The Claims of God
I desire to say a few words on the subject of the claims of God, the claims that God has over every intelligent being on earth, claims that are wickedly denied by the men of this rebellious world. People seem to think that they are left here in this world just to please themselves, and that they are not answerable to the great Governor of the universe. Their bodies, their tongues, and all their members are their own and thus the claims of their Creator are altogether denied. Now I turn for light regarding this to the Holy Scriptures, and I read from verse 15, to verse 22 of chapter 22 of the Gospel of Matthew.
I do not intend to speak of all that we have here, but only to refer to the hypocritical question of the Pharisees and to the answer of our Lord. I notice in Scripture that our Lord does not usually answer questions, but rather does He answer the man who asks them. He knew what men were. He knew in what hearts and minds the questions originated, and it was to the state of the questioner that His answer appealed, and not to the question merely. So it was in this instance. These men—He calls them hypocrites—were now in the presence of the Searcher of hearts, from whose eyes there was no hiding. “Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in His sight; but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do” (Heb. 4:13): He knows our hearts better than we know them, and He knows what prompts questions better than the questioner himself does.
He asks to be shown the tribute money. And they brought unto Him a penny. He says: “Whose is this image and superscription?” They say it is Caesar’s. Why then ask if he should have it? Every man has a certain right to his own. The answer to their question was stamped upon the coin. Why should not Caesar have his own? “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s.”
But that is not all. He lets them know they are to render to God the things that are God’s. If the coin bore the image of Caesar, and therefore was his, on whom was the image of God stamped? It was stamped at the beginning upon man, and in spite of the fall it has not been altogether effaced. The image and superscription of God are still discernable. Man was made in the image and likeness of God. No, I do not mean that skeleton of yours with its load of human flesh, sheltering something that death cannot touch. Infidels tell us that Scripture represents man as in God’s image, and that man is framed much after their ancestors that lived among the trees of the wood. I do not mind in the least whether a man’s skeleton is, or is not, like that of a gorilla, a chimpanzee, or a dog-faced baboon; God has made him in His own image and likeness, and this is moral, not physical. Man has been set as centre and head over a system that has been subjected to him, and upon which are his fear and his dread. Not only this, but he has been endowed with an affectionate regard for all that have been placed under his dominion. In this way, and not as to his physical frame, is man the image of God.
Man is God’s, for he bears His image. And the Lord says: “Render unto God the things that are God’s.” Had these men rendered unto God the things that were God’s they would not have had the image of Caesar on their money. Everyone here belongs to God. Perhaps you say you are not a Christian—you make no profession of religion. That matters not, you are His creature, you are in existence to serve Him, and woe betide you in the day of judgment if you have not done it. You may reply to this that it does not seem very like the Gospel, that you supposed we were all to be saved by grace. You are, if you are saved at all, but saved or unsaved you exist for the service of God. If you are still in your sins you are not rendering to God that which is God’s. You are robbing Him. You are God’s and you claim yourself. You have no right to yourself, for you bear His image and superscription. People murmur a great deal because they have to render to the nation that which belongs to it, but if they did not pay tribute they would soon be before the judge, and as to God, all must give account to Him
As I live, saith the Lord every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God. Why? Simply because we belong to Him, and are responsible to serve Him. We must give account to Him We should render to God the things that are God. We are made in His likeness. He put His stamp upon us. It is upon every man. How could we then with the tongue bless God, and curse the man made in His likeness? Or how refuse to give ourselves over unto His will, seeing that He has an indisputable claim upon us.
There is another reason why we should lay ourselves at His feet, and that is because He has bought us. I turn to 1 Corinthians 6:19. I am well aware the epistle is addressed to believers, but what is said here is true for saved or unsaved. He says, “Ye are not your own, for ye are bought with a price: therefore, glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” The Lord has bought this world and all in it. He bought it for the sake of a treasure that lay in it, but He bought it; it belongs to Him on the ground of purchase. Even though you may be a disbeliever in the Gospel, still you are His—His by the right of creation, by the fact that you bear His image and likeness and also by the fact that He bought you with a great price. He tasted death for every man. Do you admit the claim? He has upon you or do you deny the Lord that bought you. If you do deny Him you bring upon yourself swift destruction (2 Pet. 2:1). May you admit the righteous claim He has upon you, and escape the judgment to be measured out to the rebellious.
Let its turn to Romans 12. It is to believers the Word is addressed here. He says: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” The mercies—or compassions—of God are set before us in the first eight chapters of this epistle, and this reference is to those compassion. There is a verse in Psalm 118 to which I would turn your attention for a moment—verse 27: “God is the Lord, which hath showed us light: bind the sacrifice with cords, even unto the horns of the altar.” The light is in the first eight chapters of the epistle. There we get the intervention of God on our behalf, that we may be delivered from sin’s dominion, so that we may be able to yield ourselves—our members—our bodies to the service of God.
The light has shone upon our benighted souls marvellous light—the light of the revelation of God—and by this light we have got the salvation of our souls. Our souls have been emancipated from the bondage to the power of evil under which we lay, and now we are exhorted to take up another order of service—service to God. When the light of God enters our souls in the power of the Spirit, our souls are set free for God’s service. We are to render to Him intelligent service. The point in this passage is not that it is reasonable that we should serve God on account of the compassion which He has shown us, but that our service should be characterized by the knowledge of His will whom we desire to serve. And this sacrifice is holy, acceptable and living. It is not a dead sacrifice, like the bodies of beasts slain at the altar in the past dispensation, but a life devoted to His service. And it is in this way we prove how good and acceptable and perfect His will is.
The apostle beseeches. It is not a command with a curse attached to it in view of possible disobedience. It is an appeal to those who have obtained infinite mercy to enter upon a new career of unspeakable joy and happiness. It is an exhortation to those who have not only been bought, but who have been redeemed by the blood of Christ to “render unto God the things that are God’s.” The power of sin, Satan, law and flesh, can dominate us no longer. We have come under a new control, and it is not only that we have power to yield ourselves to God, but the desire of the renewed mind is to walk in the pathway of His will. It is a service of love. We have been brought into new and eternal relationships with God, and we rejoice to know that He is willing to accept of our very imperfect service.
Now what would be the effect of our presenting our bodies a living sacrifice to God? In answer to this question I would ask again, what effect does He desire His Gospel to produce in us? Is it not that in this world, out of which His Son has been rejected, we may be exponents of the grace that perfectly shone out in Him? That the light of God that was radiant in His person might be continued during the time of His absence? He set forth God in His true character before the eyes of men. He was the perfect expression of the invisible God. This is what is meant by His being the light of the world.
And this is the way by which we have got to know God. I believe in God by Christ: I do not believe in Him by nature, astronomy, or geology, but entirely by Christ. God not only sent His Son into this world that we might live through Him, but He raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory that our faith and hope might centre in Him. God has not only become the object of our hearts, but the all-controlling object. We delight to do His will. Our bodies are brought under His gracious control, and thus Christ is reproduced in us down here. We walk as He walked. You say, that is a very high standard. But would you not prefer a high standard before a low one? What name has been placed upon us? What superscription has been written upon our foreheads? Christ. That is the holy name that has been placed upon us. Even the world has thus designated us. They called the disciples of Jesus Christians, when at Antioch the Gospel was first preached. Christ is continued in His people down here.
How is that to be brought about in us? It will be brought about in us if we render to God that which is God’s; in other words, if we present our bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, our intelligent service. I turn to Paul’s epistle to the Philippians, and there I find the great desire of the writer was to have Christ magnified in his body, whether by life or death. He was about to appear before the Roman emperor, the power before which his Lord had once appeared, and in the presence of which He had witnessed a good confession. He was in prison for Christ. The devil had been allowed to place him there, but had defeated himself by so doing, for now there were more preachers than ever before. This was encouraging to the suffering apostle. But he also counted on the prayers of the Philippians and on the Spirit of Jesus Christ, in order that in nothing he might be ashamed, “but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death.” This was the only thing that seemed to cause him any concern, He calls it his salvation to be delivered from everything of self—either his natural cowardice or his courage, and that nothing but Christ would be exhibited by him Christ had been before this tribunal, and was condemned to the cross, now these rulers and judges were to find this same Christ in the body of Paul. He was not concerned regarding their sentence upon himself. That Christ may be magnified in my body, whether by life or death. Let what God will befall me, only let Christ be seen in my body. This was the only thing he seemed anxious about, it was all his salvation and all his desire.
Now if the Philippians were to occupy themselves with the Gospel, there was to be no strife and contention between themselves. He desires them to be all of one mind, but that the mind of Christ: “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.” When in the form of God He emptied Himself, and when in fashion as a man He humbled Himself. Here, where every man was seeking to exalt himself, Christ was humbling Himself. Here everyone seeks to rise above his fellows, does his best to get into a position of exaltation, and that by fair means or foul. What a world it is when viewed in the light of the incarnate Son of God! What must the holy angels think of it! We were born into it, and have grown accustomed to it; just like people brought up in filth; they do not trouble about it, it has become their natural element. Put a person into filthy surroundings who has been brought up in cleanliness, and he will be miserable.
Jesus was “obedient unto death.” That was the mind that was in Him. With Him no one but God was worthy of the slightest consideration. What claim had the death of the cross—or any other mode of death upon Him? None. He gave Himself up to the will of God; “I come to do Thy will”, and He did it. With Him there was no reasoning, no repining, no self-seeking, no murmuring. He says: “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me: nevertheless, not as I will, but as Thou wilt.” He takes the place of deserving nothing, as being unworthy of the least consideration: “I am a worm, and no man.” God alone is to be considered. He has a just claim upon us. We belong to Him. Whose image has been stamped upon us? God’s. Then let us render to God the thing’s that are God’s.
What should characterize every human being? Obedience. Therefore, the apostle exhorts the Philippians: “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 us, both to will and to do of His good pleasure.” What about Christ? He was obedient unto death. All that He said and did was the outcome of the will of God. What about us then? If we do the will of God we shall be practically Christ over again. This is walking as He walked, and this is the way to have Christ magnified in our bodies.
Turn to chapter 3. The apostle is in the first part of the chapter speaking of the effect upon his life of the knowledge of Christ. He speaks of the excellency of that knowledge, and of the power that it had over him. It made him throw every fleshly decoration that he had possessed (and he had more to boast of than any man on the rubbish heap. He counted what he had lost, after the flesh, as useless encumbrances in view of what he had found in Christ. Then he looks forward to the day in which Christ will put forth His almighty power to subdue everything to Himself, and He says that our Saviour shall change our bodies of humiliation and fashion them like unto His own body of glory. Then we shall no more require exhortations, for His servants shall serve Him, see His face, and have His name upon their foreheads. In the meantime, let us keep well in mind that our happy and eternal privilege is to render to God that which is God’s.
Extracted from “Ministry for the Church of God”