...

In the Scripture grace and the command or ex­hortation are always connected, and the former, grace, presented as the cause, reason and fountain of obedi­ence to the command in faith and repentance and holy living.

This point is well illustrated by the Scriptures at Phil. 2:5-12. “Let this mind be in you, which was al­so in Christ Jesus: Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, He hum­bled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath high­ly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth, And that every tongue should confess that Jesus is the Lord, to the glory of the Father.”

“Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obey­ed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God that worketh in you both to will and to do.”

Let us take notice of the command or exhorta­tion contained in this Scripture passage directed, as it is, to the believers. It is this:

“Work out your own salvation.”

Second, let us take notice of how this command or exhortation does not stand alone, but that, on the contrary, it is logically related to what in the above cited passage precedes and follows it and this by the two Words “wherefore” and “for”, so that the reason­ing of the apostle here is verily this:

Work out your own salvation with fear and trem­bling (the command) for, or, because:

a)  Christ, having taken upon Himself the form of a servant, and having been made in the likeness of men humbled Himself and became obedient even unto death, even the death of the cross, and God therefore should bow.

b)  God worketh in you both to will and to do. highly exalted Him that at His name every knee

In other words, what the apostle says to the elect, historically the believers, and certainly to them alone is this, Brethren, my fellow believers in Christ, just because Christ atoned your sins on the cross and in reward of His obedience was highly exalted by His Father, and accordingly has both the power, privilege and ability, as Lord of lords and King of kings and as head over all things in the church to gather His church, and just because God, through Christ’s Spirit has imparted unto you the fruits of His atonement, working in you both to will and to do, therefore my brethren, beloved in the Lord, work out your own sal­vation with fear and trembling.

In other words, believe in God through Christ, cru­cify your members which are upon the earth and put on Christ, because it is God who, by imparting unto you the life of Christ and working in you both to will and to do, makes you to believe in God through Christ. Desire and will to walk in every good work and do walk in them actually, because it is God who maketh you so to desire, will and do. He worketh in you both to will and to do.

Take notice then, how that in this discourse of the apostle the work of God whereby He worketh in His people both to will and to do, and His command to His people: work your own salvation, and their obedience to it, are linked together not only, but set forth in the relation of cause and effect or fruit. The total of good works of the believer—their willing and doing the will of God, their faith and repentance, their laying aside sin and putting on Christ and their walking worthy of the vocation wherewith they are called with humbleness and meekness and with long- suffering bearing one another—are God’s works in them, one and all. For of them all He is the creator. And as a result, and in obedience to His command that they work out their salvation—a command spo­ken in their hearts by Him, they work, walking in all the good works prepared for them by Christ’s atone­ment and worked in them by Christ’s Spirit.

To separate in the preaching the exhortations of the Scriptures from the Gospel, the obedience of the believers in repentance, faith, conversion and their holy conversation from the Gospel that God works in them both to will and to do, to fail always to set forth in the preaching how things here are related, or even to lay onesided emphasis on the exhortations of the Scriptures and the obligations under which they bring men, and definitely the believers, is not to preach the Scriptures. It is not to preach as Paul preached, nor as any of the other of the apostles and prophets of the Scriptures preached. In all the Scriptures, gospel and the command or exhortation, the work of God whereby He works in His people both to will and to do, and the fruit of this work of God in them are al­ways linked together. In combination, the one with the other, they constitute the gospel of Christ to the believers.

Let us adduce a few other examples to show how true this is.

Said the Lord to Abraham: “I am thy God.” This is Gospel. And the command: “Walk before My face and be upright.” And the meaning? Not, certainly, ‘I will be thy God on the condition that thou walk be­fore My face and be upright.’ Did God speak one language to Abraham and another language to New Testament believers by the mouth of Paul? Certain­ly not. The meaning, then, is this: Abraham, just be­cause I am thy God, the God of thy salvation in Christ Jesus, walk thou before My face and be upright. It was but another way of saying: Work out thy sal­vation with fear and trembling, because it is God that worketh in thee both to will and to do.

Let us now take notice of the law as promulgated from Mount Sinai.

It was a terrible sight that the people were made to behold. We read, “And it came to pass on the third day in the morning, that there were thunderings and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud, so that the people that was in the camp trembled. And Moses brought forth the people out of the camp to meet God; and they stood at the neither part of the mount. And mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the Lord descended on it in fire; and the smoke thereof descended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly. And when the voice of the trumpet sounded long and waxed louder and louder, Moses spake and God answered him by a voice.” (Ex. 19:16-19) “And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceed­ingly fear and quake.” (Heb. 12:21)

What we here behold on Mount Sinai is the face of God—the angel of the Lord, Christ Jesus (the pil­lar of cloud)—now assuming a most terrible aspect:— a black cloud, streaked by lightnings, followed by peals of thunder, and a quaking mountain, all indicative of God’s holy wrath, anger, avenging justice.

The reason for this is found in the character of the covenant that the Lord was instituting with His people here at Sinai. It was a symbolical-typical covenant of grace in the first instance, the first covenant, so called in the epistle to the Hebrews. It was a covenant of external law, of law written on two tables of stone and not also in men’s hearts. It was a covenant with the law external to men, over and above them and not also in their inward parts, the reason being that the blood of the sacrifices of this covenant could not atone sin except symbolically. But the law external to man is the law as transgressed by man, for it is not in their hearts. Thus the law external to man curses man. It calls for the revelation of the wrath of God over man. Therefore God’s face assumed an aspect so terrible there on the mount.

But the purpose was pedagogical. By those thunder­ings and cursings of the law the Israel according to the election had to be driven in the arms of Christ, And therefore also the very law called for the sacri­fice by blood by which the sins of the people were symbolically atoned, thus a sacrifice that was prophe­tic of Christ in his suffering and dying for the sins of His people, and in His resurrection and exultation at the right hand of God.

And therefore also Moses and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu and seventy of the elders of Israel went up to God on the mountain, and they saw the God of Israel— His face—and there under His feet as it were a paved work of sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in its clearness. And upon the nobles of Isra­el God laid His hand. And there was a sacrifice by blood on the mount, the flesh of which they did eat in token of their fellowship with God.

God then was not angry with His people to destroy them for their sins. He only wanted to impress them with the fact of His being holy God with eyes to pure to behold sin and with the fact that, being thus dis­posed, He would redeem them from their sins in the blood of Christ in order that His tabernacle might be with them.

And accordingly He spake to them from the top of the Mount and from out of the dense cloud thus, “I am the Lord thy God, which hath brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the House of bondage, that is, in the language of the New Testament Scrip­tures, “I am the Lord thy God, the God of thy salva­tion in Christ Jesus, who delivered thee out of the bon­dage of sin and death and clothed thee with heavenly perfection and glory. Therefore, because thou art my people in whom I am working now and everlastingly both to will and to do, thou shalt have no other Gods before me . . . but Me thy God thou shalt love with all thy heart.”

It was again Gospel that the Lord was proclaim­ing to His people there at Sinai. And this is the way the command and the Gospel is proclaimed in the Scrip­ture, proclaimed to His people, His elect in Christ, namely in combination with each other and with Christ’s God the fountain and the cause of obedience to the command.         

G.M. Ophoff