered these immortal words, 'Salvation is of the Lord,' Jonah was told by the Lord, 'Arise, go to Nineveh and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee' (Jonah 3:1-2). Crying against a city because of their wickedness does not require much knowledge, understanding, nor compassion. But preaching the Lord's message of grace and salvation involves an understanding by experience and faith in that gospel and the glory of God. This Jonah received in the darkness and hopelessness of the fish's belly.
Moses declared unto the children of Israel, as they stood before the Red Sea with the thundering hosts of Egyptians descending upon them, 'Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord' (Exo. 14:13). David wrote more than once in the Psalms, 'Salvation belongeth to the Lord' (Psalm 3:8; 37:39; 62:1).
Jahaziel told Israel, 'The battle is not yours, but God's. Stand ye still and see the salvation of the Lord' (2 Chron. 20:17). Simeon prayed to die for 'Mine eyes have seen thy salvation' (Luke 2- 30). A man can only preach what he has experienced, and Jonah learned that 'Salvation is of the Lord.'
1. What do we mean by these words, 'salvation is of the Lord'?
Someone wrote years ago, 'The royal bath of mercy, wherein black souls are washed white as the snow, was filled from the veins of our Lord Jesus Christ. No blood of martyrs mingled with that stream. No blood of noble confessors and heroes of the cross entered into that river of atonement. The atonement is the unaided work of the Lord of glory.' The banquet of mercy is served by one host, the Lord Jesus Christ, who prepared the feast, invited the guests, made them willing to come, and gave to them their robes of spotless righteousness. A preacher of the last century declared, 'My gospel is simply this: the whole of the work whereby a guilty, fallen son of Adam is lifted from the dunghill, washed, justified, and translated into the kingdom of God and made like his beloved Son is of the Lord from the beginning to its glorious consummation' (Eph. 2:8-10).
2. Salvation is of the Lord in its origination
Our Lord planned and purposed the redemption of his people from the beginning (Eph. 1:3,4; 2 Thess. 2:13). Our Lord Jesus was 'the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world' (Rev. 13:8). Salvation is too splendid and too wise to have been the product of any mind except that mind which could accomplish it.
Suppose that God had called a council of angels and declared, 'Man that I shall create will rebel against me. I shall punish all sin; my justice and my law demand that I should do so. But I intend to show mercy, for God is love! Tell me, how can my law be honored and the demands of my justice be fulfilled that mercy may reign? Where shall mercy and truth meet together? righteousness and peace kiss each other? (Psalm 85:10). How can God be just and the justifier of sinners who believe?' Those angels would still be sitting there in silence. Only God can plan and accomplish salvation (Isa. 46:9- 11).
3. Salvation is of the Lord in its execution
The Father made the beloved and only begotten Son our surety, our representative, and the federal head of an elect people, chosen in him and given to him to redeem and bring to glory (John 6:37-45; 10:14-16; 10:24-31). In Adam we died; in Christ we live (Rom. 5:12; 1 Cor. 15:22). In Adam we were made sinners; in Christ we are made righteous (Rom.5:19). In Adam we were separated from God; in Christ we are brought to God (1 Pet. 3:18).
The Father is the first cause of all that took place in the work of our Redeemer. 'He (the Father) hath made him (the Son) to be sin for us (the sinner), who knew no sin (Christ was perfect) that we might be made the righteousness of God in Christ' (2 Cor. 5:21). 'It pleased the Lord to bruise him (Isa. 53:10). Even those who planned his death, betrayed him, tried him, scourged him, nailed him to the cross, and put him in the tomb did what God determined before to be done (Acts 2:22-23; 4:27-28).
Christ died not as a reformer, nor an example, nor to gain the pity of men. He died as the substitute, sin offering, and sacrifice for his people. As the blood atonement on the mercy-seat of old was offered 'before the Lord,' Christ Jesus, by one offering before the Lord, perfected forever them that are sanctified (Heb. 10: 9-17). The Father ordained and pictured for us in the Old Testament all that our Lord would do for our redemption, and he died 'according to the scriptures' (1 Cor. 15:1-3).
4. Salvation is of the Lord in its application
'No,' says the free-willer; 'God has done all that he can do. He has given his Son; he has provided salvation; now it is up to us to want it, seek it, and accept it.' Can the dead sinner give himself life? Can the lost sheep find itself? Can the unregenerate begat themselves? 'Can the Ethiopian change his skin?' (Jer. 13:23).
No, my friends! his people are made willing in the day of his power. 'Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth' (James 1:18). We receive Christ and believe on his name because we are 'born of God' (John 1:12-13). Paul summed up his call in these words found in Gal. 1:15, 'But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace, to reveal his Son in me.'